Changing landscapes in the library world

As part of the Public Libraries of Victoria Network Libmark group I was privileged to be the photographer at the seminar held in Melbourne – Changing Landscapes.

It was a great line-up of guest speakers hosted by the expertise and good humour of Brett de Hoedt of Hootville Communications.

Brett de Hoedt

Brett de Hoedt

Richard Sarr of Wavesound started the day with a presentation about how to showcase digital resources within the physical space of a library. He really didn’t say anything that most librarians hadn’t already thought of already in this digital world.

Two CEO’s of two of Victoria’s Public Libraries, Karyn Siegman and Chris Kelly, presented an overview of the Libraries 2030 planning and subsequent documentation that will hopefully lead libraries forward into the future.

Sarah Kelly and Indra Kurzeme of the State Library of Victoria talked about their approach to social media and library programs. The richness and variety of their collections allow them to present a multitude of interesting and unique stories.

Matt Jones of Federation Square spoke fast and furiously about their approach to events planning. This presentation stood out to me as the most interesting of the day. Matt had a lot to say and it was all relevant, rich in detail and ideas. His explanation of the structural engineering of the site in Melbourne was slightly worrying.

Julie Rae from the Australian Drug Foundation told us how they reinvented the small old dreary library full of books to a sparkly new digital office space, thereby increasing their collection, access and loans by some ridiculous figure.

To finish the day Suzie and Celia, two library professionals presented their findings about ‘pop-up’ libraries providing case studies of both successful and unsuccessful experiences.

You can find the PLVN Libmark group on Facebook and Twitter.

National Library Week 2015

National Library Week has been a busy week for me where I have seen months of planning come to fruition. Our author event was a success with a lovely discussion around the topic of this year’s theme ‘imagine’.

Seven authors were asked questions posed by poet Andrea Louise Thomas. These authors were a diverse group and this added richness to the discussion. The authors were: Garry Disher; Greg Hill; Rose Inserra; Judy Taylor; Brita Lee; Leigh Van der Horst; and Susan Berg.

Andrea Louise Thomas expertly led the conversation asking questions tailored to suit each author’s unique approach. Andrea is a poet, arts editor of Mint magazine, proof reader, and poetry slam finalist. So a very well qualified person to lead this discussion.

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Susan Berg offered a heroic and painful true story about losing her whole family in a boating accident in which she was the only survivor. The tragedy many years past, her story is about how her life has unfolded since that awful day.

Leigh Van der Horst is a new author with a book about the grief following her mother’s death. A common theme by coincidence, but it was interesting to hear about different approaches to writing about this deeply life-changing experience. The resulting published manuscripts also show this different approach to a similar life experience.

Garry Disher is a credible writer of crime fiction and his substantial body of successful works shone through in his answers that provided insight, generosity, and the humble spirit of a true craftsman.

Judy Taylor is new to the writing scene and her self-published diary of grief after her mother’s death is raw and personal. She gave advice based on her experience of the self-publishing process.

Greg Hill is a ghostwriter who brings life to other people’s true stories. He spoke with knowledge and depth about the writing process.

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Brita Lee writes science fiction. The Panopticon Deception is the first published of a trilogy. Her passion and excitement for writing was obvious as she described how she lets the story reveal itself to her as she writes.

Rose Inserra writes children’s non-fiction and her latest non-fiction publication is about dreams. As a teacher of the writing craft she is well qualified to talk about the topic. She is warm, intelligent, and an engaging speaker.

The audience seemed happy and satisfied with one lady telling me, “I go to these types of events all the time, and this was the best one ever.” Sigh!

Women leading change

The Wake Up Project provided an event at the Melbourne Convention Centre: Women Leading Change that I was fortunate to attend with a friend.

We joined 500 women who listened to some remarkable and inspiring women talk about change. Seane Corn; Janine Shepherd; Tara Moss; Lucy Perry; Clare Bowditch; and Tami Simon were each introduced by Jo Wagstaff.

Seane Corn is a yoga teacher and activist who created the movement, Off the Mat and Into the World. She began the day talking about “Beauty, Bravery, & Living Your Truth”. She shared her personal story explaining how that has led her to where she is today. Advising us all to accept our “shadow” as well as our “light”, she explained that only then could we be truly authentic with others and ourselves.

Our wounds become our wisdom.” ~ Seane Corn

Janine Shepherd followed to talk about “The Power of Acceptance”. She is living proof of this as someone who was hit by a truck while cycling in the Blue Mountains, almost dying, being told she would never walk again or have children; and yet there she stood and walked unaided, vibrant, mother of three adult children, and a commercial pilot. You can hear her story in her TED Talk.

