Monday, July 31, 2017

Identity - GLAM blog club July 2017

Getting in at the very end here...

This month's prompt reminded me of this post from Letters to a Young Librarian. It probably covers what I have to say far more eloquently (and with far more depth), but here is my identity story.

When I first graduated, as a newly-minted librarian who had given up another career path and more besides to change directions, I was very heavily invested in that identity. Had you asked me who or what I was and it were not to learn my name, I would have told you that I was a Librarian. It rapidly became the central fact of my identity, even though I hadn't precisely worked in a library yet, and it would be six years before the word appeared in my job title or description. That didn't dull my investment in my profession or slightly overdone enthusiasm.

Oh dear.

Make no mistake, it's still an important part of who I am still, but that one-factor identity didn't do me any favours, really. When I began to cultivate other parts of myself again - the love of games and stories (both at once if possible) that has always been there most of all - it was beneficial to my state of mind, general happiness and my professional life.

I still have a strong investment in my profession but it no longer defines me entirely. It's important and valuable but it's not all I am. I take part in professional development but I develop other skills and interests for their own sake. If they overlap, that's wonderful but I don't approach with that expectation.

And I am happier and better off for it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Reflecting on 2015, looking forward into 2016

A year ago today I set out to have a year of learning and creativity - instead of making resolutions I decided on a focus for the year. I imagined a great deal of photography, craftiness and self-motivated learning with a professional focus. The year started off much as I'd imagined it, while I was searching for a new job I had a lot of control over how I spent my time and fit all sorts of wonderful things in.

Then, in June, I moved across the country with a sudden and radical downsize in housing arrangements and several months of general life turbulence while I tried to settle and establish myself first in a share house, and when that didn't work out, in a flat of my own. I've established - or at least started to - a new network of social contacts and am finding my feet, though some days I feel more certain than others.

Even after the move I found the opportunity to attend training in professional areas and on various topics that caught my interest including origami and cryptic crosswords. Learning how life in general and libraries in particular differ between states was especially interesting with more differences than I expected, a lot of them very fundamental things.

Asides from a bit of origami I feel like I dropped the creativity ball in the second half of the year - and in the last two or three months the learning activities I did do were mostly incidental rather than motivated by my year's goal. I've been pushing myself very hard and taking on a lot of extra things, which has led to extreme exhaustion a few times and has meant that activities I enjoy like photography and blogging have been neglected. I've been reflecting on this today and have come to the conclusion that despite being overwhelmed at the end of the year 2015 was a very successful year - one in which perseverance and adaptability were needed in large volumes which I managed to produce.

This reflection leads me to my decision of a focus for this year. 2016 is going to be my year of balance. When I have decisions to make from little everyday things to the potentially life-changing I will be considering them with balance in mind. I hope that it will take many forms from spending my time more wisely to not overloading myself and taking better care of my body and mind.

One thing I'm starting right away is a challenge to move and be active every day. One of my friends has been encouraging people to take this on - I'll be using the hashtag #move366 on Instagram (find me here if you wish) to track myself and make myself accountable in some way, if mostly to myself. This doesn't mean I'll be spending hours in the gym or cycling through mountainous terrain every day - I'll just try to do something. On those days when I'm out of the house before 7:30 and return somewhere close to midnight I might only have a lunchtime stroll or a decent stretching session to report but it'll be something. Today I started off fairly gently by walking instead of driving when I needed to run some errands.

I'm feeling hopeful, and look forward to reflecting on this in a year.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Library user behaviour and co-operative differences across state borders

As ever, opinions expressed here are entirely my own. This goes for anything in this blog, but it's worth reiterating today.

Once upon a time, a reference inquiry was a rarity in my library life. And when I went on a road trip, I could stop over for another CD just about anywhere without consideration of whether I'd stop in that town again.

