Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heir of Sea and Fire - Patricia McKillip

This is the eleventh in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

In this second book of the Riddle-Master trilogy the author changes point of view and we focus on a different character. Clever and worked for me. I also like books that have a mixture of 'ha, I saw that coming' and 'oh, I should have seen that coming but didn't'. This is not easy to achieve and takes some clever writing. There is a little of that here :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Riddle-Master of Hed - Patricia McKillip

This is the tenth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This is the first book in a breath taking trilogy. I can't remember when I first read it or how many times I've gone back to it, but I've never been disappointed. I recall reading somewhere that the author said it was something she wrote when younger and not something she could still write. I'm not surprised. There is an energy and inventiveness here that has the exuberance and daring of youth.

Highly recommended.

Friday, June 28, 2013

...and another thing

I wrote about how one thing leads to another in my Discovery post.

My recent bookshelf post on Frank Herbert's Dune prompted a colleague to bring in his collection of Dune videos. We had an interesting chat about David Lynch and the role of post production editing, the relationship between books and films and what fans have done with footage to produce fan-cuts that are really quite good.

I've now got David Lynch's Dune film and a-made-for-television version of the trilogy to view.

One thing leads to another.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Minecraft bringing teens into the public library

I recently asked the twitter network to help me find some examples of Minecraft being used in public libraries. The request was sparked by someone wanting to know if making Minecraft available within their public library might draw into the library the teenage demographic that is under represented.

I know as much about Minecraft as the next person with children who play - which is to say quite a LOT without having used it myself. It seems to me a great medium for creative, cooperative and safe online recreation and a good fit for a library environment (with the right management and controls).

Twitter provided three examples, the first two via @edwardshaddow and the third via @tamavisions

[City of Stonnington, Prahran library has Minecraft on Xbox360]

Is this a good idea for a public library? Do you have other examples to share?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dune - Frank Herbert

This is the ninth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Have you read this book!

I have to ask that question with an exclamation mark to express my incredulity that you might not have read Dune. It is a seminal work (if such a thing exists) in the genre of science fiction. The author had so many great ideas, all jammed into one novel, that people are still expanding the Dune series well past the author's death.

This is the first 'adult' work that I've revealed on the bookshelf and your life will be poorer if you haven't explored its pages.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds

Last Christmas we spent a week in a little place in the Cotswolds called Bourton-on-the-Water.

Here is a photo I took. Lovely.

However, don't be fooled. Although the little town is picture postcard perfect the photo is of the model village. This is a one ninth scale replica and words can't capture my amaze at the time and effort that has gone into its creation. When we visited we had the model village to ourselves (due to the persistent rain and cold weather and being shortly after Christmas) and it took over an hour to explore.

And yes, in the model village there is a model village of the model village!

Never underestimate the power of men in overalls with a desperate need to get out of the house.

Monday, June 24, 2013

How twitter helped me find my voice

I have been on Twitter since July 2008.

During the last five years I have sent over 2,500 tweets. Assuming an average of 15 words per tweet that means I've written about 36,000 words. That is a small novel or a small thesis or a very long essay.

I've noticed over the years that I've gradually found it easier to write tweets though I see many others whose tweets appear effortless and whose tweet count is 10 times my own, for instance @flexnib's 36,000 tweets would equate to 540,000 words (and a large number of small dog photos).

Now that I am blogging I find that the long haul of trying to say something in 140 odd characters has been a good training ground for saying something in half a page, with a picture for padding. Twitter has helped me to actually get to the point and just say it.

The other aspect that Twitter has helped me with is authenticity. My understanding of being authentic is to share an appropriate amount of your real self. If you share too little then you are dull, monochrome and plastic. If you share too much then you can be just plain embarrassing. Twitter has helped me to find the middle ground that is comfortable for me but still authentic (I hope).