“Life is not about having it all. Life is about loving it all.” ~ Janine Shepherd

The gorgeous Tara Moss followed to talk “On Courage, Self-Care, and Why Women’s Voices Matter”. She says that first you must prioritise your own health before you are in a position to help others. She provided some interesting statistics to illustrate how women’s voices are not represented in government, business and organisations. Important decision making about women’s issues such as abortion, domestic violence, child care, etc are being discussed and decided by male voices, as they make up the significant majority of representatives present at the discussion tables.

Lucy Perry talked amusingly about “Fearless Living: How Fun, Forgiveness, and Fearlessness Can Change the World.” She says that ordinary women can do extraordinary things and she is proof of this through her work alongside Australian obstetrician Dr Catherine Hamlin as the former CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia in Australia.

Clare Bowditch entertained us after lunch with “Oh F**k, I Don’t Know What To Call This Talk”. She had 500 women singing in two-part harmony. And she talked about how we are not perfect, all of us are works-in-progress, and how we must “learn to sit in the uncomfortable now.” She says her most commonly asked question is “Why did Patrick have to die?

Tami Simon is the founder of Sounds True and she talked next about “Being True: Showing Up Fully in Your Work, Life and Love.” Her main principles are: individuality, being true, and heeding the call.

Her findings from her interviews “Insights At The Edge” are these:

  • The spiritual journey is a journey of subtraction. What can I let go of?
  • The disciplines of spiritual life are about the shedding process not self-improvement.
  • There is no end to the spiritual journey.
  • Every teacher is partial.
  • There is no escaping loss and sorrow.
  • Everything depends on how much you trust.
  • The most important thing is to know what the most important thing is to you. “Can I give myself to the love and connectedness of my life?

Seane Corn closed the day challenging us to find our voice and speak out. “Start Where You Are: It’s Time to Rise”. She says to celebrate an authentic human experience, be able to say ‘sorry’, self-care, own your ‘shadow’, and don’t be an arsehole.

Thank you to The Wake Up Project for organising this day. And thank you to Alana for inviting me to spend this special day with you, and being inspired by these amazing women.

Walking the Overland Track in Tasmania

If you were looking for a description of the Overland Track walking experience in Tasmania you could easily find many written and photographic books on the subject. And while in this account, I will not attempt to write a blow-by-blow (step by step) description, it must be emphasized that any second-hand account will fail to provide you with the actual experience. You must immerse all of your physical body and senses into the scene in order to appreciate it fully.

Overland Track signpost March 2015

Overland Track signpost March 2015

From a distance the landscape can appear grey, dull, olive green, and even boring. Up close the colour and diversity of plants, flowers, rocks, mosses, bark, fungi, water, etc., arrest the eye continually. Just when you relax thinking you have seen all there is to see, suddenly a new intricate variety appears and stops you in your tracks. I was amazed to see a toadstool I’d never seen before – pale red and green with a frilly white skirt. I only saw one.

The sights are awesome. Towering mountain crags where eagles dive for fun. Tolkeinesque mossy green forest paths that wind around the roots of 800 year old trees. Vast alpine plateaus where yellow button grass hide tiger snakes and shy furry animals. Waterfalls in full flight. Lakes too cold to dip a toe. Rocks, trees and flowers arranged by The Master Landscape Gardener, and then dusted with fresh falling snowflakes.

The fragrances were intense. The nutmeg aroma of wet wild Sassafras. The gin and tonic spritz of the celery top bush. Eucalypts, Myrtles, Banksia, King Billy Pine, Beech and more.

The tiresome experience of pushing your body along paths full of rocks, mud, water, tree roots, steps, streams, and leeches, in driving rain was a challenge experienced by all in the group.

The Overland Track Tasmania March 2015

The Overland Track Tasmania March 2015

We signed up for the ‘chardonnay version’ with Cradle Mountain Huts. We had a bed in a warm hut at the end of every day. Our packs did not need to carry food, or bedding or tents or cooking gear. Our guides led us, cajoled us, cooked for us, and cleaned the huts after we left. Our guides were awesome and extraordinary individuals proud and passionate about this unique environment and Tasmania in general. The huts were warm, had hot showers, drying rooms for our wet muddy boots and clothes. We had three course dinners with local wines. It felt like the privilege that it was.

I wrote a haiku for each day in my mind. I took photographs galore. We were touched by a tragic incident halfway along the trail reminding us of the need to be careful in this remote wilderness. Out of network range the guides used the satellite phones to call in the Air Ambulance helicopters.

