Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What does it take to be a Youth Librarian?

Here it is - my first in-blog interview!! And it's with colleague Christine May who is our Youth Librarian, looking after the 13-25 age group at verbYL. Christine is aged 27, she is a new(ish) graduate and this is her first professional posting.
Q: What made you decide on librarianship as a career in the first place?
I finished my arts degree and took a year off, then thought about what I was good at - and came up with "people" and "books" - so librarianship seemed a good choice.

Q. And what attracted you to this job (ie at Livingstone)?

Primarily it was open and accepting of new graduates. I had had trouble finding a position in Melbourne - everyone seemed to be looking for someone with experience. And also it sounded different to other youth librarian positions.

Q. Now that you've been in the job for more than a year, what would you say have been your biggest achievements?

Developing a rapport with young people. That was definitely a challenge. But beyond that, developing programs such as the Reader's Lounge, Study Group, 18+ Club, and getting the website and ezine up and running (stumbling).

Professional development opportunities have been fantastic - I am especially proud of my presentation about verbYL at the Patrick Jones seminar at the State Library of Queensland; yesterday I did a presentation to regional school library staff and teachers and this was well received. We continue to get enquiries and visits from librarians and community development staff who are interested in this unique model of service to young people. I love showing off my library.

Q. And the greatest challenges?

Similar to the achievements really!

Q.What qualities would you say a Youth Librarian would need to succeed in an environment like verbYL?

They would need to really like young people. This is something you cannot fake. You need to be willing to handle challenging behaviour, and not to hold "grudges". Applying the rules (like "no drinks in the computer room" )can make you occasionally unpopular. You have to take each young person on each day "fresh" if you can, and maintaining your sense of humour is essential. And a good knowledge of youth culture - what they're interested in.

Well that's my first in-blog interview! If you would like to contact Christine, please feel free to email on


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Men's Memorabilia

In the interest of randomly delighting our members, we try to lay on a variety of quirky displays or exhibitions (despite the general lack of space or purpose built display area - if we let that stop us we would never do anything). One source of display materials is the Queensland Museum, and taking pot luck with what sounded sort of interesting, we ordered the "Men's Memorabilia" kit. This kit gets a lot of use at seniors' villages etc. and is an interesting collection of smoking and shaving paraphenalia, long johns and woolen singlets from the 40s, and even a "naturist" magazine from 1937 (there is a nudity warning!). We'll wait with interest to see what reactions it evokes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Youth Space Comparison Oz & US

Thanks to contact with Katherine Gould via this blog, I have discovered another Youth Library very similar to verbYL but not quite the same, in the Palos Verdes Library District in California. Check out this fab facility ("The Annex") at Kathy's blog. Man if we had that sort of space...jealousy aside, the point of interest for me is the sharing of the facility with a non-profit youth services organisation - ie the library staff operate the Annex at certain times, and quite separately the youth services operate at different times. (verbYL operates library and youth services concurrently - I have yet to see another example of this anywhere). I note also that session times are set aside for specific age groups (see here for Annex hours) and this is something we have also been experimenting with. Our challenge is to meet our state government's definition of "youth" as 12-25 - a huge range. For some time we have instituted an 18+ only (in Australia 18 is the legal adult age) night on Thursday nights with little success - the main problem being having to turf out the under 18's after 7 pm (don't they grumble!) and just not very many over 18s turning up - for various reasons. Although the few that do come are very protective of their exclusive time. So at the Youth Worker's suggestion we're going with a different night (not previously open so no need to physically turf out the young ones cos they wouldn't normally be there) and rebranding as a uni student/young worker Internet cafe deal. See how that goes.

