Napkins in Copenhagen: Starting Strategic Conversations

Copenhagen was the last stop on my workshop tour of the Nordic countries. I ran two sessions – a full day for librarians from across Denmark and Germany, plus a half day for Danish library managers. My hosts were Bibliotekarforbundet – the Danish Union of Librarians.

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We used a range of methods and techniques, including the Library Island activity, to explore issues of advocacy, strategy, inclusion, innovation, and coping with a turbulent political environment.

Participants discussed the possibilities of an uncertain future with their peers, then began to design practical responses to the challenges they had identified.

At the managers’ workshop, it became clear that tools were needed to support quick, credible internal and external conversations about libraries’ changing role in Danish society. These would be used to build stakeholder understanding of Danish libraries’ mission, and help staff members to see how their work fit into the larger priorities of their organisation. Read more

A New Vision for Queensland’s Public Libraries

The new vision for public libraries in Queensland, Australia has been published by the State Library of Queensland.

The vision, which takes the form of a poster co-designed with Meld Studios, is based on research I conducted with the University of Southern Queensland’s Dr. Kate Davis lat year.

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You can download the poster for the new vision as a PDF here and read the research on which it was based as a PDF download here.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

El Eternauta: Library in the Sky

In 2007, the National Library of Argentina commemorated the renowned Argentine comics writer Héctor Gérman Oesterheld with a special exhibition of his work.

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The library brought Oesterheld’s most famous character, the time-travelling Eternauta, to life by commissioning a special chapter of the Eternauta comic featuring the library itself.

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Over at arts website the Cultural Gutter, you can read the story of how, while visiting Buenos Aires, I escaped into the Eternauta’s world…or he escaped into mine.

4 Quick Questions with Ann Arbor District Library’s Josie Parker

Today, we’re joined by Josie Parker, Director at Ann Arbor District Library (AADL), an acclaimed US public library service in Michigan.

Josie1.jpgAs Josie approaches her seventeenth year with the organisation, she took a little time to answer four quick questions about her journey with Ann Arbor – and what’s next for the Michigan library.

How did you get started at AADL and how has the organization changed during your time there?

I have been Director at AADL 16 ½ years. I came to work at AADL in 1999 as the Youth Department Manager. The Library was a very traditionally organized public library institution that had suffered a financial scandal leading to imprisonment for one administrator, and the eventual resignation of the Director.

I had been promoted to interim Director during the end of the upheaval, and was later offered the job. I took it without intending to be in one library most of my career, and yet, here I am. It is an awesome library and the community is very supportive financially, as well as, politically. We are able to take library services in many directions sometimes stretching them beyond recognition. We consider that a positive outcome.

What’s your proudest career achievement so far?

Read more