Jun 062016

Yesterday I went on a photo safari in Pilanesberg National Park and saw an amazing number of African animals as we drove through the park – rhinos, elephants, wilderbeest, springbok, a hare, zebras, a giraffe and many more. My hosts, Charmaine who is on the SAOIM committee and her 6 year old daughter,  were the best guides I could have had. Photos forthcoming when uploaded. (I am so excited by the shots I took that I think I could easily post a photo a day for the rest of #blogjune and not bore anyone).

I was using Charmaine’s fabulous Nikon, so I do not have any of the images yet… I took about 5 photos with my iPhone, so here is a very ordinary one of a giraffe.. (In the wild. In Africa! OMG!!!)


The trip was equivalent to arriving in Perth at 5am and then being in Margaret River by 10:30am. During the drive, Charmaine filled me in beautifully on libraries and librarianship in South Africa. She mentioned the funding the country had received from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, aimed at improving public libraries in South Africa.  Part of this is a programme to refurbish 27 libraries and provide them with ICT equipment to allow free access to the internet as part of the Mzansi Libraries Online project. (Another project is to provide access to over 600 “online libraries”).

The list of equipment that was planned for supply to each library in the pilot project is impressive. There is a focus on disability access in each library.

” Each library will receive equipment estimated at R470 000. The equipment will include a variation of the following lists determined in order of priority and based on the needs identified by the respective library and/or provincial library authority: 20 computers (10 public, 3 games, 2 visually impaired and 5 office); 2 printers; 1 document scanner; software; 10 Tablets; 10 e-Readers; gaming room set up, including 3 computers, 3 X-Box console kits, 2 Play stations and gaming headsets”.

What really struck me, however, is the way that the purpose of the project reinforces my personal biases and core beliefs about what libraries are really about:

” It is to position the public libraries as agents of democracy through nation-building and centres for development to be used for the improvement of the citizens’ quality of life through access to information”.

Jun 052016

The wonderful Peta has put together three files of RSS feeds for #blogjune blogs, that can be imported into an RSS reader.

I have combined these into one file available here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ma7o2rq8rygce2d/BlogJune2016PetasFeeds.opml?dl=0 .

What do you do with it?

  1. Download the file and make sure that it is saved as “BlogJune2016PetasFeeds.opml“. Sometimes it will automatically open in a text reader and will have a .txt extension if you do not check it. If it opens as text in your web browser, then copy the lot and manually paste it into a text file and save it with the right name.
  2. Go to Feedly RSS reader and get an account. Download the app if you are inclined to.
  3. Scroll down to find the button that says “Add content”. For some pages there will be a tiny list of links at the bottom. You should click on “Import OPML” in this case.
  4. You will see a screen that looks like this:
  5. FeedlyOPML
  6. Choose and upload the file
  7. You will see a list of blogs in the left hand side of the screen. You can display these in several different ways by changing preferences, from list of one line per entry to magazine style with pretty pictures.

Enjoy. Go forth and read and comment 🙂

Jun 042016

I’ve always loved stories of intrepid women who went from England or Australia to places like India or Africa in the 1900’s or 1930’s. Brave women in big hats with long skirts and field glasses and a steely, determined chin who said things like “fiddlesticks!” when confronted by an elephant far closer to her mosquito net than was comfortable.

english abroad

With all the risks in that kind of travel – typhoid and malaria, residents who did not agree that white people should trample their country, probably a lack of women’s loos –  I wonder whether I would have ventured further than my front door if I had the same opportunity.

Tomorrow I’m going to Africa for the first time and my inner Nervous Nelly is carrying on like some turn-of-the-century pale-faced debutante. All fainting and smelling salts.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel advice for South Africa puts it at Level 2 “Exercise a high degree of caution”. This is currently the same advice as for Belgium where the National Terrorism Threat Level is Level 3 of 4, indicating that a serious and credible threat exists. In South Africa the caution is due to the high level of crime, rather than risk of terrorism.

