WiFi, MiFi and Borrowable WiFi Hotspots

WiFi in libraries

What? We covered a variety of WiFi options, including the projects at Chester West, Brighton and Hove: Cloud and Norfolk. 

How might it be used? Mobile working – requiring a clear strategy and communication enabling council workers or those from other organisations can use the WiFi. 


Is WiFi important? Some think so…

Maslam’s Hierarchy of Needs – a modern perspective!

Borrowable WiFi hotpots 

What? A service to lend WiFi hotspots to customers living in low income postcodes. 

Purpose? To allow anyone who does not have WiFi to try it before buying it / to get WiFi where there is none available. To support/encourage Digital Inclusion. 

Target audience? Anyone who wants to try before they buy, low income households.

How might it be used? Hotspots could be used for a partnership with housing associations or in areas of high deprivation. MiFi could be used for Care Home tablet sessions or workshops in some areas (where 3G is available).

How to find out more? Library HotspotNYC Libraries Pioneer WiFi lending, Chicago WiFi hotspot lending 

MiFi and WIBE

What? MiFi uses 3G or 4G to provide a temporary/mobile WiFi hotpot (EE dongle will take ten users at a time). A WIBE is a Wireless Broadband Extender. 
Purpose? To enable WiFi over 3G and 4G mobile networks. 
Target audience? Mobile workers, students, business, anyone. 
How might it be used? MiFi or a WIBE could be used for Care Home tablet sessions or workshops in village halls – in areas where 3G is available. On the mobile library to improve the information offer. 
How to find out more? EE, WIBE

Sharing the knowledge gained from the SCL Digital Leaders Pilot (facilitated by Ben Lee and Ethan Ohs from Shared Intelligence) with colleagues  – ideas, examples and inspiration.

Dear Brother, You have no idea what I do!

Dear Brother,

After a few librarian jokes at Christmas I told you that you have no idea what I do. I realise this is because we have never really spoken about my work and I know that your joke ‘shushes’ are just what most people think librarians spend their time doing! So lovely brother it is time I tell you the truth. I have written down my favourite projects from 2014 – these are some of the things I have been doing at work over the last 12 months.

Shouting about libraries
I chair the LibrariesWest Marketing Group as I know we need to be better at promoting what we do – to get the word out that libraries are vibrant places where people come to learn, get support with their health, work and life and to enjoy diving into other worlds through reading. I want us to shout about how important libraries are!

Social media
After writing a successful business case for using social media we launched our library Facebook and Twitter in January 2014. You can see a Storify board I’ve compiled which shows how much is going on in libraries.

I also took over the @LibrariesWest Twitter account in December 2013 and have taken it from 12 tweets and 70 followers, to over 900 followers and more than 850 tweets during 2014.

BBC Radio in the library
In early 2014 we arranged a BBC Radio Bristol/Somerset tour of libraries in the area. The Laura Rawlings Show was broadcast live (with well-known authors) from a different library everyday for five days, and the libraries held community events with partners to celebrate all that libraries offer.

Visits and volunteering
Myself and a colleague visited the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter and National Trust Tyntesfield to meet with managers responsible for volunteer recruitment and management. Ideas for communication and processes were taken back and implemented.

With over 200 volunteers supporting our 13 libraries our volunteering team works hard to continually develop the volunteering offer.

Digital inclusion
In 2013/14 105, 624 computer hours were used in our 12 static libraries and there were 282, 425 virtual visits to our services. Dear brother you know how important it is to be online.

And yet there are around 11 million adults in the UK who lack the skills to get online (49% of these people have a disability, 61% are aged 65 and over). Our libraries, all with free computer facilities and WiFi, are well placed in communities to help people take the first steps to get online.

In 2014 I have been a regional trainer, supporting the national programme to train all library staff as Digital Champions – reinforcing the role libraries play in helping communities to access life essential information and services, which are increasingly online.

I have compiled an infograph: Digital Libraries – Innovation, Partnership and Digital Inclusion

Libraries are constantly changing – during 2014 we launched our library App, free downloadable eMagazines, a children’s eBook service (to go with our existing eBook and eAudiobook, online newspapers, and online reference library service).

Innovation is a hot topic for libraries – during my Summer holiday I went to Exeter Library (which has a FabLab) and heard the amazing award-winning librarian Corinne Hill from Chattanooga Library, Tennessee talk about her library developments.

I supported a colleague to apply for the CarnegieLibrary Lab (to enhance innovation and leadership in libraries), and although she didn’t get a space this time, we will be working to implement her fab ideas in 2015. Colleagues are also involved in the council 50 days of digital, tech geek project – to develop and roll out new digital projects in 2015.

