Jun 042017

As I said yesterday, the most interesting session for my of the first day of the  Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival was called  “The right to belong“, with William Yeoman facilitating a conversation between Tim Costello, Abdi Aden and Isabelle Li . I am only going to touch on a few points made, but my notes are below and I am happy to explain the context of any of the fragments.


The discussion was based around the question “What does it mean to belong in Australia ?”. Tim Costello was CEO of World Vision and writes about equity issues. Isabelle Li was born in China, but came to Australia voluntarily to resettle in 1999 after living for five years in Singapore. Abdi Aden was a Somalian refugee who came to Melbourne at 17 and now works as a youth worker.

The most library-relevant part of the talk was Isabelle Li describing her annoyance at being asked “but how could you understand what it was about?” when she revealed that she had read Dicken’s David Copperfield several times as a teen because she loved it so much; the presumption being that a 20th Century young woman in China would not have anything in common with a young lad in Victorian times. But, “of COURSE I could empathise with the characters. That’s the POINT of literature”.

It made me think of libraries, particularly public libraries, as “empathy peddlars”. By providing a wide range of literature, much of it people would not come across for themselves, do we provide more chance for people to put themselves in each others’ shoes? Do our programmes for such a wide cross section of the community give people exposure to ideas and people that they would otherwise avoid ? Does the common purpose of using wifi or a comfy workspace, and the fact that NO ONE IS FORCED TO BE THERE, mean that people get to understand that other people  with whom they think they have nothing in common, actually make similar choices to themselves?

I think that there is a lot to be written about the role of empathy, kindness and compassion in libraries (particularly public libraries), and library staff as “empathy workers”. I hope to elaborate later in June…

The tension throughout the session at the writers’ festival was  how to welcome new people and help them identify as belonging, while avoiding this identification creating a strong US that then needs a THEM to exclude (to better define a stronger US). How can we avoid re-tribalization when people are seeking belonging, and how does this fit in with attempts to create an ongoing peace? I liked Tim Costello’s analysis of people being willing to follow the Gods of Blood and Soil, which leads to increased racism and nationalism – both allowing demonization of scapegoats (and as has been shown, providing a mechanism that has got people elected).

Isabelle Li talked about the difference between her, as someone who came to Australia by choice, and Abdi Aden as someone who had no choice. Abdi had earlier made the point that, unlike many others who migrate to Australia, he is currently and permanently displaced from a culture that now no longer exists anywhere, having been destroyed by war. He recounted being told that the lack of acceptance by Australians of Somalian refugees would be a passing phase ” The Greeks went through it, the Italians went through it, just wait your turn” … but he is not sure that he wants to wait.

Isabelle asked what we had done here in Australia to fail the young Abdi so badly. And how may we be continuing to do this? This was taken up by the panel as they examined questions about whether only caring for the poor in one’s own country, or only caring when they end up displaced to one’s country, is a failure of compassion. And maybe simply creating problems economically and politically that could be solved more pragmatically by greater foreign aid?

Briefly touched on, but I liked the idea, was the thought that belonging in a new country can happen when one feels confident that one can contribute to the future of the country.

As I said, there was a lot more in the hour-long session (like Tim Costello posing the question “Can the best of our Faith defeat the worst of Religion?”), but many of the ideas would spark their own separate post.

Jun 032017

I forgot my travel mug, so bought a glass one in Woolies and grabbed a coffee from the Urban Bean on the way to the Margaret River Cultural Centre for the first day of the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival. Thanks War on Waste Episode 3 for putting this purchase in the centre of my thoughts..

Being Friday, with many people yet to travel down from Perth, there was just one track of sessions all day. Sessions about:

  • the beach and surfing (is poetry, photography or prose the best way to capture the experience?)
  • best ways to write a recipe in a cook book (Stephanie Alexander suggests not presuming that readers know things like “only to use the leaves of parsley” and to respectfully include this kind of information)
  • what it is like to write a novel when one is a Young Adult, but then to read reviews that the novel seems to break the conventions of YA writing, although it is about that demographic ?
  • why it is important to focus education about sustainability and the environment on the positives of what one will get out of it, rather than use scare tactics ?
  • how one writes about making one’s own path and leaving the influence of one’s family, while also dealing with the family stories that continue to intertwine one’s experience ?

But the session that stimulated me the most, where I wanted to say “wait, hold on…just let that idea sink in before you go on to the next one…” was one called “The right to belong“, with William Yeoman facilitating a conversation between Tim Costello, Abdi Aden and Isabelle Li . Too much to totally unpack in a single blog post, but I will try to touch on the important bits tomorrow.

Jun 012017

Nice to see the folk at the Curtis ( Curtin University Information Studies club) blog are going to be blogging 30 questions relevant to the field for this year’s #blogjune.

