Slice up your life #cookingforcopyright

My mother in law Margaret was a marvellous maker of slices. She would whip them up for catering for functions at church, and would pack Mr BG back to Melbourne with a slice container after he visited her down in Leongatha.  They would’ve ever present with a cup of tea for morning and afternoon tea.


I have a couple of handwritten recipes that came my way when she passed away. One was for a Sherried Sultana cake and the other was for an apricot date bar. The cake recipe is definitely in Margaret’s hand, but the other is unknown. Speculation from my sister in law Kerry was that it was likely a recipe from a friend and was done as a swap (quite possibly for her chocolate apricot slice :mrgreen:). I love the annotation at the end, “take care not to overcook”.

The thing is with these recipes is that the copyright remains in perpetuity with the author and doesn’t expire 70 years after the death of the author, which is what is held for other creative works. Cooking for copyright is a way to highlight the need for reform to our copyright laws, instigated by the Freedom of Access to Information and Resources, and librarians, who worry a lot about copyright, access to information and sharing lots of stuff- including recipes!


The resulting apricot date bars were nice, a bit like shortbread with date and apricot. I did take care not to overcook them as well. They’ll go into the kids lunch boxes and be nice with a cup of tea, in a nice china cup- another heirloom from Margaret :).

Degrees of separation #blogjune

Ballarat has around 100,000 residents, but it sometimes feels like you know everyone. 

Comparing Facebook friends with a girlfriend, we came across a couple of mutual friends- turns out I knew them through Twitter, and my girlfriend knew them because she was either related to them, or they had worked together at one point. 

I will go for drinks with one group of friends and bump into someone, who will know at least one other person I am with. I am mindful of talking about people, as I just know my words will be heard by a mutual acquaintance.

I have grown used to my circles of acquaintances converging and am somewhat intrigued by the situations that arise.  #becauseBallarat should be a thing :).


Watching the Begonia Festival Parade is more like counting how many people you know…

Of course, it’s like that in Libraryland, but it’s called a Network. I love platforms like Twitter, as my circles have increased to include librarians from other states and sectors. It has come in handy when I introduce myself to someone face to face that I have been conversing with online for ages.

It’s always fun when library circles converge, and they do regularly. One of my work colleagues used to work with Mr BG at the public library, I went to uni studying librarianship
with another work colleague, and the mother of one of Miss BGs mates works with Mr BG. #becauseLibraries ☺

Is there anyone out there? #blogjune

2014-04-05 18.14.33

Fiji sunset, April 2014

This blog post has been simmering away for a couple of weeks. Every time I feel ready to post another post appears on the blogging and libraries and I have to review it again!

I was more a reader of blogs than a writer in the early days, and really only engaged with social media when Miss BG arrived in 2007 (when I was introduced to Facebook,and TwItter). When I first started writing there seemed a wide group of people I knew from Twitter who were blogging, and I developed a good list on my Google Reader.

When I started in 2009, I had something to say, and blogging at that time was a convenient way to say things. Working part time, studying part time and having full time family responsibilities were no impediments to finding the time to write. I could easily ignore the piles of stuff on top of my dining table, Mr BG did his ironing, and as long as little people were fed, I could write and study to my hearts content.

I still have things to say, but now I can say them through Instagram, or I keep them to myself. Whatever is said online is hard to erase and as Sally said, I don’t want my online presence to be a series of rants.

I often wondered were people listening to what I had to say? Yes, you were and I have been gratified over and again with comments, likes and retweets. The medium of blogging has been a way for me to connect to people I would not have otherwise met, and that is probably the best thing to have come out of it. (As blogging does feel like a way of broadcasting my thoughts, my written words are my voice, so people reading my words are ‘listening’ to me and my voice- end clarification :))

I have been a librarian that blogs, not really blogging about libraries. At the time I started it was more to do with the my workplace’s Code of Conduct prevented me from discussing anything in great detail.  I think I still am prevented from speaking much in great detail about my time in Parliament other than to say

  1. Photocopying woes are ubiquitous;
  2. It’s a challenge to say no to someone who is used to being surrounded by people who say yes.

At the same time, I did feel like an impostor when it came to writing about the profession. There have always been writers who have been able to express and analyse libraries better than myself, and Sally highlighted many of them in her post a few days ago. With so many librarians already established in this blogging niche my thoughts were

  1. I work part time in a special library, and my postgraduate study is quasi librarianship, quasi IT- would my thoughts on libraries be listened to?
  2. Would I be limiting myself if I just spoke about libraries? (Because there is more to life than work)

This BlogJune there has been much reflection on library blogs- their “rise and fall”, as  conduits for driving change and conversation, showcasing innovation, and providing a forum for conversation. The conversations generated on Twitter and through Alisa Con’s, Kate’s Kathryn, and Katie’s many posts about creating a League of Librarians are fantastic to read.

