Tuesday 10 April 2012

Innovation in the Library and Beyond, a 20x20 Event

Innovation in the Library and beyond, a 20x20 event by ALIA Sydney was a resounding success (if we do say so ourselves).  It was set in the theatrette in the lovely Waverly Library at Bondi Junction and was almost completely sold out.  It was fantastic seeing this many people from all walks of the profession being involved in such an important topic. From seasoned managers, through to new graduates like myself, there was something for everyone. The 20x20 format ensured that there was an abundance of content that could be absorbed and acted upon by everyone from special librarians, through public, to academic librarians (and everyone in between).

While I must admit I was apprehensive about the format (in which each presenter speaks to 20 slides that are displayed for 20 seconds each), I think that it suited the topic very well. It allowed the event to have incredible diversity and therefore very wide relevance. The most impressive thing about the event however, was the way in which the speakers engaged with the both the format and the audience. I also have to give the great organising committee the recognition they deserve for choosing their speakers with an eye to both content and style. The dynamic format gave the event a really exciting and proactive feel, which suited the theme of innovation perfectly.

The speakers were all from different backgrounds and spoke on different topics, which kept the audience engaged and interested in all of them!

Jemima McDonald from UTS kicked off the evening with a fun introduction to UTS’s induction program for new students to their library. It was a very playful approach, full of games, treasure hunts and face painting that emphasised the friendliness of their library and tricked the new students into learning some information literacy while having a great time. I got the impression that UTS library does a great job of breaking down barriers between students and staff, ensuring that they are approachable while still being authoritative enough to provide trustworthy advice.

Next was Michael Gonzales from UWS. Michael not only brought some fresh and naughty ideas about management to the event but also some sensational baking. Michael’s approach to management and baked goods shared many similarities and differences: he was willing to get into a bit of trouble by sometimes acting before asking (or biting before counting calories) but his approach to management was definitely more about long term fulfillment than eating one of his delicious chocolate covered caramel slices which were all about the moment! Michael was very focused on grassroots leadership and using this to connect staff across all levels. It was a cheeky, thought provoking and tasty presentation!

Karina Libbey was the first of the non-librarians to speak. Karina is in fact one of the driving forces behind the Jurassic Lounge at the Australian Museum, though her approach to public space is anything but prehistoric. Karina’s presentation focused on targeting non-traditional user groups and demographics, something that is becoming more and more of an issue for libraries today. Hearing an event organiser’s approach to this sort of thing was definitely intriguing, and I think I saw a few eyes opening wider around me at some of her points. Her use of social media to directly engage clients during events was quite inspiring to me!

Estee Wah’s discussion on technology in the Powerhouse Museum was illuminating and very forward-looking. Her ideas about the use of RFID technology and mobile devices to add value to exhibits was incredibly intriguing and I thought it could be a great way to integrate physical and electronic material in libraries. Estee’s use of technology to promote information literacy was very elegantly conveyed with the saying “give a man a fish vs teach a man to fish”. I think this demonstrated Estee and her team’s new approach to a very old question. Estee’s goal seemed to be to ensure that the visitors to the Powerhouse Museum experience didn’t end when they left the physical museum. She was committed to using technology to push information out, ensuring that the museum’s content could follow visitors home.

Fiona Bradley conveyed her passion for the advancement of the cause of libraries around the world through her video presentation on advocacy through storytelling. This was both an uplifting and very forward-looking presentation as it focused on the ways in libraries can show their impact. The struggle for libraries to prove tangible results in the KPI driven world of today is always important. Fiona’s approach goes back to our roots (with stories) in order to save our future. Our compelling stories are our successes as well as the means of demonstrating them. The stories and people in our libraries are our real strengths and Fiona’s presentation highlighted the ways in which their stories can be used. These stories can also be ways of showing our similarities and learning from each other. It was very heartfelt presentation, even through video.

Another ‘up late’ series that I desperately want to start attending is the City of Sydney’s Late Night Library. Hugh Nichols, the main push behind these events came and discussed getting it up, running and successful. I really enjoyed Hugh’s rough and ready approach to his events, with the main driver being passion, rather than bureaucracy. The rough around the edges feel that Hugh seemed to give his events made them come across as really approachable and fun. Definitely a feeling that we want in libraries… Especially public ones. Hugh’s events seemed to revolve around community and inclusivity, which are also very important aspects of our public libraries. I was quite happy to hear Hugh’s main goal was to increase people’s use of the library and satisfaction rather than emphasise statistics!

Maureen Kattau and Fiona Burton’s presentation was full of great ideas and positive views. Maureen and Fiona are the Liaison Services Manager (Social Sciences & Humanities) and the Associate University Librarian, Resources from Macquarie University and they were discussing the ‘virtual bookshelf’. This virtual bookshelf allows the resources behind their OPAC to be more accessible for browsing. Not only was their use of technology innovative and completely client centered, by balancing the need to keep material in their new Automated Retrieval Collection but also satisfying client’s desire to browse, they showed an inspiring level of collaboration between resource services and client services. This harmony among teams in the library is just as important as technological innovation and was showcased very well by Maureen and Fiona. Even though only Maureen ended up presenting, it felt like a fantastic melding of both technical and user services.

Shaun O’Dwyer and Kylie Bailin sparked our imaginations by throwing that old stalwart of librarianship out… Their presentation focused on the new desk-less service model in their library at UNSW. Replacing the service desk with a new dynamic Help Zone/roving librarian model not only breaks down physical barriers between librarians and students, it also allowed UNSW library to maximize the space available to them. This space was taken back by replacing the ‘dead space’ with couches and student friendly facilities such as self-checkout machines and student PCs. It has also allowed the library to be more flexible in regards to their staffing arrangements, which is always a plus. Another interesting part of Shaun and Kylie’s presentation was their emphasis on the continual monitoring and improvement of their project, which is an important part of any new aspect of librarianship.

All in all, it was a sensational evening and continued the trend of high quality events, attended by wonderful people. I especially enjoyed the networking opportunities after the presentations.

I hope to see everyone at our April event: Taking the Next Step.

Always a pleasure.

Holger Aman


  1. great wrap up Holger! It was a fantastic and inspiring night. I'd like to send a special thank you to all the speakers who were so generous with their time to help it all come together. Thanks also to all who attended! Hope to see you again at other events. Heather

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