It’s been lovely to see the students in our department get united and get active via Curtis. When I was a student, our group was “Adlibs” … but it has been many, many years since there was an Information Studies group.

I didn’t really want to start #blogjune with some kind of reflection on blogging, or create one of those “I am answering 10 questions using the names of my favourite pork recipes” filler posts … so I thought a bit about what I now feel qualified to talk about … and it is probably offering polite, sage-sounding hints to Information Studies students…

I think I will have a few up my sleeve this June. While snail and Paul and Ellen and Ceridwyn  confess to having pre-scheduled posts, I have not been nearly so organised – so my hints will be more random than in priority order.


Number One:

Do some nipping and tucking to change a “one-size fits all” unit to something that fits you. 

Library, S. C. T. P. (2013). Thornton, J.P. Thornton’s Sectional System of Ladies’ Garment Cutting. 1901. [Photo]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/43021516@N06/9802322314/

When you study, what you are MEANT to be doing with your time is to read and think about many disciplinary topics.

Professionals in the field would give their eye teeth to be able to spend even two hours devoted to this. Managers would love to spend hours engaging with the latest disciplinary thinking about staff rewards and motivation, understanding it enough to be able to write cogently about it – but are often too busy, trying to reward and motivate staff, to do so.

When you write that management essay, you are not just learning things that these professionals know, but are immersing yourself in the latest thinking and, through writing, forming and articulating your own philosophies and opinions of how we do this thing of managing an information service. In a lot of ways, this time to immerse yourself in the discipline is the learning gift, rather than the single actual topics that you study.

While we lecturers set readings and notes that are useful to find out about a topic, we are setting these for a “one size fits all” student, not for you. Use the time that is set aside to do the reading that YOU need to do to understand what you want to know about the topic. Don’t neglect the “do this to get marks” reading that is essential, but if your time budget is such that your choice is between having slightly higher marks or having a better understanding of the topic, go for the latter. Employers would prefer it.

You know where your strengths lie. You know whether you are already familiar with a topic or something is totally new ground to you. You know the skills you would like to develop. You know where you interests are. You know whether you prefer conceptual, or hands-on, or passionate types of readings. Do the basic reading, but you will get the most out of your studies if you are curious and follow up your own programme of readings (or YouTube viewings, or chats with mentors who know their stuff, or try to teach what you know to your granny because that is the BEST way to discover whether you know something thoroughly or not) … follow your own programme that lets you tailor a unit from “This Unit For EveryStudent” to “This Unit for ME” (or if you are feeling hipster, “An Artisan-Wrought Bespoke Unit”).

Your lecturer does not know all of the above about you. If you think the readings are too hard, old or irrelevant or that you need extra reading to get up to speed, first have a look in the library databases to find some disciplinary reading around the topic. Even the hunting about can give you a nice feeling of the “shape” of the knowledge landscape about the topic that you may not have had before. Then, share it on the Discussion Boards with your fellow students. In an upcoming post I will share why I think this step is so important..

May 182017

Lovely, clever Peta has created an automated way to register for this year’s #blogjune .

Blog June started on library-focussed blogs in Australia as a way of kickstarting again what used to be wonderful, vibrant daily conversations. It is still happening and has spread beyond Australia and beyond Libraryland.

I will be giving it a go again this year … I think I have not managed to complete the challenge properly for quite a while… but I get a great deal of fun out of it. And get to read everyone else’s thoughts (the best bit). And practice my writing and thinking (which reminds me that I can do both …)

Please pop over to Peta’s blog and read how to register (by just tweeting the URL of your blog and the hashtag #registerblogjune ), Blogjune 2017 join the challenge.

If you do not blog now… start one. If you cannot start one, follow the #blogjune hashtag on Twitter. Comment. Retweet posts. Comment via Twitter. Or – just read and enjoy … or have the seed planted that … next year … next year … you will play …

Feb 032017

I am currently presenting at the Western Australian Teaching and Learning Forum 2017, being held at Curtin University.

Here is the abstract for the session:

When a student grabs an image here, a sound-bite there, and then adds them to an assessed non-text work, do they understand where the line lies between quotation, plagiarism and illegal re-use? The difference between these? Do we as educators? If student assessments involve digital objects like images, audio files and movies, how do we make sure they are effectively demonstrating engagement with disciplinary non-text “literature” and are supporting their ideas with authoritative disciplinary sources? What do we tell them about the relationship between copyright, citation and non-text media? What can we do to ensure that we, as assessors, actually understand this?