Home Library Service
The Home Library Service is for anyone who finds it difficult to leave their home, either because of their own ill-health or responsibilities as a carer – books are delivered by volunteers on a regular basis.

During 2014 we surveyed our Home Library Service customers and we’re delighted that there was 100% satisfaction and some fantastic statistics about the value of this service:

91% said “It gives me confidence to remain at home”
91% said “The service is a lifeline”
88% said “It reduces my feelings of isolation”

One customer summed up this important service: “It gives one contact with other humans, which one would otherwise not have”.

Since this survey we have recruited over 60 potential new volunteers so we can extend the service to more people who need it.

Memories Shared : reminiscence tablet project
I secured £5k funding for us to invest in 30 tablets. We designed a project to break down barriers to ICT and build confidence in using technology by stimulating interest through reminiscence – old photos of the local area from our local history collection are loaded on to the tablets, along with example eBooks, eMagazines and information about services available to support people to stay independent in their own homes.

We trialled this at an Age UK group, where older people spent the afternoon talking to their friends and remembering the past decades. One participant who is living with dementia ‘lit up’ in a way her carer had never seen before. This was one of my most rewarding and moving working days in 2014.

A hard-working team
I feel really privileged to work with a team of librarians and library staff who go the extra mile every day to support people. You will never get shushed! – quite the opposite as those working in libraries will listen, guide and help.

Digital Leadership
There is a lot to look forward to in 2015. In particularly I am really exciting to be part a the cohort of 17 library leaders participating in SCL’s Digital Leadership programme. It is critical that we continue to develop the library workforce at all levels in this fast changing digital world so that we can deliver better and more innovative library services. It’s great to be part of that!

So dear Brother these are my highlights from 2014. I hope you have read this far! And I hope you can see that my libraries are very much about helping people and communities. I don’t mind the shush jokes, in fact I would be disappointed if they stopped. But now I hope we can laugh about how funny and outdated the stereotype is!!

[Update: It turns out my dear Brother does know what I do and I love him for that! But I am keeping this blog here for all the people who ask me what I actually do when I say I’m a librarian].

My eyes are suddenly wide open…

“What you do today is stealing from others tomorrow”

I knew the Clore Short Course was going to challenge me and I was excited at the prospect of viewing things from a new perspective. But at the end of week one I feel like I have been jet propelled into a direction I hadn’t even considered!

Listening to Futurist Christopher Barnatt on Friday completely shook my world, or made me realise how my life was shaking my world and the world that my family and others will experience in the (not too distant) future!

I’m no expert, but the short story is that we are using up the earth’s resources too quickly, and this will significantly impact on people and our environment. The way I see it – we’re all responsible and we need to do something – now!

It took only minutes for me to realise that libraries are really well placed to create a meaningful dialogue about our world, our families and our society, at a very local level. It is, after all, what libraries already enable and it is what we do locally that is having an impact on the environment.

I’m really interested in how we find a narrative that doesn’t make people feel guilty about what they are not doing. I believe people need to feel positive and excited about what they are doing – this is more likely to spark a trend and a following.

I have in my mind a whole range of ideas, projects, partnerships and initiatives! I have already read, researched and reached out – but now I feel I need to give myself time to reflect… And then do (although I have already booked a meeting with my local Transition Network)

I’ve written it all down, dividing it into:

  • Me
  • Family
  • Community
  • Libraries

There are tiny steps to make, but I believe together libraries could contribute to bigger leaps.

I’ll meet you here in a few months, and we can chat about what’s been achieved.

Library Pen Pals aka International Librarians Network

Library Pen Pals aka International Librarians Network

It popped up on Twitter. A form to fill in. The chance to chat remotely with a librarian from another country. I excitedly filled the form in. And then I waited….

The International Librarians Network is a meeting place for librarians from across the world. The peer mentoring programme is designed to link librarians together in a partnership, with the promise of regular virtual interactions that will enable both partners to learn.

I was absolutely delighted when, a few weeks later, I received the email saying my application had been successful and then another with the details of my partner librarian from Botswana! Wowee!

I quickly read up on Botswana and found some information about libraries in that region. We’ve already exchanged our first emails and there are many similarities in our libraries and the challenges we face. I’m already hooked! I can’t wait to find out more.

I also jumped back on to Twitter to see what was being said about #interlibnet and sure enough there were librarians from around the world making connections and chatting.

All this excitement following one simple form found on Twitter!

Innovation – through the eyes of a mercenary librarian

I instantly got the impression that Corinne Hill, director of Chattanooga Public Library in Tennessee, is one of life’s eternal ‘can do’ people. She is truly inspirational – a full on whirlwind in your face (‘breathe of fresh air’ doesn’t even come close!)

