Blog every day of June – Changing things up – Wed 11 June

We do an email Quick Quiz once a fortnight for staff.  We send an email to them, focused on one of our online resources, asking three questions that involve them just doing quick exploration of the resource to answer. They then submit the answers and it is included in their performance appraisal.

We started this process as a means of making staff aware of our subscription databases and the basics of how to use them, so in turn they could promote them and their use to library users.  However, it has become more than that.

Quite a few staff have taken to them enthusiastically and have completed the majority of them.  There is quite some pride in their achievement, both on their part and on mine.

But of course, on the other side, are the staff who never seem to find a few minutes to complete the quiz once a fortnight.  However, I haven’t given up on them.

One of the things we are trying is to change things up a bit.  Rather than just having the quick quiz on one of our online resources, today we sent our first quiz out on our ILMS item search.  We chucked in few curly questions as we would expect our staff to be well versed in it’s use, but I was pleased to see that from the responses I have received already, that most were well on top of things.

What it has also done is to generate a bit more interest and enthusiasm.  People are keen to test their skills and even challenge what they think they know and that is what we aim to do here.

Besides our ILMS, which we will run more quizzes on, we will also do some on our events bookings, PC management system, Google calendars, discovery layer and more.

It’s early days yet, but it looks like changing things up here will help generate more interest and help up-skill even more staff.  If that’s what can be achieved on this small scale, we will have to look at what we can achieve doing the same thing on larger scale projects.

I would love to hear any experience of changing things up which worked for you or your library.

Blog every day of June – Reference interview – Tue 10 June

One of my favourite things about being a librarian is the reference interview.  I think it is also one of the great skills of the profession and also one that is under-appreciated. I have taught the basics of reference interviews to some of our junior staff over the years and it never ceases to amaze them how much of a difference just asking a few clarifying questions can make.

It takes skill to get library users to the place where we can realistically help them, without making them feel like they are being interrogated whilst at the same time making them feel listened to.  It is also a skill that is used in many vocations, under many different names, but its goal is the same – to get to the core of what is really being asked for.

Which is why I was pleased to see Andy’s Agnostic Maybe blog post – Reference: Life on the desk.  This is his take on the informal rules of the reference interview and I was delighted to find that this is exactly how it works on the front line, day after day for me as well.

Take some time to read it – you will smile as you read about your own daily reference experiences from the mouth of a fellow practitioner.

Blog every day of June – Great website advice – Mon 9 June

Its always interesting to read the stories, experiences and advice of library web specialists, but never more so than when you are faced with a website redesign.

As this is where we are, at present, David Lee King’s recent series of blog posts entitled “Developing an Online First Mentality” is very timely. So rather than restating his points, I encourage you to go and check them out for yourself.

Thanks David, you’ve given us much to think about.

Blog every day of June – Delicacy of online communications – Sun 8 June

We have an online form for people to contact us and people use it for a lot of things – asking questions about collections, querying their membership, info about events and so much more. The query comes through to us as an email and we usually respond to the user with an email (if they provide an address).

And generally email is a straightforward method of communication, but sometimes it requires some thought before submitting a reply.  The problem with email and this is when you use it for any form of communication, is that you don’t have tone of voice and body language to help you receive the message in its right context.

Therefore, what could be a straight-to-the-point message to one person, could be taken as rude by someone else.  And as some of our email communications are on touchy topics like claims returned items, overdue fines and outstanding bills, it is very important to ensure that you do everything you can with the printed word to make sure you get your message across the best way possible.

This means spelling things out more than you may need to in other forms of communication, or being extra friendly and helpful.  Its hard to give a template on what to do, because each communication is as individual as the person sending it.  I have found that taking the extra time to get it right can make a big difference to the quality of the transaction.

And of course, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well you articulate the message, some people are going to take offence anyway, but that is no different to any other form of communication.

We can only do the best that we can do.


Blog every day of June – Giving back to the profession – Sat 7 June

I love my job and I love my profession. So how can I give back to something that has given so much to me?

Well this blog is one way.  I can share my experiences, learning, training and more with anyone who cares to seek it out. (and thanks to all of you that do).  It has a secondary benefit in that it makes for a very detailed training report as well.  🙂  Many of my colleagues also do a great job of sharing great resources through social media.

