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Archive for November, 2013

Like nearly everybody I know I have been seeing lots of tweets and blogs about Terry Deary, his views and his articles about public libraries, e readers and his finances. I have no intention of linking to any of them here and feeding his apparently insatiable appetite for self promotion. If you want to read an excellent riposte then see what Voices for the Library have to say or Alan Gibbons, among many others. It all got me thinking.

Many years ago, when I was going through one of those crises we all do during our Library School training, and finding myself completely blocked trying to write about childrens’ libraries, I did a search of the web and found Terry Pratchett’s page and contact details. That site doesn’t exist any more, it was, as I said, a long time ago and contacting people was more easy. Anyway, I contacted the email address and asked “Was the Unseen University librarian ever a childrens’ librarian?”. That question seemed to break the block and I forgot all about the email. Some days later, I got a reply. Apparently the UU librarian did not like children as they got chewing gum in his coat. It was signed Terry Pratchett. I printed out the email and kept it for many years.  It was a great response to a student who said they were struggling and asked a pretty stupid question. It indicated the same humanity and engagement in the world that I had found in his books.

During the same course we had to do a group presentation on the proliferation of information and the librarian’s role in enabling access. The lecturer was not my favourite and again we hit that horrible mental block. Then one of us said librarians are like the Babel fish of Douglas Adams’ Hitchikers’ Guide series. We wanted to use it to illustrate our presentation. So we emailed him for permission. He emailed us back and told us how important he thought libraries and librarians are, and giving us permission. He even said if he hadn’t already been booked to speak at a writers’ conference he would have loved to come and present with us! We were thrilled and enthused. I am not sure it was a great presentation but we could at least show we had permission to use the Babel Fish! Again, a hugely successful and influential author had shown an engagement and kindness which brought him no recognition, publicity or sales.

I, for one, will always remember those two authors as not only great entertainers and writers who have brought pleasure to huge numbers of people, but also as caring individuals who were happy to give support when it was needed to people they would never know and who couldn’t forward their careers.

Then there is Mr. Deary, who has demonstrated he would rather attack the institutions and individuals who have helped create his success (because, be honest, how many children would have found his books without a library whether school or public and the people who work in them) to create a few moments of sensationalism and publicity. He will be remembered for that, if he is remembered at all, long after his books have been pulped, or wiped from the e readers. Personally, I doubt he will be remembered at all. He certainly won’t have a day in his honour or be respected for his campaigns on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. I doubt he cares, which is a part of his tragedy.

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I recently resigned from the National Trust due to an article which stated that they had voted to support the badger cull in England. I have now received this response which explains the Trust’s views and actions. I wanted to share it with you and have received permission from David Andrews. This is the unedited email I received.

“”Dear Mr & Mrs Wrathall

Thank you for getting in touch. I am very sory to hear you have decied not to continue with you membership, but thought I would explain our position in a little more detail.

At the National Trust Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 26 October members voted not to support a resolution to introduce an immediate and widespread badger vaccination programme on our own land. The resolution was suggested by a group of members to help tackle bovine TB and prevent National Trust land being involved in a cull of badgers if one is rolled out by the Government next year.

Our Trustees stressed that their recommendation not to adopt the resolution did not mean that the Trust is in favour of culling badgers. And they will, of course, take on board the views expressed by many members as part of the AGM debate.

We advocate an evidence based approach to tackling bovine TB which covers an integrated package of measures, including those to improve biosecurity and prevent cattle-to-cattle transmission. We are in favour of doing what works to solve the problem that is affecting so many of our tenants and farmers across the country.

Vaccination is our long term preference, both of badgers and cattle. We are currently carrying out our own badger vaccination trial at our estate at Killerton in Devon. But this is only half way through. In the meantime we have deep concerns about how useful the Government’s pilot badger culls will now prove, and have sought assurances from them that they remain committed to upholding high standards of scientific rigour in the conduct and analysis of the culling pilots. Changes to the original design has shaken our confidence and we have written to the Secretary of State at Defra expressing our concerns.

It remains our position that we will judge the outcomes of the pilots, and the Government’s subsequent approach, against the criteria for success set out by Professor Bourne in his review of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial that was carried out some years ago.

Going back to the recent AGM, members do often ask the voting works, particularly the voting arrangements for resolutions such as the one I’ve mentioned above. In fact the voting process we follow is clearly specified in the legal framework in which we operate. Also the detailed arrangements for voting at each year’s AGM are set out online and in the voting forms we send to all members.

Members can vote on resolutions in two ways:

1) At the meeting in person if the member is attending the AGM.

2) Before the meeting by proxy. This means if the member is not attending the AGM they can appoint someone else (a “proxy”) who will be at the meeting to vote on their behalf. This person can be either a named individual or the chairman of the meeting. Further they can use the voting forms or online voting system to do this in one of two ways: either to direct the proxy how to vote (a “specified” vote) or leave it to the proxy to vote how they think fit (a “discretionary” vote).

We publish the results of voting on resolutions in a way that makes it clear the totals number of both specified and discretionary votes that have been cast for or against any resolution, as well as the total number of abstaining votes. The results go on to indicate whether a resolution has been carried or not.

We publicise the AGM beforehand both on our website and in our Autumn magazine which we send to all members. We encourage all our members to participate, attend and vote on any resolutions and in any elections.

When all the specified and discretionary votes were taken into account at the recent AGM the resolution to introduce a widespread badger vaccination programme on our land was not carried. All our voting management services are handled by independent, external scrutineers, Electoral Reform Services.

Again, I am sorry to hear you have decided to end your membership, but would like to thank you for your previous support.

Kind regards

David Andrews
Member Services Assistant
Whole Trust
National Trust (Heelis)
01793 817568”

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