VALA 2016 – Day One – R. David Lankes, Lee Rainie and so much more

Always take away great thoughts and ideas from VALA – here’s what I got from Day 1.


Librarianship: saving the world one community at a time – Dr R David Lankes

Technology advances have made the world a smaller place.

Not all is well in the world and librarians have a part to play in helping out.

Power of words – words matter, what we call people who come into the library.

Libraries don’t do things, librarians do things. The library is just a space and we devalue what we do by not taking credit for our work. The result is schools and public libraries that no longer have library staff but are still called libraries – they are just closets with collections.

Strike user from the library vocabulary. Only drugs and computers have users. Consumer is worse. The term negates the possibility that they can produce. Better to use member – it signifies participation and ownership. Client is quaint but also ok.

Every library has communities, regardless of what type.

Power of narratives: power of story – helps people to identify and relate; social constructs – recall bias. However, often we make up stories because they sound rational. Libraries need to get involved in the messaging business and craft the stories of our communities.

David encountered several narrative stories in his world tour.

Narrative 1 – Racial strife – related the story of Ferguson and Baltimore Libraries. Scott Bonner at Ferguson held strong and called for unity and invited teachers to teach in libraries, fed the kids and made the story about family – they stayed open throughout. The same in Baltimore, the library stayed open, helped with groceries and legal aid. Librarians made a difference.  They changed the. narrative from racial strife to we build diverse communities.

Narrative 2 – Austerity – cutting back of funds for public services. It’s worldwide, not just the EU. Libraries are going to be the last institution standing and everything is being shifted to libraries – publishing, government support and more.

We have so much data that shows how much ROI that libraries give. If investment was given to libraries, how much more would the communities benefit? Cazenovia Public Library helped expand literacy in Madison County – giving people not only education but worth.

Makers paces have value because many people learn by doing. Can get excited about what they do and share it eg. science teachers able to print out 3D representations of atoms to show students

New narrative – We transform into opportunity.

Narrative 3 – migrant crisis. Libraries are providing language classes and literacy support, government support and celebrate culture. Change the narrative to Citizenship. New narrative – We are a Gateway to cultural identity.

Narrative 4 – Nature’s fury – public libraries can be emergency relief support centres, provide power and wifi, distribute food and shelter, took supplies out on bookmobiles. New narrative – We are there in a crisis.

Narrative 5 – security over privacy – government taking more control and more surveillance to protect us. The response to living in a dangerous world is the loss of privacy. Security comes not through limiting freedom but in inclusive communities where neighbour knows and respects neighbour. Librarians knit communities together. New narrative – We are a noble profession.

This conference is about how and what, but need to look at why we do things. Why do we do what we do, but what can else can we be doing?

We need to be doing, we need to be proactive in all these new narratives. We serve all, not just those who walk into our buildings. That takes courage, it takes opening the doors and leaving the buildings. Think of your collections as tools to help make our communities smarter and better, but like a tool, it does nothing until you pick it up and use it. Even our buildings are just tools.

“A library after hours is like a coral reef without fish, it’s beautiful but dead.”

We are in multiple crises and our communities need us. They need librarians.

The challenge is to expect more – need to take action, need to change the world.

Becoming a librarian because you love books is like becoming cop because you love guns. “You’re a librarian, you must love  to read? Yes I love to …….as well, but I don’t have time to do that at work either.”

We need to change the perception of libraries, create a new nostalgia. Libraries have to be more participatory and librarians have to make this happen.

You can inspire, you can make librarians more important and you can change your communities and you can change the world.


Building an Internet of things environment in the library – May Chang

We need to find a place for ourselves in this environment. Garners chart of hype chatted this as not becoming mainstream for around 5 years. The potential for IOT in Austrlia is 3.2 billion by 2019 eg. Home automation, smart buildings eg. Deloitte – The Edge.

Automation and control, includes process optimisation, optimised consumption etc.

Once you have a digital overlay over a city, you have a smart city.

Information and control is another IOT function. The amount of data produced is massive. Apps available include Bluetooth toothbrushes, wifi connected fridges, wearable devices and health devices.

Can use this information to improve the library eg. Where people are connecting to wifi – why there and how can we improve our space to improve this area and make others more attractive. Can create indoor navigation guides, occupancy tracking and more.

Chang has become a partner in technology, being a test bed for new apps etc. eg. Indoor navigation for blind people. Her library has now provided the infrastructure to support this sort of development and test it in the library.

They used Beacons for tracking – many different types but they support many different industries including museums. Each device has a unique identifier enabling you to differentiate. Have a signal radius of 30 metres. Can be used to give people instructions on where they need to go.

They used LightBlue Explorer app to configure the Beacons.

Information security is needed at all levels, needs to be opt in, data privacy so that the only information retained is the device ID and data is only retained for the year.

For those involved in the trial, they requested more info but laid it all out in plain English, but then allowed more personalisation. Eg. Name, level, favourite space in the library.

This is providing good service, but then the data can be invaluable, so analytics needs to be an important part.


20/20 vision: the librarian, he publisher and the technologist – Andrea Gilbey

The future digital library – three groups may be able to help each other to survive into the future. We tend to work in silos and lose sight of the bigger picture. Need to foster more of a culture of trust.

Josiah Wedgewood succeeded on many levels due to one key principle – collaboration. If he could achieve that 200 years ago, what more could we achieve now.

