Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Crafty revival and future creation possibilities.

Hmm... my earlier craft project is still to be completed, it seems I need to improve my skills for the last part. A challenge is good though, I'll get there!

In the meantime, I've been doing some other bits and pieces. I've fallen out of the crafty habit for a while so it's good to try a few things out.

Using the templates in this photobucket album I've made myself a cardboard Katamari. I'll make a prince to match too - I need to downscale the original, that'll make it fiddly but I don't mind that at all. After that will have fun with cameras and paper models.... possibly also with glue. We'll see...

I've also put together this necklace. I'm not quite sure who it'll be for yet. Although I do like the colour combination it's not one I'm likely to wear.

Please excuse the rather grotty cutting mat. It's seen hard service in paper, jewelery and fabric crafting and both glue and a myriad of not-quite-healed cuts are starting to show. It still does the job craft-wise. I might have to rig myself up a better photo station. I have a great solution for very small objects but it limits my angles a great deal and isn't big enough for larger objects like the two crafts shown today. Time to learn how to do that...

Also, I'm seriously considering taking on another photographic project next year. I did a 365 photo a day which turned into 536 photos (on a previous blog). I'm not yet sure if I'll attempt another 365 or if I'll come up with something else. The last project I did was the found alphabet, it a great project though a few letters proved trickier than expected - that's not exactly a bad thing but didn't do wonders for keeping to schedule. There's also the possibility of experimenting with my interest in stop-motion though that'd be an entirely different creature. I've got a month or so to think on it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Learning to Sketchnote

I've been seeing people's sketchnotes and hand-drawn infographics around the Internet for a while - I'd pretty much discounted doing this myself as my drawing ability is, if charitably spoken about, under-developed. Recently I've seen a few people developing their own skills in graphic note taking, one example being Kim Tairi, this being one of her more recent sketchnotes

While I'm between jobs I want to learn some new skills and keep on learning so this seemed like a good thing to try. I've had some small art sketch books about my house for quite a while and a lovely set of coloured fineliner pens so I picked them up and had a go.

I was surprised at how well they came out even if they're very, very basic. I didn't start by noting speeches, I started by making graphic notes and diagrams as a thought process to get me through a couple of situations that I was finding stressful. I found it a very good way of getting my mind through the situations.

Since then I've borrowed, on recommendation, The Sketchnote Handbook which I'll have to revisit from time to time. I've been using TED talks as practice and so far the notes below for Brewster Kahle's speech a free digital library is the one I'm most pleased with. Several others have had elements I've liked - headers or specific sections - but this one came together well with just the right amount of space to note the whole thing without leaving large blank areas.

There us space for improvement - the structured could use work, I'd like more typographical variation and I am not sure the emphasis always falls where I want it to but on the whole I'm pleased. I'm going to practice this more, both specific elements and actually producing finished pages - I'm gaining a skill and along the way learning quite a bit from the talks.

I might not be producing some of the wonders visible on Sketchnote Army but I'm very pleased with my progress.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A is for... Applique

Applique is a less familiar craft than the last few have been and my experience with blanket stitch is extremely limited so this isn't perfect - but I don't mind. Which is good because I'm usually a perfectionist and it's nice to find some not-perfectionism.

I chose my colours and got to work. I wanted a more electric blue but couldn't find one, I think this one turned out very well all the same. I chose felt over fabric to avoid fraying issues.

As with the other letters I didn't use a pre-made template but worked my own out. I had to adjust it a little and if I want to do any more small felt cut-outs I'll need to get a more suited set of scissors (an xacto knife just didn't work out).

I'm tempted to get an early start on the next letter which I hope to have done tomorrow - the technique I've chosen can be time-consuming to do on the scale I usually use. For that one I'll go totally pattern-and-template free...

Edit: slightly further on than tomorrow, perhaps... I chose to use a very fine canvas. No regrets as the progress is looking great but it's 4x more work so please bear with me!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Next letter...

Okay... things are on the improve so the next letter is underway.

This photo was taken last weekend on a trip to Port Pirie and I finally adjusted things to my satisfaction today. The photo was taken in Napperby Gorge. I plan to show more of the photos later, though not in this cut-up form.

I've not fixed it to the backing yet, I want to work out how I present the final thing first.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Night Vale Public Library Card - DIY

I was working on a creative idea... but another distracted me.

If you were to use the image with a barcode generator and the graphics program of your choice - Paint is enough - you could make a functional card. Laminating it would be a plus. Whether or not your library would accept it is an entirely separate matter...