Hooray for Twitter.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Farmer Giles of Ham - J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the eighth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This little book contains some works 'from The Red Book' which are interesting and may have led me to buy the book but it is the tale of Farmer Giles that captivated me many years ago. This is a story that combines Tolkien's love of language and the history of names and his innate sense of humour. His sense of play is most evident in The Hobbit and in all of his writings about The Shire and the history and habits of its people. Peter Jackson clearly understood Tolkien's very English sense of the ridiculous in his film treatment of Merry and Pippin in the Lord of the Rings.

Farmer Giles of Ham is a delight, and for those who can find a copy make sure it is 'embellished by Pauline Diana Baynes' an added bonus.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tree and Leaf - J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the seventh in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This is a collection of separate, disparate works by Tolkien. I am particularly fond of the two stories Leaf by Niggle and Smith of Wootton Major. There is also an essay on Fairy-Stories and a scholarly and creative work in Tolkien's area of research. However I have it on my shelf for the two stories, both of which illustrate Tolkien's ability to tell a seemingly simple, engaging story. I have enjoyed re-reading these over the years and like all great stories they have given me cause for reflection.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Door in The Hedge - Robin McKinley

This is the sixth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I'm not a big fan of short story collections - preferring the longer form - but I will make an exception for this book, the last of my Robin McKinley collection to find a place on the bookshelf. I doubt that I would be as interested if I hadn't read the two Damar novels but the four tales have a resonance with her other works and are nicely written.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

QR codes and the internet of thingyness

Connecting the real world to the virtual is rather too large a topic for a single blog post, but that is the context of my thoughts on QR codes.

We have been using QR codes in my library for a few years. They are included in posters, placed on shelf ends (pointing to appropriate LibGuides), in the catalogue full record and in our scrolling new books display for large monitors around the library. I've captured one below.

We even have a very large QR code at the entrance (directing to our main mobile website).

Why do we use them?

QR codes are easy to make, can be small or the size of a bus, robust to deploy (the QR code in my picture still works despite being in a picture that has been re-sized and format converted) and they work really well if the end content is appropriate for mobile devices. And they are handy for public spaces where clients want use the information they can see.

Physical object --> Mobile --> Website. 

If you try the QR code in the picture above you land in the appropriate version of the LibGuide.

I'm not sure that QR codes are the future of augmented reality given their lack of out-of-the-box inclusion in mobiles and low uptake in Australia. They might be a technology dead end. However they give an insight into the world of the future, where your physical surroundings will be connected with the virtual. Just don't leave your mobile phone at home!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beauty - Robin McKinley

Here is the fifth of my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This delightful book grabbed me from the first page. The historical context invokes an age a little distant from the present, but no so distant that we can't identify with it and thus sets the tone for the remainder of the story in a fashion I'd not encountered previously in a retold fairy story. In retelling a well known story it isn't the plot but the telling of the story that does the magic. This version of the classic tale is a classic in its own right and worthy of a place on anyone's bookshelf.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Discovery, one thing leads to another

I recently read Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle on the recommendation of my kids and enjoyed it. I noticed, as one does, that it was also a 'major motion picture' and did a little research to see if the movie actually existed. I discovered that it did exist and wasn't just a publisher's embellishment on a blurb and that the animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki had been very well regarded. So I bought the film from Amazon.

A work colleague, with whom I'd been discussing Howl's Moving Castle turned out to be rather a fan of Hayao Miyazaki and I now have a loan of Spirited Away to watch.

I had also been rather intrigued by the Queen track Flash on my compilation CD and wondered what the 1980's movie might be like. I did a little research and decided to track it down on Amazon and now I have a copy to watch. At the time of writing I've watched the first 40 minutes and it is everything I expected!

As I reflected on this I was reminded of a presentation at the recent THETA conference titled From Search to Discovery presented by Mal Booth and Josh Vawdrey from University of Technology Sydney. I had liked in particular their elucidation of the spectrum of search (as very narrow and focused) to discovery (broad and exploratory) and the way they are developing their systems to provide richer discovery opportunities.

