Sunday 30 June 2013

Volunteering at the Hurstville City Library

I’ve been doing some time volunteering at my local public library while I’m studying for my Diploma of Library Studies at TAFE. It’s been great for me to get into a library and get a feel for the day to day activities, get a bit of experience to fill in a thin resume, and to set a path for my future career. Lots of library students and prospective library students give time to the volunteer program for the same reasons, and lots of local community members join the program too. I came to hear about the volunteering program from a staff member who I met at the Unmeash Unconference last year. I received a lot of good advice at Unmeash 2012  and was able to turn some of it into action.

At the induction session I attended last year, reasons for joining the volunteer program ranged from improving English conversation skills, assisting with special community language programs within the library, meeting people after moving to a new area, and giving time to something meaningful in the community. The volunteers wear different coloured name tags if they have a particular expertise, such as computing skills, or if they speak a community language (or if they are library students).

I’ve learned many things in the program that perhaps should have been obvious. I quickly changed over to much more supportive shoes. I sought out clothes with pockets to carry small things with me. I realised that not everyone understood the differences between graphic novels and manga, and I can now predict which sections need the most frequent shelf tidying. In the time I’ve been there I have received training in assisting patrons with technical questions, such as downloading ebooks from the library catalogue, and have assisted staff to present the beginner computer classes which just happen to coincide with my regular shift. As I especially enjoy this, I am already thinking how I can use my time studying to gain more formal training in providing training.

But apart from all that, one of the main things I enjoy is working with the other volunteers. Hurstville City Council actively fosters volunteers in many areas, and the library is part of a library/museum/gallery group. They work hard to make sure that the volunteers are shown appreciation through morning teas and activities that give us the time to get to know each other and the staff.  It’s pleasant to get to know the other volunteers that are there on the same day as me, and to meet up with others volunteering at different locations and hear about their experiences. Plus, I get to keep an eye on new releases and never have to make a special trip to return my books.

If you are a library student, or even thinking about studying in the future, perhaps there are volunteering opportunities near you.  Seek them out, for fun and function.

Saturday 29 June 2013

Event Recap: Social Media in Libraries

Last Thursday Mylee Joseph, Project Leader, Innovation Project at the State Library of New South Wales, gave a fantastic talk at Customs House for a City of Sydney event about social media in libraries.

Mylee talked about the three opportunities for libraries with social media: discovery, engagement and collecting.

One of the attendees, Joachim Cohen, has put together a Storify of the event, which is well worth checking out. Mylee will also make her presentation available on Slideshare.

Below are just a few highlights from my notes:


Commander Chris Hadfield's use of Twitter when he was on the International Space Station was historical in many ways. There were some great moments of engagement, such as William Shatner tweeting to ask if he was really in space, not to mention his version of Space Oddity, which had 22,630 retweets.

He also used reddit successfully. But Mylee emphasised that libraries shouldn't try to get into everything. Instead, choose a platform that suitable for the material you want to share, and is something your target audience uses.

For example, Google Hangouts can be great for author events, especially if they're in a different time zone. The interview can be held live on air and recorded for later viewing on YouTube.


Social media is ephemeral, so libraries have a place in keeping this record for future generations.

The Vatican archived Pope Benedict XVI's tweets, showing the importance of this record. The archived tweets can be seen alongside the Twitter feed of current Pope Francis' tweets.

There were 500,000 tweets about last week's #spill. Collecting so much information can be difficult, but could be useful to researchers.


Flickr's The Commons is a way for cultural institutions to make their collections discoverable: the State Library has 1795 images, with well over 7.73 million views and 8933 people connected as contacts.

The Historypin app is being used heavily by the State Library as a way of allowing people to view historical photos of places where they are.

Creating or updating Wikipedia entries using the State Libraries holdings is a great way of sharing information about significant people or events. Two examples are an article on the Aboriginal Australian World War I soldier Douglas Grant, and an article on the recent DIY rainbow crossing movement in Sydney.

More Engagement

The State Library has had much success with Pinterest- their most popular board is HSC: Researching beyond Google.

