Posted By Jeremy Crumplin,
06 December 2018
The Archive of the Irish in Britain
In June 2018, I was recruited by London Metropolitan University to work on a short-term cataloguing project digitizing items from the Archive of the Irish in Britain. The digitization project has been funded by the Irish government’s Emigrant Support Programme. The archive aims to cover the whole experience of Irish emigrant life in England, Scotland and Wales, although the focus is inevitably on London, which has historically had the largest, most diverse and best documented Irish community in Britain. For various reasons, a high proportion of the material initially selected for digitization also originated from London-based individuals or organisations.
Emigration has been a major feature of Irish history from the nineteenth century onwards, with peaks occurring following the ‘potato famine’ of the 1840s, then in the 1950s and 1980s. Britain (along with America) has been the destination of choice for Irish migrants. Hence the Irish are among the largest minority groups in Britain. Millions of English, Scottish and Welsh people can claim Irish ancestry.
The Irish in Britain came to be associated with certain lines of work: construction, nursing, cleaning and catering – the sorts of jobs often associated with migrants from other parts of the world today. Some came to escape a more socially conservative and devout society in Ireland, including unmarried mothers, women seeking abortions, gays and lesbians. Large Irish communities grew up in big cities including London, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow.
The Irish have historically been discriminated against. They are characterised as stupid and irrational in countless Irish jokes. Irish workers were actively kept in low-level jobs and barred from promotion. Signs outside businesses and rental properties bearing messages such as ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ were widely reported in the 1950s and 1960s. The British view of Ireland and the Irish was coloured for much of the twentieth century by the very powerful and overbearing Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland, also by ‘the troubles’ – the years of terrorism in Northern Ireland from the 1960s to the 1990s, with terrorist attacks being periodically inflicted on Britain. ‘Irish travellers’ exist on the margins of society.
Against this backdrop, the Irish in Britain formed a wide range of societies and institutions, whose activities form the basis of the archive. The London Irish Centre was founded in 1954. County associations were set up for emigrants from all thirty-two Irish counties. Irish festivals and St Patrick’s Day parades are held in many British towns and cities. Clubs and classes flourished in London and elsewhere for those interested in learning the Irish language, music, dancing and sports. Organisations were also formed for sections within the Irish community, including the London Irish Women’s Centre, Action Group for Irish Youth and Positively Irish Action on AIDS. Political organisations such as the Connolly Association, Anti-Partition League and Irish in Britain Representation Group show that Irish people in Britain remain concerned with the affairs and destiny of their home country.
This rich heritage is represented in a wealth of documents – including minutes of meetings, administrative documents, publicity material, booklets, programmes for events and newsletters – as well as periodicals, photographs, letters, poetry, audio and video. The archive is based at London Metropolitan University’s special collections centre near Aldgate in central London. Collection items are available for inspection by appointment for personal visitors.
Many of these items are now being digitised (subject to copyright, data protection and technical restrictions) in order to open up the archive to a much wider audience. This involves scanning the items to create PDF images, which are then uploaded to the University’s EPrints digital repository system and catalogued. Around 1900 items have so far been digitised, but there is a huge amount of work still to do.
For more information, please follow the link
Note: I have illustrated this essay with a variety of items from the digitized collection, to demonstrate the range of items held, as well as links to other relevant information. All web pages are as accessed on 30 November 2018.
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Posted By Ineta Krauls-Ward,
06 August 2018
Kristīne Pabērza: „ Everyone smiles in the same language“
Always with inquisitive eyes and a warm smile on her face, sincerely engaged in conversations with colleagues, and, with even greater sincerity, sharing library stories from across the globe - that is Kristīne whom some of you may have encountered in international meetings dedicated to IFLA’s Global Vision. Kristīne is a professional librarian with an international reputation. When she speaks of library problems in different regions of the world, Kristīne is inclined to notice the common ground that unites us despite differences in religion, culture, citizenship. She doesn’t base her work on prejudice and isn’t afraid to set off into unknown territory.
Earlier in May, Kristīne kindly answered CILIP CDEG’s questions from her office at IFLA HQ in The Hague, where she serves as Member Engagement Officer for a second year.
1. Dear Kristine, you are an example of an extremely versatile, yet “classically” trained librarian, who finds herself at a young age with an impressive portfolio of positions in public, governmental and private sectors, academia, high profile national and international projects. What professional positions were most rewarding for you? And what important lessons have you learned when exploring the library field?
Yes, I am truly blessed with my professional experience. It is almost 20 years since I started my professional career as a public librarian at Riga Central library. During my early career, I had a chance to apply and practice my skills in all types of library that we had in Latvia at that time. One of the positions which really changed who I am as a librarian was as a news librarian at one of the Latvian newspapers. This is when I learned to adapt to change, to be able to refocus fast, to respond to needs and requests quickly, and to make responsible decisions within tremendous time constraints. Every day for me was like a separate project that resulted in the next day’s newspaper and to see a librarian’s contribution to how it looks was really rewarding. Every day.
From there I moved to the Culture Information Systems Centre (CISC), an implementing agency for national ICT and training projects in libraries, archives and museums. This is where I spent the last 10 years before moving to The Hague; it really wasn’t easy to say goodbye to the team who had become my professional family. The CISC provided me with an invaluable experience and opportunity to realize my passion, both in public libraries and in data and evaluation. For the first time in Latvian history, we measured the social and economic value of our public libraries. It was all possible thanks to the Global Libraries grant that Latvians received for public library development project called “Father’s Third Son”. This project has changed libraries and librarians in Latvia and widened the doors to international cooperation. We learned that our libraries are not that much different from Chilean or Romanian libraries; no matter in which continent or under which circumstances we work, we all have a shared goal of making our communities stronger. I trust in sharing and learning as the way to be more successful in what we do. We are all more similar than different.
2. Before accepting the role of member engagement officer at the International Federation of Library Associations, you were the President of the Library Association of Latvia. Was this transition from involving library professionals of one nation to embracing the global community of colleagues smooth and straightforward?
The fact that I have been in this role was and still is very helpful in my work at IFLA. I want to believe that it gives me a better understanding of our members’ challenges and needs. In fact, because of having experience in leadership of a national association, I can now better understand what is and what is maybe not possible in certain national contexts that can influence our ability to reach global goals. This is very helpful now when we are planning and implementing actions that we believe will lead to a stronger and more united library field.
One of priorities of the Library Association of Latvia during my presidency was building partnerships and closer collaboration with other library associations in the region, not just in the Baltics but across Europe. We were learning from each other and building networks to become stronger library advocates. During the “Library Advocacy for EU” project, that the Library Association of Latvia implemented together with EBLIDA, I became friends with many presidents of library associations in Europe, which is helpful now when it comes to communication and engagement in global initiatives. IFLA as a membership organisation has all the same challenges and opportunities as any national or regional association, it’s just that the scope is different, it’s global. As far as we all, no matter in which region of the world we live and work, share a common purpose, it’s easy to find a common language even if we speak in different native languages. Everyone smiles in the same language.
3. IFLA Global Vision is a unique initiative for promoting libraries’ inclusivity around the world: 190 United Nations member states from 7 continents, all library types and employee generations, 22, 000 libraries in total. What were the management strategy and greatest challenges when bringing the world library community to one table? What is the timeframe and milestones of this project and what are the main expected outcomes?
I want to say that I admire the visionary thinking of Gerald Leitner, IFLA’s Secretary General, who came up with the idea of having a Global Vision discussion, an initiative that gives every single librarian in the world the chance to contribute to this global conversation about the values, opportunities and challenges of the library field. The participation statistics clearly demonstrate how much such an initiative was needed, how much we are all willing to engage with each other and to take part in the creation of something unique – a united library roadmap for the future.
For me it’s also a unique opportunity to be part of the team at IFLA HQ who made this possible. My responsibilities in the Global Vision projects relate mainly to data analysis, and it is a unique experience. Never before I have worked with data files which exceeds 600,000 lines of data or aggregated responses generated by more than 30,000 respondents (this is the number of participants who either voted in the global online vote or contributed their voice through workshops and meetings). Data analysis was a challenging but very exciting process. For me personally, it was also an opportunity to learn a lot about what happens in libraries and what is important for librarians in many different parts of the world, that I previously knew very little about.
The first phase of the Global Vision is finished. Based on its results, IFLA now is creating the biggest idea store for actions that will be a source of inspiration for all librarians and for IFLA in planning for the future. The second phase has started with the kick-off workshop in Barcelona in March this year that will be followed by workshops in all regions of the world. Through workshops and an online platform, we want to gather ideas from librarians that would let us identify how all regions and library types can play their part in the implementation of the Global Vision. Between September 2018 and March 2019, we will again analyse the input and will design Global Vision actions. IFLA will then create a strategy and action plans that will turn the Global Vision into reality: a strong and united library field powering literate, informed and participative societies.
4. In the recently published IFLA Global Vision report, 10 highlights and 10 corresponding opportunities were presented for further discussions. We’d like to pick out some of them and learn your thoughts. Focus on serving communities was defined as common to all libraries around the world. Better understanding of community needs is considered to be directly linked to having a greater impact on peoples’ lives through library services. Are library outreach programmes less developed in certain parts of the world? What regions / countries, would you say are at the forefront and more successful than others and why?
I don’t want to say that one region is better than another. And I should admit that I broke some of my own stereotypes of European libraries being at the forefront while serving as a trainer in Ghana, Uganda and Kenya; it happened when I realized that many African libraries are much more focused on understanding and meeting their community needs than some Latvian libraries.
There are things that work very well in one region while the same approach may fail in another. We must be keenly aware of cultural differences and the various contexts and environments in which we work and how we make things possible. Someone may simply have different priorities at the moment. Therefore, acknowledging regional characteristics and requirements will be essential in our future efforts to unite the library field in addressing common challenges.
