Event Wrap Up: Talk, Collaborate and Listen!

On Wednesday 30th October, ALIA SNGG NSW held a workshop called Talk, Collaborate and Listen, run by Sally Turbitt. This was a replay of her popular workshop from NLS9 in Adelaide earlier this year.

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During the workshop, participants were encouraged to think about their personal values, and we began this process by looking at Sally’s own values list, and then brainstorming other values that could go on such a list.

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Participants had time to work on their own lists and discuss their values with other participants, and the final lists (although always works in progress) will help them find the positions that are right for them.

The next key part of the workshop was collaboration.  Participants created a list of questions they had about the GLAMR industry and we collaborated together with ideas as to the answers to those questions or where the answers could be found. Sally also shared some tips she gleaned through a Twitter discussion, which anyone can benefit from, even if they weren’t able to attend the workshop.IMG_1407.JPG

Participants came away from the event feeling empowered to move forward in their GLAMR careers and build professional networks.

Event Wrap Up: GLAMSLAM19

by Liz Parnell.

GLAMSLAM19 was an incredible gathering of minds from within, and outside, the GLAM sector. It was a great opportunity to catch up with people I’ve met before, and meet new people in the sector.

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We were challenged to use our GLAM Power to support the planet and reduce climate change, we examined the idea of value, and were treated to 20+ lightning talks from a wide range of people. My favourite lightning talks were about how to work with Indigenous collections and Indigenous communities, especially as a non-Indigenous person.

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The final part of the program involved us splitting into “GLAMJAMS” – small groups that would chat about a chosen topic. The table I joined discussed the future of the catalogue. Our conclusions were – metadata is essential and without it our catalogues are useless. We need to create quality metadata, metadata that acknowledges we cannot fathom all the ways our patrons will want to use our collections, but for that we need funding/budget support. We’d also like to see evidence that the collections are being used.

Personally, I was most interested in the topics which touched on cataloguing, metadata and Indigenous issues – which was a lot. Added to that was my personal exploration of the venue – the State Library of NSW – examining realia on display, the accompanying catalogue record and the card catalogues that are still present in the Mitchell Reading Room.

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To hear what others thought of GLAMSLAM19, checkout the Twitter hashtag, #GLAMSLAM19

Event Wrap Up: ALIA Information Online 2019

Last month, I had the incredible experience of volunteering at the ALIA Information Online conference.

Monday was a quiet day. My first workshop was a classroom technology session that involved 3D printing, playing with robots, iPads and VR (virtual reality). The workshop was interesting and it exposed me to some classroom tech options I hadn’t experienced before.

Four blue robots (that each look like four spheres) are on a psychedelic carpet

The conference kicked into full gear on Tuesday. After a site induction we got to sit in on the first keynote from Genevieve Bell about AI (artificial intelligence). I did miss the beginning but really enjoyed her keynote.  She talked about how AI destroys the potential for “serendipitous discovery”. For example, Spotify will recommend more of the same music that you already like, while GPS focuses us on the destination, rather than the journey and the interesting places we pass.  She also explored the concept of what it means for computers to make art – with examples of music and visual art created by computers.  One of the most interesting things she explored was the bias of algorithms, which I have read a little about.  She shared a story about how Kodachrome film was developed, using “model people” (ie people who looked “ideal”) and used that as a benchmark for how to make those people look the best on this film.  Of course, they used only white people.  As a consequence, Sidney Poitier was always sweating profusely on set because they had to have so many spotlights on him for the film to be able to properly capture his facial expressions.  Another example of algorithmic bias is automatic doors set to look for people of a certain height, meaning both particularly tall and particularly short people struggle to get the doors to open for them.  The final message from this keynote was “Build the future you want to live in.  You never do it alone.”

Genevieve Bell

Another Monday keynote I enjoyed was Mike Jones‘ keynote on the unrealised potential of digital collections, which I have talked about in another post. The talk started with the history of cataloguing, and I learned a lot, including that early card catalogues used the back of playing cards (where the back was blank) as a way of standardising the size of the cards in the catalogue.  We traipsed through history, to the modern website of museums and libraries, where entries often resemble a digitised card catalogue, rather than tapping into the potential of hyperlinking and tagging. A great quote from this session (from a guy called Ted Nelson) was “Everything is deeply intertwingled”.  The Tate in the UK does a good job of showing the potential of how we can better catalogue items for users.  The challenge was “What if I told you there is no shelf?” – could we have a non-hierarchical structure for libraries?  Mike Jones left us with this thought – what if we thought of knowledge as the flow of a river, and how would digital collections change if we thought about knowledge in this way?

This is the metadata of a computer held by London Science Museum. It tells you about the physical object but no mention of the backstory that this is the computer Tim Berners Lee programmed the world wide web on

This is the metadata of a computer held by London Science Museum. It tells you about the physical object but no mention of the backstory that this is the computer Tim Berners Lee programmed the world wide web on.

Other highlights of Monday were getting to hear some of the shorter talks.  I learned about the “renovations” of the Trove website. It was great to hear more about one of my favourite library projects – a new logo is coming along with a pile of improvements. 

I also went to a talk called Tinker time, which was about digital literacy for adults. Library staff engaged in their own digital literacy projects to develop their skills and were given space to make mistakes, with the emphasis being on the process and the learning rather than on the finished product.

Tuesday began with a keynote from the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Carla’s keynote (via videolink) was warm, fuzzy and encouraging. Rather than challenging and inspiring. However, I did feel like it was a good balance to have something warm like that.  

