Saturday, 22 November 2008

Being Digital in school, home and community

Congratulations should also go to Ilana Snyder from Monash University for being appointed a Professor. Last month, Ilana gave a very well received address to librarians in Melbourne on Literacy and Education in the Digital Age. Click here for a copy of the power point presentation.

During this address, Ilana mentioned that she was about to release the findings of an Australian wide survey on the attitudes of teenagers towards digital information. This survey also looked at the way teenagers use digital information. While this survey was focused on "understanding more about the current generation's digital communication practices and the implications for schools", this remains a topic of vital importance to libraries.

For more information on this Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant funded project go to the "Being Digital" home page at This URL includes a summary of the survey findings with case studies to follow soon.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Mary and Max

Ok, so this has nothing specifically to do with with libraries and technology but indulge me. It does however have something to do with pen friends, so there is a literary link in there somewhere. The film makers have also put together a very cool web site, so there is an interest in the way they use online communication channels.

Congratulations to Melanie and Adam and all the crew on the news that Mary and Max has been chosen to open the Sundance Film Festival. Adam and Melanie are the gorgeous dynamic due that won that Oscar for Harvie Krumpet.

I haven't had time to check the facts, but I am pretty sure this is the first time an animated film, let alone an Australian film, has opened this prestigious film festival.

All I can say is I should have taken that afternoon off work a few months ago to visit the set. Oh well there is always next time.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Yahoo Glue

I have kind of been half following the discussions around Yahoo Glue but on seeing the very positive review on ReadWriteWeb I thought I better check it out. After all, if it out Googles Google you want to be there and see history in the making. :-)

As ReadWriteWeb states: "Yahoo! Glue search results include web search, images, news, blog search, Wikipedia and YouTube videos". To be fair I tried out the same searches I had used last July on Miss Dewey, so (drum roll) hear are the results as of 20 November 2008:

* 1936 Australian Tax Act - Zip, no, null results, zéro pointes. Ms Dewey gave good results on this search.
* Osama Bin Ladin - Mmmm; some videos from YouTube and the Wikipedia entry along with some blog postings. Ok, but not great.
* George Bush - Getting better. In the land of 'Yahoo Glue' George W Bush beats Osama Bin Ladin hands down.
* Alain de Botton - OK but the results are a bit limited.
* Joomla - bit better.
* Waiting for Godot - Mmm, Ok but not great. I am OK with sponsored links as long as they are relevant to the search, but I am not sure what an online Wills service has to do with an Irish play.
* Lord of the rings - Much better results.
* Legal - Good results but this is a very general search.

Bottom Line: Yahoo! Glue is nowhere near as good looking as Ms Dewey (no suprise there), but Ms Dewey also beats Yahoo! Glue when it comes to search results! Yahoo! Glue seems to work if the search is very general or very populist, but it really falls short if the search is specific or something other than mainstream. In terms of searching, Google can go back to sleep as there is no threat here from Yahoo! Glue. This said, Yahoo! Glue has a very nice results interface that groups like with like within common boxes; and it is easy to use.

I am also pleased to see that Yahoo! Glue actually presents search results when you search on Ms Dewey so all is not lost. See following image for details.

Storytlr and lifestreaming

Fresh from Mashable is a news item about Storytlr which is an Web application that "enables you to create a simple event-based timeline of your photos, videos and tweets". If you have not heard the expression, StoryTlr also functions as a lifestreaming application.

Oh no I hear you say - not another trendy geek term that you have to learn. Those of you with kids and stay at home young adults are at a distinct advantage when it comes to picking up the geek speak from the street. :-)

Well don't feel to bad, as of today Google news only returns 39 hits for lifestreaming so the main stream media is yet to cotton on to this expression. BUT, as of today there are 37,199 hits for lifestreaming on the Google Blog search. Now what does that say about the main stream media!

But seriously, Lifestreaming is a concept that has been around for some time now and I know some of you are right into it (because you have told me). But if you are not already aware, those fantastic people at ReadWriteWeb have a Lifestreaming Primer. This includes a list of some of the other lifestreaming applications.

While a search on Google Trends brings forwards the following results:

"life streaming"

life streaming



So what is the driver here? Is it the technology, or is it something about todays society's fascination on fame and that everybody wants to be a celebrity?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Is the blog dead?

