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Posts tagged ‘libraries’

The Kinder Way To Enjoy Hacking

This morning I gave the opening address at the annual conference of ALIA Queensland. The theme this year was “Library Hacks”.

Hacking’s such a funny term, still threatening and techy and futuristic, and yet also so familiar; the stuff of cheesy mid-90s techno-thrillers as much as today’s headlines about Wikileaks and massive DNS attacks.

The New Yorker tells us that the word originates in the house slang of MIT, way back in the 1950s:

The minutes of an April, 1955, meeting of the Tech Model Railroad Club state that “Mr. Eccles requests that anyone working or hacking on the electrical system turn the power off to avoid fuse blowing.”

Taking “hack” to mean tinkering with machines and procedures, not following the manual, I wanted to both hack the keynote and offer attendees an opportunity that wouldn’t exist at M.I.T.

So, we gave them craft materials, tinfoil and paperclips, food decorating kits, a basic electronics set…

…and Kinder Surprise Eggs.

Read more

Revenge of the Model Railway Club

I’ll be speaking at ALIA Queensland‘s mini-conference “Library Hacks” in a couple of weeks.


American-style model railway. Photo by Graham Causer, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Licence

My keynote’s called Revenge of the Model Railway Club and it takes the form of a hands-on workshop. It should be fun – if you’re in the area, you should come!

Library Hacks runs 9am to 5pm at Brisbane Square Library on Wednesday 26th October.

You Have Been Upgraded

The British Library has bumped me up from a “project worker” to Creative/Researcher at British Library Labs.

Just words but it’s always nice to have a punctuation mark in your job title. You can take it out and use it to defend yourself in single combat if need be. Especially as it turns out the “/” mark is called a Solidus.


Read about my dual role over at the British Library Labs blog.

Queensland Fun Palaces 1-2 October

The long-awaited Fun Palaces weekend has arrived.

Fun Palaces illustration

After months of planning and preparation, communities across Queensland are gearing up to celebrate the arts and sciences in all their forms, partnered with a range of libraries and other institutions.

From the islands of the Torres Strait to the cotton fields of the Darling Downs, plus every library in the city of Brisbane, and of course our own State Library on the city’s South Bank, the first weekend in October will see a swathe of venues open their doors for community-led events celebrating the Fun Palace motto “everyone an artist, everyone a scientist.”

We’ve come along way since Parkes Library hosted Australia’s first ever Fun Palace back in 2014.

I’ll be with the State Library team on Saturday, supporting events including our Scrub Turkey Sessions devised with urban ecologist Professor Darryl Jones of Griffith University.

Wherever you are in the world, check the Fun Palaces website for your nearest event, or join in online with the Comic Maker built for Fun Palaces by the State Library. (We’ve also put the code behind the site online, if you feel like a bit of digital tinkering).

Memory Squad!

What does it mean to have a creative relationship with the past?

How do 21st century institutions manage our cultural heritage?

I asked Jacinta Sutton, Gavin Bannerman, and Laura Daenke of the State Library of Queensland.

Call them the Memory Squad.


Read about their work over at Library as Incubator today.

Banned Books Week: Love Illustrated, Rona’s War, and Hansard 37

I’m working in a library at the moment, so here’s three quick stories for Banned Books Week, the US-led celebration of our freedom to read what we want.

Materials from Rona Joyner's STOP campaign - via State Library of Queensland

Materials from Rona Joyner’s STOP campaign – via State Library of Queensland

These all come from the research of the State Library of Queensland’s resident banned book specialist, Joan Bruce. Read more

Local History, Local Music

Got to love a conference which takes place in a pub: I’m speaking at next week’s Australian gathering of the International Association of Music Librarians, and the venue is Brisbane’s Ship Inn, a “rowdy sailors’ drinking den now transformed into a civilised gastropub”.

My paper’s called “Wondrous Strange, Marvellous Electrical” and it’s scheduled for the afternoon of Friday, 30 September. I’ll use a playlist to explore musicality, play, makers, archives, uncomfortable histories, and information science in the digital age.

