Outback adventures with Tammy & Matt

I spent last week on the road with the State Library of Queensland’s Tammy Joynson, delivering professional development with a twist & consulting with librarians & local government on future policies, strategies, plans and schemes.

You can see a 2-minute recap of our adventures here.

LIANZA 2017 Keynote

I’m pleased to say I’ll be joining the librarians of Aotearoa / New Zealand for this year’s LIANZA conference, 24-27 September at Addington Raceway.

More news to follow.

Library Island at NLS8, Canberra

I’ll be running an interactive workshop, Library Island, at the 8th New Librarians’ Symposium in Canberra, Australia, this June.

There will be drama, there will be danger – and the freedom to reimagine librarianship in a whole new way.

Watch this space for more information nearer the time. Or sign up for the conference today.

Sing Me A Library

My latest column for Library as Incubator explores the links between libraries and musicians, from Glenn Gould’s radio documentaries to English community choirs and digital experiments in today’s Australia.

Read “Sing Me A Library” at Library as Incubator.

SWITCH 2016, New South Wales

I’m in the coastal town of Ulladulla to talk libraries with people from across the state of New South Wales at the SWITCH 2016 conference.

You can catch up with my keynote “Science Fiction Double Feature” from lunchtime (AEDT) Wednesday – try the #switch2016 hashtag on Twitter.

The paper will be up on the SWITCH website shortly after the event.

Crawford Awards, South Australia

On Friday, I was guest speaker at South Australia’s Crawford Awards for Library Innovation.

It was a chance to explore how Aussie libraries ensure that they create services for and with their communities – and acknowledge the specific colonial history of this land.

It was also an opportunity to celebrate many of the friends and colleagues I’ve worked with during my residency at the State Library of Queensland.

The Award was given to the rural South Australian city of Murray Bridge for a project working with local Aboriginal elders, introducing the Ngarrindjeri language to a new generation through stories and song.

Congratulations to Tim Law, Georgina Trevorrow, and all at Murray Bridge who are working to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Murraylands and support their community.

Crawford Award, Adelaide

I’m honoured to be guest speaker at the ceremony for the annual Crawford Award (no, not that one – the one for library innovation in South Australia). It takes place in Adelaide this Friday.

I’ve never been to Adelaide, and I’m doubly excited because it’s the home of one of the greatest Aussie television shows, Danger 5.

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I’m sure that’s exactly what the Crawford Award show is going to be like.

The Kinder Way To Enjoy Hacking

This morning I gave the opening address at the annual conference of ALIA Queensland. The theme this year was “Library Hacks”.

Hacking’s such a funny term, still threatening and techy and futuristic, and yet also so familiar; the stuff of cheesy mid-90s techno-thrillers as much as today’s headlines about Wikileaks and massive DNS attacks.

The New Yorker tells us that the word originates in the house slang of MIT, way back in the 1950s:

The minutes of an April, 1955, meeting of the Tech Model Railroad Club state that “Mr. Eccles requests that anyone working or hacking on the electrical system turn the power off to avoid fuse blowing.”

Taking “hack” to mean tinkering with machines and procedures, not following the manual, I wanted to both hack the keynote and offer attendees an opportunity that wouldn’t exist at M.I.T.

So, we gave them craft materials, tinfoil and paperclips, food decorating kits, a basic electronics set…

…and Kinder Surprise Eggs.

Read more

A quick question about the history of libraries

I’ve done a fair bit of work with libraries over the last few years. Most of it has involved encouraging play of all kinds. I had previously worked with schools and other organisations, but I became convinced of public libraries’ importance after visiting Christchurch in the wake of the 2010 earthquakes. Carolyn Robertson and her team showed, through their actions in that period, that libraries were never more important than in times of grave crisis. When I think about librarianship as a heroic vocation, I think of people like Carolyn, and Penny Carnaby of the National Library of New Zealand, who did their profession proud in a difficult moment.

Carolyn Robertson of Christchurch City Libraries, New Zealand
“We understand the word “library” in the widest possible sense.” – Carolyn Robertson, Christchurch City Libraries

When I was at Auckland Libraries last year, I discovered the Public Library Missions agreed by UNESCO and the international library association IFLA back in 1994:

The following key missions which relate to information, literacy, education and culture should be at the core of public library services:

  • creating and strengthening reading habits in children at an early age;
  • supporting both individual and self conducted education as well as formal education at all levels;
  • providing opportunities for personal creative development;
  • stimulating the imagination and creativity of children and young people;
  • promoting awareness of cultural heritage, appreciation of the arts,
  • scientific achievements and innovations;
  • providing access to cultural expressions of all performing arts;
  • fostering inter-cultural dialogue and favouring cultural diversity;
  • supporting the oral tradition;
  • ensuring access for citizens to all sorts of community information;
  • providing adequate information services to local enterprises, associations and interest groups;
  • facilitating the development of information and computer literacy skills;
  • supporting and participating in literacy activities and programmes for all age groups, and initiating such activities if necessary.

I think this is an incredibly strong mandate which gives librarians clear freedom to engage in all kinds of play, performance, technological and cultural activity. The missions have been around for twenty years, and yet so many library conferences and professional discussions still revolve around debating what libraries should or should not be doing in the 21st century; so many public discussions about libraries reveal that people still think of them largely as “shelfy”, book-storing institutions.

Part of my eclectic scholarly career was spent as an intellectual historian, so these are the questions that occur to me:

What happened in librarianship in the 1980s/1990s to lay the ground for such a radical, positive, and future-proofed global mission statement?

Why didn’t the missions gain more traction?

What lessons could we learn for today from the history of these missions, and the process that led to their writing?

If you have any answers to my questions, contact me via the comments on this site, or at my Twitter account @drmattfinch.

I’ve written about applying the Public Library Missions to play activities in the library here, and also overthought the nature of librarianship here.

Two of my favourite discussions of librarianship – from actual librarians! – come from Adrienne Hannan on “Strategic Librarianship” and Tracie Mauro on “Wonder-based library programmes”.