#NotEnoughScifi: John M. Ford & the Funny Business / Part 1

I’ve been thinking about where we go next.

It’s a big part of my job, which essentially has two sides.

One of them is connecting and coaching people to bring their own bright ideas to fruition: finding resources, partners, and opportunities for them to realise marvellous initiatives.

Another part is scouting out the unmarked territory, the unknown spaces beyond service models and strategic visions, the opportunities we hadn’t even considered yet.

That includes using speculative fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy as a way of thinking about how things could be different…and what comes next.

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Mess and Macrohistory: Design Thinking and Beyond feat. @tegalex / Part 3

We’ve been talking about how to address the messy reality of library services over the last few weeks: not just the artists’ impression, the managerial vision, or the designer’s response to a brief.

With Dr. Kate Davis, my colleague at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), we looked at using information experience to address community needs; before that, Auckland’s Jerome Rivera gave a wry take on the demands of frontline library service under the tagline “Code Brown“.

It goes beyond cleaning up after users in a public library setting, though. Code Brown  – understood more broadly as an attempt to address overlooked aspects of library information work – takes many forms and exists in many spaces.

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IX: Design Thinking and Beyond feat. @katiedavis / Part 2

Last time in this series we talked with Jerome Rivera of New Zealand about the messy realities confronted by frontline staff in libraries around the world. You can see some of that ongoing discussion via the #CodeBrown hashtag on Twitter.

What does an appreciation for messiness and uncertainty mean for the design of future experiences in libraries and their sister institutions? How can we best meet the information needs of the communities we serve?

Joining me this time is Dr. Kate Davis, my colleague at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). Kate is a social scientist based in USQ’s Digital Life Lab, carrying out research into social media and the qualitative analysis of information experiences.

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Kate, I’ve heard of UX – user experience – but never IX. What is “information experience” all about?

IX is about understanding how people engage with information. It’s relational – focussed on the contexts in which people need, seek, manage, give, and use information. Read more

Code Brown: Design Thinking & Beyond feat. @jeromical / Part 1

Blame it on Jerome; it started with him.

Jerome Rivera, aka @jeromical, is Community Library Manager at Ranui in Auckland, New Zealand. He’s smart and thoughtful and highly accomplished, and one of the sharpest dressers I’ve ever seen. Jerome and his wife Rachael form something of a library power couple: she manages Auckland’s central city library and her teams have been responsible for amazing projects such as specialised services for homeless people and bespoke one-to-one encounters with Kiwi musicians for NZ Music Month. But I’ll have to get to the full story of Rachael’s greatness another time, because today is about Code Brown, and Code Brown starts with Jerome.

You see, being a librarian today is about all kinds of things. Access to information. Bringing communities together and giving them the opportunity to share their skills and stories, or create new knowledge. Offering new technologies and the skills to explore those technologies.

But, as Jerome pointed out on Twitter, when you work in a space like a library which is open and welcoming to all members of the public, sooner or later, you end up dealing with a Code Brown. Read more

Library Island hits #nls8

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

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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. Read more

Guest Post: Walking Through Walls – Library Spaces Everywhere

Following guest posts from Marta Cabral on treating children’s art with respect, Adrienne Hannan on what librarians can learn from military strategy, and Hamish Lindop on the best way to reach out to our customers, we’re joined this week by Auckland Libraries’ Baruk – aka @feddabonn on Twitter – an outspoken, audacious, and innovative librarian who co-designed and delivered our interactive teen space (featuring real live teens!) at the recent Auckland Libraries hui New Rules of Engagement. Here’s Baruk on ‘Walking Through Walls’:

We usually think of libraries as being confined to specific spaces that people come to. Even the more liberal expressions I have heard, “parks with walls” still focuses on a particular geographic space…with walls. And one wonders – does this attitude wall us in psychologically as well?

I’m an Aucklander and a librarian: although I grew up in a remote corner of north eastern India, I work in New Zealand’s largest city, in the biggest public library system in the southern hemisphere. A decade into the 21st century, the majority of the human race lives in an urban environment – but at the same time, the concept of the city is being re-imagined. This breakdown is a rich source of inspiration for librarians; here are three examples.

Frieze magazine recently published a piece on the methods of urban warfare used by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). It’s a philosophical change as much as a tactical one, based on a drastic re-conceptualisation of space. If a soldier sees an urban space as consisting of streets and houses, each doorway and window becomes a threat that could hold a sniper or be booby trapped. The IDF therefore ‘walks through walls’, using explosives to blow apart roofs and walls that stand in the way of the direction they wish to go.

“We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through and the door as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps.” – Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi

What’s good for war is also good for play: the increasingly popular sport of parkour does something similar, in its refusal to stick to prescribed paths laid down by urban planners. Parkour players – “traceurs” – make a game of moving vertically, climbing walls and jumping roofs to move between spaces. While at first glance it looks like it requires more athleticism and gymnastic ability than most of us have, it is more about one’s attitude to space, and really another way of tracing desire lines in the urban landscape. (See more on desire lines and libraries from Books and Adventures guest Jess Begley).

If we lack the acrobatic skill to move through the urban space as a traceur would, there are other options. Read more