Jun 152016

Last week when I went animal spotting in Pilanesberg National Park ,about four hours in we drove over a ridge and saw our second rhinoceros of the day. Far off in the bushes. With a tiny baby rhino behind her.

I spent about 20 minutes trying to get a clear shot, and this is the best one of the bunch. See the tiny grey rock on the right, behind the big grey rock on the left? Baby rhino.


You never, ever, ever get out of the car in a national park full of wild animals in Africa.

Charmaine very nicely suggested that I may want to hang out of the passenger window and lean on the roof, with my feet on the seat, to try to get a better shot. I was very glad to have spent some time doing situps in the gym because this is the position I struck for 10 minutes or so, trying to get my shot.

Eventually, we decided that we would have to just leave it and drive on…

So, five minutes later.  About 1 km down the road. This pair crossed right in front of the car..



And.. in the next half hour we saw another two rhinos, making it seven in the whole day.

Thing is, if we hadn’t spent the twenty minutes or so trying to photograph the first mum and bub pair, then we would not have been in the right place at the right time to see the second pair so clearly.

Just when we had concluded that all our efforts were fruitless, exactly what we had wanted was in front of us – but if we hadn’t spent all that time trying then we wouldn’t have had the opportunity.

Or – random stuff happens all the time and often it’s lovely…


Jun 142016

Apologies for the clickbait headline, but I am genuinely quoting the question..

Last week, @jmmj asked me via Twitter “What are your top 5 skills for future proofing a librarian’s employment opportunities ? ”
Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.52.36 pm

Yes, I teach new librarians, so I should have some kind of idea.

But, please note, I do not have any kind of personal professional development plan of the type that Alisa and Sam have shared this #blogjune. I’m pretty much in awe of this kind of organisation and professionalism… so do have a look at what they have to say about what they are doing to future proof themselves.

Skill 1 – Know your library stuff inside out – from first principles

Really, to continue to be useful in a library you must, must, must have an idea of basic principles of selection, organisation, preservation, provision, access and social life of information. Full Stop.

Not only that, if you have a good grasp of the WHY we do what we do how we do it, then you can critique what we do, improve on it and understand how to extend it into the future.

Reading something like Matthew Battles’ Library an Unquiet History should make sure you have an idea about the WHY from which all our HOW flows.

Skill 2 – Turn up, do things you say you will on time, wash, be kind and pleasant, don’t piss off your coworkers, boss or clients

I know it sounds basic and obvious, but knowing enough to hand code your own discovery layer will not help you stay employable if you have a history of being difficult to work with.

I am actually serious with this one. I have worked with a few people in the past who had great technical skills but were unreliable or expected other people to carry the boring bits of the job while they did the interesting bits and made a name for themselves professionally.

It’s really about cultivating skills at being a supportive team player and showing humility and consideration.

Skill 3 – Learn and relearn

Alvin Toffler, Future Shock 

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”

Skill 4 – Look outside the library

Know how to cultivate relationships with useful people within your organisation who do not work in the library. Go to conferences or read literature from other professions like designers, IT professionals, educators, marketers or archivists. Understand their ethics and how they differ from those of our profession. Talk to people in other libraries about how they do things. Look at what is happening in libraries in other countries. Try to cultivate partnerships with people in other organisations, both for your own learning and on behalf of your library.

Skill 5 – Follow your passion and cultivate interest and curiousity.

Go after what floats your boat and try to get a job doing that. Make sure that lots and lots of things float your boat and maybe – if it seems like your interests are so narrow and specialised that you cannot see how to bring them into the workplace – you need to actually cultivate a wider interest and try out more things;  or actively try to like more things.

Being passionately interested in something makes you naturally want to find out more and to share what you know and to help others. These qualities are invaluable in a library.

What would you add to the list?

Jun 132016

South Africa has a concept of “private use” in their copyright law, unlike Australia. This means that I can make a single copy of copyright protected material if it is for my own private use, with no issues at all.


