Friday, 30 September 2016
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Thursday, 29 September 2016
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The State Library of Victoria has a significant model of supporting staff creativity, both through a Residency program, and through staff exhibitions as well! Enjoy! Erinn
by Dominique Dunstan, Curator
The State Library of Victoria is a great cultural institution and not surprisingly there are many talented people working here, including writers, artists and musicians. Some of their work can be found in the library’s collections. The Joyce McGrath Gallery was an initiative of the Shared Leadership Program that staff have participated in for some years. Established in December 2010, the gallery recognises the wide range of creativity within the Library and provides a collegial, creative environment to bring staff together. It promotes imagination, collaboration and celebrates the wealth of talent in our staff. JMG draws diverse staff together to collaborate on imaginative projects of their own design. One of the defined goals of the library is to be open and inviting – to surprise delight and inform by sharing stories, collections, spaces and expertise. This exhibition and the gallery itself embodies that goal beautifully.
The Gallery… draws diverse staff together to collaborate on imaginative projects of their own design.
There hadn’t been an exhibition in the gallery for a while so we (the gallery committee) decided a group exhibition would be a good way to get people involved. I began thinking about a theme that could include everyone, regardless of creative ability. In October last year I read an article about the last printing of OCLC catalogue cards. Like most libraries, we stopped generating catalogue cards at the SLV some years ago. The article made me reflect on the prodigious human effort of generating all those individual cards. The card catalogue at the State Library is vast. Once the great cornerstone of collection access, this leviathan now sleeps in the catacombs under the reading rooms, overtaken by the information revolution.
Like most libraries, we stopped generating catalogue cards at the SLV some years ago… [it] made me reflect on the prodigious human effort of generating all those individual cards.
There were still a few bundles of abandoned cards hidden away in nooks and crannies about the library and I wanted to use them to acknowledge this transition. No longer used for their intended purpose could they still be used to capture and share information?
The other half of the story came from the little red pencils. The library has offered scrap paper and half size red HB pencils at service desks in the reading rooms for a long time. Over the years the little red pencils have disappeared in their thousands, recording innumerable notes, ideas and messages in their travels. They are generous tokens of what the library means and invite our users to write something down, to connect thought and action.
The pencils and cards coexisted in the library for many years – the cards offering their knowledge, the pencils passing it on or interpreting it in the form of reader’s notes, before pursuing a fancy free existence circulating in the wide world of ideas, reminders, shopping lists and doodles.
This exhibition unites these two icons – the catalogue cards and little pencils – the obsolete and the ephemeral
This exhibition unites these two icons – the catalogue cards and little pencils – the obsolete and the ephemeral, to see what they might become, released from the rules of organized knowledge. It is a chance to reflect on time spent at the library learning, imagining, creating, and to share some of those thoughts.
In developing the concept for the exhibition I wanted to offer of an idea that everyone could take part in and could include all sorts of formats – drawing, writing, collage, even music. The more I thought about the cards and pencils the more I liked it. It was a small personal format that did not require a big investment or intimidate participants. The materiality of the cards and pencils had great appeal and familiarity, and could unify a diversity of styles and voices. Using found and discarded materials meant the cost of producing the show would be low. The next step was submitting the proposal to the gallery committee for approval. The proposal was endorsed and we then set about planning how to realize the exhibition. The gallery committee consists of a small group of volunteers that includes staff from building facilities, community programs and collections. This mix makes for a great range of skill and functionality across the library. It means we can get a lot done with very few people and everyone on the committee has access to different people who can support and help us.
Using found and discarded materials meant the cost of producing the show would be low.
The exhibition was promoted to staff through emailed invitations, informal conversations and information sessions. The response was overwhelmingly positive which was so encouraging. People loved the idea. Getting people to actually start making work for the show was a little bit harder. There is always something more important that demands attention. However from a slow start, with lots of encouragement, lunchtime drawing sessions, emails and even a little begging, the cards started rolling in. As the curator of the exhibition I got to see all of them first. It was a constant source of surprise and delight. The imagination and diversity of the cards is wonderful. At the opening there were 170 cards from about 40 staff. It was a great event with over 60 people attending. Kate Torney, our CEO, officially launched the exhibition with warm words and high praise for everyone who had contributed. The exhibition is organic and more cards have come in since the opening. It will continue to grow until the exhibition closes in September.
