“We’ve never had a guest as versatile, broadly informative, and universally inspiring as Matt Finch. He was able to drop right into established teams remotely and get them thinking in new ways, without being anything like a consultant who’s here to tell you what to do.
“He spoke to so many varied audiences during his visit, starting with library staff, but including our nonprofit partners, peers from other libraries, neighbouring academics, prospective hires, and most importantly our entire public, young and old, of all levels of interest, engaging each group immediately and gently expanding their perspectives about whatever it was they thought they were there to do. Matt’s visit was an inclusive, much-loved inflection point in our organization’s growth, and we’ll be talking about what we learned this week for years to come.
“Matt’s “Battle for Library Island” roleplaying event opened many minds to the challenges and tensions of library service, allowing both brand-new personnel from the finance department, and old public service hands who thought they fully understood their work, to rapidly see things they do every day from a totally different perspective. Library Island is a brilliantly fun and simple simulation of an entire community that is as fun and engaging as it is insightful and thought-provoking.”
– Eli Neiburger, Deputy Director, Ann Arbor District Library, USA
“I would not hesitate to recommend Matt for work in community engagement, innovation, staff development, and strategic planning.
“For the State Library, Matt has surfaced ideas, served as a catalyst for change, and delivered successful implementations.
“As a personality, Matt is enthusiastic, hard-working, and focused on results. He has an engaging, approachable style which has enabled him to connect with all levels of the organisation and all divisions, encouraging collaboration and innovation.
“Being both perceptive and creative, Matt has consistently developed realistic and workable solutions which have been embraced by our teams. These have delivered benefits to the Library in the 15 months he has been with us and are the underpinnings of lasting change.
“Matt has represented the State Library at national and interstate conferences, and created communications materials for our executive staff. He is a thoughtful and responsive communicator with excellent listening skills.”
– Vicki McDonald, CEO, State Library of Queensland, Australia
“”From the moment Matt Finch spoke to the staff of the public library in Ann Arbor, he held our full attention for the better part of a full week. He led us through a process of program evaluation that began with a reflection on our perceptions of our elders and a measure of our respect for those who have gone before. His exercises illuminated how power influences our decisions, when we determine to remain reticent or to speak out, and all of this was done within a spirit of creativity and fun. He helped us see ourselves through a lens we rarely use, and left us empowered to act on what we saw.”
– Josie Parker, Director, Ann Arbor Library, USA
“In projects where Matt has led on his own initiative, and also in supporting the wider Fun Palaces community, across the UK and internationally, he has shown a solid understanding of our values and a clear articulation of where this aligns with his own practice – as well as where we can work together for greater benefit. Specifically, his work with Lambeth Libraries for Fun Palaces 2015 made a massive difference both in the engagement with the project, and in the eventual delivery.
Further, he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. Literally. Fun Palaces are not just about engagement theory and strategy, they are – very deliberately – about true engagement and full participation, across the board, from the grassroots up. Sometimes this means putting up and taking down marquees, in the rain. Matt does this too.
Matt is very good on the theory of practice and the practice of theory, he is also brilliant at linking potential collaborators, whether he will personally benefit from those links or not.
In short, he’s very good at what he does, and he does a lot of great stuff.”
– Stella Duffy, Co-Director, Fun Palaces
“Matt is one of the most outstanding individuals I have encountered in my quarter century in university education. His rare set of gifts combines intellect and professionalism with all-round humanity and commitment.”
– Dr. Warren Boutcher, Queen Mary University of London
“We had Matt MC our National Year of Digital Inclusion 2016 Forum in Sydney as part of www.godigi.org.au . The theme was Innovation and Equity and posed the question, How can we create a society where everyone can innovate? Matt led the day brilliantly and engaged with participants who came from government, community and corporate sectors in a way that was inclusive. Highly recommend his work.”
– Brendan Fitzgerald, Manager Digital Inclusion, Infoxchange
“Matt Finch is an OUTSTANDING facilitator, storyteller and human. He creates warm, rich and collaborative environments – crackling with creativity – where everyone is safe to stretch their thinking and challenge their comfort.
Matt delves deeply into the theory and process while giving tangible, immediately applicable leads and activities, weaving it all through a web of pop culture references for all ages and fantastical worlds of wonder.
Matt is an inspirational and influential communicator, a generous collaborator, and a true professional who I am grateful for having become part of my extended ‘team’. I look forward to continuing to work with Matt in the future!”
