Thinking About Self Education

I have never wanted to be an ‘expert’ or specialist in any shape or form.

All I’ve ever wanted to be is a good All Rounder.

Thus I have focused all of my self education that end.

That includes what I might read, or viewed in the many museums and art galleries which I visited over the years.

Such visits are also my idea of fun.

In my younger days I was lucky enough to pay ahort visis to such places at the British Museum, National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery during my lunch breaks.
Plus spend my time browsing within both radical bookshops, and all the ones along the Charing Cross Road.

Spending much of my life working within libraries has also contributed towards my self education.

I also enjoy public talks on the few occasions when they occur.

Understand all of that and you will get a good idea about how my thinking goes.

Now that I’m retired I would of liked to spend some of my time in undertaking an adult education course. Though that has become much more difficult to do as many of these day courses have been cut, while I’m spending a lot of my time engaged in Campaigning activities.

Museums, Art Galleries, and Libraries are essential if we wish to create a very knowledgeable society.

Every cut to them is something which harms us all.

This needs to be said time & time & time again.

Books to Keep – Books to Ditch.

One of the reasons why I have not been writing that much of late is because I’ve been doing a major spring cleaning, buying new furniture and replacing a lot of my bookshelves.

As with all such projects it takes a while to get it all completed.

Three questions.

I’ve also been going through all of my books, resorting, and weeding out the ones which I can no longer use.

In order to simplify this process I asked myself three questions, and If I got the following answers, then out they went.

Are they related to my key interest? No.

Will I ever get around to reading them again? No.

Can I get hold of them should I ever want them again? Yes.

Some of them I’m giving to fellow activists who can use then.

Some I’m giving to a specialist library.

While the rest of them I’m donating to my local radical bookshop as a way of supporting the work it does.

If I was still living in London they would of gone to Housmans bookshop.


Having almost completed this whole process I’m now better able to find all of the references which are needed for my campaigning work, and for anything else which I might use in my writings over the coming years.

I’ve been putting all of my books together by subject and Authors, & my CDs by type, composer, band, or singer.

The same kind of thing has been done with my DVDs.

Though in some cases I’ve put both books by specific Authors together with the DVD films of their works.

e.g. Those of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.G.Wells and Jules Verne.

A Great Advantage.

So now to take advantage of it all – – – – – – –

Going Underground Or Just Going Missing ?

A couple of years ago I put together a few notes for an article
about people who have to go and live underground,
or just go missing.

The idea of this article was to examine just how people might live
this way within an increasingly networked society.

In my notes I referred to Bob Robinson as B,
although I now know that his real name is Bob Lambert.

I never got much further than penning these few notes.

It is highly unlikely that I will ever complete this piece,
but you might find these notes of some interest.

– – – – – – – – – – – –  — — – — – — – — —

The Networked Society.

What ever happened to B?

We can all tell stories about people we spent some time with in ones younger years, but with whom we have lost contact.

B was someone that I knew as a political activist over a
quarter of a century ago. Over time I moved on and lost
contact with him.

Continue reading Going Underground Or Just Going Missing ?

Reykjavík City Library

One of my highlights of last year was to be given a tour around
the Reykjavík City Library, which is housed in a converted
warehouse in the city centre.

The  same building also houses the Reykjavík Photo Museum,
and Reykjavik Municipal Archives.

Just how the library was founded and grew is an interesting history in itself.

Opened in 1919 it was in part funded by the sale of fishing vessels
owned by the City to France in 1917.

Right from the start the  library lent out cases of books to ships.

A Cultural Centre.

What I really like about the library is that it is used both cultural
and information centre.

During the summer the library hosts literary walking tours
around the centre of  Reykjavík.

While the ‘Let’s read the papers!’ provides guidance for those who
want to read the Icelandic news papers and understand what’s
going on in Iceland.

There is also a small cinema area within the library.  At the time
of my visit it was screening early German films.

The library works with Artóteki,
which  rents and sells arts works of art  by Icelandic artists.

Library Matters.

Here is a summary of just how the library operates.

– In all there are 85 library staff in city, with 35 of them based in
the main library.

– All accessioning and book preparation work is done in house.

– The library uses a Danish version of the Dewey Classification

– The library works in co-operation with other libraries within Iceland.

– It is member of Nordic Camps – The Network of Nordic Public Libraries.


– There is a very good stock of both Manga and none Icelandic
books which are available for loan.

