Libraries I would like to visit

I’ve been meaning to start a list of libraries that I would like to visit. A blog post seems as good a place as any to make it.

I’ll be revisiting and updating this post as I find new libraries, and cross old ones off the list.

AUSTRALIA

The National Library of Australia: the home of Trove. My book is in their archives (via legal deposit).

UNITED KINGDOM

The British Library: the national library of the UK. I actually visited the British Library back in 1995, and spent time drooling over the original Lewis Carroll and Samuel Taylor Coleridge manuscripts. But that was long ago…

The National Library of Scotland: I’m hoping to do the placement for my Masters course here.

Gladstone’s Library: a library in a stately home that includes bed and breakfast accommodation, so you can read late into the night. Located in Flintwick, Wales.

The Library of Mistakes: this library is a collection of business and finance works, dedicated to preventing us from repeating past mistakes. Libraries as activism. Located in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The New Wave of Wunderkammers: the ‘Inside Out’ exhibition at the Melbourne Museum

We went to the Inside Out exhibition at the Melbourne Museum today.

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It’s a dreamlike, theatrical, slightly creepy experience. The Museum has essentially pulled a hodge-podge of items from their collection, and arranged them to create something that feels more like art than education.

It feels weird to put a spoiler tag on an exhibition review, but: mild spoilers below…

Visitors are guided through the exhibition via a voice-over on an iPhone. The voice is warm, chatty,  a little bit flirtatious. It acknowledges that it is a disembodied voice, and that we the listeners are living creatures. Then it takes us on a tour: of taxidermied animals arranged in a Victorian salon, of a disco dancefloor beneath model pteranodons, of coral skeletons next to an Egyptian funeral casket.

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“We always took into account the past, the present and the future,” fashion designer Prue Acton says in a recorded interview about one of her gowns, “And a really good, beautifully designed garment should be able to be worn again and again, decade after decade. Why not?”

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It’s a theme the disembodied voice comes back to. Beauty is timeless. The past and the future are one.

Wouldn’t you like to be timeless? To be still and eternal in the Museum’s collection?

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The exhibition finishes with a wall of vintage motorcycles and an engineer expressing her frustration that these machines built for movement have to remain still if they are to survive.

There’s a subtext here: flee while you still can!

The very final item is the first black-box flight recorder, invented here in Melbourne. But this scientific instrument, invented to improve air safety, is described by the disembodied voice in almost Buddhist terms as bearing witness as passengers and crew cross over from their mundane lives into eternity.

 

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*

The narration ends. You take off your headphones. You blink. The glass-lined foyer of the Museum is bright after the dimly lit exhibition. Small children run about, pigeons steal crumbs from the cafe, and in the courtyard outside young men are pulling stunts on their bikes.

Perhaps you flex your hand, just to check you’re still one of the living.

Or perhaps not.

*

The first thing that struck me about Inside Out was the debt it owes to MONA.

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There’s the obvious details: the iPhones replacing wall labels, the red velvet curtains. There’s that hint that you too could become part of the exhibition (for a hefty “lifetime membership fee”, MONA will interr your ashes in a Julia DeVille funerary display).

Above all, there’s the attitude: the post-modern rejection of the cool, authoritative gallery voice in favour of–as I once put it— the “bugfuck insane”.

It’s the new wave of wunderkammer, the cabinet of curiosities designed as much to astonish and delight as it is to educate and inform.

The Museum proper is still there, above the special exhibition hall, still providing facts and context and history.  Inside Out is the literal underside of a museum: the messy emotional connection we form with collections. (Another tie to MONA, perhaps? MONA’s founder David Walsh was inspired to start collecting by his visits to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery as a child.)

I said there’s something slightly creepy about Inside Out. I meant that as a complement. I remember visiting the Museum as a child, and feeling there was something eerie and dreamlike about dinosaur skeletons and taxidermied beasts.

Inside Out is a celebration of that feeling. Museum artefacts are not just preserved in displays and storerooms: they are preserved in our memories, and our hearts.

*

There’s an interview with the Inside Out Experience Designer Zoe Meagher over on Design Files, in which she talks about her role in creating the exhibition, and how her background in creative arts informs her work.

*

CONCLUSION

So. What can we steal?

The first stealable idea is emotional connection — designing an exhibition to make people feel as much as learn.

The second is narrative — leading visitors through an exhibition by telling a story.

The third is artistic design — creating displays that are exciting and beautiful.

The fourth is unexpected connections — engage your audiences by making them rethink how they see the items.

