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Memories of a Library Assistant in Edinburgh

MANY years ago I used to work in a library. Now that you've stopped laughing I'll continue. It wasn't just any library, it was THE library, the numero uno of book depositories, the largest in the nation . . . the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge. Let's face it, if you're going to hand out books for a living you might as well aim for the top.

And that was basically what my job consisted of - handing out books. Apart from the exciting times I got to wheel them on a trolley into the rarefied world of the Advocates Library next door. To be clear, I was in no way ever a "librarian", just a lowly deliverer of weighty tomes to the intellectually-gifted few who were allowed up the hallowed stairs to the Reading Room.

I was just out of school, and to even be considered for such an unskilled job I had to be interviewed by a panel of three people. Yes, a triumvirate of academics to quiz a 17-year-old to discover if she's got the necessary qualifications to deliver a book. Apparently, my limbs were deemed acceptable.

Then, the National Library was a daunting place. The Reading Room was run by a matriarchal character called Ms Deas, straight from the pages of a Muriel Spark novel. She had all her staff living in quiet fear - and God help any general member of the public who tried to get into the place without the necessary paperwork. If you weren't an academic or a PhD student you had no chance.

More from Gina Davidson at the Edinburgh News.

Luis Soriano and "Biblioburro", the Donkey Library

Anyone see this on PBS last evening?

"Biblioburro" follows Luis Soriano as he teaches his regular class of children on a Friday in the village of La Gloria, Magdalena Province, in northern Colombia, "in the heart of the conflict zone between leftist guerrillas and paramilitaries." He rides a burro as he travels to villages to loan books to children.

He asks the children to draw pictures of the bad things that have happened in their lives, then share their stories with the class. He asks them, "Where are we going to leave these bad things?" The answer is, "Behind us."

Soriano builds up the children by telling them they are the ones who will save the country. He is preaching the gospel of education as the way they will overcome the killing and poverty in the region, and his love and care for them shines through in the up-close-and-personal filmography directed by Carlos Rendon Zipagauta.

Zipagauta's award-winning film, in Spanish with English subtitles, has all the elements that make the viewer care: children who have faced terrible events, open-air classrooms where real learning takes place and Soriano himself, who has spent a decade living his faith in education.

Britons Sue Government for Closing Libraries

Is closing a library comparable to child abuse? At least one Brit thinks so.

Campaigners are seeking a ruling that decisions to close six libraries in the London (UK) borough of Brent are legally flawed.

The Brent case is expected to be followed in the near future by similar challenges to library cuts proposed by Gloucestershire and Somerset county councils, and on the Isle of Wight.

Nick Cave, Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp are among those who have contributed to campaign legal costs.

Playwright Alan Bennett launched a scathing attack when he spoke at a church benefit to raise legal funds to save Kensal Rise library, one of the six under threat in Brent. He compared the loss to ''child abuse''.

Brent campaign lawyers yesterday applied for judicial review, arguing council officers unlawfully failed to assess local needs and the likely impact of closing half the borough's libraries.

From the Telegraph UK.

Censorship Moves West

Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, writing at al-Jazeera English, notes that Internet censorship is moving westward and becoming a more mainstream notion in various countries.

Key quote:

Most problematically, setting a precedent of blocking websites simply makes it that much easier for a government or ISP to extend filtering as they wish.

Better Late Than Never: A National Librarian for Malta

Sure, it's a small country, but there are thousands of years of history in these seven small islands. And according to The Times of Malta , "Malta will soon have a national librarian who will be responsible to ensure that priceless books, documents and manuscripts are collected and maintained for posterity.

The lack of leadership had meant that Malta’s national and public libraries did not have a direction and valuable manuscripts were being allowed to rot.

Speaking during the launch of a new restoration machine, Education Minister Dolores Cristina yesterday said a call for applications would soon be issued for the post of national librarian after the awaited Malta Libraries Act was published a few weeks ago.

She added that she was currently working on the appointments to the Libraries’ Council that will work to promote libraries and facilitate collaboration between different stakeholders.

