Friday 26 September 2014

Comic Conversation

Comic Conversations. Photo by Kings Comics.
On Saturday September 20th I had the extreme pleasure of attending Comic Conversation, an event at Ashfield Library celebrating comics and graphic novels, just one week after Sydney Comic Con. It featured workshops and panel discussions, exhibitors and entertainment,  live sketching and portfolio reviews. In a week when Nielsen Bookscan reported a 10% year on year growth in graphic novels from 2013-2014 in the US it was a revelation to me how vibrant our local comic scene is, in both creation and consumption of this format.

According to the Panel Session "Meet the Sydney Comics" Sydney has the most receptive and committed fan base for comics in Australia. The community is strong, and the digital connections across the globe are making it a reality for local creators to showcase their work to a global audience and work from Sydney or anywhere. Publishing on the web can help a budding creator to access their niche from a global audience, to grow in confidence and build technical skill, and maybe to move their work from a hobby to the next level. Comic artists working in Sydney are producing work for the big studios as well as their own independent publications. The Ledger Awards for comics in Australia have restarted after a hiatus, further supporting local creators. Australian based comic artists are getting in on the film/TV action as well. A comic created by Australian Tom Taylor, The Deep, is being turned into a 26 part CGI animation series for children by a French company.

Panel Discussion. Photo by Kings Comics.
There has been a huge rise in interest in comics and graphic novels in the last five years. Changes in the availability of digital printing has meant that self publishing is not the financial drain for creators that it once was when print runs of 10,000 had to be placed in newsagents. Companies like Comixology are delivering comics at a price that makes comics much more competitive with prose works. In the past, consumers have baulked at paying the same price for a prose work that might take a few days to read as a comic that might take an hour - hard to deal with for creators as their writing/drawing time is equivalent to prose authors.

In the Panel Discussion "All Comics Great and Small" the panel also made the point that the literacy level of readers in this visual medium has also developed. Just like in any other form of expression, experiencing the classics develops literacy. Literacy turns into fluency. Chewie Chan commented that comics are more accessible, not because they are simpler, but because we are so well versed in visual language. This visual literacy can also be seen in other media such as the growth of infographics for data visualisation.

Workshop. Photo by Kings Comics.

One future area of growth for the comic format is non-fiction works. The panel discussed the work being done, for example, in medical comics which explain medical conditions for patients, and others which educate doctors about their patient interactions. A conference is held each year at Johns Hopkins Medical Campus in Baltimore on this topic. There are plenty of other non-fiction works. The panel specifically mentioned Scott McClouds's Understanding Comics:The Invisible Art and Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe (and the other books in that series) as examples of how powerful comics can be in non-fiction/education. Schools for comics in Malmo, Sweden and upstate New York, USA, were noted as incubators for innovation and imagination, producing work that was admired by panellists.

"In a perfect graphic novel the prose and the drawing hold equal weight," says Chewie Chan. Learning this was the key change in my own enjoyment of comics. Being a reader of prose, I was reading through graphic novels in the same way, until I read an article about details hidden in one of the books I had been reading. I went back to find all these easter eggs and realised that I was really missing a big chunk of the story by racing through the drawings, and not giving them proper consideration. This is echoed too in the collaborations that develop between writers and illustrators to develop comics, as some start as storytellers, and have to develop drawing skills or vice versa.  Some comics are the work of an individual, but many are the work of teams, each contributing their strengths. Also, the panel noted that in this format, the reader actually does a lot of the work, almost to the point of being a co-creator. Because the story moves from panel to panel, the reader has to fill in the "gutter" between the images with their own contribution.

Graphic Novels. Photo by Kings Comics.
What of comics and graphics novels in libraries? One panellist commented "I wish all libraries would stock my graphic novel." It's not viewed as a lost opportunity for a sale but rather as an opportunity to bring a new reader to this format. There does exist a challenge of getting books into libraries because they are often published independently, and lack the backing of a big publishing house that can facilitate the acquisition process. But if you want to know more, perhaps you could contact the Collection Management Team Leader at Ashfield Library, as Ashfield certainly does have an enviable graphic novel collection, which includes many Australian works. 
Thanks to them for running this event, I really hope it becomes an annual fixture.

Want to find out more about comics and graphic novels?

Kings Comics in Sydney has a You Tube channel, featuring the Kapow Comic Book Show

Geek Actually has a comics podcast Behind The Panels

Panels is a Book Riot spin off on Facebook, although not local, very interesting.

Take a look at Comics For a Cause where you can donate old comics to adult and teen literacy schemes and ESL centres.

Comics on Halloween coming up soon at Liverpool Library

-Lauren Castan

Art & About: Hallowed Ground

Hallowed Ground is back for it's fourth year and this year's panel will be discussing what the librarian of the future will look like. The City of Sydney Libraries and ALIA Sydney have put together a great panel to chat about those important people who inhabit our libraries. 

This years' panel includes: Sue McKerracher (Managing Director of ALIA), Roxanne Missingham (University Librarian at ANU), Michel Carney (Librarian at NSW State Library) and Dr Mary Carroll (Associate Course Director in the School of Information Studies, CSU).

Places are limited so book now so you don't miss out! 
When: Thursday, 9 October 2014 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM (AEDT)
Where: Customs House Library, 31 Alfred St Circular Quay Sydney

Wednesday 24 September 2014

ALIA National 2014 Conference Wrap up

Caitlin Williams and Amy Croft both attended the ALIA National 2014 Conference: Caitlin via social media, and Amy in person. They compared notes on their experiences:

Attending from a distance...

From 15-19 September, information professionals from around Australia and overseas converged on Melbourne for the ALIA National 2014 Conference.