Interestingly enough the highest number of  immigrants in
Iceland come from Poland.

If your ever in Reykjavík,  then you should make sure to pop in to
the library.

I should also like to thank Einar Ólafsson for showing me around
the library.

On Record keeping & Getting Older.

Some times I thinks about people that I once knew.

It’s just like keeping a  scrapbook that’s full of obituaries,
or having a notebook full of information about missing people.

You may have them in your possession,
but fewer & fewer people you know will of meet the individuals
who are listed in them.

During this year this observation has really come home to me.

First of all I got a confirmation about someone I used to know
having died a few years back.

Then over the last month or so I have been trying to contact
someone who I last saw over a quarter of a century go.

I still can not trace her,
& I’ve tryed ever route which I know.

Over the 60 years that I have been alive we’ve moved on from
Paper & Card records, to Microfilm & Micrcofiche, and then to
electronic dates bases.

Yet just as we have moved on from mainframe to PC to laptop to
netbook, w e have & are constantly changing the software which
holds these records.

I just wish that some of the people who work on computer
software would keep in mind the old saying:-
If it ain’t bust then don’t fix it.

Yet with all of these moves of records have come losses of
& the increasing presumption that ‘it’s all on the computer.’

Not so.

What makes it really difficult in tracing people is that they
might have common names,
or be know just by their nickname(s),
or changed their surname,
and now be living on the side of the world.

While the phone book, and  other directories, give just an initial
& surname on the basis that you will already know just where
they live.

Ever wondered just why the police are always so keen to know
peoples date of birth?

If more directories included this piece of information then it
would be so much easier to trace ones old friends.

In the meanwhile I’m left looking for other peoples scrapbook
which will supplement my own.

Referencing the Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum ( IWM ) has changed a lot since I first
visited it some time around 1963.

I still have a very strong impression of just what the museum
was like at the time,
and the displays upon the horrors of World War One.

I’ve been back to the IWM several times over the years since

I Recently went on a librarians visit to the new
Explore History Centre within the IWM.

The Explore centre replaces what used to be the Museum
Library, and is a good starting place for anyone who wishes to
learn more about the various aspects of the various wars
which Britain has been involved in since the turn of the 19th

Not only can one access the books and papers which are held
within the museum,
but it’s audio visual materials too.

This is also the starting point from which one may undertake
some research in to ones family history,
but find out about how wars have been waged during the 20th

The idea behind the Explore Centre is that what is held within
the Museum should be easily available to everyone.

Both World War One & Two were ‘peoples wars’,
and the collection is a reflection of this very fact.

Thus the Museum has a vast collection of books, documents,
and other items upon the subject of Conscientious Objection,
together with many sound recording made by COs.

by Harold Bing.

Amongst the items I was shown the last letter of Edith Cavell,
whos statue Women In Black hold their vigils,
a collection of letters from people who were on the Lusitania
when it was torpedoed in 1915.

The IWM has a holding of over 5 miles of books,
50,000 badges,
and the largest collection of paintings within the UK.

So you should be able to find something of interst for

Pensions or Here’s The Deal….

For a lot of people on low salaries there is but one
compensation to be had,
and that is a reasonable pension,
or at least one which does not mean living in dire poverty
after retirement.

One of the consequences of low pay is never being able to
own ones own property,
and so having to pay rent until the day one dies.

Work in libraries and you will both earn far less that an
average salary,
and never be able to own the place you live in.

Now both the UK government,
and many financial bodies are claiming that all public sector
workers are receiving pensions which are
‘Too generous’.

Not a word do they say about how state pensions are so low
that they are below the poverty line.

Not a word about increasing the level of public worker
pensions to that which is enjoyed by finance workers.

Not a word about giving ‘key worker’ status to all low paid
library workers.

Not a word upon the need to increase the level of state

The self contradictions which result from all of the above
facts needs to be faced up to.

The choice is obvious in terms of preventing poverty in

Either: –

– Pay library workers more in order that we may be able to
both purchase their own properties,
and save enough for their old age.


– Keep the present public sector pensions at the same levels.

Failure to do so will mean that yet more people will not be
able to undertake working in public libraries,
and we will all suffer as a result!

Dumbing Down Equates to Less Information for the Well Informed.

At school I was taught how to read an ordinance survey map.

The maps I was bought up on showed all the railway lines,
and shipping routes.

We would refer to the Great North Road,
or where a road started or ended.

Road maps were not a mess of meaningless numbers,
but were descriptive of the places marked upon them.

