Friday, 10 April 2009

Ruth Rikowski's 29th News Update

News Update No.29

Feeling uplifted by my Michéle Roberts piece in Managing Information and wanting to look ahead, I decided to re-ignite my blog. So, my last newsletter (No. 28) is now on e-blogger, which hopefully will be safer than the AOL blog! (see item 1 below). Then, I thought I better send out another News Update quite quickly explaining all this. This newsletter is also a bit different as it includes some cultural events that I have been to over the last week or so. Hope you enjoy the various items.

My blog has now re-emerged through e-blogger/blogspot, I am delighted to say. This is entitled ‘Ruth Rikowski News Updates Progression’. The last news update (No. 28) is on this blog and all subsequent updates will be inserted on it. I found e-blogger easy and quick to use; and overall I am very pleased with it.

I also discovered that more than one blog can be created under one profile on e-blogger/blogspot, so I created another blog and inserted all my previous newsletters (Nos. 1-27) on it. This is called ‘Ruth Rikowski News Updates Resurrection’. Ideally, some further checking of links and layout should be undergone (which I have been doing for the newsletters on our website –up to No. 13 so far – see, but the basics are now there and readily available, so my main aim has been achieved.


“Whenever your class does group-work the same students, usually men, always volunteer to do the feedback. Three quarters of the students in the class are women”
This piece of mine, originally written for my Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (CLTHE) course last year (2008) has now been inserted on our website. It considers many of the issues surrounding the fact that males are more likely to volunteer to be spokespeople in group work than females; why this might be the case, and some of the things that can be done to try to change and overcome this. I was surprised about the wide variety of points that came into my mind; it is a more complex issue than on first appearance. I hope you find it interesting.

This piece was also originally written for the Certificate of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (CLTHE) course in 2008, and has now been inserted on our website. ‘Sustainability’ is very much the ‘in’ topic at the moment. It seems to me that it says everything and nothing; it is certainly not just confined to environmental issues. Rather, it includes factors such as having sustainable lifestyles (i.e. healthy living and eating etc) sustainable development through curriculum, research and consultancy and the sustainability of teaching and learning. The danger, I think, though is that too much onus can be put on the individual in this regard, and that politicians and the wider society are not held to be so accountable. Anyway, various issues are raised in this piece.


I thought I would like to say a little something about University College London (UCL), which has been one of the real highlights in my life. I studied there for an MSc by day release (1991-94), whilst working in the London Borough of Newham Library Service. I really needed to do something different, and this course proved to be ideal for me. It was designed for librarians and information professionals to learn about computers; this was at a time, when computers were just starting to really take off. Many public libraries (including Newham) still had the brown ticket system at the time. I could see that it was really important, as well as being extremely interesting, to learn about the new technology. I really enjoyed the course, which was taught by two very enthusiastic and knowledgeable ladies, namely Gillian Martin and Helen Butcher, who also explained very complicated issues (such as programming) very clearly. Indeed, I really loved the whole intellectual atmosphere of UCL and also really loved the UCL library. Incidentally, Michéle Roberts also obtained her library qualification from UCL. Having obtained the MSc in Information Science (Computerised Systems), I then became involved in many interesting projects, implementing and upgrading various library computer systems, which began with me assisting with the implementation of Dynix in Newham libraries itself.

Leading on from this course, and with all this knowledge, I set up and ran an undergraduate course entitled ‘Computing Fundamentals’ (later renamed ‘Computing Applications’) at the University of Greenwich. This was my introduction to the world of teaching and lecturing – which was very much baptism by fire! I also gave my first ever guest lecture at UCL in 2001, which was based on my first article ‘The Essential Bridge’ (published in Managing Information in 2000), which was about the relationship between the library/information department and the computer/IT department of an organisation.