Possibly the most memorable workshop at InfoOnline was Five senses of GLAMR. We explored how algorithms turned paintings into sound. How libraries, galleries and museums can improve the experience for their blind and low vision patrons, experienced VR (virtual reality). We also discussed the role of scent and tasted the future of food – insects. It was truly a workshop that needed to be experienced, rather than something I can disseminate in detail.  

We did learn about a really interesting service called Aira, which is a subscription service for blind people. Aira allows an operator to see through smart glasses or a smartphone camera where the vision impaired person is and what is around them. This allows the operator to give them a verbal description of the location.  Libraries, galleries and museums can subscribe to with a geofence. This allows vision impaired people to access Aira for free while they are on the premises, so they can more fully participate in exhibits and exhibitions.  

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The highlight of Thursday, for me, was the strong Indigenous content.  We began the day with a keynote from Terri Janke who talked about Indigenous language and culture in the context of Indigenous Culture and Intellectual Property (ICIP). Even though this isn’t often recognised in copyright laws.  For example, Tasmanian Aboriginal Languages were put onto Wikipedia without consultation with Indigenous communities.  She talked about how to involve Indigenous communities respectfully, particularly through a program called True Tracks, that she has developed. This involves treating Indigenous communities with respect, giving them a right to self-determination and seeking consent and consultation early in the process. Not as an afterthought.

Following this I heard Sophie Herbert talk about a modification of the Harvard referencing system she developed (now endorsed by the University of Technology, Sydney), which acknowledges the country from which Indigenous authors come. It also lists undocumented authors or contributors as “uncredited” rather than the former “unknown”.  The use of “uncredited” puts the onus back on the knowledge gatherer because they didn’t bother to note down the contributor. Rather than suggesting that they were not known.  I also enjoyed hearing Marcus Hughes from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) speak about Indigenous knowledge. Marcus explained that in Indigenous knowledge everything is linked. Unlike the Western view of knowledge where everything is in “silos”.  He also talked about how that worked out in practice when Aunty Bonita Mabo donated Uncle Eddie Mabo’s shirts to the MAAS, and how the Mabo family retains ownership of these artefacts. Even though MAAS is charged of taking care of them and displaying them.

Marcus Hughes stands behind a podium, talking

Other highlights of the week for me were volunteering on the registration desk and getting to greet people and answer their questions; talking to exhibitors (who had masses of freebies); and the delicious food.  I got to meet so many people – many of whom I knew as a Twitter handle.  Kyla, Jane, Hugh, Mel, Nic. Also a shout out to Mylee who was very generous with her time and sharing her experiences of being on the ALIA Info Online 2019 Committee. 

My favourite vendor display

I have lots of ideas for ALIA National 2020, which I am on the Program Committee for! 

Think Global, Act Local: Event Wrap-Up

On Tuesday 30th October I was privileged to be able to attend the Think Global, Act Local Sustainable Development Goals Symposium in Newcastle, hosted by Newcastle City Library and ALIA.

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The day began with a global focus, as our first speaker was Christopher Woodthorpe from the United Nations office in Canberra. Mr Woodthorpe explained the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the 2030 Agenda, which I first heard about through the Turbitt n Duck podcast episode with Pamela McGowan.  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were unanimously agreed to by all 193 UN Member countries and are the “people’s agenda”.  Libraries support sustainable development through equity of access and supporting all people to reach their potential, especially those who are marginalised. ALIA has been one of the biggest supporters of the SDGs in Australia, as they recognise the importance of libraries in promoting them.  Mr Woodthorpe also recommended we read “The Museum of the Future” post on the role of the GLAM Sector in supporting the SDGs.

Next we heard from IFLA president-elect Christine Mackenzie about the International library perspective and the World Library Map.  Ms Mackenzie spoke about how information poverty contributes to financial poverty, which can become an ongoing cycle.  She cited the four barriers to eradicating information poverty to be laws, attitudes, skills and cost.  Above all she said “Libraries are an investment, not a cost”.  The World Library Map uses storytelling to promote the work of libraries in supporting sustainable development and is open for contributions.

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The discussion then moved more local, with ALIA director Sue McKerracher speaking on the work of ALIA in supporting the SDGs in Australia.  She expressed that the government did not at first want to come to the table to discuss the SDGs, until ALIA was able to demonstrate how it could support reporting them.  The big message from Ms McKerracher was “No data without stories; no stories without data.”  ALIA have some information available about how Australian libraries support the SDGs.

Next, we heard from Mylee Joseph about what the State Library of NSW is doing to support the promotion of the SDGs.  The staff played SDG bingo – here’s a service we provide, which of the goals does it fit under? It can be a good way to reframe the existing work of the library to support the SDGs, rather than feeling like supporting them is yet another thing to add to the library.  Home Library Services in NSW are working to support marginalised people, and NSW libraries have trained nearly 7000 seniors in digital literacy.  Ms Joseph proposed that our biggest challenge is to share our work with others who don’t “speak libraries”.

Our last speaker was Lord Mayor of Newcastle Nuatali Nelmes and the Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen, on how Newcastle has worked as a city to set the standard in meeting the SDGs.  Their strategic plan is available online.  The UN have found that they have been able to build better relationships with individual cities to work on the SDGs than they have at a national or state level.

The afternoon session was a Q&A session followed by some workshopping.  The workshops highlighted for me how out of touch with the community some libraries are, and how focused they are on serving the upper and middle class and can forget the most marginalised people in our communities.  As an aspiring librarian, there was a lot I could learn but not a lot of action I can take yet.  However, we were challenged at the end of the day to commit to one action we can take to promote the SDGs.  This blog post is part of my commitment to promoting the Sustainable Development Goals in the library sector.

If you want to know how Australia is doing in its work towards achieving the Sustainable  Development Goals, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a paper available for download.