Tell me

A realization struck me as I sat in the audience listening to Doctor Bruce Wells talk about happiness: I am living my life aligned to my passions and values. My employed work is to plan and organize library related events for the interest and benefit of our local community. It is a privileged position and while, in general, library work does align with my values associated with ethics, morals, and liberty, Dr. Wells made me realize that for me there is something deeper.

 

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Dr Bruce Wells at Frankston Library 16 April 2016

I love reading and books. I love being exposed to new ideas. I love to imagine other worlds and lives that exist between the pages. I love being told a good story. I love feeding my hunger for exploration and discovery. I love sitting at home in a comfortable chair absorbed in the latest good read. Working in a library, invites, supports and encourages others to read a good book and learn new things.

But it is my work that takes this one step further. What good are books full of treasured stories if they sit idly waiting on shelves gathering dust? What makes people pick it off the shelf and open the cover? It relies too heavily on serendipity. Library staff create displays and programs to highlight and celebrate books and themes in order to help people see what they don’t always know is there. (I read ebooks too and I am well aware of the new consumer habits associated with obtaining ebooks, but for this post I am focussing on our public libraries and print books. Many people don’t know that you can borrow an ebook for free from a public library; but that’s a whole other post).

But I go one step further. I invite authors to come along and speak at our library. What better way to bring books to life than to have the author there before you, in the flesh, to tell you more about their ideas?

Being told stories is a cherished human activity that goes back before books. Campfire stories are still a favourite thing to do when we can. The popularity of TED Talks is no surprise. We all love to hear something interesting. Then we might follow up this interest by exploring more on the topic.

So my realization was that I am able to share my own love of reading, books, and storytelling, by inviting authors to come and speak in person at our library. Local people can enjoy hearing stories told, and the writing craft explained, by the authors themselves. Books are thus brought to life. It is a true privilege for me to be in this position to be able to bring about this unique alchemy.

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Ali MC and Abe Nouk at Frankston Library 19 March 2016

These are the authors that I have organized speaking events for over the past year:

And these are the events that are coming up soon:

Sprucing Up the Library with Kevin Hennah

Kevin Hennah is like a comedy act for Librarians. He is funny, sarcastic, and knows how to provoke his audience. He regularly sprouts comments like:

If I have to hear the word ‘makerspace’ one more time…

And:

The Internet has moved the goal posts, yet many libraries keep kicking in the same direction.

And:

If you have RFID, why do you still have this Titanic circulation desk?

I enjoyed his workshop that reiterated concepts that I had heard before:

  • Ditch Dewey in preference for genre collections.
  • Create boutique style collections.
  • Use face-out displays of books.
  • Adopt clear signage.
  • Use ‘library’ as the strong brand that it is. Don’t adopt new names such as ‘Learning Centre’ or ‘Community Hub’ or ‘LINC’.
  • Weed, weed and weed.
  • Make space for seating for customers.
  • Ditch the pin-board displays in favour of screens, QR codes, and quick pick displays.
  • Blame Kevin.

 

SiLLé Library Engagement

I want to tell you about this concept – the Self Initiated Life Long Learning Experience. This is a new acronym created by me a few months ago. It is a way that people use the library that is currently not described in any way. This to me is one of the backbone features of the library. It is something I have called SiLLé

Self – it is about the individual; not your parents or your school or your workplace.

It is initiated by the individual; not by a curriculum, or a government organisation, or a rigid course.

The double ‘l’’s stand for Life Long Learning; that is self-explanatory I think. It could have been three ‘I’’s but that would have been silly.

Public Library, Nice, France

Public Library, Nice, France

é – because it is an experience. ‘e’ also represents the electronic medium of the virtual and digital world that libraries are part of. The French accent I put in just to give the acronym some French flair, but also because the French appreciate the value of the silly idea. This public library in Nice France is proof of that.

Here is an example of the self initiated lifelong learning experience.

A few years back I read this library book. The Buddha, Geoff and Me by Edward Canfor-Dumas. I enjoyed it immensely. The book introduced some things that I had not heard about before:

  • SGI Buddhism
  • A chant that featured heavily in the story But I was curious to know how to pronounce the chant and what it sounded like.

So I listened to an audio copy of the book and enjoyed the story once again. I heard the pronunciation – “nam-myoho-renge-kyo” – but sadly no chant. So I hopped online to research these things. I found various versions of the chant on YouTube. And I found that the chant means “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra”. I also found out that SGI Buddhism stands for Soka Gakkai International and this is a Japanese branch of Buddhism.

You could do all of this without the help of the library, however this is where the library catalogue serves as a precision tool for the masterful library users. Using the library catalogue I can bring up the record of the book I enjoyed and then cross-reference by subject to find more books on the topic, or by that author to see what else this guy has written, or by the narrator because I enjoyed hearing the gorgeous English accent of Nicholas Bell.