Getting involved in library associations, like VALA and ALIA is another good way.  Its one thing to attend the great conferences and events they host, its another to be involved in the hosting – giving back

Get involved in your sector’s library group. For me in Victorian public libraries its the Public Library Victoria Network, and in particular the ICT Special Interest Group. I not only have been able to give back through this group, but have also received so much from these wonderful sharing people.

Write! Write! Write! Tell the library world about the great things that are happening in your library.  Whether it be for Incite – or a more scholarly journal, or a conference proposal – give it a try. You may not think your project is worthy, but there would be plenty out there who would disagree.  And there are never enough stories……

It may be daunting, but from one who has been in all those arenas, it is so worth it.  Although it is a great way to give to the profession, you end up getting more than you receive.

Blog every day of June – Best thing about working in libraries – Fri 6 June

There are many wonderful things about working in libraries:

  • the great jobs we have to do
  • the wonderful people we do those jobs for – our library users
  • the toys we get to play with
  • the people we met
  • the great titles we come across to read, listen to, watch etc.
  • and so much more

The best thing of all is the people we work with.

Library staff are just awesome. They are friendly, so helpful, understanding, encouraging and supportive. And they are not just like that with users, but with their colleagues and others.  Its just who they are.

I have had some rough times this year and it has never been a problem to go to work, or to miss some work as the case may be, because they are understanding, will be an ear if I need it and will cover whatever I miss as a result.

My work colleagues are awesome and they are huge reason for why I happily go to work each day.

And as an added bonus, I work alongside library staff from different public libraries in Victoria and encounter library staff from different sectors and across both Australia and the World, who are all just as amazing.

Thanks guys – you are the best.

Blog every day of June – Sometimes days surprise you – Thu 5 June

Today was full of little surprises….

I had a meeting at a new library today. The surprise there was that it was even more awesome than I expected. An added bonus was catching up with colleagues from another library service I hadn’t seen in while and being able to bring back some great ideas to my own library.

I came back to the office, to discover that the hot water service in our staff kitchen had died and flooded half the staff area – leaving the carpet mucky. That was a surprise, but fortunately for me, not one I had to clean up.

Then I got an email that gave me the renewal price for one of our online resources, one that I have been waiting for to finalise my budget and it was CHEAPER than I expected, by a reasonable amount. That just NEVER happens.

Then I got some positive feedback and some great advice and encouragement from my managers – they are really good at providing this, but I was not expecting it today (being such a busy day), so that was good.

We have our fair share of surprises, good and bad in our work. Some of mine have included finding the library has been robbed, discovering a gift left for me by a grateful patron, bumping into a colleague from university who I hadn’t seen since graduation and too many more to mention.

What are some of your favourite surprises from your library?  The good would be better, but I will commiserate with the bad as well.  🙂

Blog every day of June – Evolving spaces: Makerspaces

Today I attended this great seminar at the State Library of Victoria.  Here are my notes.

Jo Watson – State Library of Victoria

Spoke on her recent study tour.

Makerspaces are about sharing materials, learning new skills, community partnerships and more. Libraries have been involved in creative purposes for a long time, the difference is that it now has a name.

Aarhus Library has budget for innovation, opportunity to take risks, some worked, some didn’t. She attended the Maker Faire which brought diverse elements of the community together to explore.

It is more about the culture, not about the space.

Space to make: setting a context – Andrew Hiskens

Road map or treasure map, there is a lot of uncharted territory. There is no roadmap for the future, but we can have tools to help us find the way.

“Most things look better in circles”. Makerspaces exist in the overlap of learning, creativity, technology and culture and libraries are ideally placed to be the host.

Martin Westall on workplace creativity. Don’t articulate the task, don’t exemplify, don’t extrinsic ally motivate, don’t maintain focus, don’t reduce interruptions, don’t give feedback, don’t encourage self evaluation.  By keeping clear of the process, it frees from goals and control and encourages creativity. Seems counter intuitive, but helpful in explaining what this is all about.

Informal learning is never organised, but can be, with objectives that create an environment where people don’t necessarily intend or aim to learn. We want people to experience.

Best learning experiences are active, with others, achieving, involves a guide, challenging, has an audience, achieved early, includes a sense of others progress, some passion and a little eccentricity.

