My 2012

Inspired by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity I offer you a review of my 2012.

It was a fruitful year at work. After three years in a leadership role I feel the library team are functioning happily and effectively. This is positive and noticed and commented upon by our customers.

On a National level the National Year of Reading and love2read campaign provided a brand and focus to work around. Our locally organised and funded events were successful and included: an entertaining talk by David Astle of SBS’s program Letters and Numbers; a Dr Suess Olympic Reading Relay Challenge; a visit and talk by author Kathryn Fox; a short story competition with the NYR theme for November “What makes you cry?”; book reviews; and competitions. It must be said that for our small rural region the NYR offered nothing except a logo. We provided everything all the planning, funding, organisation, seeking and paying for authors, staffing. We should have used our own logo!

NYR12

On a State level Tomorrow’s Library and the Victorians Love Libraries campaign prompted passionate discussion. The Stage 1 Report has leapt to a ‘solution’ that needs quite a lot of detail IMHO. Hopefully Stage 2 will fill in the gaps, especially for small libraries on the remote fringes of the state.

The VALA Conference held in Melbourne in February was a professional highlight and I was particularly interested in the presentations by Jason Griffey, Eli Neiburger, Eric Miller, and Tim Sherratt.

The Local Government Rural Management Challenge was held in Renmark and I was part of the team. This experience was intense, challenging and worthwhile.

As a technology lover I enjoyed using my new devices to access information for work and play. I am adept at sourcing and reading eBooks, e-journals, and multimedia. I listen to a variety of podcasts from around the world on my iPod as I drive to and from work. I watch TV programs, podcasts and other videos on my iPad. I sync my devices to my work email and calendar to stay on track. Facebook is a horrid and deceitful form of communication that has lost its value since being infiltrated by advertisements, organisations, and payment for sharing. Twitter I ignore now that it has become too big and unwieldy. Free Apps are king. I read blogs via the Google Reader app and this is a very convenient way to spend down time. Pinterest and Goodreads are top of the tree in terms of social media I think.

I began a Master of Information Studies via distance education at Charles Sturt University. With just four subjects to complete, the first two subjects are Strategic Planning and Project Management. The reading of academic papers on these topics has been interesting and rewarding and I hope will assist me as I lead the library into the strategic planning process in 2013.

On a more personal level I have been meditating and practicing yoga and hope to increase my involvement in these.  Leadership for the disillusioned by Amanda Sinclair provided a useful model of mindful leadership that supports my own attitudes. I read her book then was lucky to attend a seminar at the SLV.

My eldest son was married earlier this year and my youngest son gets married early in 2013. My daughter was married some years ago now – can’t think how many! My mother continues to respond to all the cancer treatment they throw at her and my father does everything in his power to support her. My husband continues to cycle with the local cycling club, as well as working with the local Council.

How does your library grow?

In keeping with the National Year of Reading, I continue to write about the monthly themes, and for September it is “grow”. My focus is on public libraries.

Many people assume that public libraries keep all of their books, and when not being borrowed, they sit on the shelf or are kept in storage somewhere. However this is a myth. In reality public libraries have very limited space and books don’t often remain in any one spot for very long at all. It is a dynamic process of purchasing, processing, sorting, shifting, distributing, displaying, shelving, re-shelving, retrieving, loaning, issuing, returning, re-shelving, repairing, evaluating, sorting, boxing, and at the end of its use – selling in a book sale or sent on to some other need. There is often not a mysterious “stack” of old books preserved for prosperity, unless the library is the National or State Library.

Public libraries attempt to manage this dynamic process with a Collection Management Plan that addresses the demographic of their users to try to predict demand. This plan offers guidelines to manage donations, weeding, purchasing, and when used in conjunction with a clever Marketing Plan, should maximise the collections full extent.

Often people generously offer their pre-loved books thinking the public library will cherish them as much as they have, whilst in reality they are often boxes of dog-eared, smoke-saturated, food-stained paperbacks that only add workload and obstacles to an already jam-packed library work space and work load. The local public library does not have the capacity to “grow” to this extent. There are exceptions of course, and sometimes the books donated are real treasures.

Direct request from customers for popular books and other resources proves to be a useful way to grow the collection while responding to local demand. But it can’t be the only driver because often there are fantastic things that exist that people aren’t aware of, or know that they want – yet. This is where the librarians craft comes into play and they can shape the collection with their expertise, worldly knowledge and creativity.