If we are to facilitate digital fluency for our students, then our assessments need to involve submission of nontext media. Generally academics have a very solid grasp on quotation, copyright and academic integrity for text assessments, but do we let students down if we avoid setting non-text media assessments because we cannot transfer this understanding away from text? Digital objects are consumed independently of accompanying text, so an accompanying reference list will not do, nor will reading out fully-formatted APA6-style citations within an audio report. This session presents examples from professional experience, both as a university lecturer and as an academic librarian. It also shares some challenging case-studies that still have me scratching my head.

I used Camtasia to record my practice session on Saturday, which I uploaded to YouTube and have embedded below, Multimedia assessments – citation, plagiarism and legal reuse. I am experimenting in one of the units I teach with replacing my recorded 45 minute live lectures with a couple of 5-7 minute movies each topic. I wanted to give the setup a burl. I would change the lighting (and make sure my head was not covering the slide text) in the real thing.

Dec 272016

I have been doing a “Futures of Libraries” workshop for the last six years or so, and just found some of the materials from this year in my holiday cleanup of my home office.

My aim is to have people do some thinking not only about libraries and tech, but about the changes they have seen in their personal and professional lives in a 30 year timeframe. I try to spend a bit of time guiding people to remember what they were like 30 years ago, what the library looked like, what skills people needed then … to get an idea of the difference between today and the future that they are required to plan for in their libraries today. (Thirty years is a very modest timeframe, but seems to be the one that people can JUST handle without talking about teleporters and flying jetpacks).

This year I did workshops in Pretoria in South Africa (June) and in Donnybrook Western Australia (September). One location was the total unknown for me, the other was the hometown where I grew up for my first 18 years (in fact, in a building 200 metres from the house where I lived).  The South African group was mainly academic librarians, the Australian group mainly Library Technicians. My style is to try to guide the conversation so that the speculation and talking points come from the crowd, rather than me…then to ask questions so that they elaborate on ideas; or ask the group whether the possible similarities or themes I am seeing are correct.

Although the groups were very different, both groups believed that more technological skills are needed by everyone working in future libraries. Both groups had interesting discussions about how “interventionist” the future library should be with respect to client needs. Do we become “service concierges” in our physical space, greeting people as they walk in and guiding their every step, or do we focus on an online presence so very streamlined and attuned to the user experience that clients’ needs are met with them hardly knowing that we are there? (Are both possible?) Both groups also emphasised “people skills” – customer service, being able to connect not only with clients but with the wider community and other institutions.

Although we focus on the skills, services and requirements of the future library, I do an exercise at the end that throws a bit of a spanner in the works. Sometimes it helps clarify a vision more clearly when it is threatened or thrown off-kilter. Similar to the technique used in the Bookends Scenario research by the State Library of New South Wales, I had people work in groups where I handed them cards with scenarios that were outlandishly unlikely, but possible, futures. I had them describe how just one of these scenarios may affect the future needs of the library.

(I was fascinated by the response of one group in Africa that chose “Peak Oil” as a their possible future. Some parts of Africa are used to intermittent supplies of energy and to creating their own, localised, sustainable solutions. Looks like many libraries there would be far more prepared for this eventuality than the average Australian library).

The scenarios were all designed to remind us of the need to be nimble and flexible in our planning, by presenting terribly hyperbolic and unlikely futures. I apologise, in my flippant confidence, it looks like I actually got one right ….



Jul 012016

I petered out on #blogjune 2016 a bit toward the end.

Two good reasons. My work style involves intensive all-nighters (into all-dayers) when I have something to achieve… and I enjoyed my time in South Africa so much that I got off the fence I had been sitting on since January and decided to travel to the UK in July for the CILIP conference and the Radical Librarians Collective meeting in Brighton, plus take some annual leave either side. Right now I am in a haze of caffeine and sugar fuelled online writing as I try to get everything wrapped up before I jet out on Tuesday.


Like Con, I have enjoyed writing again for #blogjune so much that I am convinced that I will keep it up, especially when I have something interesting and relevant to report on like the events in Brighton.Right? Right???  Instead of a conference dinner we are all getting fish and chips and a chance to ride for free the attractions on the end of the Brighton Pier (which I coincidentally visited this time last year) …

2015-07-19 20.30.26

I have been reading my feedly feed daily and really, really enjoying hearing the big and small news and thoughts of everyone. Reminds me that there are other points of view and of the interesting things I could be doing if I took the time to arrange something different, or even if I tried looking at the world with the perspective that others have – really what a community of bloggers should do. While it is easy to say “I should try looking at the world differently” actually walking in the shoes and mind of someone else – even briefly and even around something that they consider trivial or obvious, is such a bonus that blogjune brings each year. My imagination cannot stretch to have such empathy that I can imagine another point of view so accurately (which is not a failure on my part but really logical, because if I could stretch that far, then I would actually be seeing from my point of view…).