Adelaide and Melbourne have very different public library behaviours and internal environments - from the little things all the way up. I've had a lot of time to observe and think on these and write down scraps of what I might say. Instead of writing a tome of minutiae I've decided to focus on two observations - customer usage patterns and inter-library co-operation. The implications of different funding models, particularly the long-term influences, are a third topic that might be worthy of future investigation but I don't feel that I am well enough informed to tackle that subject at present.

But first, some context

My public library experience has been in three library services, and these shape my observations. The first was a large suburban Adelaide library service with five branches (currently four), a range from wealthy to extreme economic disadvantage and incredible cultural diversity. The second was just outside of Adelaide, a town with two library branches, one of which was full-time, which also served a lot of visitors from nearby regional areas. The third, in Melbourne, is a large five-branch service in an area that's predominantly very wealthy.

As a serial visitor-of-many-libraries, I believe these two observations hold at least broadly true, if not universally.

On reference inquiry frequency

In Melbourne, library users understand that the staff are there to help navigate and pinpoint resources and make use of this opportunity.

Freshly arrived in Melbourne, during my first week in training, I was amazed how many reference inquiries I responded to. In Adelaide I did respond to reference inquiries, mostly local history and family history, but they were far fewer in number. Readers' advisory questions had been even rarer and I had begun to question the relevance of training in this, but now I receive several each day. Having always loved this part of the job, I am very happy! The only noticeable downturn I've observed since moving is in providing general purpose support in computer and device use outside of supporting library-specific systems and resources. In both services I worked in during my time in Adelaide libraries these were common, general website, email and word processing inquiries being particularly frequent - now inquires rarely stray outside of e-books, WiFi login and printing.

The reasons for this aren't immediately obvious, I can see the effects of differing user attitudes but the core eludes me yet. I have inklings, but nothing I can make a statement about.

Whilst I continue to observe and try to understand what makes library users in Melbourne more aware of the professional service capacity of libraries I'd be grateful to anyone who can share their own insights.

Strength in numbers

Adelaide's - and indeed all of South Australia's - libraries are recognised for their co-operation by way of the achievements of One Card / OneLMS / PLSA consortium, something I'm asked about often. Their co-operation, however, is much older and deeper. The systems providing public Internet and WiFi are shared rather than operated by each individual service and have been for years. I could visit any public library with my SA library card and log in to WiFi with the same login and no re-registration even before One Card, though that has substantially streamlined the experience. A system less visible to the public, P2, whilst no longer doing everything it was once built for, still offers state-wide consortium buying of collection materials so that even the smallest libraries are able to leverage some of the opportunities of a large buyer. Cross-promotion between library services at both staff and customer levels is quite commonplace.

Melbourne is different - the library services have a powerful individualist streak - there's the capacity to search across all public library catalogues and for customers to initiate inter library loans thorough Library Link Victoria  but asides this the co-operation I see is with other types of organisations - community centres, interest groups and other council or government bodies. Whilst there is interest and talk between library services about doing things differently, they don't seem to have gone terribly far with a myriad of reasons given - though I must add a caveat there, I'm further from such things than I once was so might be missing a lot. It will be interesting to see how co-operative efforts change over the next few years as other examples from around the country continue to appear.

Both Melbourne and Adelaide have very strong professional interactions (though in Melbourne this is more structured with many more events and the number of people involved vastly higher) - librarians talk to each other, share ideas and values but in Adelaide this has led to more joint efforts.

I believe that the difference in past and present funding models for the libraries in each city have played a substantial role in shaping the co-operative differences, however as previously stated, I don't currently feel well enough informed to analyse this with any confidence.


There is greater difference between the libraries in Adelaide and Melbourne than I expected - I knew before I arrived that differences of scale would be substantial, in the city-wide sense if not in every branch I visit. Through Twitter I had become well acquainted with several librarians in Melbourne and noticed professional attitudes were similar in each cities and so expected it to continue into the working reality.

The various environments - particularly the historical environment - are what I presume to be the driver of difference. I suspect that funding challenges of the past are especially significant to co-operative differences. The user behaviour differences are harder to understand - it appears more fundamental than a short-term publicity effect.

