Igeneric Thoughts Archives: Libraries

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Local Government Association pushes wider role of libraries


March 15, 2018

The Local Government Association (LGA) in England & Wales has followed up on last week's publication of the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee report, Public Libraries, by stressing the wide range of activities that it remains important for libraries to undertake.

Quoting from the LGA statement,

“Cllr Chris White, Chair of the LGA's Regeneration board, says: 'Our feeling is that the [Culture, Media & Sport Select] Committee is missing a trick here. Libraries have enormous potential as the providers of a wide range of cultural and educational services and have the ability to get to hard to reach groups. To go back to basics and focus on a narrow, traditional definition of the role of a library in the local community would be to let an opportunity slip.

It is vital that libraries are seen as more than simply a book-lending service. Whilst we recognise the obvious importance of the promotion of books and reading, we feel that the report fails to take into account the potential of libraries to bring communities together and that it does not focus enough on the diverse range of other services that these valued institutions have to offer.'”

I agree completely that libraries should be fulfilling this wider role, but didn't read the Select Committee report as necessarily arguing against them.

Indeed, this wider role is precisely why everyone should be bringing pressure to bear upon those local authorities who see the computers in their libraries as a cash cow. Maybe the LGA would like to take this up with some of its members? The Select Committee's report very helpfully lists the offenders...

LGA press release via PublicTechnology.net. A similar release is also available on their own site.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 10:58 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Some public libraries criticised for charging people to go online


March 10, 2018

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Parliament today published a report on Public Libraries.

There is a press release from the committee, and coverage from the BBC.

The report itself (HC 81) is here.

It looks at a whole range of issues, including library buildings (not great, on the whole), book purchasing and borrowing, etc.

From a Igeneric perspective, the best bit was (to quote the BBC)

“MPs also criticised some libraries for charging for internet use.”

I should think so, too!

The relevant section of the report itself is here, where what they actually say is

“There was also a majority amongst our witnesses, including the Government's own advisory panel, that believed that the service should be provided free at the point of use and that this should be the subject of a national library standard.”

and (even better)

“We believe that charging for the People's Network contravenes at least the spirit of the 1964 Act which permits libraries to impose fees only 'where facilities made available to any person by a library authority go beyond those ordinarily provided by the authority as part of the library service.' [124] We believe that the provision of the People's Network in all public libraries, coupled with the Government's target for universal access to the internet, suggests strongly that the service now falls within the statutory definition of a facility 'ordinarily provided by the authority as part of the library service' and charges should not be imposed. Given evidence we received on the variations in the charges that libraries do impose, we further recommend that, where charging for services wrongly persists, the case for an applicable national standard be reviewed.”

With funding from the National Lottery, public libraries the length and breadth of the country embarked upon a visionary and exemplary programme to connect some 4,000 (fixed and mobile) public libraries to the Internet, to provide over 30,000 public-access machines, and to train library staff in supporting their use. This People's Network was delivered on time and on budget. With ubiquitous free access it creates a compelling national offer to underpin national campaigns and activities. With free access in every library, it becomes possible for the BBC to add “go online at your local public library” to the voice-over at the end of their programmes directing viewers to the web site. With free access in every library, it becomes possible for Internet-only retailers to add “go online at your local public library” banners to their existing marketing materials. With free access in every library, a plethora of Government campaigns and e-initiatives have an obvious home. With free access in every library, we can (at a national level) safely direct people to their nearest one for any number of information, education and business purposes.

With a handful of local authorities being short-sighted and mean, none of that is possible. Without ubiquity of offer, those at the national level need to hedge their exhortations with get-out clauses about “possible charges”, or they need local knowledge, or (more likely) they simply say nothing about the library as an access channel.

Looking at some of our MORI results, Internet access via the library has clearly lodged itself in the public consciousness, even without significant efforts to market the capability outside of the libraries themselves. 21% of those who have ever used the Internet say they can use their local library to go on line if they want to do so, whilst 46% are aware that they could go online there, although they do not personally do so. Amongst current users of the Internet, 5% list the local library as the place from which they access the Internet most frequently. Non-users of the Internet, too, are aware of the role public libraries play. 19% listed the library as a place that they could go online, should they wish to do so.

