Tuesday, March 26, 2013

No library or no library worker should be an island

Atauro Island 5/365 This may seem a strange post, as you will be reading this because of a network.  Somehow you may follow me on twitter and so we can network with each other, but this is still a luxury for some library workers in other places.

This is something I really noticed when I was in Timor Leste.  I always appreciate my library networks, but I gained extra appreciation for networks I am part of when I was in a different location.  Conversations on twitter, or email exchanges may have been the only time each day I could talk with someone who saw libraries in a similar way.

In Timor Leste library workers are isolated.  There are few libraries, so any network is going to be small.  There was an active library association until some time in 2009, but this is currently on hold (and there are issues to be addressed before it is restarted).  There are really good reasons for this, so this comment is not a criticism.  

Some library workers (like anywhere) aren't interested in networks and some library folk in Timor Leste are networking with library workers in other countries because it is easier than networking with other library workers a few suburbs or towns away.  It is easier because you can find contact details online.  To contact some (particularly government libraries in Timor Leste) you need to know the personal email address or mobile phone number of the person you are trying to contact.  Some government departments have email addresses and telephone numbers listed on a website but the emails frequently bounce and the telephone number may have error messages when you ring them.

This highlighted the value of facilitation to get networks started, like the work ALIA Sydney does as a public, accessible network people can connect with.  In Timor Leste the very small number of libraries may be an issue in this, or it may not.  It is always interesting that some library workers don't see any reasons for connecting to network.  This is the same in Australia with functional networks but in Australia there is more passive benefit as there will be library workers in each workplace who actively create/manage/use their own networks and the other people in the workplace receive a flow on benefit from this.  Think about how you connect to other library workers you have not met face to face and keep in mind that face to face meeting is a luxury.  It is not possible to keep track of all the useful discussions held on twitter, flickr, or being inspired by some online photographs, or blog posts or blog comments or rss feeds (thank you Aaron Schwarz) branch discussions, forums (ALA connect as an example).  There are so many options.

The bounty of possible networks means there is no need to be isolated if you have some online access, but you need to know that the networks are possible, and you need to think that you can learn from others.  You need to know there is a bigger picture at work about libraries, or find the detail engrossing.

If you are active in some kind/s of networks which help your professional development, thank someone today for an idea they shared or which triggered an idea of yours.  I realise this post is only going to be read by people who are already using a network of some kind, but spare a thought for people who don't and suggest some learning network possibility to someone today who you know is not involved.  I don't know why library workers aren't all actively involved in networks as it strikes me as career survival tactics as well as a great way to share ideas and information and learn from others.

This is a long way of saying I was struck by the isolation of library staff in Timor Leste and that it was easier to help them connect to networks and individual libraries overseas than it was in their own country.  I would like to really thank the library staff in Australia who responded so kindly to my questions about offering peer support to library staff I have met there.  The generosity was amazing.  I would also like to thank all the libraries and library staff who provided information to me, whether on a website, or in response to an email I sent.  It helped to highlight the value of networks and remind me of the kindness of strangers (and the kindness of networks).  Just a note - this is the same amazing help I receive from strangers and people I know who work in libraries, - all the time and that is much appreciated too.

I started to write this post while I was in Timor Leste, but have only just finished it now.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Local studies, music and dance - a few ideas

Music seems to be under represented in many local studies collections in public libraries.   It could be that I am looking in the wrong places, however, I don't see many public libraries anywhere with a music collection as part of how they collect and tell the local stories of their community, and few with stories of music from or about their area.  I realise that this is a difficult area, but it is also possible to collect in these areas, as Cork, for example is doing.

Music is a way for story telling for the local community, as bands and singing groups interact in different such as in pubs or community halls.  Music is an important connector for a community and can be important as a community meeting point.  There is much potential for oral histories to be done in this area, and to collect music which has been created as part of library programs.

Exhibit: 1908, When the Democrats Came to Denver from The Denver Public Library on Vimeo.

Some songs specifically mention place names and these should be collected for local studies, in the same way some libraries include recipe books in local studies collections when they have been written by locals (for example books by Bill Granger and Kylie Kwong form part of the local studies collection at Surry Hills Library, only a few minutes from where their restaurants are located).  

Working with local musicians (and they don't have to be famous, just local) as a way of collecting audio and video content is important. They don’t have to be famous, but being local is important.  Don’t forget copyright, work with it.

The Library of Congress has a national jukebox, you could have a local one.  The Smithsonian has Folkways, which has some very local music as part of the collection.

A recent article from the MIT Centre for Civic Media called Dancing in the square: street music as activism, shows some aspects as to why music is a crucial for local studies collections as it helps to tell the story of a community.  This article about punk rock from New York has some similar inspiration for local studies work.  Dongan Hills Public Library has a Wuseum, because of hip hop.   I think there are exciting music or music related collecting opportunities for local studies collections.  You might even want to collect the sounds of your community, expanding the idea of acoustic records of your area (as the British Library is doing).

I haven't mentioned dance much, but the principles are basically the same.  Your local studies information/archives/recordings in the library will be tracking local changes over time - a very exciting thing to be able to do.

I had just finished this post when I saw this Keeping things fresh: Steampunk rapper Professor Elemental on hip-hop and education and this one by Matt Finch.  Both of these posts help show (implicitly) the importance of music to a local studies collection in a public library.