Andy Dawson subsequently took over the MSc course after I left, and has been running it for the last 15 years or so. His full title is ‘MSc Information Science Programme Director and Director of International Relations and Projects at UCL Information Studies’. Andy Dawson’s UCL Profile can be seen at:

Andy Dawson gave an interesting talk at a Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in London meeting on 14th October 2008 which I went to. His talk was entitled ‘Why doesn’t technology work?’ – see
He considered why technology never seems to work the way we think it should and the problems that we suffer from today as we try to grapple with increasingly complex technology that no-one can really fully understand. This is in contrast to the early days of computing, where one could be more in control - Andy reflected fondly on those early days. Andy Dawson also particularly admires the work of Richard Stallman. A report on Andy Dawson’s talk by David Allen is in London CILIP: Newsletter for CILIP in London, available at (Issue 18).

Furthermore, I met Anne Welch recently (also at a CILIP in London meeting), who has just become a full-time lecturer at UCL, Information Studies, on Cataloguing (taking over from John Bowman who took early retirement). We found that we had a lot of common interests, including feminist ones. We are both having some involvement with the Feminist Library. See, for example, Anne’s work with cataloguing the Feminist Library material:
Anne Welch also has her own blog on e-blogger/blogspot – see

Finally, I belong to UCL Alumni and receive their newsletter and a lot of the staff in the UCL Information Department receive these Updates of mine.

I supervised Augustine Adjei’s Masters in International Management dissertation at London South Bank University, which he submitted in 2008. Why this is particularly significant for me is because of the interest and enthusiasm that Augustine Adjei took in my work; including buying and reading my book ‘Knowledge Management: social, cultural and theoretical perspectives’ (Chandos, 2007).

With careful supervision from me, and with me being a rather demanding supervisor at that, he built on a small part of my work in the knowledge management (KM) and culture field (which I wrote about in my KM book – pp. 140-148). I examined Bird and Metcalf’s model, which built on Hofstede’s 5-dimension model on culture, whereby Bird and Metcalf designed a 12-dimension model on negotiation. I took this model and applied it to knowledge management. This has been very much preliminary, brain-storming and ground-breaking work of mine.

It is quite unusual for a student to build on the work of an academic in this way, and I would like to give due credit to Augustine Adjei for his brave attempt here. He concludes his dissertation suggesting that “...further academic research should be done to find out employees influence on the middle-up-and-down strategy on managing knowledge in a global organization, using Rikowksi’s model for the cultural analysis.” (p. 109). I certainly hope that this work of mine can, indeed, be taken forward further in the future.

If anyone would like to discuss this with me, do email me at: or

Information for Social Change (ISC) (Issue 28) is now out and is on the theme of Lifelong Learners’ and is edited by John Pateman. The contents are listed below:

Editorial – John Pateman
Changes in Adult and Community Education – Dr Ray Shore
Learning, Learning Communities and Globalisation – Dr Ray Shore
Back to the Future? – Lifelong learning in libraries – Andrew Hudson
Developing a NEETS Based Library Service – John Pateman
Policing library users – John Pateman
Information and Liberation: writings on the politics of information and librarianship – Shiraz Durrani
Quality leaders project (youth) initiative – Jane Pitcher and Elizabeth Eastwood-Krah

The 2 Essex Book Festival events that I attended in March (referred to in previous Update, No. 27) proved to be quite interesting. Further information is provided below.

The first was a talk given by Simon Brett held at Champions Manor Hall, South Woodham Ferrers on 26th March 2009. Simon Brett is the author of no less than 78 novels, many of which have been performed on the radio.

There were over 40 people at the event altogether and Waterstones bookshop was also there, selling signed copies of some of Brett’s books.

Brett obtained a First Class Honours degree from Oxford University in English in the late 1960s. Following on from this he became a Trainee Light Entertainment Producer for BBC Radio in 1968. He has worked for both BBC Radio and for London Weekend TV and now is a freelance writer.

Brett informed his audience that he loves radio as a medium. He thinks that one can collaborate with the audience very effectively through radio and that radio really makes you listen and pay attention. Brett said that he has always been very pleased with the casting of his scripts on the radio, which have included many successful and prominent figures, such as Prunella Scales. He has also produced some of his scripts himself for the radio.

Brett is now a full-time writer, but still does some contract work for the BBC. 3 half-hour plays of his will be performed on the BBC radio this year (2009).