With lots of encouragement, lunchtime drawing sessions, emails and even a little begging, the cards started rolling in.
I think Wildcards and Fugitives still has the potential to expand and grow as a project. As an installation it could be reconfigured in many different contexts. I’d be interested to hear from creative people in other libraries who would like to contribute. It would be nice to see the exhibition in a more public venue. One of the drawbacks of the staff gallery space is that it is not in a public area of the library so access to a wider audience is limited. Perhaps we can find another gallery to exhibit in so more people can have the chance to enjoy it.
It can be challenging taking on projects like this above and beyond “normal” work, especially when resources are stretched in the first place. You need to be pretty committed to achieving your aims as there is always something more pressing demanding your attention and everyone is busy. You also need a few people who feel the same way so you can encourage and support each other. It’s not easy but it is really rewarding. I am so proud of what we have achieved with Wildcards and Fugitives and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s been a revelation and a joy discovering each new contribution. So many stories have been told and connections made that I think this exhibition will keep on giving and making things happen well after the show is taken down. Library workers are a notoriously humble lot. We are so dedicated to the communities we serve that we rarely find time to acknowledge and value our colleagues and our own work. It is really affirming and important to do this once in a while.
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Wednesday, 28 September 2016
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This year we have the distinct pleasure of hosting updates from Dr. Matt Finch, with whom we’ve worked on a number of LAIP features, as he serves as Creative in Residence at the State Library of Queensland, Australia. This feature digs into history, memory, and what it means to explore the past in a library.
by Matt Finch
I currently serve as Creative in Residence with this library. A lot of my work involves creating play-based events, but libraries are also still defined by their collections and the mission of preserving heritage. So this time round, I wanted to explore what it means to have a creative relationship with the past in a 21st-century library.
We’re joined today by three library professionals from SLQ, explaining how investigation, conservation, and storytelling all play a part in making sure Queensland’s past is kept safe and relevant.
Meet Jacinta, Laura, and Gavin: the Memory Squad.
The Mysterious Mountaineer
It came down to old-school Photoshop and a serious case of FOMO: the historical record tweaked to indulge an enthusiastic mountaineer.
The truth of the case never would have emerged but for Jacinta Sutton and her love of the Glass House Mountains.
“Sometimes people think history is unimportant, or boring because it’s old-fashioned; the future can seem so much more appealing. But just by getting up in the morning, you’re creating history.”
Jacinta is a project officer in the State Library’s Discovery team, which facilitates access to library holdings online.
“We try to put the library’s digital collections in spaces where people already are,” she says with a wry smile when we meet over coffee one weekday morning.
Not a Queenslander by birth, Jacinta discovered the Glass House mountains when she and her partner moved to the state.
“We used to go to the mountains every weekend and they became our friends,” she explains.
The mountains lie some forty miles north of the State Library of Queensland’s headquarters in central Brisbane. Created by volcanic activity twenty-seven million years ago, they perch high above Australia’s Sunshine Coast, incorporated within a national park spanning almost two thousand acres.
At the State Library, Jacinta discovered many items which refer to this group of mountains, reflecting their enormous importance to Queensland’s heritage. The local Indigenous name for the group of mountains is disputed, but according to one of the sources Jacinta consulted, in the Gubbi Gubbi language they are known as “daki comon” meaning “stones standing up”. In May 1770, the mountains were seen for the first time by European eyes, when Captain James Cook spotted them from Australia’s eastern coast, and wrote:
These hills lie but a little way inland, and not far from each other: they are very remarkable on account of their singular form of elevation, which very much resemble glass houses, which occasioned my giving them that name.
“In Australia,” Jacinta says, “it’s particularly important to empower Indigenous communities and give them control of cultural heritage – not just interpret their culture and history.”
“Ignorance causes prejudice to fester and allows false stories to perpetuate. If we know what has happened in the past, we can see why things are as they currently are, and figure out how to change that. I’m not sure we’ll get as far as I would like in my life time, but what we’re doing now will be instrumental in letting future generations make that change.”
