Future of libraries

24 Jun

At MPOW we are currently under review. Again. Our last review was just over 2 years ago. In academic time measurement, that’s 10 minutes 😉
Initially all the stress of the last review returned to me with a whoosh. I was vocally negative about “why” we needed another review, what was it trying to achieve. It took several months for the Terms of Reference to come out, and luckily for me, in this time I got tired of listening to my negative self.  I’ve moved on to enjoying the motivation to sit back and review what I do, what my work delivers, and what I could contribute in the future.

It’s not perfect – I’m still stressed about retaining a job with good working conditions and salary and whether I will have to sack people who work with me. However I have been able to pull myself out of my negative spiral that disempowered me, and feel more proactive by considering the future and where myself and my colleagues would sit in that future.
So … I’m genuinely interested in where you all think the future of libraries lies? From everyone out there. 
My thoughts so far cover

  • Seamless access: libraries can work with publishers and other content owners to continue to ensure pathways to content are user friendly, authentication is simple and awareness of what you have searched and what you haven’t is transparent. Areas in this include fighting for legislation for open access, improving authentication systems, working with publishers to reduce multiple interfaces, continuing to argue for affordable packages and some general public access. eg @mrsuperspy has been working hard on ensuring publishers divest themselves of old textbook models and are understand they need to move into electronic options 
  • Improved search options: the internet keeps growing and growing. Google can however only find you what is items with the right identifiers so metadata is a massive future arena for librarians. Teaching people how to search well, how to find what you actually need is a good space for librarians; or even just going back to the old days where a student presented their thesis to the librarian and they did a search and produced associated literature for them, perhaps librarians will be paid searchers again. Can’t help feeling this will be one of those jobs that will go to the much touted robot automation that is apparently going to sweep through our current career choices though. Social tagging might still be a human arena though, to aid in trends and thought pathways that don’t make logical sense and hence can’t be programmed for. 
  • Discovery pathways: @malbooth has been arguing  for ages that our so-called discovery interfaces are just search, and we need to truly explore discovery pathways that expose new content, true serendipity with some sense of leading people through strands of related thought. GLAM sectors are already starting to experiment here.
  • Lifelong learning: as the robots take over transactional or high volume search work (eg legal clerks searching through articles for precedent) I believe a range of other work will emerge. However education will need to be ongoing therefore as more people have a continuous learning path to upgrade skills or change career paths multiple times. Libraries that can support different forms of learning and offer pathways to emerging areas of study will hence be important. Alongside this, if people are able to explore a wider range of professions, as the repetitive work disappears (yes I believe in a positive future) knowledge warehouses such as libraries will be ideally placed to support teaching or exploration of old skills. 
  • Information credibility: in this time of “fake news”, training in how to establish the credibility of sources is very important. Libraries can support this not only by teaching skills, but also by maintaining multiple sources in their knowledge banks, demonstrating the multiple voices on issues.
  • Support for diverse communities: libraries still have great social capital across most cultures. One of the reasons for this is  is because of the resources they have been to disadvantaged people in the past, many of whom have risen to power later through this support. There are a range of humane reasons we should support disadvantaged groups, and there is also the realisation that if we invest in those who most need it, we will retain social capital over time. 

    So what do you think libraries future contains?


    In this moment

    23 Jun

    I’m copying @flexnib tonight and stopping to check in with myself

    – I’ve just finished reading Hannah Kent’s “The Good People”. Haven’t had a book I can’t put down in ages, and this is one. Her writing style is fluid and expressive and her characters have depths. Amazing on a dark topic. Thankyou to my book club who regularly recommend books that surprise or challenge me.

    – I’m disappointed the judges didn’t throw 3 government ministers out for unprofessional behaviour, but pleased that there are still some checks and balances left in our community

    – I’m feeling positive about my work future because our senior directors for University Services are running group sessions to talk about building future strategy, and are actively asking for all staff feedback. Today when asked “What would you do if you were Director for a day?” Someone said implement a policy to give everyone leave on their birthday. I love this.

    – I’m feeling surrounded by wonderful friends that give me advice, and help me lift things and tell me when to stop and hire an expert, and I am so lucky to be so loved and supported. Friends are the real wealth. 

    – I am grateful for my health and feeling reenergised to improve it myself. 

    – I am so thankful to the rescue organisation that brought me a little white dog to delight me. 

    – I had takeaway Indian food and fresh orange juice for dinner and it is raining and there really are moments when life is wonderful in ordinary ways you never thought would seem so valuable.

    Count your blessings sometime this year everyone. They may surprise you where they are to be found. 

