Six months of library events

I have been assessing and indexing my blog lately and I realised I had not posted anything for the first six months of this year; and so I looked at my work record and found I was just a little bit busy with organising events at the library.

Authors

Here is the incomplete list:

  1. Craig Smith – Wednesday 25 January – Summer Reading Club Finale
  2. Thomas Hugh – Sunday 29 January – Live Music Sunday
  3. Fiona Wood – Saturday 31 January – Author Talk – Cloudwish
  4. Cam Lee-Brown – Sunday 12 February – Live Music Sunday
  5. Kenny Chan & Tom Taylor – Saturday 18 February – Heroes & Villains
  6. Meryl Leppard– Sunday 26 February – Live Music Sunday
  7. Sheree Marris – Wednesday 15 March – Author Talk – Aquatic Science
  8. Nicky Johnston – Saturday 18 March – Book Launch – The Fix-It Man
  9. Shane Maloney – Saturday 8 April – Author Talk – crime fiction
  10. Matthew Fagan – Sunday 9 April – Live Music Sunday
  11. Australian Ballet – Monday 10 April – Dancing story – School Holiday Program
  12. Lego with Young Engineers – Thursday 13 April – School Holiday program
  13. Andrew Rule – Saturday 22 April – Author Talk – Journalism
  14. Adi Sappir – Sunday 23 April – Live Music Sunday
  15. Ruth Clare – Wednesday 26 April – Author Talk – Enemy
  16. Amadou Kalissa – Sunday 7 May – Live Music Sunday
  17. Jade O’Donahoo – Monday 8 May – Author Talk – Eat This My Friend
  18. My Emma with Lise Rodgers – Tuesday 9 May – Jane Austen Performance
  19. Wendy Mak – Saturday 20 May – Author Talk – The Capsule Wardrobe
  20. Mojo Pearls – Sunday 21 May – Live Music Sunday
  21. Alice Pung – Tuesday 23 May – Author Talk – Unpolished Gem
  22. Sydney Writers Festival – 26 May – 28 May – Live & Local live-streamed
  23. Dr Michael Carr Gregg – Saturday 3 June – Author Talk – The Princess Bitchface Syndrome
  24. Sean Dooley – Saturday 17 June – Author Talk – birds
  25. Clementine Ford – Saturday 1 July – Author Talk – Fight Like a Girl
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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.

On your soapbox

Have you got a message that you are just dying for the world to know, get, embrace, and love? Do you think it is original, clever, valuable, and its time is NOW? Is your voice, your expression, your style, the best way for this incredible message to be heard? Have you got a box to stand on, a platform, a medium, from which to deliver this amazing message?

You think? Sure? Why not? May as well have a go hey? Go for it!

After-all blogging is so 2000’s. “Everyone” has a blog now. So to stand above the crowd you have to find a way to be noticed. And setting up your own podcast seems to be a great way to do this. Just think you can talk and talk to your heart’s content saying all you need to say without interruptions.

So what have you got to say? Got an idea? A theme? A revelation? A message? A set of instructions to share?

And what’s your motivation? Fame? Fortune? Freedom? Notoriety?

And what’s your format? Interviewing others? Off the cuff? Following a framework or schedule of planned passages?

Will you use advertising? Employ Brand “You”? Offer sincerity and appreciation? Will you repeat your message? What about using music breaks? Will you tell stories in order to catch the listener’s attention?

Podcasts are cropping up like mould in a damp bathroom. Some are more successful than others. Some are much more listenable than most.

There are the DIY models such as Podcast Answer Man, This Is Your Life, Circulating Ideas, Man vs Debt, and others.

There are those that spring from reputable sources such as The Midday Interview with Margaret Throsby, TED Talks, Hamish and Andy, and more, and more.

And there are many more in between and this field is growing fast.

In recent times I have had the privilege to attend quite a few sessions where people get up in front of an audience to speak on a topic. Sometimes there is a theme, sometimes not. It really is a special experience and there is no doubt that the personal live experience does stand out and above what the average podcast can deliver.