I had the opportunity to listen to Corinne speak at the Constant Evolution event in Exeter Library yesterday evening. There were so many things that struck a cord:

“Our current world is volatile, uncertain, complex, chaotic, and ambiguous.”
Since what Corinne calls ‘the Great Recession of 2008’ libraries across the world have seen their budgets cut and their existence challenged. Chattanooga Public Library was no different, but has been forging ahead.

Corinne Hill is director of Chattanooga, and has been winning awards for her forward thinking and groundbreaking service. Although she took on, what she calls a ‘failing service’, it now hosts a 12,000 square foot makerspace (previously a library store room) – where top notch design software and technology sits beside a traditional loom, where innovative concepts are worked on alongside the creation of wedding dresses! They’ve got their own brand of coffee too – ‘Shush’.

“Innovation gets old quick”
“Libraries have survived for 3000 years because we have adapted. There is no time more critical for adaptation than now.” Corinne believes libraries need to be constantly innovating as what’s new today is old tomorrow.

Whilst she asserts that we can’t know what is in the future, she does say the future is on the edges of what we are doing now and recommends keeping an eye on the horizon – “you should know what Samsung are developing next”.

“We need to stop being missionaries and start being mercenaries”
In a time when funding is being slashed from library budgets, Corinne notes that accounting for every Dime is crucial. She questions the need to spend money on stationary, when small savings across the board can finance the next big software purchase.

She also says we must concentrate on our core aims and stop trying to defend services simply because we are the only ones on the high street offering them.

The vision is the plan, and since for Corinne innovation is the vision you can’t plan what will develop next. She questions why libraries get ‘obsessive’ about the plan, becoming rutted in the planning cycle – missing opportunities to innovate as a result.

People power
One strand that flowed through Corinne’s revelations was the importance of embracing a diverse and challenging group of people.

She believes there is no shame in finding the staff role you want and borrowing the job description – Corinne found her perfect role match when visiting a well known tech support ‘bar’.

Corinne talked about ‘collaborative leadership’ where staff from all levels are encouraged to shine – this has created a culture of entrepreneurial-ship. You can see how excited one person was to get a job with Corinne at his blog Justin the Librarian.

But collaboration goes much further than this, with the local community being welcomed through open doors. The 4th Floor Makerspace is an adaptable public space and is often rearranged and changed by the users to meet their needs.

Corinne believes we shouldn’t be afraid to lose control – collaboration gives back to the library in spades – a new library brand, courses and events led by users, innovation that is user driven.

Lastly, Corinne challenges us all, asking us why we bracket events and services in to age ranges. “Why not do something interesting and just see who turns up?” There is real value in having a mix of age groups collaborating.

There is a whole other blog about the event Constant Evolution where Corinne Hill spoke. This will come later, but I just had to get this down on ‘virtual’ paper.

Find out more about Corinne Hill.

Speaking Volumes – choosing a story

A tweet referring me to Speaking Volumes by Carnegie UK Trust made me cheer!

It is so important that we make people aware of what libraries do, the difference they make on a daily basis, the lives that are changed. Advocacy might come through a short conversation where a carefully chosen snippet of information is given to the right person. It can also be through much larger scale promotion about the impact of libraries.

Either way it’s the storytelling that is the critical factor and often I find, that with so much to say, it can be hard choose the most powerful and impactful story to relay.

So when I come across something from an external organisation that articulates perfectly what libraries are working hard to advocate I have to shout really loudly “Hooray!”

Carnegie UK Trust Speaking Volumes

Speaking Volumes is a really ‘neat’ advocacy toolkit that clearly outlines the impact libraries have on wellbeing through ‘cultural’, ‘social’, ‘education’ and ‘economic’ factors.

These messages are clearly laid out in a leaflet and poster which link back to databases of evidence – hundreds of stories demonstrating the four themes. And there is also an accompanying blog ‘Why are libraries good for you‘.

I sat in work and declared “I couldn’t have put it better myself” and that’s the best bit! This is an organisation looking in, collecting evidence, seeing impact and actively promoting the potential power of libraries. Speaking Volumes is a wonderful tool precisely because it was compiled by an external organisation.

Now, let’s get advocating …

Thank you @DigitaalSkills for the heads up and THANK YOU @CarnegieUKTrust

So, what are libraries about then?…

You’d be mistaken in thinking libraries are about books. Anyone could easily create a room full of books and brand it a library, but they would be missing the point entirely!

My belief is that libraries are about people. The reason libraries exist are to offer reading, learning and knowledge to local people.

A young reader building their confidence, a job seeker applying for work, a retired person becoming digitally literate, families spending time together, students finding knowledge and a place to study. The list goes on…

Those at the centre of the service are the staff and volunteers. These are the people who are valued by their communities. They are supporters, champions and inspirers. They join the dots to ensure libraries can be personalised to each individual who walks through the door.