Friday, 21 September 2007

Meetin' 'n' greetin'

On Tuesday, I spent the afternoon guiding some visitors around three of our libraries. My excellent friend Tom Forrest brought two people from the British Council’s Information Policy Planning Unit (IPPU) to see some examples of good practice in British libraries.

The British Council has had some negative press attention recently. I’m not going to go into it here, but if you subscribe to the CILIP Weekly Information World email (free to all CILIP members!) you’ll know what I mean… The IPPU’s focus is on presenting British exemplars as models for service provision in other countries. And that’s where we come in.

We started at Horwich Library, which was refurbished a couple of years ago and functions as a joint public/school library. We have a few libraries with that dual function, but Horwich is our only branch providing library functions to a primary and a secondary school.

High Street Library is the Pegasus to the Central Library’s Galactica: it’s brand new, very stylish, and about as cutting-edge as it gets. The library was built on the site of its old, crumbling, inaccessible predecessor. The local community has been involved with the new library from the beginning, starting with the now famous arts-based community consultation.

The tour finished at the Central Library, which is a 1930s masterpiece into which we have to shoehorn 21st century services. It’s not easy, but it works. Central was refurbed just after Horwich, and shares some of that library’s open aesthetic. The big draw here for our visitors was the integration of the Primary Care Trust library into our revamped reference service, In-Depth. Partnership working: definitely the a way forward.

We had three hours, but ended up running slightly behind schedule. With this being a fact-finding mission, there was a lot of talking going on. Talking takes time, and so does arranging for the right people to be there. A whole day, rather than an afternoon, would have allowed for more flexibility. But now that the dialogue's been opened, we're not really under any constraints.

This should lead to mutually beneficial future working relationships between us and the British Council. More on that at a future date!