James Duff Brown (1862-1914)

Very few people might ever of heard of James Duff Brown ,
but his impact upon just how we use public libraries is

Brown worked as a librarian in Camberwell before he
became the first Borough librarian for Islington.

His great innovation was to introduce ‘open access’ within
public libraries.

Previous to that ‘closed access’ meant that one had to
browse the library catalogue, and complete a form in order
for one of the library staff to fetch the book out from the

Brown wrote upon various aspects of librarianship.

His Publications include:

A manual of practical bibliography.

Subject Classification.


British Musical Biography: A Dictionary of Musical Artists,
Authors, and Composers Born in Britain and Its Colonies.

Anyone who is interested in library history or library
cataloguing should find out more about his work.

Scaffolding and Library Lists.

Library and Information work is not just about being able to
provide information.

Neither is it just about how to use book content pages,
indices, or being able to update loose leaf binder files.

It is also about being able to interpret some of the

– Telephone area codes.

– Post Office sort Codes, or Zip codes.

– Dewey Classification numbers.


– ISBN & ISSN Numbers.

Of course there are a lot of other codes or information
systems which one may be asked about during the course of
a typical Library working day.

Continue reading Scaffolding and Library Lists.

The Maths of Library Poverty.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that single
people in Britain need a pre-tax income of £13,400 a year
before the cost of rents are added on to this amount.

Taking in to account that most rents Start at between £140
& £160 a week, then that is an add on of between £7,280 &
£8320 a year.

This means that we are talking of between £20,680 &
£21,720 a year.

The average salary for most library workers is circa
£4,000-£6,000 BELOW that amount.

All of which illustrates both why Library Workers should
be better paid,
Just why Library Workers need to gain a Key Worker status.

Should Library Cleaners Learn Dewey?

Here is a true story which should get you thinking.

All the staff in the library started to notice that books
were being put upon the shelves in a very random order.

This was not just the normal odd book being put back in the
wrong place,
but whole sequences of books being placed out of order, on,
or around, the shelves they should of been on.

What made this much more mysterious was the fact that it
would happen on various random days, & upon various
random shelves around the library.

Continue reading Should Library Cleaners Learn Dewey?

Lost jobs of the past

Within my lifetime there have been a lot of jobs which have
disappeared from the urban landscape as a result of new
technologies, and various cost cutting exercises.

Here are some examples to prove the point: –

Railway porters.
If you look at old photos ( or films ) of railway stations,
then you will see these guys at work.
I’ve not seen one in a railway station for many a year.

The Milk Man.
Yes – I am told that they do exist, but there are fewer &
fewer of them around.

Bank messengers.
These guys used to carry fiscal transfer notes between the
various banks in the city. Now it’s all done electronically.

Continue reading Lost jobs of the past

Libraries on Film.

Here are a few facts for your next Library quiz, which should be filed under ‘Library Locations in the Movies’.

Pasadena Public library was used in the filming of ‘Ghost Busters’.

Teddington Library features in ‘Hot Fuzz’.


The New York Public Library plays a major part ‘the Day after tomorrow’.

How many other libraries can you add to this film location list?

Preamble to a manifesto for Library & Information Workers

Here is my reaction to the abolition of the 10% tax rate in Britain, & what it will do for many Library Workers.


Preamble to a manifesto for Library & Information

We the landless urban poor.

We who help all.

We whose skills and labour enriches all.

High skilled
Low Payed.

We who help others to achieve a better life.

We who help to educate all.

We who help all of society to work better,
play harder,
achieve both healthier & happier lives.

We fiscally impoverished Library & information workers.

All we ask for is a living wage,
just enough so that we no longer have to live in poverty,
are forced to live in slums.

We the landless Urban poor.

High skilled.

Low payed.

Library & Information workers.

I hate the Word ‘Customer’

I hate the Word ‘Customer’.

As a passenger I keep being refereed to as a ‘customer’,
even thought as a ‘citizen’ I part own the public transport
which I use.

Within libraries I keep hearing the expression
‘Library Customers’, even though they might better be
refereed to as Library Users.

The word customer is defined as someone who buys goods
or services.

Call me a linguistic pedant, but just how am I buying
something from myself?

This is why it’s about time we should all refuse to use that
ugly work, & go back to the use the word ‘Passenger’ as
we travel, & say ‘Library User’ within all public libraries.