Manchester NLPN

Living It Loud in the Learning Lounge: Manchester New Library Professionals Network Spring Event 2013: 

The Manchester New Library Professionals Network spring event took place in the glamorous surroundings of the MMU Business School on April 6th. In attendance on behalf of Team Ireland (we go there so you can read about it afterwards) were we two authors (@dangleroughly and @missygstar) and Mr. Kevin Mullaney (@kevlibrarian). The theme of the day was Advocacy and Outreach:

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Get it Loud in Libraries

Get it Loud sprang from Stewart Parson’s career as a music librarian. Attempting to target the 14-25 year old demographic, he found himself hamstrung by licensing agreements which prevent lending CD’s until three months after release. He instead decided to transform the library into a live venue.

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Beginning with funding from a Library Manager, the project targeted up and coming bands and connected them via the library with a youth audience, including acts on the cusp of a major breakthrough such as Adele (on a borrowed bar stool, for the princely sum of £75 in 2007), Jessie J and Marina and the Diamonds. The project won the Love Libraries Award in 2007, and subsequently was awarded funding from Lancashire County Council.

The gigs are alcohol free, which helps gain a teenage audience who are excluded from gigs at licensed venues, and attendees are encouraged to browse in the library whilst waiting for and between performers.  It’s estimated that the project has created a new audience of 26,000 for local libraries, 80% of whom had not previously been users.

It’s also allowed talented youngsters to film and photograph proceedings and develop portfolios. Live footage in particular is more effective at spreading the message than many other forms of marketing. Stewart did emphasise the conflict between maintaining quality and localism. This in particular applies to the bands chosen to perform, though an unexpected upside is that many of the performers have proven to be massive library advocates themselves. The public funding the project has received also comes with an obligation to organise gigs in low-Arts provision areas, which can result in a lack of available volunteers relative to more affluent areas.

The project has also aimed to take the library out of the library, with a tent at Kendal Calling Festival, which saw 5,000 people come through for poetry readings and live music. In order to succeed, however, there is a need for constant innovation. One issue is funding. In order to put on the best possible gig, it is necessary to invest thousands of pounds in sound, lighting and security before the doors even open.

You can read more about the project at http://www.getitloudinlibraries.com/ and follow developments on

Twitter: @libraryfiend and @loudinlibraries.

School Libraries Association

Janet Clarke of Altrincham Grammar School for Boys opened this session for the SLA. Rated outstanding by Ofsted, this level of high ach3ievement brings with it mixed blessings. The students are spoon fed from an academic perspective, and the attendant pressure to perform academically can see up to 100 students studying in the library at lunch. One way that Janet advocates for the library is by essentially inviting herself along to department head and curriculum group meetings, tackling any problems in a positive way and aligning library goals and targets with those of the school. A simple way to advocate on a one-on-one is to target new staff and promote library services to them.

Next up was Kevin Sheehan of Loreto High School in Chorlton. With a brand new library the decision was made to rebrand the library as the Learning Lounge, the “place for reading and research”. To further move away

from the library feeling like a classroom, soft furnishings and round tables are used and the library is a shoeless one. Accordingly, many students like to spend time with friends in the Learning Lounge, and unusually it has a higher usage rate amongst boys than girls. Unlike AGSB, Loreto has a high percentage of English as second language students and a significant number receiving free school meals. Kevin uses the LMS to maintain student records and how they are using the library, with this data assisting in audits and reports, in addition to assisting in the tracking of student progress and driving leverage for advocacy. He also attempts to tap into pots of funding around the school, for example funding for gifted and talented students.

Rachel Hockney of Chorlton High School spoke next. This is a special arts academy, though like Loreto classified as an inner city school, with a wide cultural mix and a significant range in terms of student background and achievement. Unusually, the school library is double-staffed, which allows the librarian to perform transition work in primary schools, which includes training peer educators to speak in primary schools and bringing primary school students to the High School for sessions.

Anne Montgomery of Bury Grammar School for Boys was the final speaker for the SLA. The library in this instance is called the Learning Resource Centre. Space is shared with the school IT personnel, and Ann emphasised the importance maintaining library presence on the school website, intranet and VLE. It’s also important to fit the library within the ethos of the school, even while attempting to push those boundaries. As a solo librarian, it’s also very important to become involved professionally in library organisations and in reaching out to other school librarians.

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NHS Libraries

Emily Hopkins from the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust spoke about the NHS as not one large monolithic organisation but a collection of many diverse small organisations, all requiring specialist medical and health resources. The Mental Health section is provides both public healthcare and social care, with a mix of in-patient and community services.  This results in a range of mobile staff, who are not therefore not particularly close to a library building. As a result, the majority of work is not conducted by footfall, but by electronic and phone requests.This type of flexibility in work arrangements and increased use of e-resources allows the library staff to locate themselves in convenient location to service users rather than being tied to a particular library space.4

For outreach, the library staff go where their users are, attending CPD seminars for staff and setting up their stall, or cold calling groups with whom the library does not have frequent interaction. Monogrammed or branded freebies such as pens and notepads are a way of spreading the message wider also. Emily stressed the importance of speaking your users language (to a doctor, a book is part of the Evidence Base), keeping up to date with developments in the relevant fields and aligning your goals with the goals of the organisation as a whole. This involves looking at both the Trust business plan and top level strategic plans, and outlining how the library service can contribute to meeting these.

Of course it wouldn’t be a New Professionals Day without a workshop! Each group was given a scenario and asked how they would promote their library to a particular group of service users.

You can find out more about the Trust Library Services here: www.mhsc.nhs.uk/services/library-services.

Roving Librarians – University of Huddersfield

Alison Sharman spoke about this project, which emerged from a study conducted with other universities on student behaviour and grades versus resource usage. A correlation was found between student resource usage and attainment, though students achieving First Class Honours tended to use more e-resources and journal articles than just books.

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Whilst physical visits to the library did results in differences in grades, there was a lack of consistency across years and disciplines -first year business students rarely used the library and other disciplines turned first to Google. This behaviour was often reinforced by academics, with some not recommending the library to students and others recommending and awarding higher grades for journal article usage.

Armed with a funky logo, the librarians took the library into the social space, setting up a stand in the Students Union Café. Few students approached this, despite extensive promotion on social media, the intranet and the VLE. However, when the service switched to walking amongst the students with tablets (the preferred choice being the Asus E-Pad Transformer, followed by the iPad), this provided the one-on-one assistance directly at the point of need for the students, instantly replicating search queries.6

This was very much a process of trial and error, both in terms of finding a location in which to roam effectively, and also finding the most appropriate approach. To be effective, you need a suitably busy location and time, and also a good opening line. Once again, freebies are helpful!

Alison emphasised the key to this project was being proactive – engage with the students, and make the experience personal for them. This requires a certain amount of experimentation with your approach, both on a personal and promotional level. The students represent both your consultants (for refining the service) and advocates (for promoting the service).

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And finally…

On behalf of this contingent, thanks to all the speakers and the Manchester NLPN Committee for such a terrific day!

By Daniel Duffy (@dangleroughly)

and Marie-Therese Carmody (@missygstar)

One thought on “Manchester NLPN

  1. Pingback: Spring Event: the attendees’ view | ManchesterNLPN

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