Mylee advised libraries to be careful with what they repin- try to find the original source (and consider asking the original artists if you can pin their work).

When asked about the people needed, Mylee emphasised the need for a team-based approach. The marketing team are good at promoting events, but there also has to be people listening and (quickly) responding to questions and comments. At the State Library there is a 'coalition' of people authorised to respond via Twitter on behalf of their section.

Amy Croft

Friday 28 June 2013

Many Faces of Library Cards

What will become of library cards in the future? 

With so many functions moving online, my cards are slowly turning into a handy way to store the member number for when I log in. Unfortunately, I still have to remember my PIN for each of them the usual way.

I need my library cards when I'm checking out a physical resource, of course. I have eight cards of my own at the moment, and carry a couple for my children too. They were very pleased when they were finally allowed to get their own cards. I was less pleased as each has been lost and replaced at least once, and now all the library cards reside with me. My TAFE student card doubles as my library card, and is the only one with my photo (not shown - no one likes their own photo ID). This card can act as ID when I want to visit another library, such as UTS, so it has a double duty. My Rockdale library card is duplicated on my phone through the Card Star app, so I can present that to the desk when borrowing, and never get caught short. The Hurstville City Library card stores credit to use the printers etc at the library, as does my student card.

My various customer loyalty cards are bright colours, and have slick branding. Looking over the images on my library cards, I have to say, they are mixed. To me their function is more important than their form, but we all recognise the power of branding. In Library Week many public libraries have events for young children and encourage their parents to get a library card for the child. The card is a prompt for parents to borrow and share books with children, and is a tangible link to the issuing library.

I love my big fat roll of library cards, and plan on adding a couple of new ones to it in the near future, as I identify libraries that hold different items or collections I am interested in. I'm intrigued by their design and how they fit with the branding strategy of each institution. Maybe I can find a purple one.....

Lauren Castan

Thursday 27 June 2013

How Many Library Staff Does it Take to Change a (Research Data Sharing) Light Bulb?

This bad joke play will resonate with readers who have been involved in the various Australian National Data Service (ANDS) funded projects. These projects were established to raise awareness of data issues (management, secure storage and preservation and sharing options) within the national research sector. Data sharing could reduce duplication of research cost and effort, and enable re-use of data for new purposes. Research Data Australia (RDA) was created in the hope it would become a register of Australian research activity, to facilitate data sharing and enhance national and international collaborative research opportunities.

The University of Western Sydney secured funding for 3 projects which were a collaborative effort between various Library and University units. It was an extremely rewarding experience and further strengthened already strong working relationships between the teams, especially when planning the rollout of business as usual post funding across the University.

Some of the major project achievements for UWS were:
  • Greater awareness and take-up of data management, storage and sharing options among the research community.
  • 100 records to date in Research Data Australia showcasing UWS research and researchers via descriptions of their data.
  • Working committees to address ongoing data issues and ensure business as usual  rollout for the ‘wins’ of the projects.
  • Expanded capacity for data storage (working and archival) and supporting metadata through the Research Data Repository project.
  • Creation of new technology to enable the transfer of data descriptions from some technical instruments into our data description tool for uploading to Research Data Australia.

This all sounds quite dry, but it was actually very exciting (and often frustrating). The first researcher interview and the first UWS collection appearing in RDA were initial highlights, then came the thrill of hitting 100 records. But it was not all smooth sailing. Denison, Kethers and McPhee (2007) report on a study conducted in 2006 about e-research and related issues, specifically discussing implications for libraries. Sadly six years on, the key issues identified as roadblocks to the use of available infrastructure are still the same. Although I’m hopeful the ANDS funding has enabled research institutions to chip away at old beliefs and start researchers on the journey of considering sharing data as a matter of course.

If you would like to learn more about our ANDS funded and related data projects, the UWS eResearch blog may interest you.

So, how many Library staff does it take to change a (research data sharing) light bulb?

A: Many, or just one, but the owner of the research data has to want to change (share). And this remains the greatest obstacle to data sharing for the foreseeable future.

And finally, a quick plug for the Research Librarian’s Google Group. This group discusses research related issues is open to anyone with an interest in that area.