I thought my experience illustrates this nicely. I didn't start out wanting to get movies to watch but my reading and music led me in unexpected directions.

Discovery, one thing leads to another.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Planning the (virtual) Library

At the recent THETA conference I gave a presentation on managing the virtual library - an area which has been a focal point for the last year or so at my library.

The slides and audio of my talk are now available online.

One of the things I talked about were our virtual library principles. They describe what we think a successful virtual library would look like and they have been helpful in our strategic and operational planning.

I share them here.

The following principles guide the development and management of the virtual library.

The Virtual Library will:

  • endeavour to deliver services and resources anytime, on any device, at any location, using the principles of universal design, without unnecessary access restriction.
  • provide information about services and resources that is coherent, client centred, comprehensive and correct.
  • be innovative in the services and resources it provides and in the ways it delivers them.
  • provide services and resources that encourage clients to be self-sufficient.
  • make clear the role and availability of library staff behind the provision of services and resources, encouraging the use of images and contact details of library staff and avoiding anonymous/automated/[disembodied] responses.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Danger in paradise

I captured this sign today during our early morning Sunday walk along the beachfront promenade.

It says all that needs to be said about the wonderful Australian coast.

Enjoy with caution.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

Here is the fourth of my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I was fortunate to read The Hobbit at an early age. Tolkien wrote this for young readers and I've found, as an adult, that it isn't as accessible. It is still enjoyable and a must have on my bookshelf, but the real magic seems to belong to the very young. It would make an excellent book to read to your children one episode at a time. Try reading it aloud and you will see what I mean. The author talks to the reader and Tolkien shows that he just loved telling a good story. His much longer Lord of the Rings is more developed, more dense and more complex. Clearly more satisfying for an adult but then it is an adult's story. The Silmarillion, published after his death, is another beast altogether. Don't be surprised to see me add these works to my blog in due course.

It would be remiss not to comment on the Peter Jackson retelling of The Hobbit. I've seen the first installment and while I found the first half a little slow paced I liked it overall and am looking forward to the rest of the story. For those who are fond of the book, as I am, it might be helpful to think of the film as Peter Jackson telling the same story for an adult audience. In many ways it is the story of the hobbit told in the style of Tolkien's later work with a dash of Peter Jackson's typical love of the gruesome.

Is The Hobbit on your bookshelf? I can't imagine not having a copy on mine.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Award winning and open

At my library we recently won the Library Board of Western Australia Award for Excellence for our work on the Virtual Bookshelf, which I have previously mentioned.

I am delighted that our work was recognized by the award but I am particularly pleased that a key element in the success of our nomination was recognition that we are sharing the software. As you might know, if you have developed software in-house, getting it into a fit state for sharing is a task in itself and one that has few tangible benefits for your own organisation. Going the extra yard takes extra time and effort and it is great to work in an organisation that values engagement with the library profession beyond our own walls.

If you are interested in the Virtual Bookshelf software you can request access here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Hero and The Crown - Robin McKinley

Here is the third of my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Unlike many current fantasy writers Robin McKinley hasn't produced an extended series of books. I will talk more about my view on series another time, but there are advantages to limiting one's output. In the case of The Hero and The Crown it is a prequel to the Blue Sword but clearly it isn't an afterthought type of prequel but rather a completing of the story and in my opinion there are good reasons for reading them in the published order. The Blue Sword wouldn't work as well if you had all the background from this book, and similarly this book wouldn't work as well without familiarity gained from the first book. They are a nice pairing and I commend them to you. For your bookshelf.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Getting to yes

I read this book a couple of years ago.

As negotiation is part of my role it was very helpful to me in my work. The book is easy to read and could be summarized on one page (which I did).

Earlier in the year I attended a two day workshop on negotiation and required reading was the same book. I discovered at the workshop that I had only scratched the surface on negotiation and I have worked a bit harder on it since. The point was made at the workshop, and very correctly, that negotiation is something we do at work and at home, all the time in fact. Doing it consciously and from a non-positional stance is very productive, being prepared is essential and being mindful during the negotiation is helpful!

