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Posts tagged ‘libraries’

Award-winners Parkes Shire Library share the secrets of their library programming

Last night, Parkes Shire Library won the Australian library association ALIA’s Bess Thomas award for innovative work with children and young people.

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It’s great for Parkes’ librarians, serving a community of just 15000 out in Central West New South Wales, to have their daring work celebrated by peers at a national level.

If you want to steal some of the Parkes magic, you can find “how-to” articles and resources for some of their most exciting programmes online:

Keep your eyes peeled for more surprises as Parkes kicks off the 2014 season of activities this month…

First light in Parkes

Parkes Library Coffee Cups

I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come. [...] And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space that I can only call nonsecular . . . Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.

- Toni Morrison, interviewed in the Paris Review

I’m writing this at 5.30 on Monday morning in Parkes, New South Wales. The sky’s just going from bruise to blush, and five hours from now we’ll be holding our first team meeting after months of preparation for “Readtember”, a family festival of literature, literacy, and play.

It’s been a huge honour for me to join forces with the team at Parkes. They’re brave and creative souls who give the lie to tired assumptions that nothing exciting happens beyond the city limits of Sydney or Melbourne. Our track record in devising and delivering mad, wonderful, compelling play and learning events for all ages is getting so long that it makes me laugh.

Yesterday I had my first takeout coffee in one of the library coffee cups which are used by every café in town. I suggested the idea based on a project that had run in Melbourne a while ago, but it only became real to me when I finally drank from one. I hadn’t even thought about the fact I’d be getting one when I placed my order; I just asked for a latte and suddenly I was holding a piece of local literature in my hand.

The texts chosen for the project remind readers that Parkes is a town of stargazers and poets, as well as farmers and miners. With both feet planted in red rural dirt, they still keep one eye on the cosmos. The coffee cup stories conjure early morning routines, the special camaraderie of the outback, and a world where we “listen to the gossip of the galaxies / trying to catch the whispers of how it all began.”

This year we’re challenging ourselves to go further than ever before. Parkes is the first Australian community to host an outpost of the global Fun Palaces movement; our famous interactive storytelling events are going to explore the dastardly world of supervillainy via a collaboration with British author Louie Stowell; and after challenging the biggest Australian arts organisations to push their own boundaries in February, we’ll be reaching out to new communities and new audiences on our own patch.

We’re proud when colleagues and allies, at home and overseas, share the fabulous ideas that we’ve tested out here in rural Aussie; most recently, New Zealand’s capital delivered a swathe of play-based sessions developed from programming devised in Parkes.

But as the sun rises on a new day, here in Parkes we’re sipping our coffee and looking forward to uncharted territory.

For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives.

More adventures in Parkes, New South Wales

Well, as the Super Secret London Project (more on that later) winds down after a near-perfect summer, it’s time for me to pack my bags one more time. I’m heading Down Under for a brief visit.

Elvis and friend behind the wheel of a large automobile

From September to December, I’ll be back with my friends at Parkes Shire Library, NSW, building on our legacy of play-based learning and community outreach.

Since I first got to know the Parkes gang, we’ve battled zombies on two occasions, travelled in time, used robots to fight off monsters, and entered the world of cinema and urban myth. We’ve also run teen book publishing workshops with professionals from Australia and the US, and hosted Australia’s first rural comics festival.  The team have demonstrated the sustainability of these projects by creating immersive activities like Paint Like Michelangelo, which then inspired Wellington Libraries in New Zealand, and carrying out the long-term Coffee Cup Stories project.

(That’s not even to mention the ninjas, werewolves, and Angry Birds. Or Barbra Streisand).

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In the forthcoming season, beginning with Parkes’ READtember festival of literacy, we’ll be seeking to challenge ourselves further and reach out to new communities within our territory. After all, it’s important to practice what you preach.

If you want to know more about the Parkes way of doing things, a good place to start is the 2015 Library as Innovation Toolkit from ALA editions, which you can preorder today. I co-wrote the chapter on youth outreach with Parkes’ Tracie Mauro.

Adventures on the Front Lines of Modern Librarianship – Guest Post from Adrienne Hannan of Wellington City Libraries

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Over the past couple of years I’ve run a number of projects testing the limits of the 21st century library – from online interactive storytelling to retail partnerships, live roleplay, and play-based learning for all ages.

With many community libraries in crisis, facing cuts and ignorance about their vital role in public life, the aim of these projects was to swiftly and dramatically push the boundaries of contemporary librarianship, setting precedents that could be exploited and developed after the first flowering.