Denison, T., Kethers, S., & McPhee, N. (2007). Managing the soft issues in e-research: a role for libraries? Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 38(1), 1-14

Susan Robbins is the Research Services Coordinator at the University of Western Sydney Library

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Goonellabah Library Saved

In early May this year, Lismore City Council announced the closure of Goonellabah Library as part of it's budget cuts for 2013-14. But last night, after an impassioned plea from our own executive director Sue McKerracher and along with a petition with almost 1000 signatures, Lismore City coucillors opted to keep the library open with reduced hours. 

Had Goonellabah Library closed, it would have been the first NSW library in more than 15 years to shut its doors without a new library opening to take its place. This would have made a huge impact on the community who rely on  the library to serve its large retired community and help boost its high levels of disadvantage and low literacy levels. So for the second time this year ALIA stepped up to help the community protect a valued asset. 

We in library world know how important public libraries are to the communities they serve, especially those regional areas and are grateful to all those who have lent their support and signatures to this effort. 

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Don't Judge a Librarian by its Cover

A customer is approaching the information desk. I am available, as are my colleagues. Who will the person choose to approach? In the slow times of exam periods or late shifts, I often stand wondering why the customer didn’t approach me first. I was definitely sporting the mandatory “I am the happiest person in the world” smile, so really, they should have picked me. But they didn’t. So how do I cope with such rejection? I can either push my colleagues out of the way, or I can solve my problem like a true librarian. So off I went to do some research.

I was in luck. Really, it was fate, serendipity, or maybe just plain old coincidence. An advance view of First Impressions and the Reference Encounter: The Influence of Affect and Clothing on Librarian Approachability was available through The Journal of Academic Librarianship. It was twelve pages, so I skimmed. I only needed the conclusions and I did not have time to waste. My career and my self-esteem depended on me being the most popular person at the reference desk.

So what did I learn?

1.       Smiling consistently increases approachability. But I was already smiling like I’d won gold at the Olympics so moving on…
2.       Don’t look down. Especially if you’re a woman. Unless you are young and looking at a book. Oh the confusion. I’m young, must go find a book. But I’m also a woman, so should I just hold the book up to eye level? Yes, that could work!
3.       Wear a name tag. Especially if you are young. Hmmm, I wonder if I make my name tag bigger, will that help?
4.       Formal clothing – a must for men and older people, and a definite no for women and younger people. Well this is cause for celebration. I’m kicking off my heels and stepping into my Cons. And as for that pencil skirt. It can go to Vinnies. I’ll stick with my jeans.
5.       Last lesson – even clothing colour matters. If you are a woman, don’t wear red. This is funny because red is supposed to enhance attractiveness. So evidently, if you’re pretty, you’re up the creek without a paddle. Ok, off to the shops to stock up on white and blue t-shirts.

So where does all this leave me? I’m smiling, I am reading a book BUT not looking down. I’ve got my name tag on and looking like I’m going to the movies. I’m all set to be inundated with pleas for assistance.

PROBLEM. I’m 25. Told I look around 18. I have been asked if I’m a student on many occasions. I’ve also been asked “Can I speak to someone more senior?” – even when that senior person will give the exact response that I did. Usually, they’re not even more senior, just older. So now I’m standing in my casual wear looking even younger. I just don’t get this research, but how can you argue with evidence?

It’s easy – I’ll argue with the arrogance of youth.

So I think I’ll continue dressing like I’m going to a job interview. Let’s face it, appearance matters. But more than looking approachable, I want people to trust that I know what I am taking about. I’ll wear my jeans on Fridays, and see if I notice a difference.

Dimity Flanagan is an Information Services Librarian at UNSW Library

Monday 24 June 2013

Monday Meme

Opera House projection at Vivid Sydney 2012

This 20 questions meme comes via Connie "courtesy of Jackie who got it from Fi". (It's from last Monday - is that cheating?)

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?

Should've gone to bed a bit earlier last night...

2. What shirt are you wearing?

A little black turtleneck from SES. With a cardigan. From SES.