What I believe, and this was fully supported by the Global Vision data and results, is that impact measurement is still a challenge; many countries and libraries lack understanding, skills or simply resources and tools. Inability to measure outcomes and to demonstrate impact evidence to stakeholders lead to other challenges. Our vision in the library field is to be more united. In my opinion, it is also being more united in our abilities and capabilities. We can start helping each other by just simply sharing our intelligence and resources.
5. A focus on the younger generation of library professionals was another highlight in the report. IFLA calls to give young professionals more opportunities to learn, develop and lead. Could you name any initiatives within IFLA activities targeted at promoting young professionals? Are there any success stories that you’ve encountered while serving at IFLA? Have you ever thought of your own young age as a disadvantage and obstacle?
Actually, I have personal experience of such an initiative. In 2016, I was one of nine young professionals selected for the second cohort of IFLA International Leaders Programme (ILP). The Programme was designed to increase the cohort of leaders who can effectively represent the wider library sector in the international arena, and to develop leaders within IFLA. I left the Programme when I accepted the position of member engagement officer, but I’m happy to have an opportunity to being able to continue working with the Leaders; that’s what we call them. Leaders or ILP Associates have a project, called “Stories that Matter”, through which they contributed to the development of a Storytelling Manual which IFLA recently released to help librarians to tell and submit their stories to the Library Map of the World. Leaders are implementing many amazing activities; it would require another article to tell you about them! In my opinion, ILP is a great opportunity for both, the Leaders and IFLA. During the first year of the Programme, two leaders were elected President of their respective library associations, and others were elected to and served on a number of important library-related committees in their home countries. Leaders are engaging with IFLA professional units and working/advisory groups thus contributing their intelligence to IFLA’s international agenda.
I would also like to promote IFLA’s New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG), affiliated with the Management of Library Associations Section (MLAS). NPSIG is an initiative for and by new professionals. They facilitate international networking opportunities for early career librarians and LIS students around the world; host virtual and in-person workshops, information sessions and conference events. This is a group which always make IFLA’s General Conference attractive with their events. This year, at IFLA WLIC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, they will host a session on Librarians Fashion and will discuss what the way we dress says about us. Isn’t it exciting?
IFLA also supports EIFL in their IYALI (the Young African Library Innovators) initiative which aims to expose emerging public library innovators in Africa to experiences and ideas from other developing and transition economy countries. Last year thirteen African public librarians visited Lithuania and Poland to attend workshops and visit libraries.
6. Besides the current involvement with Global Vision, what else is member engagement in IFLA involved in? Could you tell us more about the day-to-day work of your department?
My main work at IFLA is with the Library Map of the World (LMW) – the source of basic library statistics and a platform providing access to stories demonstrating how libraries in different countries contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and serve as partners in meeting local development needs. This is again an area where we are driven by the shared vision, the vision of having reliable global library statistics. We are saying that IFLA is a global voice for libraries, and my work is to make it possible one day to tell how many libraries exactly we are representing. National library statistics is still a challenge in many countries, affecting our ability to have representative regional or global numbers that we would confidently be able to use in our data stories for advocacy.
My daily work consists of communication with our data partners – national library associations, national libraries, library support organisations and other institutions from around the world – to make sure we are able to put more countries and more data on the Library Map of the World. During the first year of the project we were able to engage with more than 100 countries which provided their existing library data, and I was very happy to learn from many other about their intention to improve frameworks for national library statistics in order to be able to contribute to the global effort. It is just a beginning, and we look forward to improving from year to year as it becomes a long-term activity.
Another big part of my time is spent on stories. We recently published a practical guide “Libraries and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Storytelling Manual” which was designed to help librarians and library advocates in telling compelling stories about their library activities, projects and programmes, showing their impact on communities and people’s lives. The guide is also intended to support contributors in the process of preparing and submitting their stories to the Library Map of the World. Many librarians across the world share the same challenge – we are very good at describing what we did at our libraries but not that good at telling why we did it and what has changed for communities and users as the result of it. This material is something that we believe will be helpful in meeting this challenge. Our goal is to have more stories online to build a stronger case for libraries that we believe will support our collective library advocacy efforts around the world. I’m very excited to read every one of those stories.
7. You are very well travelled person and are privileged to see a global picture of libraries today. Have you yourself drawn any common trends relating to libraries around the world? Is it possible to compare the unique ways in which libraries operate on different continents? Would you say globalization may endanger diversity within librarianship?
For me, as someone who grew up and has lived for most of my life lived in a very homogenous society, travelling was not only a privilege to see a global picture of libraries, but in general to learn about and experience other cultures and diversity. Libraries are like mirrors of societies and the communities which they serve. As librarians, no matter in which corner of the world we are, we share the same value and role of libraries. The unique part is the way that libraries in various places express those values and roles, the way we do what we do, and how we do that to reach our shared goal – to help our users live more fulfilled lives and be happier. As long as we take care to preserve and practise our unique cultures, diversity within librarianship is not in danger. I also believe (and have learned from my own experience at IFLA HQ where our staff represents more than 15 different nationalities) that diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation. We must take advantage of partnerships and collaboration and learning from each other’s unique experiences to realize the full potential of our libraries.
8. Your social media feed is mostly dedicated to advocating the library profession. What are your inspirations and examples you aim to follow? Do you have any role models and/ or mentors in the library profession? Would you ever consider being anything other than a librarian?
That’s a very strong statement. I never had a personal social media communications plan or a conscious intention to make it professional. I went back to my Facebook account and it’s true – my life is libraries. I am proud and very happy to be a librarian and to work for libraries, but it again never was my intention. I want to think that it was a coincidence while some may think that my early childhood librarian had a strong influence on what I became. Until this day I continue reflecting on what kind of impact librarians are able to make on subconscious decision-making.
On the first day of school, when every child was asked about what she or he wants to become, I wanted to be a teacher. I fulfilled that wish in my role as a lecturer at the LIS department of the University of Latvia and a trainer of librarians. My real intention was to become an architect. Geometry and technical drawing were two of my favourite subjects at secondary school. Luckily, I failed the entrance exams and ended up at the LIS programme.
I have been asked about my role models before and it may sound strange – I never had one particular person. There are different qualities in everyone. I believe we meet people for a purpose and are given an opportunity to work with people to learn from each other. What I was always interested in is how to take some behaviours or practices from other fields and apply and try out how these work in libraries. I’m interested in new approaches, new thinking and new unusual ways of working.
Now, when I’m already reaching the age when I’m not the youngest in librarians’ gatherings anymore, I’m very much interested in learning from librarians’ younger than me, people who are trained differently, who have different thinking and different approaches, different sets of skills. I want to hope that we will be successful in achieving opportunities related to giving a stronger voice to and opportunities for young professionals. They are the ones who will implement the future which we are now checking during the Global Vision project.
Thank you for your answers
On behalf of CILIP Community, Diversity and Equality Committee,
In the photo: Kristīne Pabērza promoting IFLA's Global Vision
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Posted By Jeremy Crumplin,
03 August 2018
CILIP 2018: encouraging and engaging
Senior Information Assistant (Metadata and Discovery) for
Royal Holloway, University of London
Day first of the conference: From the heart of government to the Scottish islands
Penny Young (House of Commons Library)
Following an introduction from CILIP President Ayub Khan, Penny Young spoke about her role as House of Commons Librarian. She is the 15th person and third woman in the role, and 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the library. Research and information are integral to our democracy – her team answer around 30,000 enquiries from MPs and publish 900 publicly available briefing papers each year. MPs and journalists see the library as an impartial, trusted source of information. Enquiries to the library often give ‘early warning’ of major issues.
Penny’s three years in the role so far have been action-packed, with major developments including the library’s increasing involvement in online information, making its work more easily available to the public through its website and social media; curating data including a new statistics database for constituencies; managing demand and encouraging self-help through effective discovery tools and changing the culture of parliamentary researchers. The biggest challenge is the upcoming restoration of the Palace of Westminster, which will require the entire service to be moved elsewhere. This will provide an opportunity to re-invent the service for the future.
She concluded by encouraging the audience to visit the Houses of Parliament and the current ‘Voice and vote’ exhibition and to follow the Library and Parliament on Twitter.
Sally Walker (Orkney Library & Archive)
Sally is Orkney’s Children’s Librarian. She started by summarising her career, noting that she felt like an imposter despite a series of key roles in school and university libraries. She started following Orkney Library’s well-known Twitter feed and saw the role advertised around four years ago.
She described the programmes with which she is involved, including ‘Bookbug’ storytelling groups, distributing bags of books to schools and nurseries, ‘intergenerational sessions’ in residential and care homes, working with Home-Start Orkney (a charity supporting vulnerable families with small children), introducing Minecraft and Code Club to the library, the Summer Reading Challenge, tours for school groups, teddy sleepovers, treasure hunts and many more. This is despite Orkney being a small and remote local authority with limited resources.
When she was chosen as Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the year for 2017, she finally felt that she had shaken off the ‘imposter syndrome’. The award gained her significant media exposure, mentions in the Scottish Parliament and the opportunity to speak at conferences.
Preserving the past for the future
A series of three short talks, chaired by Danielle Westerhof (Newsletter Editor for the CILIP Library & Information History Group.
Nick Barrett (Director of Senate House Library) described several projects with which he had been involved which sought to take collections to the community beyond the library and make a difference. In one example, prisoners becoming eligible for parole at Cornton Vale Prison were given the opportunity to study family history – this inspired many of them to take training courses and re-offending rates dropped to almost nothing.