There is an interesting post and set of comments on Pegasus Librarian which relate to the question Whatever happened to the Library Blog?. Pegasus notes a drop in library blog traffic as well as the following:

"Two years ago, blogs provided a venue for people's carefully thought-out ideas as well as for their off-the-cuff thoughts, gut reactions, and general banter. In this way, they were like the sessions and the between- and after-session banter at a conference. Today I think that blogs have begun to take on the more focused character of the actual sessions at a conference."

Is this true, and if so does it matter? Are we over blogs and are we more interested in microblogging? The evidence from Universal McCann’s Social Media Wave 3 Research suggests that blogging has become mainstream, and while it has experienced strong growth in Asia the growth has plateaued somewhat in the more US market.

There is also an interesting article in the UK based NMK: Knowledge for the Digital Economy titled Record visits for UK blog sites that looks at the uptake and use of blogs in that part of the world. One one hand it appears that blogs are "increasingly displacing traditional media usage and recent statistics (less people read newspapers than read blogs) appear to back that up". Yet at the same time other are writing off blogging as passé.

Mark Twain apparently once said "the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated". Is this the same for blogging?

E-Waste Part 2: Peter Garrett fails again, and again, and again

Bibliothekia ties very hard to stay out of politics, but the news item in today's Australian Newspaper IT section titled Garrett rules out electronic waste tax has left me with little choice. After all, it was only yesterday that I posted two articles How Green is your Library and E-Waste.

So what am I so heated up about? Well to quote the Australian:

"Australians generate up to 140,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, only 4 per cent is presently recycled. There is a new e-waste plant built by by Sims Recycling Solutions in Sydney that was opened by Australian Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett... [This plant] has the capacity to divert 20,000 tonnes of waste from landfill every year... and turn the hazardous tangle of broken equipment into new materials for future products."

So far so good.

But despite "Sims officials delivering a clear message that Australia needs to introduce laws for mandatory e-waste recycling as a matter of priority" Peter Garrett has backed away.

Is Peter for real? Here is a man who fronted the band Midnight Oil, who sang songs protesting against uranium and asbestos mining, and who was the president of the Australian Conservation Foundation (1989-1993, 1998-2004), but who now pussy foots around the issue of toxic E-waste. Mind you this is also the man who has:

* supported the Gunns company's plan to build the Bell Bay Pulp Mill in the environmentally sensitive Tamar Valley in Tasmania,
* approved a controversial plan to dredge Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay,
* approved a major expansion of South Australia's Beverley uranium mine, and
* introduced means testing on the government rebate on solar panels which has had the effect of gutted the solar industry in Australia. The largest local producer of solar panels (BP Solar) has been forced to take its production off shore.

Well thank God Peter Garrett is an environmentalist, because who knows what environmental degradation he would cause as Federal Environment Minister if he was anti the environment.

National Geographic and Gaming

You'll have noticed over the last few weeks there have been a few posts on this blog about gaming. Personally, I think gaming and interactive interfaces are going to play an increasingly important role in libraries over the next 2 years. Gaming and interactive interfaces are also starting to play a greater role in online education. I was therefore interested to see a report on Tech News World that National Geographic has started up a gaming division in partnership with Namco Bandai Games America and Sony Computer Entertainment. Click here to see the full text of the Tech News World article, but the following quote cuts to the chase.

"The new developer's first gaming title, "Herod's Lost Tomb" is available for as a free flash-based game online as well as in downloadable versions for Macs, PCs and the iPhone. The game, the goal of which is to find hidden objects, is based on content from the December issue of National Geographic magazine as well as a television broadcast on biblical figure King Herod, airing on the National Geographic Channel."

Onlines games from National Geographic should be of interest to public and school libraries, but what should be of interest to all libraries is the fact that National Geographic is linking the online games to their print and TV content. Libraries who are getting into gaming would be wise to consider an integrated approach, but then we are wise - arn't we.

I can see the Australian War Memorial adding interactive content and games around their online exhibitions, though this would need to be done in a sensitive way. I can see public libraries integrating gaming content into other parts of the collection and programs; and I can see gaming as part of online education and being integrated into the offerings of school, college, and university collections and programmes. The possibilities are endless.

Note to Brisbane City Library (see the post gaming and testosterone in the library) - maybe you should ensure that books, tapes, and CDs about sports and sporting people are taken out of the collection and integrated into your fantastic dedicated gaming and sports area.

