Interview with The Writing Platform

I think one of the hard things about trying something new is figuring out how to work with people’s expectations. When you click that link, do you want to be told a good story? Do you want to be given a good puzzle, with the satisfaction of finding the “right” solution? How much effort should you be expected to put in? How much uncertainty should you experience?

I spoke with Simon Groth of The Writing Platform about my most recent interactive text, The Library of Last Resort.

Windblade toy on the planning wall at State Library of Queensland

We talked about strategy and foresight, audience and agency, libraries and information (inevitably), and also learning from the wonder, freedom, and richness of children’s play.

It was a good chat. Check it out over at the Writing Platform website.

In the Library of Last Resort

I wrote a little while back about the need for escapism in these trying times, and to help with that I’ve released a short “choose-your-own” text game.

There’s songs and robots, plenty to read, a world to explore and a mystery to be solved when you visit The Library of Last Resort.

Photograph of a long corridor of bookshelve apparently stretching off endlessly into a white light at the vanishing point
Picture by Flickr user Rich Grundy – CC BY 2.0

I got the idea a couple of years back, when I was exploring the idea of interactive nonfiction and games where there was the opportunity for the player to surprise the author.

In an earlier incarnation, The Library of Last Resort benefited from the editing of the brilliant Adalya Nash Hussein, and advice from Gersande La Flèche & Rob Sherman. It uses Gersande’s code to create the in-game inventory.

It’s not polished, and I welcome feedback, but hopefully it will provide you with an escape when you need one. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a way to surprise me with my own game…

You can play The Library of Last Resort here, or check out my previous interactive piece, A Tear in Flatland.

Campbelltown Library Island: Preparing for challenge and crisis

The Library Island immersive training tool was released last year as a free PDF download and has since been taken up by organisations around the world.

Earlier this year, Paula Pfoeffer of the Community Connections team at Campbelltown City Council in Australia ran a modified version of Library Island with her colleagues.

Council workers visited a make-believe island nation to explore responses to uncertain and challenging situations – from climate change events to social unrest, government budget cuts, and the need to meet demands for recognition and justice for the whole community.

Below, Paula explains how the event was run, what the outcomes were, and how it has fed Campbelltown’s response to the Australian bushfire crisis and the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.

It was just another day on Uluibau Island……

In the towns of Juschester, Becstone and Pfefferville, the collections were being maintained and programs and services were being offered to the community. Life was pretty good for the staff that worked at the combined library and child care centre facility.

Then a climate change event happened and there were increasing demands for recognition and justice from the island’s indigenous population. Then the desperate people speaking a language that no-one seemed to recognise migrated to the City. And then the Ministry began to make ominous noises about cutting library budgets……

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My Visit to Library Island: Eli Neiburger, Ann Arbor District Library

Library Island, the participatory activity which reaches the parts other professional development cannot reach, is here! You can read more and download your copy of the free, CC-licensed PDF file here.

I’m featuring some accounts of the Island from people who have attended Island sessions, or run Islands of their own, to give you a better sense of what it means to take part in, or even organise, your own Library Island.

Last time, Sherlonya Turner of Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) in Michigan, USA joined us for her account of running Library Island. Sherlonya and her colleagues ran a tailor-made session at LibCamp 2019, a professional development event for regional librarians hosted by AADL.

Now AADL Deputy Director Eli Neiburger takes up the story.

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My Visit to Library Island: Sherlonya Turner, Ann Arbor District Library

Library Island, the participatory activity which reaches the parts other professional development cannot reach, is here! You can read more and download your copy of the free, CC-licensed PDF file here.

I’m featuring some accounts of the Island from people who have attended Island sessions, or run Islands of their own, to give you a better sense of what it means to take part in, or even organise, your own Library Island. 

Today, Sherlonya Turner of Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) in Michigan, USA joins us for her account of running Library Island. Sherlonya and her colleagues ran a tailor-made session at LibCamp 2019, a professional development event for regional librarians hosted by AADL.

Sherlonya is a great public library leader, and, in her regular contributions to AADL’s culture blog Pulp, one of Libraryland’s most talented writers. Here’s what happened when she took charge of Library Island earlier this year.

When Managers Cut Loose: Being Playful with Colleagues

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Clemson University Visits Library Island

This week, South Carolina’s Clemson University Libraries became the latest organisation to visit Library Island, with their own lively adaptation of the free, CC-licensed core toolkit.