There are a few hopes that I have about this endeavour.

  1. I hope we engage with people beyond those who already blog and who don’t necessarily use Twitter, otherwise we will be talking to the same people over and again.
  2. I hope we hear from new voices and a greater diversity in the people we hear from, from library students, graduates, from more library sectors, from different cultural backgrounds.
  3. Veering sideways, I hope we review the cost of conferences in order to make them more affordable for more people to attend. More voices, more energy, reinvigoration?





How to make statistics interesting

Honestly, can someone tell me?

This is my next role, looking at the data that the library generates and making sense of it, consolidating and producing it for human consumption, or at least managerial consumption…

Part of the challenge is to ensure that statistics are easily accessible, and that the data we are capturing will be used. Most of what we generate is for reporting and benchmarking against other libraries, but we could be doing more with the stats.

At any rate, it’s a challenge worth taking on!

Twitter- Hello World!

I signed up to Twitter in…a long time ago. A friend at work had joined up and she was quite the savvy person, jumping into social media and all things Web 2.0, so I quickly followed!

Twitter has been a lifesaver, a saviour of my sanity, comic relief, a honing of my communication skills and developed my ability to  LOLspeak 🙂

I have always seen Twitter as a conversation- it can be private, using Direct Messages (DM) or a private conversation in public where people can interrupt and add their own 2 cents, or a group conversation where people will be talking and casually add you to the conversation. Sometimes I can hop in and try and make pithy and witty remarks, and other times I will lurk, listening in to arguments, conversations and banter. I try and get on every day, but owing to work and family, I’m not on it permanently.

I’ve used my twitter handle as both a professional and personal tool, and the 2 spheres will often collide. I try and follow the maxim not to tweet when I’m angry, as I don’t want to say something on the public record that I will regret.

Professionally I use it as a collegiate, networking tool, sucking up information from article shared, blog posts, and conversing with all the librarians on Twitter- and there are lots!

Personally I use it for news gathering, following my own interests, other bloggers and interesting people. I  have followed quite a few Ballarat people, which has been great for meeting new people, and discovering good Indian takeaway in Ballarat :).

I have learned the power of a hashtag, which makes it an easy way to follow conference proceedings from afar, or keep abreast with what is happening on a trending event, or in politics (something to which our library is quite attuned).

Exploring Twitter in a mobile capacity though is quite a different matter. Tweeting from your phone is good for deft fingers, though much of the functionality of the desktop is lost on the phone applications. Much of the functionality of Twitter is best configured on a desktop, rather than from your smartphone, though there are a few tweaks you can do from your desktop to make your mobile experience an easier one.

1. Under Settings -> Mobile, you can customise Twitter for your phone. This is where you can select Text notifications for mentions, if people have retweeted your pithy tweets, or if people have replied to you.

2. Under this setting you can also put Sleep Settings. That way you are not getting bombarded late in the evening or early in the morning with replies or mentions.

If your library or greater organisation is somewhat reticent to use Twitter in an official capacity, please don’t let it stop you from engaging with the broader community yourself, or your users. Twitter ought to be seen as a way of being another avenue of reaching out to them. With any luck they’ll talk back to you.

23 Mobile Things- or 23 more excuses never to leave home without your phone

It is a strange day when I go to work without my phone- I truly feel my left hand is missing, and as I’m left handed, this is a pretty big deal.

However now there is another reason with the 23 mobile things program.

australia and new zealand flag

This is modelled on the 23 things which was pioneered in 2006/7 by Helene Blowers in the United States and spread to other libraries across the world. Public library staff took it up with gusto, as a means of skilling oneself in the use of new media and technologies without having to attend formal classes. It was self-paced, and led to a surge in enthusiasm for professional development. It also led to a huge swell of blogs now gathering dust (with names I would have loved to use when I first decided to start blogging nearly four years ago :)).

The new program builds upon the original 23 things with the focus being on mobile services and how they can be used to provide a service to library users.

There is an Australian/New Zealand component being coordinated with a

I have joined up, because it should be fun filling in knowledge gaps, a chance to find more library people to chat to  and to quietly encourage staff at work to have a go at it. Given a great deal of our clients are surgically attached to their phones, it may be a good chance for staff to get to grips with what a phone and/or tablet can provide.

