Drink Your Way To Better Librarianship with @RobThomson2528

Today we’re joined by Australia’s Rob Thomson, a library worker and educator who trains library staff, runs conferences and events, and explores the future of the profession in a most adventurous way. We got to chatting after I read Charlie Spedding’s book From Last to First; in a previous entry on this blog, I explored a chapter of this book entitled “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Sports Psychology.”

Matt
Thanks for joining me, Rob. I got in touch for this chat after reading the section of Spedding’s book where he describes changing his approach while nursing a pint of beer:

“If thinking differently was going to make me a better runner, I could do it sitting in the pub. I smiled to myself and took another drink as I figured I was making myself a better runner right now.”

And I thought of you!

Rob
That is awesome! I am no runner, but I do get to thinking differently. Sometimes that happens whilst nursing a beer… sometimes it is over a coffee; or even descending the stairs… But a beer helps!

Often because it’s not at work, you’re in a different place, more relaxed and can take a longer, more considered, view of things and put 2 and 3 together better than when distracted by what goes on at work.

In a sense, it’s giving yourself permission to have some thinking time.

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Image by Wikipedia user U3144362, licensed as CC BY-SA 4.0

Matt
You’re kind of in the business of making better librarians, aren’t you? Read more

Drink Your Way To Better Librarianship

“If thinking differently was going to make me a better runner, I could do it sitting in the pub.”

Charlie Spedding missed a train, bought a beer, and changed his life.

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The English marathon runner, a pharmacist by trade, found himself in a pub forty years ago, pondering how to make the big time.

“I had committed myself to running when I walked away from my father’s business, but I didn’t seem to know how I was going to fulfil whatever potential I had. All I had done was burn my bridges, and I felt unsure about how to make progress.”

All lives come to turning points, by choice or by chance or by decisions over which we have no control. So how do we make the most of them? What options are available to us?

And can we drink our way to better librarianship?

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“Zombies, stay where you are!” – A @guardian visit to Library Island

They were sitting in rows in a room at the heart of the Guardian‘s Education Centre in London: teachers, librarians, educators, gathered for a day to explore reading for pleasure and attending to diverse voices in literature. They were happily caffeinated, ready to learn, excited for the day ahead of them.

About a third of them wore a name tag with the chilling legend: ZOMBIE.

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A Serious House Built with Glitter and Toilet Rolls

I asked Justin Hoenke to join me for an online chat about community and libraries and a thousand other things. Justin is a highly accomplished, much-loved American library director who currently resides in rural Pennsylvania, where he leads the Benson Memorial Library while his family is restoring an old church as a community space.

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Justin’s work reminded me of Philip Larkin’s poem Church Going – “A serious house on serious earth it is, In whose blent air all our compulsions meet” – so we each read that prior to our chat.

It made for a nice jumping off point into a long talk about service, legacy, academic vs. public libraries, and the ongoing dance of community engagement.

Matt

Hello! How are you?

Justin

Good sir, I am well. How are you? We’ve got a lovely spring morning with the birds singing songs. I plan on watering some plants after this. I think this is ideal. Read more

7 Questions with @RichRetyi of @AADL & @annarborstories

Today we’re joined by Rich Retyi, who leads Marketing & Communications for Ann Arbor District Library (AADL). I met him during the Wondrous Strange event I ran for AADL last year, alongside other great staff like Sherlonya Turner and AADL’s director Josie Parker.

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Rich is an exceptional storyteller and advocate for libraries, and alongside his comms work he has created the Ann Arbor Stories podcast and a spinoff publication, The Book of Ann Arbor.

I began by asking Rich how he came to join the team at AADL.

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Tell us your story: Libraries’ global storytelling manual

The International Federation of Library Associations, IFLA, has released a new guide designed to help librarians and library advocates to tell compelling stories about library activities, projects and programmes, showing their impact on communities and people’s lives.

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Libraries and the Sustainable Development Goals” is a practical document and storytelling tool, linked to the United Nations goals which IFLA uses to demonstrate libraries’ global relevance.

