Buy India a Library

How the terrible fonts on my website led me to New Zealand...

Every so often I will search twitter for the URL of this website. I recommend doing this - you can see what people are saying when they link to your site, what people respond most to, sometimes what they don't like. Occasionally I'll reply with more information if appropriate.

Maybe twice a year I'll run a similar search for, and it was doing this that led me to discover the following tweet:

LIANZA is the Association for Library and Information Professionals in New Zealand. I replied to say 'you don't like the font..?' and someone else joined to say how much they ALSO didn't like the font! I got some useful feedback on the font you're looking at now on this site, too - so thanks to Seonaid, they've since been tweaked! And the Toolkit website was completely overhauled in terms of visual style, as a result of that chat.

Anyhow, Ines on the LIANZA account and I got talking, which resulted in this:

(I've mentioned before that although I work part time and make part of my living through workshops, I don't ask money for conference talks apart from expenses.) This led to an email exchange and to cut a long story short (is that the most misused phrase ever? I've basically let the long story run its course here, apologies...) I'm delivering a keynote at the annual LIANZA conference in November. I'm more excited about it than possibly anything I've ever done professionally! I will be setting out a library communication manifesto in my talk.

The other keynotes include Justin Hoenke, who I can't wait to meet in person after we worked together on Buy India a Library. I also can't wait to hear Kim Tairi speak. The whole programme looks ace. I also get to be a 'human book' which I've not done before...

For anyone interested I gush a bit more about NZ in an interview for LIANZA's Library Life magazine (PDF).

Digital Marketing Workshop, Wellington, November 12th

While I'm out there I'm also running a workshop for PiCS, for whom I also run workshops in Australia every two years. If you're interested there's more info including booking here.

It's a really fun course - we dip into absolutely loads of tools which help libraries (and library services) communicate. Every single thing we cover is useful - they solve existing problems - relatively straightforward to use, free, and immediately available. This is not about the future of libraries or tech just on the horizon. It's about things you can do the minute you get back to your desk.

We'll cover online publishing (including Prezi and Sway), Geolocation and Augmented Reality, Marketing with Video, Measuring Impact on Social Media, and various other smaller topics.

Some feedback from recent UK versions of this course:

“Very up to date - thanks - very useful, practical and relevant course - I’m brimming with ideas”

”So much of it was useful... really easy tools to use and could results in some quick wins for us. Tips on blogging were useful too and hopefully will inspire us to actually start one. Augmented reality bit was fascinating - lots of potential there”

”I thought this course was excellent, one of the best courses I have attended at the BL... ALL the content was useful - Ned was excellent in really understanding the BL collections and needs and shaping the course appropriately. I have already recommended this course to colleagues!”

“This has been a fantastic course - I have learnt so much and gained more confidence around a number of digital marketing tools and how to use them effectively. Ned’s knowledge and brilliant presentation style is great and kept me hooked for the whole day. Everything has been amazing”
— UKeIG, NHS, British Library

So if you're in New Zealand it would be great to see you there! LIANZA attendees get a reduced rate, too...



In praise of #bettakultcha (and a video about buying India a Library)

This post is about 3 things: the Buy India a Library project and my talk about it, the Bettakultcha event I did the talk at, and the generally sound principle of talking about library-related things at events which aren't remotely library-related...

Bettakultcha is ACE

Bettakultcha is a brilliantly simple concept - a night devoted to presentations of 20 slides, 15 seconds a slide, on anything you feel passionately about, and NO PITCHES. The fact that this works at all - that such a flimsy concept consistently produces a brilliant evening of entertainment - makes you positively giddy with delight when you're part of one. People talking about their passions is pretty much ALWAYS interesting - even if the passion itself isn't overly interesting to anyone else, or the presenter isn't a natural speaker. It's a very supportive environment in which to public-speak. The talks are only 5 minutes long anyhow so you never get bored; I've enjoyed every talk I've seen at a Bettakultcha event. I've been entertained, moved, fascinated. It's quite an intimate thing, to talk about your passions to an audience of strangers (my previous Bettakultcha talk was about Captain Fitzroy of the Beagle, with whom I'm somewhat obsessed - normally people have to know me quite well before they get the delights of me discussing his tragic life at great length) and it means you get a connection with people, you effectively jump ahead in your relationship. I've met people at Bettakultchas who have become my friends, and who I keep in touch with not just online but in person too. Bettakultcha really is ace.