And finally: steal. The iPhones are from MONA. The disembodied voice is GLaDOS from the Portal video game. The design is from the stage. Inspiration is everywhere. Steal it and make something new.

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In the Library, with a Board Game

Cluedo Library card

There’s nothing like real-world situations to reinforce classroom learning.

A friend posted a picture of his board game collection to Instagram today, and asked for people’s advice on how to shelve them. I, being a librarian-in-training, immediately turned to Google.

A different friend (Alissa McCulloch,  aka @lissertations on Twitter) had recently written an article about cataloguing  board games, complete with a literature review and some very detailed MARC instructions. Alissa is a cataloguing mega-nerd, and her instructions are awesome.

But they don’t cover shelving.

I found a post on the LITA Blog by Lauren Hays from 2014 that again discussed MARC records for board games (in much less detail than McCulloch’s paper). It’s the first comment by Christopher Harris, though, that’s much more interesting when it comes answering my friend’s question:

Game authors have followings like book authors with titles that will be published from multiple sources. Shelving by author as opposed to title allows a single author’s body of work to be considered as a whole for comparisons and as a source of next-play recommendations.

And finally: this post by Wyatt Fertig on Stuffy Library discusses 6 Lessons From the Library: Circulating Board Games (One Year Later). A throwaway comment on one of the photos states “We use face out shelving to make the collection look more appealing.”

It’s a short article, but worth a read. The six lessons, by the way, are:

  1. Board Games DO Get Broken
  2. You Are Probably Not the First at Anything
  3. Ask For Help
  4. Buy Local (if it makes sense)
  5. Who is Your Audience?
  6. Support a Collection Through Programming

Back to shelving: many libraries find Dewey Decimal Classification too archaic and confusing to their patrons, and are shifting to shelving material by subjecting groupings such as BISAC or PIM.

Presumably, a dedicated librarian could use something like the Boardgamegeek categories to create similar shelving classifications.

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2017 in review

yarrabridgeI woke up at 6:30 this morning, took three plump strawberries from the fridge, and went for a walk along the Yarra.

Back when I was at uni, I had a New Year’s Day ritual. I would travel to the Botanic Garden or somewhere similarly verdant, and leave a small offering for the new year.

I went back to uni last year, to study my Masters in Information Management. And when I woke up at 6:30 today, I decided to revisit my old ritual.

The streets were almost empty. The river was quiet. I left the strawberries in the crook of a tree. As I stood up. I heard a loud *CLOMP* in the water, and an Eastern Water Dragon startled away.

I don’t believe in omens. But a dragon was a lovely way to start to the year.

*

2017 was a year of change. I started my Masters in library science. I left my employer of 18 years. And I self-published a novel.

2018 will be the year of working hard to make the most of all those changes.

 

THE BIG STUFF

I went into 2017 knowing that I would be made redundant at the end of June. I’m really proud of the work my team and I did in wrapping up our department. We could have just phoned it in. Instead, we worked our guts out and walked out with our heads held high.

I started my Masters of Information Management at RMIT in February. Returning to academic study after 20 years was challenging but invigorating. It convinced me that I’m on the right track.

I applied for a 12 month Project Management contract with the National Library Australia, and was interviewd for the role, but was not successful.

I did some contract work for my old boss.

And then the Regional Manager for OCLC was a guest speaker in my class.

I’d first heard of OCLC in first semester. They sounded like a company that I might want to work for one day. So I asked their Regional Manager if I could chat with him about working for OCLC one day in the future.

It turned out they needed someone to manage their customer support team straight away. After a couple of weeks of interviews, I had a new job that was the perfect overlap between my past as an IT manager and my future in libraries.

It’s been intense, not least because the Regional Manager position was made redundant on my one month anniversary, and the team leaders have had to take on that responsibility.

But I’m thriving. There’s a lot of good I can do at OCLC, and there’s a lot I can learn about the library world while I’m there.

WRITING

I made the decision to self-publish my grunge-rock ghost novel The Stray Swans in 2017. My plan was to have it out by April. It was actually launched in November. Again, it was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

We book a table for the Festival of the Photocopier this year too. I wrote a new zine for it: TALL SAD GIRL AND SHORT PUNK GIRL ARE FRIENDS. It started as a joke on Twitter and turned into something I’m really proud of.

It was great finally get The Stray Swans out too, and the book launch was lovely. But I’ve been itching ll year to start writing something new. That will be one of my goals for 2018.

FESTIVALS, CONFERENCES, ETC.