Gartner hype chart

Gartner hype chart

Gartner Hype chart. It’s helpful to frame your thinking on where these technologies are.

Disruptive innovation – Clayton Christensen. Insert disruptive technology graph with time and performance on the x and y axes.

Clay Shirky – Cognitive Surplus – we are returning to the 19th century and earlier where creation was done for yourself, not delivered by mass media.

Mastery is about hanging out, messing about, geeking out.

Disruptive technology

Disruptive technology

Value propositions for the public:

  • Access to technology they can’t yet afford – which is a traditional library role
  • Learning and growing informally
  • Individual and social experience
  • Mastery process
  • What it says about me and about us.

Value propositions for libraries:

  • Can learn and grow with your community,
  • Playing and experimenting with our role
  • Embracing change and being see to be doing so.

For stakeholders and funders:

  • Having a focus on the future
  • Future skills for community
  • It’s cool
  • Embracing change.

Something you begin to feel in your hands and learn in your mind.

Evolution of the Makerspace – Michelle Collins  and Andrew Pocock – Shared Leadership Program

What is it – a place for community to come together for informal, social learning characterised by hands-on experimentation, innovation, tinkering, play and a strong DIY ethos.

Where did it begin? Has been around for a long time. German hackers inspired US hackers to start the maker movement.  Have lots of different names and are run by community groups and other organisations.

“I think if anyone is positioned to help build workers for this new Information Age, it is the library.”  Corrinne Hill.

“People who say that it’s dumb to turn libraries into book-lined Internet cafes are right … Damn right libraries shouldn’t be book-lined Internet cafes. They should be book-lined, computer-filled information-dojos where communities come together to teach each other black-belt information literacy, where initiates work alongside novitiates to show them how to master the tools of the networked age from the bare metal up.” Cory Doctorow.

Fayetteville Fab Lab was the first public library to create such a space. Changing the role of users from consumers to creators. Three spaces, focused on fabrication, digital creation and little makers.

Adelaide City Library have introduced a Fab Lab. Includes an innovation lab, digital lab and media lab. Makerspaces can also be found at Library at the Dock and Mackay Makerspace in Queensland.

Chattanooga Library – Brian Resnick says it is the library of the future. (Library Journal article)

Useful resource, Library as Incubator project. Creative collaboration between artists and libraries and although US based, has contributions from all over the world. Eg. Spine poetry.

They have created a toolkit to help libraries to create a Makerspace. Will be available later in June through Libraries Victoria.

Makerspaces in Australian public libraries – Zaana Howard – Huddle Design

Presentation based on paper produced by one of her students last year, very different landscape now.

Question was what are the issues and challenges in creating Makerspaces in Australian public libraries. Only three case studies could be find and study conducted through interviews.

Putting community needs up front – future proofing libraries by involving users in creation and use of the space. By aligning needs, it makes the library a destination of choice.

Engaging the community in new ways. Although not a new concept, Makerspaces encourage the library as third place. It encourages the connection of people from the community in a more exciting way than has occurred traditionally. It enables new connections in new ways, eg. Retired engineers and students.

Access to shiny things which enables new learning opportunities for people.  Gives people the opportunity to tinker and learn informally. Benefit in educating the community before it becomes mainstream.

However, Makerspaces are not easy to set up. It is uncharted territory, new adventures, new things to learn. Can be difficult to change the culture of library stakeholders, staff and users. Staff training, rules of the space, legal implications are all big challenges.

Funding and budgets were achieved from a seed funding, partnerships, donations and using volunteers. Ensuring the right type of tech for your computer and the right balance of technology, particularly when it is changing so fast.

Copyright and other legalities, who owns what and other grey areas. There are many gaps in the law and more is untested.

Strategies included forging partnerships with educational institutions and local hacker spaces to make connections with the community. Value exchanges were very important.

Necessity of advocacy, being able to communicate the value proposition, to all levels, from funders to staff to the community.

Creating a blueprint for success – it’s not enough to just make something, but to share what they have learnt, their processes and procedures with all who are interested.

All participants were focused on the needs of their community, their libraries and the LIS industry.