The Long Tail is a concept coined by Chris Anderson in 2005 and when applied to the library collection is easy to understand. If a library were to buy copies of the latest popular release in quantities to supply the demand and responded each time to every best seller, the shelves would soon be lined with multiple copies of last year’s bestsellers and little else, and look like a short stumpy tail. It would be like a drinks refrigerator filled with one brand of beer, or just beer. Which might be fine for beer drinkers, but not so for those who prefer champagne or tea or green smoothies. The Long Tail theory shows that by offering an array of many different titles on a diversity of subjects that often the quirky niche subjects get a space on the shelf that will be justified when it is inevitably matched with the diverse and quirky interest of a customer. And to paraphrase Tim Flannery, “The continued existence of the species depends on diversity.” When you apply this to humans then our existence depends on a diversity of attitudes, interests and knowledge that can only be gained by offering a wide range of topics for investigation. A browse along the shelves of the non-fiction section  will show books about beekeeping, how to work a room, bushcraft, Hagar, heavy metal music, the cats pyjamas, work abroad, survival, ideas, Shakespeare (of course), Henry Lawson, travel, art, architecture, computer help, languages, pregnancy, health issues, etc, etc.

The serendipity of browsing library shelves is a well-known and enjoyable pastime and many have commented on this human behaviour. Bryan Loar of Brave New World says that by using the online catalogue and reserving items ahead of time then “self-directed discovery has been lost”. Professor Todd P. Olson of Berkeley in California values the experience of browsing the library’s shelves so much that he has launched a fundraising campaign towards the “continuation of library collections to ensure that the joy of discovery will continue for generations into the future”. Steve Penn talks about how “you walk around the shelves and suddenly find something that you weren’t looking for but seems just right for you.”  Maria Popova of Brain Pickings worries “that we are leaving little room for abstract knowledge and for the kind of curiosity that invites just enough serendipity to allow for the discovery of ideas we didn’t know we were interested in until we are, ideas that we may later transform into new combinations with applications both practical and metaphysical.” And I could go on…

So eBooks and other electronic resources seem to offer a solution to the problem of relieving limited physical spaces in libraries, but restrict the valuable and enjoyable experience of browsing for the serendipitous find. Again I try to imagine the library space where much is only available as an electronic file or online. An electronic collection can grow beyond imagination, storing and preserving every book forever! Of course the preservation of electronic files is another complex issue altogether. But as Seth Godin tells us “Librarians who are arguing and lobbying for clever ebook lending solutions are completely missing the point. They are defending library as warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.”

Well Seth Godin doesn’t have to convince me that libraries are not just warehouses for books, but if our buildings are not growing with new physical materials, and our collections are “hidden” in the “connected” cyber-world, then who and what is in the building? And how can the average Joe Blow discover, develop and grow with that serendipitous ah-ha moment of stumbling across that book that will change his life? I think it was Og Mandino who told the story about how he was destitute, homeless and was on his way to buy a gun to kill himself when he stumbled into a public library and this “saved” him and turned his life around. That weird unkempt, smelly, apparently homeless person who visits your public library every day might just stumble across his/her saving grace.

In the past I have thought that perhaps the library could display images or video on large screens of these hidden resources. Libraries do this now and have been for some time. And although it might create visual interest, it is just another screen in a world where screens proliferate. And the images would be limited and could not portray the full extent of the collection. And these have tended to be rather static displays even with the inclusion of video segments. Library catalogues could be (and perhaps are being) developed whereby the screen is used to display current catalogue items in a way that is more dynamic and interactive, uses multi-media, and has the ability to display at random or by selection, when not in use by a customer.  Perhaps the items displayed could be recommendations that respond to the person who passes by based on their past loans. I am sure the current technologies in Library Management Systems and RFID could already do this, however then we get into the murky waters of intrusion and privacy.

Dream

When we think about the topic of dreams we can go in two ways: the dreams we have when we are asleep; or the dreams we have when we are awake.

The dreams of our sleep consciousness tend towards the surreal that can stir our emotions in all of their complexity. We know they are not real. and have no control over them. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is a perfect example of a weird dream. Psychologists try to interpret dreams in an attempt to know the human psyche. Books on this subject vary from superficial to a far deeper enquiry. The work of Sigmund Freud and Jung has led this field.

The dreams of our waking hours are what interest me. What are they? How do we cultivate them? Why are they important? This stream of enquiry reveals our hopes, desires, inspirations, and what we do in order to bring them into reality. There are many authors who choose this topic as their mainstay of material, and there continues to be a hungry readership for this work as it continues to sell well and often. I immediately think of Deepak Chopra, Joseph Campbell, and Wayne Dyer. Their books serve to inspire us, instil the notion of possibility, and show us practical steps that we will make our dreams our reality.

A whole army of self-appointed gurus have followed this trend and spruik the message of self-actualisation. If it works then why do we need to keep hearing it? I suppose that our daily routines bring us back to reality. The bills need to be paid. Our employed work might not be fulfilling. Our personal life might be challenging and/or in disarray. So our dreams get a back seat. We remind ourselves that “one day” we will be able to realise that dream. One day…

In the meantime we can read those books that maintain our dreams. That trip to France, the time to paint, the space to develop, the freedom to find stillness or creativity, that yacht to go sailing off into the sunrise untethered.

Whatever your dream might be the local library is the place to go to fuel your passion. @love2read #NYR12  National Year of Reading 2012.