It isn't easy. Local Authorities were given external money to set the Network up, but they are expected to meet the cost of maintaining it from their own budgets. Some, such as the Northern Irish library authorities, took an interesting approach. Most others manage one way or another. Some, though, see the only way to maintain services as being through levying a charge on users.

Ubiquitous free access to the Knowledge Economy and all that it means is too important for that. The sums involved are not huge. There must be a solution, whereby we can truly say that no one is far from a safe place in which they can go online for free.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:20 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Culture Online receives more funding - and calls for proposals to spend it


March 3, 2018

Estelle Morris, Minister for the Arts at the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) today confirmed that Culture Online has been awarded a further £3,000,000 to spend on innovative interactive projects in 2018 and 2006.

Culture Online is now inviting project proposals from those with great new ideas...

Press Release from Wired-GOV.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 18:00 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Access RedLightGreen from within Firefox


February 24, 2018


A posting to ResourceShelf draws my attention to the availability of a Firefox search plug-in for RedLightGreen.

As mentioned before, Firefox includes the capability to submit searches to a variety of search engines without having to start from their web sites.

RedLightGreen is an interesting service from the Research Libraries Group (RLG) which allows you to search over 120,000,000 books and discover whether or not they are available in a library close to you.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 14:35 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

RSS in the Library, courtesy of Talis and Northumbria


February 16, 2018

In Project Bluebird, UK-based library systems vendor Talis is exploring the ways in which libraries and their patrons communicate.

RSS is clearly one potential communication channel, and Talis is working with the University of Northumbria on a pilot. They've produced a white paper, Personalised RSS for Library - User Interaction [PDF download], which includes further details on the pilot.

News from the Talis RSS News feed. Also covered on their Blog, Panlibus.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 10:20 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

OCLC seeking help in their Terminologies project


February 10, 2018

Over on one of the blogs from OCLC, there's a post in which Susan Westberg invites terminology-using museums, archives and libraries to get involved in an interesting terminology project upon which they are embarking.

Quoting from the message,

“The intention of the pilot is to provide a means to access and search thesauri you currently use (be it in paper or web formats) in one place in an online environment. During the pilot, you would search, copy and paste terms from a variety of thesauri into the bibliographic records you are creating or updating,using the Connexion browser and the Research pane available with MS Office 2003. This allows you to expedite adding valid access points to bibliographic records rather than keying them in. Pasting the text into the MARC text area does include the correct tags and subfields.
The list of potential thesauri is:
gsafd – Guidelines on subject access to individual works of fiction, drama, etc. (ALA)
gmgpc lctgm – Thesaurus of graphic materials, TGM I & II (LC)
radfg – Radio form / genre terms guide (LC)
mim – Moving image materials: genre terms (LC)
ngl – Newspaper Genre List (University of Washington)
aat, tgn, ULAN – Getty vocabularies (subsets only): AAT (Art & Architecture Thesaurus), TGN (Thesaurus of Geographic Names), and ULAN (Union List of Artists’ Names)
mesh – Medical Subject Headings (NLM)”

Interested institutions should read the full post, then get in touch with Susan.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:22 | Make or Read Comments(0)

Placing a value on Culture?


February 4, 2018

Over on Demos' great blog, Greenhouse, John Holden nudges readers to reopen debate around issues published last December in their Capturing Cultural Value pamphlet.

“How can you measure/describe/articulate/characterise a greater public involvement and democratisation of culture? How can the cultural world be responsive to people’s needs, whilst preserving the integrity of artists and the professionalism of funders? How should we square the wishes of today’s public with the interests of future generations?

Part of the thesis is that answers come not from us, but from practitioners. Every institution needs to find its own way (that’s part of the process that creates value) and not every institution will have the same set of answers.”

Quoting from the abstract to John's pamphlet,

“Cultural organisations and their funding bodies have become very good at describing their value in terms of social outcomes. Tackling exclusion, increasing diversity and contributing to economic development are all familiar justifications in grant applications.

