reading matters, so let's make public library reader services awesome!

a little more action please

‘A little less conversation, a little more action please’ – this clip from merseyboys (enjoy!) opened my presentation at TropicALIA at the end of 2012 (Australia’s National Year of Reading) where I talked about the need to support marketing with a solid foundation of staff training.

Our survey found the same in 2013 as what Dr Alan Bundy and Vicki Darling both found in 2008 (we’ve all done surveys across Australia and New Zealand). The Library Journal recently conducted a survey in the US with NoveList and the RUSA/CODES Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends Committee. Their survey data is downloadable from the link below.

‘…the importance of RA is not declining. In fact, more than half of respondents say RA increased in importance in the last three years, and 54% say RA will be even more important three years from now.’ ‘In the decades ahead we must concentrate on ensuring that librarians obtain the full complement of resources and skills necessary to conduct RA with confidence, concludes (Neal) Wyatt. ‘Readers deserve nothing less. And neither do the librarians who work with them.’ (The State of Readers Advisory, 2014.)

At VALA earlier in February there was a library camp unconference where one topic was ‘National Year of Reading’. I wasn’t there so I have no idea of the discussion or the context, except for what I read on twitter. I think the dormant state of the Love2Read site since the end of NYR12 is indicative of what the legacy of the year might be for many public libraries and their communities, but what I read was that people felt that adding more reading events and using the Love2Read logo more would be a great NYR12 legacy.

The legacy of NYR12 is meant to be the enhanced literacy levels of all Australians. Check out the NYR12 report (page 4) for the goals.

I’ve included some of the unconference conversation and have the luxury of adding my thoughts now in italics.

NYR provided lots of professional development in the workplace.
(No it didn’t. It would be awesome if PD had come from this national source. SLV and SLNSW sponsored staff training across their states and a handful of other local governments sponsored training for their library staff. ALIA did partner with Love2Read and TAFENSW to offer an RA unit. Two staff from my workplace were sponsored by our Council to participate. It was a basic six week course full of interesting discussion).

Other libraries just used the branding, didn’t really go above and beyond.  
(I found this a really judgemental comment, and flawed on a number of levels, particularly as it was tweeted by @ALIANational.  I asked, ‘
Was there a discussion about why they didn’t or couldn’t?’)
@ALIANational: There wasn’t really. We were talking more about how libs used the nyr branding.
(Branding can’t cover up lack of training, or budget, or practical support. Blacktown Library’s report, available from the SLNSW site, lists some obstacles that haven’t been addressed nationally over a year later. Anyone can download and print a Love2Read flower logo from the site but you need something fundamentally deeper to show that you are ‘raising the status and visibility of reading and literacy nationwide’, etc  )
(after searching a number of random library websites I’ve struggled to find current Love2Read branding anywhere anyway. Has everyone abandoned the flower?)

All that I could say about the perceived direction of that unconference conversation was said well by Dr Matt Finch last October; ‘I confess that I gave a long hard swallow when this month, ALIA started publically imagining a digital version of the National Year of Reading, especially when I saw them using terms like “grassroots” – my impression was that 2012′s Year of Reading was a centrally coordinated marketing scheme, rather than some kind of spontaneous Arab-Spring-of-Libraries?’

What would you like to see happen to ensure the legacy of National Year of Reading means something to our communities?


2 comments on “a little more action please

  1. booksadventures
    February 19, 2014

    Great piece!

    I was always a bit skeptical about Australia’s National Year of Reading because we’d had one in the UK in 2008. I seem to recall that was trumpeted as a huge success, yet in subsequent years we endured savage library cuts and a 2012 report suggested that ever fewer kids are now reading for pleasure:

    I’m definitely keen to know where the “46% of Aussies have inadequate literacy levels” stat came from, and if that number has improved as a direct result of NYR.

    In 2014-2016, I’d love to see ALIA working more closely with community libraries at the grassroots level to make substantive interventions on issues like digital access and external communications within local councils.

    I was especially disappointed by their non-response (“Tricky question”) when the issue of librarians’ access to file-sharing services was raised, requesting support from ALIA

    Marketing schemes like Library Lovers’ Day have their place but they often involve a central hub taking credit for local efforts – and they aren’t the be-all and end-all of a professional organization’s job, especially when they backfire:

    • alisonwrote
      March 16, 2014

      Thanks Matt! You’ve inspired me to ask the provocative questions 🙂 Our public libraries need to work together by state or nationally for the strength that unity would afford us to be able to accomplish important initiatives like literacy and digital inclusion.

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This entry was posted on February 15, 2014 by in reader services, staff development and tagged , , .
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