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Jetty at Lake St. Clair Tasmania March 2015

We pushed on. My knees struggled to complete the journey and did so with tape strapping and walking poles. At last we arrived at our destination all too soon – Lake St. Clair on Day Six. Lunch on the jetty waiting for the boat to pick us up, we basked in the warm sun, appreciating the journey.

I recommend this experience BUT be prepared for a difficult walk where EVERY footfall must be decided before it is actually taken.

Sinking or syncing

Does your mind need a tune-up? Are you plagued with anxiety? Are you sick of that constant annoying internal chatter? Do you strive to become calm, peaceful, wise, and able to navigate effectively through our busy modern lives? Do you need a brain massage?

Like many people I try to meditate towards achieving this peaceful state. I have practiced meditation for many years in a haphazard, inconsistent, and irregular pattern achieving a varied level of success.

It is undeniable that stilling the mind helps. But actually stilling the mind is the challenge. Always the internal chatter associated with our daily life interrupts.

As I try to sink into the deeper levels of consciousness my thoughts appear; sometimes I can notice them then let them drift away; other times I get caught up in the churning thoughts for awhile until I jolt myself back to the practice of stilling my mind.

So I have just come across binaural beats. I don’t know why I have never heard about these before, because it is not a new concept, discovered in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove according to Wikipedia. These are now produced and published by several organisations of which Holosync™ is one. So what is Holosync™? This blog post describes it well I think.

Here is a beautiful example:

So the concept is that you listen to the sound track, wearing stereo headphones, that have various soothing sounds such as rain, gongs, bells, birds chirping, the sea, etc. But underneath the soothing sounds are sound waves that correspond with the natural brain waves and these ‘sync’.

There are various apps that can be downloaded and of course most require payment. But there are free trials that will give you an idea of the experience.

The first time I listened to a recording, I managed to easily still my mind and cease the ridiculous chatter. The sounds of rain and bells resonated through my brain. I felt like I had been given a brain massage. It was indeed bliss. This tool allowed me to reach the calm state with a still mind much quicker and more effectively than just trying to observe my breath.

So today I decided to do a little bit of research into the topic and found lots of information and demonstrations on YouTube as well as lots of controversial opinion about it all.

What to make of all this then? I suppose it is just another step in the journey towards being at peace in this world. Many people in our society are plagued with anxiety and this is completely understandable. So any tool that helps people to manage their doubt is a good thing I think. And most of us are not Zen Masters able to devote hours towards this pursuit. So 15 to 20 minutes spent listening to gorgeous sounds is manageable in my busy day and if there are additional benefits that lead to more clam, balanced and mindful living then that is a bonus.

What’s your dog’s name?

Visiting the pristine Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria last weekend, I was happily soaking up the peace, gazing at the gorgeous vistas, deeply breathing in the natural fragrances, running along Norman Beach, taking dips in the crystal clear waters, and wondering what else makes me love this place so much.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Then it hit me – THERE ARE NO DOGS!!! Hallelujah! PERFECTION! And further to that thought; no dog owners trying to convince everyone how adorable their mutt is and how it wouldn’t ever possibly bite or snarl at anyone. Yeah right!

Please Please Please powers of bureauracy never ever ever allow dogs into Wilsons Promontory National Park. No matter how much they try to convince everyone that it would be a fair thing.

What’s not fair is that so many people are not obeying local laws thinking their lovely smelly slobbering fleabag is the exception to the rule. Our beaches are plagued with them. Dog non-lovers (and there are a few of us) are ignored and forced to share our beaches with dogs at all times of the day despite the rules.

Recently I was sitting near two little girls on the beach on a hot summers day and a lady was blatantly walking her dog along the beach without a lead in the middle of the time of day when dogs were not supposed to be there at all. The little girls father was out in the water with his little boy, and a long way away in terms of supervision or protection of the little girls. One little girl said to her sister, “I’m scared of dogs.” The other sister replied nastily, “Get over it.” The point is that the little girl should not have been made to feel scared at the beach. She should have been able to enjoy the experience unthreatened. If something had happened the father was too far away to be of any use whatsoever. But that is another issue.

So beautiful Wilson’s Promontory I will keep returning to have my soul renewed with natural beauty quietly confident that it will continue to be a sanctuary, not only for the Australian wildlife that lives there, but also for the people like me who do not share a liking for dogs.

A kick from an Information Flaneur

Back in August last year I responded to a blog post by another Librarian – but didn’t publish it. It sat in my files forgotten and the busy-ness of life took over.

