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Posts tagged ‘libraries’

#Citylis talk with library students at City University

I had a great visit to City University in London today, talking with students on the Master’s course #citylis, convened by Ernesto Priego.

Our conversation covered everything from the art history of Aby Warburg to civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, tabletop gaming, and, of course, the inevitable zombie battles.

Here’s a PDF download of the notes from my talk on comics, libraries, and community, “Words and Pictures, Space and Play.”

Also speaking to the students was James Baker, curator of Digital Research at the British Library. His presentation on “Future Libraries: Considering Publishing” can be viewed here.

I often say that a neighbourhood library is like the TARDIS on your streetcorner – an ordinary box which can take you anywhere in human knowledge or imagination. If that’s true, watching James speak about the British Library’s digital innovations was like watching Doctor Who dance around the TARDIS control panel, flicking switches and levers with gleeful abandon.

You can find more of James’ work via his Twitter account @j_w_baker and his website, Cradled in Caricature.

To see more of what City University’s library students get up to, check out #citylis and #inm380 on Twitter.

Lecture at City University London, Guest Editorial at Public Library News

The TARDIS from Doctor Who lands on a suburban housing estate

My guest editorial for Public Library News, The TARDIS on your streetcorner,” is out this week. Editor Ian Anstice offered me the chance to share my some of my experiences working with community libraries in Australia and New Zealand, and of course I worked a Doctor Who reference in there too.

Next month, I’ll be giving a guest lecture to students at City University, London. I’ll be talking about “Words and Pictures, Space and Play” alongside digital curator James Baker from the British Library and information science lecturer Ernesto Priego, who is also presiding genius at The Comics Grid.

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The Library Innovation Toolkit, Out Now

The Library Innovation Toolkit

The Library Innovation Toolkit is out today from ALA Editions!

The book “encourages readers to take big risks, ask deeper questions, strive for better service, and dream bigger ideas”, with practical examples and suggestions for 21st century library services.

I wrote “Monsters, Rockets, and Baby Racers”, the chapter on working with children and young people, together with Tracie Mauro of Australia’s Parkes Library.

Readers will get inspiration and case studies from the team which picked up a 2014 national award for innovation in youth services.

If you fancy unleashing the power of play and immersive storytelling in your museum, gallery, school, or library, the book’s worth checking out. You can buy it from ALA Editions at their website.

Library Journal: Australian Coffee Cup Stories

Coffee cups on a shelf at Parkes Shire Library

Over in the US, Library Journal has just published a piece on a project which I helped to launch in the Australian town of Parkes last year. You can read “Coffee Cup Stories” at the Library Journal website.

Working with Parkes High School and Parkes Shire Council, our team arranged for local writers’ stories to be printed on takeaway cups used by cafés and venues throughout the town. This empowered local voices and gave people who might never enter the library a chance to enjoy new writing by their own community. Locals and out-of-towners all got a hit of Parkes’ literary scene with every drink they bought. This was part of my role as the town’s Reader-in-Residence. You can see TV news coverage of the project at the Prime7 website.

Our coffee cup stories chimed with the values of the ongoing Fun Palaces project, launched last year. Fun Palaces aim to give local communities a chance to take part in the arts and sciences. Parkes hosted Australia’s first ever Fun Palace last year, to great success.

Parkes High School librarian Tracy Dawson has the full coffee cup story over at Library Journal. You can also read Queensland librarian Alison Miles writing about this and other “locative literature” projects which blend place and narrative, at her blog reading360.

Parkes Library Coffee Cups

Guest Post: Santhoshi Chander, “A Love Letter to Parkes”

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I was trying to find the words to look back on an eventful season with Parkes Shire Libraries, culminating in this year’s Australian national award for innovation in library youth services. I could have talked about how the country stereotypes have yielded to reveal a town of tough and funny and mad and passionate people. I could have recounted how all the amazing things we’ve done were really about a community that was ready for change, and a bunch of smart librarians who recognised that fact, and who drafted in an outsider to provoke and support and sustain that change.

Instead, I wanted the last word to come from someone else. One of our local writers, but one who – like me – came to Parkes a stranger and a foreigner. 

Santhoshi Chander of the town writers’ group Author-rised kindly allowed me to share her thoughts about the experience of finding a new home out in the Aussie regions. “Ex-city-slicker” San divides her time between Sydney and Parkes.

A Country Fling, or
A Love Letter to Parkes

It seemed from the beginning the stakes were against us. I’m not claiming our story has Romeo and Juliet status. But in our own way, we started as star crossed lovers.