But by talking in functional terms about the value of culture, cultural organisations have lost the ability to describe their real purpose – producing good work that enriches people’s lives. Culture now delivers government policy by other means.”

The argument could be aimed fair and square at most of the readers of this Blog, so what do you think? Is John right? If so, what do we do about it? If not, how do we persuade him of the fact?

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 20:43 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Advocating for libraries


January 7, 2018

These days, with various people questioning the relevance of libraries, or forecasting their imminent demise, it's interesting to see this campaign from OCLC, which aims to use posters and press adverts to demonstrate ways in which a local library benefits its community.

I like the wine one [PDF download]. There's also presumably scope for an ad involving children, along similar lines to the recent Microsoft campaign (child pretends to be a pilot, Microsoft “sees their potential”, with a jumbo jet sketched in around them, pointing to their future).

I wonder if there's scope for something similar in the UK?

Information from an OCLC weblog.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:54 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Understanding UK priorities for digitisation


December 17, 2004

According to Peter Suber at Open Access News, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC - a Igeneric member) and CURL are funding a joint study to

“help create a national strategy for the ongoing digitising of research materials, by identifying gaps and ensuring that those involved can keep abreast of emerging technologies.”

Employees of UK academic or research libraries are invited to fill in an online questionnaire to inform the work, and the results will doubtless be of benefit beyond the UK university sector.

There is a press release on the JISC web site. They do have an RSS feed, which would have told me this, but my news reader doesn't like it...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 11:07 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (3)

Google working with academic libraries to digitise books


December 14, 2004

In a move related to Google Scholar (providing access to scholarly material online, often via a commercial publisher or content aggregator) and Google Print (allowing users to search printed texts, usually with a view to then selling them a copy of the physical book), C-Net News discusses Google's expected announcement of a partnership with a number of leading academic libraries to digitise - and make available - a significant body of older printed works.

According to the article, Google is today expected to announce partnerships with five major libraries, including Oxford University's. The different libraries are allowing Google access to varying quantities of material. Oxford is believed to be providing access to all of their books published on or before 1900.

SearchEngine Watch also covers the story, and reminds us that other people are digitising books, including Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. It's potentially fundamentally different, though, to have content from those books coming back in results from your search engine.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 09:37 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

First element of the People's Network Service available for testing


December 13, 2004

Igeneric member the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA) today announced the availability of the first part of their People's Network Service, building upon the sound foundations of the People's Network itself.

The Online Enquiry Service allows enquirers to enter a question and have it answered by reference librarians from one of (currently) 29 library authorities across England.

It is hoped that, by the end of 2018, all 149 English library authorities will be working together to share the load, delivering a consistently high quality service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Over the next few months, the Enquiry Service will be joined by a Discovery Service and a Reading Service. The former will offer personalised access to a range of online resources, and the latter will support reading development for adults and others through provision of reading groups, etc.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:49 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

DigiCULT report on a future for digital heritage activity


December 9, 2004

Back in October, I mentioned an exercise to paint a picture of what cultural heritage professionals think their online offering will be in a decade from now.

The DigiCULT team have just published the result which, quoting from their summary:

“...summarises the results of an expedition into the possible future of digital heritage in the next 10-15 years. It is based on contributions of researchers, heritage experts and professionals to a DigiCULT online forum as well as the project's ongoing research. The report is intended as a navigation tool for boards and directors of heritage organisations and research centres, IT project managers, and curators of digital collections, virtual exhibitions and environments. It cautions that the next waves of innovative ICT systems and applications may significantly shape and re-shape the digital landscape in which heritage organisations reside. For many organisations this could result in becoming 'blind spots' in an emerging ambient intelligence environment. As the places and roles of digital heritage in this environment need to be discussed and prepared, the report also gives recommendations which may be useful for ensuring the creation of a thriving and inclusive future digital heritage space.”

The report is available in HTML and as a PDF.

