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.

A Fine Example of Information Work.

Sometimes one comes upon a website which is so awful that you
wonder just what use it might be to anyone.

I came upon such a website the other day.

Here are some of the highlights which are to be found upon it.

– A home page which is full of organisational abbreviations,
but which fails to explain just what they mean.

– A section of External Reports which reads
‘ Sorry, no link items are available to view at this time.’

– The Links to related organisations
Shows exactly the same message.

– The Latest Newsletter which is dated
Autumn 2007 – 10 Sep 2007

– While the section of regional news has not been properly
updated on a regular basis.

Don’t laugh too hard,
but I’m referring to the website of the
Society of Chief Librarians.

I could make a few comments upon just what this website might
teach us, but you might like to note them for yourself.

Pensions & Library Workers.

Here is The Deal.

Library & Information workers get below average incomes,
but most will get a pension after years of service.

Such pensions are based upon years of hard work on low pay,
and the below average wage which they may be receiving at
the point of retirement.

The deal being that one will put up with such low pay in
exchange for a pension that will lift one above the penury
which is the state pension.

Now some clever investors are claiming that this is an
unreasonable deal for the tax-payer.

Well you can’t have it both ways!

Either you start to pay the real economic worth of library
workers during a working life,
you pay what is not an unreasonable pension.

Though it might also be remembered that:

– All pensions are paid for over a working life time by those
who receive these pensions.


– A pension is a form of savings during ones working life, which is withdrawn in stages after one retires.

So it is not the tax-payer who is funding these pensions,
but the workers themselves.

If anything does need to be done in terms of pension reform,
then it should be the ending the spouse or partners

Such an allowance is a form of Discrimination against single

This would also release a lot of money which could be better
used to make sure that everyone who has a pension might
continue to do so,
and increase the level of pension pay-outs for all.

Enough said …….. We are not all overpaid bankers.

Books to Love & Keep – Library Books to Pulp.

Having a love for books does not mean that I don’t pulp old
books from time to time.

This happens in all public libraries,
and I do it with some of my own outdated books too.

I recently commented upon just why this is something
that needs to be done.

Here is a summary of just why library books get pulped :

– There is a major difference between a lending or reference
library, and an archive.

– Libraries are not archives.

– Any outdated medical or legal book will provide dangerous

– Technologies change.

– New editions get published.

– Our thinking upon various issues,
such as works of art,
changes over the years.

– We constantly discover more and more about the world
about us.


– Libraries are places in which people find books to educate

To sum this all up:

– People want to be able to access what is the best current
information upon any subject,
as opposed to looking a dangerously outdated data or ideas.

– Library stock should be the very best possible in order to
achieve these various ends.

Books are not sacred objects,
but a medium via which to spread information and ideas.

If only more libraries were to explain any or all of the above,
then we wouldn’t get such a bad press every time that a book is
withdrawn from stock.

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

Libraries on the Madrid Metro.

One of the most interesting things I discovered upon my recent visit to Madrid is Bibliometro.

Bibliometro is a project in which Library kiosks are to be found within 12 of the Madrid metro stations.

There are not many books which are held within these library kiosks, but you can order and return library books at these outlets while on your way to or return from work.

By all accounts this is a project which was first developed within Chile.

It is an interesting project which might be well worth developing within many other parts of the world.

A Word to Librarians Upon Stock Revision – Jobs.

Walk into any public library of late and you might of noticed
just which books are coming off the shelves the fastest rate.

These are:
-career guides,
– books upon how to write a good curriculum vitae,
– Upon just how one would work for oneself.

These are the new best sellers.

What I am also noticing is that there are a lot more people
asking about vacancies within libraries, or for newspapers
and periodicals in which jobs are advertised.

All this is just a reflection of just how high the level of
unemployment has become.

Many of the new unemployed are not inarticulate,
but highly skilled, and highly educated individuals.

Yet almost all of the help which is available to the
unemployed still makes the presumption that they all have low
skill level, or that all they need is a little retraining in order
to find some employment.

Continue reading A Word to Librarians Upon Stock Revision – Jobs.

A Title by the Spine.

It’s not just ‘dumbing down’ or lack of knowledge which
sometimes causes books to be misfiled within our libraries.

I recently came upon a cd album of the pop band Japan,
‘The Best of Japan’, which was shelved under World music.

These of us who work in the library world know about many
novels which have the name of a character as the title work,
and that have been found on the shelves under the surname of
the title, rather than under that of the author.

I have even a book filed under the publisher name:
the publishes name was on the book spine in a much larger type
face than that of the author.

These things can and do just happen from time to time.

What concerns me more is the way in which library books now
come from the suppliers already catalogued,
and with the class number already placed upon the spine.

Continue reading A Title by the Spine.

Maids, Grooms, Footmen, and Library History.

Putney Library opened to the public in 1899.

The building was the gift of the publisher Sir George

A bust of him was placed in the long corridor to the building
during the 1920s.

When the library first opened it listed its members by their

Maids, Grooms, Footmen, Butlers, Draper, Ladies and

A practice which has long gone out of use.

These membership records were written upon ledgers,
which were kept within the Librarians Office,
and stored there for many years after they had became

You could made an interesting historical class analysis by
just going through these ledgers.

During World War Two the basement of the building was
used as an ARP ( Air Raid Patrol ) centre.
This space was later used to store items for the
Wandsworth museum.

I worked in Putney Library from 1973 to 1987.

When I first worked in the library it still had its original
wood book cases, and a wonderful grandfather clock in
the hall.

Roy Plomley of ‘Desert Island Discs’ fame would use the
Music Library in his research work for his broadcasts.
He also liked to see old French films, and I would sometimes
bump into him at the National Film Theatre.

Another Putney library user was the Tribune cartoonist
George Gale.

A former Labour minister, Lord Jenkins of Putney, was yet
another library user.

I give the above facts as an example of the joy of Library

We all use & work within public libraries, and very rarely
think about just how they have been used over the years.

Yet just you look at this kind of history, & you will find a
fascinating part of all our social heritage.