Banana on pink background

OK, now I’ve got your attention I confess that this blog has nothing whatever to do with bananas … nor pink backgrounds! The last couple of blogs have been quite heavy, discussing whether and why libraries should reopen and focusing on the various ways they can impact on social issues, so for July and August I’m proposing an eclectic and, at least in part, more light-hearted style, though the key themes will I hope still be of interest to senior managers wanting to get more out of their library service, as well as people in the library world.

Christian Lauersen “introduces a new tool, the Impact Compass, which can be used to investigate and communicate the impact of individual public libraries to people, as well as to develop and evaluate activities at libraries”. “The impact Compass is built around four overall dimensions of impact, which makes it possible to get all the way around the users’ experiences”. The four dimensions of the compass are:

  • Emotional impact
  • Intellectual impact
  • Creative impact
  • Social impact

These four dimensions have, for assessing the impact of a library, been translated into: Haven, Perspective, Creativity and Community. Do read the full article, which is fascinating and shows you how to use the Compass in a library context.

Also interesting is Pandai Place’s Rewrite the future of your library by identifying 5 fault lines. Pandai writes that “No organisation can survive in the long-term without reinventing itself. Libraries are no different”. This approach looks at five ‘fault lines’ and poses five ‘Ask Yourself’ questions about your library service. While some of these don’t perhaps lend themseves so well to a public library setting I found the questions on, for example, metrics (about which UK public library services are generally pretty poor), to be really challenging.

It can sometimes seem to an old wrinkly like me that young people have all the fun, though I take comfort from the fact that this article in the Guardian, The rise of Booktok, may be incomprehensible to anyone over the age of 25!  My grasp of TikTok is slight, but it’s great to see young people using the medium between them to share books and a love of reading and the young ‘influencer’ who has clocked up more than 9.6bn views on this theme has to be onto something big. Could there be something here for library services to plug into?

Certainly it seems that in the city of Ipswich, in Australia not Suffolk, the kids really are having a great time at their new library, billed as Australia’s first dedicated public children’s library. This is no hackneyed dinosaur-themed space, no “this is not like the libraries of yesteryear, the focus is very much on interactivity and engaging our young people as they learn, explore and play”. As well as more than 35,000 library collection items just for children and young people there are multi-reality interactive experiences, lots of kids-focused programmes and events and more. Oh and the dinosaurs are life-sized and interactive!

Now onto the really random eccentricities of libraries. If you’ve time you can browse 25 amazing facts about libraries, but I’ll highlight a couple that caught my attention. Apparently librarians used to have to adopt a particular style of handwriting known as ‘Librarian hand’ so that they could hand-write catalogue cards and other records in a legible and consistent style. Fortunately, before I started work this had been superceded by typewriters or I wouldn’t have lasted in the job beyond the first day!

And “if you’re wondering how dirty library books can become after passing through many hands, the answer is: pretty dirty. Everything from traces of cocaine to the herpes virus to bed bugs have been found on sampled pages, but don’t worry: There’s never been a documented case of anyone catching anything from a library book”. Drawing on my own experience in those distant days when I worked on the library frontline, a partially sucked boiled sweet sticking the pages together was a not unusual occurrence, but my most memorable encounter was a rasher of bacon used as a bookmark. Uncooked in case you’re wondering.

Closing this blog I’d like, as I sometimes do, to take you back to a time when the world of libraries was very different. In the early 1960s my older sister was assistant lending librarian in a busy central library in west London when she became pregnant with her first child. She was young and fit so wished to carry on working for as long as possible, and all went well until the last few months when of course her pregnancy became more obvious. At this point the ageing and rather formal borough librarian, Mr Roberts, raised the delicate matter that he didn’t consider it proper for a lady in ‘ahem’ her condition to be on public view, so he asked her to undertake back-office duties until she went on maternity leave. The decade was, you’ll recall, known as The Swinging Sixties but that notion hadn’t reached Mr Roberts, who retired a couple of years later.

Back to blog home page