One of my favourite places to visit during these adventures has been Wellington, New Zealand. Aotearoa’s capital city is small but lively. Its library ranks include the formidable Adrienne Hannan.

NZ Army reservist Adrienne invented the notion of the “Strategic Librarian” – a doctrine which sidesteps old-school leadership thinking to encourage innovation and accomplishment at all levels of a library organisation. Such an attitude is sorely needed if Australasian libraries, sometimes worryingly centralised, are going to avoid the fate of their kin in the UK.

In this guest post, Adrienne discusses some of Wellington City Libraries’ recent adventures on the front line of modern librarianship.

Getting back to human basics with our school holiday activities

At Wellington City Libraries we are intent on bringing stories alive for children and creating interactive experiences with them, so have embarked on a different way of running our school holiday activities recently.

We recognise that books, long seen as the bread and butter of libraries, are just a conduit to literacy, and children may require some kind of stimulating experience with the book to give it memorable context.

Read more

The Library Innovation Toolkit Available for Pre-Order

Library Innovation Toolkit cover image


The Library Innovation Toolkit from ALA Editions, the publishing arm of the American Library Association, is now available for pre-order online. I co-wrote the chapter on youth outreach, “Monsters, Rockets, and Baby Racers”, with my colleague Tracie Mauro from Parkes Shire, New South Wales.

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From zombie sieges to boxcar races, gaming, art, and immersive storytelling, we offer practical tips on how libraries and other organisations can deliver inspirational, unconventional, and locally relevant cultural programming for kids and teens.

The book is out in Spring 2015, but you can pre-order your copy online today!

Library Journal on Play For Grown-Ups: Dark Night Burlesque at Auckland Libraries

Dark Night at Auckland Libraries

Image by Dylan Horrocks

Over in the US, Library Journal has just published my piece on last year’s Dark Night burlesque season at Auckland Libraries in New Zealand.

The festival for over-18s aimed to “question, celebrate, and challenge sex and sexuality on page, stage, and screen” – and it led to exciting new projects such as this year’s award-winning XXUnmasked media literacy event.

You can read more about Dark Night in my original post from 2013 and there’s a few words on the season from American library maven Heather McCormack over at her blog, too.

Ephemeral words can mean so much: Alison Miles on coffee cup literature

As part of my Researcher in Residence project, coffee cups in the cafes of Parkes, New South Wales have been printed with stories and poems written by local writers.

Parkes Library Coffee Cups

Queensland librarian Alison Miles wrote about our cup project, and the wider trend of “locative literature”, for her website reading360Go read her blog post on the power of ephemeral words!

Guest post: XXUnmasked at Auckland Libraries

I’m pleased to announce that Auckland Libraries’ XXUnmasked media literacy project for teenage girls has just won an award for community outreach. This week on the blog, Tracy Dawson of Parkes High School Library in Australia reports on the project led by Ali Coomber of Auckland Libraries and Dr Pani Farvid of Auckland University of Technology.

XXUnmasked – double the power, not the standards!

Something that always amazes me is when young girls say “I’m not a feminist.” When any woman says it, actually. I remember several years ago, in my previous guise as an English teacher, talking to a group of top senior English students studying what was then called 3 Unit English in New South Wales. We were discussing the brilliant Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and despite that horrific and unsettling story of the loss of female identity, voice, independence, none could see the value of feminism.

Now when feminism is often seen as a dirty word at the same time that all-pervading media images of women are more blatantly misogynistic than ever, how do we help our young women avoid being active participants, let alone passive observers, in their own diminution? Read more

Huffington Post, Australian Broadcasting Corporation Coverage

I’m over my jet lag, back in Europe, and easing into my holidays after fourteen months jetting around Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

I’ve just surfaced this week to announce that Parkes Library’s monsters-versus-robots Big Box Battle roleplay received coverage in The Huffington PostAlso, you can now listen to my recent interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation right here!


More soon, but for now…happy holidays!

Big Box Battle monsters in their cardboard city, 2013

Big Box Battle monsters in their cardboard city, Parkes Library, 2013

Easter holidays!

It’s holiday time for me…As I pack up my bags in Parkes, New South Wales, I’m almost at the end of my stint in the southern hemisphere. Last week, Robert Virtue of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation profiled me and my work in a short report on radio and online.

I’ve got a couple of new projects in the pipeline, but for now I wish you all a happy Easter.

I’m back on the road. See you after the break!

Parkes Radio Telescope - "The Dish"

Parkes Radio Telescope – “The Dish”


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