Posts Tagged ‘library’

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 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!

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

Seeing justice done – 150 years of the Supreme Court of Western Australia

June 19, 2011

About a week ago my brother-in-law spotted a little notice in the local paper advertising the Supreme Court of Western Australia’s open day.  So today the whole family packed into one car and headed up to Perth to take a look round.

The open day was to mark 150 years of the Supreme Court in WA and was surprisingly popular!  Our first stop, the Old Court House (1837), now the Old Court House Museum was packed with visitors.  We shuffled through with the throng.  The building had been used for many purposes over the years, a school, a concert venue, a public meeting venue as well as a court (it was used as the Arbitration court as late as 1963).   The architect was Henry W. Reveley, a civil engineer who was one of the earliest architects in the colony.  I was amused to see that in the days when the building shared the functions of school and court:

When the court was in session the pupils, under the stern gaze of their teacher,  retired to the gallery where they followed the proceedings in absolute silence.

The old court house 1837 : a brief history / Neville Green

Bishop Dom Salvado of New Norcia held the most memorable  [ibid] concert in the building, having walked 100km from that monastic town  to give a piano recital to raise funds for the Benedictine Mission.

Supreme Court of Western AustraliaWe moved into the main court building (designed by  John Grainger, who I was surprised to learn was the father of Percy Grainger).  There were many visitors and many court staff acting as guides.  We followed the arrows and went into Court 3 where we were disconcerted to find that one of the guides was Supreme Court Judge Justice Ralph Simmonds, who gave an informative and amusing talk about the operation of the court!  The court was packed, and he did note that it was unusual to have five defendants at one time, especially with children amongst them – a family had sat in the dock to listen to the talk! The number of judges has increased over the 150 years from 1 to 22, however if they had kept pace with population growth there would now be 150! [The Supreme Court of Western Australia 1861 -2011 : administering justice for the community for 150 years / The Honourable Wayne Martin, Chief Justice of Western Australia, p31].  We were also referred to May it please your honour / Geoffrey Bolton  if we wished to know more (and as a good librarian I noted it all down!).

I made a short detour to see the Law Library, in a wing added in 1987 and usually only open to eligible users,  before rejoining my family on the tour.  The old library in the old building had been converted into Judges’ rooms and a conference room.  A bank of what appeard to be cupboards in one room evidently conceal a wardrobe, kitchenette and bathroom – however we were informed that they did let the Judge go home at night! In the conference room we were facinated by a display telling of trial of Audrey Jacob for the shooting of Cyril Gidley at a ball in the neighbouring Government House Ballroom in 1925.  Audrey was acquitted, which seemed odd given the evidence presented, but then I remembered the hangman’s noose we’d seen in the Law Museum and thought perhaps the jury had not wished to see an obviously disturbed, and beautiful young woman hang…

In Court 1 we heard the end of a talk by Justice McKechnie, ABC TV’s documentary On trial had been filmed in that court, the programme goes to air next Thursday.  We were impressed that such senior members of the profession had welcomed the public into their workplace, emphasizing that the courts are our courts, and encouraging us to come and watch a trial.

We left that court down the steep stairs leading directly from the dock to the concrete, steel and security glass of the holding cells (renovated following a breakout in 2004) eventually exiting through the sally-port (what a lovely medieval name for the prisoners entrance!)

If you want to know more this edition of The law report is a good place to start!

We went on for a quick look at Government House ballroom (scene of the tragedy mentioned above but also of more happy memories) and two of the reception rooms in Government House, more rooms are usually opened but today only the Executive Council Room and the dining room, as they are preparing for the new Governor and have a rather important visitor coming later in the year

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!

On the Stanford Integrated Digital Library Project

June 10, 2011
Googleplex entrance

Courtesy of Scott Beale / Laughing Squid,

Did you know that one way of looking at the genesis of Google is it grew from a project to improve library searching?  This is one of the gems I got from reading Little bets

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t set out to to create one of the fastest-growing startup companies in history; they didn’t even start out seeking to revolutionize the way we search for information on the web.  Their first goal, as collaborators on the Stanford Digital Library Project, was to solve a much smaller problem: how to prioritize library searches online [my hyperlink and my emphasis]

Little bets / Peter Sims, 2011, p4

Sims goes on to show that the breakthrough page rank algorithm grew from using the (familiar to librarians and academics) concept of citation analysis.  Given this I find it ironic that we are still bemoaning the ineffectiveness of many library catalogue search engines.  Take a look at Marshall Breeding’s articles (both articles are also available from EBSCOHost’s Australia New Zealand Reference Centre):

The state of the art in library discovery  2010 / Marshall Breeding IN Computers in libraries,  January 2010


Discovering Harry Potter Barn / Marshall Breeding IN Computers in libaries, March 2011

This harks back to the Principle of least astonishment  – do library catalogue clients get results that are relevant to their search terms? Given that most libraries buy their library management systems, how can we make things better?

Yale card catalog

The obsolete card catalog files at Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University

Catching up on local culture

June 9, 2011

A surprising number of films have been made in WA, and I’m rather ashamed to say I’ve seen very few of them. Some I’ve only seen a few scenes from, whilst channel surfing on late night TV.
Now I’m getting the chance to catch up, with the State Library of WA’s contribution to the City of Perth’s Winter Arts Festival:WA films @ the State Library

It starts tonight with Nickel Queen

and continues with the windsurfing film Windrider (nostalgia! I used to windsurf in the 80s), Under the lighthouse dancing and concludes with Lucky Miles

Lots to look forwards to!

