The Creative Li brary

Annie Talvé and Dr Sally Gray presented a workshop at Dandenong Library that I attended. The Creative Library builds on the work they presented in their 2014 report Creative Communities: The cultural benefits of Victoria’s public libraries. This report can be found on the Public Libraries Victoria Network website.

A room full of library professionals enjoyed a fun and informative day “thinking with our hearts, heads and feet” led by Annie and Sally. We challenged our presumptions, analysed our actions, and debated about our work.

As a designer in my early years, and a lover of art, design and all creative endeavours, no one needs to remind me that ‘everyone is creative’. My attitudes are creative. I always think outside the box. Flexibility of thought is an asset in all we do in this life.

Annie runs Project SiSu which “is a creative consulting practice specialising in tackling organisational transitions and framing the benefits of culture in all its varied forms”.

I recall attending a workshop led by Annie at Waurn Ponds Library several years ago. She was then embarking on her research for the resulting Creative Communities report. The New Nirvana on her website sums up the conversations from those workshops.

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Cookbooks

The package was waiting for me when I arrived home and I knew what it contained; two new cook books.

A home library was always part of my vision for my dream home, until I started work in a public library. Working with books every day changed this obsession. Realising the multitude of books in this world, and knowing I will never read them all humbled me. There are few books that I want to reread. There are some exceptions, but not many.

Cook books I am obsessed with. Like many people I am drawn to them and love them. You only have to visit 641.5 in the non-fiction collection in any public library to know that this is a shared obsession. We all love to eat delicious food and many of us like to prepare delicious food. Many of us enjoy looking at the beautiful photographs representing the recipes.

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So I buy cookbooks now and then. The Plant Power Way by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt I had searched for in bookshops since it was first published and I could not find it anywhere in and around Melbourne. So in desperation I ordered it online when they released the new book This Cheese is Nuts by Julie Piatt. I found a local supplier (not a bookshop) at The New Normal Project and finally the books are added to my home library of cookbooks.

Now all I have to do is start trying the recipes.

#glamblogweekly

Square eyes

“You’ll get square eyes if you watch so much TV.”

This was a familiar catchcry from my mother to me when I was a child. And I admit I loved watching television. Brought up on Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, Skippy, and Get Smart, I am a product of the television generation. Later in my teens I would hurry to get my maths and physics homework finished in time to watch the Monty Python TV series.

Back in the 50’s when TV first arrived in Australia my father was an electronics nerd and built a crude TV with the screen and not much else, by his description. When I said to my parents at three years of age, “I see two TV’s!”, they realised I probably needed spectacles; and I have worn them ever since.

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How viewing has changed though! We are in the midst of huge change. Since we had the NBN connected I don’t often watch the mainstream TV channels anymore, instead switching over to Foxtel or streamed channels. Binge watching series favourites such as House of Cards, Suits, and finding new creations such as The OA, in between episodes of Game of Thrones, have transformed my weekends into marathons that do indeed make me feel like my eyes are getting squarer. Surfing the YouTube content is a pastime sure to waste untold hours that could be better used. Now I’ve heard of Gregg Braden just because he cropped up in the YouTube feed, and many others via Oprah’s hyped-up Super Soul Sessions.

Once I listened to commercial radio stations like 3XY for hours in my room, or later in my car driving to and from University. The first music album I bought for myself was The Essential Beatles on black vinyl. Nowadays I am an avid podcast listener, preferring to choose my content free of awful advertising that disturbs my serenity.

A typical evening’s viewing consists of something like an AFL football match on the big screen, my husband searching GumTree on the Mac on his lap, and me with my earphones plugged in to my iPad watching Suits or Utopia. I wonder if my highly connected father, who was an expert in HAM radio and Morse Code, would enjoy this lifestyle of multiple screens.

Given that I have taken on the challenge to #glamblogweekly I must accept that some of my content might ‘suffer’.

Row X

We stood at the back of the hall clutching our tickets for Row X dismayed that the rows stopped at Row V. There was no Row X. The group of us grew in numbers as we hailed the attention of an usher. Traipsing back out to the foyer we were reallocated tickets to the Balcony in Row OO.IMG_8860

This was our experience when we purchased tickets online for the Elvis Tribute Show with Jack Gatto at Melbourne Town Hall. As an information professional I know about the quick evaluation of reliable sources; and in my defense it was not me who found and selected the website. But I should have checked.