You can check out the manual at the IFLA website.

#NotEnoughScifi: Good things happen

Seven years ago now. Springtime in New York.

I had read Nnedi Okorafor’s Zahrah the Windseeker back in 2010 and it had blown my mind. One of the greatest kids’ books I’d ever seen, wondrous and witty and thrilling.

>Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Witch Review at Brooklyn Rail

Nnedi had a new YA novel coming out – Akata Witch, the beginning of a fresh series.

I wanted to sing the praises of an incredible writer who, at the time, was still not quite getting the attention she deserved.

I pitched a review to Brooklyn Rail, the New York arts paper.

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Afterlives of Evidence: A Response from @katbhave

New Zealand-based librarian Kat Moody read my post on Afterlives of Evidence, archives, and grief last week. She offers this response, exploring military history, natural disasters, landscape and memory.

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Photograph by Kat Moody

Recently I had the opportunity at work to attend a course on character strengths run by the Mental Health Education Resource Centre. It’s great that these opportunities for healthcare professional development are being opened up to librarians. Last year I went to one of their courses on grief. This was an incredibly valuable session where I learnt a lot; one thing that stood out to me was that we don’t just grieve for people, we also grieve for places and things, particularly in times of change. Sometimes these aspects are inextricably linked.

Because I work in the centre of Christchurch, I am surrounded by sites of memory and sites of mourning. Read more

IFLA and Beyond: Afterlives of Evidence

Trigger warning for death, violence.

This week, I talked about building new partnerships and opportunities for libraries at the IFLA President’s Meeting in Barcelona – a global gathering of library leaders.

We looked at ways to identify fresh connections between libraries’ mission and the goals of other institutions and communities, with a special focus on healthcare.

Then I read about new research exploring whether it is beneficial for bereaved relatives to view crime scene materials after violent death.

This complex and sensitive topic is one which has potential to bring solace to grieving families – but it must be approached carefully.

An article in The Conversation on the benefits of viewing crime scene photographs also draws attention to growing public interest in forensic images, the preservation of those images as cultural artefacts, and their wider circulation in the digital age.

The Conversation quotes legal scholar Katherine Biber pointing out that “we lack a forum to think about…’the afterlives of evidence.'”

Yet the afterlife of evidence is one of the key fields of librarianship.

The issue raised is precisely the kind to which librarians bring useful expertise, experience, and values.

There are questions of archiving and access; of sensitive work with clients in difficult emotional circumstances; questions, too, about the media and context in which this material is shared.

All of this lies firmly within the territory of today’s librarians and the experience of knowledge workers like my friend and former Auckland Libraries colleague Natasha Barrett. Natasha, in addition to her library work, has held roles with the duty of repatriating Indigenous remains from cultural institutions.

So could librarians be leading this conversation with police, social workers, and representatives of the bereaved?

The Conversation authors also write that:

We need to move away from approaching grief as a medical event subject to diagnosis, and instead turn our attention to the diverse needs of family members as they comprehend the realities of death, and the meanings of that death in their own lives.

This, too, is a wider discussion to which libraries can contribute – as in a 2016 “death literacy” panel discussion which I ran for the State Library of Queensland. That event, recorded as a one-off library podcast, formed part of a “microfestival which explores, challenges, and celebrates our understanding of death, dying, and bereavement”.

 

These wider public engagements sit alongside the more sensitive work required to deal with individual forensic archives in the context of violent death, and alongside work with health practitioners as well as the general public.

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In both broad public engagement and private sharing of forensic media, there is a significant opportunity for brave, principled, and caring knowledge workers to enter this difficult terrain and bring their skills to bear on how families and communities deal with the end of life.

IFLA President’s Meeting, Barcelona

I’m speaking today at the President’s Meeting of the International Federation of Library Associations in the city of Barcelona.

 

As part of the session “Building Bridges to Discover New Services”, I’m discussing ways to develop new alliances & partnerships for libraries large and small.

You can read a PDF of my talk “New Alliances in Libraryland” here.

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