    Happy weekend to you all.

    Interview for The Setup

    21 Jun

    An interview challenge today posted by @paulhagon on behalf of The Setup

    1. Who are you and what do you do?

      Hi my name is Ruth Baxter and I am a Library Manager at the University of Melbourne. Contrary to popular belief that doesn’t mean I get to spend my work day reading books, however you can still claim a lot of book costs back on your tax, so some wins for booklovers. I’m also not the type of librarian who can explain the Internet to you in 3 minutes or give you a single source for copyright free images for the rest of your life; although as these are now common dinner party questions I have the names of librarians who do know that sort of stuff. They are pretty passionate about open access for information though so allow a couple of hours to hear about Creative Commons licences if you catch up with them.

      My job is to manage resources, future development and current workplans for the Metadata, Discovery and Delivery teams. So my colleagues create information in specific fields to allow people to find items online, they support search interfaces that allow people to choose which online items are relevant to them, and then they organise for that material to be located and delivered if we don’t have it at our library.

    2. What hardware do you use?Well this was a learning question for me (had to do some looking up).
      15 years ago I knew a bit about my pc, and could open it up and add memory and understand a bit of how it worked. Now I am older and have other priorities (laziness) I am a happy member of the clueless Apple tribe that just buy magic boxes and are glad they work with everything.

      At home I have a old Apple mac with a big screen (as I am shortsighted) that is getting really slow and so I don’t do much with it even though I intend every week to take it into the shop to be examined. I need to keep it as most of my music is still on cd’s, and none of my other technology has a cd slot.
      It’s specs tell me it is a 2009 iMac 24 inch, 2.66 GHZ Inter Core 2 Duo processor, with 4GB memory, running OSX Yosemite. No wonder it’s slow – 8 years is a long time in computer years.

      At work I have a 15 inch Macbook Pro with an additional screen (2 screens I feel is essential for any cut and paste work, or brainstorming from multiple sources) from mid 2014 with 16GB and 1600 MHZ.

      From work for I have what I call a baby Mac, which I carry around a lot if I am going to be writing large documents, and also is great for my “working from home” day each fortnight. It tells me it’s specs are:
      Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 10.50.08 PM.png

    So that I never need to be without technology I also have an iPad Air 2 (WiFi/Cellular) 1.5 GHz Apple A8X, 2GB RAM, no VRAM, Storage 64 GB.

    I have one iphone for work, which I can’t tell you much about as the Procurement staff have cunningly stuck the asset tag over the model number, and Apple don’t give you details in their “About this”. It has 125GB storage and looks like an iPhone 5s.

    Then – in a bid to force myself to switch off from work on my weekends/leave – I have a separate personal iphone. This is a model A1586 which apparently translates to an iPhone 6, 64 GB RAM, 4G, with 1GB RAM.

    I have a UE Boom bluetooth portable speaker for music/podcasts and after my beloved BOSE headphones fell apart from overuse now have bluetooth JABRA headphones.

    For TV I used to have a Topfield DVR to record which I adored. I handed it over to a friend who needed one when I got my free Fetch TV box from Optus, however I never got as into the Fetch box for easy navigation. The feature I miss the most was the 3 minute fast forward button that with a single click wiped out almost all ads.

    3. And what software?

    I have to talk to pcs a lot at my workplace, so I have Microsoft Outlook for Mac for my word documents, spreadsheets, powerpoints and email. For my personal email I have been on gmail for years now and don’t ever want to leave.

    I’m trying hard to go paperless (not yet there) so I love Evernote for business cards, notes, memos everything else
    I did try Pintrest and have an account, but use it more for specific project boards.

    I prefer Dropbox for storing all my files so I can get them wherever I am on whichever device I have to hand; however I will also use One Drive or anything else people prefer.

    I use Twitter and Facebook through Chrome for my social media. I can’t get into Snapchat (I think I’m too old), and I use WordPress for the one month a year  blog #blogjune (which incidentally is why I am writing this piece.

    I use Wunderlist for ALL my To Do lists (I have a lot, failing memory) and LOVE IT. Has changed my life. Easy to use, can have lots and lots of lists; you start to imagine you will never forget anything in life again.

    I’m also trying Habituate to gamify my key personal To Do lists, especially my 13 daily life improving tasks (14 if I was able to add Eat chocolate) in a bid to make them more interesting, but I really don’t understand the Challenges side enough to make the most of this app.

    I use Spotify or iTunes randomly when listening to music and the Apple iphone Podcasts app for podcasts.