Oh and by the way, because the games are from National Geographic, the images are fantastic.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

How Green is your Library?

Unlike Karen (the Free Range Librarian) Schneider, I keep forgetting to travel with my camera. So unlike Karen, I did not take any photos of the wonderful temporary Greenhouse pavilion by Joost which is located at Federation Square in Melbourne until 29 January 2009.

"With floors of old shipping crates, tables made from fire hydrants and a feature wall of wild strawberries, The Greenhouse takes sustainability to a whole new level!" How fantastic. Check it out!

Though this pavilion is temporary, it makes you think about long term sustainability. In particular, it made me think about all those new "Library as Place" monumental libraries that have been built around the world over the last few years. How sustainable and environmental are they?

I was therefore pleased to discover a blog titled Going Green @ Your Library. The tag line for this blog is "Environmentally friendly practices for libraries and beyond" How good is that! There is also a blog titled The Green Library. So check them out and lend them your support.

One of the less obvious, but still impressive, features of the Brisbane City Library building is the fact that it was made of a lot of recycled, recyclable, and sustainable building materials. The Brisbane library building also treats and reuses water. You will notice from Karen's Flickr photos at, that though this building uses sustainable materials it is still pretty slick. So does this mean that when it comes to sustainable library buildings we can have our cake and eat it is as well?


And while we are on the topic of sustainability and the environment, and because this blog has a focus on technology, check out the National Geographic Magazine quiz on E-Waste located at and the associated article from January 2008 titled High-Tech Trash. What is your library doing about sustainable buildings and reducing high tech waste?

More on Gaming and Testosterone in the Library

In a recent post titled Gaming and Testosterone in the Library, I discussed a visit Karen (the Free Range Librarian) Schneider, Lizanne Payne (from the Washington Research Library Consortium) and I had to Brisbane City Library. Though I forgot to bring a camera, I promised I would add a link to Karen's photos once they were posted online, and so here they are.

There are photos of the sports and gaming area that has done so much to attract males between the ages of 18 and 35 into the library;

There are photos of the amazing book return system (the first of its kind in Australia). This book return system will cover its costs in 10 years via occupational health and safety savings alone; and

There are photos of the open holds area located near the entrance. The books on the open hold shelves are shelved spine down to discourage patrons from taking other peoples books.

As I said in my previous post, there is a lot that is interesting and amazing about the Brisbane City Library. Thanks Karen for posting these photos, and thanks Sharan for being such a fabulous guide. To view all the photos go to Karen's Flickr account at: Enjoy.

Monday, 17 November 2008


Well, the VALA / CAVAL roadshow is over and Lizanne Payne (the Executive Director Washington Research Library Consortium) and Karen Schneider (the Free Range Librarian & Equinox Community Librarian) have gone back to the States. Lucky for me (because I did not have to do it, and I would not have done it as well), Michelle McLean has done a fantastic live blog on Lizanne's and Karen's presentations at the State Library of Victoria on Friday 14 November. For the details, check out Michelle's blog at Thanks Michelle.

It was also a delight and a pleasure to travel part of the way around the country with Lizanne and Karen. Both Lizanne and Karen are insightful, interesting, as well as interested, and passionate about libraries (... and food - funny how libraries and food seem to go hand in hand). All in all it was an inspirational week on the road and it was also great to catch up with colleagues from Brisbane and Sydney. Outside of the library presentations, the highlight for me was being at the Democrats Abroad function in Sydney as the returns came in from the US election. If you saw the coverage on CNN, when they crossed over to Sydney (and you looked very, very closely as it was a room full of lots of people) there we were waving and cheering. For more on this memorable event check out Karen's blog at

...And finally, this roadshow would not have happened without VALA and CAVAL working together in partnership, and with the support of the University of NSW and the State Libraries of NSW, Queensland, West Australia, South Australia, and Victoria. Here is an example of the benefits of working collaboratively. We are not large well funded profession, so there can never be too much co-operation and collaboration.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The human in the WiFi

Following on from my recent post Gaming and testosterone in the library, I thought I would check out the Barbican Art Gallery, as this is the gallery that put together the Game On exhibition which is now on at the State Library of Queensland. It is on the Barbican web site that I came across an interesting installation called Frequency and Volume by the Mexico-born, Canada-based artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

"Working at the crossroads between architecture, sculpture and performance", Hemmer also makes use of technology; and it is this use of technology which is particularly interesting. Following is the text from the artists web site explaining how it works.