Announcement from the DigiCULT RSS feed.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 11:19 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

People's Network comes of age


November 25, 2004

Yesterday, I attended an event to mark the handover of the People's Network from the Big Lottery Fund to all of the bodies now tasked with maintaining and building upon the Lottery's initial investment.

The People's Network is a remarkable achievement; £100,000,000 spent on over 30,000 public access terminals in 4,000 public libraries across the UK, connected to the Internet at Broadband speeds. Achieved on time and within budget. £20,000,000 spent on training public library staff the length and breadth of the country, to ensure that all those shiny new computers can be used by new users (according to recent MORI research, 16% of adults in the UK have accessed the internet using one of these terminals).

The vision was... well, visionary. Especially as this endeavour was planned back in the late 1990's, with the roll-out commencing in 2000. Thinking back to what libraries - and the information landscape - were like then, it was a truly brave move, and one that is now paying dividends.

Presentations on the day demonstrated achievements from across the UK, and pointed to some of the work still being done through initiatives such as MLA's evolving People's Network Service. Speakers also referred to issues yet to be resolved, including the need to find local funds to refresh equipment as it grows older, and efforts to further address exclusion.

There was also a presentation from the Programme's evaluators at the Tavistock Institute, whose evaluation appeared online today. Have a read, and see what you think about “burning all the desks”...!

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:04 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

The Register sees a role for public libraries


November 21, 2004

There's an interesting piece in The Register, which sounds very like MLA's People's Network Service, and aspects of the Common Information Environment.

Someone should tell them!

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 21:07 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Find books in nearby libraries, thanks to OCLC and Yahoo!


November 16, 2004

Andy Boyer, OCLC's Open WorldCat Product Manager, writes in the Yahoo! Search blog, describing an addition to Yahoo!'s toolbar that lets the user search for library resources in nearby libraries... right in the Yahoo! toolbar on their browser.

At the moment, the toolbar allows searches on the 2,000,000 most popular records in WorldCat, but Andy says that they're hard at work providing access to more of the 57,000,000 catalogue records (for 944,506,147 individual holdings) they maintain.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:05 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Census the most popular book ?


November 12, 2004

OCLC has released a list of the 1,000 most popular books, as defined by the holdings of OCLC libraries.

Number 1 is the Census, 403,252 copies of which are held in various libraries.

At Number 2 is the Bible, with 271,534 copies.

Number 3 was a surprise to me, at least; 66,543 copies of Mother Goose!

Item reported on the OCLC Research news feed.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:36 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (5)

Getting people to want to read...


November 9, 2004

I gave a Keynote at this year's Talis conference in Birmingham today. I spoke about the disconnect between public bodies as holders of valuable content and those members of the public who seek to discover and engage with that content.

One positive example of offering buried content to users where they happen to be was that of Jon Udell's LibraryLookup tool. This is a simple bookmarklet that allows a user to view a book on Amazon and, with a single click, check to see if their local library has a copy. In principle, brilliant. Unfortunately (and this isn't Jon's fault), the majority of the UK library sites that I tried returned an incomprehensible error code rather than either the book in question or an understandable description of a fault. Even in some of the cases where the search was successful, the libraries concerned clearly hadn't anticipated such a link deep into their site (bypassing the brand-heavy home page), as I ended up on a page devoid of branding (which library am I at, again?) or navigation. Still, at least they showed that they had a copy of the book. Why, though, do organisations continue in the mistaken belief that I want to visit their endless websites, or that I want to navigate them sequentially from the top (the homepage), through diverse intermediate steps before arriving at a page that may or may not provide the resource I was seeking?

I also briefly mentioned the excellent whichbook.net, which is well worth a look.

Another Keynote speaker did it - and sites like it - far more justice.

Rachel Van Riel, Director of Opening the Book, spoke about the work of her organisation in finding innovative ways in which to encourage reading. She, too, highlighted simple limitations in many public library catalogues and pointed to their origins as collection management tools for trained staff physically located in the library building. For users coming across the library online, poor branding and a lack of basic information such as how to join or find the library create poor first impressions.