So the self-initiated lifelong learning experience continues… It is a truly unique intellectual wandering specific to me, and my random interests; as it is for everyone. Through this process we learn new things, our knowledge increases, and some of these pursuits might lead to something like a job; but not necessarily. However the impact that is has on improved literacy is immense. And we know that improved literacy helps with freedom of expression, civil liberty and a democratic society.

Now let me tell you a story about this man Og Mandino. Augustine Mandino was born in 1923. After schooling he joined the U S Air Force where he became a military officer and a jet fighter pilot. He flew during World War II. After his military duties, Mandino became a door to door insurance salesman. But he was really bad at it. He became an alcoholic, failed his family, and became destitute. He wanted to commit suicide. He went to a gun shop to get a gun and end it all. But the gun shop was closed.

Next door there happened to be a library so he went in to wait until the gun shop opened. He browsed through the books in a library, and it was the books about self-help, success and motivation that captured Mandino’s attention. He began reading and found himself there at the end of the day, having forgotten all about the gun. He read hundreds of books that dealt with success, a pastime that helped him alleviate his alcoholism.

He found W. Clement Stone’s classic, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, and this book changed Mandino’s life. He wrote the bestselling book The Greatest Salesman in the World. His books have sold over 50 million copies and have been translated into over twenty-five different languages.

Mandino eventually became a successful writer and speaker. This was before the Internet and before TED talks. He died in 1996.

The library saved his life. Because…

  • It was there
  • It was open
  • It was free to enter
  • It was inclusive
  • Full of many books on a vast array of topics
  • He was not answerable to anyone
  • His personal SiLLé experience with the library saved his life.

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.

Pretty pictures

Like so many of us, I love art. I love to look at artworks created by artistic souls. I appreciate the creative process and the results of that pursuit. My first academic study was Art & Design. I have drawn and painted my share of artworks, but don’t call myself an artist.

I am lucky that in today’s libraries art is considered an authentic way to showcase the creativity of those in our community. The last public library service I worked in had a successful and inclusive local community art program that invited and encouraged anyone to submit works into the program. The library became a gallery that showcased new works every three months. Beginning artists had a place to try out their talent and successful pieces were often sold to art appreciators.

I am lucky again in my position at the public library where I now work, as I currently look after the Art for Loan Program. This program differs in that artists can include their works in the program and people who join the program can loan artworks and take them home to enjoy for 2 months. Then change them over for other works. The library again becomes a gallery where artworks are showcased and we all get to enjoy the creative efforts; and pretty pictures.

archibald_proze_showToday I visited the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery to see this year’s entrants for the Archibald Prize. It was busy with many other interested people keen to see these works. My favourite was the work by Anh Do of his father Tam Do. I didn’t realize Anh Do has this amazing artistic ability. I love the thick rough swathes of paint. The bold ‘unreal’ colours expertly and yet roughly placed to give form and light to the portrait. This photo of a postcard does not do it justice. The other portrait I loved was by Qiang Zhang of Yang Li. It shows a similar approach with bold thick imprecise brush strokes that give form to a large headshot.

My husband loved the portrait of Nick Cave, Citizen Kave by James Powditch. It intentionally looks like a movie poster and suggests a great movie with a cast to excite movie-lovers: Johnny Cash; Debbie Harry; Robert Mitchum; Tom Waits; and others.

Choose Your Own Library Adventure

In this exciting politically incorrect episode you get to Choose Your Own Library Adventure based on two possible scenarios:

Scenario 1 – The Community Lounge Room

The automatic doors open on time and in you hustle with the crowd of others from the community: seniors; pensioners of all ages; those needing care and their carers; the unemployed; homeless people; parents; children; babies; toddlers; teens; students; the aimless; business people; travellers; visitors; group members attending meetings; and the curious.

The people carry bags, phones, backpacks, coffee, water, food, shopping, books, DVD’s, CD’s, coats, laptops, hats, toys, and not a pen amongst them.

Many arrive on wheels: strollers; walkers; motorized scooters; shopping trolleys; wheel chairs; and skateboards.

This community library is inclusive, caters for all, is paid for by taxpayers, and welcomes everyone without obstacles, barriers, judgment or discretion.

Everyone makes themselves at home settling in for a few hours or the day. There is shelter, warmth, comfort, food, hot and cold drinks, and others to interact with. Everyone is free to eat, drink, talk, read, play games, surf the Internet, laugh, gamble online, shout, scream, run, dance, play music, run a business, study, research, argue, and put their feet up without concern or bother. Indeed they are entitled to do so.