On being invisible, handbots and Australia’s Favourite Librarian

I was talking to someone today about their local library. She was talking about how she could go into a library now, pick up books from the reserve shelf, check them out with the self-serve and leave the library without having talked to a staff member. And the thing about it was, she wasn’t all that happy about it.

“I remember going into the library and talking to staff about books,”she lamented,”and taking the kids to story time. It was part of the whole library experience, chatting to the librarians. I know they still do storytimes, but I miss talking to someone.”

It makes me wonder, have we become handbots– well-meaning, helpful, but ultimately faceless and anonymous?


Librarians have traditionally been mediators between the user and information, facilitating and filtering information to the user. Over the last 15 years, libraries have tried to make that information provision seamless, through an online presence, through discovery layers to their resources and trying to be in the background as much as possible. And I don’t think this invisibility helped us in any way.

ALIA is currently running Australia’s Favourite Librarian competition, to be announced during Library Week.  The librarians selected come from all over australia, from academic, school public and state and special libraries. My gut feeling was that it was largely children’s librarians who had been nominated. I created a Wordle cloud out of the nomination page (which not only provides who the librarians are, but their reasons for having been nominated) to get an idea as to the reasons for their nominations.
Wordle: Australia's Favourite Librarian

My gut proved me right! The words always, children, friendly, helpful, passion, dedication, reading , community, and love were quite prominent. From the wordle, it was the face to face interaction and the building of a relationship between the user and the library staff which were greatly appreciated and valued. It was also heartening to see that our knowledge was a reason for nomination :).

If we wish to be valued as a profession, we need to be more visible, and  engaging with our our users. We need to be advocating our service and our profession to our councils, schools and our institutions. We need to be present in the library space, and not hiding in offices or behind desks. We should be making ourselves more accessible to those who need us, and more visible to those who employ us.

Please don’t be a handbot.

Farewell Maeve Binchy


Dublin door in the rain

It was with a lot of sadness that I read of the passing of Maeve Binchy. It was like the death of a kindly aunt that you had somehow lost track of.
I read my first Maeve Binchy Firefly Summer when I was 17. I remember buying it at the airport en route to Australia from Ireland where I had been for my uncle’s wedding. Feeling somewhat bereft after leaving my lovely extended family (whom I saw all too rarely), the book enveloped me in a warm Irish hug. I read it from Ireland all the way to Hawaii, taking a break for meals and sleep. (It was 1988 and inflight entertainment was limited to a couple of movies projected on scratchy screens) I read through my grief and at the end of the book felt much better.
Working in a public library later in life allowed me to indulge in reading all the Maeve Binchy titles there were. Under the guise of reading knowledge to provide advice to borrowers, I made sure every new book by her crossed my desk. Taking it home, I curled up on the couch and delved into the comforting warmth. I read to the exclusion of my boyfriend, and the housework, and emerged to eat and sleep (a precedent which was reinforced with the arrival of a new Harry Potter book years later…)
I loved the fact she was easy to read, and eminently readable. I loved her short stories, especially those with recurring characters. I don’t really have a favourite book,maybe Light a Penny Candle, Circle of Friends or Evening Class are ones which spring to mind. It wasn’t just the story which drew you in but the feelings of comfort that one drew from the story telling. She was simply a nice writer who wrote nice books.
And then over the years I left public libraries, married, made a family of my own, and I changed. I didn’t need to read her as much(though I recommended her to mum, who loves her too!), and she faded from my radar.
So thank you for the stories and the feelings you generated.

Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen

I have the greatest respect for authors, artists, musicians and creative souls who make my world a beautiful place in which to live. To read a book, listen to music, or to look at stunning photography can often turn a bad day into a better one. From an early age, we are taught to share, and it is an ethos which has served us well on the World Wide Web.

Which is why this article just left me wondering if the world has gone completely mad. A Belgian rights group SABAM have been contacting local public libraries to inform them they will be claiming fees for the reading of books to children. Storytime at the library, a way in which to engage and create young readers, is under threat because reading aloud to children in the library is considered a breach of copyright. SABAM, through its hardline approach to protecting the creative output of its members, is effectively limiting their future income stream for a short-term grab for money.

This seems to be the extreme end of what is occurring elsewhere for those who hold the copyright and publishing rights to books, songs, articles, films, and TV programs, but if organisations keep on restricting creative content, this may be a sign of things to come.