I only went to one event at the Emerging Writers Festival: a workshop on writing fantasy run by C. S. Pacat. Who is both charming and sharp as a sabre.

I attended my first Reading Matters, which is a delightful mash up of my interest in writing YA and my interest in libraries. I bought a pile of novels there, only one of which I actually managed to read.

At the end of September, I flew up to Sydney for the ALIA Library Technicians Symposium. I’m not a library technician, but it was a cheap conference, and a good excuse for a holiday in Sydney, and I got to meet lots of lovely lib techs.

FInally, this year was Lisa Dempster’s last year directing the Melbourne Writers Festival. I’ve been following Lisa’s career for about 8 years now. Every festival she manages to include one or two guests that feel like they were booked just for me. This year, she did it again: Laurie Penny was back. I got to chat with her, and give her some zines, and she even gave me a quick hug on the last night.

Which is pretty much what I want out of a writer’s festival.

BANDS SEEN

  • Amanda Palmer (Jan 19 at the Gasometer, Mar 10 at the NGV Friday Night, also in conversation with Missy Higgins at the Astor Theatre)
  • Nick Cave (Jan 27 at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl)
  • The Damned (Mar 12 at 170 Russell)
  • The Mountain Goats (Apr 12 at The Corner Hotel)
  • Ulver (Jun 15 at The Odeon Theatre, as part of Dark Mofo)
  • Einstürzende Neubauten (Jun 16and 17 at the Odeon Theatre, as part of Dark Mofo)
  • Grouper / Allesandro Cortini / Klara Lewis / Andrew English (Jun 17 at the Odeon Theatre, as part of Dark Mofo)
  • Miles Brown (Jun 18 Scotts Memorial Uniting Church, Hobart, as part of Dark Mofo)
  • Xiu Xiu and Allesandro Cortini (Jun 22 at the Substation)
  • Steve Gunn (Jul 07 at the National Gallery of Victoria)
  • Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders (Aug 04 at Howler)
  • Snog / Severed Heads (Nov 5 at The Corner Hotel)
  • Plum Green (Nov 12, The Stray Swans book launch, then Dec 17 at the Bendigo Hotel)
  • Lorde (Nov 26, Sidney Myer Music Bowl)

BOOKS READ

Ha! According to my Goodreads list, I read 3 books last year. Just 3. (4 if you include Lyra’s Oxford). Usually I read 20. Something else to work on in 2018.

  • Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  • Still Life with Tornado, A. S. King
  • Lyra’s Oxford, Philip Pullman

PLACES VISITED

  • Hobart for Dark Mofo
  • Queenscliff, to celebrate my redundancy
  • Sydney in September for the ALIA Library Technician’s Symposium
  • Sheffield (UK), Leiden and Texel (Netherlands) for work
  • (We also spent Christmas and Boxing Day at my sister’s new house in Healesville, which felt like a holiday)
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The Ethics of Digitisation

I’ve been thinking about digitisation projects recently.

Digitisation (scanning physical texts and objects so they can be accessed online) and digital preservation (ensuring “born digital” documents can be stored and accessed into the future) are two big areas in the GLAMR sector at the moment, and they match my interest in the overlap between technology and libraries.

Trove is the most famous digitisation project in Australia: a central access point for hundreds of digital collections across the country.

Collections Victoria is a similar portal, but this time focussing on Victorian collections.

The Digital Access to Collections project is a national initiative to establish a toolkit and a national framework for digitising collections. It’s run by GLAM Peak, the peak representative bodies of the galleries, libraries, archives and museums sectors in Australia.

I don’t have much experience with digitisation, so I’ve been idly thinking of projects I might run to correct that.

One thought I had was to digitise my personal collection of zines. I did some Googling tonight, looking to see if anyone had written up similar projects that could provide me with some technical instructions.

What I found was much better than that. I found discussions about the ethics of digitising zines.

 

Why We’re Not Digitizing Zines

First: Why We’re Not Digitizing Zines by Kelly Wooten, from 2009.

Wooten is the curator of the zine collections at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture in the Duke University Libraries.

She states four reasons the Bingham Center chose not to digitise their zine collections:

  • Permission: it is often difficult to impossible to track down the creators of zines to ask their permission to digitise their creations.
  • Copyright: zines are subject to copyright like any other creative work. Reproducing them, even for research purposes, may fall outside fair use provisions.
  • Privacy: zines are often intensely personal in subject matter, and their creators may not have anticipated their intimate thoughts being shared with a vast audience.
  • Print culture: zines are created to by physical objects, and their physicality is part of what makes them so special. As Wooten writes: “The experience of handling zines in person, turning each page to reveal intimate secrets, funny comics, and poetry, can’t be duplicated on-line.”