Slack 12. (2007). Elephant twins. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/slack12/372349033/

Can I make a copy for someone else’s private use?

Well, looks like (as both a librarian and a lecturer) there are circumstances where I personally could do so. The exceptions seem to be similar to what we have in Australia for librarians, but include other wider cases. The permissions for lecturers (below), however, are far wider. I am not sure where the “can do this 9 times only” figure comes from??? I suspect the same type of calculation that was used by Harper Collins to determine that an ebook would need to be licensed again after being issued 26 times.

Going on the guidelines to legal and ethical use of information from Walter Sisulu University , as a librarian I can:

…copy an article from a journal or anthology or a reasonable portion from any other work and may make a single copy available upon request to:

  • an individual for the exclusive purposes of private study or the use of the individual who has requested the work;
  • a lecturer for research, teaching or the preparation for teaching a class;
  • copy a work to replace an edition/copy which has been damaged or lost and for which an unused replacement cannot be acquired at a reasonable price;
  • copy an unpublished work exclusively for preservation and security purposes;
  • copy, upon request, the whole or a substantial portion of a copyright protected work from the library’s collection for private study or personal use, on condition that an unused edition cannot be acquired at a reasonable price.

A library is not permitted to compile a collection of articles or extracts from works in facsimile form, to place such copies on the “reserved” shelf and allow students to duplicate such reproductions. In such cases it is possible for the royalties payable to be set according to the number of students that are registered for the course concerned.

Further, as a lecturer, I would be able to:

  • make a single copy of a reasonable portion of a work for him/herself or request that the library makes such a copy for him/her for the purposes of research, preparation for teaching or class teaching. (Although the regulations are not very clear in this regard, the act is generally interpreted as including sketches, photographs, or illustrations from textbooks or journals for illustrative purposes in the classroom).
  • make multiple copies of a reasonable portion of a work for him/herself for classroom use, on condition that:

    no more than nine (9) instances of such multiple copying occur for a given curriculum for a specific class during one quarter; and that only one copy per student per course is made by or for the lecturer and is used exclusively in the classroom or for class discussions(this includes comprehension exercises and poetry analyses).

When one’s “classroom” is electronic and fully-online then this would get interesting I would think.

South African librarians also spoke of applying to DALRO (Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation) to pay for licenses to put some content into e-Reserve. It seems – and I could be wrong – that it is possible to pay DALRO so that one can put into e-Reserve more than 10% or a single chapter of a work. I am a little fuzzy about this.

All in all, however, seems to be a more workable system for university lecturers/librarians than we have here in Australia.

Jun 112016

The workshop for SAOIM2016 went fabulously today, but I will not post the photos until I am back in Australia. Pavlinka took the one below 🙂 The workshop participants made it what it was, and they were very, very generous with sharing their expertise.


Really, Ruth, I did not copy you by playing with Storify  .

Anyhow. I have fed all the tweets with the #SAOIM2016 hashtag into Storify, and here is what people have to say, SAOIM2016 Storify. I added some manually, but did not remove the duplicates and retweets.


Jun 102016

Had a great keynoting session, talking about how to maintain enthusiasm and make sense of new ideas from a conference once one gets back to the library. Ironically, I am a little brain-dead after this, so do not have a lot of energy to blog a lot today.

I riffed on Mitchell Whitelaw’s idea of “generous interfaces” from the article below, speculating that we maybe can focus on generosity as a way to share what we are learning, so that knowledge and networks are strengthened in the profession.

Whitelaw, M. (2015). Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections, 9(1). Retrieved from http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/9/1/000205/000205.html.

The photo below was posted by Pavlinka Kovatcheva .  I would like to say that it is a totally atypical pose for me. But can’t. Rachel and several others will be impressed, however, that my hands are actually in focus and not a blur.



Jun 092016

First day at the Southern African Online Information Meeting 2016.

The theme I am seeing is that we need to define (or redefine) exactly what we do. What is our core purpose? Do the day to day operations in our libraries support this overall purpose or do we need to stop doing something ?

