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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?

Zombies and the future of libraries

What do zombies have to do with the future of libraries you may well ask? In ‘reality’ if there was a zombie apocalypse, libraries would perish along with all of humanity. And being zombies, one would hardly expect them to have an active interest in the future of libraries or indeed any intellectual pursuit.

Like many librarians I have been thinking about the future of libraries a lot lately. It is a hot topic in the library world, mainly due to evolving technology, the proliferation of internet-connected personal devices, and the cheap and easy access to eBooks. The spread of the World Wide Web did not result in the end of libraries, but it has reduced our physical non-fiction collections substantially. Now with the second wave of internet-enabled technologies, does anyone need to go to a library at all to get hold of the reading material they want and need? Perhaps that end is in sight and this has resulted in a lot of talk amongst library professionals. So what are we here for?

The Victorian Public Libraries 2030 Strategic Framework was published in 2013 after 18 months of intensive collaborative discussions by public library staff in Victoria, of which I was privileged to be a part. Future scenarios were discussed in detail, how these scenarios might unfold, and what might be the key drivers to certain future scenarios. The drivers were identified as: technology, environmental issues, commuting, economic problems, health, increasing ageing population, cooperative endeavours, education and lifelong learning. The final stages of these discussions allowed us to add public libraries into the scene, thereby discussing how best to address and take full advantage of some new unfolding situations. Two future scenarios emerged: the creative scenario; and the community scenario. Both of these scenarios described the future public library as a community space.

Library as ‘community space’ has already had a whole lot of verbiage. Isn’t that what public libraries have always been? Perhaps I am not old enough to remember the places of shush, where reading books was done alone and in silence. There is value in the concepts of place-making, maker-spaces, and community collaboration. This has been, and continues to be, my experience of the library. The only quiet library space I can recall is the reading room of the State Library of Victoria; otherwise libraries are full of conversation, activity, people traffic, meetings, entertainment, coffee, and laughter. Oh, and books!

Personally, I am typically bookish, introverted, nerdy, and self-motivated. I like to explore notions on my own. This is the main reason why I love libraries. I enjoy following a pathway through literature that is entirely determined by me and as a result of my reading. I have described this as ‘delving into the book’; it is an entirely unique journey that begins and ends with the book, with regular forays online when new information is needed. I concur with the words that Nancy Pearl wants as her epitaph, “I’d rather be reading.”

The IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto 1994 does not mention the book at all, despite being written pre-internet. The manifesto defines public libraries as “the local gateway to knowledge”, and is essential for “fostering peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women.” Key mission number two, “supporting both individual and self conducted education”, validates my own habits. Public libraries are seen as fundamental to democracy, prosperity and knowledge, so how can anyone consider a future without libraries?

At the recent ALIA Future of the Profession Summit Mark Pesce urged those librarians present to share their knowledge in order to plan a future for libraries. He reminded them that “the culture of sharing has its origins in the library.” And while “the light of knowledge shines more brightly than ever before, from two billion smartphone screens”, this is an opportunity because it is librarians who are the experts “in an environment of informational hyperadundance.” While the librarians in Victoria did just that last year, the resulting framework is one interpretation of possible future scenarios. The trick is in being able to recognise the triggers and apply the strategies at the right time.

Neil Gaiman is an enthusiastic supporter of libraries and he explained recently that “everything changes when we read”, that “libraries are the gates to the future”, and by closing libraries “you are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.” A dire warning indeed!

So back to the zombies… Dr. Matthew Finch is responsible for The Zombies of Tullamore:

In an interview with Corin Haines he talks about his approach to attracting people into the library. By choosing a theme that excites the imagination of a particular audience, he uses the activity to enhance the literacy experience within the library. I’m sure lots of librarians and teachers do this already, but this is a good example of how to do it well and to instill the learning opportunity into the activity. It is more than just a trendy promotional hook; it is immersive learning through role play and self discovery.

He identifies “why Zombies are good for libraries:

  1. Zombies attract kids and teens of all backgrounds.
  2. Zombies remind us that libraries are about more than shelves.
  3. Zombies promote choice and independent learning.
  4. Zombies may decay, but immersive literacy lives on.”

A lot more about the future of library profession can be found here.

This is what I know:

  • People will keep creating new content: fiction and non-fiction.
  • People will want to read that content for a multitude of reasons.
  • People will always expect and deserve to get unrestricted access to reading materials.
  • Technology will continue to evolve and change the way we live.
  • Library funding will continue to be threatened.
  • Librarians will continue to want to organise content.
  • Libraries will continue to be adapted and adjusted to accommodate the new.
  • Fun makes learning easier.
  • Zombies are fiction.

P.S. R. David Lankes talks about the future of libraries in this presentation From Loaning to Learning

Smelling the roses

Yellow, purple, white, red and orange flowers are in full blossom in my garden. The perfume from the flowers on the orange tree and grapefruit tree fill the air with a citrus fragrance. I have picked the first roses of the season and their perfume fills my kitchen.

 

Since my recent change of direction I have not had a minute to spare. I have been totally occupied and feel fresh, rejuvenated and creative once again. I have so many ideas coming at me that it’s hard to keep up and to know which track to take.

 

I have practiced playing the piano, designed a new website, been to the movies, eaten out with friends and family on several occasions, shopped, walked, cycled a 60 kilometre route through the nearby hills, cleaned the house and my study, enjoyed a lively discussion at Book Club, listened to music and practiced yoga. And this is just week one of my new life. I am also thinking about the next stage of my oil painting of tree ferns. I have been stuck after the initial laying on of paint, but now I feel free to attack the next stage.

 

I have also worked in the local public library. What a great relief it is for me to once again be working in a positive, professional, and truly valued service to the community. To be able to help people find the information they seek and to see their immediate joy when we succeed in helping them. It is a pleasure and a privilege.

 

One elderly lady wanted pictures and diagrams of Couta boats so that she could restore a model of a Couta boat that she had inherited. We have, in the collection, a fantastic book that answered her question specifically.

 

This public library has Wii’s for the junior electronic games folk in our community. I have little experience with Wii’s, so after switching them on, I left it to the 6 year olds to work it out. And of course they did. One excited boy proudly told me he had reached Level 4!