Saturday, August 27, 2005

Australian Library and Info Association shows enlightened attitude to Blogging

As an ALIA member, I have joined the ALIA's Professional Development scheme which encourages members to commit to a self-devised program of professional development. For various activities (eg formal study, attending conferences, professional reading etc) you accumulate points; if you accumulate the required number of points over a three year period you have in theory shown that you are developing professionally and can use Certified Practitioner (CP) after your post-nominals.

When I was off work the other day with a sick child, I sat down for the long overdue task of recording my "points" for the CPD scheme; and I idly got to wondering whether blogging would count. I sent an email to the CPD coordinator, and was very pleased with her reply:

"Yes, 'blogs' certainly do qualify as a PD activity ... a couple actually. Professional Reading 1 point per hour, 10 points maximum per year when you read the 'blog'. Personal Study Project 2 points per hour, 20 points maximum per year if you are responsible for the co-ordination and content of the 'blog' ; or possibily Publications category 1 point per hour, 10 points max per year if you prepare say a non-referred article to be published in electronic form."

So there you go! Officially sanctioned! Blogging as a recognized professional development activity!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Gamers and Boomers

Have just read "Staying in the game: How to create environments for Boomers and Gamers in your library" which was brought to my attention by Anna from State Library (thanks Anna for your work over the years in sending these great info pointers to public librarians in Queensland). An American sociologist called John Beck is probably amongst the first to state the bleeding obvious - to quote, "he is convinced that video games are not an insignificant pastime played by spike-haired nerds but a generation-shaping activity that, over time, will reshape behavior patterns, beliefs, arts, business, institutions—the entire culture. His book, Got Game, which he co-authored with colleague Mitchell Wade, explains the impact the Gamer generation will have on society."

Man, can I relate to this. Not only am I a boomer myself, but having had kids relatively late in life, I also co-habit with a real live product of the gamer generation in the form of my teenage son. Just as my generation were "babysat" by the TV, my son first learned to manipulate a mouse at the age of two and the computer became his constant companion. One day when he was 5 we decided to conduct a little experiment - let him play on the computer as long as he wanted. He went for 8 hours without a break. By age 7, he was learning to read by my narrating "Final Fantasy" to him as he played it on the Playstation. School held little interest for him (still barely does) as it rarely intersects with his gaming world. He now regularly spends around 30 hours per week playing, making, or talking about games with flesh-and-blood friends and with "virtual" friends on on-line forums. He thinks nothing of communicating globally with other gamers, and considers many of them to be actual "friends" even though he doesn't even know their real names. He webcams with another teenager in Hong Kong, and he has been "friends" with a 16 year old in the US for two years. He also reads - if we don't have a book in the house for him to read he roams the house like a hungry animal - so the argument about kids being spoiled for reading by gaming is not proven in his case. His teachers, many being boomers themselves, find it hard to understand his obsession and are largely dismissive of it as a waste of time or distracting from his studies. His ambition is to become a game developer. But maybe the job market in this field will be a bit crowded by the time he comes along - what other job could his profound knowledge of gaming prepare him for? The article does offer up some hope for a worried parent, but only time will tell.

As for pulic libraries, again the answers offered are becoming common sense - eg create zones, cater to the differing cultures etc. Not rocket science. And because it is relatively easy and we are doing it, there is a great chance that libraries will continue to be relevant to all the generations.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Youth E-zine and other stuff on the "to do" list

Thanks to the generosity of the State Library of Queensland through its innovative new funding project "Queensland Stories" we are preparing to offer local youth aged 13-25 a chance to publish their words, poetry, digital art and photography in a Youth Library E-Zine. On offer too are free workshops for small groups (10-15) to learn skills in these areas, plus website design and editorial skills. Scary at first when faced with the enormity of the task - but then presenters are booked, press releases and flyers come together and excitement builds.

Other great projects coming up in the next twelve months include a reprise of the "Armchair Traveller" series; a workshop on "Altered Book Art" (after all, we have plenty of raw materials in the form of our weeded stock!); and an art appreciation course for adults. Our pilot book group will be expanding to two offerings - "The Classics" (doesn't everyone resolve to read/reread the classics one day when they retire?), and "Contemporary Australian." AND for those who can't physically come to the library, a "virtual" book group based on a dedicated blog (now that I know how easy that is to do!). And an idea we "stole" from another library, with a great acronym - "GOAL" - Grade Ones At the Library - the goal for us is to increase circulation at our second branch library by establishing a relationship with all the grade ones from the local school. Every class will be invited to visit the library, and library staff will visit the school from time to time too. Hopefully we will reach the families/siblings this way as well.

As if we weren't already bursting with ideas aplenty, we are all looking forward to some staff training being offered by Libraries Alive! - a three day course on reader advisory - sure to load us up with some more fantastic ideas.

A bit of a scary task on my list is developing the detailed brief for the new main branch library. We will be tendering for the most innovative/exciting consultants to help us develop a unique paradigm for our library service.

Our Youth Library is still being decorated - incredibly funky, I must post pictures when it's done - but a shortage of trades people is severely holding us up (our community is still in the grip of the "sea change" building boom). Most of the furniture (including comfy funky chairs in black and orange) and library fittings (not a single metal shelf - all specially commisioned "slatwall" gondolas in black and silver reflective with perspex face-out only shelving) and the various game consoles/huge plasma TV are in storage until the interior is finished. WE HAVE A NAME - 118 young people submitted suggestions for our "space" and a team of young people decided on the final one - it is BRILLIANT and you would not be able to guess it in a million years - but not officially sanctioned yet so must keep hush hush (also until we buy the domain name so nobody else steals it!)

All in all, a year to look forward to...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Blog with pictures!

Library staff ham it up on a Vespa during the Italian Night of the Armchair Travel Program.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Life/Library Balance

Being a "real" public librarian, I also have a life away from the library. Or I try to - there is a temptation to put in many extra hours (well, I give my employer a few freebies but only because I choose to do things that I enjoy that are not strictly speaking part of my job description eg opening the boxes of new books after hours to see what's come in!) and/or continue to read/blog library stuff at home (guilty there too). However, ever conscious of the importance of the work/life balance to personal productivity, I have taken up sculpture as a non-work related hobby. By working the late shift on Wednesdays, I can attend classes on Wednesday mornings.

Generally for the first hour of the class I suffer from non-specific anxiety because I should be at the library and what if they need me and what if the manager calls with something urgent and what if something terrible happens and what if...But around about the hour mark the "flow" kicks in and I spend the next 2 hours working on my sculpture with a quiet mind and usually finish up feeling remarkably refreshed.

The classes are given in a studio atmosphere in a peaceful rural setting. There are the occasional outbursts of despair and cursing when something goes wrong or falls off, but the teacher (herself a skilled artisan) just reassures us that everything is resolvable or repairable. It's also nice to observe and reflect on the "studio" model of skill sharing - no one is pressured, everyone learns at their own pace on projects that interest them, and we all observe each others' work and share each others' frustrations, techniques, and triumphs.

At the risk of sounding sugary sweet, what a wonderful model for a workplace (such as a library, for instance). Just not sure about library customers in the equation, how could we imbue them with calm too...