Most of all I see that each city's librarians have a great deal to learn from each other yet, and that moving from an area of familiarity to another geographically removed from my roots has been a professionally valuable decision

If you'd like to discuss these differences, or others, I'd welcome it either in the comments or via Twitter.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Discworld series comes to an end (and 24 other books) - books 76-100 of 2015

I rounded out 100 books with the last Discworld novel. I was glad that such a wonderful book from an author who's had major impact on my life got that spot.

Those preceding it are a mixed bag. The post starts out with a lowlight, but ends on a high note. Can't ask for much more.

As an aside before I get on with this, as I'm now being shared by Aus GLAM Blog Bot and has had a substantial increase in traffic as a result, I intend on having all posts on here at least somewhat related to professional matters. Books well and truly pass muster, but when I'm ready to start photo, craft or personal blogging again, I'll have to think up a name for a second blog. I'll be sure to let those who want to find it know where it is!

76. 22 dead little bodies - Stuart MacBride

Starting on a sour note, I'm afraid. I chose this novella as a potential candidate for a book presentation that I give regularly as part of a program at work. My regular fiction reading doesn't really suit there, so I've been picking a few books for this. Doesn't hurt to broaden my reading, after all.
22 dead little bodies is a short book from Stuart MacBride that stands as an independent story but links into his Logan McRae series. We have ourselves a detective who feels like he's being left all the undesirable jobs while his colleague grabs all of the interesting or high profile ones for her own glory. It felt like it was trying too hard to be gritty, rough-edged and crude. In this book, dysfunctional personal relationships and icky behaviour and attitudes are abundant. I don't expect characters to be perfect - that's boring - but this lot just got on my nerves. The first half or so of the book was the worst, it did improve a bit beyond that after some of the character pettiness abated. I have no intention of reading any more though, if this book was any longer it wouldn't be on the list, because I wouldn't have deemed it worth the time.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Letters of Note,Copyfight and cultural heritage

One book at a time has never been my style. I feel as if it should be, that it'd be good for focus and so on, but recently I had the good fortune to be reading Letters of note and Copyfight whilst the #cooking forcopyright campaign was in full swing. They complimented each other beautifully.

A quick aside, as I'm discussing matters of law here, I want to point out that I have not studied law and am not a copyright subject expert. Except where stated, opinions here are my own, derived from earlier experiences, reading Copyfight and materials connected to the Cooking for Copyright campaign.

Letters of Note is a collection of correspondence compiled by Shaun Usher, based on the blog of the same name. It's a wonderful book full of insights to popular and historically significant people and times, giving them the human touch a brief encyclopedic article can't. Among my many favourites are the letter from 11-year-old girl who wrote to Abraham Lincoln to suggest that he grow a beard, Tim Schafer's text adventure covering letter to a job application and Kurt Vonnegut's letter to the head of a school board that consigned a class set of his books to their furnace. The letters can be beautiful, funny, shocking and emotional. Presenting primary sources with brief explanations and transcriptions or translations as needed is powerful. It also contains a double page of tiny type with acknowledgements, permissions and copyright statements, a fact I'll return to later. I will also come back to the wonderful Australian inclusion, To a Top Scientist which can also be found on the Letters of Note blog. As I write this a second volume is currently available for pre-order and I am keen to discover what it contains.

Copyfight, edited by Phillipa McGuinness, is a collection of various discussions and arguments around Australian copyright as it stands in mid-2015, a far more interesting and convoluted topic than might be expected. It doesn't look good for copyright now - and I'm unconvinced copyright in Australia has a "good old days". Copyright is perpetually lagging behind developments in technology and culture. The possibilities brought on by the Internet are among the latest of many rounds, once it was music recordings in wax that caused a shake-up.  Unsurprisingly, quite a few of the articles in Copyfight focus on the elephant in the room, copyright owners vs. piracy, which I have no intention of discussing here. Many avoid that headline-grabbing political football of a topic and look at other issues. These make it clear that copyright reform is needed for many reasons beyond the aforementioned elephant. Copyright should encourage creation and balance the interests of creators, investors, consumers (individually) and the general public. I'm not convinced it does that nearly as well as it should.