Recently I attended the LGPro Women in Local Government development forum in Melbourne.

Of particular note was the opening talk given by Rachael Robertson who led the 58th Australian Antarctic Research Expedition to Davis Station. Her message, her story, and her delivery were spellbinding.

The closing speaker was Emma Gee who is an Occupational Therapist and a stroke survivor. Facing far more obstacles and challenges than the average speaker, her presentation was funny, clever, sad, practical and inspirational. Emma’s message is “that it is not what happens to you that matters, it is how you choose to deal with it.” Her clever use of video segments in her presentation that depicted some of life’s challenges from her perspective was poignant.

So have you got a message? You never know, yours might just be the one that captures the imagination of the masses and brings you fame, fortune and freedom.

Your thoughts

You think too much.” This has been said to me many times over the years. I disagree. I think most people don’t think enough. I value thinking as our most powerful tool for self-development and actualisation.

I admire people who commit their whole life pursuing one train of thought trying to work something out: scientists and mathematicians for example. Einstein is one of my heroes, but I guess I am not alone there. The Dalai Lama is another unique and remarkable person intent on making positive change for us all through applied thought.

In our own small lives we can make grand improvements simply by applying our thoughts. Many mistakenly believe they are thinking when they are merely reacting. A day spent in constant stimulation and consequent reaction to the words of others is a day wasted in my opinion. Anxiety and worry is not productive thinking. Automatic thought patterns repeated time and time again, year after year, are not beneficial, locks us into repeated behaviours, and deepens the tangled crevasses in our brain.

Have you experienced those “light-bulb moments”? Often these are the impetus that moves us out of our former patterns of thoughts.  Like an electron jumping out to a larger orbit of a nucleus, our world expands.

As a design student I learnt lateral thinking, creative thinking, thinking outside the box; but these do not come naturally. Most of us stay inside the box, unaware of our own individual power to do more. We might react, complain and worry but nothing more.

There is so much helpful advice available that is practical in teaching your brain into new ways of functioning. Edward de Bono’s books are a great place to start: Lateral Thinking and SixThinking Hats are easy to read, understand and apply. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is more complex but new gems of understanding can be found each time it is read.

Intentional thought is an interesting concept approached from various angles by different people. Meditation books tell us about “the gap” when emptying our minds, and the power of dropping our intentions into this gap. James Redfield illustrated “intention” in his colourful The Celestine Prophecy. The Law of Attraction has been given dubious attention by some authors, and yet the thinking methodology is a true gift for those who choose to add it to their box of thinking tools.

If you wish to really challenge thought, existence, purpose, reality, then A Course in Miracles may be the one for you. Or for a lighter, fun-filled parable about thought and reality try Illusions by Richard Bach. (The undisputed Top of My Best Ever Reads List)

Feeling bad? Then apply your mind to the problem. Is it physiological? Perhaps environmental? Don’t just feel bad and react badly. Step back and think. There is a way forward and it is up to you.

Of course, not-thinking can be a valuable and necessary respite from our busy days. Emptying our minds of rubbish allows the new positive brain activity to continue afresh. It has been documented somewhere (?) that repetitive physical movement is the perfect activity that empties the mind and allows the fresh ideas to appear: walking, swimming, running, exercising, dancing, and cycling.

So switch off the TV and your computer, get off your arse, go for a walk, empty your brain, then ask yourself, “Why am I thinking this way?” Then apply your amazing natural ability to think your way forward in creating the life you really want and deserve.

But it is not a “one-stop-shop”. It is a daily practice and commitment. Some days we will do better at it than others. Fortunately these days reminders and prompts are readily available online from the blogs of great thinkers, or by connecting via social networking tools to discussions on these topics. For example: http://twitter.com/ACIM_lessons and http://twitter.com/Edward_deBono and http://twitter.com/DalaiLama

The creative stream

I was reading the Saturday morning newspapers; Michael Leunig’s article “Into the Unkown” in The Age; when halfway through his discussion about the creative process, I remembered my dream from the previous night.