Here are a couple more talks from the event I recently attended in York - Paul Smith making his passion for coffee properly entertaining,  and an amazing talk by a 14 year old on organ donation! Here's one I missed but I wished I'd seen - my friend Helen doing a completely silent presentation. There are musical talks, theatrical talks. Anything as long as it's not a pitch - often the simplest concepts result in the most creativity.

They run all over the North of England - if there's an event anywhere near you, I can't recommend it highly enough. Check out some other talks on YouTube, or search Twitter for the hashtag to find out more. The main website is here.

My #BuyaLib 20/20 talk

At the June Bettakultcha I gave a talk about Buy India A Library  - it's all about how we crowd-sourced $4000 in 2 weeks in order to fund a Library build for a school in Mysore. Here's the talk:

As mentioned above the format of the talk was that you have 20 slides which each move on automatically after 15 seconds (often known as the Pecha Kucha format, which is probably what the phrase 'Betta Kultcha' is referencing, must ask the organisers) - in my experience the key to doing this type of talk is a: to practice it the day before and b: DO NOT WAIT FOR THE SLIDES! People slip-up in 20/20 style presentations when they stop talking - it's best to plough on with a narrative, and have the slides provide a complimentary narrative, in their own time, underneath...

The audience were much more responsive than I thought they'd be - it was a really fun talk to do.

(By the way, the librarian blogger I mention near the start was @jaffne - sorry not to credit you by name, Jaf!)

The Echo-Chamber Escape revisited

A couple of years back Laura Woods and I did a lot of talking and writing on the subject of librarians escaping the echo-chamber.

We've stopped now because quite honestly we got quite sick of our own thoughts and voices on the matter! But it's still an important concept - we need to write for non-librarian audiences, talk at non-library events, and generally get out there. It's fun, too.


10 top tips to build momentum in online communities

A motion-blurred spinning top  

There are more and more communities online - working with people is great, and now it is easy, too. Anyone can create a network, or a movement, or a collaboration. But what works well and what doesn't?

I was originally going to present on how to build momentum in online communities at Online last year, but I ended up not having time to attend and this has been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. I'm going to put this out there and see if there's any more tips people would like to add.

As a bit of background, I've been involved with a few projects that involve online communities in one form or another:  the Library Routes ProjectBuy India a Library, and most relevantly LISNPN, the New Professionals Network. Crucially I've also been involved in at least one project which hasn't worked out, so I've had positive and negative experiences from which to put together these tips.

3 to 6 are basically about people, 7 to 9 are about promotion, and the others are general logistics stuff.

1. The first month is crucial, so work like a madman/woman

The word 'month' is flexible here, but basically the time around the launch is so, so important to building momentum which can be self-sustaining thereafter. It's worth delaying the launch of a new network / community / project until you know you (and your team - see below) have time to dedicate to making it work.

2. Stagger new developments

As much as its tempting to launch your new project in its final, ninja-level awesome state, if you can bring in new developments and ideas over the course of the first few months, this really helps keep up momentum. New things re-engage people, and make them more likely to share links to your project via their existing networks.

3. Assemble a team

Working with other people is BRILLIANT. They'll think of things you haven't thought of, spot potential you hadn't considered, and save you from embarassing or costly mistakes you hadn't forseen. (Or is that just me?) A team of people also means more natural advocates for the project, and more support for the community itself.

4. Empower the members

Trying to control any kind of online space is SO 2005. You're better off giving power and responsibility to the whole membership, rather than trying to micromanage everything. Once your project launches, accept it is going to have a life of its own and try and encourage that. Empowered members are engaged members - they're more likely to feel the kind of ownership which gets them more involved.

5. Have a horizontal hierachy

Very closely related to number 4- as much as it is important to have people acting as administrators in an online space, it's better if people aren't waiting on you (or whoever is nominally in charge) to make things happen. So allow people to edit the online space, to set up their meet-ups, to contribute resources, etc etc.

6. Utilise champions

Word of Mouth Marketing - it can't be beat! If the right people talk to the right networks, that's a far more effective way of spreading the word than doing it all yourself. Find people who love the project, and give them all the information and tools they need to spread the word more widely.