Through sites such as whichbook.net, Opening the Book is now working aggressively to make books and reading more accessible and relevant to those beyond what public libraries may long have considered their core demographic. These sites recognise that many people do not necessarily have a specific title or author in mind when looking for something to read, meaning that traditional library interfaces may not help. Further, web users often wish to be entertained and engaged, and the web itself may offer a means to make library offerings relevant to new markets.

whichbook.net, for example, was funded by the New Opportunities Fund (now the Big Lottery), and allows the user to select a variety of criteria (happy/sad, easy/demanding, etc) upon which a number of books will be selected for them. These books may include reviews by other readers, and a link is provided to click through and see if the book is available in your local (UK) library.

Variations on this theme, all aimed at different audiences, include www.givemeabreak.org (which adopts a short-break metaphor to bilingually engage 16-30 year olds in Wales), www.whatareyouuptotonight.com (aimed at 16-25 year olds in the East Midlands of England, and featuring a 'Blind Date' option that delivers an unknown book matching certain criteria to the reader's nearest library for collection), and www.4ureaders.net (offering different interfaces for boys and girls in south-central Scotland).

Each offers an interesting and engaging interface onto dry library data, each works to encourage people to read - and to try new authors and subject matter - and each links through to real books held in local public libraries. Brilliant.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 21:54 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

Thomson assesses impact of Open Access journals


November 4, 2004

Thomson Scientific, the company behind such products as the Web of Science Abstracting & Indexing database, has released a new white paper, Open Access Journals in the ISI Citation Databases: Analysis of Impact Factors and Citation Patterns [free registration required, and the URL doesn't appear terribly persistent].

According to EContentMag.com,

“The findings indicate that journals published under the Open Access (OSA) model continue to gain impact in the world of scholarly research. Despite ranking lower as a group than those published under traditional models, the growth in the number of OA journals is impressive, and some OA journals rank near the top of their respective fields.”

News item from an EContentMag.com RSS feed.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 10:34 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

Lorcan Dempsey is blogging...


October 31, 2004

Lorcan Dempsey, VP for Research at OCLC (and previously Director of UKOLN, amongst other things) now has a blog.

Thanks for letting me know, Lorcan (and for the plug) - although I now see that the news is also being carried on the OCLC Research newsfeed...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 15:06 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (3)

European cultural project asks for thoughts on where we go next...


October 29, 2004

The European DigiCULT project is conducting an online consultation to build a roadmap for technological developments around a digital Cultural Heritage over the next 10 to 15 years.

Participate and help to shape where we go.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:43 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

The three stages of (library) search...


October 21, 2004

Lorcan Dempsey offers a short piece in the latest issue of Update, in which he discusses the evolution of search from monolithic databases holding content invisible to search engines through to a model in which OAI harvesting and the like is used to expose as much data as possible... potentially at the expense of richness and structure within the data.

Lorcan emphasises library applications, but the same is true elsewhere.

Information from the OCLC Research feed.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 09:26 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

MLA seeks proposals to build components of the People's Network Service


October 6, 2004

The Museums Libraries & Archives Council (MLA) yesterday released two Invitations to Tender for parts of the emerging People's Network Service in England.

The first ITT concerns an online reading group service for adult readers in England (PDF file), and the second is for a comprehensive “Discovery Service”, capable of locating information and resources relevant to the searcher yet located in a variety of repositories (PDF file). This Discovery Service enshrines many of the goals being addressed by the Common Information Environment activity, of which MLA are active members.

MLA are using a two-stage procurement process for the Discovery Service, and are currently asking potential suppliers to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire and return it by 2 November 2004.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 18:29 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (1)

Public access to the Internet outside libraries


September 28, 2004

In preparing for a Scottish Executive retreat later this week, I have been reading a number of preparatory documents.

One that caught my eye was an evaluation of something called the Public Internet Access Point Initiative by Hall Aitken.

This initiative, begun in 2002, has created more than 780 public internet access points (some 1,750 computers, plus associated peripherals, furniture and training) in pubs, shops, leisure centres, businesses, etc where users can get online free or affordably.