3. Do you label yourself?


4. What does your watch look like?

Forgot my watch today, so it looked an awful lot like my wrist. (I also realised how much I rely on it, even though I usually have my phone with me.)

5. What were you doing at midnight last night?

Internetting. Should have been sleeping.

6. Last furry thing you touched?

Two cats (not mine - I'm housesitting at the moment).

7. Favourite age you have been so far?

34. Hopefully this Thursday I'll start saying 35 is the best :)

8. What is your current desktop picture?

A photo I took at Vivid last year (above). Kicking myself I didn't go this year, although I did see the Doctor Who projection on Customs House from Circular Quay station.

9. If you had to choose between $1,000,000 or to be able to fly what would it be?

Can I not have teleportation? Ok, flying then :)

10. The last song you listened to?

*Checks phone* Song 2, Blur.

11. What time of day were you born?

Don't know, but I think early morning. There's a spoon somewhere I could check.

12. Where did you live in 1987?

Chipping Norton, a suburb in Sydney's south west.

13. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?

Try again if I have enough money, hoping I'll get two.

14. Would you move for the person you loved?

I think so.

15. Name three things that you have on you at all times?

My phone, a pair of earphones or headphones, my Fitbit (trying to make sure I do 10,000 steps each day).

16. What’s your favourite town/city?

Berlin - thought it was incredible when I visited in 2004.  Always planned to go back and am finally going this September!

17. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?

Sandwich and a coffee for lunch.

18. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?

When I was living overseas I sent a bunch of letters to my grandparents - they were the only people I couldn't email or text.

19. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear?

A dress. For me that's pretty fancy.

20. Does anything hurt on your body right now?

No - all good at the moment (touch wood).

Amy Croft


Sunday 23 June 2013

From knowledge consumption to sharing to creation

I've been thinking about moving from consumption to sharing to creation of knowledge for a while now, in terms of my own learning and professional development, and also when I think of the 'future of libraries'.

Know Knew Books
Know Knew Books by Earthworm, on Flickr
Let's start with me: I've spent years trying to absorb as much knowledge about the profession as possible, by attending events and training, and reading everything that comes my way. What I realised a couple of years ago was that I was simply consuming all this valuable knowledge. I was using some of the ideas to improve my own practice, but not actively sharing them with others. I was a knowledge hoarder!

When a call for volunteers for ALIA Sydney came out at the end of 2011, I jumped at it, thinking 'right, I've benefitted from attending their events - here's my chance to put something back and help share with others'. It's been incredibly rewarding, and that drive to share has spilled over to my working life. I'm now confident volunteering at work to present on conferences and training I've attended, and I regularly share my notes from presentations and interesting articles with my colleagues.

I see my next logical step as creating new knowledge - conducting research or coming up with new ideas to better the profession. Wish me luck!

Now, how does this relate to the library and information world? There's been some debate lately about knowledge consumption vs creation in libraries, and clearly we collect and share (enable access to) knowledge. The idea is that our customers will then put this to use to create new knowledge. But can we go further ourselves?

Open Access has opened up possibilities for libraries, especially academic libraries like mine who are currently struggling to provide access to high quality scholarly information in the face of ever-increasing costs. Perhaps, as Peter Brantley suggested in a recent post for Publishers Weekly, we can also create new open publications for the profession to share and debate ideas. What do you think?

Amy Croft
ALIA Sydney Convenor

Saturday 22 June 2013

Open Access for All

Issues associated with open access certainly seem to be the discussion topic of the month, or year, or years. And really, why shouldn’t it be? Open access is one of the most exciting developments in making the world seem a little closer to the utopian vision that lives in my head. In essence, it’s about levelling the playing field. Why should information that benefits society be limited to those who are in the financially privileged position to access it? The more people who have access to research, the greater chance there is of producing even better, more varied research.

Of course, it is not a cure all. There is still the rather large obstacle of the digital divide, whether it is within countries or between countries. However, the move towards open access scholarly information provides yet another reason why governments should be investing in communication infrastructure. But developing communication infrastructure is really only the tip of the iceberg. Unless we want a future in which global information flows are further imbalanced.