My university, when giving me permission to travel, required me to fill in a “DFAT 3” form, which asks me to list security precautions due to our corporate travel advisory company having a high risk rating for the country. I had to demonstrate that someone at the conference knew my movements, I had a known roaming phone number, that I was staying at accommodation of a particular star rating and that I had a transfer from the airport to my accommodation. I have been sent warnings about what to do if I am mugged. I have been advised not to use ATMs in public, or to show my phone obviously in the street. And if I travel in a car to make sure the doors are locked and the valuables are in the boot.

I am sure all will be OK. If those women in the 1930’s could do it in long skirts, then I am sure that me and my iPhone will be just fine.


Jun 032016

Sorry about the teaser yesterday 🙂 I had just been walking around the house saying “I’m going to Africa on Sunday” because it felt so bizarre to say… and it spilled into my blog.

I have been invited to keynote the 13th International Southern African Online Information Meeting in Pretoria next Thursday.  I am then presenting a workshop on the Friday.


I suspect that the lovely Michael Stephens of Tame the Web had something to do with the invitation, having talked there a couple of years ago – so thanks very much, Michael.

I am very excited to be meeting Phil Bradley for the first time, as I have watched his ongoing commentary on the changing face of online search with interest.

While it is very nice to be invited to find my own topic. it can be really hard to find something that is both unique and likely to be interesting to others. I ended up going with the keynote that I always wanted to see at library tech conferences, but ends up more likely to be a chat over morning tea in the exhibition hall. So often there are amazing, stimulating, inspiring ideas at these types of events… but by Day Two my brain is full and I am feeling rather overwhelmed and not quite sure how the really, really interesting dazzling new ideas will stay with me when I return to the office.

So, here is a summary of the keynote:

What do I do when EVERYTHING is so shiny? Personal strategies for coping with new technologies
At library technology conferences, delegates learn a lot and see inspiring speakers doing clever projects with exciting technologies … and possibly return to their workplaces a little overwhelmed and unsure how to relate this to their day-to-day practice. Factors like mountains of email, budgetary restrictions, an inflexible work environment and lack of time for training can make exciting new shiny technology projects seem aspirational rather than achievable. From a library-school educator’s perspective, leaving a conference feeling more able to use new technologies may be linked to skills and actions that are not technology-based at all. A hidden rule book, defining a core purpose, hacker ethics, produsage, skunkworks and generosity may be some surprisingly effective non-tech tools that improve your ability to make an impact with technology. 

And.. they also asked me to prepare a three hour workshop, so I went with something that would explore and expand the themes of the keynote:

Futures dreaming and finding a personal technology strategy
With so many technological options and so much operational change possible in our information services, just what will they look like by 2026 ? What focus can an information professional take now to stay calm, competent and effective as they navigate these changes?

This workshop will focus on facilitated activities to answer a number of questions designed to tease out possible futures, such “what would you do in your information service if you had all the time, money and skills you needed?”. Participants will be encouraged to share their wisdom and their questions with each other so that the group can create together alternative pictures of information services in 2026. Each participant will also work toward their own personal strategy for assessing, implementing and coping with new technologies to benefit their clients and information services. Participants should leave with some ideas they can implement today to cope better with a technological future of tomorrow

Jun 012016

So, you’ve dusted off your blog again for blogjune 2016; or created a nice, shiny new blog ready to join in the conversation. What are you going to post about?

