September’s Marvellous, Electrical newsletter tells the story of Jay, who found himself running the sole pub in a country town of twenty thousand during a year of renovations.
The brilliant Janeese Henaway of Townsville Libraries has just co-written an academic paper with researcher Maggie Nolan.
The paper, ‘Decolonising reading: the Murri book club‘, explores the project to create and support an Indigenous book club in a regional Australian city, led by Janeese in her capacity as Indigenous Library Resources Officer.
If book clubs are an overwhelmingly white phenomenon, through which members ‘maintain their currency as literate citizens through group discussion’, what does it mean for Indigenous people to create and run their own book club? How does it differ from other clubs and activities? What are the tensions, concerns, opportunities, and expectations when Indigenous people reshape the book club format for their own purposes?
Janeese and Maggie explore decolonization of the book club as a social, cultural, and political institution. They ask how this project might address white ignorance and explore empathy across ethnic groups, and they consider the tension between oral and written traditions for Indigenous people living in the Australia of 2017.
Today I’m joined by Amy Walduck, Queensland State Manager for the Australian library association ALIA.
Amy’s a government research librarian, musician, social media maven, and culture professional extraordinaire. She’s also creator of the @QLDLibraries Twitter account celebrating library achievements across Australia’s Sunshine State.
Amy was my partner in crime on various initiatives at the State Library of Queensland, including baking cakes for occupational therapists at Griffith University. She’s a natural networker, enthusiastic, innovative, and determined: great qualities in an ever-changing sector like Libraryland.
Pinned to the top of Amy’s Twitter timeline for most of 2017 has been this statement:
I started our chat by asking Amy: Why did you make this your 2017 life goal? Read more
We’re revisiting two previous instalments of Marvellous, Electrical in a new form this month.
My partner Marta Cabral reads “The Dough“, about Brisbane’s baker of Portuguese pastries, in a bilingual version here:
Portuguese speakers can also enjoy Marta reading “Foolaru”, my Australia Day piece from 2017, here:
Marvellous, Electrical is a two-year project in the form of an email newsletter from across Queensland, Australia and beyond.
My University of Southern Queensland colleague Kate Davis and I have won the tender to review the strategic vision for public libraries in Queensland, Australia.
We’ll be drafting a successor to the existing VISION 2017 document after a season of consultation, workshops, surveys, and interviews with library staff, managers, and key stakeholders from across the state.
I joined forces with Donna Hancox, Director of Research Quality in Creative Industries at Queensland University of Technology, to talk about the impact of digital technology on rural and regional Australia.
You can read “Everyday Stories and Creativity: Regional Queensland and Transformative Technology” over at The Writing Platform.
What can relatively young disciplines like information science and the allied health professions tell us about society and pop culture?
On the eve of a new exhibition at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, these three creative professionals got together to explore Marvel’s superhero movies through new lenses informed by their expertise and experience.
Focusing on Doctor Strange (2016), the discussion embraced magic, mystery, science, history, identity, culture, politics, heroism, and lots of laughter.
From the history of Australian censorship to the dark side of healthcare, challenges in identity and representation, plus the arcane mysteries of “readers’ advisory”, listen now for a mind-expanding journey.
Kyla Stephan who writes the marvellous Library Ghost blog knitted me a hat for today’s Science March in Brisbane.
There are rightly some questions to be asked about the march organisers’ approach to diversity and inclusion, but I also thought it was important to show up and be counted in the name of all people who are curious about the world and revise their beliefs in the face of evidence.
In return for my hat, I had to find Kyla an interesting science story.
So here are a few words about drug dosage and cheesy moonshots.
What are the physics of highly compressed cheese and why does it matter?
My favourite science show-off moment was at a conference on Science and Storytelling at the University of Cardiff some years ago.
I was interested in how medics and health workers used storytelling in science, and one of my favourite projects was by an information scientist called Harold Thimbleby (PDF download).
He pointed out that in Europe, about 120,000 hospital deaths per year are caused by drug calculation errors – that’s more people than die in car accidents.