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Reader-in-Residence article in SCAN Magazine

Parkes High School’s teacher librarian Tracy Dawson has an article in the latest SCAN magazine about the Reader-in-Residence role which I held in Parkes across late 2013 and early 2014.

The role was designed to link the school and wider community in a celebration of storytelling, literacy, and culture in all its forms. Events included teen publishing workshops, our biggest ever zombie roleplay, urban myth writing, and the inaugural Central West Comics Fest, which will be returning in 2015. I also mentored high school students, led sessions for the Parkes writers’ group, and worked with the school’s special needs unit.

Tracy gives a teacher’s perspective on how trying new things, pushing boundaries, and reaching out to a wider community also yielded great benefits to students at the high school. You can also read her guest posts on this site about Auckland’s XXUnmasked project and the work of a teacher librarian.

SCAN magazine is a refereed journal published by the New South Wales Department of Education, focussed “on the interaction between information in a digital age and effective student learning.” You have to subscribe for recent issues, but the archive is publicly available – I’ll let readers know when the current issue moves into the free archive.

“You ate my battleship???” – Pub librarianship and tabletop games

Last night, the team at Parkes Library headed to the Railway Hotel for an evening of drinks, dining, and tabletop games.

After chatting with ABC Central West about the project, we invited residents from across the region to drop in and try their hand at some of the games we’ve been developing this year. People could take on the challenge of the Tabletop Superheroes adventure we devised for Fun Palaces 2014:

Library users Jake and Kellie brought in their own home-made game for people to try – it was beautifully made and fiendishly difficult.

There was also a new game, Battle Pizzas, which set pub patrons against one another in a game of wits. The prize? Dinner itself.

You can read more about Battle Pizzas, and download instructions, at the Parkes Dog-Eared website. You can also download the Tabletop Superheroes adventure, which can be remixed under a Creative Commons licence. We played the games in the pub but they’re designed for all ages; we think they’d work just as well in schools, libraries, or the comfort of your own home. Give them a go. Have fun!

Debbie Gould at Parkes Fun Palace: Making Games with the Currajong Disability Group

Debbie Gould is one of the librarians I work with in Parkes, New South Wales. She creates and delivers library programmes for the Currajong Disability Group. Currajong clients are people who require some degree of care. They are diverse in ability, with some who are nonverbal, some needing 24/7 care, and others who have learning disabilities. Debbie created a game for Parkes’ Fun Palace last month and was then able to share it with her clients in the group on one of their weekly visits.

Here’s Debbie talking about her work with the Currajong group, and how she brings Parkes’ philosophy of fun and open-ended learning to library users with disabilities.

This image is licensed by Parkes Shire Library under a CC 4.0 BY-NC-ND licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

This image is licensed by Parkes Shire Library under a CC 4.0 BY-NC-ND licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

At Parkes Library, we believe that libraries are about so much more than books and shelves. Our job is helping our whole community to learn, explore, and have fun on their own terms.

I started working with the Currajong Disability group at the start of 2012. I’ve been doing it for almost three years now, but the clients change and so I’m always adapting my programme to suit them.

In the early days, it was trial and error. I wasn’t concerned about not being able to relate to the clients, but I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to provide a programme that worked for everyone, all the time. I wanted all the clients to enjoy their library time. As the weeks passed, I could see that the group did enjoy themselves. Their needs were met even though I was experimenting as I went along, finding out what was going to work best. That was part of the experience!

Building a relationship with the clients took time. It was important to watch and listen as well as present to the group. Clients have different ability levels, and my sessions had to take that into consideration.

In the group, we explore books and stories as well as practical and playful activities. I have found that the world of my clients is very factual. The world of fiction relies on imagination and a sense of “let’s pretend” which can be difficult for my clients. Concepts such as animal characters in books taking on human characteristics aren’t always understood. Quite often clients don’t get the punch line at the end of a story because it isn’t a “real” experience.

Clients work better with non-fiction and real life activities, where as many of the senses can be engaged as possible. Simple science experiments and activities are often popular. Each session I try to incorporate sight, hearing, touch, smell. Taste is explored sometimes but I have to be mindful that not all clients are able to take food by mouth and some have special dietary needs.

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When I designed a game for Parkes’ Fun Palace weekend, I chose to make a maze based on old sideshow games. Players had to drop a ping-pong ball into a slot and try to land on a high score. Age and ability was not a hindrance to playing the game I created. I saw the joy people had playing it at the Fun Palace, and knew that my clients would have a good time with it.