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This #TuesdayTrip we walked over to the Hendrix Student Center for our Professional Development Day, a chance for our employees to learn the ins and outs of other library job positions through a professional development game called Library Island. Each employee was assigned to a library with a new job position or role such as librarian, tech, dean, student, etc. Everyone was then given a task and had to find the corresponding person to help them with it, making the room operate like a library. Through this game, employees gained insight into their coworkers’ jobs and experienced both the good aspects and the challenges. After the game, we discussed what we learned. One employee said she now understands the demand placed on our financial officer, while someone who’s island was located far from the others realized how distance can impact an employee’s job, like those at our off-site Library Depot. Many employees said they realized they had a lot of assumptions about their coworkers’ jobs and the activity helped interpret them more clearly. But of course we couldn’t play a game and not have some fun! Stay tuned for this week’s #LibraryShenanigans to find out how we overthrew the dean, caught crooks stealing from Special Collections, declared a new library, ran out of books, and met a flamingo named Clarence. #NextTimeOnDragonBallZ . . . #clemson #clemsonlibraries #librariesofclemson #librariesofinstagram #library #cooperlibrary #academiclibrary #clemsonuniversity #southcarolina #clemsontigers #books #reading #learning #tuesday #trip #vacation #holiday #adventure #woohoo #employee #work #beach #island #hawaii #libraryisland

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“Each employee was assigned to a library with a new job position or role such as librarian, tech, dean, student, etc. Everyone was then given a task and had to find the corresponding person to help them with it, making the room operate like a library. Through this game, employees gained insight into their coworkers’ jobs and experienced both the good aspects and the challenges.

After the game, we discussed what we learned. One employee said she now understands the demand placed on our financial officer, while someone who’s island was located far from the others realized how distance can impact an employee’s job, like those at our off-site Library Depot.

Many employees said they realized they had a lot of assumptions about their coworkers’ jobs and the activity helped interpret them more clearly. But of course we couldn’t play a game and not have some fun!”

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Find out more and follow their Island adventures by visiting Clemson Libraries on Instagram, or read more about running a Library Island of your very own.

Library Island Is Here!

Welcome to Library Island!

This interactive training activity helps participants to explore strategy, innovation, and the messy business of working with communities. We’ve spent the last two years perfecting Library Island with university staff, health workers, museum professionals, students, and, yes, librarians.

The free CC-licensed print-and-play kit is now available for download in PDF format. Feel free to adopt it, adapt it, and make your own visit to Library Island.

Read more about Library Island, and what it has done for professionals all over the world, here.

Toronto iSchool, 6-7 June: Learning to Plan on Library Island

We can’t predict the future, yet we do it all the time. We have to: there are objectives to be set and met, projects to be devised and delivered, holidays to be booked, birthdays to celebrate, mouths to be fed, children to raise, dreams to be fulfilled.

Sometimes people and organisations anticipate the future based on what has gone before – but then we risk being blindsided by social and sectoral changes, financial crises, political upsets, natural disasters, and complex systemic challenges.

So, how do we prepare for futures characterised by turbulence and uncertainty?

What methods help information professionals to develop foresight, insight, and awareness that will support decisions made for their communities, teams, and institutions?

Welcome to Library Island.

This June, visit the University of Toronto’s iSchool – “Learning to Plan on Library Island” – to develop skills and awareness which will help you to deal effectively with potential threats, opportunities, and challenges.

This two-day event will feature speakers including Peter Morville, author of Planning for Everything; Stephen Abram of Lighthouse Consulting; and Rebecca Jones & Jane Dysart of Dysart & Jones. I’ll also be there to offer insights gathered from information professionals working with institutions, communities, and businesses around the world.

Experienced consultants and leaders in the information profession will share planning tips, tricks, and methodologies. Participants will explore and experiment with new ways to develop their strategy, vision, and mission, including sessions of the Library Island play-based activity.

It’ll be provocative, inspiring, practical, challenging, and fun. Visit http://www.thefutureoflibraries.org to see more about this June’s University of Toronto iSchool – we’d love to see you there.

Traditional games, digital spaces: USQ + Queensland Museum Network

In 2017, I spent six months developing special community engagement projects for the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).

I had a wide remit to find new ways to connect with the local community, pilot external partnerships, and encourage innovation in line with a new service model being rolled out across the university’s Scholarly and Information Services division (SILS).

During that time, among other projects, Dr. Kate Davis and I won & delivered the division’s first external tender; SILS partnered with the university’s radio school to pilot podcasts bringing together academic experts, artists, and professionals from across Australia; and we joined forces with Ann Arbor District Library in the US to offer coaching & professional development.

This week saw the announcement of another project coming to fruition: a partnership between staff on the university’s Toowoomba campus and Cobb+Co Museum, the local site of the Queensland Museum Network.

Cobb+Co’s Learning Officer Tony Coonan worked with SILS’ Zoe Lynch and Shane Gadsby to develop a browser-based version of Burguu Matya, a traditional game attributed to the Wiradjuri people.

The game had been available to play in physical form at Cobb+Co’s Binangar Gallery, dedicated to Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Zoe and her team of media designers, invited to explore external partnerships, proposed developing an online version which could be played on devices both within the museum and statewide.

The successful small-scale pilot tested the SILS in-house media design team’s capacity for work with external clients,  strengthened relationships between the university and its local community, and explored the opportunities for USQ to enrich the cultural and learning offer for both the people of Toowoomba and users of the wider Queensland Museum Network. The future relationship between the university and the museum will be structured and enhanced by a memo of understanding.

You can read more about the project at the USQ website.