Here’s my tips about feeding the hungry blog-beast.

baggyjumper. (2011). Hungry! Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/baggyjumper/5462303212/

baggyjumper. (2011). Hungry! Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/baggyjumper/5462303212/

  1. Flesh out those half-baked bigger ideas
    • You probably have three half or fully-baked ideas from the last year that you know you would like to flesh out into fully-fledged big topic posts. Maybe a really cool project you did at work. Or a speculation about copyright, user service, drones in Maker Spaces… whatever floats your boat… Promise yourself that by the end of June you will have these published and work on them bit by bit over the month. It may not be until the end of the month that they are done, but you don’t have to get them completely finished in one night.
  2. Pick two or three other bloggers on the #blogjune 2016 list. Read whatever they write and craft a response. If they write silly short stuff, all the better. Follow on in the same vein.
  3. Take a pic of your workspace and tag the post with #blogjune #workspace
  4. Start a distributed poem. Write the first line, pick another blogger on the #blogjune 2016 list ,tag them by mentioning their blog URL in your post and challenge them to write the next line and pass it on.
  5. Recipe. Recipes never go astray.
  6. Write 5 Things About Me
  7. Write 5 Things I wish I learned at Library School
  8. Write These strange 5 tips about working in a library will astound you
  9. Open a Soundcloud account and record a two minute audio piece to embed in your blog. One minute to create profile, two minutes to record, one minute to embed in blog post. Publish! Under 5 minutes
  10. Commit to a single week where each post is just one single sentence and no more. #blogjune #brevity
  11. Write a post called “What to blog about for blogjune?”



May 262016

Twitter is fab for small, ephemeral snippets and quick chatty witticisms. And for building a sense of community and creating a real, viable network that can be called on outside Twitter. Yay Twitter!

BUT … once upon a time, about 8 or so years ago, Australian libraryland had a thriving, buzzing community of longer-form thoughts and more considered conversation; distributed and archived across our blogs daily. Honestly, Hugh, as Kate says, it was different to Twitterworld… and I’d go as far as saying “better for some things”.

Every June for the last six years, a group of Australian library bloggers have committed to blogging every day in June, as blogjune . You can see the history of the first blogjune at Con’s blog, Blogging, thankfully .

Peta has been wonderfully organised and come up with a neat way to register:

register by tweeting your blog URL with hashtag #iambloggingjune.

You can then pop over to her post, Blogjune is looming, and see the list of people who are joining in. (While you are there, check out her responses to the Research Data 23 Things . Fabulous stuff!)

Blogjune is a chance for people to give to their peers and the profession. I want to commit to doing this. So do many in the community of wonderfully clever, chatty, generous Australian library bloggers.  If you are one of them, please join in and share, even if you just do one post and then decide you are out.  Please do not underestimate the value of posting small, trivial-seeming things, unrelated to libraries in any way. These are the “spaces inbetween” the professional conversation and vibrant, interesting and essential.

The secret is – anyone can be part of this community. This is not because we are indiscriminate, just (I hope) welcoming and supportive. The overhead (go start a blog and start chatting) is relatively low. Being the person who asks “why?” or says “I don’t understand” or “why don’t they do things this way?” is valuable and helps keep the conversation relevant. June is the BEST time to start a blog in libraryland because there are people to chat with … and if you are a student, I KNOW that you are probably in between semesters and it is a good time to put your toe in the water. (OUA SP2 students excepted :))

You, yes you, who may consider yourself just a casual passer-by here, can contribute too, even if you do not blog. Read and think about what is posted. Generally someone publishes a file you can add to an RSS reader to keep up to date. Just take some of the ideas from the liblogosphere (yes, we called it that…) and carry them into the real world.

Or comment. Comments keep bloggers on their toes, are just plain nice to receive (even ill-thought-out and critical ones – “OMG! someone is reading this!”) and provide stimulus for further conversation in the comments, as longer posts by others and distributed across other platforms like Twitter.



May 162016

I spoke in April at ALIA’s “Abstract to Paper” session. My part, about how to turn a fully-written conference paper into an engaging conference session, followed on from a presentation from Gaby Haddow and David Wells about how to turn an idea into an abstract that will be accepted and Helen Balfour discussing how to turn an abstract into a conference paper.

I promised to publish my slideset here, and so, a month or so later, here it is. As usual with my slidesets, they are made to be a “partner dance” where what I say does not make much sense without the slides and the slides do not make much sense without me speaking to them … I have briefly tried to capture below the gist … Giving a great conference presentation from a written paper .

