March 01, 2010

"If you want more PCs you only have to ask"

From the Leader of Newcastle City Council John Shipley at the superb libraries conference Edge2010 in Edinburgh Castle came this phrase. He believes that:

"libraries come cheap at the price, reducing costs in almost every other problematic area of public spending: policing and crime prevention, vandalism, drug and alcohol abuse, social exclusion".

When he and colleagues built the new City Library in Newcastle it was an architectural and social revolution, one of the few spaces in a city centre that you could go to and not have to spend money. As such, it is becoming the pillar of interaction for citizens, and it's not just to read.

Shipley's number one preoccupation on his visits is counting the number of laptops that are free for people to use. If he doesn't spot enough of them, he'll make sure that more are supplied. Access to information and civic services is such a core entitlement, in his view, that the expense of more hardware is a small price to pay compared to what other parts of his council will have to fork out if the library wasn't fulfilling its role to the full.

This is profound. It's profound in an age where libraries are often the first in line to be cut, closed and stalled in their work to make us more fully informed and wise citizens. His point is that it's the cheapest thing to keep going given what it does to mop up the social problems of a city through engagement. Fact: a £0.5m ($1m) annual cost of an enormous city library is equivalent to half a penny rise in local taxes. It's a negligible price to pay for what it can offer.


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You could see every librarian in the room thinking the same thought - that man should be the first cloned human. Absolutely right, it is profound, it is profound about whatsort of communities and world we want to live in, about what should matter and what does.

The new Newcastle City Library is awesome. Back in the day it was tucked away, dark and you had to live in Newcastle to get anything out.

Now it's open, accessible, light, and a pleasure to visit. They've also done away with the residency requirement and made taking out and checking in books a 30-second process.

Legendary. :-)

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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