Richard Davies (Head of the British Library’s Qatar Foundation Partnership) described his role in making heritage digital and transforming access to the British Library’s collections. The partnership programme aims to put 2½ million images relating to Gulf history online, concentrating on Arabic scientific manuscripts and India Office records. The resulting Qatar Digital Library is bilingual (Arabic and English) free to use, encourages re-use of images where possible and format-neutral (working equally well on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers). The project involved everything from building works at the British Library to social media posts highlighting bizarre translation errors. Access to the collections has been transformed, from 6500 reading room requests in 15 years to up to 8000 online users per day.
Suzanna Joy (Trustee of UK Blue Shield) talked about the organisation’s role in protecting cultural property in the event of armed conflict. In 2017, the UK finally ratified the 1954 Hague Convention. Blue Shield International and its national committees work with international organisations, national governments and armed forces to protect sites and artefacts of historic or cultural importance from armed conflict and natural disasters. The Ministry of Defence is setting up special units dedicated to this work. Blue Shield is working with NATO on policy development. There is still a lot of work to do in this area, as crime against cultural heritage has never been greater.
John Chrastka and Patrick Sweeney (Everylibrary)
Everylibrary is dedicated to securing the future of funding for public libraries in the United States. Since 2012, they have raised over $250 million. They negotiate with voters and elected officials at every level of government to influence values and attitudes. The positive image of public libraries has increased in recent years, but the willingness to vote in support of them has decreased. They are working out how to close that disconnect. Demographics, political affiliation, possession of a library card and whether or not people actually use the library seem to make no difference to the level of support. This is not about convincing people to become users – campaigning to this end could alienate non-users who still value libraries and what they do.
They focus on people’s relationship with librarians rather than the library – do they trust the staff to be good stewards of their tax money. Their aim is to build a base of supporters through messages relevant to them, and to activate support quickly when crises occur – each crisis is an opportunity to spread advocacy for libraries.
Their concluding message was ‘support libraries and invest in them’. They aim to become ‘the NRA for libraries’ in terms of power as a lobbying force. They figured that the British library community needed to hear this message so badly that they were willing to present it on 4 July (American Independence Day).
Voice and vision: the importance of diverse representation in literature for young people
A panel discussion with author Juno Dawson, children’s book illustrator Nadia Shireen and Nikki Potter of Otter-Barry Books, chaired by Jake Hope, Chair of CILIP’s Youth Libraries Group. All agreed that diversity has so far been handled badly by the book trade. If you are a black child and only read books about white characters, that’s not a world to which you belong.
Librarian have a role to play in this – Juno argued that they know their audiences’ needs and we need them to put relevant books into the hands of people who might not want to be seen with them (such as her own work ‘This book is gay’, which is reported to be frequently stolen from libraries). Nikki noted that the loss of expertise in children’s book buying has made this more difficult, as libraries become more susceptible to publishers pushing a small number of mainstream titles. The quality of literature available is also an issue: Nadia remarked that books featuring non-white characters seem to be quite earnest and simplistic, and pleaded for authors to reference the full range of human experience. Jake mentioned the recent review of CILIP’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards, which has opened up all sorts of conversations in the book trade.
A culture change is needed in publishing. Nikki mentioned Quarto’s policy of ‘creative access’ to bring in interns from a diverse range of backgrounds. The industry is still very white and middle-class, as well as being London-centric (although this should matter less in a more connected world).
There was also some discussion of ‘The hate u give’ by Angie Thomas which has had a huge impact in America. Nikki also mentioned “Rising stars: new young voices in poetry” showcasing five debut poets from diverse backgrounds aged 25 and under.
The day concluded with a drinks reception and fish and chip supper on Brighton Pier.
Day Two: International, diverse and informed
Breakfast seminar: towards a new international policy for CILIP
Ayub Khan gave a presentation – the theme for his presidency is to refresh and refocus CILIP’s international policy and programmes. CILIP is the second-largest national library association in the world and well-respected internationally, despite the challenge of Brexit and limited resources for engaging with events overseas. CILIP was a founder member of EBLIDA (who have changed their rules to keep CILIP in membership) and is active in IFLA, particularly working to protect intellectual freedoms and developing the world library map. CILIP has over 700 international members; most sales for its subsidiary Facet Publishing are abroad; they provide accreditation for library schools abroad; they have many other international activities. A Presidential Commission has been established to develop CILIP’s international policy in the UK’s new situation, reporting back later in the year.
He asked for help in answering three questions:
- What type of activity do you think CILIP should prioritise?
- What do you think should be in an international policy?
- What would be the one thing you would like to come out of the Presidential Commission?
Samira Ahmed (journalist)
Samira’s keynote speech presented numerous examples of the importance of libraries and heritage collections and the role of organised information. Half the information on Wikipedia is wrong (including about her!). She was particularly exercised by the ‘Windrush’ scandal earlier this year – the UK is a nation obsessed with history and genealogy, yet the records relating to this group of immigrants were destroyed. These people will never get on ‘who do you think you are?’, they no longer have the evidence to back up their family history.
She is also interested in the impact of austerity on libraries, archives and museums, noting that the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon, previously run by Cambridgeshire County Council, has been passed to a charity – as she discovered whilst researching Oliver Cromwell’s wife, Elizabeth. This theme was continued in a workshop where she gathered delegates’ evidence of the impact of austerity and how it has been treated in the media. Numerous delegates offered contributions, these will be written up in an article for ‘The new humanist’ magazine. Cuts were reported not just to public library services, but to academic libraries as well, with comments offered on the impacts on freedom of access to information, students’ attitudes to preserving the past and the widening digital divide. Darren Smart of Kent County Libraries summed up the value of his service by saying “Libraries are an enabling service, which enable many other services to run more efficiently.” CILIP Trustee Dawn Finch noted that there is nothing else in the community doing what public libraries do, they have so many impacts; library staff do a very important job but they have been making it look easy for too long.
Samira referenced the 70th anniversary of the NHS – the discussion about libraries needs to get onto the same level as the NHS, no-one wants to get rid of that! She appealed for further contributions on the subject – she can be contacted through her website.
Helen Dodd (Head of Data Governance, Cancer Research UK)
Helen’s talk was entitled “Driving cultures of information management through compliance programmes” and focused on the introduction of GDPR. The new regulations presented an opportunity to bring Cancer Research UK (CRUK) closer to their audiences by raising awareness of their rights and how their data is used (Yes, they have been fined for misuse of data in the past!). Data is a currency – personal information has never been more valuable. GDPR was a big step in reducing risk. Whist it is new, the skills involved in implementing it aren’t.
CRUK’s GDPR programme was very well-resourced, with a detailed best practice plan. Senior management were heavily involved. A timeline was drawn up, although it has slipped by about six months. A data processing review uncovered a wide range of practices and kickstarted a cultural change. The whole process aimed to move CRUK staff “from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence”, with a strong message of ‘championing data’.
As a result, staff confidence levels have improved. Helen claimed that “this is the start of a beautiful relationship with data within CRUK”. She has a plan to embed the new systems and procedures, which will continue until December. She concluded by saying that “facts and evidence are becoming more important because of the data they have available” and “the future is data”.
Guy Daines (Head of Policy, CILIP)
This was a ‘lighter’ session. As Guy approached retirement, he reflected on his career as a librarian and more recently as a member of CILIP staff, noting some of the changes that have taken place over the years. He concluded by noting that the 17 UN sustainable development goals all depend on information.
An open and inclusive future for the library profession
Before this session started, Ayub Khan announced the formation of a new BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) network, providing a networking and career development forum for sections of the population known to be under-represented in the profession. It is surely right that the profession should reflect the diversity of the society and communities it serves.
Neena Shulka Morris (Assistant Librarian at Ardingly College) chaired the session and introduced the three speakers.
Wanda Wyporska (Executive Director, The Equality Trust) opened by stating that “my one ambition in life was to write a book” – this involved spending years of her life in libraries. The UK is one of the most unequal societies in the developed world. We clearly value CEOs far more than teachers, nurses, etc. given what we pay them. More inequality means more health and social problems. Government policy makes things worse – BAME women seem to lose out most from recent changes to benefits. What can librarians do? Promote their profession, engage with schools, ensure there is a diverse workforce and diverse reading matter, provide help (e.g. with Universal Credit), provide a ‘safe space’, involve the local community and organise events of interest to diverse groups (e.g. around Black History Month). She concluded that there is such potential in libraries, but we need to hear more about it.
Russel Barrow (Principal Librarian: West, Hertfordshire) started by describing a graduation ceremony for two prisoners who had taken Open University courses. They were black, everyone else in the room apart from an OU official and Russel himself was white. Those two men valued him as a black man running the library service. If the people running the service don’t reflect the diversity of society, then they lose authenticity and people won’t think it is relevant to them. Library staff are generally good at reaching out to diverse communities, but why is the profession not more diverse? He doesn’t generally wish to be defined as a ‘black librarian’, and his advice to the audience was not to let anyone else define who you are: be your own voice, because we need diverse voices.
Shirley Yearwood-Jackson (Liaison Librarian, University of Liverpool) called out to the audience to stop talking and take action. There is still overt racism, there is also a lot of unconscious bias and institutional inertia. It feels like a long way to climb to improve the situation – the BAME attainment gap hasn’t closed in ten years. She offered some suggestions to improve recruitment of BAME staff, appealing to CILIP and others to appreciate the differences in experience of BAME communities, and to provide best practice guidance on raising awareness. She concluded by offering five things everyone could do: seek to understand the challenge at your organisation; be a voice advocating for equality wherever you are; act to eliminate barriers to recruitment in your organisation and sector; review recruitment policies at your organisation; and get involved in raising awareness and action for change.
A second session from John Chrastka and Patrick Sweeney of Everylibrary, building on the previous day’s talk. They started by describing library lobbying in the USA, and their strategy to build support by encouraging strong views, as “only radicalised individuals take action”. They noted that, around forty years ago, the National Rifle Association started to change from a gun club into the major lobbying body it is today. Libraries don’t have that much time!
