Yearning for the vast and endless sea – SWITCH2013

Filed Under (Events, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 29-11-2013

On Tuesday November 26th, I presented to the SWITCH 2013 “Creating Libraries for Communities” conference at the Australian Technology Park. My invitation was based on my successful book From Lending to Learning – the development and extension of public libraries – see here.
The theme of my presentation was the strategy needed by public libraries to shift from lending books to supporting learning. I looked first at the current state of public libraries in the UK and gave a forthright explanation of the savage cuts program taking place and the increased reliance on volunteer workers; then I looked at the opportunities for public libraries to support learning; in the final part I talked about the opportunities and challenges offered by digital citizenship, information literacy and social media.

The reaction by the Australian audience to the closure of libraries in the UK was a mixture of disbelief and anger. Why they asked is the UK doing this? How can they be allowed to get away with this? Six hundred libraries closed is a significant amount – it undermines the infrastructure and sends out a negative message. The UK and Australia have issues with their national levels of literacy – Australia’s policy is enlightened whereas the UK’s is going backwards. The result – the UK will lose out in the Global Auction and fail to come out of recession. But that’s just the economic fallout – more importantly the social impact of denying a society its right to a library service will quite possibly lead to social unrest.

On a personal note, my presentation to an audience of around 350 librarians was indeed challenging. The use of a live twitter feed displayed alongside my slides gave the audience a voice as I presented. However for me it was rather distracting – being one of those people who cannot stop reading once started. Reaction was positive and much of the discussions I had following this were really interesting and useful.

SWITCH is the New South Wales Public Libraries Association annual conference –

I should like to thank my hosts the SWITCH conference organisers for inviting me to speak and for their support during my visit.

Preparing for the SWITCH Conference – Sydney November 24th – 26th 2013

Filed Under (Events, General, Professional practice) by ronan on 01-09-2013


Switch 2013 logo

I am busy preparing my keynote presentation for the SWITCH conference.   Looks like an excellent venue with an exciting programme and of course it will be great to return to Sydney. The abstract for what I will talk about currently reads as:

Yearning for the vast and endless sea – thoughts on the future of public libraries.
With the upheaval in formal education brought about by informal open learning systems what opportunity does this provide for the community-based public library to fulfil its role in supporting learning? How might notions of digital citizenship and information literacy be realised by public library strategy? Through the advent of social media how might the public library go beyond its walls and engage more proactively with its users? Such initiatives present exciting challenges for the library of the future, but what are the implications of a proactive and innovative approach for library workers?

Should be good fun developing these threads for discussion.

Research in the early years – a step-by-step guide.

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 19-01-2013

“Research in the early years – a step-by-step guide / Pam Jarvis…[et al.] (2012) contains a chapter I co-authored with Pam Jarvis entitled “Reading for research: efficient use of your access to an academic library”. It was a fairly tricky challenge for me as I am less well experienced at writing for a narrow audience particularly at undergraduate level. It seems to be fine. The other obvious challenge was ensuring sources were up-to-date generally I steered clear of specifics but came down fairly stongly on suggesting a diverse range of finding aids. I also did a little rant about the importance of understanding precision and recall – and of course tackled social media. This is how the publishers describe the book:
This new text is the only resource out there to address the needs of today’s early years students/trainees and support them through every stage of the early years research process.  Research in the Early Years contains case study material in the form of four fictional students’ experiences, which run through the book. Readers follow these example students through their dissertation module as they address common problems, issues and pitfalls. Clear explanations and a step-by-step approach are balanced with sufficient depth and rigour to challenge those on undergraduate courses or following graduate programmes such as EYPS.

Learning for All – Day One

Filed Under (Events, General, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 21-09-2012

On Thursday the first day of the “Learning For All” conference in Melbourne, I met a large number of interesting people and surprisingly was given a most concise and effective tour of the State Library Of Victoria by Andrew Hiskens – Manager Learning Services Division.
The papers presented during this first day of the conference were of a high standard and the debate generated for the plenary sessions was lively. Sue Roberts State Librarian of Victoria and formerly of Edge Hill University  gave a well focused and entertaining opening keynote presentation. The evening reception in the State Library culminated with a performance by the choir Off the Shelf an all female choir of librarians from Victoria formed to celebrate Australia’s first National Year of Reading 2012.

Visit to University of Melbourne

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, General, Professional practice) by ronan on 21-09-2012

My visit to the University of Melbourne to look at learning spaces was hugely enhanced by  my host Peter Jamieson who was a wonderfully enthusiastic guide.  I certainly appreciate the time he took to show me all of the different areas on their campus. I was given a tour of really interesting learning spaces, and I will do a fuller more detailed posting about this later. Of immediate note was the plectrum-shaped table in the learning classroom which is something I would really like to investigate putting into our own learning spaces.  Also the use of plywood to make bespoke library shelving incorporating  a good finish and can be rather more attractive than expected. I think the most important aspect of my visit, and something that Peter kept emphasising, was the need to think more deeply about our students’ behaviour. Peter Jamieson is an authority on learning spaces and was an engaging, humorous and enthusiastic guide.  I greatly appreciate the time he took to show me the range of interesting and different views of learning.