"FREQUENCY AND VOLUME consists of between 100 and 800 square metres of projected shadows which allow participants to scan the radio spectrum of the city with their bodies. As a shadow appears it tunes any radio frequency between 150kHz to 1.5GHz based on its position monitored by a video tracking system. The size of the shadow controls the volume gain of the specific audio channel. We can have 16 frequencies tuned simultaneously and the resulting sound environment is a composition controlled by people's movements. This piece investigates the contested radio space in the context of the increased surveillance of the body as an antenna. The system tunes all sorts of signals including air traffic control, short wave radio, cell phones, police, taxi dispatch, pagers and more."

Let's hope some Australian cultural institution picks up this exhibition as it adds a whole new (human) dimension to WiFi. It is also interesting in how it allows the audience part of the interactive process. There is a great video of this exhibition from when it was held in Mexico, it is at the artists web site at Enjoy.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Google goes back in time and stops text messages

Last month I read Philip Matyszak's informative and entertaining book Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw on ReadWriteWeb that Google is going to work with the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities to embed the Rome Reborn project into Google Earth. This means Google will overlay ancient Rome onto Google Earth. Fabulous, now when you do your online stalking (I mean research) via Google Earth you can step back in time.

Not surprisingly (given they own it) Google has also loaded onto YouTube a great short video about this project. The URL for the YouTube video is at but I have also embedded it into this post.

Interestingly, Google has also released Mail Goggles. What is this I hear you say. Well, according to Google, Mail Goggles stops you sending email you might latter regret.

For example, you are attending an ancient Roman bacchanalia, and after drinking too much wine, and flirting with too many slaves, you stupidly fire off an email to the Emperor telling him that his wife looks like the side of the Colosseum. 'Buggerous' you think to your self, now you are going to end up in a staring role with a hungry lion at the said Colosseum. But don't worry, because it is Friday night and you only use gmail you are safe. Set to late-night Friday and Saturday by default, Mail Goggles can be configured to give you pause any day of the week at any time period you prefer. During the nominated time period the email won't be sent until you first answer some maths questions. The theory being that if you are drunk you will not be able to do the sums and the email will be blocked. Of course if you are a wiz at maths when drunk your stuffed and you will end up as lunch for some lion.

For more on Mail Goggles go to the Gmail lab settings.

As an aside, between Edward Gibbons and Hollywood, there is the general impression that ancient Romans loved their drunken orgies. However, if you have ever seen an episode of the UK TV shows "Ladettes to Ladies" or "Footballer's Wives", I am not sure that we in the twentieth century can point the finger at the ancient Romans. It looks like there may indeed be a role for Mail Goggles after all.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Connections, Content, Conversations

It seems only yesterday that VALA2008 was over but here we are already hard at work on VALA2010.

I am biased but VALA has gone from strength to strength with each conference enjoying record attendance from delegates as well as vendors. More on this in a minute. I guess this says something about the quality of the papers VALA gets from hard working, innovative, and thoughtful librarians.

Anyway, the theme of VALA2010 is Connections, Content, Conversations. This includes the technology and processes we use to engage and partner with clients. It includes social web, semantic web, and the way we connect clients with content; indeed how we allow clients to contribute, deconstruct, and recreate content. This two-way process between librarians, as well as librarians and clients, is what is meant by conversations. And by the way, lets not limit this to librarians. The museums, galleries, and archives are also doing some very interesting work in this area. Don't you love the way Gallery, Library, Archive, and Museum spells G.L.A.M. Doesn't that make you feel special? Of course it does.

Anyway, the deadline for abstracts is not until next year but if you want to know more check out the VALA2010 Call for Papers.

VALA has clearly grown out of its current venue at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre or MCEC. So it is timely that MCEC is moving across the river into a new building. This means that VALA2010 will be located in the largest, greenest, and most technological advanced exhibition and convention centre in Australia. The MCEC building is nearly complete and there is a great gallery of images available on the MCEC web site at: as well as an interactive green map at

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Integrating cultural agencies

Back in September I posted an article about the Charlotte and Mecklenburg Public Library Imaginon centre. As I said at the time, Imaginon is kind of like ScienceWorks and ACMI rolled in together with a public library and a youth theatre.