They described a ‘ladder of engagement’ starting from a position of no awareness. The first step is to educate such people to a level where they can, for example, like something on Facebook. You can then build on that awareness gradually, starting to target them to donate, volunteer, sign petitions, etc. until they become supporters and finally advocates. It is necessary to educate audiences early so people care about something before a crisis happens. They also mentioned the importance of connecting the library to the issues people already care about.
They concluded by encouraging the audience to develop a vision for the future of library funding, emphasising the importance of identifying, cultivating and developing ‘super-supporters’ as well as empowering people by building communities such as friends’ groups. With a large enough mailing list, you can achieve great things!
The conference was supported by an extensive exhibition, with 35 stands for library-related businesses and groups. A special mention must be made of Book Love, whose eye-catching display showcasing diverse and culturally inclusive children’s books meant there was no contest for ‘best in show’!
I was very impressed with the scale and organisation of the conference. It even merited yellow AA road signs. A lot was packed into a short period of time, and there were optional seminars which looked interesting, but which I had to miss out on. There were many interesting speakers covering a wide range of topics, with a lot of important things to say. There was also ample time for networking during the breaks and at the evening reception. It was very encouraging to be part of such a large gathering of information workers, and to meet so many people from different places and sectors. I am very tempted to put Manchester 2019 in the diary already.
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Posted By Annelies Allcock,
03 August 2018
CILIP Conference 2018: importance of ongoing reflection
Evidence Search and Summary Service
IRISS (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services), Glasgow
The CILIP Conference is the annual flagship event for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. The two-day programme provided broad coverage of the different library and information sectors.
I won an attendance bursary from CILIP’s Community, Diversity and Equality Group and it was my first experience attending a professional conference in the UK. In my bursary application, I identified a number of personal outcomes I wanted to achieve, including boosting my skills base, ideas and confidence, and the opportunity to network with other professionals. There was overlap in the programme, so I wasn’t able to attend all of the sessions I’d initially hoped to, and I also found the set-up of the venue wasn’t conducive to the type networking I’d envisioned. However, I was happy with my choice of sessions, and found using Twitter was a good way to engage with other professionals in conversation. I feel the biggest benefit of attending the conference was coming away with a better understanding of the library and information profession in the UK.
With the exception of the keynote from Samira Ahmed, I found the keynote speeches to be somewhat disappointing. Penny Young made some interesting points around the political nature of information, and how MPs can manipulate it for either “noble” (i.e. background knowledge, to form an opinion, or for scrutiny of policy) or “tactical” (i.e. scoring political points, making themselves look better) ends. I found it interesting how she implicitly separated information professionals from this process, even though the information that her team provide can have a direct impact on decisions made in parliament. While not addressed in the keynote itself, this did raise issues around the idea of library “neutrality” as a way to avoid consequences of sharing potentially harmful information.
The following keynote given by Sally Walker made a few points that resonated with myself and - judging from the Twitter response - the other conference delegates, such as feelings of imposter syndrome and the value of reflection. However, her talk mainly covered the ways in which she has had to adapt to increasingly difficult working conditions, such as seeking external donations for materials to run children’s workshops. While her Professional of the Year award was well-deserved, I wondered whether we should celebrating a culture that relies upon the extra labour and goodwill of its employees to deliver core services, rather than advocating for necessary funding? In a similar vein, the keynote from EveryLibrary placed responsibility for library fundraising on “passionate librarians”, and I was disappointed to see the individualisation of a wider, systemic issue.
Overall I felt that if the content presented in the programme was subject to the critical evaluation that is the supposed cornerstone of the information profession, much of it would have been dismissed. For example, I attended the 'Preserving the past for the future' session in the hope of broadening my knowledge outside of my sector. While I found it interesting to hear the ways in which my peers are increasing engagement with special collections, claims that a genealogy programme at a prison had an impact on the reoffending rate of participants weren’t backed by used of rigorous research methods. As highlighted in the session on evidence based practice, research evidence in library and information science isn’t "how we done it good", opinions, or committee meeting decisions, and I hope that our flagship conference will reflect this in future programming.
While I feel that the conference was undoubtedly good for the morale of those who attended (although perhaps less so for those left behind in understaffed libraries), I would’ve liked to have seen more space for discussion, innovation and critical thought. One of the opportunities identified in the IFLA Global Vision session I attended was to "challenge current structures and behaviours", however I didn’t feel this conference offered the space for this to happen.
As well as giving me a clearer picture of the library and information profession in the UK, this conference highlighted to me the importance of ongoing reflection. In addition to this, I saw the need for more diverse voices in the profession, as well as an acknowledgement that criticism is not always equal to cynicism. I was saddened that the past decade of UK library activism wasn’t acknowledged by the keynote speakers from EveryLibrary, but that it was instead brought to my attention via Twitter, and this too broadened my view. I was also given the opportunity to reflect on library neutrality, and whether that is what we actually think it is. Overall, I got the sense that there is a disconnect between CILIP and the professionals it purports to support.
Following this event, I will read more about library neutrality, find ways to integrate reflection into my day-to-day work, and increase my use of Twitter to maintain the links I made with other professionals at the conference.
*In the photo: Annelies Allcock at CILIP exhibition stand
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Posted By Sergio Alonso Mislata,
03 August 2018
Newcomer librarian’s first time at CILIP Conference 2018
Dr Sergio Alonso Mislata
Graduate Trainee Library Assistant at
The Courtauld Institute Art Book Library
This was my first experience at a CILIP Conference, and I thoroughly enjoyed it through and through. It was a physically and intellectually challenging experience, but one that provided me with so many stimuli and such an insight into so many fascinating questions, that I am already wondering, if I will be able to make to next year event in Manchester. As both a newcomer to the profession and a student, I was looking to dip into as many areas as possible from the different options at the conference. But as a member of CILIP’s Community, Diversity and Equality Group, and a recipient of one the bursaries offered by the group to attend the conference, I was interested in approaching every possible subject from a perspective that could be relevant to the group’s spirit.
On Wednesday 4 July I attended the following presentations:
•Penny Young (House of Commons Librarian), “The House of Commons Library: our role in supporting a thriving parliamentary democracy”. P.Young talked about the importance of the House of Commons (HoC) Library as a support to democracy. The role of MPs is misunderstood to a great extent. It is a very busy role. MPs have to spend a lot of time and energy campaigning, attending committees, debating, communicating with constituents, etc. They need background knowledge about a vast array of subjects to inform their points of view in all of these situations. The HoC Library is facing new challenges and going through necessary changes to meet these:
1. Digital Distribution: publishing public briefings not only physically but also digitally through the Library website.
2. Data Science: growing own capabilities because it is difficult to find the right professionals for the very specific needs of the HoC Library.
3. Accessibility: people are paying for the HoC Library through their taxes, so they should have the right to have some access to it through the publication of briefings, social media and exhibitions.
4. Ways of managing: the service has to be sustainable and effective.
5. Restoration and renewal: there is an ongoing restoration and renewal at the Palace of Westminster that should be completed by 2025. This is an opportunity to reimagine the library.
Penny Young ended her presentation by inviting everybody to visit the Palace of Westminster and enjoy the current exhibition taking place, “Voice and Vote”. This exhibition “highlights the campaign for votes for women and the representation of women in the House of Commons and House of Lords”.
• Sally Walker (Children’s Librarian at Orkney Library and Archive), “My journey to professional recognition”. S.Walker talked about how he had to overcome her imposter syndrome to progress in her career and found that, in the end, that she was doing exactly what she wanted to do (being and amazing children’s librarian, as recognised by the fact that she obtained the Scotland’s Library and Information Professional of the Year 2017). In her presentation she talked about the different activities that she promotes and is involved with, for the delight of children and teenagers, at the Orkney Library & Archive.
• “Preserving the past for the future” seminar. This seminar presented three different, complementary points of view about the preservation of heritage goods:
1. “Heritage collections, wellbeing and digital technologies” by Dr Nick Barratt, Senate House Library. Dr N.Barratt explained how the use of heritage collections can help people on their everyday lives. It can, for example, help people from disadvantage backgrounds to find inspiration to change career paths and lifestyles: libraries and archives are places of creativity and learning where we celebrate our humanity; collections and personal heritage can be key tools for self-development. It can also help communities preserve their collective memory. It can, finally, help the elderly exercise their memory and fight the eroding effects of time.
2. “Heritage made digital: transforming accessing to the British Library’s collections” by Richard Davies, British Library (BL). R.Davies talked about the different ongoing digitisation projects at the BL, normally funded by foreign organisations who want heritage collections obtained originally from their countries to be made available on a digital format to the cultural community they were originally destined to. The design of the website they are working on is very responsive, adaptable to tablets, telephones, laptops, etc. It is also a bilingual design: they are making sure that it is not just a translation, but a truly bilingual design.
3. “UK Blue Shield: the Hague Convention and identifying Cultural Property Protection” by Suzanna Joy, UK Blue Shield. S.Joy talked about the importance of the Blue Shield, a cultural organisation equivalent to the Red Cross, in the protection of the world’s cultural heritage (in the event of armed conflict, natural disaster, etc).
• John Chrastka & Patrick Sweeney, EveryLibrary, “From advocacy to activism”. J. Chrastka and P.Sweeney talked about how they considered theirs a well-weaponised organisation to guarantee funding for libraries. They explained how while the positive image of the library has increased, the willingness to vote for policies that guarantee their survival has decreased, and they talked about their use of data to guarantee that sympathisers become actively involved in the protection of libraries.