Phil Bradley made the point that what we do is not about physical books. We need to be careful not to fall for the “attraction of the artefact”. Our physical stock is used to define us in the dictionary, but collection management should not be what we are about. We can change the conversation to talk about building the library community rather than building the library collection. He gave a lovely example of what I have heard someone (who?? not me) refer to as “libraries as engines of hope and kindness”. The respect shown by a prison librarian gave clients a sense of belonging, and that was extended when on release the prison librarian had arranged for use of the local library. Phil  suggested that being a librarian is a position of privilege and power because we can make such an impact on peoples’ lives.


Louis Fourie (after an initial diversion about keynotes being flashers and strippers, leaving me wonder which I will show myself to be) outlined challenges and developments on the horizon, and suggested ways that academic libraries could develop their services. Although libraries originated in a time of scarcity of information, with the current deluge, they may be better suited to positioning themselves as a friendly node in the network for students, rather than a source of content. Although I am all for microchipping our brains for better interfaces with machines, I am not 100% convinced that teleporting librarians are in our futures. I do agree with him that, whatever the future looks like, we do need to redesign what we do.


In corollary to Phil, Greg Lambert made the point that what we do is not about physical space. I liked his comment that there are few other professions (maybe with pharmacists as an exception) where the person is named after the space. His suggested solutions were that we need to 1) get out of our spaces, 2) listen and observe (to position ourselves to help our clients) 3) solve problems – our clients’ problems not our own 4) expand our reach.

These were the three keynote/invited speakers. The rest of the conference is a single session, mixing local speakers with one or two talks from sponsors. Unlike the multi-track conferences I am used to, this makes sure that all delegates are part of the same conversation. The Twitter feed is even on the screen behind the main speaker so all delegates can be part of that conversation too. I am used to there being a couple of Twitter feeds coming out from concurrent sessions and simultaneously being part of those conversations while sitting in my session. This is much more relaxed.

Siphethile Gcukumana outlined the research that led to this survey of online tools used by researchers worldwide:

Kramer, B., & Bosman, J. (2016). Innovations in scholarly communication – global survey on research tool usage. F1000Research, 5, 692. http://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.8414.1

Have a play with the survey data here at SILK, where you can see the 6 research stages, 101 tools and 17 processes that were examined: http://dashboard101innovations.silk.co/ .

I cannot outline all the talks that we heard due to space, but all the sessions were very very interesting. You can see the programme here. Some snippets …
  • One speaker outlined how she used the Excel tricks I have taught my students for the first time this year and stressed the need to keep a transaction log so you remember how you processed the data. I wish I could have bottled this to show my students how relevant and useful these skills are professionally.
  • South African copyright law has a concept of “private use”, so if you are just using something for yourself, and not making money from it, copyright laws are far less strict than in Australia.
  • Twitchats are useful Professional Development, and Australians seem to be playing lots in this space.
  • AustLII is actually part of a worldwide Legal Information Institutes Free Access to Law movement. These are  “not-for-profit group[s] that believes everyone should be able to read and understand the laws that govern them, without cost”.  Sounds like the South African version has a higher public profile than in Australia.
  • Some librarians will probably grow up to be Competitive Information Analysts and could easily make the transition. Not just providing information requested but value adding to provide insight to the data. Lovely argument for us to include data visualisation in our course.
  • South Africans are also talking about the semantic web and scratching their heads about skills needed to integrate our resources into freer access and linking for anyone who might want to use our information.


Jun 082016

Molly asked on Twitter this morning how people who had small kids kept up with professional development, triggered by her post about being so tired caring for a small baby that it is hard to keep up, It’s all a bit hard right now.

Been there. I waited until my first child was sleeping through the night before we had our second. My children are five years apart…


My dirty little secret is that, instead of having any kind of professional development plan, I just hung out on the net and played .. BUT it turned out to be the best tech strategy I could have had.

Totally ignoring libraryland, I did two things that actually made me a very useful tech user for libraries when I came back to work.