We are seeing a convergence of technology, so why not a convergence of information centres and cultural agencies? Actually, the merging of cultural agencies is not new. Back in the 1850s when they were created, what is now the State Library of Victoria, Museum Victoria, and the National Gallery of Victoria were all under one roof.

The Imaginon web site brings things together, but this is easier because all the bits belong to together and are under one roof. This is harder if the discovery centre, library, and youth theatre are located in very separate spaces, and belong to very different cultural organisations.

A few years ago the Victorian Government looked at introducing shared management services for the state's cultural agencies. It also launched the Culture Victoria web site. But is putting a fancy flash discovery layer over the top of a number of collections giving users what they want? Does it offer true Google like searching across these many collections and web sites? Is there consistent meta data in place to facilitate searching across these agencies? If you find something from one agency e.g. a book about Ned Kelly; does it give you an Amazon type of experience and suggest you check out photos of Ned Kelly from one of the other agencies?

Certainly the main Victoria culture agencies (the State Library, the Museum, and the Gallery) don't feature the Culture Victoria URL or indeed its existence from their respective web sites; so what's the point of having it? Interestingly, there does not appear to be much about the Culture Victoria portal on the Arts Victoria web site. This includes any reporting of usage statistics. I suspect the usage stats are so low they will never see the light of day. Then again, the Arts Victoria web site is so badly designed, and looks as though it was last redesigned in the mid 1990s, that you would be lucky to find anything useful on this site.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of setting up integrated and content rich portal to help people find things - but they have to work. They also have to give the target audience what they want. The problem with the Cultural Victoria web site is that it looks like it was designed to appeal to arts apparatchiks who run the show rather than the end user out there on the street. Is it any wonder that users by pass fancy smancy flash laden cultural web portals and just go to Google to find what they are looking for.

By the way, if I didn't care about these cultural agencies I wouldn't bother with this post.

Gaming and testosterone in the library

After the Brisbane leg of the VALA and CAVAL 30 year anniversary roadshow; Lizanne Payne, Karen Schneider and myself checked out the Brisbane City Library. This library really is a showcase in many ways. Brisbane is blessed to have two amazing library buildings; the State Library of Queensland and the Brisbane City Library. Last year the State Library was nominated as the best public building by the Australian Institute of Architects (you should check out the outside terrace with the amazing tea cup collection), while Brisbane City Library (also no architectural slouch) is an environmental masterpiece. The City Library building uses recycled materials, there is on-site treatment and reuse of solid waste, rainwater harvesting, and a river water cooling system.

There is a lot that is interesting and amazing about the Brisbane City Library other than their amazing book return system (yes I know I am using the word amazing a lot). However, what stuck me was the gaming area and the sports area. Here there are bean bag type lounges for people to sit (or slouch and slide) on while they do online gaming. There are also dedicated large scale TVs, i.e. always tuned to sporting channels. I forgot to take my camera, but I know Karen took heaps of photos so when Karen uploads them I will point to them.

UPDATE: Karen's photos are located at:

According to the Brisbane Council annual report, "since the move, library use has exceeded Council’s expected 30% growth. An average 91,000 people visit the library each month, an 85.7% increase on visits to the former Central City Library. Loans of books and other items have increased by 53.5% to 72,000 per month." Interestingly, there has also been a massive increase in patronage from males aged between 18 and 35. This is amazing!

While this extra testosterone can't all be caused by the sport and gaming areas, they must have helped. The comment made about these areas is that in the past people got their sporting information from the newspapers. Now more and more people get their sporting information from either the Internet or pay TV. So if you can't afford the internet or pay TV, and don't want to go to a pub to watch Fox Sport, you are stuck. Personally, I think it is great Brisbane City is providing these services and attracting what has been a difficult demographic for libraries. Who knows, the sport heads might then stumble on books by Jane Austin, Russian novels, or Pinter plays. (just kidding - but then again you never know).

There must be something about gaming in the air in Brisbane at the moment, because at the same time the State Library of Queensland was about to show the excellent exhibition Game On. This exhibition is organised by the Barbican Art Gallery in London, and was previously very well received at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne.

Gaming and interactive media is certainly something VALA is about to explore. For the last VALA meeting of 2008, we are very excited to have Simon Goodrich (President of the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association) and Andrew Apostola talk about the work they are doing in this space. Simon and Andrew are the guys behind the Portable Film Festival and Flickthru (which is being launched in early 2009) so keep an eye out for details on the VALA general meeting home page at We are planing to podcast this event.