I might mess around and make a fancier one at some point but this isn't a bad start.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Daily creation: Button letter and discovery of tiredness

I'm continuing to make an effort to create something any day I have an opportunity. It's only day two though, so not getting especially excited yet.

This is part two of a small project I'm working on. I know roughly what the elements of it will be but haven't yet worked out how I'll assemble it.

There's not a lot to say about today's work - sewing on buttons is, I hope, a near universal skill. I often go through quite a process in selecting buttons for a project but I was feeling a little tired this evening so went with a colour selection that came out of a mixed pack of buttons rather than going through my stash of second hand buttons.

This is up a little later than I intended - sewing the buttons on highlighted my tiredness. Last night's book was really good and while I had no trouble during the day I'm starting to feel it now. Several times I had to backtrack a moment and remind myself that buttons need to be treated rather differently to beads.

As with yesterdays, this isn't utter perfection. I can see the flaws, but hope they are not so obvious to others.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Creative Boost - Starting a project... plus technique

I've not had a terribly creative year thus far. It's time to do something about that. I've got a plan that should see me taking on a creative task each day for the rest of the week that will result in something that I hope will be fun. After that I'd like to see if I can maintain that. It might not be something very big - and it might not be a craft as such. Perhaps a photograph beyond the happy-snap variety or something creative in the kitchen. Perhaps even a blog post - my output this year has been somewhat low.

Today's part of the project is a letter embroidered on card, a shade wonky as I worked from scratch without a template. I've been making cards and other objects this way for a while. Although I read craft books/blogs for inspiration I often deviate from patterns and instructions or just plain old make it up as I go. That's how I learnt this craft, the technique is not revolutionary but I arrived at my current method through trial and error and expect to keep refining it. Here's the back and a quick technique run-down to give you an idea how I did it.

I started by ruling a vague size and position, from there on in this was entirely freehand withut so much as a straight edge. It was nice to do as I generally lack confidence in my ability to draw and draft things - even simple things. It's not absolutely perfect but I think I like it that way...

Initially I thought that I'd use a couple more colours I'd picked out (a lovely turquoise and bold orange) to add a flower motif but ultimately decided that'd make it too busy in the context of the project I have in mind.

I punched the holes out with an awl - when I first started making embroidered cards I used a needle. That's a good way to hurt your fingers. I had to punch from behind - I prefer to punch from the side I'm going to sew on to keep things tidy but this particular project didn't lend itself to that as I was avoiding the use of any kind of template which is really necessary for that.

Even-ish spacing is nice but there are certain points - corners and points along a curve - which are going mandate positioning. I punched those first and then worked out how many holes needed to go in the spaces between these.

The stitching is a sort of modified backstitch done with a fine tapestry needle - it's efficient with thread while getting the look I'm after. I started off with a doubled over thread and rather than knotting brought the first stitch down through the doubled over end to secure it.

If working on a card I need to keep the back as flat as possible, and then I use a piece of masking tape to catch all the ends (you only need one as you can unstick and restick it repeatedly) however that wasn't an issue here so I just knotted the ends.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Unique books

This is a quick post while I am out and about. I bought a wonderful book this afternoon. Although the original publication is a lovely one (with game boards and a ruler printed on the endpapers) it is not this that is most wonderful. Rather, it is that a previous owner has left their touch throughout and made a unique item of this copy, something a freshly printed book cannot offer. I am fortune to have a couple other such books, one from within my family, and they are truly delightful.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Six Challenges of Census Data

Recently I have been interpreting census data as part of the preparation for a presentation I will be giving later in the year surrounding Library New Grads and the future of the library workforce. As I am sufficiently familiar with TableBuilder, a tool for extracting customised information from the census, it seemed like a straightforward enough task to analyse information on professional level library staff.

How little I knew.

The first warning came in the data breaking Librarians up into five year age categories. In the 2006 census 98 people aged 15-19 had their occupation categorised as 'Librarian'. Should you not be familiar with the library world, this is a professional occupation that almost invariably requires a degree or postgraduate qualification recognised by a professional body, ALIA, much as is the case for accountants and other professionals.

I don't think it's unreasonable to be slightly sceptical of the accuracy of this particular number. In a group of 10068 it's not huge, but it was the first sign that this data might not be quite as straightforward as I initially thought.

Things got more interesting when I discovered that the Teacher Librarians had gone MIA.

For reasons I will explain below, I broadened the scope of my analysis. The problems multiplied roughly in proportion to this. Initially this was very frustrating but it rapidly became fascinating in its own, potentially relevance-challenging way.