    I was using Skype (poorly) for online meetings, however my place of work now has a membership to Zoom and this definitely seems easier to use (to people who don’t want to have to think). I just my Mac inbuilt camera and microphone for these sessions.

    4. What would be your dream setup?

    I’m waiting for the chip in your brain that you just routinely access and store everything too, that has been promised in all the Science Fiction/Fantasy I have been reading for years. I LOVE to collaborate so being part of a giant opt in mental cloud has real appeal.

    Failing that it is any software that REALLY does the same thing on a Mac and a PC – doesn’t refuse to allow you half the calendar functions that PC users have, doesn’t reformat every document you send between the two etc yet retains the simplicity of Mac aligned software and the capacity to recognise anything you send it’s way for what it is without you having to consider it at all.

    In terms of layout it is somewhere with a window and view, other people (extreme extravert), plants, and due to a being a reformed hoarder, clean surfaces with bookshelves and plenty of storage that doesn’t dominate.


    Wow these questions have been very interesting. Thanks @paulhagon and @usesthis for the idea.


    #PlasticfreeJuly anyone?

    20 Jun

    So I am as usual, writing and thinking more due to #blogjune than I manage for the rest of the year. It seems a little self discipline is good for me, the daily incentive forcing me to take time and focus on something specific.
    This has got me thinking about other monthly motivational targets I could be engaging in. I know #dryJuly is common, however it doesn’t appeal. 
    Then my friend on Facebook let me know about #plasticfreejuly http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/register.html

    I haven’t signed up yet, however it looks interesting. Less a daily to do target and more an overall to do theme. 

    My CWA group (see yesterday’s blog post) and some close friends with great environmental awareness have already got me going on this one. 

    We made beeswax wraps in CWA last month. They smell heavenly whether wrapping my sandwich in my handbag, or wrapping cheese in my fridge. There are heaps of how tos on the web but we tried something different and melted the beeswax and then dipped our cotton squares (I just used new handkerchiefs) in and out. Worked well I think. We also used plain beeswax – adding in jojoba oil and pine resin (you can buy blends) is supposed to make your wax wraps more flexible, but mine seem fine for the purposes I have. We bought our beeswax from a bee products shop (fabulous advantage of living next to a hipster suburb) however a slightly less beautifully feeling version can also be found in hardware shops such as Bunnings in the painting products aisle. 

    I also have great lightweight net bags made for me by a friend, which I can use instead of plastic fruit & veggie bags in supermarkets or farmers markets. She said they were easy – however my sewing experience is nil so I can’t comment. 

    Then of course I have all my cloth shopping bags. I even tried these hanging supermarket trolley bags 

    out for Aldi but they are too awkward for my bicycle … so if anyone wants them let me know and I will post them up to you. 

    So my biggest waste of plastic bags is now my 

    • rubbish bin liners (I’m using supermarket bags) and so I might try and put one big bag liner in the actual garbage bin and empty my small bins into that directly.
    • individual plastic packaging for items e.g. Dog chews 
    • Dog poo bags – anyone got any ideas for replacing these but keeping your hands clean? 


    Learning outside the classroom

    19 Jun

    I have tried to learn to knit many times. It’s never worked out for me. I’ve always given up and decided it’s just one of those things people with the gift of focus get and I don’t.

    Tonight my CWA group did an Introduction to knitting class.

    * for those of you who didn’t grow up with the CWA – this stands for Country Women’s Association. It’s a group that is spread across many countries, also known as Women’s Institutes, and has been in Australia since 1922. You can join a local group in the country or the city – my branch is Sydney Rd Brunswick. They used to be seen as a very conservative group, known for making scones and setting very specific standards for judging baking entries at each state’s annual show. Now their diversity of opinions are more widely recognised: you can leave out the mention of God in their introductory collect, they publicise their support efforts for farmers as well as they do their jam recipes, and Victoria voted to support marriage equality last year. *
    Tonight I enjoyed knitting and it seems to have finally clicked. Only dropped one stitch and the concepts seem to be sticking in my mind.

    So tonight’s skills training reminded me of the importance of learning in a context of fun, openness, and freedom from pressure about the outcomes. We chatted whilst learning (knitting circles have now been upmarketed to “stitch’n’bitch”), and we were all eventually successful in grasping casting on, and the basic knit. Some of the advanced even went on to ask to learn how to purl. Our trainer was a member of the group, and several others can also knit, so we have lots of people to ask about at monthly meetings as we progress, to help us solve problems we can’t work out and to keep us motivated about the end products we can create. 
    I’m reminded about creativity in the workplace. 