In my dream I had seen a piece of art hanging on a wall. It was a moving image of an underwater scene with only the soft light-filled sea-green water and the head of a teenage girl who was looking out at the viewer and smiling with blonde hair adrift in the currents. And as I looked the girl came forward “out” of the scene. As she emerged from the flat wall image she became a white paper cut-out silhouette that protruded into the space of the room.

When I awoke and remembered the image I realised this artwork was a combination of the two exhibition themes that we have running in our art exhibitions this year; “from the deep” is on show now, and “off the wall” is our next exhibit.

So I paused from reading the newspaper, wrote down these remembered thoughts about the image in my dream, and then returned to reading the Michael Leunig article. “He gets an idea for a painting. The muse has paid a visit, the light has come on, inspiration has struck – whatever – and now the idea must be given form. The urge is powerful…” So I acknowledge that my idea is there. But I lack the confidence and impetus to act further and try to transform the idea into a painting/image/sculpture. I give up before I even begin. I know from past experiences that art ideas not given life grow stale quickly and lose their power; lost opportunities for creative expression.

Michael Leunig continues, “It looks competent enough but lacks the spark and mystique that was in his mind at the beginning. Something has been lost in the translation. How odd; it is not transcribing.” Yes I know this all too well. And this is where I give up. But Michael Leunig tells us to press on, to continue through the negativity, self-loathing, and feelings of failure. He says that in the abandonment of the ego, we will discover authenticity in our creative work.

The image in my dream reminded me of an exhibition of artwork that I had seen at Salamanca Arts Centre in Hobart last year. In a darkened loft there were several life-sized still life works. The medium used was video, so these “still life” images were of a scene that moved, but repeated itself over a short time span. One was of a cocktail party where the guests were artfully placed and dressed and they were seated around a coffee table eating antipasto and drinking wine. It was strange to stand there like a voyeur staring at these people and then seeing the repetition of the loops in the video. There were others: one of a person driving; another looking through a doorway screened by dangling beads; and more I can’t remember.

I wish I could tell you who the artist was. I have searched online with no success. I have emailed the gallery in the hope they will tell me. Stay posted and I will tell you when I find out. In my online search though, I did find some amazing art works of video art by other artists, so it was not wasted time.

Thank you to Sue from Salamanca Arts Centre for letting me know that the artist is Derek Hart and his exhibiton was titled “Film Stills“.

Choose your Guru

Have you noticed how many self-proclaimed gurus there are on the internet now? With the blossoming of online social networking there have emerged, dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people happily doling out advice to anyone who will listen.

Who are these experts? And what makes them so knowledgeable? Many I’ve noticed are perhaps 20-something in age. Have they lived? Learned? Made mistakes? The confidence, certainty, and arrogance with which many espouse their views stun me. They preach and prattle and fill blog after blog with dot-point precision. Here is a random selection: How to become a Level 80 Twitter Ninja; How to go tribal and sell a truckload of books; Nine Ways To Build a Bridge Between Who You Were and Who You AreThe You, the Me and the We – How I’m Changing How I Use Twitter | Stayin’ Alive; Choose the Bigger Life; No Pressure Knitting. And I could add many more examples but I’m sure you’ve found your own. Everyone is an expert.

Now I realise that many use the social networking neighbourhood for their own self-improvement and education and blogging about it is their way of sorting through the crap and working out their own ideas. But to offer these often infantile notions firmly as well thought out, tried and true rules for living is ridiculous in my humble opinion. I don’t mind reading some of these blogs and twitters but the increase in the number of people doing this is astonishing. And some appear to have all the authenticity and credibility of a Snake Oil Salesman. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this.

mandelbrot-set

Where are the humble folk who stumble through life like me? The older I get, the more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know. Life is chaos and can present things to you that you had never imagined. Life can’t be totally planned, controlled or “manifested”. Perhaps because this is my belief then it is my experience. But I do find solace in the Chaos Theory because I don’t have much faith in the attempts of Man to tame the world to the one I would choose. I prefer to believe a higher power holds the aces and will create a world that is far more enriching and awesome and unbelievable than what my humble mind can imagine. So I enjoy seeing the weeds appear in the cracks in the concrete. I am in awe of the Mandelbrot set. I love to see the NASA images from the Hubble telescope of the worlds beyond this Earth.