• Helen Berry et al., CILIP, “Your Career: growth and experience”. On this panel, different members of staff of CILIP explained the different possibilities to grow as a professional within the organisation: through the mentoring scheme for professionals working towards their chartership, volunteering to be a part of a committee, talking in public events, etc.
On Thursday 5 July I attended the following presentations:
• Samira Ahmed, Journalist and broadcaster, “Who do we think we are? What the Windrush archive scandal reveals about modern Britain”. In her speech, S.Ahmed asked some thought-provoking questions:
- deleting the records of immigrants coming to the UK from the Caribbean, was part of a conscious effort to erase the memory of their past, or were immigration officers just overzealous at trying to do their job right (making sure that the private details of these immigrants were safe from scrutiny)?
- The destruction of these records has led to great difficulties for members from the Windrush generation to proof that, as a matter of fact, they are British citizens, and to the absurd of finding themselves threatened with deportation.
- While Ellis Island, in NY, disembarkment point for immigrants in America, has been turned into a museum on immigration, there are no records for the Windrush generation in the UK, and that it is only another example of the lack of interest in this country the preservation of its past, with archives all around the country in danger of disappearing.
• “Technical practice: using metadata for engagement” seminar:
1. “Knowledge organization, privacy, and fake news: the view from ISKO UK” by David Haynes, ISKO.
2. “LCF – The Library Communications Framework: what’s it all about?” by Catherine Cooke, BIC.
3. “The not-so-secret lives of cataloguers: modern cataloguing in a contemporary information world” by Dr Deborah Lee, The Courtauld Institute of Art.
From these three presentations, I found the last to be the more interesting. For Dr D.Lee everybody is a cataloguer. The term “cataloguer” does not need to be on the job title, but cataloguing and related activities might be part of our working week even if it is only to a degree. We catalogue for users, for other colleagues and for external catalogue users. Cataloguers need to have contact with all of them, otherwise the catalogue is an idealisation, and might not be useful. Cataloguing differs depending on the information organisation. Cataloguers need to like people and have them in mind to be able to do their job right.
• Helen Dodd, Head of Data Governance, Cancer Research UK, “GDPR - Driving cultures of Information Management through compliance programmes”. H.Dodd talked about how GDPR presents an opportunity to bring us closer to our audiences through raising awareness about their rights and about how we use their data. GPDR also presents an opportunity to bring us closer to understand how we use our information, and how we can use it better: organisations are not always tightly structured, they are fluid and fast-moving, there are lots of “unknown unknowns” that we do not realise about, and the implementation of GDPR is a step in the right direction to reduce risks.
• Guy Daines, Head of Policy, CILIP, “Grexit; reflections of a ‘retiring’ librarian”. Guy Daines talked about his career and the different official reports that have been a landmark for the Information professionals throughout the years.
• “An open and inclusive future for the information profession” seminar, chaired by Neena Shukla-Morris, Assistant Librarian, Ardingly College. N.Shukla Morris introduced this seminar by saying that, inclusion needs to be integrated as a core dimension of our practice to guarantee quality. [quality] without inclusion cannot be considered to be quality.
1. “Understanding social and economic inequality” by Dr Wanda Wyporska, The Equality Trust. Dr W.Wyporska talked about the false impression that we have about progress on tackling inequality in the UK, “we have improved in respect to the recent past, but inequality is so big in the UK that the improvement can only considered to be minimum, and the task to do still enormous”. The UK still is the 7th most unequal country on income in the West.
2. “Diversity in leadership: a personal reflection” by Russel Barrow, Hertfordshire Libraries and Heritage Services. R.Barrow reviewed his professional life for us and talked about the difficulties and opportunities to make a difference when it comes to fighting for the integration of minorities in the information profession. He talked about how staff from minority groups have to face situations that other colleagues will never have to deal with or even think about: staff from the majority group will find it difficult to understand the everyday realities of people/library users from minority groups. And these will find it difficult to believe that they are really being understood. Hence the vital importance of promoting the existence of a diverse workforce that everybody can feel connected to. He, for example, had the experience of talking to a prisoner who, as a man of colour, told him how proud he felt to see him as a respected information professional in a managerial position, and how he felt inspired by him.
3. “BAME Library and Information Professionals in the workforce: calling all to action” by Shirley Yearwood-Jackman, University of Liverpool. S.Yearwood-Jackman made a strong case about the importance of fighting for a greater integration of BAME library and information professionals in the workforce. She proposed that, for everybody to be a part of the solution, we need to:
- Seek to understand the challenges at our organisations.
- Be a voice advocating for equalities wherever we are.
- Act to eliminate barriers to BAME recruitment in our organisations and sectors.
- Review recruitment policies at our organisations.
- Get involved in raising awareness and action for change.
• “AI automation and the future” seminar:
1. “Today and tomorrow: preparing for our digital future” by Sue Lacey-Bryant, Health Education England. In this presentation, the future of Artificial Intelligence as an aiding tool for the NHS was discussed.
2. “Artificial Intelligence (AI) : What is it exactly & where do information professionals fit in this potential new world?” by Denise Carter, DCision Consult Sarl. D.Carter reminded us in this presentation that the UK is a data-driven economy and it has identified AI as one of its great challenges.
These were, again, two days full of intellectual excitement. I met lots of people from many different places with different degrees of experience, and shared interesting conversations about the profession with all of them. I learnt lots of things about many different topics related to librarianship in general and issues linked to the Community, Diversity and Equality Group in particular. I left the Conference feeling motivated to keep working on my professional development and to get to know and do more every day. So, once again, thanks to CDEG for awarding me with the bursary that allowed me to be at Brighton this year.
*In the photo dr. Sergio Alonso Mislata (left) with another fellow CDEG bursary winner Jeremy Crumplin
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Posted By Administration,
06 October 2017
“Diversity and equality”: brief notes from the CILIP Conference workshop discussion, 6 July 2017
By John Vincent,
What would you like to cover in this workshop?
We began by quickly identifying four areas that participants would like to cover:
- Increasing inclusion in FE and HE Libraries
- How to make patient information available for/accessible to everybody
- How to weave equality & diversity into everything
- Ensure that we are aware of tokenism.
… and returned to these at the end of the afternoon.
JV briefly covered the following:
- Definitions of equality & diversity: we discussed this widely, and broadly agreed with the TUC unionlearn one:
“Diversity is about taking account of the differences between people and groups of people, and placing a positive value on those differences.”
- Problems with diversity, especially its being seen as primarily referring to disability or BAME people, rather than being more inclusive.
- The Equality Act 2010 [and there is an outline attached to these notes]
- The view of Arts Council England of public libraries’ engagement with equality and diversity (and JV’s paper to develop this)
- CILIP’s re-focus on equality and diversity [paper due out at end of July]
JV asked the group for some help to look at the question: Why do you think there is less LGBT+ activity in libraries than there was, say, 10 years ago? Yet more in museums, archives and heritage organisations …
There was a very useful discussion. Points raised:
- Effects of austerity on resources and staff
- Changing priorities and “following the money” (ie it all depends on budget priorities and/or external funding offers)
- National campaigns and Government funding
- Depends on who is leading the work and whether there are LGBT+ champions (especially at senior level)
- Challenges to service provision
- Growing complacency (and LGBT+ work being normalised – in the wrong sense!)
- Has the spotlight on this area of work moved away?
We then returned to the four key areas listed at the start. There was not a huge amount of time, but we gave examples of what could be done:
- Increasing inclusion in FE and HE Libraries
- Ensure that there is more diverse stock
- Share resources more widely
- Ensure that good practice is replicated
- How to make patient information available for/accessible to everybody
- Ensure that information is available in a wide range of accessible formats
- Look at language and terminology
- Target specific communities that are currently under-represented in using/accessing health info
- How to weave equality & diversity into everything
- Ensure that equality & diversity are put on the agenda for every single thing we do, not just seen as a separate area of work/one person’s responsibility
- Ensure that we are aware of tokenism
- Reassess all our work to ensure that diversity is ‘real’ and not just one person’s responsibility (because s/he represents that particular group)
There was agreement that there were two core ways of working that should run through our equality and diversity work:
- Working in partnership with other organisation, other libraries, and the community
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 consolidates all anti-discrimination legislation in Britain in one place.
It includes nine ‘protected characteristics’:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion and belief
- Sexual orientation.
There are three main areas covered:
- Employment protections
- Goods, facilities and service protections
- The public sector Equality Duty.
The law covers all aspects of employment including:
- Terms and Conditions
- Pay and benefits
The Act outlaws four types of behaviour in the workplace relating to sexual orientation:
- Direct discrimination is where one person is treated less favourably than another person is treated, has been treated or would be treated in a comparable situation on the grounds of their sexual orientation
- Indirect discrimination is where a policy or practice is applied which disadvantages people of a particular sexual orientation, unless it can be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim
- Harassment is where an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive work environment is created for someone because of their sexual orientation
- Victimisation is where a person is treated unfavourably because of their involvement in a case brought under the Equality Act, whether as a claimant, witness or otherwise.
The Equality Act outlaws positive discrimination, but allows positive action. Understandably, many employers and employees find the two concepts confusing.
- Positive discrimination is when someone is appointed or promoted solely because, for example, they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Positive discrimination is unlawful.
- Positive action is where employers undertake work with particular groups to address under-representation of those groups in their workforce. This includes targeted recruitment advertising and leadership programmes. Positive action is lawful.
Goods, facilities and services protections
All aspects of goods and service provision are covered by the Act, including:
- Providing a service
- Terminating a service
- The terms and conditions of a service.
The public sector Equality Duty
The public sector Equality Duty is designed to support and guide public bodies to address inequalities experienced by their staff and service users.
There are two parts of the duty: the general duty and the specific duties. Put simply, the general duty sets out the goals that public bodies must aim for, whilst the specific duties are the practical things they must do to help them achieve those goals.
