Posts Tagged ‘community’

 Sci-Fi and Squeam is an Australian podcast that “brings the Queer geek listener and friends all the things happening in the geeksverse, from topics in Horror and Sci-Fi, comics and video games and fan culture, to interviews and reviews“.  A couple of weeks ago they included an interview with Dr Matt Finch about his work with libraries around immersive play.

Matt is one of the keynote speakers at VALA14 this week. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the interview…

The idea is to do something beyond interaction with the screen, where you’re actually physically in this location, and you get to determine the outcome of the story in the way that the writer or the designer maybe didn’t predict. Taking down the boundary between the audience and the storyteller and making them work together to find a satisfying conclusion.

…Every neighbourhood has this magic building and its sole job is to give you access to all human knowledge and culture – it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or you’re poor or you’re young or you’re old or where you’re from, that’s what it’s there for. For you to step into whatever world the human race has thought of or described or dreamt of.

…actually the point is that you have these publically funded people who are guides to everything the human race has ever thought of or dreamt up.

Listen to Dr Matt’s dulcet tones (interview starts around 26:50] or read the transcript after the jump.



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This was originally published in a slightly different format on my personal blog.

There’s been another development  in the discussion about socially conscious library futures.

It started with Matt’s discussion post about e-books in libraries with Connor Tomas O’Brien. Connor’s comments in A very quiet battle: librarians, publishers, and the Pirate BayThe public library, in other words, is nowhere near obsolete. In some cases, it’s more important than ever” prompted Matt to ask him “What do you think a public library should be doing in 2013?” Connor offers the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne as an example. It looks like an amazing space with lots of exciting events. Great for people who live in the city. Which was the theme of Matt’s next comments about rural libraries and the concerns he has around equity of service for people who choose to live there.

I storifyed the resulting Twitter discussion. I left out a few tweets that were related to the original question about ebooks as they broke the flow of the main discussion. I refrained from adding too much editorial comment as I believed that the tweets would speak for themselves.  Matt thought up a way that author visits could expand into Melbourne suburbs while still delivering foot traffic into the Centre.

Connor has responded.

His response made me furious. It’s the same attitude that I saw in the ALIA Futures discussion paper (1 May 2013) – omission of any comments regarding their indigenous population; convergence to large urban centres – plus it’s got some weird arguments in it.  (Read Smarter than you think by Clive Thompson and in the first 50 pages it tells us that more people are writing than ever before. We’re blogging, tweeting, writing fan fiction, writing emails, commenting on Facebook status updates, RANTING  etc etc.  Not “When you’re writing in a regional area, that culture can be lacking, making it infinitely more likely that prospective writers will never open their word processor in the first place.“)  It seems to me that Connor’s piece is written with a narrow definition of who is a ‘writer’. It makes me think that he works towards the funders, not towards the community. The ALIA document at least had an excuse – their paper was “intended to engage, excite, and provoke.” I have no idea what Connor is trying to build – except maybe arguments to keep the status quo.

And all this on a day when I was pointed toward Sometimes The ‘Tough Teen’ Is Quietly Writing Stories by Matt de la Peña which has one of the best arguments for taking authors and events to under-served areas whether it be schools, suburbs, or regions. This is who I want to be working for, and with for my library future.

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Dr Matt Finch tweeted a link to his interview with Connor Tomas O’Brien and Chris Cormack, Popcorn? Connor Tomas O’Brien and Chris Cormack on the battle for libraries’ future He originally promoted it as a discussion about e-books in libraries. Since I was intrigued by Eli Neiburger’s statement at #LIANZA13 – “ebooks are bullshit! This is the truth. They are a transitory format, they will only be here for a little while.”  I was pretty interested to read the interview. (Eli made this statement in the context of advances in technology that disrupt what libraries think of as part of their traditional business. He suggested a way for libraries to think about their future was “Don’t transition…diversify.”) Then it moved into the question of “What do you think a public library should be doing in 2013?” Suddenly I’m watching Matt write eloquently about the plight of rural communities, and the concerns he has around equity of service for people who choose to live there. (There’s been a further discussion on Twitter and if anyone Storifys it, I’ll link it.)

In the #LIANZA13 Library future workshop (based on the #ALIAFutures workshops) we discussed the likelihood of people moving to urban centres. In New Zealand that may translate to suburban sprawl instead. (Imagine that – one big city from Whangarei to Hamilton!) We floated the idea that librarians may not work in a library but may rove the country running programmes that engage communities in their local-ness – what makes them unique? What is their heritage? etc.) Matt’s concerns for rural Australia are also applicable to rural New Zealand – what are we going to do about that NZ librarians/libraries?

