29 March 2010

LILAC2010: Keynote with Tony Durcan

Monday Keynote: Tony Durcan
Head of Culture, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning
Newcastle City Council

What is the role of information literacy in public libraries, particularly in terms of current economic climate. Focus on digital inclusion.

Is information literacy a public library issue?
Is Information Literacy a new skills gap?

The People’s Network (2002), free access to the internet is not possible in public libraries. A lot of emphasis on Digital Britain.
New ways to offer adult learning, with new ways to fund that.

Side note: Learning how far ahead the United States is in terms of what we offer at the public library (internet access!) and through e-education. Fewer people using the internet or even having computers in the UK, particularly in rural areas.

If you didn’t have public libraries, you would have to spend a lot more in social issues (crime, education, social services). The library as place but also a place that benefits the community in broad, societal ways--even beyond ways we sometime are aware as librarians.

Libraries as “pillars of interaction.”

Still significant issues around skills and behavior: a real hurdle is getting people to ask for what they want. Not just a problem in public libraries. How can librarians get trained to solicit questions?

Breaking down barriers in physical spaces in order to break down barriers in mental spaces: information points at Newcastle Public Library. No hard spaces—open spaces. Staff as floor based, not office based. Encourages questions.
What kinds of changes have you seen in user behavior? Much more open although staff were very frightened. But they admitted that their fears were misfounded. It has increased accessability considerably.

Made decisions without the background but instinct, and knowing their community.

Getting quite a significant glimpse into the public library’s role in the UK: no free internet across the country, libraries have to pay for government information. Wow. People that don’t know how to use the internet or that they think the internet is not for them. Offering “How to use the iPod”, “How to use social networking”. Is it the medium for you?

A culture change in the staff: we have to enthuse people to use new formats. Removed bureaucracy: no need to use your card to use computers. Breaking down barriers.

IDEA: Putting podcasts of visitors on the library: people famous, people important, just people. Why are you in the library? Why do you love the library?

A strength and a weakness of the public library is its public, democratic root. It is up to what politicians and the people are needing and wanting to do.

At what point do we allow young people to use social networking sites on public computers?

A question from Twitter: why are images on Flickr not available through Creative Commons?

How to build a better relationship with the Council? Respond to the political agenda. Libraries are part of city government—don’t forget it. We have forgotten it in terms of the agenda of the city, initiatives, priorities. Not ours but theirs. You can’t always do what politicians ask you to do, but you can explain why you won’t do it and what you can do.

Highlight your priorities:
Supporting children’s education
Supporting social and digital inclusion.
In the States: universal access.

Raising the profile of the public library.

The relationship between public schools and libraries: how to extend school’s curriculum into the librarian? Again an issue of funding.

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