So an expensive and annoying lesson learned. But the show was good and Jack Gatto gave a great show with a powerful voice very like Elvis. The choir, backing singers, and big band were led by John St Peeters. Jack did the outfits justice and enthusiastically busted the moves. Not quite the decade for us, but you can’t deny those classic songs.

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Earlier we had enjoyed beer and a meal at Il Pom Iltalian at Federation Square, while young football fans, dressed in blue and white and yellow and brown, played kick-to-kick under yellow fluoro lights in the ‘square’.

After the show we walked back to our car parked in the gardens. The cold winter night air shimmering rainbow fog against the colourful lights of the Melbourne cityscape.

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#glamblogweekly

 

Let me count the ways

What’s your blog about? That is the first question posed for the yearlong Twitter challenge for library professionals to #glamblogweekly.

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Katie of Strawberries of Integrity gave an efficient bullet point list to answer this question. And I relate to most of those: life,  bereavements; family; music; movies; reading; some library…I would add art; books; design; podcasts, tech, genealogy, and general musings.

I loved the article length posting by Paige the Librarian in answer to the question for #glamblogweekly and find her explanation defining the differences between the professions excellent, so much so that I quote it here:

“To look at it a different way, a librarian might search for a book that directly meets an information request. An archivist might go to that same book and think about how the book got on the shelf and who owned it before it got there and if there are any bookmarks in the book. A museum curator might think about which illustrations or spread of the book would look nice in an exhibition. A historian might think about the era the book was published in and what it tells us about that era. A conservator might look at the book and think, how much longer will this book last and what can I do to make it last longer? It is true, we are sometimes very different.”

So I began blogging in 2006 with The Blog of a Footballer’s Mother. This was very much a journal about following the journey of one of my sons as he became an AFL footballer. I then started French Accent as a way to pursue my love and appreciation for French culture. This blog remains online but I don’t post there anymore, despite my continuing yearning for some elusive French quality in my days.

Soon after I started SuesBent and have been dabbling ever since. ‘suesbent’ is the abbreviation of my name back when Hotmail first appeared and 8 characters was the limit for the username. (showing my age) I use it to sign my paintings too. I like the play on words that “Sue is bent” because I do see the world from an alternate view and love the unexpected things in life. I love Chaos Theory, Quantum Physics, Mandelbrot Theory, and yes I am a geek. In the library world I love the work of Tim Sherratt. Not that I write about these topics because I am just an appreciator in those lofty realms.

In recent years, since my parents died, I have found my ‘voice’ become silent. I have explored the reasons but it still eludes me. So I embrace this challenge to #glamblogweekly as a means to find my voice once again. Bring on the questions.

Deliberation Reflection

So many times over the years since I was five years old, I have entered this iconic building: the State Library Victoria. Sometimes for work, or study, or just for the pure delight of standing in its gorgeous space surrounded by significant works expressed in books, art, and other media.

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This time I returned for work and I felt fortunate to be selected for this unique training experience. Thirty-seven library staff from Victoria’s public libraries and the State Library were to deliberate on a topic. Led by the engagement professionals of Mosaic Lab, the old classroom model of teaching was abandoned and replaced by an interactive, collaborative, and inclusive method. All attendees were engaged fully. No one person could sit back and relax at the back of the room. The best thoughts were drawn out of each individual, then honed into a clear precise idea.

This style of training follows the International Association for Public Participation IAP2 model. It began with a warm-up one day practice session where the method was applied to real library world cases. Then we viewed a webinar to provide information about the deliberation sessions. An online forum placed on Loomio provided a platform for introductions, comments, and relevant reading materials.

The remit to be deliberated on was:

What are the ten best ideas for engaging the community to design transformational library services?

Day one involved some quick getting-to-know each other exercises, followed by some discussions to discuss the purpose, goals and rules of this deliberation. We looked at the reading materials once again and discussed one of the main current strategic documents on use at public libraries in Victoria: Victorian Public Libraries 2030 Strategic Framework. It was interesting to hear the comments from others who were new to this work. Written in 2012 from a huge collaborative brain storm effort towards future mapping, after only five years it is looking dated. Some scenarios have eventuated such as the rise of entrepreneaurship, and brain deterioration problems, while other scenarios have not yet come to pass in a significant way. Opening the doors to the community has brought a wide range of challenges that were unforeseen, and this is predominantly due to restricted and limited library spaces trying desperately to accomodate overwhelming and conflicting demands.