The general duty says that public bodies, in all of their functions, must have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
The Act explains that having due regard for advancing equality involves:
- Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
- Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
- Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.
This general equality duty:
“[…] applies to the public authorities who are named or described (listed) in Schedule 19, which is part of the Equality Act 2010 […] Examples of these include local authorities, education bodies (including schools), health bodies, police, fire and transport authorities, and government departments […]
The general equality duty also applies to other organisations that exercise public functions. This will include private bodies or voluntary organisations that are carrying out public functions on behalf of a public authority.”
In terms of the specific duties:
“The specific duties were created by secondary legislation in the form of the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 […] The specific duties are different in England, Scotland and Wales.”,
However, the specific duties for all three nations do include the following as a minimum:
- Public bodies have to set and publish equality objectives, setting out how they intend to meet any of the aims of the general duty. This will enable people to clearly see what public bodies have committed to doing.
- Public bodies will need annually to publish data which shows how they are meeting these aims. This will enable people to hold them to account on whether they are addressing inequalities.
Equality Impact Assessments
“An Equality Impact Assessment (“EIA”) is an analysis of a proposed organisational policy, or a change to an existing one, which assesses whether the policy has a disparate impact on persons with protected characteristics. They are carried out primarily by public authorities to assist compliance with equality duties.”
The Equality Act 2010 does not require public authorities to carry out EIAs, but “the courts place significant weight on the existence of some form of documentary evidence of compliance with the PSED when determining judicial review cases.”
 JV is contributing a chapter to an US book on ‘cutting-edge’ LGBT+ librarianship in the UK, and wants to explore this as one of the chapter’s themes.
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06 October 2017
CDEG bursary winners on their experiences at CILIP 2017 Conference Manchester, July 5-6
Information Services Assistant
IS Customer Services department
University of Strathclyde Library
I was over-joyed in securing a bursary place through the CILIP Community, Diversity and Equality special interest group to attend the annual CILIP 2017 conference in Manchester. As well as being a city which I had never visited, I was also keen to see the University of Manchester and the Museum of Science and Industry where the conference and the drinks reception were being held respectively.
During the first day I found Ailsa Howlett’s briefing, ‘Homegrown: Engaging new LIS professionals to advance the profession’, to be particularly engaging. Ailsa Howlett, Chairperson of the New Generations Advisory Committee within the Australian Library and Information Association, advocated that for LIS professionals to take a more pro-active approach in the wider profession they need to engage out-with their day job. She termed ‘shoulder tapping’ as a means to network with others in the profession who can help you get to where you want in your career development. She argued that ‘engagement’ is not solely a one-way process, but an exchange of ideas between LIS professionals through conversations and contributions. She drew on examples of both: conversations; blogging, Twitter, discussions at conferences, and volunteering with special interest groups, and contributions; blogging, conducting research, publishing research findings, and presenting at conferences. I felt her briefing was thought provoking as it generated ideas and enthusiasm, which re-kindled my drive for career progression.
Even though I am not working within public libraries and I am not based in England, hearing about CILIP’s new public library skills strategy proved to be interesting. Mandy Powell, Assistant Director of Workforce Development CILIP, briefed us on the nine aims and recommendations in order to place the library and information profession at the heart of a democratic society and to position library and information skills at the centre of service delivery to create a digital, creative, and cultural centre for excellence. It was noteworthy to hear that CILIP are currently working on and plan to implement a UK wide skills strategy that will encompass all library sectors. Mandy drew on evidence from the CILIP workforce mapping project which highlighted the demographic inequalities – the largely white profession with more women in the workforce but men occupying more senior positions, and 45% of the workforce estimated to retire by 2030 – which the skills strategy will help address.
I particularly found the briefings by James Clay from Jisc and Dave Rowe from CartoConsult thought provoking on how keeping abreast with and incorporating certain technologies could help rather than hinder libraries. James termed the research that Jisc are currently doing on examining the university campus space as the ‘smart campus’. For example, utilising facial recognition software could allow LIS professionals to anticipate and approach students looking lost or unsure before they ask for help. Or how using push notifications on smart phones could remind and encourage students to use the library; as they pass the library a message might come up on their phone saying something like ‘do you know that students who get a 1st in this course normally visit the library about 4 times a week’. James suggested tracking student’s library cards to find out the areas most used in the library, resulting in encouraging more use of disused library space. There is also the possibility, James proposes, to track library books that are discharged by students to discover more about their usage background. James emphasised the importance of ethics in obtaining consent from students in their details being used in this way, to gain more insight in how they use the library and how library services can be improved for them.
I found it handy to learn from the talk ‘An insider’s guide to Professional Registration’ of the workings of the CILIP VLE system for working towards either MCLIP (Chartership), ACLIP (Certification), or FCLIP (Fellowship). I was able to understand that I can choose to work towards any of these depending on my own assessment of my professional development meeting the three different criteria levels of personal performance, organisational context, and the wider professional context. I learnt how to improve upon my existing reflective writing skills as well as document evidence that can be used towards the awards.
Overall, I travelled back home to Glasgow with a renewed sense of belonging to a valued profession as well as an impetus to join CILIP and pursue my own professional development in working towards Chartership. Personally, I will take a pro-active approach to reaching out to others within my profession once I am a CILIP member and take any opportunities available to me which may arise. The key messages which I took away from this year’s conference are that partnership working, customer feedback, and embracing new technologies are integral to the success of libraries. I cannot thank the CDEG group enough for the opportunity to attend such a worthwhile conference.
Enquiry Team Supervisor (Equality & Accessibility)
Information Services, J. B. Priestley Library
University of Bradford
The first challenge [for me] was to choose from among the many interesting workshops and seminars on offer. I chose those which I felt were relevant to my role as a Disability Support Librarian at the University of Bradford, and which would offer the best CPD opportunities. These were the Future of Libraries Briefing, Developing the Workforce Briefing, the Loud Librarians session, the Information Literacy Seminar, and the Equalities Workshop. Once I’d selected these, I knew I was in for a packed couple of days.
Highlights included all three keynote speeches, starting with a very inspirational address from Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. It was encouraging to hear her speak of starting out as a public and children’s librarian before progressing to the lofty heights of the Library of Congress, a role for which she was interviewed by then-president Barack Obama.
Hayden spoke with humanity and wit of the challenges facing librarians and how to promote your resources, particularly to those who may not use libraries; she emphasised the importance of accessibility, and how everything we do in libraries should centre on that.
Second keynote speaker Luciano Floridi gave a thought-provoking and sometimes challenging speech about where the power lies in information societies; his conviction is that libraries can counterbalance the prevailing power structures by giving people the power to ask questions.
On the Thursday the keynote was Neil MacInnes of Manchester City Council, talking about the recent successful refurbishment of Manchester Central Library as well as how Manchester’s libraries have changed with the times over the last ten years. His was a speech full of positive messages and a vision of how public libraries really can engage the whole community. Some delegates wondered how this success story could be conveyed to other parts of the country where the picture for libraries is less rosy.
This was a very full and thought-provoking two days. I welcomed the chance to benefit from the knowledge of others in the library profession and to to meet my fellow delegates with bursaries from the CDEG.
MA Library and Information Management Services student (Year 1)
University of Sheffield
This year’s CILIP Conference was my first, as a new LIS student, and although I was unsure about what I should expect, I was definitely not disappointed! The entire event across its two days was absolutely stuffed with enthusiasm, information and activity – the atmosphere was really buzzing!
I chose to attend a session on beginning a LIS career. This was a really valuable opportunity to run through the PKSB with the staff who are responsible for it – we really are lucky to have such an elaborate but clear progression framework.
Neil Potentier of ‘Customer Service Excellence’ inspired us to think of the front-of-house interactions we all make with patrons, because ultimately this is what keeps our image as public services alive. Mark Freeman of Stockton-Tees explained how the libraries he manages are assisting visitors with sight loss, and Julia Robinson of ‘The Word’ showed us the incredible new library building in South Tyneside – a real success story for library popularity.
After a busy day, we all regrouped for a lovely drinks reception, getting the chance to know each other and pool our panoply of LIS-related experiences – an inspiring end to an inspiring first day.
The next morning, again as a student I visited the ‘What I wish I’d learned in library school’ talk, which highlighted some of the potential gaps in LIS courses. For me, the most important lesson from this was to network, and seek assistance for any potential gaps in knowledge – don’t be afraid to ask!
After this, ‘Leapfrog’ of Lancaster University spoke with us about a range of tools for enhancing community engagement, a crucial topic in a world where communities are increasingly splintered.
In Emma Connan’s ‘Bookening HE: supporting transition and transformation at both ends of the curriculum’, she highlighted the importance of focussing on how young adults learn – academic libraries, she argues, should be at the heart of this question.
Finally, John Vincent facilitated a discussion in his ‘Equality and Diversity’ workshop, prompting thoughts about the state of librarianship within the UK and globally, and how it might reflect, despite our best intentions, some of the inequalities seen elsewhere in the modern world – a sobering but absolutely vital reminder that we must work for the betterment of all people, inside and out of the LIS profession.
CILIP Conference 2017 was, in my eyes, an uncompromising success, with vigour and passion everywhere one looked. It’s clear to me, as I take my first steps into Library Land, that I’m in for a wonderful, if at times uncertain, journey.
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06 October 2017
Jodie Gray: "The library profession attracts people who have a sense of civic pride and duty"
As shown by recent labour market research reports, librarianship remains a “female” biased profession. Although we see a female majority amongst library employees, there isn’t an equal representation in the highest managerial positions. Over the past few years, a positive shift has become more apparent. One of the keynote speakers at the CILIP 2017 conference, Dr. Carla Hayden, was the first woman to be appointed as Librarian of the United States Congress. She happens to be also the first person of colour to head this library. For quite some time, the former President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Dr. Claudia Lux, has been managing a Qatar Foundation Qatar National Library (QNL) construction project with the support of Dr. Sohair Wastawy, who began her work as Executive Director of the QNL last fall. It seems that the IFLA President’s post has become more open to female candidates (and the same tendency has started to manifest itself in CILIP’s Presidential team too).