– Amy Boulding, Head of Lifelong Learning, Queensland Museum Network
“I have had the pleasure of working with Matt Finch on a number of projects during his time as Creative in Residence at the State Library of Queensland. Matt is one of the most dynamic public presenters I have encountered; he is compelling and able to articulate innovative and complex ideas in a way that is accessible for a wide audience. Working with Matt on “Writing the Digital Futures” workshops in Bundaberg allowed me to see up close how professional and collaborative he is. Matt generously shared his ideas and approaches with the team to create the most successful workshops we have delivered. His perspective on digital creativity and its potential for under represented communities is cutting edge while also being inclusive and engaging for its intended audience. I cannot recommend Matt highly enough as a collaborator, facilitator and thinker.”
– Dr. Donna Hancox, Director of Research Quality, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology
“From our perspective, Matt’s workshop was a huge success. The informal feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive.
As staff we also enjoyed it hugely both in terms of content, but also a lesson in taking a creative approach. We are trying to make our classes and courses as engaging as possible and are comfortable with taking risks and doing things differently. Your workshop was a powerful lesson in that also.”
– Professor Matthew Molineux, Head of Occupational Therapy, Griffith University
“It was a privilege to be involved in [the event], such a buzzing, inspiring and captivating day. I particularly loved seeing the boys’ faces mesmerised by your storytelling- such an art.”
– Emma Caddick, Organiser, Usborne Books At Home
“It was chaos. It was beautiful. Sometimes words are not the best way to get a point across. Throwing us into a completely unexpected world can really get the juices flowing – within 15 minutes I was able to plan a whole programme because I had no time to overthink things – I just needed to get it done! The visual of Matt taping his mouth will be one that sticks with me for a very long time.”
– Chantel Theunissen, Editor, Library Life New Zealand, on the wordless keynote at #Open17
“Thanks so much for all the creative energy, care, and non-linear thinking you brought to Ann Arbor District Library. It reinforced for me that libraries really are a place where creativity, learning, and civic connection can all converge.”
– Shoshana Hurand, Volunteer Coordinator, Ann Arbor District Library
“I am a huge fan of play and games as learning devices, but listening to and working with you helped push me to articulate and develop my own ideas.
You also showed me that we do have space in this library to do some sort of audacious program that is totally pie in the sky, but that is also something that could potentially come out of my own brain.
It’s one of those things that I knew we could do, but I don’t know if I ever would’ve had the courage to really put my idea forward (whatever it ends up being), at least not for a while. Thanks for helping us think outside the box, and for being such an amazing and fun person to work with.”
– Audrey Huggett, Production Librarian, Ann Arbor District Library
“Matt worked as an expert for Usborne, advising on the Write and Draw Your Own Comics book that I wrote. His insights and enthusiasm proved invaluable. Having someone on the team who’s worked extensively with young people, helping them to unlock their creative potential, made it much easier to work out if what we had on the page would get the job done when it made its way into the hands of actual children.”
– Louie Stowell, Senior Editor, Usborne Publishing
“Friendly, engaging, extremely creative, professional and very easy to work with – Matt Finch has been one of the best people I’ve worked with and I recommend his work without reservation.
Matt worked with CityLibraries Townsville staff for three days in August 2016. We asked Matt to run a range of original workshops with staff from all teams and levels. Matt’s approach was to engage with us early and often. He was very interested in our unique context, in both the formal strategic planning framework sense, as well as the informal organisational culture of our teams. Matt used this to tailor his work so it had immediate impact on staff.
Matt was able to energise staff, enthuse them to think about usually dry topics like strategic planning, and impart a genuine sense of play and adventure when it comes to planning and prototyping new services and programs.
I am sure Matt’s work with us will have an ongoing positive effect which will have qualitative as well as quantitative benefits, and will contribute to sustaining healthy and vibrant services in Queensland.”
– Warren Cheetham, Coordinator Planning & Business Development, CityLibraries Townsville
“Thank you so much for your excellent keynote address – such a bright, energetic and stimulating way to open the conference. Your presentation certainly made a huge impression on attendees, there were many further references to it throughout the conference. It was also no mean feat to get librarians up dancing so early in the day!”
– Meredith Batten, IAML Australia 2017 Conference Committee
“[Matt’s] innovative and creative facilitation style uniquely assists students to link their placement experiences to their future practice. This is particularly valuable in the light that students have themselves created a new innovation within their placements and [Matt’s] group activities assist students to share, reflect and therefore enhance their learning.”
– Jacqui Broadbridge, Lecturer (Practice Education), Occupational Therapy, Griffith University
“Matt ran a workshop for the Somerset Libraries team to build confidence in turning ideas for events, activities and partnerships into reality. Matt’s enthusiasm for libraries immediately shines through, which enabled the group to instantly warm to his messages. The perspective he offered challenged us and stretched our view of what is possible – this is exactly what was needed.
Matt filled the room with fun, creativity and exploration. The session offered international examples about how libraries can engage with local communities, storytelling, building partnerships and enthusing people.