Five presenters were selected to provide further context, expert knowledge, and stimulation. These presenters were: Christine McKenzie, Municipal Association Victoria Executive Assistant for the Public Libraries Victoria Network, and International Federation of Library Associations President Elect; Karyn Siegmann, Manager Libraries at Bayside City Council, Chris Kelly, CEO at Goldfields Library Corporation, and two designers/architects with specialties in participatory design and human-centred design. These people offered five presentations and discussions to five groups, instead of one discourse to the whole. This enabled informal discussion and question time adding a depth of insight into the community engagement process.

After lunch we began on the ideas. First we were allowed to write down our own ideas. Then we shared them with three others, discussing them all and agreeing to three or four of the best ideas from the group. These were offered to the whole group, arriving at a total of 21 ideas at the end of the day.

On the second day the ideas had been posted onto voting boards. Each person placed a vote against each idea. These votes provided a weight: ‘love it’, ‘like it’, ‘live with it’, ‘lament it’, and ‘loathe it’. The 80-20 rule applied so that any idea slipping below 20% was discarded. However it was checked first to ensure this assessment was right. A minority report could be submitted if there was strong enough sentiment by anyone.

On first count four ideas were discarded because they fell below the line. Discussion ensued that some of the ideas were in fact similar or part of another idea. This resulted in matching that brought the total number of ideas to ten. Two of the most popular ideas absorbed two or three of the smaller ideas.

So with the valid ideas on the table we split into working group to flesh out and describe the ideas. I ended up working on an idea that I didn’t really like much or had much passion for, but that is part of this collaborative process and it is good to bring an impartial eye to the idea. We quickly listed the title, purpose, rationale and a couple of references for examples or similar ideas done elsewhere in the world. This was efficiently and quickly completed with 37 people working on ten separate sections of a live Google document.

We swapped blurbs with a nearby group giving feedback and opportunity to hone the description further. Then our two groups worked on the preamble for the whole document, a colleague quickly typing up an excellent introduction.

The finished document was then shown to the whole group on a large screen. We all had the opportunity to ‘red card’ an idea and give further feedback about any perceived flaws. This process was a lively debate that ultimately resulted in all ten ideas staying fixed to the final report.

The finished report was printed and formally presented to the representatives from the State Library Victoria, Debra Rosenfeldt, Manager, Public Libraries and Community Engagement at State Library of Victoria, and Paula Kelly Paull, ‎Manager Learning Communities at Hobsons Bay City Council and representative of the Live and Learn group of the SLV/ PLVN.

I left the State Library late on a Friday afternoon on the eve of the Queens Birthday long weekend. Wearily I walked along Swanson Street Melbourne towards Flinders Street Station, with the lively singing of soccer fans going to see Argentina play Brazil at the MCG.

Oh, and what were the ten best ideas for engaging the community to design transformational library services? Well I’m sure the report will be published and made available on the PLVN website soon.

Alexa, Jelly, and Web 3.8

Forget Web 2.0! That is so 2005! Now we have Web 3.8. Wow!

What is that? Remember ‘six degrees of separation’? Well, according to Biz Stone, the guys who came up with that theory have done more research and found that in this digitally connected era, the degrees of separation have reduced to just 3.8.

Rich Roll interviews Biz Stone in an intriguing interview where Biz explains his newest website and system – askjelly. Biz Stone is one of the guys who co-founded Twitter. Oh – that Biz Stone!

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Askjelly is a systemised knowledgebase that uses people for answers instead of text-based information on the Internet. As Rich and Biz spoke I realised that Librarians might finally be out of a job. The famous quote by Neil Gaiman: ‘Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.’, might finally be defunct. Biz has found a way to crowd-source the subjective questions.

So I put askjelly to the test and posed the question: “What will happen to Librarians in the age of knowledge-bases, ‘jelly’ and AI?

And shortly thereafter I received two thoughtful replies:

From CallKathy:

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And from Chris:

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Biz’s theory is that there are not really unique questions, and that someone on this planet will have the answer for you.

He then went on to show how this technology works with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa and it evoked similarities to the AI robot in the movie Her.

Rich Roll has kindly listed a lot of the relevant articles and links in the show notes of his podcast information and it’s well worth a look.

As for the success of #askjelly and the future of Librarianship – only time will tell.