We’ve invited another high-profile female appointee Miss Jody Gray – Director of American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services – to answer some topical questions. For her, political and social engagement is one of librarianship’s core values, and neutrality is rather a difficult position to take.
Dear Jody, looking at your portfolio it seems you could be a perfect example of a professional who had a successful career thanks to your early involvement in the work of professional organizations. One of your most recent affiliations is Vice President and President at the American Indian Library Association. What other organizations have played an important role in your professional life?
My first experience with a professional organization was with the American Library Association (ALA). ALA is the organization that introduced me to the American Indian Library Association (AILA). It was as a first-time attendee at an ALA Midwinter Conference that I first heard about AILA. I think ALA is a common entry for many new librarians. It is where you begin to learn about the complexities of the profession and the difference in the types of libraries and library services that are available. For each area (academic, public, school, or functional specialty), there is a community in ALA. AILA was a great organization for me because I am Lakota and until I went to my first AILA meeting I had never met another American Indian librarian.
AILA is the only place in the profession where I can be surrounded by other American Indians. All the ethnic caucuses fulfill that role of being a space where you don’t have to be the only person of colour or American Indian at the table. I think that it makes sense that the ethnic caucuses are affiliated with ALA, because they can provide a niche that may not happen organically at ALA. And ALA provides a platform for all library workers to address issues, concerns, and education around the field of information science. You need both. I needed both.
You’ve been one of the Resident Librarians of the Diversity Alliance. Could you tell us more from your personal experience about this residency programme for underrepresented groups of librarians? Are there any similar programmes in other types of libraries (rather than academic)?
Resident Library programs are primarily hosted at academic institutions. I was a library resident at the University of Minnesota from 2003-2005. This program is no longer in existence. The residency program would hire two recent graduates of colour or American Indians with a Masters in Library Science (MLIS). The residency lasted two years and introduced the resident to various departments in an academic library.
We had rotations in different departments for the first year (I was in reference and instruction services, cataloguing, and digital reference) and then chose an area we would like to focus on in the second year. I chose to focus on reference services with a focus on digital reference. Myself and the other resident were professionals who had a support system in each other. We also had assigned mentors. It was a good way to get a sense of a career in an academic library and a great way to get experience to add to your résumé. Every residency program is a little different, but I think the idea of providing some practical experience and introducing the academic library field are consistent across the programs.
A question on President Trump’s administration policies is inevitable. The first impression that we get looking at a distance from another continent is that American libraries find themselves in quite unprecedented situations; for example, the controversy surrounding the statement released by the President of ALA, Dr. Julie Todaro, right after the US Presidential election, as well as consecutive statements that were either rescinded or supplemented with more statements and even a FAQ sheet to tackle this controversy. Are librarians in US struggling to find common ground? Would you say that the problems and issues covered by your Office are becoming a priority for ALA and the library profession in general?
Equity, diversity, and inclusion are priorities for ALA and they have been in the spotlight quite a bit, but it’s not solely tied to the Trump administration. I became a member of ALA in 2004 and equity, diversity, and inclusion issues have been in discussion that entire time, in one or another.
I started this job in November 2015 and one of my first major tasks was working with the Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This was a group that was created to address issues of diversity at conference. They had been working for 3 years to come up with a list of recommendations and a report that was completed in the summer of 2016. This report and list of recommendations has had a profound impact on the way that different parts of the organization are addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion. I imagine that it will continue to be a major influence in the coming years.
I think what has happened since the election in November  is that there has been a shift in the culture in America. Acts of overt racism and xenophobia are more visible. I don’t think anyone was expecting that shift. As a professional, I know that much of my time was focused on systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. and not on overt actions. The work was about dismantling the underlying structures that maintained a culture of oppression. Now, we are moving backwards in terms of talking about teaching tolerance and acceptance.
I think that the political environment unleashed by the Trump administration is unprecedented to many of us. I think, like most of the country, ALA was caught off guard and we had to work through understanding how this shift impacts the expectations of our organization and its members.
Equity, diversity, and inclusion were a priority before, but there is a sense of urgency surrounding this work, that was not there before. And there are new issues, like tracking hate crimes in libraries or providing resources to library workers to help understand how to best serve immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in a more hostile environment, that were not needed before.
Over the past several years, librarians have had to face difficult decisions regarding a number of political issues. It is a general expectation here in the UK that a library employee has to remain neutral and uninvolved. Is it always possible to do so? Or rather, is it the correct thing to do no matter what the issue?
The fact that public libraries are spaces for everyone, in and of itself, means that libraries are taking a stand for ALL community members. That is the issue that I feel gets conflated with neutrality of social issues.
Librarians value access to information and work to level the playing field when it comes to offering information that reflects multiple cultures and viewpoints. All sides of an issue should be accessible to everyone. Library workers value and fight for freedom of speech. We live in a democracy which should provide all of us with the right to freely express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
The profession strives to reflect users’ needs and librarians and library staff work diligently to transform lives through education and lifelong learning. Unfortunately, there are times when standing up for all community members is challenged, or even blocked by local politics. However, to fulfill our role in providing equal opportunity to all, library workers are on the front lines fighting for access to information that mirrors the demands and needs of all community members.
One of ODLOS’s fields of work is providing training on various issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. Cultural competence is a foundation of modern librarianship. Could you give a rating on how librarians perform in this area? What effective methodologies and tools would you recommend when addressing low cultural awareness among both librarians and library patrons?
That is a hard question to answer, because we don’t really measure that in anyway. What I can say, anecdotally, is that the library profession seems to attract people who have a sense of civic pride and duty. Since most of the work of librarianship is about building a space for communities, it means that there is a strong interest in being equitable, diverse, and inclusive. I think that librarianship, as a profession, values these tenets higher than many other professions.
Some libraries have been doing this work for a long time and have made it a priority; others are just starting. It’s important to begin this work where a library is at. In terms of tools, there are many ways you can begin. In our office, we use a social justice framework. This means that we focus on talking about power and privilege. Beginning to identify and understand these concepts is the first step in dismantling the systems that exist to perpetuate oppression.
What are the most important events and projects on the ODLOS agenda for year 2017? Any new materials or publications we should be looking out for?
We have been working hard on our ‘Libraries Respond’ pages which we are using as a resource for library workers to use when issues arise quickly that impact their communities. We also have a blog called ‘Intersections’ that was developed for library workers to share their best practices with each other. We are continuing to grow our professional development and educational resources by offering more in person workshops on cultural competence and bringing in more speakers to provide webinars on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. I encourage folks to visit our web page to keep abreast of our projects and resources.
on behalf of Community, Diversity and Equality Group Committee,
Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, United Kingdom
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06 October 2017
Miguel Figueroa: "Collaboration is the future"
When asked about what the library of the future looks like, Miguel Figueroa, director of “The Centre for the Future of Libraries” of the American Library Association, responds “I really don’t think there’s a prescribed future for libraries so it’s very difficult to point to specific libraries and say this is the library of the future. Instead, it has everything to do with the needs of your community and finding a library that is pursuing one of several futures that aligns with your vision and your community’s needs.”
Formerly a director of the ALA Office for Diversity and the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, M. Figueroa still very much a follower of community-orientated approaches by library services, although his current involvement in library futurology is mainly focused outside the immediate environment of libraries to consider trends and changes from other sectors.
How did the idea of “Center for the Future of Libraries“ come to life? Was it a longtime plan developed within ALA? How would you describe your mission, expected outcomes and target audiences of your work?
The Center for the Future of Libraries is modeled on a very successful program created by the American Alliance of Museums. Their Center for the Future of Museums was founded in 2008 and does excellent work. AAM and the Center for the Future of Museums have been very generous in providing guidance and advice through our two plus years of development.
The Center for the Future of Libraries really came together because leadership at the US Institute of Museum and Library Services and at the American Library Association looked at the work of AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums and saw an opportunity for a similar venture for the library world. While there are similarities between our two types of cultural institutions, there are enough differences that it helps to focus on each of them distinctly. ALA received an initial planning grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to plan the Center for the Future of Libraries. That grant laid out three very clear goals that we continue to work toward - identify emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve; promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their futures; and build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues. This is ongoing work, but we are starting to see some very positive outcomes.
Miguel, how would you identify yourself professionally? What is your educational background, degrees, prior professional experience? And most importantly, how does one become “Chief Oracle of Libraries of the U.S.A”?
So, I’m a librarian by training having received my Master’s in Library Science from the University of Arizona. That said, I often tell people that I have not been a very successful librarian in practice – most of my work has been related to the field, but not working in a library. I worked for a publisher of library science books, as a trainer for a regional library program, and in several roles in library associations. I think these roles have helped me understand what I am good at – synthesizing and sharing the good work and best practices of library professionals for our mutual benefit.
I would strongly push back on the “oracle” title. I think most of what I was originally doing was trying to bring together some of the really excellent futures work already happening in libraries – whether by individuals, by organizations like IFLA or OCLC, or by our partners like the Center for an Urban Future – to help synthesize it and make it accessible to our members. As we have progressed into this work, that role has expanded to also try and sift through emerging information and connect identifiable trends to our library values. That work, like the original work, is part of a partnership with ALA members, the larger library profession, and our allies from other disciplines. My role has mostly been focused on compiling information and making it accessible to the larger community of readers – something very much in line with my essential librarian nature.