Now six months later I notice that this Librarian has not published anymore content on his blog. I wonder why? Perhaps some of the possibilities I suggested in my response could have made an impact. But I’m only guessing based on my own imagined restrictions. Here is my response:

So yes Hugh I agree! I agree with everything you said. And I love the term you have coined “Information Flaneur”. It is the perfect label for this concept of today’s librarian that you promote. It has that sophisticated French ring that resonates with the ideological salon discussions for which the French are famous. And who would not love a random wander around Paris? Pick me!

And….I love the minimalist design of your website – very cool! (Maybe about to undergo a facelift, refocus, or hiatus?)

So to the content of your blog post; because our job is all about the content don’t you think? Here is my response to your challenge:

I wrote back in 2008, that I see the “reference interview” as a unique conversation of shared discovery. So I agree with you. There is no pat model for new librarians. We need to find our way in a flexible, open, responsive, and helpful way that suits the needs of the customer. Our small advantage, even in this era of easy access to the information pile, is that we understand the architecture of how that information is created, gathered, stored, and distributed. So that allows us to be able to take some shortcuts that others might not know. We can shine a torch on our partnered wander in the dark, and hope not to end up in the catacombs – unless that is where we’d want to go; or where we enjoy going by accident.

I love this notion that you suggest by using the term “flaneur”; we can browse, not knowing what it is that we will find, and then be inspired to learn something new and random that could launch our lives into a direction previously unperceived. We don’t know what we don’t know. I love searching the subject headings in library catalogues using terms like “resilience” and then discovering a new book and author that I had not previously heard about. Such as Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison. It is a great read for older women, empty-nesters, new at grieving for lost friends and family.

Back in 2011 and 2013, I researched Aussie Librarian bloggers because I enjoy reading about current trends and thinking in our field (like you). I wanted to know who was saying what. I was searching for opinion, but found little, except for a handful, of which yours stood out; and I complimented you for that.

Back in 2013, I researched library podcasts and found these and still listen occasionally.

You set the bar high Hugh. You are insightful, knowledgeable, well-read, and articulate. You display a generosity of spirit by inviting others to join in the conversation. But I think you do not want “yes-men”. Your online jousting with heavy-hitters such as R. D. Lankes about the pros and cons of 3D printers in libraries makes me think you enjoy getting your adrenalin pumping from these kinds of debates. You want to have your mind challenged and opened with new insights provided through passionate discussion, somewhat like the French salons of yesteryear. Me – I prefer mulling quietly.

So here are some possible reasons or excuses for the lack of meaningful and well-considered opinion online that we crave:

  • Organisational Policy – have you read the Social Media Policy of your governing organization? Silly question – of course you have. It is so restrictive that who would want to even peep (or tweet) about anything that could be remotely interpreted to be about work by your employers? And I have worked on a committee that created a Social Media Policy and Procedure for local government, so I realize both sides of the discussion. I notice though, that your posts talk about our profession rather than your employer. You are smart in that regard, but it would deter many others.
  • Time constraints – after a week of full-time work, who has time? How much time is left in a day after commuting, exercise, grocery shopping, cooking, eating, yoga, meditation, chores, reading (for pleasure and work), watching the next episode of Breaking Bad legally borrowed from the library, watching my son play football, and more. Who gets the time to write a well considered blog post, let alone read any?
  • Blank stares – you know that look you get when you say the word “blog”? You and I know it is all about the content and the web is just the platform and distribution media. Maybe we need to come up with a new term for blog? Got any French terms that would fit?
  • Powerlessness – further to the discussion about the mechanics of blogs is the lack of awareness there seems to be about how to harness the power of blogs by using software platforms and apps such as Feedly. This is another area where Librarians excel and can lead the way (if we manage to work past the glazed eyes). It astonishes me how many library professionals don’t know about this simple tool and how to use it for personal and professional development. To me it seems like a gardener who doesn’t use a wheelbarrow. (Although my wheelbarrow is a bit full and needs emptying and refilling.)
  • Self-protection – how open do you want to be online? Do you really want to reveal everything? You don’t and nor do I. But where do you draw the line? There is a valid push for people to be authentic online, and I applaud that approach. But really? And who cares? And what about trolls, haters, fraud, and opportunists?
  • Work versus personal – it’s important to have a focus for a blog I think, and our profession is perfect for writing about online, but even when you try to focus on our line of work, without discussing our employers, over time personal stuff gets in the way and affects what is on our mind and what we are willing to put up for public knowledge. I can think of a few blogs that I enjoyed reading that were sidetracked because cancer came into their lives. Over recent years I have had enormous personal life changes that have influenced the circumstances of my professional work.

So there you go Hugh: how’s that for a comment? I hope others in our industry jump to your little challenge. It has only taken me six months.

P.S. Good luck with the changes in your work scenario.