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Information Scotland

The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

ISSN 1743-5471

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April 2005 Volume 3 (2)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

President's perspective

Old friends and new partners

Alastair Johnston finds a lot of professional enthusiasm at the home nations conference in Wales.

One of the privileges afforded to your President is the opportunity to participate in the conferences of the home nations. Early March saw your Director, Assistant Director Rhona, and myself in the snow covered hills of Wales - at Llandrindod Wells to be precise.

The conference theme of 'Old Friends and New Partners' proved to be particularly apposite. Friends reunited included Neil Bennett, Chair of Cilip Cymru and Head of Information and Cultural Services for Pembrokeshire County Council. Neil and I both include Galashiels within our CVs and I lost count of the time that the phrase "blast from the past" was uttered as we caught up with the comings and goings of friends and colleagues in libraries and the library supply trade. Tudfil Adams, County Librarian of Powys County Council, and an old friend from the BookshelF User Group days, introduced me to her Council's Chairperson with the words: "This is Alastair from Dumfries and Galloway and by complete coincidence I've spent the afternoon benchmarking Powys against Dumfries and Galloway!"

It was inspiring to hear Alan Pugh, the Welsh Assembly Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport, announce a series of investments: £35,000 to allow every Records Office in Wales to undertake outreach work in a modern way by providing each office with a laptop computer and a digital projector; and £2million to help deliver the CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales Development Programme with the aim of re-establishing public libraries at the heart of Welsh community life. The Minister laid particular emphasis on the need for public libraries to prepare marketing plans and to then go out and promote their services in the market place.

On that very theme, an initiative worthy of emulation is 'Book Prescription Wales' which is a partnership between CyMAL, the NHS, the Welsh public library authorities and the Society of Chief Librarians. The idea is simple, effective and, based on the results of the pilot, efficient. GPs are given internet access to library catalogues and issue prescriptions for particular books - the pilot related to mental health problems - with the patient collecting the book from their local public library. GPs can refer patients to sources of reliable information, there is no cost to either the patient or the NHS at the point of dispensing, and, best of all, public libraries pick up issues and potential new users - what more can one ask! The full-blown initiative will cover a wide range of health issues, from diabetes to post-stroke recovery. And just to prove that good ideas travel faster than Presidents, read about Scotland's first healthy reading scheme.

Reader Development also featured at Llandridod and the findings in Wales very much reflect those in Scotland and elsewhere. "Marketing and promoting books in a coordinated way works far better than simply leaving books on shelves to take their chance." It somewhat horrifies me that after 150 years we still find the need to repeat such an obvious truism but, nevertheless, if a few more librarians are converted to the cause then so be it!

Our very own Director brought the conference up-to-date on Scotland's journey towards cultural rights and entitlements for every citizen; on the work of the Cultural Commission; and on the role that both CILIPS and SLIC have played to assist the Commission in its work. Following Elaine's excellent article in the March issue of Information Scotland the final phase of the Commission's task is now well underway and I would again encourage every one of our members to contribute by whatever means possible to ensuring that the role of libraries in its widest sense is fully understood and recognised both by the Commission and then subsequently by the Scottish Executive.

Continuing the marketing theme Jim Parker, Registrar of Public Lending Right, had some very interesting things to say about authors, books, reading trends and use of the PLR database. I won't reveal the plot because within a few minutes of finishing his presentation Jim was booked for a repeat performance at CILIPS' Peebles conference! This year's theme is Smart, Successful Libraries: Developing the Library Offer. The dates are 23-26 May with Branch and Group Day on Wednesday 25 May.

The Home Nations Forum was established by CILIP as a response to the oft-heard remark that CILIP is London-centric and generally unaware of a world outwith the M25. The Forum meets once or twice a year and allows Ireland, Wales, Scotland and increasingly the English Regions to pool information and share experience. The opportunity of the Welsh Conference was taken to hold the Forum during the previous afternoon when we had updates on the Framework for Qualifications and news of the two pilots, both in the South and East of England. There was also considerable discussion on the 2006 Celtic Conference to be held in Cardiff - no Peebles in 2006, Cardiff instead!

In Asia work goes on in responding to the Tsunami Disaster and the subsequent earthquake and aftershocks. Most members will be aware that CILIP has now set up a fund with the aim of helping to rebuild library services in Sri Lanka where more than 160 school and public libraries have either been destroyed or badly damaged. Further information can be found at www.cilip.org.uk/professionalguidance/internationalwork/tsuanmiresponse.htm, and on page 12 of the April 2005 Update.

Finally a couple of memorable quotes from Wales. On discussing the need for professional enthusiasm: "People who never get carried away should be!" (Malcolm S Forbes) and a reflection on the state of library cooperation: "Sharing of resources can create mutual benefits, but shared poverty does not create wealth." (Fabian Franklin)

Alastair Johnston


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Information Scotland Vol. 3 (2) April 2005

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Last updated: 11 May 2005