Fighting ignorance and uncovering the truth of the past takes many forms. At times, Jacinta finds herself playing detective, as when she unearthed a photograph from 1912 recording the first successful ascent of Mount Coonowrin by women.
Three sisters, Jenny, Sara, and Etty Clark, made the ascent accompanied by Jack Sairs, Willie Fraser, and photographer George Rowley.
Something about the photo struck the sharp-eyed library worker as wrong. “I thought they must have used a really modern camera with a timer to take that picture, because all six of them are in it. And the man on the far right isn’t facing the same way as the others, the grass around him is a different colour…”
Jacinta unearthed the original image in the Bankfoot House Collection held by Sunshine Coast Library.
In this version, only five people appear in the photograph. The missing figure is George Rowley, the photographer himself.
“It’s an early example of Photoshop,” jokes Jacinta. “I think he added himself when printing the photo for inclusion in The Queenslander. Who could blame him for not wanting to miss out?”
The case of the mysterious mountaineer reminds us that heritage is an ongoing conversation; that the truth of the past can never be taken for granted; and even in the world of “sepia and beards”, we find intriguing stories which aren’t so far from today’s world of Photoshop and social media.
Conservation at the State Library is a practical affair, with a big demand for hands-on skills. Staff might be expected to repair books, prepare materials for scanning, create displays using textiles, and even install exhibitions.
Still, it surprised Laura Daenke in her job interview when they asked her, hypothetically, how she’d prepare a cornet for display.
“I was applying for a role as Assistant Paper Conservator,” Laura explains. “The interview was very practical: they gave scenarios and asked what you would do, what materials you would use, what concerns you might have.”
The musical instrument presented an unusual challenge, but Laura passed with flying colours and soon found herself joining SLQ’s conservation team.
Then she found out the cornet was real.
“We had to buy a trumpet stand from a music store; at least it was purpose built. We covered it with parsilk, which dressmakers use to mock up clothes. It was difficult to cover the stand, so I made it look fluid, ruffling the material so it was pretty!”
The instrument dated back to 1919, a gift to the bandmaster of the 9th Battalion Band on his return from Gallipolli and the Western Front. But Laura’s team rarely have time to investigate objects’ provenance.
“Conservation blends science and creativity, history and geography, plus patience and dexterity,” she tells me. “We’d love to spend more time learning the stories behind the objects – but we’re swiftly on to fixing the next thing.”
“Fixing” objects has changed a lot too. These days conservators like Laura find ways to make objects stable and useful, but they also try to ensure that future conservators can undo their repairs if need be.
“In the past, people have used substances like PVA-type glues, which can be hard to reverse. We’re stuck with the consequences of their choices now, and we know that future generations may have better technology than us, so we try to make everything reversible if possible.”
The main goal of a conservator at the library is not to restore the object to its original condition, but to make sure that deterioration stops and the object is stable.
“We fix a tear in a page so that people can read the book, not to restore it to its condition on the day of publication; we repair crinkled, stained, or ripped objects so that they can be scanned and digitised. Libraries are about information, and our job is to preserve the information in the object. ”
The Memory Surgeon
“How we record our stories matters,” says Gavin Bannerman, Executive Director at Queensland Memory. “We’re trying to keep them alive to create new knowledge.”
Gavin sees his role as being akin to that of a surgeon, “transplanting” memories so that they are not lost but endure within the living framework of the library.
“We make a place for a story to live, so a broader community can not only experience the past, but make new things from it.”
Gavin and I have worked on a couple of projects during my year with the State Library, both about rescuing or uncovering neglected aspects of Queensland’s past.
The television chef Bernard King came to our attention by chance early in 2016. One of Australia’s first gay television stars, King was a flamboyant and acerbic talent judge and chef, notorious for his barbed humour and all-but-inedible recipes.
Rejected by the industry that he’d served for most of his life, he died in poverty and was swiftly forgotten – but his story, as a Queenslander and a pioneer of the Australian media, remains of vital interest.
Gavin and I discovered that King’s biographer had recorded three days of interviews shortly before his death in 2002. The State Library entered into negotiations and acquired these tapes for their digital archive, so that generations to come will still be able to hear King’s story in his own words.