Wooten’s point about privacy is especially interesting to me. Zine-making is something of a subculture. Zine makers make zines to share with other zine enthusiasts who share an understanding of the history and culture of zines, and will treat the maker’s content with a certain amount of respect.

It’s an example of what I call contextual privacy: where people are happy to share information in one context, but not in another. We may be happy to share health details with our doctor, for example, but not with our employer. Or we may be happy to share holiday selfies of us in our swimwear with our friends on Facebook, but would be appalled and angry if the Daily Mail reprinted those pictures.

 

digitization: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Tara Robertson’s blog post digitization: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should discusses the privacy implications of Reveal Media digitising issues of the late feminist porn magazine On Our Backs.

Although not strictly a zine, the contextual privacy issues are similar. Many of the models may have been happy to pose for an underground magazine with a primarily lesbian readership back in the pre-world wide web days of the late 80s and early 90s, but that does not mean that they would happy for their images to be available now, decades later, to the internet-at-large.

Robertson argues that there is a real danger of harm to the models here, and that at a minimum Reveal Media have an ethical obligation to provide a clear takedown process.

In making her argument, Robertson quotes from the final document I want to link to: the Zine Librarians Code of Ethics Zine.

Because of course there’s a zine about the ethics of zine librarianship. 🙂

 

Zine Librarians Code of Ethics Zine.

Everything in this document is 100% gold, if you’re a library nerd like me. The printable PDF is a bit hard to read on-screen. Fortunately, there’s a web-readable version too.

The authors make the same point about contextual privacy that I did:

2. Zine usage has a particular context or contexts associated with it.

In our experience, reproducing or sharing zines involves not just copyright law and practices, but also zinesters’ inherent right to decide how their work is distributed and how widely, and how it is contextualized. In sum, it is about community, about respect, and about the simple act of being a considerate person and information professional.

Zines are not mass-distributed books. They are often self-published and self-distributed, printed in very small runs, and intended for a small audience. Zinesters may feel differently about having their work openly available on the internet or in print, made available to a much wider audience.

Some zinesters also feel that context is important. This can mean the format – that it was meant to be on paper, and held in the hands – or it can mean that the zine “works” best when it is read as a whole product, rather than having one or a few pages excerpted or reprinted. These are among the considerations that the zine librarian/archivist should observe when deciding how or whether to reproduce an item for use.

There’s many more great ideas in this zine, including an order-of-preference list of ways to obtain zines, creating an inclusive and respectful space for the zines to be read in, and notes on cataloguing.

The rest of the zinelibraries.info website is worth reading too.

 

Conclusion

I set out to find some technical guidance on digitising zines. What I found was a much richer discussion that suggests the best approach may to be not digitise my zines after all.

Which I haven’t done. So: project successful!

Now I just need to find a way to add this to my resume…

 

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The Labyrinth in the Library

We started the Dewey Decimal Cataloguing system last night.

I have written an (unpublished) YA fantasy novel set in vast library. The library in the book takes the form of a fractal bookcase: a bookcase made up of bookcases made up of bookcases.

The-Ruined-Library-floorplan

The structure was inspired by the Dewey Decimal system: if you look closely, you can just see that each Shelf corresponds to a main Class in DDC. The Rows are Divisions, and the Towers are Sections.

It was a cute concept, even if my diagram doesn’t quite do it justice.

What I discovered last night though, as we dutifully clicked our way through WebDewey to practice our cataloguing skills, was that Dewey is less of a bookcase and more of a maze.

Which is to say: when you are at your destination and have the Dewey Decimal number for a work in front of you, it’s easy to work backwards and understand the rightness of why the work sits there.

But working from the outside in–starting with a text, and then trying to navigate through the Classes and Divisions and Sections to find the correct number–is an exercise in dead-ends and doubling back.

Consider, for example, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. What number do we assign to this movie?

The main class is clearly 700 – Arts & Recreation.

The division also seems clear: 770 – Photography, computer art, film, video. But which section should we move into?

  • 700 – Arts & Recreation
    • 770 – Photography, computer art, film, video
      • 770 – Photography, computer art, cinematography, videography
      • 771 – *Techniques, procedures, apparatus, equipment, materials
      • 772-774 – Special photographic processes
      • [775] – [Unassigned]
      • 776 – Computer art (Digital art)
      • 777 – Cinematography and videography
      • 778 – Specific fields and special kinds of photography
      • 779 – Photographic images

Presumably 770, right?