With the new school year just started in Australia, a whole batch of 12/13 year olds new to High School have become eligible for membership. So far mainly the younger siblings of current users are joining up, but I was worried that parents of families completely new to verbYL would be a bit ikey about letting them mix with the established, "older" crowd. So we've established a "newbies" session just for new members in grades 8 & 9 (roughly 12-14 year olds). "Old" members in this category are allowed to come to this session IF they bring new members!! So far we planned to let this run for a couple of months with a view that the younger ones would then be ready to be "unleashed" into the general crowd. Personally I think there may be merit in maintaining an younger age specific session indefinitely as we certainly have had some negative feedback from parents about mixing up the ages. It's yet to be promoted effectively but I have high hopes of its success.

Study Group kicked off the new year with a great attendance (16 students) and Reader's Lounge is slowly taking off, so optimism there too.

Next month I'm off to Adelaide for the "Learning Futures: Public Libraries for the New Generations" conference organized by the tireless library advocate Dr Alan Bundy. The program is excellent! including US speaker Patrick Jones who I hear is very inspirational. I will of course, as is my habit, be blogging from the Conference!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bizarre beginning in Second Life

After reading the post in LINT about the Australian Library building in Second Life (for the uninitiated you might like to read wikipedia article about SL here), thought I'd better give it a go. Signed up (SL name "Joy Raymaker") and off I teleported to Cyrbrary Island without the benefit (?) of doing the orientation - no worries, my 10 year old knew what to do! Had me flying in no time! Trouble was, Cybrary Island was deserted at the time I was there. And getting around was a bit haphazard, with the jerky lag on my laptop not very conducive to smooth locomotion! Not to worry, I did a bit of dancing at the party spot on my own. Very groovy (not to mention incredibly athletic) moves. If I could reproduce those in real life I'd be pretty happy.

Then trouble. My 10 year old takes forcable control of the keyboard and takes off all my clothes! Appears it's such a commonly required feature in SL that it has its own drop down button! Thank God the place is deserted! What if my library colleagues were to see me dancing naked? Trouble is, there's no "undo" or even "put my clothes back on!" button; so I hurriedly logged off (before 10 year old demon could do any more harm), hoping that next time I logged back on my clothes would magically reappear.

No such luck. Still starkers. Laborious reading of the on -line help, while, thank God, I still haven't met anyone. Finally, after lots of experimentation and not really knowing what the hell I'm doing, I end up with some suitably modest attire, and have a look around the rest of the Island, including the Australian Libraries Building. Finally, I see a figure approaching in the distance, at first I think it's a woman in an elegant flowing dress, but as the figure approaches I see that it is in fact a rather hefty man with a beard - in an elegant flowing dress! And a most peculiar feeling of acute embarrassment comes over me - what should I do? I end up rudely following this dude around while I try to figure out what buttons to push etc, but he/she finally saves me by typing "Hello" - I type "hi" - and it seems this is the end of our exchange, as "Spenser" (I forget his surname) rapidly moves away from me. Oh well.

I will read VLINT (the Second Life offshoot of LINT) to try and glean some clues as to how to make SL a worthwhile professional development experience - must work out how to turn up to events (without 10 year old).

In the meantime, I'm thinking about whether/how I might introduce SL to my customers here in real public library land. It would be kinda fun to introduce the older generation to it - I've gobsmacked some of them with the world of blogs and podcasts during previous presentations and training - even if they never become "residents", it's nice for older folk to know what the hell people are talking about! But oh dear, nude dancing! (and worse) - and then there's the other end of the scale, what real applications might it have for our youth library verbYL?

The mind is boggling...

Friday, February 02, 2007

"Wikipedia make homework go BOOM!"

...thus spake my 15 year old son upon completing his set assignment ("find out some info about artist Man Ray for tomorrow's lesson") in about 5 minutes flat - for those not familiar with youth speak this roughly translates as "Wikipedia made my search for this topic extremely easy and supplied just the right amount of information for my level of education".
Ironically, 3 of his fellow students came into the (my) library yesterday afternoon and asked the library staff to help them find exactly the same information - which we did quite efficiently using BOOKS. But methinks - how much longer will we be called on to do so? The winds of change...