It’s not too late to sign up for the conference via their Eventbrite page.

Attendees will get to hear a bit of Powerwolf during my presentation, but sadly Mina’s ‘Se Telefonando’ didn’t make the cut.

It’s lovely, though, so have a listen below:


Comic Makers at Brisbane Parking Day

Yesterday I took a team of staff from the State Library of Queensland to run a pop-up comic making stand in Brisbane’s West End.

Brisbane Parking Day - Comic Maker Stall

Drawing on previous experiences with comic book dice at Bermondsey Street Festival, we took over a car parking space to let Brisbane locals tell their own sidewalk stories using simple three-dimensional cartoons. Read more

Science and Belonging at Brisbane Writers Festival 2016

1: Anti-panels

On Sunday, I hosted the Science and Belonging panel at Brisbane Writers Festival.

Scientists Tamara Davis and Maggie Hardy joined writers Ellen van Neerven and Maree Kimberley for a conversation about their work and the crossovers between art, science, storytelling, and identity.

We wanted the people attending our event to be participants, not just an audience – so I helped the library devise an “anti-panel” session inspired by our Broadband and Heritage workshops earlier this year.

In the “anti-panel”, the audience split up into four groups. Each group got to spend ten minutes in conversation with each of our four guests. At the end of that forty-minute session, we held a plenary panel where our guests reflected on the discussions they’d had, and more questions could be fielded from the floor.

The aim was to change audiences’ experience at a festival panel from “sitting watching VIPs have a conversation, with maybe a few questions at the end” to full interaction and engagement.

Our tools weren’t digital devices or social media apps, but wheelie chairs and a stopwatch.

And we learned as we went – adapting, for example, to the acoustics of the space during group discussion.

The experiment in event design was part of a broader conversation I’ve been having with David Robertson around audience participation and public engagement. You can read more of his work at the Beyond Panels website, a great one-stop shop for alternative event formats.

2: We Need To Talk About Kelvin

The 2016 Brisbane Writers Festival will be notorious for Lionel Shriver’s controversial keynote, which challenged notions of cultural appropriation, and the powerful response to it from Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

Festival organisers quickly organised a right-to-reply for Yassmin and other writers, which you can watch on Yassmin’s Facebook page. (The live stream was filmed by Yen-Rong Wong, whose account of the dispute is also worth reading).

Our Science and Belonging event, presented by the State Library of Queensland for the Festival, was part of the library’s year-long theme of Belonging – an exploration of many different Queensland identities and experiences.

During the event, we were asked if we had deliberately chosen an all-women panel of experts. We hadn’t – we simply wanted outstanding practitioners of science and science-fiction – but we also acknowledged the importance of bringing together women, migrants, and Indigenous people as experts on a panel which was not “the token diversity panel”.

I’m proud that the Library and the Festival were able to deliver this special celebration of science and speculative fiction with a distinctive Queensland flavour. See more from Brisbane Writers Festival via the #bwf16 hashtag on Twitter.

New Adventures at the Brisbane Writers Festival

This weekend, join me for two events at the Brisbane Writers Festival.

On Saturday 10th September at 4pm, I’ll be on the Rules of Engagement panel with Kate Pullinger and Caroline Heim, talking about the shifting relationships between institutions, artmakers, scientists, audiences, and participants.

Then, on Sunday 11th September at 11.30am, join Ellen Van Neerven, Maggie Hardy, Tamara Davis, and Maree Kimberley for Science and Belonging, a special presentation by the State Library of Queensland.

Instead of the usual panel discussion, we’ll be running a Beyond Panels session which maximises your chance to talk to our guests.

Our panel of scientists and speculative fiction writers will talk about their work with Festival  visitors before leading a discussion exploring the collisions, contrasts, and common ground between speculative fiction and scientific practice.

Find out more about Rules of Engagement and Science and Belonging at the Brisbane Writers Festival website.