The Six Challenges of Census Data (So Far)

1. Free-text Census Questions

Most of the work I have done relates to the question of occupation. The 2006 census paper's question on this looks like so:

Whilst the sheer range of occupations in existence make the necessity of asking the question in this way clear a free text field that ultimately produces categorised numerical data has a significant risk of error even before points 2 and 3 are introduced.

2. User error

What exactly goes into that occupation box when a particular person fills it in? The accuracy is very difficult to control. 'Occupation' is also a term that can be interpreted in a considerably different way to 'Job'. I could argue that I have been a professionally recognised Librarian and in that career path for considerably longer than my title has contained the word 'Librarian'. This might have been stretching the truth and rather optimistic but not all that difficult to justify even if it misses the spirit of the question. (Just in case anyone from the ABS stumbles across this, I didn't. It would have been easy though, and virtually undetectable.)

3. Re-categorisation to a standard classification

Collecting statistics for each variant answer in the 'occupation' box would be messy and produce fairly meaningless data. Consequently a classification system is used - ANZSCO in both 2006 and 2011.

Widely varied responses must be fitted into the classification based on the listed occupation, here take note of the question's first explanatory point 'give full title'. In 2004 an ALA survey found 37 common job titles for library support staff and numerous less common titles, it is more than likely that Australia has a similar range. Many are not obviously library jobs. These could be categorised all over the occupational spectrum.

It's not too much of a stretch to think that job titles in other industries might create inbound interference on top of this.

I strongly suspect that aspects of points 2 and 3 are responsible for the large number of teenage Librarians.

4. Clumped professions or; Night of the Vanishing Teacher Librarians

One night while crunching some numbers I discovered that the Teacher Librarians had gone AWOL.

When using a guide to ANZSCO to work out where Librarians might be in TableBuilder (harder than you might expect) I found a page explaining 'Unit Group 2246 Librarians' where, partway down, it explains 'Teacher-Librarians are included in Minor Group 241 School Teachers' which, on investigation, is only further divided by the category of school. I know there are Teacher Librarians in there. Somewhere.

5. Classification system modifications

By this point in my analysis these issues and several other data issues and points raised in discussion led me to broaden my analysis to include other library occupations. Two were available.

Library Assistants were nice and straightforward.

Library Technicians were another matter entirely. In 2006 there was a category titled 'Library Technicians' but in 2011 the census used a new edition of ANZSCO and the category becomes 'Gallery, Library and Museum Technicians'. Unsurprisingly while a decline of around 3% is observed in the Librarian and Library Assistant categories this one has grown, acquiring two more industries worth of technicians. The trends between 2006 and 2011 behave in a way that is consistent with the other categories however an interesting anomaly from the national figures observed in Library Technician data for South Australia in 2006 has disappeared. I am totally unable to determine if this disappearance is real or a result of the classification changing.

6. Data availability

The last issue is the availability of census data. I am unable to find the information I need in standard ABS releases so must use TableBuilder. At present only 2006 and 2011 data is available. While I believe I see a trend that is consistent across all levels of library staff I cannot see if this is the continuation of a long-term trend, a new development or perhaps even the repetition of a cycle within the workforce.

Another census will be held in 2016, at some point after this I should be able to add another set of figures and start to answer this question. Until then I must, with the aid of prior studies and related papers and reports, make an educated guess.

In Conclusion

Teacher Librarians have gone MIA, Gallery and Museum Technicians invaded in 2011 and the most personally valuable lessons and insights from this exercise might be from the process rather than the outcome.

What appeared like a fairly straightforward interpretation of data from a large and respected source tested not only my ability to retrieve, analyse and interpret data but also my ability to spot the potential for errors and work out which errors were significant, which could be adjusted for and which.

This has reinforced that even the most authoritative, objective and thorough sources of information are fallible. While I believe I will still be able to complete a useful analysis with the scale of data I wished to work with factoring in these issues is going to be a challenge in itself.

P.S. Reviews and crafts will return one day, right now this analysis is taking up the time I might spend on those.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Statistical Analysis - Library Assistants

I attended PLSA Quarterly a while ago and while there saw a presentation of some information gathered as part of a survey on the future of the workforce in SA public libraries.

I remember one particular conversation after that presentation with another Librarian who was, possibly significantly in the case of this conversation, older than I am - for reference, I'm 30. We were discussing information that suggested many of the younger staff in public libraries do not intend on staying in libraries for very long. My own interpretation of 2011 Australian Census data shows an interesting trend that might well support this.