“It might sound dramatic, comparing this to life-saving surgery, but it’s just as high stakes,” says Gavin. “If you make a slip when trying to save a memory, there’s no way of recovering it. The past, by definition, is never coming back – and if we miss our chance to save and share it, we don’t get another. The apparently mundane business of archives is actually the highest stakes, most dramatic thing any library does.”
As Jacinta Sutton puts it; “When you know the history of the place you live, you feel more connected to that place. The more layers of history we discover, the more we understand our investment in that connection, and the more we strive to make our own layer of history count. Libraries have the power and position to invigorate the history our society can otherwise take for granted.”
Enjoyed your visit with the Memory Squad? Upcoming projects from the State Library of Queensland’s Memory and Discovery teams include celebrations of the Bee Gees’ links to Queensland and the Australian contribution to Doctor Who, plus a digital collaboration with the British Library. Find out more at the State Library website.
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Last year, Germany’s capital city of Berlin embraced the first ever Maker Faire Berlin, a vibrant celebration that showcased 120 maker exhibits and drew 7,800 attendees. The organizers, Heinz Heise, the German publishing company who produces a German-language version of Make: magazine, have also been hosting Maker Faire Hannover for […]
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Tuesday, 27 September 2016
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by Andrew Harbison
The Seattle Public Library launched PlayBack just over a month ago with 50 incredible albums by Seattle’s musicians, joining libraries in Madison and Edmonton as the latest to build a local music collection using Rabble’s MUSICat platform.
From the start, the Seattle community has wholeheartedly embraced PlayBack. The library received a flood of submissions—nearly 300 albums—during an open call to local musicians. Seattle is an active and amazing music city, and MUSICat sites are incredibly effective at generating opportunities for community engagement.
These kinds of collections—built on a licensing relationship between the library and the artist—seem to automatically generate engagement that goes beyond collection use, teaching communities about the amazing work their neighbors create. This makes PlayBack the perfect project for The Seattle Public Library, which has a strategic goal of engaging local creative communities in new ways by offering relevant, inclusive, and participatory programs and services, as well as representing the work of these communities in the Library’s collections.
These kinds of collections—built on a licensing relationship between the library and the artist—seem to automatically generate engagement that goes beyond collection use.
Librarians in Seattle are working hard to foster engagement by integrating the digital and physical aspects of their collections, programs, and services. One great example: the launch party held at Seattle’s historic Columbia City Theater that featured performances by PlayBack artists Sun Breaks and Fly Moon Royalty as well as a popular local radio station DJ Sharlese from KEXP’s Audioasis local music program who was spinning PlayBack artists all night.
The Library plans to identify ways it can integrate PlayBack music and artists into other programs and services. For example, plans are in the works to play and promote PlayBack music at author readings and other events. PlayBack albums exist in the Library’s general catalog, alongside books, media, and other content in the collection. The Library is also prominently featuring and promoting PlayBack on its social media channels.
These ideas demonstrate how The Seattle Public Library team is embracing PlayBack’s potential as a vehicle for supporting local artists. The Library paid $10,000 in licensing fees to 50 musicians for the opening collection and is working with other community partners to strengthen collective resources to better support local artists. Librarians also feel very fortunate to have a Foundation that is supportive of the Library’s interest in—and need to—innovate.
Challenges often come with innovation, and we have had our share. Managing the jurying process for 300 submissions pushed us to create new solutions. The library team developed a new evaluation workflow for the community jurists who helped curate the opening collection. They also spent time working with their business office to find a way to compensate artists within existing systems and standards. The Rabble team learned a lot about how to make MUSICat’s administrative tools more supportive of large jurying processes. These are exactly the kinds of challenges we were hoping to face as this amount of successful engagement is a welcome problem to have!
Andrew Harbison is the Assistant Director of Collections and Access for The Seattle Public Library system, where he oversees Technical and Collection Services, Materials Distribution Services, and Circulation Services.
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Monday, 26 September 2016
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Sunday, 25 September 2016
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Saturday, 24 September 2016
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Friday, 23 September 2016
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When planning a makerspace, most think about designing for creativity. It’s important to think about the types of projects that will be completed in the space, how many people will use the space at any given time, and the equipment on your must-have versus nice-to-have lists. However, there are also a […]
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Catch the latest ways makers are impacting business and technology this week. Check out how Baltimore's budding makerspace scene is buildign entrepreneurial spirit and how a CNC machine can make a big difference for a small company.