The council, which will serve for three years, will be made up of a chairman, national archivist, the head of the university’s archives studies, director of local council departments and another three members.

The law also sets up Malta Libraries as a legal entity that can enter into contracts, acquire books and manage resources.

Reading Made Easy - Why Just Books Libraries Work

Sunder Rajan, founder of Just Books, is using technology to bring libraries back to the people.

Sunder Rajan, a software engineer from Bangalore, had a bright idea. He hated travelling miles to access a library. So, in May 2008, he decided to start one near his house with the help of his wife. This was the beginning of Just Books. He thought it would be a good part-time run, but he was surprised when he got 1,000 members in three months. He shrugged it off as the initial excitement about a library in the neighbourhood. But after another three months when his fledgling library grew to 2,000 members, Rajan knew he had stumbled onto something. He decided to make it his full-time job. Today, his company has 22 libraries all over India with a revenue of approximately Rs. 4 crore.

Read more: http://business.in.com/article/work-in-progress/reading-made-easy-why-just-books-libraries-w...

Who Needs New Books? (or Where to Make the Cuts)

From Yorkshire, the UK: COUNCIL bosses have cut the amount they spend on buying books and stock for North Yorkshire’s libraries by £300,000.

The reduction in funding for new titles, DVDs, newspapers and website subscriptions comes as North Yorkshire County Council looks for ways to cut its budget and involve communities in running the services without making sweeping closures.

The authority’s executive will decide next week whether to implement fresh proposals which would mean libraries in “key centres”, such as Selby, Malton and Norton, Pickering and Sherburn-in-Elmet staying open, but with fewer staff and reduced opening times.

Services in smaller towns, including Easingwold, Helmsley and Tadcaster, would be supported by the council but part-run by volunteers.

The library at Schipol Airport in the Netherlands

Recently went through Schipol Airport and had a chance to visit the little library that was mentioned in a LISNews article last year. Really nice when you're stuck for something to do (besides buying tulips or chocolate!)
Here are photos that my husband took with his iPhone:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/abirdie/5793384429/in/photostream

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

Snoring...@ Your Library

Many librarians have encountered sleeping patrons...but this story from New Zealand draws the line at snoring while sleeping at the library.

"High power prices and heating restrictions imposed on homestay students are driving people to the library on cold winter days - to sleep.

Language school students Justina Liu and Dory Wang, who were seen napping at the New Lynn War Memorial Library last Saturday, say they go there if they want an afternoon nap, because their homestay parents won't let them use heaters at home during the day.

"It's nice and warm here, and the seats are really comfortable," said Miss Liu, who is from Hebei, China.

"Of course the best thing about it is that it's free and there's no one telling you to turn off the heater."

But it's not only homestay students needing a warm place to sleep.

Housewife Jan Togiola also said she went to "libraries with plush seats" to catch a nap in between reading the newspapers because high power prices had made it "impossible to afford" heating in her home.

Library user Catherine Jones said she found such behaviour "rude and inconsiderate" and had complained to staff at the Auckland Central library a couple of times in the past fortnight.

"It's not just the sleeping ... sometimes it's the snoring that I find irritating when you want to have a quiet read in the library," Mrs Jones said. "

LISTen: An LISNews.org Program -- Episode #154

This week's episode brings an essay about a new attempt at fracturing the Internet which will otherwise alter the knowledge ecology. More than oil emanates from the Middle East.

A microblog feed has been instituted for items from the slush pile that do not otherwise make it to air. You can find such on Twitter at ELPPILE and on Identica at ELPSLUSH.

Related links:
Radio Netherlands Worldwide Media Network blog highlighting Iran's attempt to fracture the Internet
Internet luminary Dave Winer on Iran's attempt to fracture the Internet
Wall Street Journal on Iran's attempt to fracture the Internet
Nova: The Cuban take on Linux
CIA World Factbook on Cuba
CIA World Factbook on Iran
CIA World Factbook on raw amounts of Internet users ranked by nation-state

Creative Commons License
Excluding United States Government content incorporated herein, LISTen: An LISNews.org Program -- Episode #154 by The Air Staff of Erie Looking Productions is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

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