Supplementing the People's Network roll-out of Internet-enabled computers to 557 public libraries across Scotland (and libraries elsewhere in the UK, of course), the Executive is now in the enviable position of being able to state that 95% of urban Scots are within one mile of public internet access, and 93% of those in rural areas are within five miles. There's also a useful (although not very usable, given the audience!) tool to help you find nearby access points.

The report goes into quite a lot of detail, exploring where the access points are located, how easy they are to use, and what the experience of using them is like.

I found it worrying, for example, that a series of 'mystery shopper' visits by the evaluation team found that less than 70% of access points sited in commercial or community premises were easy to find, just over 50% of access points in those locations were rated as visible to new visitors, and almost half of all the access points surveyed were not considered accessible to those in wheelchairs or with prams or pushchairs. I wonder if the imminent enactment of statutes from the Disability Discrimination Act (from 1st October?) will change things here?

As with wireless hotspots in coffee shops and the like, it appears that access points are denoted by rather unobtrusive window stickers, rather than something more visible to the casual passer-by. Most of the users appear to be repeat visitors, but I wonder how many people are half-heartedly thinking about getting online, but never manage it because they fail to find the computers?

The report also highlighted concerns with the level of support given to new users of the Internet, something with which public libraries seem to be coping better, on the whole. The report doesn't mention this, but I wonder if these access points refer beginners to their local library for more support?

Awareness and use of the access points within six sample areas was interesting, with 16% - 36% of those surveyed (average 28%) having heard of their local access point, and 1.5% - 7.5% (average 3.97%) having used it. 56% of access point users in urban areas were aware that their local library also provided access, whilst this figure dropped below 50% in rural areas.

Many users of the access points have other means of access to Internet, including access to computers in their home. Despite this, it would appear that the initiative has been successful in reaching those without access of their own and those who might not feel comfortable in some of the other public spaces, such as libraries. For example, 14% of users were unemployed, a figure that is more than three times the unemployment rate in Scotland.

78% of those surveyed claimed that their Internet skills had improved since they started benefitting from the access point, and over 45% said that they had tried new activities online rather than simply continuing to do the same things.

All in all, pretty good. The Scottish Executive are currently considering the report, before deciding how to move forward with the scheme.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 15:51 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Culture as a catalyst in building and maintaining communities


September 23, 2004

The Department for Culture Media & Sport today released a new booklet, Bringing Communities Together through Sport and Culture. It discusses the ways in which cultural, artistic and sporting activities can create a sense of local community, and improve quality of life.

DCMS will now be working with its agencies and with related departments such as the Home Office and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to build upon current foundations.

Release from Wired-GOV.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 11:52 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

British Library to offer huge wireless network


September 17, 2004

According to e-Government Bulletin, the British Library will have the biggest wireless network in any public building in Europe when it turns one on next week. The switch-on coincides with a speech on e-enabling of our public spaces by e-Commerce Minister Stephen Timms.

Update on 29 September. The BL has a page here that describes the service. You do need to pay, but it's cheaper than the Starbucks across the road.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 12:02 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Opening up information


August 26, 2004

One of the issues often raised in the context of the Common Information Environment is that of allowing access to information and resources through multiple channels, and in ways suited to the user and their needs rather than to the providing organisation(s).

I was in Edinburgh earlier this week, and spent some time with SCRAN. Amongst a range of interesting activities with which they are engaged, they offer some examples of exactly what I mean.

Their content, largely the result of some £10,000,000 of public funding through the Millennium Commission, is available on their own web site. There, users can search for items and group them in different and interesting ways as ‘albums’. These albums can be disclosed to others so, for example, a class teacher could prepare albums of relevant material for their class.

The SCRAN database also exists as a Z39.50 target. This means that it’s available for searching alongside resources from related organisations, as demonstrated by HEIRNET’s HEIRPORT system.

Content from the SCRAN database is also offered up via services branded and delivered by a range of other agencies involved in heritage, tourism, and related areas.