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When you drink soda, bubbles of carbon dioxide (CO2) cause the tingling sensation on your tongue. In addition to the physical sensation, the CO2 combines with your saliva to produce carbonic acid, which is an important flavor component of carbonated beverages. If you’ve ever taken a swig of flat soda […]
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Thursday, 22 September 2016
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This is Part 2 of a two-part series in our local music survey brought to us by LAIP writer Bryan Voell. Part 1 featured physical collections of local music in public libraries.
by Bryan Voell
What is ‘local music’? It’s being defined and redefined everyday by an increasing number of public libraries. From analog archives documenting a region’s musical history to purely digital collections of streaming music accessible by everyone, local music collections are reaching wide audiences. While by no means comprehensive list, these are some of the most notable archival and/or digital local music projects at public libraries here and abroad.
Digital Music Projects
Volume Denver (Denver Public Library): http://ift.tt/1uSuYIB
Scope: While the emphasis is on Denver music, any Colorado artist is encouraged to submit their music to the project.
Features: More than 200 local albums with a broad range of genres.
Access: Song snippets are freely available regardless of membership. To hear full songs and create playlists, a DPL card is required.
Capital City Records (Edmonton Public Library): http://ift.tt/1DqDKGB
Scope: Edmonton (Alberta, Canada)
Features: 76 and counting artists, many with bios and reviews. CCR’s gig poster archive is a trove of concert poster artwork that goes back to the 1970s.
Access: Free streaming for everyone. Downloads require EPL account.
Lawrence Music Project (Lawrence Public Library): http://ift.tt/2cw27cv
Scope: Lawrence, Kansas
Features: With more than 100 albums, the Lawrence Music Project also serves as a digital archive of the city’s local music scene.
Access: Must have LPL card to access content.
Local Music Project (Iowa City Public Library): http://music.icpl.org/
Scope: Iowa City, Iowa, and the surrounding area
Features: Nearly 100 albums, covering everything from folk, bluegrass to rap, metal, ambient, jazz and more.
Access: 30 second song previews for non-ICPL card-holders. Those with accounts can download individual songs.
Yahara Music Library (Madison Public Library): http://ift.tt/1ndCdYz
Scope: Madison, Wisconsin
Features: Nearly 65 albums and artists. Artist bios and reviews.
Access: Music is only streamable and downloadable by MPL card holders.
Download Nebraska (Omaha Public Library): http://ift.tt/1UbYkNd
Scope: Open to all Nebraskan artists.
Features: 50+ albums. A collaboration between the Omaha Public Library and Hear Nebraska.
Access: Open streaming for everyone. Downloads exclusive to cardholders
SoundSwell (Santa Cruz Public Library): http://ift.tt/2cYIjvy
Scope: Santa Cruz County
Features: 180+ albums.
Access: Utilizes SoundCloud to allow free streaming. Downloads are exclusive to cardholders.
PlayBack (Seattle Public Library): http://ift.tt/2cYIXJr
Scope: Seattle, Washington
Features: This recently unveiled project features 50 albums
Access: Open streaming for everyone. Downloads with SPL card.
Wellington Music (Wellington City Libraries, NZ): http://ift.tt/2cYIvuX
Scope: Wellington, New Zealand
Features: “Both a history of Wellington music and bands [and] a page that can act as a repository for audio, video, photographic & other related material.” Music is presented via links to artists’ Bandcamp pages.
Access: Open to everyone.
Make Some Noise (Toronto Public Library): http://ift.tt/1p9EkM5
Scope: Covers both local Toronto and other Canadian artists
Features: Music reviews, artist profiles and TPL performance features. Mostly updated monthly.
Access: Open access to everyone.
Listen Local (Johnson County Library): http://ift.tt/2cYIVkV
Scope: Greater Kansas City area
Features: Interviews with and recommendations from original local songwriters and composers
Access: Freely available to all
Bryan Voell is currently the Local Arts Librarian for the Johnson County (KS) Library. He received his MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007 and has worked for public, academic, and research libraries in various capacities since 1997. He is also a collage artist and you can see more of his art here.
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