7. Disseminate online - everywhere!

This obvious but there's a really important underlying point here, which it took me AGES to learn - promotion works best if people find out about something in more than one way, and more than once. It's very rare that a single event will have a massive effect - so, a single ad in the perfect journal, or a single blog-post guesting on the perfect blog; you'd think they'd cause a massive amount of people to check out your online community, but they won't. It's actually people seeing the same thing in a variety of sources they trust and value that makes people actually DO SOMETHING - i.e. click a link and have a look at a post or a website. This is why strategic marketing works so much better than one-off-promotion - what Terry Kendrick would call a 'series of touches at the right times' result in positive things happening.

To take a really simplified example - if someone tweets a link to a blog post with a title which doesn't inspire you, you'll probably ignore it; but if 4 or 5 other people you respect RT it, you'll probably think it's worth checking out anyway, and have a look.

8. Use mailing lists

I'm not a fan of mailing lists and don't subscribe to any, but a lot of people do and whenever stuff like LISNPN got promoted on JISCmail lis-serves, there was always a huge increase in clicks on the site and people becoming members. I think it's literally because there's no gap between finding out about something and seeing it in the flesh - you just click the link and your there. For that reason, it's good to link to an intersting page!

9. Avoid print, or at least don't rely on it

I've found the opposite of 8 to be true with 9 - articles in printed publications just don't seem to bring people in. I'm sure it helps in a small way (it continues the series of touches described in number 7) but there's a massive drop-off in direct action resulting from a print-article, probably because there's no link to click so the half-interested never think of it again, and the quite interested don't remember to go back later on when they're at a computer.

10. No one wants to be first onto the empty dance-floor so you need your ducks in a row before you launch

For LISNPN, we got 50 people as members BEFORE we launched, and made sure the forum was populated with some introductory posts etc. After that, for the first month we had an average of 636 page views a day and 10 people signing up per day - that was sufficient to create self-sustaining momentum thereafter.

People are drawn to stuff which is already happening; they don't want the responsibility of making it happen themselves...


- thewikiman

Now for some good news: we're BUILDING a library!

In a world where almost everything you hear about libraries is bad news, it's amazing to find out you can create some good news yourself. Just before Christmas @Jaffne pointed out on Twitter that you could buy India a library, via, for just £1,250. Info on the India Library - click to go to and view in situ

Clearly that's a lot of money in some ways, but in others it seems a tiny amount - they build the library from scratch, kit it out with furniture, fill it with books and staff it for TWO YEARS with that money. Furthermore, you can get a donkey-drawn mobile library in Africa for just £100! Unbelievable. In each case, the libraries bring books to areas which previously had none.

Anyway, while I was marevelling about this with Jan Holmquist on Twitter, Andromeda Yelton pointed out that although she didn't have £1,250 lying around herself, perhaps Twitter would do collectively? It's a simple but brilliant idea - crowd-source enough money from librarians on Twitter, to fund a library for a charitable organisation.

As soon as we had time to put it all together, Andromeda, Jan and I, roping in Justin Hoenke for the ride, set up Buy India a Library. It's a PayPal donation based system, and so far people have been incredibly generous - we've raised nearly £500 and the campaign is only three days old! There is a lot of discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #buyalib - there is a twapperkeeper archive of the tweets here - and loads of people have clicked the donate button and given what they can.

Do you think you could help out? If everyone who reads this and my Twitter feed gave the price of a coffee to the cause, we'd have enough already. If you feel able to donate anything at all, please click the button - let's create some good news and open a library at a time of closures!

[PayPal button removed -the campaign has now closed]

It goes without saying, the PayPal accounts we're using (mine until I reach my withdrawal limit, then Andromeda's thereafter) are only being used for this campaign. Whether you're able to donate or not, it would be fantasticly helpful if you were able to spread the word about the campaign, either by linking to the main Project website on your blogroll, or telling friends and family about the campaign, or putting something in the staff bulletin drawing people's attention to it. We've set ourselves a pretty ambitious target, and we need all the help we can get! If you're able to tweet a link to this post, or Share it on Facebook, that would be amazing.