Finally (for this post, anyway), the ability to search SCRAN’s database can be dropped into almost any web site, anywhere, thanks to a small snippet of code.



send detailsclear details

With their new web site coming, and a range of activities that seem wholly in line with the Igeneric vision, I look forward to seeing much more from this excellent resource, which really seems to have grasped the idea that the end user should not need to know that SCRAN - or their website - exists in order to make use of quality SCRAN-managed content.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 17:04 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Pay per Use taken to a possible (and unwelcome) extreme


August 13, 2004

United States Congressman Rick Boucher, writing on Larry Lessig's blog, offers the following worrying thought...


"Whenever I speak with librarians about fair use or the Copyright Act more generally, I inevitably hear them express concerns that we run the risk of becoming a pay per use society, one in which content is available only for a fee. I am concerned that the bookmobiles we all grew up with and their modern day equivalents will go the way of the eight track and the reel-to-reel, replaced by a world in which access to information will depend on the ability to pay and, worse, a world in which a payment gets you only a license to view or listen to something, not to actually own it. But I know it is said by some technologists and economists that this is the way it should be, if only because it is the most efficient means of allocating something in a market economy.

In thinking about the future of my information availability in our society, am I right to be concerned about the emergence of pay per use as the norm?"


Will it go that far? What do we do now to prevent this becoming the 'obvious' next step from (the very useful) iTunes Music Store et al?

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 17:41 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

British Library website 'confusing'


August 11, 2004

A recent report from the UK's National Audit Office (NAO) commends the British Library on the quality of much of the content on its website, visited by over 2,000,000 people per year. However, the report picks up on a perception that the site can be difficult to navigate, and that it overly reflects the organisation of the institution rather than the needs of a visitor.

Hardly a criticism only for the BL, as it seems a depressingly common problem.

Item read in 6 August's e-Government Bulletin

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 21:57 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (3)

Irish treasures online


July 3, 2004

Like David, I was in Dublin last week for a very interesting cultural heritage event as part of Ireland's presidency of the EU.

I gave a paper there, and bemoaned the fact that I couldn't get hold of any high quality images of Irish artefacts from Irish sources (I had to use the British Museum's COMPASS).

After the event, Anthony Edwards at Clare County Library got in touch, and told me about Riches of Clare. An excellent resource, and one I shall definitely turn to next time I get invited to talk about things Irish... Thank you Anthony, and I'm happy to put the record straight here.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 00:21 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (2)

Cultural institutions are relevant to you...


June 30, 2004

Not for the Likes of You looks at repositioning our cultural organisations in order to make them appear more relevant and engaging to the broadest of audiences.

The report was commissioned in 2003 by Arts Council England, MLA, the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage, and published in May of 2004.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 15:49 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Archiving the UK web


June 22, 2004

The BBC provides coverage of yesterday’s press release about efforts to archive UK web space.

Partners in the new UK Web Archiving Consortium include the JISC, our three National Libraries, The National Archives, and the Wellcome Trust.

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 13:38 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)

Public libraries must deliver "a service that local people want"


June 21, 2004

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 18:41 | Make or Read Comments(0)

Are public libraries accessible enough ?


June 16, 2004

The People's Network programme has been extremely successful in wiring up every public library in the country, funding the installation of kit, and providing training in ICT for front-line library staff.

All good stuff, and often seen as an important way to get e-Services, the Knowledge Web, etc to those sections of society that don't have access through other places (the home, etc). Peter Brophy's recent report, and other evidence, would also appear to support the notion that these machines are being well used.

However, a recent document from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation rings some warning bells, suggesting that the public library isn't as accessible or approachable to some parts of society as it is to others.

Is this true and, if so, where else could we put machines? Kiosks in Safeway or the Post Office might be one approach, but sitting in a library is surely more conducive to engagement than standing at a kiosk, probably in quite a busy public space.

Maybe we've got the location right, and the job is actually to make the library seem relevant, approachable, and useful to any parts of society who may currently think otherwise.

It's also true, of course, that no one solution will meet all the needs of all the people, all of the time...

A posting on David Brake's blog.org reminded me that I meant to say something about this report; thanks for the reminder, David...

Posted by Oliver Smith-Toynes at 22:20 | Make or Read Comments(0) | TrackBack (0)


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