Librarians have often played a role in helping protect copyright. Through being aware of what can and cannot be done with the information we have in our library’s collections, we advise our users, and hope that we are not infringing copyright. Librarians are generally very nice people and don’t really like getting in trouble with the law. We also have a role in fostering new readers, to providing quality information for them and guiding them into finding information by themselves. We like to share our knowledge and our own love of information and reading with other people. I want to connect people to the right information and the best books.

So when the sharing of information and the protecting of information are at odds with each other, what do you do?

A recent article in Brain Pickings on the inscriptions found on the margins of illuminated manuscripts by monks helped answer my question. One inscription  stood out:

Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen

Literally, words written are often meant to be spoken, and there can be no greater pleasure than reading aloud to another person. Public libraries’ most popular programs involve big people reading to little people. Half my time at kinder is spent reading books to four year olds, who LOVE IT.

The phrase also had another meaning for me. What is the point of writing something if there are no readers to honor it? Even the private act of writing a journal has an initial readership of one and a potential readership of many. The very act of restriction only serves to dishonour the creator in the first instance.

I will share my information, read my books out aloud and be damned.

5 Lessons from VALA 2012

Last week was a huge week on the Victorian library calendar with the biennial VALA 2012 conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

Having been to this conference over a few years, it was good to see how the infrastructure has evolved. The internet kiosk has grown smaller, but wireless connectivity had increased in power and relevancy. The charge up station for tablets, notebooks, and smartphones was a great place to meet people you had never met before. As always, the catering was delicious, the vendors were friendly and helpful, and it was good to see new and familiar faces amongst the crowd.

The favourite tote bag of choice appeared to be a cat tote bag from Baker and Taylor, which combined its cat branding with the librarian cliche of being cat people- a win-win situation! No, I did not one as I have lots of totes at home, and I’m comfortable with the fact I am a cat person anyway :).

I am in the midst of drafting up a report for work on my day at VALA (the library equivalent of singing for one’s supper), but these were the 5 top lessons to draw from the conference I wish to share.

1. You can learn a lot from outside your niche

VALA attracts a great deal of presentations from academic, school, public and special libraries. While librarians may comment on the lack of specificity to their specialisation at conferences such as these, it is a good chance to be exposed to different ideas and approaches to the ultimate question- how can we best help our users?

Eibhlin Roche, who spoke about the use of Guinness archives within the Guinness organisation was one such example. If you look beyond the fancy apps, the genealogical database, and the marketing spin, you see an archive which has linked its collection to the parent organisation’s overall mission and has been very strategic in developing projects which support that mission. The trick for special/corporate libraries is to make yourself indispensable by enmeshing yourself within the heart of the organisation.

2. Be a part of your community

I am talking about this on 2 levels- engaging with the library community as well as the community in which you live and work. The aspect I love about conferences is the chance to catch up and engage in discussions about the profession with those you don’t work with. The challenge is to continue that dialogue with your colleagues who were holding the fort while you were away.

At the same time, you can also reach out to your users through inventive programs, giving them what they want, but especially through talking to them.

3. I came to hear you talk, not you talk to slides

The value of a conference is a gathering of minds to tease out themes and continue the discussion that was started in the papers submitted. It’s not that I want to be entertained with slides of cute cats (okay I do), but if you are going to be putting heaps of words on a slide, make them a) succinct and b) readable. While the PowerPoint presentation is not your paper, over which you have thought, reflected and edited over and over again, it still is something into which presenters have to give a lot of thought.

4. Declare war on DRM, licensing and copyright.

Eli Neiburger’s presentation’s sentiment- ‘We share sh*t’ struck me as gold. While working in an environment where laws are actually made, I don’t think we can actually get away with infringing the law :). However Eli’s sentiment of freeing information for the greater good, a sentiment shared by all librarians, got me thinking on what data libraries have collected over the past  aeons that would be valuable to the greater community- photos, ephemera, papers, records? Such data was released and shared by National and State Libraries to be used in a Library Hack Competition, which attracted non-library users to engage with and manipulate library data.

5. Even librarians get the information overload blues.

Reading Twitter made it hard for me to concentrate on what was being said in front of me, and often reflected what had been said a couple of minutes earlier. I tweeted a bit during the first plenary session, and followed it for a while, but it brought home that I can’t do 2 things at once, and if I do, it’s in a very half-assed fashion. It didn’t help that it wras using up a lot of my power. I do applaud those who were there every day, tweeting and blogging and were able to speak coherently at the end of it. Michelle McLean the Connecting Librarian produced good notes of the sessions she attended,
I also resolved to weed my own RSS feeds, unfollow people on Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to be more mindful of who I follow. This will be an ongoing process, trying to refine the type of information I receive and making it more meaningful.