In a perfect world, open access will enable developing countries to promote more of their research outputs. However, this is not a key focus of current open access discourse. However, it needs to be. I read a great article recently, Open Access Initiatives in Africa — Structure, Incentives and Disincentives, which detailed the obstacles to African participation in the open access era.  According to the author, Nwagwu, the Directory of Open Access Journals reports that there are 384 open access journals in the region. However, 75% of these are Egyptian, which emphasises that many African countries are under-represented. What is more concerning is that repositories in Africa account for only 0.6% of the world’s repositories.1

So what are the major problems?
  • The development of repositories requires experts, hardware, software, all of which cost money.
  • Many educational institutions do not have specific policy statements regarding open access.
  • The same can be said for governments. 
  • Many local journals do not have self-archiving policies.
  • Author fees for publishing in open access journals can be a major disincentive.

Nwagwu suggests that the priority must be awareness building among the interest groups – scholars, libraries, institutions, organisations and governments. This made me curious as to what progress was being made in terms of advocacy and concrete advancements. There is an international not-for-profit, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), which works to enable “access to knowledge through libraries in developing and transition countries”. Their OA branch has some great examples of how increased advocacy has resulted in some significant changes. I suggest people go have a look at how much is changing in developing countries, and start getting excited about what this means for the future of global knowledge development.


1. Nwagwu, W. E. (2013). Open Access Initiatives in Africa — Structure, Incentives and Disincentives. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39(1), 3-10. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2012.11.024

Dimity Flanagan is an Information Services Librarian at UNSW Library

Friday 21 June 2013

Embedded Librarian 101: How to Get Started

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 12.28.07 PM

As librarians, we can’t wait for students to ask us questions. We know that! That’s why we’ve had “virtual” reference services since the early 2000′s. But it’s simply not enough to have an online presence. The key is being online where the students are. For most universities, this means the learning management system (Moodle, Blackboard, D2L, etc…). It’s where students spend their academic time. It’s where librarians need to be. It’s embedded librarianship.

How do you get started?
  • Start small. Identity a library-friendly faculty member that would be open to an embedded librarian and then expand from there.
  • Target writing emphasis courses (many universities will have these courses tagged in their course catalogs with terms such as writing emphasiswriting enhancedwriting intensive, etc…) that will likely have a research component that would require the use of library materials and resources.
  • Send an email to faculty teaching these courses at the beginning of every term (yes, it takes several reminders for it to work!).
  • Provide marketing and informational materials about embedded librarian services. We direct faculty to a LibGuide about our embedded librarian program and have developed a checklist for faculty to consult. We also provide info at faculty workshops and try to get our foot in the door at departmental meetings.
  • Work with the faculty member to identify the level of service needed: ranging from a simple discussion forum, to a tutorial/quiz module, to you as a “guest lecturer,”etc…

How do you gain access to courses in the learning management system?
  • First: get the go-ahead from the faculty member teaching the course.
  • Work with your university’s IT staff. Most can add you into courses with TA access or a “librarian” role can be created in the learning management system. I usually email our IT staff requesting access to the courses I need and I copy the faculty member on the email.
  • Recommendation: request that a secondary account for embedded librarian be added to the course  (for example, your library’s Reference Desk account) so that the courses can be checked if you’re out of the office or on vacation.

How do you set up & post information as the Embedded Librarian?
  • Create your discussion forum and add in any other learning objects that are appropriate (e.g., LibGuides, tutorials, etc.).
  • If you’re embedded for an entire term, you many want to roll out various learning objects by date as assignments/projects approach.
  • Introduce yourself in the discussion forum. Describe what you’re here to do. Add in a video to give a face to a name–creating a much more personal approach (here’s mine).
  • Give students some guidelines: “I’ll check this forum twice per day.”“When you post your question, tell me a little bit about what you’ve already tried to search for.” “If you need immediate help, try our Ask-a-Librarian service.”

How do you encourage students to ask questions?
  • Be welcoming. “If you have a question, it’s likely that some of your other classmates have the exact same question. So post it!”
  • Develop a list of “ready to go” posts. These are posts that you can drop in the forum (say once per week) to help stimulate discussion and questions.
  • Post information in a variety of mediums from PDF handouts to videos.