To ensure success co- create services and spaces with your community. If they don’t need it, don’t make it.  Embrace opportunity for change, involve your staff, advocate for your users.  Tactics, create allies across the library, communicate well across the organisation and to the wider community and stakeholders. Re-purpose, something we are good at.  Mobilise people and get strategic – leverage support from upper management and the community.

Kathryn Hayter – SLQ – Key principles used to develop and manage a successful Makerspace

The Edge is a separate space next door to SLQ, which has both advantages and disadvantages. Have window bays for study and meetings. Have labs with 130 workshops a year, but are open access to other time. Have fabrication and a recording studio which is very popular. Have an auditorium which is a community space, but also programmable. Also have rooftop space for outdoor events.

It’s for, with and by our communities. Makerspaces are about the ‘by’.

390,000 visitors, 1700 programs with 40,000 attendees in 4 years. Began as youth space although not exclusive, but demographic is now older. Community is making the space on an ongoing basis and many past participants are now program facilitators. Audience is now 20 – 49 years. Visitors are mainly male, but program attendance is mainly female. Also run programs outside the space.

Run 40 programs a month and all book out quickly. Run across art, science, technology and enterprise. Programs include bio-tech fashion design, building and configuring computers and they have run these programs out in the community as well, using donated computers. They now have their own basic robotics kits which users can create program and race.

Have several 3D printer projects – they use corn starch for their print material. Programs include building your own 3D printrt, slime mold racing and build a DIY arcade game which begins with a kit and incorporates carpentry, programming and graphic design.

Edge team of 20, with different expertise, need passion resilience and diversity/ Their programs are based on what’s in it for the community,  who are we doing it for, welcome everyone, make it scalable, develop the audience, be responsive, expect change, be diverse and interdisciplinary. Set the space free.  It can be low tech or high tech. (Or no tech).

Set up was from library budget but now has to actively raise some of their own funding. Get sponsorship and partnerships, use collaborations and find grants.

Best feedback was from users whose lives have been changed.

Panel – Why is creativity coming in vogue? – big need for me to we – face to face. Wanting to find ‘my people’.  Also going back to me but using this to establish self identity.

Community consultation Is workshops and working with library staff to help design something that the community wants and that works for the library. Also get feedback from groups that are already in the community about local needs and with their partners and from direct interaction with current users. Find out community perceived barriers and deal with them.

Community partnerships, collaboration and creation – David Chanter – Connected Community HackerSpace

This HackerSpace is owned and run by the members of which there are 100.

HackerSpace is a space for like minded people to gather and learn from one another. Terminology was founded in Germany in 1981.

How they operate. Staffed by volunteers, including the committee, owned by their members. They empower every individual and aim to meet their needs. They are Incorporated in Victoria and have a governing committee as required by law. Simplicity is key, but they have some structure to control the chaos.  Financially they operate like. Gym, paying a monthly subscription. Have partnered with industry and get off cuts from them that they can reuse. Their operational expenditure is $25,000 per year. They need 40 members to sustain, but have 100.

Celebrating accomplishments within the community is key. Members are now customers but owners, they don’t pay to get, but pay to contribute. Have either donated or self built equipment.  Also perseverance is vital.  It’s greatest success is people.

Recommendations to libraries:

  • Read your community and have a feedback loop, ensuring that you’re adapting to community need as it changes.
  • Partner with everyone in sight – find those that want to use your real estate. Places to tinker and make a space are at a premium. Focus on a night for your efforts (not Tues).
  • Connect with other organisations in this space eg. Hackerspaces.

Not just a pretty space – Christ McKenzie and Felicity Gilbert – Yarra Plenty

Has learnt that technology is boring, users don’t care about the what, but want the why. What can the functionality achieve for them and what they want to achieve or will meet their need.

Use tapered off after the initial Makerspace launch. Why was it underused? Users didn’t know it was there, they didn’t know how to use the technology, and staff were unfamiliar and unable to demonstrate it.

Without context, technology is boring, so they moved to make meaning with it. Started with researching their community and also looked at the individual interest and experiences of library staff.

They have added extra resources, including a 3D scanner, Arduino starter kits, Lego Mindstorm kits, Spark Fun Inventors kits for Android, Creative Sketch and Touch tablet.

They recognised that the space needed to be open and inviting, but with closed spaces for focus. So they are getting appropriate furniture to provide this functionality and give direction as needed.