What I really like about this, apart from the obvious thing of Information Professionals making a huge difference and creating libraries where currently there are none, is that it is such a tangible process of charity giving. Rather than just adding money to a pot of existing money, we're coming together to literally BUY something specific, and real. Things will be created and pressed into service, books will be sourced and purchased - because of what we're doing here. Even if the campaign stopped right this second, four mobile libraries would be made, stocked up, and begin to move around Africa, bringing books to children who need them. Can you join in and support the project?

The Buy India a Library FAQ

If the information above is the main feature film, this bit is the DVD extras. For those who want to know more, here it is:

Which charity administers this?

The company through which we are buying these libraries is UK-based, and called It is the brain-child of the Charities Advisory Trust, a registered charity with more than  25 years of experience. What's great about GoodGifts is that the money is guarenteed to be used for the specific purpose advertised - it doesn't go into a general pot of cash, it is used specifically for what the customer chooses. So, libraries will come into existence which were not in existence previously, thanks to your donation! GoodGifts charges a £4.95 handling fee on top of the cost of the gift - we will pay this fee, and the entirety of the money we raise will go directly to the charities involved.

More info on the charities that take over at that point (the Rural Literacy and Health Programme, and the Africa Educational Trust) below.

Where exactly will the money be spent?

Once we buy the libraries, they are provided by specialist charities. The library in India will come from the Rural Literacy and Health Programme (RLHP), set up in 1984. To quote the organisation's website, the RLHP "...operates in 56 slums and 25 villages in Mysore, Mandya & Chamarajanagar districts of Karnataka State in South India covering a population of 50,000."

The donkey drawn libraries are delivered by the African Educational Trust a UK registered charity formed more than 50 years ago, dedicated to support education in Africa. The mobile libraries are aimed at kids, and contain around 100 fiction, non-fiction and reference books - the libraries travel to schools in Somalia, Sudan and Uganda (all of which are low on supplies of books, due to being former war zones).

What happens if you raise less than £1,250?

If we raise less than the figure needed to buy a permanent library in India, we will buy multiples of mobile libraries in Africa (each costing £100) based on how much we get. If we don't get an exact X-hundred pound figure, we'll buy Book Grants (of £35 each) to make up the difference.

What happens if you raise more?

We buy more libraries! Ideally we'd like to raise £1,350 so we can buy a permanent library in India, AND a mobile library in Africa. If we make much more than that, we'll buy more mobile libraries and book grants with the difference.

Who are the people behind this campaign?

Just four Information Professionals who talk to each other on Twitter. Justin Hoenke and Andromeda Yelton are public librarians from the US, Jan Holmquist is a public librarian from Denmark, and I work in an academic library in the UK.

Why are you using a basic PayPal account for this?

We spent a looong time looking into the options here - we looked at places like but they don't support this specific charity in this specific way, and we looked at the options to upgrade our PayPal accounts to business ones but opened a whole world of problems - the net result of which were less money for the charity.

In the end we opted to use a basic PayPal account (mine [EDIT UPDATE - now Andromeda's]), which won't be used for anything else except this campaign. Once we reach the limits of that (one can only withdraw so much from a PayPal account in a year) we will switch to Andromeda's PayPal account. PayPal take a very small cut of the money, but not a prohibitive amount - for example if you give £20, we'll recieve £19.12.

Why spend money on libraries abroad when our own are in trouble?

This is a good question, a fair enough point, and one a few people have raised. Should librarians be spending their hard-earned library salaries on building libraries elsewhere while our own insitutions are closing around us? Here's my view:

- It only costs 100 pounds – 100 pounds! (that's about 155 dollars) – to set up a mobile library in Africa, to reach parts of the continent that have little or no access to books. It costs 1,250 pounds to build an entire permanent library in India, kit it out with furniture and books and staff for TWO years! Neither of those amounts would make much of a dent on the UK/US library situation, but would make a huge, tangible difference in the poorer parts of India / Africa.

- People have no real mechanism to give to libraries in the UK or US in the same way. Even if you had $5 you wanted to donate to a library, how could you? We don’t think we’re taking money AWAY from any libraries in our own countries – we believe we will catalyse spending that wouldn’t otherwise happen. That said, if we can start some kind of movement towards giving to libraries at home too, that would be amazing. Libraries for all!

- Libraries are closing all over the place. Let’s open one and have some good news for a change...

Let me know if you have any more questions about the project and here, once more, is the donate button.

[PayPal button removed -the campaign has now closed]

Thank you.

- Ned