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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Doctor Who Barcelona

 

Elevate!

Rachael Rivera in Library Journal's Movers and Shakers 2018 awards

Last year, I was invited to give a keynote speech at Aotearoa/New Zealand’s national library conference, LIANZA 2017.

I wanted to realise a long-held dream and present a collective keynote with a number of Australian & New Zealand colleagues sharing the stage, but it wasn’t practical for LIANZA to fly a whole group of us across the Tasman Sea.

(They did, however, kindly accede to one request and arrange a special funded session on Indigenous Knowledge Centres, led by my brilliant Queensland colleague Lesley Acres).

In the end, we contrived a way to deliver a unique collective keynote – by taping my mouth shut and inviting members of the audience on stage in an hour-long series of creative, constructive, collaborative activities.

For me, the highlight came at the end of the keynote session, when two special guests materialised.

We had arranged for Auckland Libraries’ Rachael Rivera & Hamish Noonan to attend the conference in secret, taking the stage to conclude our keynote.

Rachael’s concluding comments triggered a debate about libraries and homelessness on national media in New Zealand, and gave both Rachael and her Kiwi colleagues the opportunity to stand up for library values, articulating their commitment to equity, justice, and access to the world of knowledge and culture for all.

In October, US librarian Justin Hoenke approached me to co-nominate Rachael for the American Library Journal‘s annual Movers & Shakers Award, highlighting professionals who have done exceptional work in libraries around the world.

Today, Rachael was announced as a winner of the 2018 Movers & Shakers Award and her friends & supporters worldwide are justifiably celebrating. From her days back in suburban Auckland to current international glory, including her own individual library keynote in Edinburgh,  Rachael is one of the greatest heroes of public librarianship in 2018.

Voices like hers deserve to be elevated. Look her up. Learn from her. Change the world for the better.

Read more about Rachael’s Movers & Shakers nomination at Justin Hoenke’s website.

USQ Podcast: Eurovision to Eudaimonia

The final pilot podcast from my 2017 project at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) just went live.

The project explored ways for the university to engage a wider audience and connect with the community beyond recruitment, research, teaching and learning.

USQ’s resident Eurovision expert, humanities lecturer Jess Carniel, was joined by Neil Martin of the USQ Digital Life Lab and Lee McGowan, who researches the history of women’s football at a neighbouring institution, Queensland University of Technology.

Their conversation ranged from the history of women’s football to Aristotle’s views on “eudaimonia” and a life well-lived, politics, performance, and the fate of Katy Perry’s Left Shark.

Shark

Check out the latest USQ podcast episode online now.

You can also listen to previous instalments from USQ Astronomy Festival and Bluestocking Week for women in higher education.

Always get feedback…

Always get feedback…from the workshops and activities that you run.

There’s always something to learn from your participants, something to surprise you, or something to make you smile.

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(That “bit cold” line is about the air conditioning in the venue, not my icy demeanour…I hope!).