Futurology is quite a tricky deceiving field of science. Those unfamiliar with the subject most likely say that experts might just make educated guesses and hope that no one recalls their predictions. Could you please shed more light on the methodologies, mechanisms and tools that you employ when developing current and future trends in libraries?
So, I think for much of our early work we are trying to focus on committing to relevance rather than perfecting prediction. I usually promote the words of Edward Cornish, one of the founders of the World Future Society, who says “We can learn a great deal about what may happen in the future by looking systematically at what is actually happening now.” The best library directors, managers, and innovators do this already – they constantly look at changes in their community of users and they make incremental adjustments to help the library align with new needs and interests. We want to broaden that excellent work and try to make it more accessible to library professionals.
We also use the Cone of Plausibility or Futures Cone as a tool to illustrate that there are many futures, not just one and that those futures are connected to changes that we experience in the present. This helps reinforce the idea that we study change not so that we can accurately predict any one future, but so that we can be prepared for any one of several futures that might happen. We start to see what’s coming next.
Finally, I think one of the most important pieces that we are trying to add to the process is that we need to consider changes and trends in light of our values. If we blindly follow trends, we will not achieve a beneficial future for our users. We need to look at trends in our world and consider how they align with our professional values – intellectual freedom, access, diversity, preservation, discovery, learning, etc. When these trends support our values, we might be able to leverage them to our advantage. When trends of changes work against our values, we may need to intervene for the benefit of our users. So even as trends and innovations change, the values that have steered libraries for hundreds of years remain – and they remain because they are essential to who we are.
What does behind-the-scenes at the “Center for the Future of Libraries” look like? Could you describe a typical working week at your Center?
I think the work week is very much focused on research and reading. I usually start my week with a very long reading list that helps me scan for trends and changes. I compile that information into a weekly e-newsletter called “Read for Later”. The newsletter is meant to save some time for library professionals and give them a quick digest of some of the changes in our world that might have implications for libraries.
The trends-scanning that feeds into Read for Later eventually feeds into our identification of specific trends. We have a growing collection of trends on our web site. Each trend entry features information about how the trend is developing – usually pulled together from the trend-scanning – and then the more important information about how it might matter for libraries – pulled together through conversations with ALA members and library professionals.
And then a lot of my time is spent out in the field with librarians and library professionals at meetings and events to talk through some of these trends and to think with them about how the trends affect our values. It’s a far more collaborative process than the staff list would indicate.
Some of the most productive opportunities for libraries arise as part of collective impact actions: new partnerships, unusual collaborations, sharing of the workload when reaching for the same goals, etc. Would you say that libraries form and maintain relationships easily? Are we seen as attractive and equal partners by other institutions in both public and private sectors?
I think somewhere in my travels someone noted that collaboration is the future. I have really started to believe that through this futures work. More and more, from whatever sector you are working in, the future will more than likely come from outside of your immediate environment rather than from within it. In trend-scanning, you are encouraged to scan broadly and to intentionally look across sectors – the Center uses Society, Technology, Education, the Environment, Politics & Government, Economics, and Demographics to define our categories of scanning. As we identify trends and connect them to our values, it becomes easier to find potential partners and to make clear to them how their interests and library interests are connected.
Great libraries and library professionals have always been able to form and keep relationships. Our hope is that by sharing some of this trend-thinking we can help library professionals make new connections with partners around emerging issues. I have yet to find a potential partner that is not interested in working with libraries and libraries – we are valued, trusted, and respected for our work in communities. The new hurdle is in making it clear that our interest lie with their interests, that we are more than just books, that the trends and changes our partners are most interested in are also of interest to our work and our values.
What do you think are the most worrying trends in politics and government? Are we very wrong to expect that, in the 2017 Post-Brexit and Trump era of shifting towards the far right and extremism, there will be quite a stir in libraries across the globe? Could you point towards the most alarming political tendencies that librarians should be aware of?
This is a timely question and one that our best library leaders are certainly starting to tackle. We need to look at trends and changes in our political environment with an eye toward our values, especially ideals like diversity, access, privacy, intellectual freedom, and civic discourse. If the political climate turns against these values, we will likely need to prepare interventions that might address those changes. And so we have seen several libraries invest in statements, programs, and partnerships that help bolster these values in a changing political climate.
Thank you for your answers!
on behalf of CILIP Community, Diversity & Equality Group
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06 October 2017
My Opinion: Faith Schools by Derek Kinrade
“There is a real danger that the growth in faith schools today will be blamed in 30 years’ time for the social disharmony then. It is not too late to reverse that trend, if we want a society that has diversity within unity, not at the expense of it.”
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain
“...in a climate that is increasingly unfavourable to these [Christian] beliefs, it is a mistake to try to impose them on children, and to make them the basis of moral training. The moral education of children is much too important a matter to be built on such foundations.”
Margaret Knight: ‘Morals without religion and other essays’ (1955), from a BBC Home Service broadcast, January 1955.
This is not an attack upon faith, and my feelings are of profound regret rather than antagonism. People are entitled to believe anything they wish, however unlikely. My argument is that the propagation of belief systems has no place in our schools; that education is more properly directed to information that encourages open thought and questioning, not the indoctrination of young minds with narrow, sectarian doctrines. As Francis Westoby put it, some years ago, in a letter to The Guardian: “inhibiting their ability to think clearly about social and ethical problems, and to reach reasoned judgments about the natural world”. I am convinced that the encouragement of faith schools and their growth in this country, though generally seen as an expression of British tolerance and acceptance of diversity is in reality divisive.
I believe that subscribing to and promulgating traditional dogma and thinking within only a closed religious box does nothing for cross-cultural understanding and community cohesion. Moreover, and in particular, that beliefs which identify homosexuality as a sin and relegate women to institutional inferiority are not conducive to social progress. Integration and equality are generally accepted as desirable objectives, but some schools rooted in traditional values, although teaching the national curriculum and often setting good academic standards, appear also to be set on a different course, seeking to avoid what they see as cross-contamination, distancing their scholars from peers outside the faith and by implication encouraging the idea that their religious beliefs set them apart from and superior to the rest of society, in a special relationship with their God.
Of course, faith schools are not necessarily radical or fanatical. I attended a Church of England primary school in Toxteth where my only contact with religious ideas was a very occasional, wholly mysterious service in an adjacent church named after the obscure St. Silas. I cannot recall any classes in religious education. And today I accept that not all schools, although established by people of faith, are primarily bent on religious indoctrination. But the danger is that some faith schools can be breeding grounds for deep-seated prejudice, passing the bigotry, eccentricity and social isolation of one generation to the next. A More4News inquiry, some while ago, found that many faith schools, some of them state funded, still taught creationism!
There is an argument that it is a fundamental human right to be able to choose to educate your child in accordance with your own religious beliefs. But as someone close to me put it: “That supposes a right to pass on any tosh they see fit”. I would have said, less directly, that it ignores the right of children not to be brain-washed with the outlandish views of their parents.
Yet the determination of sectarian leaders to preserve their esoteric faith within families is intense and has indeed been encouraged by government; notwithstanding the challenge it presents to enlightened and broad educational principles: even to the point of tolerating the selection of staff and pupils according to their particular religious affiliations.
Roughly one third of our schools are now faith schools. As Polly Toynbee has commented, while pews empty, faith schools multiply. It is a curious paradox that while surveys and polls indicate that the population of the UK is increasingly secular, there is an inverse growth of schools of a religious character. Our coalition government demonstrated its intention to stoke this contradiction from the outset, announcing that it would “work with faith groups to enable more faith schools”. And the Department for Education announced (22 May 2013) approval of 102 new ‘free’ schools due to open from September 2014. They include 25 new religious schools. According to the British Humanist Society (BHA), in Northern Ireland more than 92 per cent of children attend either a Protestant or Catholic schools and there are no plans for change. In England almost all voluntary schools are said to have a religious character, as are 34 per cent of state schools. Their number has increased in recent years as successive governments have responded to the influence of religious groups in state-funded education, predominantly from the Church of England.
BHA’s aspiration, which I share, is simple. It wants pupils from all different backgrounds educated together in a shared environment, rather than separated according to the religious beliefs of their parents. An ongoing campaign seeks four basic aims:
- to end religious discrimination in school admissions.
- to end religious discrimination in school employment.
- to achieve progressive reform of the school curriculum, including religious, scientific and PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education.
- to replace mandatory religious collective worship with inclusive assemblies.
At present, faith schools are allowed to discriminate to varying extents in their admissions, recruitment and employment policies. Many give preference to children from families that share their religion, or at the least who otherwise are religious believers. I regard this as discriminatory, inevitably leading to segregation within communities. It has also been asserted that the policies of some faith schools are such as to admit fewer children from poorer families – those entitled to free school meals. An article in The Guardian (5 March 2013), headed ‘Church schools shun poorest pupils’, declared that by shunning the poorest pupils in their area England’s faith schools failed to mirror their local communities. A similar exclusivity can obtain in matters of recruitment and employment: a rejection of applicants of no religion or the ‘wrong’ religion.
Most faith schools are allowed to frame their own syllabus for religious education and, unsurprisingly, often aim to instruct children in the doctrine and practices of a particular religion. Nor is this aspect of the curriculum subject to Ofsted inspection. They are also free to teach PSHE subjects from a religious perspective. This includes sex education. The BHA is particularly concerned that sex and relationship components – if included at all – may be taught in ways that are homophobic and gender discriminatory, violate human rights principles, or are otherwise inadequate (notably in relation to contraception and abortion).
I am very much in favour of diversity. We should be free to follow different political and cultural traditions – or not. But education is a special case. I believe that our children should be instructed from a broad, factual base, not narrowly and selectively directed along lines of esoteric, exceptional – and personal - beliefs.
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