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Posts tagged ‘libraries’

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”

Book publishing workshops for your library

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Last year, Parkes Shire ran a series of one-day publishing workshops for local teens. Our local libraries, high school, and TAFE joined forces to offer teens a game-based look at the business of selling books. This write-up lets you see what we did and run your own version.

Why publishing workshops?

Publishing is changing fast in the 21st century and people aren’t always clued in on how writers get their words out to readers. We wanted local teens to think about the business side of publication. What are the challenges of acquiring books for sale? How do publishers market their choices to the public in an age of social media? We wanted our event to be locally devised but relevant to the global publishing industry.

What did we do?

Read more

Creation/Curation: Making Urban Myths in the Library

This week, screenwriter and critic Martyn Pedler joined us in Parkes for activities based on his 2011 movie EXIT.

EXIT follows a group of people who have come to believe that reality is a maze, thousands of years old. Human beings have lived in the maze for so long that some have settled down, had families, forgotten the impulse to escape. But the fabled exit door is still out there, for those who remember.

The Parkes team have already made youth activities featuring zombies, time travel, and kaiju. We wanted to build on this and offer something a little more cerebral. The premise of Martyn’s movie offers the perfect springboard for a range of games and creative play.

Audience for Martyn Pedler's talk

Martyn spent Tuesday in the library at Parkes High School, where he spoke about his career to over 200 students across two 90-minute sessions. They heard him explain how EXIT began with his 2008 exhibition Melbourne and Other Myths.

Martyn had become bored with the city he’d lived in for many years and was trying to reignite his love for Melbourne by creating new urban legends. For example, Houdini had visited in 1910. He dived into one of the city’s rivers. What, Martyn asked, if some of his unique magic had spilled into the water and infected Melbourne for generations to come?

The Old City Treasury Museum transformed these fantasies into a three-month exhibition. Melbourne and Other Myths presented Martyn’s words alongside found objects. In the exhibition, the stories became secret histories. And one of these myths, about a cult who believe the city is a maze they must escape, inspired EXIT.

In our first EXIT activity, Parkes teens created their own myths for an exhibition of weird and wonderful objects. You can find the instructions for ‘Curating Modern Myths’ below.

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Curating Modern Myths

You’ll need:

  • A selection of intriguing objects (at least 1 for every 4 participants)
  • 1 file card for every 4 participants
  • Rough paper and pencils
  • 1 coloured token for each participant
  • A prize for the winning group


1. Form a group of 3-4.

2. Choose an object from the collection.

3. Have each person in your group tell a story about the object. It can be as weird or as magical or as gruesome as you wish…

4. Choose one story from your group or combine your stories to create a single myth.

5. Write the main ideas from your myth on paper.

6. Collect a file card. You’ll use this to label your object in the exhibition.

7. Write a description of your object and your urban myth on the card.

8. Nominate a curator of your object, who will stay with it and explain its story to others.

9. Other members of group collect a token and walk around the exhibition, talking to the other groups’ curators.

10. Give the token to the curator of your favourite exhibit.

11. Each group’s curator will record all the tokens for their exhibit on the scoreboard (we used a whiteboard).

12. The urban myth with the most votes will win a PRIZE!

Over the coming school year, Parkes students will continue to create activites based on EXIT. Staff and students will make and play games based on the themes of mapping, puzzles, escape, and a world beyond the everyday – and you’ll find those games outside of the classroom too, on the school campus and even on the streets of the town.

My personal favourite from Tuesday’s activity was the “Cold War atomic briefcase” whose dual locks had to be simultaneously released to prevent a detonation.

Atomic briefcase myths

I think the students who came up with that need to watch Kiss Me Deadly before too long…

EXIT: Screenwriter and critic Martyn Pedler visits Parkes Shire

EXIT (2011) movie poster

“Growing numbers of men and women believe that this city is a maze. They are leaving their jobs, their families, their entire lives behind. Every day, they walk the streets, opening doors. They are searching for a door they are convinced has been lost for thousands of years: the exit. What’s behind it? Something else. Something new. Using a strange system of maps, symbols and measurements, one believer — Alice — now thinks she has found it.”

Hot on the heels of the successful Central West Comics Fest last weekend, I’m pleased to announce that award-winning Melbournian writer Martyn Pedler will be visiting Parkes Shire on Tuesday 25th February for a one-day event kicking off a series of gaming and storytelling activities which interrogate the boundaries between fantasy and reality.

Martyn will work with students at Parkes High School, before appearing at a Q&A discussion and screening of his 2011 movie EXIT at Parkes Shire’s Coventry Room at 6.30pm.

For more details, contact Parkes Shire Library on 02 6861 2309 or at


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