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.
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.
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.
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 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…
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.
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?