They are running programming events in the space, not all directly involved with the equipment there, to help cross promote.

Rorchestra program to run in library and in schools, for years 5 to 8. Kids create instruments from recycled material and record their sounds using their Makey boards.  The program will run regularly in the library, but also resulted in the creation of a kit which can be borrowed by local teachers.

It is the realisation of what technology can do, it’s what it can produce that excites.

Came to realise that it was more of a pop up space, rather than a full on space, but staff are enthusiastic and have come up with a strategy. The new furniture will help, but making it more program driven, add more equipment and hold new and different programming.

It’s definitely a great way to go, but doesn’t need to be over-thought and over planned. They create a real buzz and their space will morph into more stable space with opportunities and programming. They are enthused enough to put Makerspaces into other branches, but maybe with different foci, eg. Craft, writing and publishing and more.

Meeting future prominent trends – Debra Rosenfeldt – SLV

Victorian Public Libraries 2030 report was finalised in June 2013.  About predicting how public libraries can remain relevant for the next 15 or so years.  Has received much kudos from around the world.

Wanted to produce framework that could be used by any library, large or small. Involved over 80 stakeholders including library staff, including interviews, workshops on future scenarios, transitioning to the future and impact on public libraries analysis and finishing with a framework planning workshop.

It focuses around:

  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Brain health
  • Dynamic learning
  • Community connection

Two scenarios were developed as a result, the community and creative scenario of life in Victoria in 2030.

Opportunities for public libraries, include becoming shared learning hubs, creativity hub, community’s brain gymnasium, community learning, meeting place for people to gather, share and learn.


Blog every day of June – Helping library students – Tue 3 June

I love helping out the next generation of library staff.  These are people who are currently undertaking library studies at either TAFE or University, who approach us as they are doing a case study on our library.

We have quite a bit of information already available on our website, but they are usually seeking the sort of information which is not readily available on our website, because it is of no interest to our library users.

So queries about departments, cataloguing practices and much more, end up coming to us directly. And we are happy to spend time answering those questions, in person, on the phone and via email – which is how these requests come in – often at the last minute (no different to kids with school assignment really, lol).

We also further support these students with placements so they can experience working in a public library first hand.  We do our best to show them the whole picture, from talking to manager and learning about the different aspects of library service behind the scenes, to working at the coal face in the branches.

As an Information Librarian, it is gratifying because you are helping them to find the information they seek, but its extra special when you are on the receiving end of sincere and heartfelt thanks – along the lines of “thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it, you didn’t have to that, etc, etc.

This sort of response, which we receive in almost every instance, gives me confidence that the next generation of library staff will be just as amazing as those who have gone before.  Librarians are caring, sharing, helpful and enthusiastic and its nice to see that those who will follow will be just  the same.


Blog every day of June – Changing face of the reference collection – Mon 2nd June

As we head into the end of the financial year, I have been finalising the titles that we wish to get on standing order for our print reference collection for the next financial year.  I have been with this library service for many years, but even in the last 15, its amazing how much this aspect of the library service has changed.

Although the collection size has only grown overall, the print reference collection has shrunk dramatically.  In our biggest example, our largest library went from 18 x 2 metre bays (a total of 90 shelves) at the turn of the century, to a mere 24 shelves now.  And this will further reduce in coming years.

Is the age of the reference print book over?  Not entirely. There are still certain reference titles that all branches still want, like the Law Handbook, the Melways and the Vicroads Country Street Directory, amongst others.  Even though this content is all available freely online, some people are still more comfortable with it in book form and want to access it at a moments notice.

In our larger branches there are more resources, specifically chosen to meet the needs of their users but nonetheless, in much smaller numbers than they used to be.

I love the online world. I can look up anything at a moments notice, on any of the Internet-connected devices that I have ready access to. Its quick and easy and easy to use.  But there are still some things either better in print, or that people still prefer to use in print, so that’s what we will keep providing, at least for now.

I believe that books generally will still be around for many, many years to come.  Books that can only be referred to in the library and are kept for reference access only, I’m not so sure.

But it has me thinking about print reference collections in other libraries.  Do they still exist?  What do they look like?  Do they have a lifespan beyond this year, this decade?  What’s your experience of this specialist field and what do you think of its future?