Not all of those errors can be blamed on the staff, however. The automatic pumps which dispense drugs through IVs etc are often difficult to program, and although they look like calculators, they are not.
A “simple” drug calculation is: how many mL/hr should an infusion pump be set to in order to give a patient 5250mg of fluorouracil over 4 days at a concentration of 45.57 mg/mL?
The simplest correct calculation using a basic calculator is: [AC][MRC][MRC]4 × 24 [MPLUS][AC]5250 ÷ 45.57 ÷[MRC] =
After getting all those key presses right, you then have to go through another round of button presses on the pump, without making any mistakes. All as just one task in your busy day at the hospital.
Professor Thimbleby developed a prototype smartphone app which asked you what the drug calculation was, and the type of pump you were using, and then guided you through the key presses step by step.
This reduced human error and created opportunities for the user to check and double check throughout the process.
What has all that got to do with a moon made of cheese?
Almost offhandedly, during his talk, Professor Thimbleby spoke of the certainty with which we know the moon isn’t made of cheese. He compared this scientific certainty to the world of storytelling, where we can still indulge that fantasy.
Even without visiting the moon, we can tell it isn’t made of cheese because of its albedo – the fraction of solar energy which it reflects back into space.
Different materials have different reflectivity: for example, ice and snow have a high albedo and cause most of the sunlight hitting them to reflect back into space.
We can work out the albedo of cheese and observe the brightness of the moon to confirm that it is, sadly, not made from dairy products.
But – but but but – what if the moon were made of cheese? How could we indulge that fantasy while maintaining the rigour of critical and scientific thinking?
Do we need to imagine a cheese-moon which is the same size or the same mass?
If the latter, the moon would have to be a lot larger. Nocturnal animals and the science of astronomy would be affected by the larger moon in our sky, with its much higher albedo.
What’s more, a moon sized piece of cheese would be denser and hotter at its centre owing to gravitational compression.
Would there be volcanos of molten cheese? At extreme high pressures, does cheese maintain its integrity, or break down into its component parts? Would the massive internal pressure cause it to explode?
I love that scientists can begin to explore these hypothetical situations without even having to leave the comfort of their armchair – or in our case, the post-march pub.
I love that there is a happy borderland where science and science fiction meet, and valuably so – because they are, ultimately, both spaces of wonder.
Professor Thimbleby made his cheesy digression and showed the value of thinking carefully and critically, reasoning from available evidence – but his work also demonstrates that you could save lives just by paying close attention to technology and human interaction.
He didn’t need to be in the ward to come up with a way to avoid deaths from drug miscalculation, and he didn’t need to land on the moon to work out what it was made of.
How cool is that? Read more
Sometimes three sentences are a good day’s work.
I’ve been helping library leaders to refine an elevator pitch for the work State Library of Queensland does with public libraries.
RAPL, the Regional Access and Public Libraries team, has a range of duties – from administering grants to delivering professional development, fostering peer-to-peer networking, and setting industry standards. RAPL staff also promote literacy and wellbeing for children under five years old, support the digital skills of senior citizens, and advocate to local government on libraries’ behalf.
How do we condense that into something that is clear, elegant, brief, and compelling?
Well, here’s what we came up with:
Our scope, our goal, our offer:
Queensland has over 300 public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres in communities from the desert to the reefs, from the mountains to the Torres Strait.
Together with local government, we ensure all Queenslanders have access to great public libraries that help communities thrive.
We advocate for public libraries, support their collections, their staff, and their programmes, and we share their successes.
Last weekend I was the guest artist at “Dispatches from Bundy”, a writing workshop in the Queensland town of Bundaberg.
Working with staff from Creative Regions and Queensland University of Technology, our team took a group of local writers and storytellers through a two-day session aimed at engaging with stories from the past, exploring visions of the future, and nurturing regional literature.
One of our activities saw participants creating science fiction stories and postcards from future worlds. We stitched these stories into a timeline of future history stretching a thousand years hence.