Where do you go from here?
  • After some initial success, you may want to target all sections of a particular course, or a sequence of courses for embedded librarian.
  • Develop some higher-level activities that can be embedded: self-paced tutorials, quizzes, etc.
  • Assess! Find out how your services were used and how they might be improved or enhanced.

Cross post by Joe Hardenbrook on his blog Mr. Library Dude
Joe is an Instruction & Reference Librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Library

Thursday 20 June 2013

Graphic Novels

Graphic novels have carved out a place in libraries in recent years.  With an increasingly wide spread of  genre, theme, and intended audience they are reaching more and more readers, but they do require a different reading technique.

Last year I attended a Book Club session at my local library, attracted by the topic “Graphic Novels”. I’m a keen but uneducated reader of this format and hoped to share some of my favourites and collect some suggestions for future exploration. The members of this group meet during the day in the Sydney suburbs and it’s probably no surprise that most members of the group were women, possibly with adult children of their own. They had not chosen the topic for the group, but each selected an item from the collection with no guidance and took it home to read and report back. The responses were mostly pretty negative. Some had trouble following the sequence of the panels at times. The selections had not been well made and didn’t suit the readers at all. The librarian with the special interest in graphics who was to lead the group wasn’t rostered on for the day of the meeting. Although I think the members didn’t mind stepping out and trying something new, they just put that month down to experience and had a laugh.

Because the pictures take the place of the bulk of the descriptive writing, the reader really does need to take time to consider each panel, and panels in relation to each other.  Pace can be slowed by panels with no text, and repetition of similar images provide links to different scenes. I still find emotions can be fully conveyed to the reader. I cried in Full Metal Alchemist  Volume 2 when the talking dog spoke to Edward and Alphonse, revealing the full horror of its creation just like I did at the end of The Book Thief (a title with some interesting graphic additions).

Graphic novels have taken time to settle in at libraries. There has been a fair bit of back and forth about cataloguing, especially where there can be so many contributors to the finished product.  Shelving can also be a bit polarising, but in most cases libraries seem to have settled on a separate section rather than interfiling. Adult content needs careful evaluation and management. All the styles in this format can be confusing – manga especially. I find it very irritating to discover something like In Odd We Trust has been shelved in with the manga simply because they are both printed in the same size paperback format, but I do appreciate the niceties aren’t obvious to everyone. I also am annoyed that I am unable to easily find everything in, say, Batman, as it isn’t shelved together because the different creative teams cause them all to have different call numbers, some end up with the title, some with the illustrator or whatever.  I’ve seen the volumes from the same series with three different call stickers, one for the illustrator, and one each for the two authors. Here is a link to a paper presented at ALIA 2004 which has lots of good information, still relevant.

At the Hallowed Ground Future of the Book event last year, Australian illustrator Queenie Chan made a point that graphics can sometimes be a hard sell. Creators of both these types of work might spend the same amountof time working on them, but don’t see the same return. People don’t want to pay the same for this format which can be read in an hour as they would for a text work that might be enjoyed over a week.  Reflecting on my own habits, I would say she is right on the money.  I get nearly all my graphic novels from libraries and keenly watch .

The link between graphic novels and comics and film is no news, and neither is a graphic version of a well known novel, but it can be intriguing to compare the different versions. I’m really excited for the film release of Ender’s Game later this year (trailer here). I read the series two or three years ago, and last year read the graphic treatment of the first novel in the series, on which the film is based. It was interesting because it presented the story from the perspective of another character. Maybe something like this could be a starting point for your own reading. Or perhaps an author that works in both media like Neil Gaiman  or Mike Carey? I also really enjoyed Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson, a prose novel that began life as a graphic novel. In graphics, I read genres like horror,  in which I wouldn't normally have much interest. I love Locke and Key and wish that the much talked about pilot had been turned into a tv series, and am sad the series is set to end at volume 7.

I’d love to attend a library event for adult readers of graphic novels and manga. Until then, I’m waiting until my son is old enough so I can legitimately attend some of those teen manga workshops.

Lauren Castan