This is The Community Third Place; the lounge room for the town; a makerspace; the library of the present, hopefully morphing into some similar version of the Library of the Future where community wellbeing predominates.

Personal hygiene in this community lounge room differs notably and is commented upon by customers and staff. What to do about this while remaining ‘pc’?

Random screams punctuate the day with too much frequency. These erupt from over excited children, and unfortunate adults forever anchored with the minds of toddlers.

Derelict and homeless people shuffle to their daily corner, rummage through their plastic bags for snacks, before sleeping the day away.

Damaged and disappointed people approach the library staff for assistance with a mixture of fear, bravado, entitlement, envy, and try to persuade or bully their opinions, complaints, and excuses, to further bend the flimsy policies to suit themselves. The “SHUSH” disappeared and the avalanche of guidelines for good behavior followed. Do what you want – make this space.

Custodial protection of our precious printed and digital words and knowledge is deemed to be of no real worth or value. Come take it – it is yours afterall.

Scenario 2 – The Quiet Study

This unassuming small shop/office has small quaint signs to let you know this is a “Library”. It is unapologetic in the retro feel that values books, ideas, and knowledge. It requires a membership application to join; beyond the usual personal ID with current address, a questionnaire is filled in, a deposit for the annual membership payment is made, and then the potential member must wait until the application is successful on approval by the management. A typical question might be: Name the title of your favourite book when you were a child. And: Name ten of the books you read in the past year, and please provide a short review of each. Etc.

Once approved, paid-up, signed the agreement to the terms and conditions, and have your library membership card, you are free to use the services. So you enter, sign in at the front desk, leave your bag, phone, and all belongings in a locker-room. There is water available in the foyer, but no drink or food is allowed in the Library. You are allowed to bring in a notepad (print or digital) and that is all.

The inner library has shelves full of books. There is no WiFi. There is not Internet access, other than pc’s with the digital resources provided by the library. There are no DVD’s, no music CD’s. There are pc’s for the library catalogue. There is a separate room for the printer, photocopier, fax machines available for the usual fees to library members. There are desks and seats scattered around for research, reading, writing, and study purposes.

There is no talking allowed. SHUSH reigns supreme. Talk and you are out. Repeat offenders have their memberships cancelled with no refund. Conversations with Master Librarians are done in whispers at the front desk.

The Library closes at lunch-time for everyone to go and have an unhurried meal. The Library reopens in the afternoon and then again in the evenings.

Although just offering books for browsing and borrowing, these include fiction, the classics, non-fiction, beautiful coffee-table books, books in a variety of languages as well as English, journals in print and digital format, and small collections for children and teens.

This is a place for quiet study and reflective practice. It is for personal enquiry and discovery. The resources are cared-for and protected. If you run, destroy property, speak loudly, act with entitlement, not pay your dues, or interfere with others, your membership will be cancelled for the year with no refund.

Choose Your Own Adventure Library

So do you want the maker-space, community lounge room complete with screaming people, for random, multi-purpose, entertaining, every person, public library/asylum?

Or are there some quiet unassuming people out there who want to return to the days of library shush, for a quiet space to study, learn, read great literature, and formulate new knowledge? And you would happily pay the annual membership?

Perhaps there is another alternative that I have not considered, apart from our excellent Academic libraries where students are the members.

What do you think?

An afternoon with ALIA

I was fortunate to be able to attend the final afternoon session of this year’s ALIA Conference in Melbourne.

Here is my summary:

eSmart Libraries Sallyanne English presented an overview of the Esmart Libraries program. Hume Libraries have recently been accredited. The eSmart program offers a framework for libraries so they can work towards incorporating cyber-safety into policies, procedures, training and technology use by staff and customers.

The Big Projects – update From the successful National Year of Reading in 2012, the Love2Read brand continues as a nationwide marketing effort. The Reading Hour is a current effort they  promote. They invite stories and stats from Australian libraries to spread the message.

Return On Investment Demonstrating the value of libraries is an ongoing need and there are many reports and advocacy tools available on the ALIA and PLVN websites. Of note in Victoria are these reports: Libraries 2030Creative Communities Cultural Benefits: and Dollars and Sense. These reports can be found here. NSW libraries offer this report for future planning.

ALIA PD Scheme Judy Brookner talked about the value of becoming a certified professional through the ALIA PD scheme.

IFLA update Marian Morgan Minden talked about the Lyon Declaration which highlights the need for open access to ICT. IFLA invite people to nominate a must-see library to the list of 1001 libraries to see before you die.

Digital Capability An overview of digital capability of libraries was presented by Sarah Slade of the NSLA Digital Preservation Group. This project has allowed an shared understanding of the needs and capabilities of libraries to manage digital materials.

It was also great to catch with colleagues/friends from across the State.