Extensive review of “From Lending to Learning”

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 17-07-2012

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Tim Davies has written an extensive and pleasingly complimentary review of my book From Lending to Learning in the latest issue of ARIADNE (Issue 38 ) where it is described as “a spirited defence of public libraries, which tries to define their core purpose and which argues for a re-positioning of their place in society”.



DREaM Conference another great success

Filed Under (Events, General, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 12-07-2012

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Image of Ben speaking

Ben Goldacre in full flow

Getting the speakers, the venue, the content, the tone, the audience and even the food perfect for any event is a difficult trick to pull off. But this is just what the DREaM Conference which I attended Monday at the British Library in London achieved. And they achieved it with some considerable style.

Contributions from Professor Carol Tenopir, University of Tennessee; Dr Louise Cooke, Department of Information Science, Loughborough University were excellent and very well received. Star attraction who lived up to his reputation and gave a frank and fairly hard-hitting talk was Ben Goldacre who according to his blog:
“is a best-selling author, broadcaster, medical doctor and academic who specialises in unpicking dodgy scientific claims from drug companies, newspapers, government reports, PR people and quacks. Unpicking bad science is the best way to explain good science.”

The “One Minute Madness” was good fun with some deliveries timed to perfection – very impressive.

For futher details of the conference and the Coalition go to the Library and Information Science Research Coalition

P.S. —  I won a book in the raffle!  “Dale, P., Beard, J. and Holland, M., Eds.  (2011) University Libraries and Digital Learning Environments. Ashgate,  England.

ALDinHE Conference 2012

Filed Under (Events, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 13-04-2012

I attended recently the 9th ALDinHE Conference: University of Leeds “Learning Development in a digital age: emerging literacies and learning spaces”. This is the Assocoation for Leaning Development in Higher Education, its aims are described on its website:  “informed by values of empowerment and partnership, a Learning Development perspective encourages and supports all students to be actively engaged in their own learning and to analyse and assess their own development within experiential and social contexts.”

The conference for which I could only attend one day was at the University of Leeds and was well organised – unfortunately I missed the social events. I did catch the Keynote speaker Helen Beetham who was excellent – I had come across her work in digital literacies in particular a JISC funded project which I rate highly and have returned to on a number of occasions. Helen’s keynote was engaging and well put together deploying a number of devices to put forward a well thought through argument – I was particularly interested in her thoughts about referencing and citation and her assertion that today’s learners are more likely to use Delicious or Mendeley rather than come to terms with the less intuitive Harvard 18th or Chicago 15th. I agree – it is probably the case – I use Mendeley and WorldCat all the time. I was even more surprised that a group like ALDinHE were aware of or interested in what I would have thought were “librarianship” issues. Indeed throughout my short visit to the conference I kept wondering where this group of people fitted into the modern university. They weren’t professional libraians nor could they be labelled “academic staff” whatever that means. I suppose they had some support role – widening participation seemed important judging from the poster session, and encouragingly many of them were keen researchers. It is hoped however that they do not have any role in supporting students with their academic writing because they described their keynote speaker as having been a Principle Researcher!

It was during the keynote that disaster struck! When the keynote was warming up, in fact at the precise moment when we were listening to the “sound of  data” the fire alarm sounded and we evacuated the lecture theatre. What a pity. I got bored and cold standing outside and there was nobody able to give any information so I took the opportunity to visit the Brotherton Library which is always a treat.

I now know that Learning Development is a “thing” but not sure what nor how it fits in with library services.

The ALDinHE website can be found here:

LIRG – Marketing meeting

Filed Under (General, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 20-01-2012

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Gordon Square, Bloomsbury

On Monday I attended the Library and Information Research Group’s marketing meeting at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in London. The area of Bloomsbury, with which I am linked through the Russell family, my great-grand-aunt, Fanny Gallaher, author, was for many years the personal secretary to the Duchess of Bedford aka the “Flying Duchess”, looked as splendid as ever in the winter sunshine. The picture here is of Gordon Square where the ‘Bloomsbury’ group met frequently. I discovered also that poet W B Yates lived at 5 Woburn Walk – a cut-through I use regularly on my way back to Kings Cross.

So what exactly does LIRG do? LIRG seeks to increase peoples awareness and understanding of research that relates to the library and information profession across all sectors by:

Increasing its profile and influencing its direction;
Promoting the dissemination of sound research methodology and results;
Assisting in the development of emerging researchers;
Enabling networking between researchers.

The activities of the Group are co-ordinated by an elected committee of researchers, research students, lecturers and practitioners in the library and information profession. More information about the group can be found through this link LIRG

The group also publishes 3 times a year its journal LIR – Library and Information Research found here LIR

Honorary Fellowship Award of Bradford College

Filed Under (General, Professional practice) by ronan on 08-01-2012

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Gerry Sutcliffe MP

Gerry Sutcliffe MP (left)

In December I had the privilege to write and officially orate the citation for the presentation of the award of Honorary Fellowship of Bradford College to Member of Parliament for Bradford South Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe MP. The ceremony which was most enjoyable took place at St.George’s Hall, Bradford. The full text of my oration can be found by following this link: