Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

Together we are stronger – some highlights of ALIA 2014

September 21, 2014


It’s always easy to have good intentions about blogging every day of a conference. But once the programme starts you find yourself sucked into a vortex of keynotes, daytime sessions, breakfast sessions, the conference dinner, catching up with old friends and colleagues, meeting new friends, chatting to exhibitors, scrounging stationary from said exhibitors, eating, drinking etc etc. Then all you have the energy to do when you return to your hotel room is empty that day’s goodies from your show bag, play with some of the ideas from the sessions, and then get some rest before the next days whirl begins.

So here I am, on the third fourth day after the ALIA2014 conference finished, and all I’ve written up is the pre conference, self guided, walking tour of Melbourne CBD libraries.

Even since the conference finished things have been pretty full on, with a library coach tour and then two days of private sightseeing and activities.

Hence this post is a random collection impressions of what stuck out for me – more considered rumination may illuminate other things of significance (especially once the papers are up on the conference website!)

Fun Things


We had a puzzle to solve in the downstairs exhibition hall – a giant, pixilated Lego mural – to be filled square by square starting something like this…


3D Printing

I finally got to see a live demo of 3D printing in the exciting breakfast session Print your own workshop : intro to 3D design, printing and application run by my West Australian compatriot @edwardshaddow

We saw the delights that can be made by the experienced :

IMG_0820.JPGWinged Victory of Samothrace aka Nike

We saw an expandable bracelet being printed out:


We looked at TinkerCAD, browser based software for designing objects, and heard we may need Netfabb to analyse and fix the results!

We asked ourselves if we needed a 3D printer in our libarary and the answer was yes!, no!, maybe, probably not…

I couldn’t use TinkerCAD on the iPad, and I hate missing out on the fun, so that night I downloaded the 123D Design app from the same publisher and made a basic TARDIS shape.


I was thrilled that a LibraryBox was set up to provide handouts and downloads – like a 3D Printer, I’d heard of Librarybox but never seen one in action.

I want all of this! (But as my mother would say “I want never gets!”).

Getting users back to the library via Wikipedia

Wikipedia is ubiquitous, and, like any encyclopaedia, it can be a good starting source, with the added disadvantage that it can be prone to vandalism. We learned how to lead Wikipedia users (especially undergraduate students) from Wikipedia to broader world of published resources?

US librarian John Mark Ockerbloom has created a simple bit of code that adds a Library Resources Box to Wikipedia articles. The box directs a search to any one of a number of libraries catalogues using VIAF or LC headings.

In their session Digital doorway: Gaining library users through Wikipedia, Andrew Spencer and Brendan Krige gave a live demonstration of adding this box to the article on Douglas Mawson:


I got so fired up by the simplicity of this that I spent way too much time that evening adding boxes to Wikipedia entries for J S Battye, Elizabeth Jolley, Tim Winton, Randolph Stow and Albert Facey. And I fiddled with the Douglas Mawson box to add links to books by him, online and in libraries…

A caveat – the box doesn’t show in the mobile version of Wikipedia – you need to be in the full site to see it.


Yes, copyright and fun in the same sentence! Trish Hepworth from the Australian Libraries Copyright Committee gave a packed out room the wildly entertaining romp Everything you ever needed to know about copyright – in 15 minutes which was followed by a passionate panel session Copyright and libraries: Practical challenges and innovative solutions.

Librarians are passionate about copyright reform and intellectual freedom so the crowd left the session ready to storm the copyright barricades bearing the banner of Fair Use!

(Backstory of this image here)

And of course the Melbourne Laneway themed conference dinner


Interesting Things

Using the Guidebook app to arrange your conference schedule. Once we’d got the hang of the venue the app made it a cinch to work out where you had to be next (and if you switched streams you got plenty of exercise as there was a goodly walk between the meeting rooms!)

Why did I not already know about the Australian Government Web Archive? Fortunately Allison Dellit enlightened us. It is still in its early stages, but goodness, it promises to be a treasure! Although the name needs to change – AGWA is already used by the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

I learned to look at the ANBD (Australian National Bibliographic Database) in a different way – thanks to Monika Szunejko’s paper Building Our Australian Cloud. We librarians have been doing cloud computing before the term was invented!


Things you should avoid

Populating PowerPoint slides with detailed screenshots of Exel spreadsheets and then looking at them in surprise and saying something like “oh, sorry, you can’t really read this”. Your presentation is supposed to attract our attention and make us want to read the detail later…

Ploughing on with your presentation when the session chair has rung the time bell (twice!)

Fortunately these were the exceptions!

Inspiring things

As told by my tweets…


Keynote by Roly Keating (BL CEO) – The British Library in a globalised world


Marie Ostergaard (Aarhus Public Libraries) – Dokk1 : a performative library space? – lots about design thinking!



Keynote by Susan Benton (President and CEO Urban Libraries Council) – The essential collaboration.




Keynote by Dr Marianne Broadbent (Managing Partner NCS Global) – Building professional and personal leadership capabilities.

Majella Pugh (UQ) – Yes we can! Communicating library value to a parent body.

Cheryl Hamill, accepting the award of Fellow of ALIA.

What was it?

We didn’t quite finish our Lego mural, but it’s guardians put in all the coloured base plates to give us this result…



And finally, thanks to the ALIA Committee for the work putting the conference together, to the staff at the Pullman for the food and service, and to the exhibitors for all the fun freebies and giveaways…


Food, Music and Libraries – meandering in Melbourne on Monday

September 16, 2014

Impressions of Melbourne…

Still on Perth time so slept in till 8, then trotted up to a nearby 711 for the essential Myki transport card. Can’t use Public Transport in Melbourne without it.

Took a crowded commuter tram up St Kilda road to the city and made the long hike up Bourke St to Kinfolk cafe for breakfast. Kinfolk have volunteer waitstaff and direct all their profits to four development projects, and the food is delicious.


Once fed and coffee’d it was time to see how many libraries I could visit from the list of Fabulous and Famous Libraries in and Around the Melbourne CBD (a suggested pre or post ALIA2014 Conference activity).

(I did make a little detour into the enticing Wunderkammer on my way)

I began with the august surrounds of the Supreme Court Library. No photography allowed so I’ll have to paint a word picture of this domed and galleried space with two stories of bays of law tomes radiating from the centre like intellectual spokes from a wheel. The casual visitor is impressed by the many portraits of Judges and Justices in their robes and wigs (dead(?) white males with one exception), and amongst them in sombre black an portrait of the first librarian. Also sombre, in one of the display cases, is the judge’s black cap. A more frivolous note could be struck on the grand piano – the staff on duty were relative newcomers and couldn’t tell me when and if it was played.

Crime of a more cheerful sort could be found up the road at the Atheneum Library. From it’s origins in 1839 as a Mechanics Institute Library the Atheneum has survived and grown to fill a unique niche as a successful subscription library with a particular strength in Crime Fiction.


I chatted to Tom about the library’s history and took advantage of their hospitality to conference delegates (otherwise it’s members only) with a cup of coffee and some classic crime.


Survived my departure via one of Melbourne’s oldest working lifts

IMG_0784.JPG and headed off to City Library.

Here, behind an unprepossessing facade in Flinders Lane I found a buzzing hub of books, people, study rooms, arts projections, and an art gallery in a friendly rambling warren of a repurposed building.



I also found another piano, this time very much in use with musicians welcome to play at almost any time – I wandered to “Misty” and left listening to “Nature Boy”.


More music accompanied me back to meet and lunch with a colleague at Kinfolk – a cellist in a lane way (with the poignant sign “this cello for sale”) and a violinist serenading Collins Street.

Refreshed by lunch I took a tram back up to Swanston St and the rather overwhelming State Library of Victoria. The facade is modestly swathed for renovations and the entrance and information centre areas don’t strike the eye so it was a shock to pass in to the grand Redmond Barry Reading room

and a greater shock to pass into the iconic domed main reading room – of course I’d heard of it, and seen pictures but nothing prepares you for the sheer scale of the place!

I took some time to look at their collection of art depicting Melbourne, children’s book illustrations, and, in the Dome gallery, Mirror of the World which traces the human urge to write and create from manuscripts and incunabula to pulp fiction and artists books.

I left the Les Miserables exhibition for a later visit. Victor Hugo’s words are emblazoned in French and English on the walls of the information centre.


After that rarefied excursion into the breadth and depth of human knowledge I needed something to bring me back to earth so I crossed the road to The Little Library at Melbourne Central – a funky shop front book exchange in a shopping centre.


Unfortunately I had not saved the best till last, as I found when I dropped in to RMIT library – which looked like your standard tertiary library, functional and visually unexciting, so I moved across the road to see the new and trendy Swanston Academic Building with its many “informal learning spaces” which in my tired state looked a little like dark, uncomfortable and depressing alcoves in the many corridors.


Maybe I needed to see it in the morning.

There were several more libraries on the list but I’d come to the end of my time and headed back to my hotel to have a rest and get ready catch the bus to Brighton to sing with Sing Australia – but that’s another story…

Sydney Libraries 2 – I want a sustainable library with a robotic stack retrieval and returns system; a Chinese OPAC; and a grand piano…

July 23, 2012

Well, the ALIA 2012 conference is over and my resolutions of blogging each day were blown out of the water by the pace and intensity of the programme. Now a couple of weeks have gone by and it’s time to revise my notes, remember, recap and extract the best of what I’ve learned.

An early highlight was the pre conference tour of libraries in Sydney’s North. A coach load of 45-50 librarians met at noon at the Pitt Street entrance to the Hilton and taken to three newly opened libraries to hear how they were developed and see what we could learn from their experiences.

The first visit was to Ryde, where a bleak, dark 1970s library moved across the road to a light, bright, accessible space in a newly refurbished shopping centre.

Here was a library that is truly a third place. Accessible from the street and from the centre the library was warm, bright (a green carpet that couldn’t be changed led to a green and orange colour scheme) and inviting. Staff had worked closely with architect and project manager on the design. Much planning and training had also gone on ahead of the move to prepare staff for the very different style of operations the new library engendered. The collection was weeded and rearranged to be browse-able (discoverable?) in subject and genre themed “rooms”. The bookshelves were on castors and could be moved to create space for library events. I particularly loved the giant chess set and the grand piano – both of which (if I remember rightly) had been brought in temporarily for the opening festivities and kept as permanent features…


Our next visit was to Macquarie University where a brand new library building replaced a 70s brutalist structure. The new building is a sustainable building with a green roof, lighting that responds to the presence of people, recycled water for flushing the loos (because the water is brown they warn you not to keep flushing in the hope that the water will come clear!). Light wells to the lower levels were planted with bamboo, and our guide pointed out the toy gorilla that had been left in the thicket as a parting gift from the builders.

The intelligent heart of the building is its Automated Storage and Retrieval System. By using a four storey high robotic industrial racking system they were able to store 70% of their collection in stack, where it is instantly retrievable. 900,000 volumes are held, with room for double that number. They are shelved in metal tubs and identified by bar code so there is no need to shelve them in order. This has doubled the floor space available for student study areas, the two upper floors are all study area, with no collections and separate access so they can be opened when the other library services are closed. High use collections are on the lower two floors along with practice presentation booths fitted out with the same equipment as lecture theatres and tutorial rooms. Lots of powerpoints are available and the number of private study booths had to be increased due to student demand. A separate postgraduate study area was so popular that they had to change the access card system after access cards started turning up for sale on eBay!

We were mesmerised by the ASRS (with a touch of humour and humanity each robot crane had been named…) and only the promise of an excellent afternoon tea bribed us away from it. A brilliant solution to the problem of competing demands for space from collections and students but, I suspect, a very expensive one!

Our final visit was to Chatswood library. Here the library was part of a new (sustainable) community centre. I was particularly impressed by their Chinese OPAC which had a touchpad and stylus for searching using Chinese characters. If you want to know more about it you can read the full paper presented at the conference.


They also had a rather snazzy automated returns sorting system.


We then returned in our coach to Sydney heads spinning with what we had seen… Which is when I summed it up:

I want a sustainable library with a robotic stack retrieval and returns system; a Chinese OPAC; and a grand piano…

Sydney Libraries 1 – SLNSW

July 10, 2012

I’m here in Sydney for ALIA2012. The conference starts tomorrow, but I’m here a day early for a pre-conference tour of Sydney’s North. Having a morning to kill before that tour I walked down to the State Library of NSW to say hello to Trim and have an incognito look around.


Highlight for me at SLNSW was finding this fabulous collections statement (next to the very big Footpath Philosphers book):

Library collections provide a fundamental record of a country’s history and society. The State Library collects the biggest and the smallest, the academic and the popular, works of greatness and works of everyday Australians. These essentially democratic collections are vital for building an understanding of the history and culture of this nation.

I wish I’d written that! It encapsulates so beautifully what heritage collecting is about.

On a more pragmatic level I was interested to see that you have to pay for a locker ($2 for four hours), and, one bank of lockers offers charging facilities for laptops and phones.


Had a look at the lovely Wedgwood exhibition (highlighting Australian connections), and the astonishing Shakespeare Room – thankyou Marilyn for sharing your knowledge. Peered into the wonderful traditional reading room of the Mitchell Library (evoking nostalgia for SLWA’s old Hackett Hall!). Passageways between old and new buildings are enlivened by displays of treasures from the collections.

Meanwhile I’m using the library as a “third space” to write this blog post, amongst the newspaper readers, internet users and sundry others (there are several spaces to do this, the verandah (more for individuals and small groups) and the glasshouse learning space (for collaborative work)).

Now for the libraries of Sydney’s North!

On being a free range librarian (or roving over breakfast)

July 6, 2011

Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. My “show off my new iPad” session at my regular Wednesday morning breakfast at Wild Poppy morphed into a full-on reference session when one of my friends asked “what’s this Troves thing”.


Next thing we were searching on Trove (and the SLWA catalogue). Two reference queries done and links emailed before I’d started work. These will never show up on MPOW’s statistics. …but it does go to show how the ground has already shifted professionally, and how mobile devices are already a part of our services. …and as MPOW is shifting me away from front line services how I’ll still be getting my reference kicks in my private life.

[With apologies to the original “Free Range Librarian”]

[Blogged on the iPad on the train]


Can we blogjune? Yes we can!

June 28, 2011

I am Fran
Fran I am
Can we blogjune?
Yes we can!

I am blogging in the rain,
I’ve been blogging on the train.

– Not been blogging in the car –
That would be a step too far!

Are you adding films and pics?
Those are really clever tricks.

Have you blogged about your cat?
Some can’t get enough of that.

You can blog about your work
(careful not to look a jerk).

Or you blog using a meme
(not as easy as it seems!).

Luscious blog posts about food
Sure to get us in the mood!

You can blog on crafty habits –
Knitting, scrapbooks, breeding rabbits?*

Do you blog using an App?
With your iPhone in your lap?

Use email to post your blog?
Easy as – fall off a log!

Find all posts through RSS?
You can soon sort out the best!

Bloggers mostly library geeks,
They’ve been blogging weeks and weeks!

Posting every day in June
(but glad it will be over soon)

I am Fran
Fran I am
Can we blogjune?
Yes we can!

With apologies to Dr Seuss, Barak Obama and Bob the Builder!

* I don’t think anyone actually blogged about breeding rabbits but I needed a rhyme!

Via iPhone on the train!


Making friends through twitter!