The philosophies I like to live by in dot-points and at this point in time are:

  • Leave no footprints
  • The Theory of Chaos
  • Live in The Now
  • Be Kind
  • Create your own life
  • Do stuff
  • Keep it simple
  • Appreciate and be grateful
  • Learn more stuff
  • Be optimistic
  • See The Big Picture
  • Be authentic

There remain the constant big names in personal development who have written books on the topic, established themselves as leading thinkers, and have now joined the social networking scene: The Dalai Lama; Deepak Chopra; Dr. Wayne Dyer; Marianne Williamson; Eckhart Tolle, and others. Of course the wisdom of the ages can’t be ignored and these sources stand apart: The Bible; the teachings of Buddha; the words of Jesus Christ; A Course In Miracles; etc, etc. You know them as well as I do.

Newcomers to the scene who are making an impression are: Leo Babauta of Zen Habits; Gary Vayerchuk. But the stampede for recognition in this area is scary. What are they hoping for? A well paid talking circuit? 68,000 followers on Twitter or Facebook? Nirvana? Bliss? Who knows? Not me!

Here are some more dot-points which form my humble advice about how to live a happy fulfilling life:

  • Turn off the computer/laptop/mobile phone/handheld device/whatever
  • Look up from the screen
  • Pat your cat and hear it purr
  • Look out the window
  • Go outside – yes outside!
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Take your kids to the local park or playground
  • Kick a football or throw a ball
  • Walk down the street
  • Talk to a local – then really listen to what they have to say
  • Have a coffee and a chat with a friend at a local cafe
  • Return home
  • Have a conversation with a family member
  • Cook a healthy meal
  • Smile
  • Get a good night’s sleep

Indeed reject my advice in favour of your own self-discovered words of wisdom and lifestyle.

You are what you read

Are you influenced by what you read? Does your mind absorb the ideas set down by others? Do you live inside the scenes created, even temporarily? I suppose that’s why reading fiction is a form of escapism.

 

As a Librarian it is no surprise that I value books and reading for self improvement. I value learning from the experiences, and thoughts that others have worked so hard to set down in words. The more you read the more you learn. Even if you don’t retain it all and reject some ideas, we grow and evolve by taking on a little bit from each book we read.

 

At the moment I am reading a novel titled Deception” by Michael Meehan. It is about a young Australian man who traces his ancestry to France in order to unravel his family history. It is exquisitely told, set in the Australian desert, Paris and New Caledonia. He weaves his tale masterfully between the past and the present. I have engaged in tracing my family history in the past and yet for the first time it has occurred to me to trace the one French branch of my family tree. It would be so interesting to learn some more French history while unraveling my own family tree, also fulfilling my love of all things French.

 

Meanwhile someone close to me has discovered they have cancer. It is a shock. I remember reading a few years ago a book titled Your Life In Your Hands” by Jane Plant. She is a UK scientist who had breast cancer, suffered through chemotherapy, a mastectomy, radiation treatment, and was eventually given 6 months to live. As a scientist she researched the situation thoroughly, eventually having a “light-bulb” moment thinking that in Asian cultures the incidence of breast and prostrate cancer is remarkably low and they don’t eat dairy products. Eliminating dairy products from her diet from that moment the tumors shrank and disappeared altogether. She wrote her book in 2000 and now in 2008 she is alive and cancer free. Her experience, research and discoveries provide hope and practical advice for others facing the cancer death sentence. I gave the book to that person to read and make up their own mind. After all what have they got to lose?

 

Not only are we what we read but we are what we eat!