The activities throughout the day got us sharing ideas, allowed us to find our creative flair and encouraged us to think about how we can do things differently.
The legacy – when we are trying to make tricky decisions you can now hear us asking ourselves – WWMFD (What would Matt Finch do?). The workshop has started us on a journey towards an entrepreneurial culture.”
– Tabitha Witherick, Service Manager – Development, Somerset Library Service
“Matt Finch worked with Lambeth Libraries during 2015 to make every library in Lambeth a Fun Palace. This was the first time all the libraries in one local authority in England had become Fun Palaces and Matt was fundamental to our success.
He was able to create contacts for us with a wide range of partners including authors, staff and students at universities, plus makers and artists. In all approximately 175 people joined to make it happen: a mixture of staff and volunteers.
The events required external funding and Matt helped with a successful bid to Arts Council England. He was an excellent co-producer: listening to what we wanted to achieve and providing support to achieve our outcomes. Crucial to the organisation was getting staff and local people on board and Matt helped deliver training for staff and community. As part of his support he also produced a toolkit that could then be used by others to deliver Fun Palace events.
Matt is very creative and provided us with some really interesting ideas that engaged participants of all ages but were which were also simple to use. He listened to our ideas and helped us develop them into practical activities.
We are so lucky to have been able to have him work with us on this. His help and inspiration made it an incredible success. Over the weekend more than 2000 people took part in the activities.
Matt was able to really help us raise our profile and we got lots of publicity for the service and recognition of what libraries can do both locally and nationally. Matt really commits himself to a project, not only did he promote the events and our libraries in the run up and during the Fun Palace weekend, he continues many months later to help publicise our work and tweet about us.
Should we ever get the opportunity we would love to work with Matt again and cannot recommend him enough for the way he engages and brings together communities to explore new ideas and activities.”
-Susanna Barnes, Head of Libraries and Archives, London Borough of Lambeth
“In September 2017, Matt ran a two-hour session on ‘Collaboration, Innovation, Information, Experience’, using participatory hands-on activities to allow our staff to explore new directions in library service.
Matt’s session encouraged our staff to think quickly, creatively, and outside the box! Attendees were inspired to work more creatively with their teams and to get stuck in and focus on taking action. Thank you Matt for a fantastic workshop!”
– Christchurch City Libraries
“When Parkes Library works with Matt Finch, we always know we are going to receive a dose of the extraordinary. Matt has led us through a number of projects involving local community organisations. It’s been so valuable having a partner-in-crime that is prepared to push boundaries of traditional library services – an important reason for Parkes Library becoming the 2014 Bess Thomas Award winner. We’ve achieved industry recognition and provided customers with innovative programs and events and resources. Matt sees the big picture and has the skills to join all the dots. His input has helped us become leaders, not followers, which delights our managers and supporters no end!”
– Tracie Mauro, Branch Librarian, Parkes Shire Library
“Working with Matt makes me look at what I do so differently. I’ve learned so much about engaging with my audience, trying new things, and taking the time to see what works with them and what doesn’t. The skills that I have learned from him are transferrable; I’m able to incorporate “Matt-ism” into all my events and presentations.”
– Debbie Gould, Library Officer, Parkes Shire Library
“Auckland Libraries employed Dr Matt Finch on a fixed term contract from February until August 2013. We appointed Matt to push the boundaries in how our large public library network creates innovative programmes for children and young people. His brief was to inspire others to experiment and learn from the experience of working in fresh, even unexpected ways. We wanted to increase the library’s involvement in interactive play for people of all ages.
In response, Matt created novel opportunities for teams to learn about meaningful play through actually doing play and gaming. Urging colleagues to see possibilities beyond the library walls, Matt brokered relationships with community and business partners that resulted in a rich array of offsite events and opportunities for library activities in art spaces and retail environments around the city. He built valuable relationships between Auckland Libraries and youth-focused organisations here and overseas.
To drive innovative thinking, Matt sometimes chose to take the lead role and move us into a completely new space. He conceived and created our first Dark Night Festival, a season of adult-focused cabaret and burlesque events to celebrate, challenge, and question sex and sexuality on page, stage, and screen. Dark Night was so successful that it attracted the attention of a city art festival, for which Matt hosted a follow-up event exploring the history of censorship in New Zealand.
Internally, Matt transformed our annual in-house training event for children’s and youth librarians into an international programme, arranging guest speakers from Christchurch, Wellington, Melbourne and New South Wales. This dynamic two-day event created a sense of urgency around the new rules of engagement that a library needs to stay relevant: will we see rules as constraints or a springboard?
Matt delivered on the promise to shake us out of business as usual and engender innovative thinking, collaboration and risk taking. His time at Auckland Libraries created tangible and lasting results in both programmes and mindsets.”