June 25, 2011

You read so many stories about the downsides to social media – bullying, identity theft, obsession, disconnection from the real world …
Today I experienced the upside. A retweet on my twitterfeed announced a tweetup of Perth library types at 2pm today at Koko Black in Claremont. Good chance to meet some of my fellow blogjune participants, and meet some library people from outside my workplace too. Took the train up to Claremont and soon found Koko Black (packed out) – had to take the plunge and guess which table as I’d only met most people through their blogposts!
Great afternoon, discovering names and faces and personalities and talking tech and libraries and dogs and birds. (And eating and drinking chocolate).
Only library geeks would head out afterwards to look at iPads and eReaders in JB HiFi ignoring the boutiques of the western suburbs fashion central!
I’ve added a whole raft of new contacts to my twitterfeed too!
Thanks also to @libsmatter for the lift home!

Posted from my iPhone

Today’s challenge – blogging by email

June 20, 2011

Thanks to following @kellymhall ‘s Twitter feed I took a glance last night at CPD23’s blog, particularly which made me decide to have a go at blogging by email. I’m using the iPhone email client and including a photo I emailed myself from the flickr app. Now to add a category and tags using the code from the CPD23 blogpost. I plan to set up a dropbox document with all the odds and ends of HTML (hyperlinks, photos and video embedding) that will be useful for mobile blogging!

Taken by Figgles1

How many librarians does it take to change a light globe?

June 16, 2011

It’s been a busy and slightly trying week so here’s a video essay of library humour guaranteed to improve the mood:

An old joke retold (as dramatised by me using Xtranormal):

For those of us battling with introducing new technology:

For those of us who’ve had one of those days with the customers:

Even though some of those customers may be kind’ve cute!

We may feel the desire to take this approach:

It could be worse (or why we only allow pencils in rare book reading roooms):

We can always go home and read in peace and quiet:

Thanks to all the people who’ve shared these videos with me over the years…


How many librarians does it take to change a light globe?

I don’t know but I can look it up for you!

What blogjune has taught me so far- learning something new almost every day!

June 13, 2011

Thanks to a friend of mine I’m participating in blogjune.  I saw her tweeting about it and on finding out it wasn’t a private party I took a spur of the moment decision to join.  About 80 bloggers, mostly, but not exclusively, Australian and New Zealand librarians have committed to post to their blogs every day in June.  Apologies, but I’ve not managed to read everyone’s every post!  You can find out more and follow the fun on the Libraries Interact blog.

This blog, which I began in 2009, had been a bit moribund recently, so I saw blogjune as an opportunity to revive it (don’t they say it takes 3 weeks to establish a new habit?).

A side effect is that not only have I been writing and reading daily across an array of topics (ranging from the professional to the highly personal – what is it with librarians and cats and knitting?) but also I’ve been learning a whole bunch of new, professionally useful, Web 2.0 skills.

So as I end my 2nd week of daily blogging, I thought I’d make a quick list of things that I’ve learned so far:

  1. how to add a tweet button, counter and twitter feed to my blog (and I’ve revamped some of the other widgets)
  2. that it’s easier to sort picture editing problems out in html editor rather than in the visual editor – even if your html skills are minimal!
  3. that there’s a neat bit of code that enables you to embed flickr videos into your blog, even though flickr doesn’t show in the add video button
  4. That the WordPress  app on the iPhone allows you to blog a photo direct from the phone
  5. That the WordPress app on the iPhone can be used to add hyperlinks and retrospectively add photos (but not videos, unless you pay for an add-on).  This is the basic stuff, I think you could do a lot more if your html editing skills are up to it!
  6. That the publicize feature on WordPress appears to work sporadically when posting from the iPhone app (more investigation required!).
  7. How to follow blogjune using a Netvibes Blogroll
  8. What an OPML file is and how you can use it to import a blogroll into Google Reader (if someone else has done all the prep! thanks @katejf)
  9. Then how to set up a Feedly app in Chrome and on the iPhone to read the blogjune Google reader feed.  I’d been a bit slow taking up feed readers so this promt from blogjune has been great!
If I’ve learned this much in two weeks what more will I know by the end of the month!  Hooray for blogjune!

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