A number of problems stood out as I read Copyfight. One was lack of fair use provisions, fair dealing does not cut it and probably never did. Several articles in this book explain some of the reasons for this, especially those by Angela Bowne and Dan Ilic. It's likely I've technically breached this many times without doing anything the reasonable person would consider unfair, I might even have done it in this post.  There's another problem in copyright length  - while authors and investors need the right to profit from their work, I see the extension from 50 to 70 years after death of the creator as stinking of protection of multinational corporate interests that are disconnected from original creators and encouragement of new creative works. Justin Heazlewood and Lindy Morrison show  that performers' copyright offers poor protection to individual artists and smaller copyright owners, especially when crossing national borders. Felicity Fenner shows that copyright for visual arts is ambiguous and inadequate. The public inaccessibility of data and reports from publicly funded research in publicly funded institutions is another issue that is explained in detail by Hannah Forsyth. This is just a sampling of the issues.

Copyfight unearths some of the complications reforms must deal with -  our laws exist in an international environment which is affected by treaties, trade agreements and international relations in a world where not all sizeable markets apply the principles of the Berne Convention. Any such reforms would then have to survive meeting the courts.

It's the copyright status of unpublished works that draws this all together. Tim Sherratt's article in Copyfight explores some of the ways that TROVE has been used to explore and understand Australia's cultural heritage through digitisation of newspapers and magazines and the impact this has had - and why most of it stops in 1954 and how even that is in risky copyright territory. Alongside these newspapers, Australian libraries and archives contain a wealth of unpublished resources - letters, photographs, diaries and more that could expand our cultural understanding if made available digitally. The Australian National Library alone contains over two million unpublished works (source, p. 50). At present, under Australian law the copyright on unpublished works never expires. ALIA's FAIR initiative provides an explanation, references and resources. Ownership of this never-ending copyright may be unclear or spectacularly difficult to determine - and there is no exception for orphan works. The holding institution may have some ability to use them, but it is unclear as to whether mass digitisation is covered (source).

Once I found several old annotated photographs in a donation to a library I was working in. The donor did not want them returned or destroyed, and the photographs, while insightful, were not of local relevance. As an alternative, I looked into donating them to the local or state library whose collection parameters they fit. The state library was interested, but wanted a donation form filled out which, amongst other things, requested that I assign copyright to them - it was not mine to give. There is no way to know whose copyright it was as the donor was not the photographer and the items did not give clues. Consequently, if the receiving library chose to keep those items their usefulness would be severely limited.

The pages acknowledging sources and copyright in Letters of Note may be sufficient for that publication, but determining and finding the copyright owners of works in Australian collections would be a greater barrier. Taking the risk that TROVE has in releasing material of uncertain copyright status might not be acceptable to a smaller institution, commercial publisher or private individual. Where copyright owners are living, such as To a Top Scientist in Letters of Note, permission might be reasonably achievable. Some copyright owners would be easy to trace. Many would not, an example given by FAIR is of a letter and recipe sent to a radio presenter where there is a theory as to the author's identity, but no certainty.

So whilst I found the reading of Letters of Note enlightening and wondered what an Australian version of this might teach, I am not likely to find out while our copyright laws remain as they are. Bring on the change.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Speed-reviewing - Books 41-75

We've got a loooong way to go in one post, so much so that I've even used a break. I'll only give more than a passing comment for books that stood out from the crowd for some reason, and I've grouped the series items for the benefit of all, with one exception. I notice that there is a very high proportion of graphic novels, probably in part a reflection on how crazy the last months have been. They're wonderful when you don't want to commit to a novel with its much longer read-time.

Examining the use of data, statistics and scientific research in media and beyond, this book is excellent. It shows many of the ways in which numbers and research findings can be used or misused to mislead or misrepresent on any number of topics. That's good in itself, but it also goes some way to teaching the reader how to critically evaluate claims they might encounter, what is a good quality standard and how professional areas can reform to ensure that they adhere to high information and quality standards.