2. First thing. If you are allocated 20 minute, prepare for 15. Speakers get excited and digress and emphasise points as they see their audience’s interaction. This is good, but you want to allow time for you to do this. Also it is good to leave time for questions at the end, and for unanticipated delays, like technical difficulties or the speaker before going overtime. By all means, have an extra 5 minutes up your sleeve in case you do need the full 20 minutes, but be prepared also with the 15 minute version and work on the basis that this is the one you will be giving.

3. I told the audience to remember this picture of a small child hugging a small live tiger. It would become relevant later on.

4-7 The presentation was about the crafting that goes into the talk before you are delivering it ….. the only way to prepare for the actual delivery is to practise, practise, practise, practise, until it is so rehearsed that it seems like you are speaking spontaneously

8. Interaction with the audience. I asked them what they thought I was going to say.

9. I outlined what I was actually going to say … and then said it.

10. Hook. No matter what you think, to a large chunk of your audience you have a funny accent and you have funny mannerisms… or let’s just call them “idiosyncratic”. You need to give your audience a chance to get a feel for your pacing and tone before you start telling them anything important… so spend 30 seconds or so on some kind of “warm up” idea, which allows them to fall into your speaking rhythm, helps orientate them to you as a speaker and feel more comfortable coming along for the ride.

11. In the case of this talk, it was the kid and tiger picture. Total gimmick. No other purpose than to wake people up a bit, get their attention, make them wonder where things were going…

12. At most conferences, unless you are first speaker, most people have brains that are almost full and have possibly been subjected to some less-than interesting presentations. A hook is also a way to draw a line in the sand and create a kind of contract with the audience – “okay, I am actually going to try to pay attention to your needs and how you are reacting and try to be interesting and engaging… so having shown you this unusual thing that may have woken you up, I promise that I will keep going in the same vein, as long as you engage with me too”

12-20. Who is it about? The audience. You have had your chance with the abstract and writing the conference paper to be the one driving the ship. Now, you need to remember who is likely to be there and talk for them. This includes the next speaker who is an expert in the same field and may, if collegial, mention one of your points in their presentation. Or your next boss. Or your next employee. Or someone who has no idea of the particular topic, although they are experienced in the profession. Or a new graduate.

The question I asked a the start of the presentation “What do you think I am going to talk about?” is actually a good way to gauge the audience interest, level of knowledge and expectations. It also is a good “hook” that will have the audience listening harder to you to see whether you do actually say what they expected, and also to have clarified for them right at the start where they may have knowledge gaps, so what they should be listening for.

21-23. You need to pitch your presentation as part of a conversation.

When you wrote the conference paper, the references that you used positioned your topic within the existing disciplinary literature and conversation. You have shown that you understand the current research, thinking and where there are disagreements or conflicting views. This makes your point of view stronger if it is clear that you understand what is happening in the discipline, and are not just making things up with very little consideration. Without sounding like you are reading a list for the sake of reading a list, do mention the ideas of others in your session to ground your ideas.

At a conference, you will have – and should have – attended all the other sessions and especially the keynotes. Themes emerge in conferences and, if you are lucky, people make some rather strong statements. Picking up on these and acknowledging them in your session strengthens the conversational aspect and makes the audience understand how your ideas fit into the conference theme.

You can always research the keynotes, the other speakers on the programme and the stated theme of the conference before the day. You should come armed with this, ready to work some of it into your presentation, and leave some places for a bit of spontaneous engagement with the ideas of the last couple of days.

24. How much? 5000 words do not fit into a 20 minute presentation. You cannot include it all. You will have to abbreviate.

25. Some people take a “shrinky dinks” approach, where they try to cover all of the material in the paper in the presentation. This can be important if reporting on a technical process, where leaving out a step will stop the audience from understanding the whole point

26. Some people take an “abridged highlights” approach, as with the 10 minute edited highlights of an Apple product launch event. They still try to include it all, but miss out bigger, less interesting chunks.

