Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Some Ex-Colleagues in Newham Library Service

I have had a few interesting encounters recently (either directly or indirectly) with some ex-colleagues in Newham Library Service. These included: Pat Lloyd, Kathy Walker, George Bye, Anne Brooke, Andrew DeHeer, and Angela and Kim.

Pat Lloyd, for example, phoned me up saying that Kathy Walker had sent him a letter, and in it she had included an article of mine that she had downloaded from the web - 'Library Privatisation: fact or fiction?' -
So, that must suddenly have had an impact on her - interesting!

Anne Brooke is a member of Forest Voices Choir; Margaret Griffith was on the stall for the Newham Writers Group (which she is a member of) at the Forest Gate Festival this year and Andrew DeHeer was on the stall for the Forest Gate Library and Local Service Centre, known simply as 'The Gate'. Then, I bumped into Angela and Kim going round in the van with the Housebound Readers Service.

I guess the biggest surprise though was bumping into George Bye, who was sitting on a seat outside our local pub recently, 'The Golden Fleece' with someone. I hadn't seen George for years. My rapid exit from Newham Library Service was achieved in considerable measure through the handiwork of this person; and that was after I had greatly assisted him with the implementation of the Dynix library computer system there. I actually referred to this work of mine, in an article that I wrote for Managing Information (in the July/Aug 2003 issue, Vol 10, No 6), entitled 'Females, Computers and Libraries' saying that:

"When I assisted with the implementation of Dynix in the London Borough of Newham...I was designated the task of training all the staff on circulation on Dynix. This was a very large and demanding job, and yet it is a task that often falls within the remit of 'women's work' - training staff, helping staff, being available and helpful. There is often an assumption that women are willing and able to share their knowledge and information in this way. Indeed, that they should be willing and happy to share it. Yet, at the same time, I was not given the opportunity to be involved in the some of the important decisions, in regard to the implementation." (p. 8)

Monday, 20 September 2010

'The Women in his Life' by Barbara Taylor Bradford

'The Women in his Life' by Barbara Taylor Bradford (Grafton Books: London, 1991) proved to be an enjoyable read and something of a page-turner.

I loved Barbara Taylor Bradford's 'A Woman of Substance', which I read years ago, and also watched on DVD. It said so much to me about how a determined, intelligent, clear-headed and hard-working woman could win and succeed against so many odds and right various wrongs, if she really wanted to. I know that the level of success that the character Emma Harte received was certainly delving into the world of fiction, and is certainly not something that most women could achieve, but still, I thought the book conveyed a real message of hope. My son Victor also watched the DVD recently and was very moved, affected and inspired by it (Alex, Gregory and Glenn also really like it).

An;yway, with all this in mind, I decided to read 'The Women in his Life', also by Barbar Taylor Bradford. This dealt with various struggles that people went through in World War 2, focusing in particular on the character Maximilian West, who ended up losing both his parents in the war (who were beaten to death) and how he was bought up by Teddy. All this was described very vividly and powerfully, I thought. Maxim then becomes a successful businessman as well as having various women. But in the end, he finds true love.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Inspiralled Cafe in Camden, London

On Monday 13th September 2010 Glenn and I had a lovely day out clothes shopping in Camden - one of our favourite places to shop. But what inspired me to write this blog was the 'Inspiralled Cafe' that we went in - an organic, vegetarian, alternative cafe with music, poetry and much else besides. The cafe was situated by the canal, where you can also get boat trips from. It was really something we thought. We took some photos of it all and these are below. It was a lovely weather as well, and we bought some pretty awesome clothes (well, we thought they were anyway!). Michael Jackson fashion-sense dominated the scene, much to my surprise. I thought it was great, but proved to be a problem when Glenn tried looking for a Denim shirt. Anyway, he found one in the end!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Emily Christophers and Public Libraries

One of Glenn Rikowski's ex-undergraduate students, (who is now studying for a PGCE at Northampton), Emily Christophers (a great Education Studies student, graduating in July 2010) gave Glenn two articles last week. It was very thoughtful of her to cut out these articles from The Week (28th August 2010) and give them to Glenn for us to read.

As an Education Studies student at the University of Northampton, Emily read some of both mine and Glenn's work from 'The Flow of Ideas' website (the Rikowski family website). Furthermore, she also obtained my single-authored book, Globalisation, Information and Libraries (Chandos Publishing, 2005) from the Open University Library and read some of that as well. This reading led to her cutting out these articles for us.

One of the articles Emily had cut out (for Glenn) from The Week was about BBP University College of Professional Studies; the UK's second private higher education providers. The first was University College Buckingham (UCB, now University of Buckingham) which was set up in 1973, when the Conservatives were in power. Margaret Thatcher formally opened UCB in 1976. The establishment of BBP indicates how the private sector is looking to get into higher education provision in the UK on a bigger scale, especially now that potential providers (such as Kaplan, a US outfit) view the current Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government as being sympathetic to their plans.

University of Buckingham Biology Research Labs

Emily gave me a short piece to read from The Week (of 28th August 2010, p.14) entitled: 'A sneaky way to destroy our public libraries' by Terence Blacker, from The Independent. The Week summarises various news items from the previous week.

