26 May, 2008

PLA conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota

In March this year Jane Grace and Lynette Lewis from Yarra Plenty Regional Library had the opportunity to attend the annual Public Library Association Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is a brief account of their experience.

After a fifteen hour flight to Los Angeles, followed by domestic flights to Dallas and finally to Minneapolis, we arrived to see a blanket of snow covering the ground, certainly a contrast from the summer temperatures we had been experiencing in Melbourne.

Approximately 10,000 library attendees, exhibitors, authors and guests descended on the Minneapolis Convention Centre Minnesota for the 12th National PLA conference. The conference included workshops and discussions that focused on key issues such as technology; serving adults; gaming in libraries; library design and collection development; often drawing standing room only crowds in each conference room.

The conference opened with philanthropist John Wood, founder and CEO of Room to Read, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in the developing world through education. Wood discussed the inspiration for his organization, this initial decision to leave his position at Microsoft, and his grand vision to provide educational access to 10 million children in the developing world through his organization.
John has written a book about his vision called “Leaving Microsoft to change the world: an entrepreneur's odyssey to educate the world's children” which is available in the Yarra Plenty Library catalogue.

Conferences such as these also allow library professionals to showcase cutting edge innovations in the library world... It is through these papers we can see what libraries are leading the way with technology, programs and their approach to the future of how libraries will be perceived.

We experienced wonderful papers which gave us insight into how libraries in America use cutting edge technology. Exceptional papers included:

“Changing Cultures: Experiences in Fostering Innovation from Within” and paper co-presented by Melanie Huggins from St Paul Library, Minnesota. We had the privilege of being invited to a brain storming session organized by Melanie to discuss the use of Web 2.0 technologies in libraries. During this session we were able to share some of the latest trends being offered at Yarra Plenty and in other Australian libraries. Trend which included the Wikinorthia collaborative wiki and the Learning 2.0 program being administered at a statewide level.

"What's the Big Idea? The Idea Store and the Future of Public Libraries" co-presented by Sergio Dogliani. The Idea Stores offer a new approach to public library services, offering a place to browse and borrow books, read a newspaper or magazine, learn new skills, surf the net or to relax and meet friends over a coffee in a fun and stimulating environment.

“Creating New Stories and Investigating New Literacies with Virtual Worlds, Interactive Media, and Games” presented by Kelly Czarnecki and Matt Gullett.
This paper focused on the innovative ways Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County use gaming programs, including interactive media creation, gaming tournaments, virtual worlds development, and adult gaming activities in their libraries.

In todays world library staff around the world learn and share experiences via the Web through blogs, emails and other virtual Web applications, rather than meeting people face-to-face.

The opportunity to attend the PLA conference and the chance to listen and contribute to discussions about innovation, technology and the future of libraries and the chance to meet in people we know by name but have never conversed with in person was an opportunity we will both regard as the experience of a lifetime.

19 May, 2008

It's Library & Information Week

Every year Australian libraries celebrate Library & Information Week with special programs and activities to highlight the important role libraries play in the community. The first Library Week was held 40 years ago, in 1968.

The theme this year is Libraries are for everyone, and Yarra Plenty has lots of activities on this week. Highlights are the Literary Speed dating at Watsonia tomorrow (Tuesday) night, digital photography at Mill Park on Thursday evening at 6.30 and a session on wikis at Eltham library on Friday morning at 10.30. Have a look at our calendar of events for a list of what's on.

Another event being held during Library Week is National Simultaneous Storytime, where the same story is read all around the country at the same time. This year the book is Arthur, and at Mill Park library we have the Mayor, Cr Elizabeth Nealy, reading it, along with a very special guest. I'll see you there.

I'm off for a couple of weeks from next week, so I've asked Jane and Lynette to fill in and write something about their exchange to the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County.

12 May, 2008

Education & virtual worlds

Last week I was invited to present at workshops to teacher librarians on web 2.0 technologies, how we have integrated them into our library service and how we have encouraged staff to explore and play with things like blogs, wikis and social tagging. Also presenting at the workshop were Will Richardson from the US, who talked about why the read/write web changes everything (and who blogs at http://weblogg-ed.com/) and 2 NSW educators, Westley Field and Judy O'Connell.

Will presented some compelling arguments about why the education system and the way we teach children needs to change. He challenged the audience to act as models in the online world and provide advice and guidance on the impact of social networking.

Westley Field from MLC School in Sydney is the Director of the "Skoolaborate" initiative. This uses virtual reality to engage students in new ways of learning about the world. This is an incredibly exciting global initiative.

We learned about some great new web tools and sites - ustreamtv is your own personal television station - for all you budding media moguls out there. Myfamily.com helps keep track of the doings of your nearest and dearest and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has all its courses online for free.

Life is certainly changing for schools and teachers, and it was very interesting to hear some of the future directions it is likely to take. Yarra Plenty is currently administering the Learning 2.0 program for a number of school librarians in Victoria, and they are very engaged with that.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about how learning will change because of new technologies.

05 May, 2008

Medieval imagination

I had a spare hour between meetings last week at the State Library, providing the opportunity to visit the absolutely wonderful Medieval Imagination exhibition, which is on until 15 June. The beauty of these manuscripts, their freshness, their colour and the story they tell about life and beliefs from the 8th to the 16th centuries is just magic. This is the first time that such a display has been shown in Australia, and it has material from Cambridge, New Zealand and Australia. A real sense of humanity shines through, as well as the labour of love that the manuscripts convey.

My favourite is the one that highlights a miscommunication between the scribe and the illustrator, they both thought the other one was doing the capital "E" to start the sentence...so of course, neither of them incorporated it, and it has been included afterwards as a small E in a box. We all mess up sometimes!

On a similar theme, I was listening to the radio over the weekend and there was a program about the Nelson Moore Richardson and Helen Morewood Richardson collection. The Collection of 289 volumes consists mainly of texts of the English Bible and related material, together with some early printed books, herbals and medieval manuscripts. The radio program described how this collection was bequeathed to the Library, mainly due it seems to the agreeable Australians Mr Richardson met on his visit to NSW in the early 1920s. He was so taken with the people he met, he wanted to leave his collection for their benefit. The Chief Librarian of the Public Library of NSW steered the political process and ensured that the collection did indeed end up at the Library, organising for Mr Richardson to meet with the Premier of NSW who was visiting "the old country." One of the most significant manuscripts isthe score of a Gregorian chant which has now been performed for the first time at the State Library of NSW. The whole story can be read on the ABC website, on the Religion Report. Its fascinating!

So, all this is very different from the daily work of the public library, but it highlights how important libraries are in preserving material and making it accessible to people.