Library Island hits #nls8

My professional development roleplay Library Island visited the New Librarians Symposium at the National Library of Australia last weekend.


Librarians old and new joined forces to explore their work with communities in new, messy, and productive ways.

Going beyond the vogue for design thinking, the safe, fictional space of “Library Island” allowed us to engage with knotty questions of office politics, limited resources, managerial edicts, and library users who are sometimes airbrushed out of “future visions” – such as homeless people or those whose behaviour might be challenging to staff.

As always, Library Island players impressed us with their ingenuity, compassion, and willingness to explore new ways to address their community’s needs.

I particularly liked librarian Will Wood’s attempt to proactively devise services for new migrants to Library Island, for example:

Will and Lauren Castan also balanced the need to serve their users and “manage upwards” as they dealt with the Ministry of Shelves that was supervising them.


Of course, some of the threats and challenges were more dramatic than others:

….and some of the players’ responses were also a little wild.

But we shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of wild play or outlandish, open-ended activities. These sessions genuinely free participants to reimagine what they do and how they relate to their peers, supervisors, funders, and the communities they currently or potentially serve. You can find out more about this philosophy in my Library Life piece “The Professional Benefit of Play.”


#NLS8 was a brilliant conference and massive credit goes to Amy WalduckSally Turbitt, and their team of organisers. Special thanks to Sally for supporting my session on behalf of the conference committee.

I was particularly pleased to see Auckland’s Reading Between the Wines initiative being shared, and to sneak away for a little professional development of my own.

The next session of Library Island will take place at New Zealand’s national library conference, LIANZA Open 17. You should join us!

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