Brett has a number of book series, including the Mrs Pargeter mystery series, and the Charles Paris detective series. He also brings humour into his crime novels, and is pleased with the effect he is able to create here. One of his novels, ‘Shock to the System’ was made into a film starring Michael Caine, which he was paid a handsome amount for!

Simon Brett is a very humorous person in general and he made a lot of jokes throughout his talk, which made everyone laugh. He also made the point that he has worked with many famous people, such as Frank Muir, who he liked a lot.

When he first decided to become a writer he wrote 4 novels which did not get published. He tried changing his name, using various pseudo-names, hoping that might ‘do the trick’. Then he got his 5th novel published at the age of 29 years, so did remarkably well, despite these minor setbacks.

Brett spoke about the ‘Golden Age’ of the detective novel, with authors such as Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie. He said that he has a great respect for these writers and for this age. I loved Agatha Christie novels in my teens. And recently I have been reading some of Dorothy L. Sayers books which I found to be engaging with lively characters. She also brought humour into her detective novels. Furthermore, Brett has produced some of the Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey stories for the radio.

Brett is currently writing about mysteries around a fictitious village called Fethering (e.g. ‘The poisoning in the pub’), which was inspired by the area that he now lives in - West Sussex.

Simon Brett said he writes a lot about women and enjoys that. He said that nothing that is written is ever wasted – I thought that was a very good and uplifting thing to say (especially for those of us that are keen writers!).

Many of the audience were clearly devoted fans of Brett’s and found his work very engaging and enjoyable. Some spoke about listening to talking books of his novels in the car – clearly it made their car journeys a lot more pleasant.

I got to know about Brett’s work through his After Henry’ series on the radio:

For a full listing of Simon Brett’s books on Amazon see:

This was a writers workshop (referred to as a ‘Masterclass’ in the publicity) that was designed to “help capture your own experiences and turn them into memoirs, essays and travel writing”.

There were 7 people at the Workshop and it was supported by New Writing Partnership

Aminatta Forna
author of ‘The Devil that Danced on the Water’ and ‘Ancestor Stones’ facilitated the workshop. Forna also writes for radio and television. Prior to her writing career, she was a journalist at the BBC for 10 years, reporting world events.

Aminatta Forna thinks that most people have the material in them to write a book (even if it is only one book). Furthermore, that we are interested in reading about the world of others, so she thinks it is a very good idea for more people to write their memoirs.

‘The Devil that danced in the water’
was published in 2002 and it is the memoirs of Aminatta Forna’s family. Her father was a political prisoner in West Africa; a forgotten political prisoner. Aminatta Forna first tried writing it as a novel but did not think she could get the message and information across effectively enough in that way, so decided to write it as her memoir instead. Upon reading ‘Wild Swans’ which covered 3 generations she realised that the form of that book was the form that she wanted her book to take. She undertook a lot of research for her book, interviewing people and inserting information on index cards etc.

Aminatta Forna
also spoke very enthusiastically about the Arum Foundation which was set up by Ted Hughes and is heavily subsidised by the Arts Council. It provides residential courses on creative writing in 4 beautiful locations, including Devon and Scotland. Courses usually last for one week and it is a wonderful opportunity for people to write and explore ideas together. Most people, on completion of the course, decide what they want to do with their writing, she said. Aminatta Forna teaches on the course and recommended it highly.

Aminatta Forna said that trusting your own mind is essential for writing – I certainly agree with that! She read an extract from the book ‘Wild Mind’ by Natalie Goldberg. Natalie Goldberg said that sex and writing was essentially the same thing. Interesting!! Also, that we mix up the writer and the editor when we write; our fingers fluctuate between being writers and creators and editors – I have certainly found that to be true!

Aminatta read extracts from a number of different books and recommended quite a few authors – e.g. Maya Angelou, Blake Morrison, Roger Deakin

We all did some writing exercises. This included thinking and writing about a house that we had once lived in and describing a person that we knew well. We compared our writings, thoughts and reflections, which proved to be fascinating. It occurred to me that it would all make for valuable material for a book in itself; that the material could be bought together into an anthology.