27. It is OK to just highlight one part of the paper and focus only on that. There is no crime in stating clearly “There is a whole section on x. covered in the written paper that you can read up on later, but if you want to know more, then please ask in question time or catch me at afternoon tea”. I have seen very successful papers where they just covered the theoretical or practical side of the paper, or went in depth into one of three case studies and relied on the audience’s ability to generalise.

28-29. You know the “so what?” of your paper. If someone asked you for a two sentence explanation of the most original, interesting, valuable points you were going to make, something that would compel them to chose your room instead of a concurrent session, what would you tell them? Know this. Make sure your audience know this by the time they leave. Repeat it at the start, middle and finish if you need to… but this should be your guide when deciding what to cover and what to leave out.

30. – 31. What do you want your audience to take away from your paper? What are the main points you are making ? Ensure that these are very clearly identified during the paper and make sure you re-iterate them at the end.

32 (Hence I repeated my takeaways)

  • Include a hook
  • Make it about the audience, not you
  • Ground your topic in disciplinary conversations and those specific to the conference
  • Know that you will leave something out and be OK with that
  • Make sure that whatever is unique, interesting, novel about your paper has been highlighted
  • Make it clear to the audience what your main points are and what you want them to have learned during your session

33. Always be prepared for, and leave time for, questions.

Dec 012015

Come to the inaugural meeting of Perth’s first and only….



“Where did you get that bruise?”

What’s this?

A meeting of library people to discuss hot topics, learn from the discussion and put new ideas and concepts to the test. We will find all the arguments and counter–arguments around a topic and voice opinions that might be unpopular but will force us to analyse and rethink current practises.

Everyone who wants a say can have one, and we hope that everyone who attends will have a go at giving some kind of opinion – whether sensible or outlandish, whether you agree with it or not. Sometimes arguing against what you believe clarifies why you actually believe it. Or you could even find you change your mind.
Library people (as everyone else) can get stuck in an echo chamber of the same inoffensive conversations, and Library Fight Club will stop all the niceties and get discussions going.

Everybody welcome, bring your non-library friends!!

Of course, we don’t talk about Library Fight Club, but we may tweet/blog it if anyone non-local is interested. Let us know.

When is it on?

The first meeting is on the 17th of December, at 6pm at the upstairs room of Rosie O’Grady’s in Northbridge. RSVP to petra.dumbell@postgrad.curtin.edu.au by the 14th of December.

This is a free event, but we are expected to buy a few drinks from the bar downstairs.


What will we fight about at the first meeting?

“We are done being librarians – nobody should have “librarian” in their job title”

We hope to see you there:

the inaugural fight club members: Kathryn Greenhill, Lydia Dawe, Matthias Liffers, Megan Fitzgibbons, Yusuke Fitzgibbons, Petra Dumbell

Jun 232015

… but I can’t do both.

Parenting, job and doing other things involving dance or the beach take up my finite amounts of time.


sirexkat. (2009, February 26). 57/365 11:20pm and still working. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/sirexkat/3310904615/

(Like making muffins for Mr12 and his three Maths Talent Quester friends as they work on their project)

(Cleaning up again after an old and not-so-neat-any-more cat)

(Trying to find the right dance sneakers that will not split open after three months of use)

(Driving Mr17 to Adult Fans of Lego in Lower Upper Right Woop Woop)

(Working on the box office for the Sound of Music school production)

(Packing to go away for a month)

(Dealing with flooded window and insurance claim so it is all fixed before I go away)

(Long, long skates or bicycle rides along the beach)

If I blog, it cuts into time left over for sleep.

I have so many unwritten blog posts that I would love to write at the moment, including one titled “What happened when I stopped doing all the things”. I would love to be in a place where I could put the time into a blog again, and where I did not prioritise 101 other things that keep me healthy. I love the thinking and writing and talking.

(And, most of all, I love reading what others write when #blogjune cranks things up again and feel like to keep this momentum I need to keep my side up and create too)

But sleep. Better.