In this piece, Blacker talks about the current UK coalition government's 'Future Libraries Programme' which was launched by the Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, last week (early September 2010) and the fancy words about 'community' and 'partnership' which are embedded in it. As Blacker points out, if the fancy words are stripped away, we find that they are really simply code for the privatisation of our public libraries. And this of course, is what I have been warning people about over the last 10 years or so. In my book, Globalisation, Information and Libraries I go into it all in great depth, seeking to demonstrate how global agreements made far from home, will and are impacting clearly and directly at the local level, bringing in the commercialisation and privatisation of our dearly loved state-funded libraries.

So, the Culture Minister's plan will trial 'new governance models' for libraries; in Suffolk local community groups will run the libraries, for example, whereas in Bradford they will be run in supermarkets. Also, for a while now in the London Borough of Newham (where I worked for quite some years), public libraries have been running alongside Community Information Services (so unfortunately Newham has been very much a pioneer here!).

As Blacker points out, whilst one one level this might all sound 'very modern and inclusive' it actually:

"...amounts to back-door privatisation, a way for central government to 'wriggle out' of its obligation, under the 1964 Libraries and Museum Act, to step in if a local library authority fails to provide basic library services."

The leading article in The Guardian of 31st August 2010, also speaks about the 'Future Libraries Programme' in a piece entitled 'Open Books' (p.30). It starts off with saying:

"Naturally, those who most loved libraries as children are now their most articulate supporters."
Well, I know what they mean there, although there is only so much time and energy any one person can give to any one cause! If certain powers that be and certain folks are really determined to destroy something, then well, it will be destroyed in some fashion, although on the optimistic side something else is likely to emerge in some form or other (so don't let's get totally despondent!) Capitalism can't have it all its own way; that is impossible. It would suit capitalism if humans worked 24/7 for example, but of course, humans need sleep, rest, food and drink etc, so that just isn't on. So, then we come up with the concept of the 'length of the working day'. Anyway, I digress somewhat...

The article in The Guardian points out that there are 10 projects in the 'Future Libraries Programme' and that these are:

"...testbeds for many of the ideas that the coalition would like to apply to other public services. Two London boroughs are considering merger of their library provision. Suffolk wants community groups to manage them. Most controversially, some of Bradford's books could be moved into shops."

The article argues that faced with budget cuts many councils will:

"...freeze new acquisitions, cut opening hours, and perhaps charge for book clubs and children's story-times. Some libraries will close altogether."

Others will see the introduction of more volunteers, and less professional staff in libraries. The article concludes by arguing that working-class areas will suffer in particular, as the people in these communities are less likely to defend their public libraries as vigorously as those in more middle class areas.

And so, my concerns and predictions are all starting to come to pass.....And even worse, libraries rather than being in the background/a backwater to future trends, are actually paving the way it seems. Heavens!

One wonders if and when folks will actually and meangingfully sit up, take notice of what we have been saying and actively and determinedly try to do something to stop the rot. Not that it will be at all easy, but even so...It all remains to be seen, but it is great that Emily is taking up some of the issues in this way, and many thanks to her for all of that.

On a personal basis, as well, we wish Emily all the best of luck for her future career in primary school teaching.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Urban Green Fair, Brockwell Park, Lambeth

At the initial suggestion of Chris Keene, in the Green Party, our son Victor Rikowski, recited some poems (or to be more precise lyrics to some songs that he has written) at the Urban Green Fair at Brockwell Park in Lambeth, London on Sunday 5th September 2010.

Originally, Victor thought that he would be singing, then it materialised that the Green Fair did not have a licence to sing which apparently costs £5000 so folks recited poems. Our choir leader, Jenny Beeching, also spoke about this, saying that many musicians have been very annoyed about it all. So, now we can listen to people singing on Sky TV in the pub, for example, but we can't listen to live people singing, unless the pub has forked out for the £5000 music licence fee of course. What a ridiculous scenario. Makes you think about that witty but insightful song, by George Formby - ' You don't need a licence for that', with lines that include:
'You may think I'm romancing, but they even tax you for singing and dancing'
For the whole song - see

Anyway, Glenn and Victor went along to the Fair, and Victor's session went well (and there were about 30 people listening) and the whole event was good, they said. There was lots going on at the Fair in general, all taking place in different zones - these were 'Climate Change and Energy Zone', 'Sustainable Transport Zone', 'Social Justice Zone' and 'Food and Garden Zone'. Activities included yoga, meditiation, dancing, singing, bike fixing, book stall, politics etc. etc.

Victor recited 4 poems including ' Today', 'Bigger' and 'Dignity'. The pieces included some political messages.

Here is a selection of lines from 'Today':

"What have you done today?

Lying on the bay?

Bathing in the sun, on holiday?

Have fun for just a day, a slave for another year

Justify yourself with crap

We're rats inside a cage and nothing will come near

To justifying this global trap."

And here is a selection of lines from 'Dignity':

"But if we put our hearts and minds to the test

We can make for ourselves

A better house, a better street

Humanity standing on its feet

Come on, dignity is our big weapon

Getting us all out of prison."

Following on from Victor's reciting, there was some good poetry reading from the 'E11 Eco, Transition Leytonstone Poetry Group'. Diana Korchien was one of the members of this group, and she helped to make this event 'happen' for Victor, so many thanks to Diana for that.

And here are some photos:

E11 Eco, 'Transition Leyt0nstone' poetry group

MySpace page for Victor Rikowski's band, 'Cold Hands & Quarter Moon' can be found at