It was also a time in which weather maps showed millibar lines
upon then.

If I looked at the contour numbers upon a map I see just how
steep the landscape might be.

If I looked at the millibar numbers then I can judge just what the
weather might be doing.

My how things have changed!

We have satellite navigation for those who can not read
ordinance survey maps,
Weather maps which remind me of children’s picture books.

I keep reading about the dumbing down of education in terms
of grammar, spelling, and numeracy,
but that’s only a part of the problem.

This kind of dumbing down would also seem to extend to the
fact that people are being given statistical information in a
very simplistic form.

Now I do understand that some people are unable to read a lot
of information from any form of statistical data,
and that they might not be able to understand a complex
weather map.

Yet that is no reason for dumbing down the information which
is presented to us in the media.

Is it any wonder that the newspaper industry is in decline,
when all they can do is present news stories in such a very
simplistic form?

Call me an intellectual snob if you will,
but I want to read information that is information,
and not a very simplistic version of the truth.

Naming and Renaming.

Over the years there have been many efforts to develop
better descriptive signage within libraries.

In the old days this was so simple to achieve,
as there were only a few departments within each library:
Non Fiction,
Children’s library.

Things change. . . .

Now what really confuses a lot of library uses is that there
would seem to be less and less of a distinction between the
reference and lending areas within most modern library

This is especially true as we often find reference periodicals
with the lending areas,
while in many libraries there are very often no distinct music
or AV ( Audio Vision ) departments.

Is it any wonder that people are both unable to distinguish
between what are the Fiction or Nonfiction areas within most

This also says nothing about the problems which they might
experience in trying to work out just what are the quiet study

So here is a quick and useful guide as to just how library areas
might be marketed*2
within the libraries of the future.

– The Reality Zone.
Instead of Nonfiction.

– Pure Fiction.
For all works of fiction.

– The Twilight Zone.
This being a playful reference to any teenage area.

– Kiddies Corner.
or where the children are to be found.


– Shhhhooooooooosh !!!!!!!!!!
The quiet zone or study area.

Now what other ideas do you have upon what might be added to
this list?


I have also noted that many people are unable to distinguish
between what is Fiction and Nonfiction.
Thus they will refer to Crime Fiction and True Crime.

‘Marketed’ being both a descriptive and marketing term within
this context.

An Over Rated Library Exercise.

If libraries have really changed over the years, then it has
been as a result of how information is delivered to us all.

Yet the way in which books are taken in or out of Libraries is
only now starting to change: –
thanks to the introduction new library equipment.

Yet the issues around the use of self issue and self return
machines within libraries are never fully understood by most
people who use libraries, or even the library workers who use

– Many people view such machines a threat to jobs.

– Yet others view them as a way in which they take away the
regular human contact that they have with those who work
within libraries.

The truth is that far from being a threat to jobs,
such machines can liberate those of us who work in libraries,
and we can now really use the information skills which we all

It also means that library staff are freed up from a lot of
very repetitive work, and thus can spend more time in helping
people with their information needs.

There is also another issue which kicks in here.

Books are not those lightweight paperbacks which people
imagine library workers float about with all day.

– Books are made of paper.
– Paper can be very heavy.
– Books are made of Paper.
– Books can be heavy.
– A Lot of books can be very heavy.

Now just image what it can be like to lift a lot of books each
and every day of your working life.

I still remember how my arms ached the first few weeks I
worked within a library some 37 years ago.

This was the result of spending my working days lifting heavy

I Still have some very well developed arm muscles.

Now just imagine what it must be like to site at a desk and lift
up a couple of very heavy books for several hours a day.

It can put a lot of strain upon ones arm muscles,
and result in repetitive strain injuries ( RSI ) .

If you don’t believe me, then try lifting upon and down a couple
of coffee table books in your outstretch hand while your also
in a seated position.

Just keep doing it for about 10 minutes, and you will start to
realise just what a pain it is to spend all day issuing &
returning library books.

That’s why we should all rejoice in the use of self issue &
self return machines within libraries.

As I write this there is an ongoing public & trade union
opposition to these machines being introduced in to the
libraries of the London Borough of Camden.

This is all very silly!

What trade unionists should realise is that It’s not a
management trick to cut jobs.

It is trade unionists which should be demanding that All
Libraries have such technologies installed within them,
as it is a way to protect all library works from RSI.

This really needs to be said,
and understood,
both by library workers,
all other library users.