    How often are we asked to learn something new, yet we do not have any of the fun context to engage us in the best circumstances for learning –  

    • We are not fully present for the task (we may be worried about timelines shortening back in the office)
    • We fear  what happens to our jobs if we are dammed as “failing”  
    • We are training with people we do not know, and feel inhibited about asking questions
    • We are not offered follow up support, and leave feeling we are now on our own.

    There have been great library managers who have actively encouraged a sense of play in the workplace, time in schedules to learn, a culture that focuses on trying instead of failing – big shoutout to @malbooth at UTS as an example here. 

    However too often I still hear a less productive belief being promoted in Library management, that seriousness is the most professional work approach, that this is the only way to deliver focus and outcomes. 

    I hope one day we get to a place where we realise that both approaches have their place. 

    Whoops – forgot to blog

    18 Jun

    Ok so all that talk of baking yesterday got me inspired.

    Today I babysat my niece and nephew and we baked one of Rach’s cakes as my sister’s birthday cake.

    After they went home I got inspired and was up until late baking/icing with friends.

    We wanted to do this:


    Unfortunately we did this: 

    We’ll be better next time! 

    Happy Monday everyone 

    Top 5 things to bake

    17 Jun

    Today I’m inspired by a recent blog from Rach – check out her great recipes too.

    My go to recipes for reliable, yummy, quick baking are :

    1. Penny’s marshmallow recipe

    I got this from a librarian so it must be well researched right? The wonderful @greengecko is a fabulous maker – food, clothes, craft. All her activities are child friendly too (from necessity I imagine).

    Anyway I did a lot of baking when I was young, but genuinely didn’t know that you could make marshmallows from scratch. I think I thought they had some magical commercial polymer to make them that fluffy. So I was really excited to do these. 

    I must warn you – there is NOTHING stickier than raw marshmallow mix – so make sure to wash any child assistant bakers in hot water immediately after.

    I also find toasted coconut is essential for my vanilla marshmallows. I lay out shredded coconut (dessicated coconut burns quicker) on a baking tray and cook in an oven on 175 degrees Celsius. Stir occasionally and once it starts to brown remove (about 10 mins). 

    2. Jaffa cakes 

    In England these are my favourite store bought biscuit. Dark chocolate with marmalade and a very fluffy biscuit base. For awhile I paid a fortune to buy them from a British Goods store in Melbourne. Then the fabulous IGA near me bought them in regularly from Czechoslovakia, but then it all stopped.

    So I was very excited to find I can home bake them as well. Also means you can increase proportions of jelly to chocolate to sponge depending on your personal preferences. 

    For those of you who haven’t heard of Felicity Cloake, she’s a fantastic food writer who experiments with a range of recipes for a designated food item, and tells you the results of each. I was referred by a friend and am very thankful I was. She’s done the perfect icecream, the perfect scone etc I always learn something about the way baking different ingredients works from reading her columns. 

    3. Cadbury family chocolate cake

    It seems appropriate that Cadbury has a great reliable chocolate cake recipe. This one is a little misleading in the prep time as there is an additional 20-30 mins in the middle where you let the chocolate mixture cool. 

    Still this one has always worked for me, comes out a light chocolatey taste and beautifully light. 

    4. Stephanie Alexander chocolate chip biscuits 

    I’m avoiding copyright by sending you to a site where someone else has bypassed the copyright. 

    These are my favourite cookies. Feel free to increase the dark chocolate or the nuts; but don’t be tempted to let them cook for longer. Melted chocolate works out best as per the recipe.

    Wonderful thing about most cookie recipes is you can make up extra batches and freeze them. Then you can come home anytime you want and throw them in the oven for a quick snack. 

    5. Sponge cake
    Everyone should have an easy passionfruit sponge recipe in Australia I feel. 

    I feel guilty with my copyright hat on as I really can’t tell you where I got this from, but it’s a quick easy sponge that works. 

    As with all sponges, if it doesn’t rise enough for you, add more eggs. However sponges are merely a vehicle for passionfruit icing (use real passionfruit not that pulp in a tin) and cream, so thinner is not really an issue. 

    Those are my top 5 reliable quick recipes. 

    My real repeat special that almost every visitor is served is roast chicken with veggies. There the only recipe tip I can give you though is buy a good organic fed, free range chicken, preferably direct from a Farmers Market, as they are much more forgiving. Then you whack it and the veggies in the oven at 180 degrees C for 1.5 hours and it’s delicious. I even cheat and source my gravy from those microwave supermarket packets. 

    Now I’m hungry … might grab a snack.

    Happy baking everyone.