“Technologists, publishers, librarians, authors, agents and business strategists are all working on the same problems – just from different angles.” Palfrey 2015

Publishers and libraries have similar goals. Libraries 2030 (PLVN report) points what can we learn from each other.

Need to talk about ideas worth implementing.

Australia is known as being library adopters. Australian Libraries should also be – need to
get over being risk adverse and continue being creative.

If not now, then when and if not, where will we end up as opposed to where we could have


Digital curation of public policy resources – Amanda Lawrence

Find creating library impact through social engagement OCLC.

Grey literature or organisational publishing – doesn’t come with a catalogue record.

If policy debates are to be successful, the public needs to have access to policy proposals. (We need to have catalogue records for key reports – not just print files in reference etc)

To protect important policy content, archiving and Creative Commons licences are vital.

Grey Literature Strategies Project researched users, producers and collectors. Via surveys with over 1200 responses received. Over 60% of users need grey literature for their work, producers to be involved in the debate, particularly reports and journal articles. However collectors had a higher focus on books/ e-books.

$30 billion on grey literature in Australia, with a value of $33-43 to users.


Round Table – Content is changing, access is changing

John – YBP, Rosalia – Sage, Igor – Press Display, Chris and Roxanne Missingham

Publishing, vendors and libraries all have different tensions that do clash to a certain extent. Libraries have limited funds, publishers have production costs and collectors can’t always provide and have their own costs.

Communication between all parties is vital.

Content is changing and is not limited to one container – it can be a book, with teaching and learning guides, videos and interaction in some form. With marketing and author costs on top of this, it all adds up.

There is a mandate for libraries and aggregators to help educate publishers about what users really want.

Activism could be as simple as ringing News Corp to complain about pulling their content from Press Display. Publishers need to hear directly from librarians about the good, the bad and the ugly.


Trove and social media today – Catriona Bryce

A presence in social media should increase a sustained use of The host organisation.

All the numbers: number of followers, number of tweets, impressions, engagements, clickthroughs and impact?

Numbers are not representative of what is truly happening. Are they really engaging with the content? The numbers can’t give impact, but you can make assumptions from them.

Trove ran an event – The Stress test was designed to try to break the new newspaper interface. Promoted on social
media and the test was hugely successful with 10 times normal traffic and Trove broke. In doing so they gave developers valuable information.

Am I talking to people just like me – yes, it was nearly 3/4 organisations. Of those 43% were GLAM, 16% genealogy, 3% education and 38% were other. Majority from Australia, most were GLAM employed.

However, they are tweeting to just like them, which was great for collaboration but not for access. After surveys, they introduced Facebook to aim at education, CALD and indigenous audiences.

Stories – case studies will be used to support statistics so that impact can be more fully measured, including surveys, social media interactions, and interviews.

Impact comes from stories such as a designer who found a very old article on Trove about a prosthetic hand, which he used to help design a new prosthetic hand for children.  This involved Trove in Australia, the SA Medical Museum and people in South Africa and Europe.



The puzzles librarians need to solve – Lee Rainie

Pew does research but without an agenda – they are a fact tank as opposed to a think tank.

Starting point: library foundation is pretty solid. Previous Pew reports found:

  • People think libraries are important, especially for communities
  • People like and trust librarians
  • People think libraries level the playing field for those without vast resources
  • People think that libraries provide services that are hard to get elsewhere
  • People have libraries have rebranded themselves as tech hubs.

Knowledge creation has three stages: creation, interfaces and dissemination.

Learning as identity – more people consider themselves lifelong learners, collect information about topics of interest and look for opportunities to grow. Also a lot time is being invested in personal interest learning, mostly to make life more interesting. More than half of those employed were ongoing learners.

Libraries have six puzzles to solve.

Future of personal enrichment and entertainment?

Is it totally physical or virtual. Individual or community focused. Collection or creation. Archive or portal. For everyone or specialised.

People see libraries as sanctuaries, with comfortable spaces for reading, working and relaxing.  But they also want to keep the other noisy spaces.

Future of pathways to knowledge?

Old process – learning as transaction to new process – learning as a process. From certain to changing, from receiving to contributing, from hierarchical to ecological, from individual to network.

Future of public technology and community anchor institutions?

Libraries poll well. Perception has changed, with people now wanting more space, more tech
and events.

Clear public mandate is to do something for education. High perception that libraries should
coordinate more closely with local schools in providing resources to kids. Libraries should
also offer programs to teach technology to everyone, such as computers, smartphones and apps.

Future of learning spaces?

Personal learners are majority online but 1/4 in libraries.

Future of attention and its structural holes?

Users are spending more time dipping into streams, mostly just to find out what is going on
in the world.

Also, getting signals – alerts setup to deliver information about what they care about.

Snacks – when you have a short time span to fill.

Where do you fit on the continuum? ALA’s Confronting the future report.

Libraries can be people, places and platforms. Be tech experts, master teachers in lifelong learning, visionaries for the knowledge economy, experts in sense making, context and curation and monitors of algorithms.

Place: reconfigured and repurposed – artefacts are connected and data rich, nodes for databases and media, test beds and community information and media stewards.

Platforms: community resource- trusted and watchdog, advocates for free and open, data and collection repositories, advocates for closing the digital divide.

Be not afraid – the world needs librarians in these conversations and that is where we are.