Day three began with a great keynote from Michael Houlihan, CEO of Te Papa. I was looking forward to this one because I do love what Te Papa do with their social media presence and engaging with their public. Houlihan suggests that now Te Papa is a “spotty adolescent” there are questions that should be addressed to move the institution forward in the next 10 years to maturity. These are good questions to ask ourselves too.
- Who are you here for? Why are you here? Where to invest? What to invest in that will help the place run as a business so people’s visits are comfortable (Te Papa has to keep the toilet rolls coming in)!
- Are we transformational? The impact we have on our audience is really important. This was a theme that came through in this conference and is a good one to look at although, in some places can be difficult to measure and report on.
- Are we being a forum for the future – how do we interact with events and public interests?
- Have you got an issue to focus on? E.g. Te Papa are looking at sustainability, environmental issues
- Treasuring the treasures? For example, where do we go for the history of science and technology in New Zealand? It’s not just about arts.
- Connecting with people? Are we doing this and focusing on the learning outcomes? Museum collections are becoming more about individual’s stories and less impersonal. Houlihan illustrated this in an effective way by passing around “a piece of rubbish”. At the end of the presentation he expanded on this item which turned out to be a part of a boot heel from a Welsh soldier he had picked up from the field of battle at Mametz Wood. He showed a photo of the memorial at the battle field and described the carnage that occurred. (As it happened, I was holding the boot heel at the time it was so poignant). As Houlihan said, we were touching history.
- Are we sharing authority? With iwi, with our clients, online and IRL.
- Going digital? There are always a lot of ideas on how and what to do with this, but not so much input about the how.
- Are we keeping fit? Are we a learning organisation?
- Are we staying touch? Are we keeping people involved?
- Getting down to business and providing value for money?
- Telling your story? There are people and venues where our voice needs to be heard. Are we actually doing that? Where is our political voice?
- Are we building sustainable leadership? Where are the leaders of tomorrow for our institutions? Houlihan sees this as a real issue in New Zealand and others at conference agree.
Houlihan says libraries and museums unlock a world of information and provide context – we should never loose sight of that.
After morning tea I attended Cherie Tautolo’s session “Tai Tokerau taniwha rau: empowering students to achieve” where she illustrated what she has been doing in in Whangarei to support the students there. The student population there is almost an even split between Māori and non-Māori. Cherie has made physical changes to her space to improve the wairua of the library so students feel more comfortable there. She advocates creating a sense of familiarity and providing a mix of spaces within a library. For example, areas that allow discussion and noise are appreciated by Māori who find the idea of a “silent” space off putting. I would comment that we find many students of all kinds of cultures are the same – group work and discussion areas are heavily used at MPOW. Much of what Cherie passed on is good customer relations practice – make connections (personal as well) with your students, know their names and so on. This is easier to do at smaller campuses, but it is possible to do this also at larger places. As with all populations, building relationships with users is always fruitful. Cherie also participates in campus events which facilitates relationships too. Cherie referred to a survey that found one of the major reasons Māori feel uncomfortable is the lack of Māori staff and students there. Normalising the presence of Māori in the library will assist to make the place more inviting.
I also attended a workshop on Empowering users, empowering libraries: interactive user interaction, activities and games that work and a research session More than a quiz. Both these sessions were more affirming than informative for me, but I am still glad of the affirmation! Sometimes it helps to know that we’re doing stuff the same as other libraries.
Andrew Booth’s presentation pimped the importance of evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP). This is something I’ve heard before but I appreciated his highlighting some of the biases and myths we perpetuate in the profession. For example, myth number 2: the librarian always knows best or The Divine Right of Librarians. This is something I’m always saying – we have to be very careful about thinking we know what our users want. Booth says librarians have two primary cognitive bias:
1) status quo – the tendency to like things to stay relatively the same
2) deformation professionalle – a tendency to look at things from the point of view of one’s own profession rather than from a broader perspective
Booth posits (somewhat tongue in cheek) that if we’re not practicing EBLIP we may be performing some of these alternative practices (Isaacs & Fitzgerald, 1999)
- Eminence based library and information practice
- Vehemence based library and information practice
- Eloquence based library and information practice
- Providence based library and information practice
- Diffidence based library and information practice
The conference dinner was a blast – pictures here.
Day Four began with Jenica Rogers presenting a motivational keynote advocating project managing your dreams. She had many good things to say – but Deborah has ably summarized it better than I, so I’m going to defer to her on this one. One thing that did resonate with me was her final commentary pointing out that farmers everywhere in the world always say “it hasn’t been a good year”, but they still keep farming anyway. It’s easy to look at all the obstacles and difficulties that we face and feel daunted by it all. But it’s never been a good year for libraries so we should just suck it up, get over it and get on with it.
As Lianza11 ends, the conference convenors for Lianza12 take over the reins for next in Palmerston North, 23rd-26 Sept with the overarching theme of Ipukarea (which refers to our ancestral homeland, a place that representing our history and a place to go for rejuvenation) plus additional themes of celebrate, sustain, and transform.
Overall, for me the conference was more about affirmation than anything new and exciting. I’m glad I went because it has given me an opportunity to present a couple of posters and reflect a little on where I am and where I want to go.
Isaacs, D. & Fitzgerald, D. (1999). Seven alternatives to evidence based medicine. British Medical Journal. 319 (1618). Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com