There are three library related ANZSCO occupations - Librarian, Gallery, Library and Museum Technician and Library Assistant. There is no Library Officer occupation listed, my best guess based on raw numbers is that these are included with Library Assistants.

The patterns for Librarians and Technicians are very similar, generally speaking the older age brackets have increasingly high percentages of the jobs until a drop-off around the expected retirement age. Library Assistants are a different story - they peak twice. The number of very young Library Assistants 15-24 seems quite reasonable, however beyond this numbers drop and don't start to climb again until age 40, from here on in they stay quite high until retirement age arrives.

But what happens over time? Unfortunately there are only two data sets, 2006 and 2011, available to me. Between the two censuses the Library Assistant population dropped by nearly 400.

Please note that the x axis scale has changed for this table - while not consistent with the rest of my analysis (both what you have seen and not) I wanted to emphasise the trends to make them clearer.

In my last post relating to this analysis I noted a sideways shift in this chart for Librarians between 2006 and 2011 suggesting that these might be predominantly the same people five years later. Library Assistants show this same trend - except for that early career peak. While the numbers there have dropped, especially at either end, that peak is still in the same place it was last time. Young Library Assistants numbers are quite good into the early twenties but they drop away sharply before thirty. This takes us back to the conversation I opened with, and from here on my opinions are based on anecdotal and observational evidence.

In the conversation that I mentioned at the head of the post I was discussing the number of young library staff indicating they intend on leaving the industry with another Librarian. They suggested that it might be largely explained as those wishing to start families. Based entirely on observation, most young female library staff I have known who have started to work in libraries have not left - they have taken maternity leave and returned quickly. There are exceptions and a small part of this drop may be accounted for this way but I don't believe it explains much of it. My experience working in libraries and talking to other young people working in libraries throughout Australia suggests something else is responsible for much of this drop.

Several young library staff I have spoken to enjoy working in libraries and see them as immensely worthwhile but they are often ambitious and see little prospect for advancement or even, in the case of trainees and those on graduate programs, retention. Looking at the trend in the rest of the graph, who can blame them? As time passes I've seen many of these young people move on to areas which they believe have better prospects. Of those who have stayed, the prevailing opinion remains that opportunities to advance are severely limited.

Prospects are not hopeless, and a little over half of these staff do stay. All the same we have a concerning trend here. If we want to change this trend and retain more young staff - through analysis we can see the rest of the Library Assistant (and Technician. And Librarian) population isn't getting younger and will eventually retire - we must act.

There's more to this that I'm still teasing out and I will eventually share what I find. Much of this analysis is for a presentation at the Intelligent Information Pop-up Symposium.

Should you have any opinions stories of your own I'd love to hear them - feel free to comment here or, if you prefer to share your story confidentially, contact me via a direct message on Twitter.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Librarianship - the statistical analysis begins!

I'm going to try to revive this blog... it's been a while. Hopefully more crafts and more books and library musings. I'll start with that one as I'm working on some things that are taking up a lot of my out-of-work time.

I'm doing some information-gathering to put together a presentation that I'll be giving later in the year - my topic centres around new library graduates and the future of the professional workforce. It's a huge topic so I won't be able to cover all aspects but I'm finding some things that I really want to talk about that I haven't heard presented before. Mostly thus far I'm analysing census data and talking to people who've graduated in the last five (or so) years. Some of the output, should it be of interest to you... it's appeared on Twitter but I haven't been able to talk about it much due to the whole character limitation thing. Here 'librarians' are defined as people who have had their profession from the census put into the 'librarians' unit group in ANZSCO.

The average age of librarians is roughly consistent across the country and it doesn't surprise me at all to see that many are at the older end of the workforce, that's consistent with the experiences of people I've talked to. Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory are a bit different but I strongly suspect that the low populations in these three places strongly contribute to this.

This graph I found especially interesting. 'Information and organisation professionals' is the ANZSCO minor group that librarians fit within (used for the census, explanation here). This includes a number of other occupations including archivists, curators, records managers, economists and statisticians. First off, across the minor group there is a much more even age spread with a slight bias towards workers in their twenties and thirties, second, while information and organisation professional age stayed roughly the same between censuses librarians clearly aged with it. A suggestion, perhaps, that we're mostly looking at the same people five years later rather than seeing much movement in and out of the profession.