I enjoyed meeting up, talking to and exchanging ideas with the others at the workshop. One topic that we spoke about was the gender issue in regard to writing workshops. There were 6 females at this workshop and only one male. Aminatta said that this was very typical of all writing workshops and courses – there are nearly always far more females than males. It is curious why this is the case. I mean, there are lots of male writers and novelists. Perhaps, they just prefer to ‘get on with the writing’ and do not like/want to be taught and trained. I think it is a problem, because in one sense creative writing cannot be taught; it is something from within, something that one has to feel inspired and motivated about. On the other hand, some can benefit from gaining some basic skills, and the interaction with others can be enjoyable and useful. Aminatta Forna said that some females do not actually attend the workshops with the aim of becoming serious writers and wanting to get their work published. Rather, some just attend because they enjoy the social interaction and the ‘time out’ that it provides from everyday life.

Aminatta Forna’s books on amazon (including 2 novels):

For full details of the Essex Book Festival see:

I had a very different, enjoyable and amusing evening on 1st April 2009 at this ‘Miscellany’ event in Wanstead House, Essex, listening to two ladies, Mary and Claudia reading poetry, prose and acting together in some sketches. In fact, I have never been to anything quite like it before. The ladies were very good – presumably drama trained. All the money that was raised from the event went to Wanstead House itself, so that it can continue to provide the wonderful service that it does for the local community, with its range of adult education classes, social groups etc (see With local authority cutbacks Wanstead House is now virtually self-financing, so raising this money is very important for it.

The evening explored ‘Ages of Man/Woman’, and was divided into 2 halves. The first half focused on ‘Children’, followed by a half hour break for wine and tea/coffee etc, and the second half focused on Marriage, Careers and Onwards’. Below are a few snippets from their readings.

‘Children’ with Mary and Claudia
Children are going to Heaven, but not being very decisive about it. St. Peter says – “Can you either stay in or stay out for goodness sake?”

Child leaves his mum a note saying that a lot of things have gone wrong in the home (such as a broken cup, sink overflowing), but cannot understand how it all happened! Says:
“Knowing you’re going to have a fit
I’m going to gran’s for a bit.”

Another verse:
“Mum is having another baby,
I’m shocked and all at sea,
What does she want to have another baby for?
What’s the matter with me?”

‘Marriage, Careers and Onwards’ with Mary and Claudia
Mary read from a letter written by Anthony Trollope to a lady in 1861. In the letter he says that his wife is healthy, but if and when there comes a time when she is not, then he would like to invite this other lady into his life! That letter was certainly a surprise to me!

‘Wishes of a man’ by Walter Raleigh:
“I wish I loved the human race,
I wish I loved its silly face.”

Sketch – 2 friends, Pam and Felicity:
One says to the other “You’ll have to meet your husband’s requirements.”
“Your husband will have to perform – in the village hall.”

Later, Felicity had a son, but she said that she didn’t know what caused it. Pam said “How sad” followed by “What did cause it?”

The ladies did not give full references to all their readings, so hope I can be forgiven for not providing them all here. It was a very popular event; the room was packed. These gatherings are held periodically.

I went to see the Kuniyoshi Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts with my artistic cousin Sue on 31st March 2009. Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) was one of the last great artists of the Edo period (1600-1868).

This exhibition of Kuniyoshi’s print work came from the Arthur R. Miller collection.
In the booklet which I purchased there, Pilbeam says that Kuniyoshi:

“…was prepared to take on any subject, and he is widely admired for this versatility and his highly original, often eccentric, imagination.” (p.1)

(booklet: ‘Kuniyoshi: from the Arthur R. Miller Collection, The Sackler Wing of Galleries, 21st March – 7th June 2009’, written by Mavis Pilbeam)

There were prints on topics such as warriors, beautiful women and landscapes.

I really enjoyed the exhibition and Kuniyoshi’s art work.

Best wishes as ever and may your best dreams come true!


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3rd April 2009