Archive for Library stuff

What price paradise?

One corner of Paradise is looking distinctly less heavenly at present.

The innovative green wall on the Children’s Centre at Islington’s Paradise Park is now brown, although I for one hope that it is not dead, only sleeping. Certainly the wide coverage of the wall’s woes – in comment if not greenery – should shame the designers into sorting it out.

One of the critics of the wall is Tim Newark (currently representing the Tax Payers’ Alliance) who damned it as experimenting with public money. As Mark Pack argues, opposing public sector innovation per se is a difficult position for the TPA to sustain, given their whole approach to public spending is itself innovative.

I do sometimes feel that the Tax Payers’ Alliance are the spiritual heirs to the Islington Public Libraries Rejection Association who delayed the introduction of public libraries to our borough by 50 years with arguments such as “Personally I have a strong objection to have even a penny rate taken out of my pocket by force in order to provide Mary Jane with novels, or her friends with newspapers.”

Of course it’s right to scrutinise public expenditure, especially at this time of recession. The excellent mySociety team have a site sharing Freedom of Information requests, and recently highlighted this gem, about Royal Mail expenditure on rubber bands. So the next time you see red rubber bands scattered on the street, do pick them up and re-use them; after all, you’ve helped pay for them. But is the baseline peddled by the Tax Payers’ Alliance in their regular media appearances (hattip to MarkReckons) that almost any public expenditure is bad, generating any light along with the heat?

If you value public services, rather than simply cost them, then surely it’s best to propose savings from a basis of knowledge. The public sector has rightly been criticised for spending a fortune on bringing in consultants for endless reviews and reorganisations – an expensive trend that started under Mrs Thatcher and has flourished even more under new Labour – when frontline staff can often spot the best ways to cut waste. So I think Nick Clegg’s ‘In the know’ initiative, free consultancy from real experts, is a brilliant idea. Although possibly one too dangerously experimental for the Tax Payers’ Alliance to stomach.

To be fair to Tim Newark, even he says the green wall was a “wonderful” idea. And whether the Paradise wall survives or not, the idea of green walls is still flourishing in Islington.

Sophie Talbot and the Kings Cross Community Projects trust have been promoting a new greenwall on Wharfdale Road for two years now. They are seeking private sponsorship; so even the TPA should be happy. You can support the project with a donation here.

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Pdf to Word

Another useful tool spotted by Stephen Abrams.

This one converts .pdf to .doc without losing the formatting. Hallelujah!

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Choose what you read

Here’s a novel idea.

Choose What You Read is a scheme where people are invited to share and return books – a sort of DIY library – as an alternative to the throwaway freesheets that now dominate commuter reading.

They will be out this evening from 17.00-19.00 at Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Westminster, Euston and Paddington. Or at least I think they will. Their website confusingly refers to Friday 2 March. So I guess if they aren’t there tonight, look again on Friday….

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Lovely charts

Another useful free web tool, Lovely Charts helps you design, er, lovely charts.

Although it’s a US Belgian site, [some of ]the icons come from Birmingham-based (West Midlands not Alabama) developer Mark James.

I tried the site out after getting the tip from the estimable Stephen Abrams, and found it really easy to use.

The terrible temptation now will be to devise fancy flow charts for my projects instead of actually getting them done….

11/2/09 post updated in light of the comments below!

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More recycling for Islington

Our recycling and black bags weren’t picked up on Friday, because of the snow.

But according to the Council website, they should be collected later today. The advice is that the recycling and refuse collections are running two days in arrears, with both refuse and recycling crews working over the weekend: all scheduled collections will be completed this week.

They also warn that further disruptions may occur next week if the snowfall on Monday is heavy.

Meanwhile once things are back to normal, there are two new recycling services coming from the council.

All Islington libraries now have facilities to recycle batteries up to 9v. Neat: two of my interests are recycling and libraries, and now I’ll be able to combine them!

And the food waste collection is being extended to restaurants.
It’s frustrating that Government targets for local councils are all about recycling domestic waste, when businesses produce lots of recyclable rubbish too. So I hope the trial of the scheme is a success and more food businesses take part.

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Another reason to love Obama

He’s a big fan of libraries!

Thanks to Stephen Abrams for the link.

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Library buildings around the world

The SirsiDynix calendar 2009 is now out, featuring library buildings from around the world.

Everyone has their own image of what libraries look like, but there’s an astonishing range out there; neo-classical, modernist, stream-lined, cosy, or opulent; something for everyone. A bit like the books they stock….

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