Matt has also been asking questions about 3-D printers in libraries. “My 3D printer worry is simply this: libraries are spending a lot of time talking about this one gadget, which I don’t see communities crying out for.” He’s been given one answer by Baruk from Auckland Libraries. Baruk has been working on the Auckland Libraries Maker Space over the last few months. His final line “Thinking of 3D printers just as ‘tech’ is like thinking of a wheel as ‘a round thing’” really matches with what Nat Torkington was talking about in his #LIANZA13 keynote ‘When you see people who are doing things with tech, or their services “you don’t become like them by buying the artifacts. [there is] an ocean of possible artifacts and toys.“ What we don’t see is the pedagogy behind it which is how to understand how and why it’s being used.(My emphasis.) It’s not the tech that’s important, it’s what your library believes its role is in providing that tech to its community.

I guess it’s also a good reminder to be aware of what the stories are that are being told about your library. Bill McNaught, National Librarian of the National Library, in his #LIANZA13 keynote said that he was was concerned about ‘The news stories that go out about lending new artifacts tell the wrong story. Anything that undermines the fact that we are in the knowledge business is really unhelpful.’

So, to that end, THIS is what Auckland is getting from a 3-D printer as part of a MakerSpace in its largest library. (Some of @feddabonn’s tweets from launch weekend)

And finally this one to sum up.

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The Next Big Thing?

Part of my new role is looking at the new fads and applications coming through on the Internet and in the digital world, and seeing how they can be applied in the Library. It’s an interesting aspect to the role, and involves a level of stumbling around in the dark.

While considering this, and how to best fulfill that aspect, I came to the conclusion that right here is a valuable community of people who will have seen different bits and pieces out there. So I have created a new page, The Next Big Thing Page, where I thought we could share and discuss the latest and brightest on the web. For example Quora? Yes I know it should probably sit more in a forum, but WordPress doesn’t seem to allow that functionality on their free .com blogs….

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Have you ever read a rant on the Internet where you both completely disagree with the writer and at the same time see where they are coming from and would like to completely agree? I had one of those today, when I first read this post on librarianchat.com and then went on to read the original post. Houstenlibrarian was angry over this post by Free-Range Lenore.

Free-Range Lenore was having a bit of a rant about how a mother couldn’t leave her pre-school child alone in the children’s section of a library.

‘”So I asked my daughter, ‘Do you want to come with me or wait here for a few minutes?’ ‘Wait.’ So I told the librarian, ‘I’ll be right back.’ And the librarian said, ‘Well … okay. But I must warn you: the same dangers that are out on the street are here in the library.'”

Which, in a nutshell, explains why it is so hard for parents to trust their instincts these days. Here’s a mom who is going to leave her child for all of three minutes, in a familiar place, where there’s an adult nearby — and, by the way, nobody else! The place is empty! — and it’s still a Big Deal. Which means that parents today have a choice: They can do something that makes sense. Or they can kowtow to the fear-mongering busybodies and watch their kids the way the guards watch the inmates in maximum security prison: Every. Single. Second.’

The Houstenlibrarian, and other librarians in the comments of the original post were horrified at the argument that the Librarian should have just said “sure go ahead”.

It was quite rightly pointed out that, despite what every one thinks, public libraries can often be havens for the mentally ill, mainly because they are so “safe”. Also that even though it was quiet then, that doesn’t mean that in the next minute a whole lot of families will not arrive and fill the space. Also the librarian might need to be called away to do their actual work. You can also add in the point that if anything went wrong, chances are the parent would sue the library and librarian.

On the first pass I was much like every other librarian. Librarians are not childcare workers, and it is not safe just to leave your child, even at organised children’s events.

But on the other hand I have a lot of sympathy for Lenore point.

“How could the librarian feel that the children’s room, with her there, is so unsafe she has to warn the mother about it? I know a librarian is not a babysitter. I know her job is not to watch the kid while mom sashays over to the check-out desk (the book-reading hussy!). But still. The librarian is there. Why couldn’t she say, “No problem!” instead of: Watch out, lady!  

While I’m sure some obnoxious parents foist their kids upon clerks and librarians and use them as free child care, whatever happened to the idea of community? Community grows when we lend a hand. It shrivels when a friendly, “Could you help a sec?” is met with icy warnings about far-fetched dangers (Someone could come in! I might not see him! He could be dangerous! He might snatch little girls!) and zero assistance.”

I really, really wish it was that simple…

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