This is a collection of newspaper columns and other articles written over a number of years, polished up a bit and ordered so that there's a sense of order to the book. One of the longer ones is readily available on the author's site here, and it's interesting reading.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Things I learned moving to Melbourne

I haven't posted for ages - I suppose that deserves an explanation. I've got a new job (woo!) which involved moving out of my house in Gawler to my parents' house in Adelaide then across to Melbourne, all in the space of two and a half weeks in mid-June. Then, a month later I realised I was going to have to move again. By the end of July I'd racked up my third move in two months. I really hope not to need to move again this year.

Time to share a few of the lessons I've learnt, though there will be more to share later and most could be expanded into posts of their own later.

So far, Melbourne weather has generally had higher lows and lower highs. I don't mind this at all, as it's the savagely cold mornings that I most dislike in winter. The rest I can deal with.

One of the single biggest adjustments has been to roads and traffic - not the size of the city or the volume of it, so far I've avoided problems with that, but just that it's different. So different that I'm going to write a future post about it. In the meantime, I'll just note that wet tram tracks are disconcerting to drive on as you slip all over the place.

The public transport is better than Adelaide's generally, though that you can't use Google Maps for journey planning or buy a single trip ticket is a little frustrating. Most of my trips have involved stringing multiple legs together so the app for the system has been a must have, used in combination with Google Maps as I have to work out the intersection or station I need to get to, not just the name of the final location. It's so far managed to get me where I go without serious event, though I did quickly learn that my station in the first house was not the one named for my suburb, and if I made that mistake I had a long walk ahead of me. I'm trying to walk or use public transport wherever realistically possible, but the newer house isn't so well placed for it. I'm looking forward to cycling more when my bicycle gets here.

Libraries here exist in a different environment and the user trends are also quite different to those I've encountered in the SA libraries I've worked in. There's plenty adjusting and learning to do, I think  making that adjustment offers a great opportunity for professional improvement. When I have some thoughts in order I'll see about posting them.

Free plastic shopping bags. They're still a thing here, and the first time I saw them I hardly believed my eyes. Just about every shop or take away place reflexively puts whatever you have, however small or easily carried, into a bag. Supermarkets often put very little in a bag, whereas in SA where the bags are purchased they are fully loaded. I've had a single lemon and a take away container with its own handle presented to me in a plastic bag. I'm doing my best to use as few as possible.

I'm living in a very small flat - not as small as a bedsit, but not much bigger. Easily the smallest place I've lived in for more than a week or two at a time. I also have very little of my stuff with me. I miss having access to some of my stuff, most notably my bicycle, comfy sofa and bookshelves, but it puts very little pressure on me. I like this very much. I didn't feel like my volume of stuff was excessive before, but next time I get to de-store it all I'll have to think hard on how I want to live in future.

Possibly as a result of two well-spoken parents and the focus on clear enunciation from singing and choral classes at a young age I've always fielded the occasional "where do you come from", but they've usually been months or years apart. Adelaide's accent is notably milder than Melbourne's, and now I'm getting this a few times a week, especially from library customers and random shop assistants who are surprised to learn that I'm Australian and have spent almost all of my life here. To a person from another country I sound Australian, to Australians, apparently not. I don't like the where-do-you-come-from-ing, but I'm resigned to it.

On the whole, I feel like I'm doing well at work and I'm certainly enjoying the chance to learn and do new things. Outside of work has been a little difficult for a while now but I think it's settled down and I like my new place.

I'm sure there's much, much more, but that will do for now.

Friday, July 17, 2015


I've been away for a bit now, moving states and other such things have consumed my time and energy. So I let this and the photo project slide a little - I had hoped to resume by now but it's not going to be possible. I'm hoping mid-August I'll be able to post properly but if I can return sooner, I will.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Comparative GPS

This morning I had an interesting experience that set me thinking. I will explain the situation later, but first, my history of GPS use.

