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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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June 2006 Volume 4(3)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

Information & society

Special focus on ‘information and society’, we take a look at some of the projects funded by the the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) 2005/6 Innovation and Development Fund.

Solo and from scratch

Newly qualified, Shayna Gerber has taken on the daunting task of setting up an information resource in the voluntary sector single handed – serving professionals as well as the local community in Barrhead.

Having graduated with my MSc only days before starting at Voluntary Action, I was excited to be given the opportunity to establish their new resource library and information service. However, I was slightly unsure where to begin this mammoth task. Unlike a number of other sectors within LIS, the Voluntary sector was never really discussed in my course.

Voluntary Action is an umbrella organisation which exists to empower East Renfrewshire’s communities through volunteering and voluntary action. It serves two functions, as a Council for the Voluntary Sector (CVS) and as a Volunteer Centre (VC). As a CVS, Voluntary Action is part of a network of 58 independent organisations which provide support to the voluntary sector at a local level on such matters such as how to develop a project, how to find and manage funding or how to become a charity.

As the VC, Voluntary Action supports participation in volunteering. It aims to provide information and support for people to come together around common issues and removes barriers to participation through inclusion.
Information services are an integral part of Voluntary Action. Voluntary Action has always provided some form of information dissemination whether it be in the form of an e-bulletin, a quarterly magazine, leaflet bank or a small information resource collection. Until recently the information services were restricted by small staff numbers and even smaller premises. Since April, however, the project has moved to new premises in Barrhead, within the underCOVER project, which houses and represents a number of community organisations.

The new library will build on the existing services: the community-based leaflet bank, updating and broadening the poster display areas, continuing to offer monthly e-bulletins, distributing the quarterly magazine as well as re-modeling the Voluntary Action website.
UnderCOVER will also house the Voluntary Action resource library for the voluntary community. This will be a reference library with an area to read current local, national and voluntary sector publications as well as reports, surveys, etc. Users will include VA staff, VA volunteers, local community groups, charities, individuals, local authority workers and students. Other tenants of underCOVER and their client-base may also use it

My initial task was an informal information audit. I would also seek help from literature and from current professionals and sector knowledge. I consulted the Information Worker at the Volunteer Centre in Edinburgh,who is implementing a national online resource database. Having already made a resource catalogue and classification system for their paper-based materials, he helped me to understand the range of information used within the sector.

Another important source of advice was the Library + information Show, which I attended in April. It provided a wealth of information and ideas which I had never considered, such as creating a MARC 21 catalogue in order to eventually link-up with academic or public catalogues; purchasing a cataloguing system rather than creating a new SQL database, thus facilitating easier movement of information; innovative display methods and shelving units; as well as being re-introduced to the services available from CILIP. It also gave me the chance to meet people.

Many of the existing services such as the monthly e-bulletin and the quarterly magazine are still high priorities and excellent methods of passing information to our users. They could do with an updated look, or perhaps a more sophisticated push-pull service, but for the time being they are sufficient.
The project however, is still in its infancy. In the early days, I devised a broad classification scheme specifically relevant to Voluntary Action while maintaining key sector terms and groupings. However, due to time constraints and the severe lack of information staff – I am the only member of staff involved in this project – I have been unable to implement the classification scheme. Furthermore, while many aspects of the underCOVER project have been completed, the project as a whole – which includes the Resource Library – has not been completely funded. Therefore one of my most important current tasks is to seek funding for shelving, seating, ICT equipment for an OPAC, a dual function enquiry and OPAC desk, software for the catalogue, display units for the leaflet-bank and poster areas.

Being early in my career in LIS and my isolation as the only LIS professional engaged in such a large task have been challenging for me. Due to our dual roles as CVS and VC, Voluntary Action has a wide target audience. Every person in our community is potentially a user, either in a professional or in a casual manner. I sometimes find it difficult therefore to pin down what information and in what format would best suit the majority of users. The most challenging aspect will remain making information and its dissemination appropriate for all or the majority of our users, within a restricted budget.
I would like to raise the voice of the voluntary sector within LIS and the community in general and vice versa. I would hope that Voluntary Action could lead the way with its Information Services and demonstrate to the voluntary sector the importance of professionalism in its information staff and the important role they play in empowering and maintaining strong communities.

Shayner Gerber is Information & Resource Worker at Voluntary Action.


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Information Scotland Vol. 4(3) June 2006

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Last updated: 05-Oct-2006