Voices for the Library is a place for anyone who loves and values libraries to share their experiences and stories about what libraries mean to them. Also known as VftL, or simply ‘Voices’, the campaign was set up in September 2010 by a group of information professionals who were concerned about the negative and inaccurate coverage of libraries in the media.
The group felt that public libraries were being misrepresented in the media, for instance by their insistence on using footfall as the only measure of library use, ignoring all online services and interactions. Voices started out as a way to combat this, to provide accurate information, and to share stories of what libraries mean to people. Much of our content comes from library users, who want to share their stories about how libraries have affected their lives.
And of, course, there are stories from librarians as well. Some are examples of the kind of work they do, to show the range and depth of what trained library staff do, and to illustrate that it’s not all stamping books and shushing! And some are more theoretical debates, about the philosophy of public libraries.
Recently, we’ve started to look into the impact these closure might have on archives and special collections. This was prompted by a blog post from Alison Cullingford, and campaigners are starting to look at what might happen to archive services in their region, as VftL member Lauren has done for Doncaster.
As more closures and cutbacks are threatened, the VftL team have been working overtime. We’re all volunteers, and do Voices work on top of our day jobs, other professional involvement, continuing education – oh, and real lives! We’re also scattered across the country, from Brighton to Harrogate, and all points between. This means that the entire campaign so far has been co-ordinated virtually, using email and various other social media tools. Most of the team had never even met each other.
Until Wednesday 26 Jan, that is! Thanks to sponsorship from Credo Reference we were able to get most of the team down to London for a proper face-to-face board meeting, which I chaired. I’ve never chaired a real meeting before, and I have to thank the Voices team for making it incredibly easy! We only ran an hour over time, and managed to discuss and make decisions on several key points. I think it definitely ranks as the best all-day meeting I’ve ever attended.
One of the things that hasn’t changed is that we’re always on the lookout for stories about the value of public library services, and why they are so important to people. If you’d like to share your story, or tell us more about what’s going on in your area, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.