Just a few random bits that I really enjoyed (although I have enjoyed so many posts that I don’t want people not mentioned to think I did not appreciate or read their efforts. I did. Just that my Lindt-chocolate/Large-latte/I’ve-been-on-a-work-bender-for-two-days brain at the moment is filtering in random, not comprehensive, ideas)…

Big, big props to Peta for her effort to comment on so many blog posts. Keeping the conversation going, engaging and encouraging is so, so important. If I have one wrist-slap for myself it is that I did not take the time to comment when I knew how wonderful it is for a blogger to receive comments in these Days of Twitter. Maybe next #blogjune we should have a signup for commenters as well as bloggers? I’d be all for putting my efforts into encouraging and engaging with others (especially those brave, brave newbies sticking their toes in the water), instead of committing to posting.

Two blogs that I shoulda woulda commented on were Tony’s posts about his travels and Andrew’s intelligent and very generous sharing of his experience and reflection. Both were travelling to some of my favourite spots and I wanted to say “oh please check out THIS place, it is fab” ..but didn’t. Andrew in particular epitomises generosity and thoughtfulness in his posts – I always enjoy reading about his inspiring career path and his reflections on the experience. His posts are well written, avoid the boring bits and I always feel like I have learned something. Tony’s trip really did trace the path and places that I would choose, but then I was totally flabbergasted when he posted yesterday about visiting one of my favourite places on Earth on the way home, Tiger Balm Gardens. Really, truly…. here are my images Tiger Balm Gardens from my set of 60 photos when I travelled there in 2008, including a set of the Ten Courts of Hell. ( And check out what happens in the afterlife if you deface books.)

Kate-In-Canberra and Rachel-In-Queensland were two bloggers whose consistent and gentle voices I love to listen to. I think that they could write about how they prepare themselves weetbix or tie their shoelaces and could make it interesting for me. I love the wide-ranging subject matter they choose and the way they generously engage with the rest of the #blogjune bloggers. I enjoyed hearing life snippets again from Kate-In-Queensland, snail and Fiona … as well as continuing to engage with what Kim has to share, although she sets a great example to the rest of us and actually shares outside of June too…

The one blog that made the most impression on me, and has for the last couple of #blogjunes, was Elizabeth‘s articulate, confronting and ultimately very compassionate posts about her journey as a young archivist living with end stage cancer. I feel privileged that she shares what she does, how she does. It sounds a little trite and somehow too small to say that I wish her the absolute best that there can be on the rest of her journey and thank her with great gratitude for her blogging, but I do.

I now have a truckload of work to do before the weekend. I’m a little buoyed up again by the thought of taking my skates in my suitcase and doing some outdoor skating, although maybe not a hill like this from last year again…



Although some time in the next month or so, all things going well, I will be putting on my red shorts and getting out there in the UK and skating away…



Jun 262016

Now THIS is a case for crowdsourcing (and crowdpersuading if that is a word).

The most useful, versatile and FREE WordPress theme I have ever used has been discontinued from 22 June 2016, Suffusion not available any more . It will not be updated and is no longer available in the WordPress directory. You can see it here at Librarians Matter and how it is being used at the Grove Library .

Grove screen

I just discovered this because I am moving one of my WordPress MU installations and needed to install the theme on my new server. Nope. Not there. Luckily I had a copy of the theme in every single other blog I have ever created, so I could upload one to the new site.

In the post about it, Sayontan, who has been maintaining and updating this for love and service, rather than money, explained that there were unfounded concerns about security of the plugin and that to make it comply would require a complete re-write, which he does not have time nor inclination to do.

This really is a situation where either the thousands and thousands of people who use Suffusion should persuade Sayontan to quit his day job and maintain the theme (heck, I would pay $50 or more a year to support a project like this)… or for a community to form around the plugin, do the rewrite and continue to maintain the update.

Jun 242016

Here’s hoping tomorrow is better.

Just as I FINALLY finished editing one unit outline, ready to copy it to its Open University version, I saw THIS when I saved:


Like an optimistic fool, I phoned the IT helpdesk number on the right of the screen in the hope they could help. The helpful message on the phone (at 6:30pm) told me helpfully that the help desk is closed but is open until 9pm every weeknight. Last time I looked Friday was a week night.

And meanwhile, over in Europe the UK has decided to exit the European Union, causing the Australian dollar to keel over – and for some reason a German court has decided that there is a new kind of copyright “we have the physical copy of a painting in the public domain, so you can’t publish a photo of it” (even if you are the Wikimedia Foundation).

The world was a bit friendlier before bedtime last night. I think I will see whether calling it a day and going to sleep makes a nicer world to wake up to…