Watching the Currajong group play my game was interesting. They all interacted with it in different ways, but they were all excited to see the end result. They loved the mystery of just where the ball would land. Each of them played their own version of the game – even if it wasn’t quite what I’d intended, they still achieved the goal of landing a score with the ping pong ball.

Relationships are key to making this group work. Without a solid relationship between clients, carers, and the library, our sessions would not be successful. There is no way a programme could run and meet the goals set if the presenter was not mindful of the clients and their needs.

All relationships take time to develop; they need genuine interest, concern, and respect. A little bit of yourself has to be given in each session you present. If it isn’t, then you aren’t presenting effectively. Working with disabled adults is a privilege and it has been exciting to see each client share a bit of their personality in the sessions. The joy and reward from the sessions is priceless and being able to expand the world the clients live in is amazing.

This is a condensed version of a blog post which originally appeared at Parkes’ site, Dog Eared.

Parkes Library Roundup

My friends and clients at Parkes Library are having a big week on the Internet. I’ve collected some of the various links in this blog post.

Our “Tabletop Superheroes” game devised for October’s Fun Palaces weekend is now available for free download. A remix of Cory Doctorow’s article ‘DMing for your toddler’, it was featured by Cory on BoingBoing. There’s also a blog post about the game at the State Library of New South Wales website.

Over at Library as Incubator, you can read Tracie Mauro and Shellie Buckle’s account of running Australia’s first ever Fun Palace.

Meanwhile at Zoe Toft’s Playing By The Book site, Tracie is interviewed by Zoe about the “Wonder-based library programmes” she creates for children and families. Tracie explains how you can create similar activities at home, school, or your own local library.

The Parkes Library team

This image is licensed by Parkes Shire Library under a CC 4.0 BY-NC-ND licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

The Parkes team are among the most daring and resourceful librarians I’ve ever worked with – no project daunts them, from live action zombies to wading through chocolate pudding swamps. Stay tuned, because there’s much more to come from these amazing Australians.

A quick question about the history of libraries

I’ve done a fair bit of work with libraries over the last few years. Most of it has involved encouraging play of all kinds. I had previously worked with schools and other organisations, but I became convinced of public libraries’ importance after visiting Christchurch in the wake of the 2010 earthquakes. Carolyn Robertson and her team showed, through their actions in that period, that libraries were never more important than in times of grave crisis. When I think about librarianship as a heroic vocation, I think of people like Carolyn, and Penny Carnaby of the National Library of New Zealand, who did their profession proud in a difficult moment.

Carolyn Robertson of Christchurch City Libraries, New Zealand

“We understand the word “library” in the widest possible sense.” – Carolyn Robertson, Christchurch City Libraries

When I was at Auckland Libraries last year, I discovered the Public Library Missions agreed by UNESCO and the international library association IFLA back in 1994:

The following key missions which relate to information, literacy, education and culture should be at the core of public library services:

  • creating and strengthening reading habits in children at an early age;
  • supporting both individual and self conducted education as well as formal education at all levels;
  • providing opportunities for personal creative development;
  • stimulating the imagination and creativity of children and young people;
  • promoting awareness of cultural heritage, appreciation of the arts,
  • scientific achievements and innovations;
  • providing access to cultural expressions of all performing arts;
  • fostering inter-cultural dialogue and favouring cultural diversity;
  • supporting the oral tradition;
  • ensuring access for citizens to all sorts of community information;
  • providing adequate information services to local enterprises, associations and interest groups;
  • facilitating the development of information and computer literacy skills;
  • supporting and participating in literacy activities and programmes for all age groups, and initiating such activities if necessary.

I think this is an incredibly strong mandate which gives librarians clear freedom to engage in all kinds of play, performance, technological and cultural activity. The missions have been around for twenty years, and yet so many library conferences and professional discussions still revolve around debating what libraries should or should not be doing in the 21st century; so many public discussions about libraries reveal that people still think of them largely as “shelfy”, book-storing institutions.

Part of my eclectic scholarly career was spent as an intellectual historian, so these are the questions that occur to me:

What happened in librarianship in the 1980s/1990s to lay the ground for such a radical, positive, and future-proofed global mission statement?

Why didn’t the missions gain more traction?

What lessons could we learn for today from the history of these missions, and the process that led to their writing?

If you have any answers to my questions, contact me via the comments on this site, or at my Twitter account @drmattfinch.

I’ve written about applying the Public Library Missions to play activities in the library here, and also overthought the nature of librarianship here.

Two of my favourite discussions of librarianship – from actual librarians! – come from Adrienne Hannan on “Strategic Librarianship” and Tracie Mauro on “Wonder-based library programmes”.

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