– Greg Morgan, Manager Service Development, Auckland Libraries
“Matt was an invaluable addition to our web content team, able to work unsupervised and deliver superb work on time, every time. I would love to have Matt as a full time content editor and hope to work with him again in the future.”
– Dr. Ashley Tucker, Digital Channels Programme Manager at Herefordshire Council and NHS Herefordshire
“MCAD’s Public Programs received a boost when Matt came over to run a seminar for librarians, and a workshop with Museo Pambata’s Children’s Advocacy Program. The knowledge that he shared, and his enthusiasm for reading and writing, books, and the possibilities of libraries (and other such institutions) inspired the attendees.”
– Mary Ann Josette E. Pernia, Head of Education and Special Projects,Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila
“Matt came and did a talk for us at one of our Training Days and was incredibly popular with our audience, displaying a level of energy and enthusiasm which was only exceeded by his depth of knowledge. Talking about graphic novels and how to engage readers of all ages with them is a tricky subject for many librarians, but Matt managed to not only get all attendees involved, but the feedback we received showed that his ideas would be taken away and put into practice. I look forward to being able to work with him again in the future.”
– Jonas Herriot, Chair, London Youth Libraries Group, Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (UK)
“Dr. Finch’s contribution to Behind the Book has been vital to our mission in moving the organization forward. His educational background has allowed him to create materials appropriate to all ages from kindergarten to high school. He has also provided useful advice and insight from his extensive experience. I have no hesitation in recommending Dr. Finch for work in educational consulting, curriculum design and community outreach.”
– Jo Umans, Executive Director and Founder, Behind the Book, New York City
“If you have already had the pleasure of hearing Matt present you will know to expect the unexpected.”
– Karen Hewett, Noosa Library Service, Australia
“Matt visited Wollongong City to run a region-wide workshop for staff working with children and young people through a broad spectrum of literacy-based engagement activities. Matt presented a day of workshops on children & youth outreach and engagement.
There were opportunities to have a go at fun, low-cost, practical activities to enthuse and inspire children, young people and families. The feedback from the day was very positive with staff reporting that they would use the skills learnt on the day back with their children and young people.
We would recommend Matt to anyone wanting an informative, creative and fun workshop – Matt is your person.”
– Tracey Kirk-Downey, Children and Family Services Coordinator, Wollongong City Council, Australia
“Matt has visited Wellington City to run region-wide workshops on ‘outside-the-box’ literacy for libraries, and he continues to be impressive. Instantly grasping the concept of these workshops, Matt was adaptive and happy to cater to our unique requirements. He is a friendly, down to earth, and very likeable character, who related well to the workshop attendees, regardless of their various levels of knowledge, experience and backgrounds. He runs his workshops in a relaxed, yet professional style with the perfect blend of static and dynamic activity, and, in response, we’ve received nothing but positive comments from the attendees. We would count ourselves very fortunate to have Matt back to Wellington City again in the future.”
– Adrienne Hannan, Children’s and Youth Services Coordinator, Wellington City Libraries, New Zealand
“My library colleagues and myself found Matt Finch’s presentation at the National Year of Reading extremely helpful and inspiring. I found him a very informative, passionate, and entertaining speaker. Matt tailored content and was flexible to adapt his content to his audience. He used creative engagement tools and threw out provoking questions. He allowed interruptions for questions and answered with clarity. Matt also made himself available for further questioning between breaks and after. This provided us further specific insight into potential strategies to address public libraries’ challenges with engaging youth in literacy and storytelling.
The following day after the event I started formulating some programs with like-minded “guerilla warrior” library colleagues – asking the same question that Matt asked. From this knowledge, together with my colleagues we have developed “superhero” themed youth competitions during the summer school holidays, to tie in with games & movie blockbuster releases.
A big thank you to Matt for inspiring us to engage youth in the library with more gusto and creative, low budget solutions. We hope he is able to share this knowledge with more library and community organisations with the mission to reach & teach youth to be life long readers and storytellers.”
– Rachel Harvey, Brimbank Libraries
“Matt Finch ran two workshop sessions for the NSW Readers’ Advisory Working Group. One of the workshops focused on comics and using them as tools to help connect people with reading. It was also a session which highlighted the interest comics/graphic novels can have for all types of readers. The NSW Readers’ Advisory Working Group would be very happy to work with Matt again.”
– Ellen Forsyth, State Library of New South Wales, on behalf of the New South Wales Readers’ Advisory Working Group
“Dr Matt Finch has been one of my favourite guest lecturers. Not only was he engaging as a speaker, but his passion for literacy was actually infectious.”
“Matt did a brilliant job and his presentation was pitched at the right level, giving pupils very interesting examples from the real world of business”
– Cornelia Smith, Head of Languages, Queen Elizabeth School, Atherstone