  • 700 – Arts & Recreation
    • 770 -Photography, computer art, cinematography, videography
      • 770.1 – Philosophy and theory
      • 770.2 – Miscellany
      • 770.5 – Photography–serials
      • 770.74 – Photography–museums
      • 770.9 – History, geographical treatment, biography

And there it is: that feeling of being lost, of wandering into a dark dead end, where the wind howls and there may be wolves.

labyrinth_worm

Backtrack. Try again. Explore other corridors, other paths. I didn’t spend my teens playing Dungeons & Dragons for nothing.

Or I can just google it.

This post on 025.431: The Dewey blog says the correct number is 791.43. Playing around with WebDewey, the right path through the Dewey maze is:

  • 700 – Arts & recreation
    • 790 – Sports, games & entertainment
      • 791 – Public performances
        • 791.4 – Motion pictures, radio, television
          • 791.43 – Motion pictures

It makes sense looking backwards, right? You can understand how Motion pictures fits under Motion pictures, radio, television, which fits under Public performances, which fits under Sports, games & entertainment, and so on.

There’s no way in hell I would have made the connection going the other way though. I would have hesitated at Sports, games & entertainment, and would have turned back at Public performances.

So this is my first impression of the Dewey Decimal Cataloguing system: a maze that can only be solved by walking it backwards.

Borges would be delighted.

 

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Confusion in the Library

I went to RMIT’s Swanston Library today. It confused and annoyed me.

To be fair, the library is undergoing major renovations. But still…

I tried to visit the library two weeks ago. The signs pointing me to the entrance lead me on a path through the back-alleys of RMIT, up staircases and down gangplanks, until the signs stopped in a dead-end of construction work.

I gave up and went to the State Library of Victoria instead.

Today I tried a different entrance. I followed the signs up a staircase, across a large room, and up another escalator. I walked through the anti-theft scanners. And…

…And I still wasn’t sure I was in the right place.

What I saw was a large room with desks in it, and lots of students studying. To one side was a darkened room full of students on computers, with a floor sign saying “Quiet Study Area”. Ahead of me was a scrolling LED sign above a circular desk that said “Ask a Librarian”.

 

There were no maps. There were no books. There were no other signs.

There are three questions I ask myself whenever I enter a new library:

  1. How do I tell where to go?
  2. Who can help me if I need help?
  3. Where are the loos?

I had no idea where to go. There was a middle-aged woman at the “Ask a Librarian” desk who might have been a librarian, but she wasn’t wearing a uniform and I couldn’t see a staff lanyard. And I had no idea even if there were loos there.

Entering a new library is intimidating. We don’t know where to find things. We don’t know what the rules are. We look around us for clues.

This library gave me nothing.

I know: I should have talked to the librarian. But by this stage I was feeling stupid and embarrassed. I’m an Information Management student, for heaven’s sake. Surely I should be able to find my way around a library?

Maybe if I had a specific goal in mind, I would have asked. But I was really only visiting to have a look around.

You can’t ask a librarian if you don’t have a question.

I pushed forward, through a doorway into the next room. More desks, more students. Still no books. The next room had Darth Vader-inspired pods for collaboration. The next room was yet more desks. Side rooms had a building numbers on the doors, but it was a different building than the one I’d entered through. Was I still in the library?

Angular staircases ran up and down, with no hint where they led to. With no clues to guide me, choices became meaningless.

I found an empty seat at a desk. I sat down and did some work.

Afterwards, I tried exploring again. The building still didn’t make sense. The rooms were all completely different styles and colours. The Quiet Study Area was still plunged into darkness except for the glow of computer screens. I did finally glimpse some books: they were in a sealed-off area with a note in front of it explaining that it would open soon.

I left feeling confused and annoyed.

I get that the Swanston Library is being renovated. But there’s still things they could do to help patrons orientate themselves.

Maps not only tell us where to go, they reassure us we’re in the right place to begin with.

Signage helps us find our way around, and answer basic questions: what’s down those stairs? What’s this room for? They had a floor sign for the quiet study area. Why didn’t they have them for the staircases and each room?

And toilets. Clearly mark your toilets. If I’m going to sit down and study for hours without a break, I need to go to the loo first.

On a happier note, here’s an article about Transforming Norwegian Public Libraries. I particularly like the idea of dividing libraries into four spaces:

  • the inspiration space
  • the learning space
  • the meeting space
  • the performance space

 

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