Attendees and spectators from social media sources are now left to digest the excellent debates, workshops and sessions they attended, and hopefully apply what they learnt to their workplace.

While I didn't have the chance to attend in person, I was able to follow the conference on Twitter, and catch a glimpse into sessions thanks to livetweets. Many people took the opportunity to showcase the notes they had taken through Instragram, which offered a personal touch to this event.

ALIA Sydney's very own workshop, focusing on careers and networking, was highly engaged with technology allowing an online audience to put forward questions on PD and interviewing, and even connecting with special guest speaker Julia Garnett all the way from Canada!

Here are some of my favourite tweets from the conference:

Which tweets did you find most memorable?

Attending in person...

I was lucky enough to be in Melbourne to enjoy the coffee, ubiquitous art and, um, changeable weather in person, as well as to soak up the atmosphere of the conference and meet some amazing library and information people. Actually being at the conference allowed for all sorts of opportunities to run into people, window-shop for new shiny things at the exhibitor's booths, and share ideas over lunch, dinner or drinks. Like Caitlin, though, I found the Twitter backchannel to be a valuable way to start or continue conversations sparked by some excellent keynotes, presentations and workshops. I will definitely be trawling the #national14 tweets, both for sessions I missed and those I attended, before reporting back to my colleagues.

The conference was such a whirlwind that I'm only just starting to slow down and reflect on some of the issues raised, but the main points which stuck with me about the theme 'Together we are stronger', and the daily (and overlapping) sub-themes of Content, Collaboration and Capabilities, were:

This barely scratches the surface of the ideas discussed at the conference, and I haven't even mentioned shenanigans at NGAC's cardi party, the awesome dance moves at the conference dinner, or the Raeco and QUT photobooths... and the fantastic libraries at the University of Melbourne and the State Library of Victoria deserve their own separate post (watch this space).

Sooo... did you attend, or wish you had? Would you be interested in a reprise event in Sydney? Let us know in the comments below!

- Caitlin Williams and Amy Croft (@amyecroft)

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Meet Diana Richards, your new ALIA NSW State Manager

Today we find out a little more about our new ALIA State Manager Diana Richards…welcome Diana!

Diana Richards ALIA ACT and NSW State Manager
I began working at ALIA in June 2013 as the ALIA ACT Manager. Julia Garnett’s decision to return to Canada has meant that ALIA needed to find a new NSW State Manager. As I have worked as a librarian in NSW for most of my career, it seemed a great opportunity to work with ALIA members in both ACT and NSW. 

I’ve worked in many libraries in 3 states. Before coming to Canberra last year, I was Assistant Director at the Northern Territory Library in Darwin. I spent 6 great years in the NT. We had a very close knit and active ALIA group in Darwin and we worked very closely with the ALIA NT Manager. Prior to working at the Northern Territory Library, I worked at the State Library of NSW for 14 years in various positions with the last being, Coordinator Operations and Acquisitions in Collection Services.

Previous work places include James Bennett Library Services, Shearers Children’s Bookshop, UTS, ANU, ADFA, Ku-ring-gai CAE  and Macquarie University.

Please feel free contact me at any time by phone or email and do let me know of any events at your library or in your region. I’m looking forward to meeting ALIA members across NSW at events, meetings and conferences.

Diana Richards
ALIA ACT and NSW State Manager

Monday 8 September 2014

Lindt Cafe Wrap Up

Last Tuesday a small but dedicated group of information professionals attended the ALIA Sydney meet-up at Lindt Cafe in Darling Harbour. Although the weather was not the best the hot chocolate was (yum).

The evening was a great opportunity for some interesting conversations; a range of hot topics were discussed including education, training and employment for information professionals, as well as a lively discussion about politics and the information profession! 
Another notable topic discussed was the need for information professionals to raise profile of our profession to ensure it ongoing viability.

Overall it was a very interesting evening, thanks to all those who were able to attend.

(If you couldn't make it last week, we're hoping to squeeze in another ALIA Sydney meet-up event before the end of the year, more information to follow)

Tracey McDonald @McDonaldTracey
Event Officer, ALIA Sydney

Monday 1 September 2014

In Praise of Children’s Librarians

I have a confession to make. It had been quite a while since I’d visited my local library. Between full time work as an academic librarian, marking LIS essays, and volunteering for ALIA Sydney I suddenly realised it had been a long time since I’d walked through the doors of a public library as an actual patron.

But this year everything changed. Being a mama for the first time can be challenging. Going from full time work to full time parent isn’t only a shift in identity, it’s a shift in your day-to-day routines. Things slow down to baby time. Some days are unbelievably full of joy and love, while others are slightly bewildering and a little bit lonely. Your income is reduced, your friends all tend to work five days a week, and you have this beautiful yet demanding being completely relying on you. There are good days and bad ones.

So. What to do for (free) entertainment? Well lately I’ve been going to the baby rhyme time sessions run by my local library. Music, singing, reading, showing off new books and best of all an enthusiastic children’s librarian always making the new mama in the room feel so very welcome. Now of course it doesn’t always work out. Many times I’m ready to head out the door but my bub decides it’s naptime. Or we’re both too tired to head out. Some libraries book out their sessions a month in advance, as I found when I stayed at my mum’s place for a while. Or I forget to phone in the morning to get a spot at my local.

But the other week I found myself walking in the winter sunshine with two other mums down Glebe Point Road, on time and with all our babies awake at once. We’d taken an excursion to another suburb to visit their rhyme time session. We walked in and were met by a librarian singing a greeting to all the babies in the room. I looked around at the happy faces and as my baby smiled in response I felt the isolation of parenting retreat far into the background.

Thank you, to children’s librarians everywhere for making this parenting journey a little bit easier.

-Sarah (Sef) Fearnley