I plan on extracting more census data over the next couple of weeks. Firstly I want to extract data on the Librarianship and Information Management qualification field to see how that compares. Secondly, although my focus is on professional librarians I want to chart information on the other two library occupations in ANZSCO - Library Assistant and Gallery, Library and Museum Technicians. The latter is a little broad as although there is a Library Technician listing in ANZSCO the tool I'm using to extract data, Australian Bureau of Statistics' TableBuilder Basic, doesn't have listings to that level.

I'll share that information and some thoughts when I have it - and if you're not the library type or the data type, don't worry, there will be blog posts on other topics soon.

Edit: updated the first chart as the scale on the horizontal axis labelling was out of whack.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: Machine of Death (Disposable Edition)

(Photo source: TopatoCo sales page

Machine of Death has a fascinating premise, amazing creativity and brings together a diverse group of writers and artists. And that's not even the best part. What really excites me about this book doesn't even involve the content. It's doing things that I've not seen in other commercially produced books.

I came by my copy of this book as a reward from the kickstarter for the releated game which I'm really looking forward to playing in the near future.

The book was all kicked off by this comic and an open call for story submissions. Some of the authors are recognisable, frequently best known for their online work, others are largely unknown. Each story has an illustration from one of a talented group of authors. The stories revolve around the idea of a 'machine of death' which can, with absolute precision and extreme ambiguity, predict how you will die. Stories predominantly focus on how this might affect our decisions, relationships and society. The variety is incredible and some of the ideas are seriously exciting. I'd recommend reading it for that alone, but there is more to love here.

First, applying to all editions of this book with the exception of four specific stories, the book is released under creative commons licencing - while the book has certainly sold plenty of print copies it's perfectly free to copy, email and share with the only real conditions being that the authors are credited and it is not used for commercial gain. You can even download it for free directly from the book's website. For balance, if you wish to buy a paper copy it's sold here.

Given all the DRM and library distribution issues plaguing the industry this is a breath of fresh air. I'm not sure it'd be appropriate for all works but for a book of short stories it might just be a great model for quality new authors to get themselves seen and encourage readers to explore their other work.

Onto issues that some find upsetting. I believe that no modern mass-produced copy of a book needs to be treated as if it were sacred. Some are shocked to see crafts that chop up books, or to see them removed from library shelves - an issue I've discussed before. This book is clearly labelled as a disposable edition. It's really, really cheap even by paperback standards (regarding Australian pricing at least). At the beginning of the book there is a preface explicitly stating that it's okay if you don't want to keep it but would rather give it away, recycle it or whatever else. Like the Creative Commons licencing I find this incredibly refreshing. The section finishes up with a wonderful line 'This book is not a priceless artifact. Its value lies in the experience of reading it and passing it along. Enjoy! p.s. of course you can keep it if you want to.' So for now I'm going to hang on to my copy - but I'm more than happy to lend it to people wanting to give this book a go.

So go, give it a go. Buy it if you wish, or download it for free. Explore fantastic ideas in a work that's exciting for plenty of reasons beyond the brilliant writing.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Heritage to innovation in one great new library

I was very excited some months ago when I heard we'd get a new library in the city centre - having visited a few in other states and countries I was eager to see what my home city would come up with. I wasn't able to visit on opening day - too busy working in another library - but I've made it in on day two.

My first impression of the new City Library was great - the design is modern, adaptable, full of natural light and really interesting. Some of the photos I'd seen looked a little sterile but once in the building it is anything but. Design features and displays of local artists and work produced using the facilities available make the space warm, inviting and seriously interesting.

I'm really impressed by this library. It seems to have everything - so many things that I'd love to see many more libraries offer. The spectrum is covered from the History Hub to the Innovation Lab with an artist in residence (though not while I was visiting) and a media lab ensuring there are opportunities to create and explore whatever art or subject inspires you. It is so much more than just a place to read books and use a computer and it is already being well used.

I had a good opportunity to browse the shelves and as I did I found lots of places to sit and take a closer look before borrowing in spaces that were being used for study, small get-togethers, wireless Internet browsing, quiet reading and more. Though there are many people here - a wonderful thing to see - the building has been designed in such a way that there is still a sense of calm and focus.

According to the greeter at the door there have been a lot of library staff from all over visiting - I don't find this at all hard to believe as while I waited for a PC to write this very entry there was an impromptu meeting of staff from a library that I used to work in. All of them have had really positive things to say about this facility.

I highly recommend coming and having a look if you haven't already. This is a brilliant new community asset. I'll be back in future for sure - if nothing else I'm really eager to try out the 3D printing. I don't want to simply print something that I download so I'll have to get designing....