The first was to be part of the “Fabulous February Mommies” group on ParentsPlace over at InfoVillage. This was a bulletin board for ALL mums worldwide who were expecting babies in February 1998. Plus were on the internet . And able to navigate and understand daily postings. There were maybe 30 of us. 30!!! Through my involvement in this community I understood how to “do” social networking – the asynchronous posting; finding a voice that both felt like me and suited the site and the purpose; not freaking out as the group “formed, stormed and normed” over the issue of how to get a baby to sleep through the night.

At that time it was so weird to have friends that you only knew on the internet – let alone supportive and wise friends who filled a place in your life that real life ones could not – that I simply could not discuss this part of my life with people offline. Yet, when social media really made leeway I already knew how to dive in and swim the waters. I was years ahead of people who had been studiously “professionally developing” by learning the advanced search screens of vendor-sold database products, which is what I guiltily felt I really should be doing if I took my profession seriously.

The second thing I did was to play the Sims.  A lot. I found out how to navigate within a 3D world with a mouse, how to control camera angles to see different parts of a 3D world, what an inventory was, how to build … SO… back at work along comes Second Life into libraryland… or libraryland went into Second Life. Whichever way it was,  my idle and ill-spent mummy-brained hours when the baby was feeding actually gave me a literacy that allowed me to get up to speed faster than almost any other activity could have.

This was serendipity, I know … but what I am trying to say is that what you do while you are having a career break may not matter as much as you think it does. It may be that what you are doing is giving you far greater skills and literacy for some of what is to come than if you stayed in a workplace and relied on training hours to get you all trained up. It could be that following your passion or just doing what you can to put one fuzzy-brained foot in front of the other (to mix metaphors) is exactly the best thing to do to give you an edge when you are ready to jump back into librarianing.

Jun 072016

Not a dilemma that I ever thought I would have.

I’m a reformed vegetarian.

I elected to have a “white meat only’ diet when I was in college and was in a relationship with a vegetarian for over 20 years. My children are vegetarian. I am only just learning to cook meat and really have issues with anything that is a little like entrails or resembles too much something that was once alive rather than looking more like a lump of tofu.


So I thought.


Yesterday I ate ox liver.


2016-06-05 08.49.54

Today I ate at a restaurant that had told our host that it guaranteed at least two South African dishes.

This one I spotted immediately:


Red wine and black pepper marinated ostrich fillet served with butternut fondant. Grilled brown mushrooms, marinated beetroot, and creme de cassis jus.


However I did not immediately spot the South African animal in the one below. It is a little like the Monty Python “Crunchy Frog” Sketch, where the lark’s vomit was in the very fine print… I don’t know about you, but I don’t immediately associate Umbria with Springbok…


     Marinated Aubergine and black mushroom layered with grilled peppers, springbok carpaccio, parmesan & rocket, topped with basil pesto and pine kernels  *contains nuts


So, I ordered the ostrich fillet, but of course without the beetroot, because one really needs to draw the line at something that creates evil purple ooze.


 2016-06-06 21.05.47

The special, which was not on the menu, was a piece of gemsbok. Yes, something that looks like this in the wild. (Something I had not seen on photo-safari yesterday, so somehow more acceptable to be eating..).




Greg ordered this and I agree with his judgment that it was amazingly tender meat. The texture was like the difference between a rough clay pot of a steak compared to a very fine porcelain. I am sure that it was not flavoured with lavender, but it certainly seemed to be, or some kind of sage. Yes, one of the most delicious meats I have eaten in my life.


The ostrich? OK. Bland. Beautifully cooked and flavoured with a lovely sweet sauce. If you can imagine a chop or steak where there was all texture but not taste, but not in an unpleasant way, then you would get an idea. Certainly it did not taste like a large chicken or turkey.


Anyhow, it seems to be customary in South Africa for dishes, where there is more than a certain proportion left over, to be presented in a leftovers container on leaving. So – here I am at 11:45pm at night, leftover container in hand, in a hotel room without a fridge, wondering where I should put my ostrich.