My first GPS device was a Garmin 62s with a separately purchased map pack that collectively set me back about $750 in 2011 or thereabouts. It's best for hiking (and geocaching) but is capable of navigation. I bought a car mount and tried it out. The results weren't great. It had no idea where Fullarton Road or occasionally, entire suburbs, might be and directed me to take illegal or impossible turns. If made to recalculate more than three times it would stop navigation in a huff. Worst, it could only beep. I returned to using paper maps though still use this otherwise rugged and reliable unit - just not as a driving GPS.

The majority of my experience is with the function built into Samsung Android phones, particularly an s2 and a note 3. This does have peculiar ideas about pronunciation and what constitutes a slight turn vs. a turn but the verbal instructions are timely and clear. I don't even have to remove my phone from my bag once it's set. It is patient with recalculation and has good traffic data that lets me know the best route at the time I want it.

This brings me to the experiences I have had in the last week. I have had the opportunity to drive a 2014 Subaru with inbuilt factory GPS while moving. It's a very nice car. I am already regretting not having cruise control in my own. The first few times I used the inbuilt GPS it went well. I really liked the indication on which lane to pick and the pronunciation was no worse than my phone's. This was until I visited friends last night and had a slightly unfamiliar route to take afterwards. I chose a point along the way rather than the destination as it was easier and I was tired. As I did not stop at the destination the car nav kept telling me to turn around all the way home and I could not see how to cancel it.

In the morning, it attempted to start navigating to the same place. I didn't have time to figure out how to cancel, so just programmed my destination from the device's history - the house I have just left and am cleaning, a trip of around 50km and,  in decent traffic, about an hour. I know the drive between my parents' house and my own very, very well. The route the car chose without benefit of traffic data was absurd. With peak hour in full swing it would go through many of Adelaide's most congested areas. I drove another way - South Road was very congested but quite quickly I was on a series of linked expressways and highways and flying along at 90-110kph with the aid of cruise control and none of the congestion. I thought it would be interesting to see when it recalculated to my route. I was first concerned before I even reached the first expressway as it asked me to turn from the underpass onto a road more than five metres directly overhead. It constantly nagged for u-turns and asked me to take every single expressway exit.

As I drew closer to my destination the game instead became one of seeing how close I could get to my destination without it agreeing with me. The answer amazed me. I arrived,  parked in the driveway and looked at the display informing me that while my car was on the nav map's finish flag I had 92km and over an hour and a half to get to where I already was. Since it's such a strange result I took a picture so you can see the truth of it.

I zoomed out and noticed that it wanted me to go back to a place on its route shortly after I deviated from its plans. I think that I will use my phone from here on. With SA requirements I can't look at that at all, but at least it is not so mind-blowingly daft.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Seeking out art and making my own

Week 20 (11-17 May)

At some point I got ahead of myself, this week is actually week 20...

With a whimsical photo of my fridge and onions at the supermarket, you can see that my week got off to slightly dull start. I did make a bookmark, at least. Thankfully things picked up toward the weekend, on Friday Cibo's offered free coffee for it's first day in Gawler so I took some puzzles and did a little people watching. On Saturday I visited the Art Gallery, which I'm slowly working my way through trying to see everything. I can only properly look at so much art in one day, and at the moment I've almost finished Gallery 3 - the first two galleries only took a visit each, but the third is much, much bigger. A third trip ought to be enough to see it properly. I also took time to check out the unofficial art around Adelaide. This week's feature photo is one of the coolest I've found in a while, if you want to see it for yourself it's behind the ANZ in Rundle Mall.

I'm really proud of the photo I took on Sunday too. It's the last of the small images, and was taken to the theme 'Home' in the photo a day I intermittently take part in. I've enjoyed it so far, but not really drawn any attention. There are some very talented people there. This photo, however, has been something of a success. I didn't really want to take a picture of my house - it's a nice place to live but not terribly photogenic. Instead, I just played with the idea and came up with an image captioned 'Home is where the books are'.