Sunday, September 07, 2008

Youth Library voted "The Best" project

I nearly titled this blog "Best of the Best of the Best..." but that just sounded too pretentious. Yes, my (somewhat imperfect) presentation on verbYL (youth library/youth lounge) to the delegates attending the satellite public library event to the ALIA main conference, "Library Stars: Best of the Best 2008" was voted the best of the three projects (narrowly I'm sure as the other 2 projects were awesome). Little did I know that, in addition to several "big name" public librarians from Australia who I have admired, and many fellow "real public librarians" from cities and towns who are plugging away in their own corners of the world much like myself, my audience also consisted of keynote speakers and library luminaries of international fame , namely Stephen Abram, Vice President Innovations of SirsiDynix and a well-known "futurist" of the library world; (I commented to him that I recognized his voice from the many introductions to the SirsiDynix Institute's live and podcast PD events which I highly, highly recommend); Inga Lunden, City Librarian, Stockholm; and Claudia Lux, DG of the Foundation Central and Regional Library Berlin, Germany, and President of IFLA. Unlike the main conference, the "Library Stars" presentations had a more relaxed, workshop feel and a little bit of luxury with regards the tempo of the delivery of papers. I didn't read from my "paper", rather I took a chance by ad libbing to the powerpoint presentation, letting the many natural and unstaged photos of young people using verbYL (and a short video taken completely candidly one afternoon by the youth worker assistant, starting with a young man doing some impromptu rap dancing (wouldn't be allowed at the State Library, see earlier posts for the joke) and panning around to young people engaged in various activities from reading, playing cards, using the Internet, and just generally having a great time, to tell its own story more eloquently than I could ever express in words (unfortunately we didn't ever get permission of the young people depicted in the video to allow public airing via eg Youtube)). I got some wonderfully encouraging comments from colleagues afterwards, which is always nice.

I think it was Claudia who asked me, after the presentation(I was a bit nervous you understand - hopefully the transcripts will be published and show who asked what), what was next? What was the developmental outcome? I'm afraid I stuffed that answer up by mumbling something I had written in my APLIS paper about "having struck a winning formula, we just build on that." However, thinking about it later (as you do think about the things you should have said over and over in your mind at 2 in the morning), I realized I should have said: even after 2 1/2 years of operation, we are still working on making this model work - fulfill it's full potential. As Inga commented in her presentation about the youth library in Stockholm, there is about a 9 month generation for youth library users - waves of new users present constant challenges (although in our experience, we still have a strong group of young people who have been with us from day 1). And local governments have to be brave to support agencies that support the truly disengaged sectors of society - and youth suffer doubly from negative stereotyping. Perhaps it is not so much development that we should be concentrating on, but celebrating survival.

I also got to thinking, that since I have been touting verbYL as a model of service and as a living experiment of the model in practice, via conferences (we were an exhibitor at the Queensland Public Librarians Association in 2006 I think it was and awarded a special recognition for innovation in library services there), exposure to the local government sector as winners of the
2006 Youth Engagement Award of DOTARS and subsequent Leading Practice Seminar "Investing in youth" presented to youth workers and agencies in Mt Gambier South Australia in 2007, publication of articles in APLIS and Incite in 2007 and 2008, presentation to Queensland children's and youth services and school librarians in Queensland by Youth Librarian Christine May, including in the audience recognized youth library services guru Patrick Jones, who said nice things about verbYL via a personal email for the "Library Stars" submission; and coming up, Christine will present her outstanding perspective on "The most unusual library job in the world" with delegates at the New Grads conference in December; despite ALL THIS, the ONE measure of success that I have not had the pleasure of getting is someone saying "Because I heard you/read bout verbYL/visited verbYL, I have....." It wouldn't have to be "We started a facility just like verbYL", because that depends on so many factors. I would love to hear, we adapted your model by doing....(eg talking to our community services department, partnering more closely with youth agencies, reinventing our youth services culture, employing a youth worker) Only THEN will I be truly, professionally, satisfied.

PS now being on a high from this conference, very keen to conference me!
PPS why didn't we have a blogger's meet up at the conference? Geez you only think of these things after the event...


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