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.

Live & Local

IMG_7833It has been a busy week for me as I have organised the local events to celebrate National Library Week.

We kicked off the week with the Sydney Writers Festival.

This year’s Sydney Writers Festival was live-streamed across the country, and it was my job to liaise with the organisers to have it broadcast at Frankston Library.

The quality of the live stream was excellent and it really felt as though you had front row seats in Sydney. Andrea Louise Thomas was the MC for our local event and she had prepared questions for audience discussion after each talk.

IMG_0446I was fortunate to enjoy these wonderful sessions on the Friday:

The ‘live and local’ sessions continued on the Saturday and Sunday, at the library, and these were very much appreciated by those that attended.

National Simultaneous Storytime was celebrated with much hat wearing fun by lots of children who took part at our libraries. We also offered video versions on our Facebook page.

IMG_7848The current Miles Franklin Award winning author Sofie Laguna spoke eloquently to an eager crowd mid-week; The Eye of the Sheep a source of much discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_7842A local pianist Yani played our old possum-painted plunka during two lunchtime periods. She competed bravely against dodgy piano keys, seagulls, crows, traffic noise, wind and rain. I sat contentedly listening to her imperfect renditions of Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and others.

We conclude our busy week with a live music concert with Sympatico.

A competition is yet to be concluded. We posed the question: ‘When was the first free library provided in Frankston?’ The answer is on display in our libraries.

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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.

 

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.