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.

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