Me (in pink), windsurfing in the 80s!

iPhone in the library – How to use your iPhone as a library card and barcode scanner

December 3, 2010

I’m a librarian in my day job, and I love my iPhone so recently I’ve been exploring ways I can use it to search library catalogues and in bookshops by scanning the ISBN barcodes you find on the back of  books and even by scanning the library barcodes that libraries stick into their stock.  On the way I’ve also found that you can generate the barcodes from your membership and loyalty cards so they display on and can be read from the screen of  your phone.  Not all of this works perfectly yet, but there’s enough working  successfully to make it worth a go…  so if you’re in the profession, be ready for customers waving the phone at you rather than their library card!

pic2shop icon


I first found out about using the iPhone as a barcode reader a few months ago (I think it was on a local librarians’  email list).

pic2shop search result

pic2shop search result

It suggested using a free app called pic2shop.  Like most of the barcode scanning apps it’s primarily a shopping tool enabling consumers to compare prices by scanning barcodes on goods (and a common complaint is that currently the Australian coverage is poor). However if you scan a book’s ISBN  it does include a “see local libraries” option:

As long as you’ve set your country preference, it will pull up records from WorldCat .Click on the library name and it will take you to the library catalogue.

pic2shop local libraries

pic2shop local libraries

I’m amused to see as I scrolled down that the next batch of libraries are in South Australia, followed by Victoria – it’s a generous definition of local!:



A similar app that also connects to WorldCat is RedLaser, you can read about using RedLaser to link to WorldCat on the WorldCat site.  At the time of writing RedLaser has become a free app.  RedLaser also enables you to create custom barcode reading apps – more on that later…

zbar icon


My favourite barcode reader so far (and I’ve not done a mass of reasearch) is ZBarit’s free and easily customizable, even by amateur geeks like me! I found out about ZBar by Googling for information on using iPhones as barcode scanners in libraries.  The best information was in a great post in Aaron Tay’s blog Musings about librarianship – How to check your library catalogue by using your IPhone as a free barcode scanner – ZBar & RedLaser.    His instructions for setting up ZBar are really clear so I won’t repeat them here!  I played around with customizing it search the State Library of WA’s catalogue using ISBNs.  Quite easy to set up using Aaron’s instructions but I did have some troubles as some of the information required to display the results correctly (for the technically minded it’s the scoping data ) was in the suffix of the search URL.

If you do an ISBN search in the SLWA catalogue the resulting URL is:

Setting up Dymocks search in ZBar

Dymocks on ZBar

To set up a ZBar search string you need to drop everything after the first =, but in that particular catalogue you also need the searchscope data for the result to display correctly.  I’m no expert in the inner workings of catalogue softwear, however I realised I needed to be able to specify the scope data earlier in the search string.  I fiddled around in the Innovative Users Group listserv (where the catalogue system geeks come out to play) and found an alternative that seems to work:

(select ISBN-13 as the barcode type)

i.e. the ~S2 has the same function as searchscope=2.  It works, but I’m prepared to be corrected by the experts if there’s a reason you shouldn’t do this!

You can easily set up other customised ISBN searches as well, I’ve done the same for my LibraryThing account and for Dymocks:

ZBar SLWA barcode

ZBar SLWA barcode

Of course ISBNs are not the only barcodes used in libraries, individual items of stock have barcode stickers that enable library staff to quickly stockcheck, and loan individual copies of items in their collections.  With a bit of inside knowledge I was able to use this string to set up a ZBar search that scans the State Library’s item barcodes and brings up the catalogue record:

(select Code39 as the  barcode type)

The only downside is that I can’t get the camera in the app to lock on to  the very long Code 39 barcodes used by the library – it may be better if you’ve got an iPhone 4!  There is a slightly cumbersome workaround – go into camera, take a picture of the barcode (use landscape mode and tap to focus, zoom may also help).  Then open the ZBar app and instead of using the camera icon in the centre of the bottom taskbar, use the picture icon (mountains in a frame) on the right hand side – you can then select the picture of the barcode and proceed as normal.  I’m going to contact the app developers about this as it seems to me to be the way the app uses the camera that is the problem.

RedLaser Custom Apps

RedLaser Custom Apps

You can use the same search strings when setting up custom apps to search for ISBNs at libraries and bookshops using RedLaser (only for the ISBNs, RedLaser won’t read Code 39).   Note that if you are using a later operating system for your iPhone you’ll need to use the send icon in the middle of the toolbar to save the app, rather than the suggested +.  At time of posting RedLaser has a glitch where you get a blank screen after scanning.  You’ll need to use the send icon and select “Open with Safari” to see the result (this has been reported by others to RedLaser so should be fixed in a future update).

CardStar logo


Now, from identifying media to identifying clients – as mentioned before I’ve had a play with CardStar – again this hasn’t been developed as a library app but it does enable you to create a virtual library card on your iPhone.  At the time of writing the option to scan the card in is freezing the app [it’s fixed! 21 Dec 2010], so it’s “type in the numbers and try different symbologies until the image on the screen matches your card” time!  I’ve generated a whole bunch of virtual cards, which I won’t show here (nice though it would be) as I’d like to keep my identity private!  I have tried scanning a CardStar generated library card with two different barcode readers – an old one read it perfectly, the newer more powerful scanner wouldn’t read it at all, so this isn’t yet a complete solution – however it does point to future trends that the profession need to keep an eye on!

Last of all here are a couple of youtube videos from WorldCat User in the USA on using pic2shop and RedLaser to search WorldCat:


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