If you want to know more - read the book.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley

Here is the second of my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

When I'd finished this book for the first time I was so taken with it that I started again.This is the only book that I've actually re-read straight away.

The author treads the line between historical fiction and fantasy using a style repeated in some of her other works, but especially effective here. I guess what entranced me the most was her ability to capture the reader's sense of perspective and then turn that on its head. I'd also note, that in this age of gut-wrenching blood soaked fantasy, The Blue Sword is not like that!

Monday, June 10, 2013

My first library job

I can't resist a good meme, thanks @kalgrl for starting and others for getting on the bandwagon.

While I was finishing my Graduate Diploma at Curtin University in 1993 I picked up my first professional job as a librarian (technically not quite professional as I wasn't yet graduated but I still claim it as my first real librarian work - I got PAID for it). I responded to a request from Jennie Barwick, then a part time librarian at  the Crime Research Centre at UWA, for someone to undertake a small project to establish a database of serials using INMAGIC. There was about 30 hours work.

I knew nothing about serials, nothing about databases and nothing about INMAGIC but I applied and got the work.

Carol Newton-Smith was fond of saying (when I worked with her) 'bite off more than you can chew and chew like crazy'. I 'chewed like crazy' - learned what I needed to know and got through the contract unscathed.

If I was to give advice to new library graduates, then it would be that no job is too small or too temporary. I went from this job to another short contract for Kerry Smith, to a 3 month fixed term contract in the Curtin library and eventually onto an ongoing position. Each job helped me develop some skills, connect to library people (future employers) and have something to write in my resume.

I also like that my first paid work was about discovery, a work that is as relevant today as it was in 1993.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Space Cadet - Robert Heinlein

Here is the first of my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I really like science fiction from the golden age and this is one of many.

The opening of this classic science fiction story uses a tried and true plot device. The protagonist makes a friend whilst traveling to cadet school. The friend becomes an integral part of the story. This is the Harry and Ron moment on the way to Hogwarts, and the Kirk and Bones moment in the 2009 Star Trek movie. An old device but a good one.

I also like the way the protagonist pulls a telephone out of his back pack to make a call to his father. This is part of the scene setting for a story written in the 1940’s but set in 2085. The modern reader will probably not notice as mobile phones are now ubiquitous.

In all other respects this is a story best read with a nod to the historical context of the 1940's, not be distracted by the technology assumptions and paternalistic attitude to women. I try to imaging how I might have been influenced by it if I'd read it as a teenager at that time. I would have been excited and inspired.

It is also just a good read.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest and most pleasant memories relate to reading books. Sometimes music, food or location can remind me of the first time I read a particular book. Reading is an enduring passion.

Now that I have a blog I plan to post my bookshelf one book at a time until I run out of books.

I will only include books I've read and liked and books that I will read again; the bookshelf I would stock for a one way trip to Mars, my desert island collection, the legacy I hand down to the next generation. These are books that have become a part of my life.

If you find your tastes coincide with mine then you might find a gem or two that you have overlooked. I am still 'discovering' books that have been around for decades but for one reason or another escaped my attention. They are such a delight to discover, especially when you find a prolific author that has escaped your notice.

You will find that many of the books on my shelf are 'children's books'. I've never lost the taste for these type of books and consider them very suitable reading for an adult. My definition of a children's book is one that is accessible to a child but this doesn't imply that an adult can't also enjoy the book.

I am told, though I find this hard to believe, that some people only read a book once! For me the sign of a great book is knowing you will read it again and again. I find that when I reread a favourite book that I've changed and the experience is different.

Perhaps one day in the future I will be at a loss for a book and my blog will remind me of the treasures on my bookshelf.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 07, 2013

It's the conversation, stupid

Have you ever been at a conference or seminar and missed a session because the conversation with colleagues over coffee was more interesting and relevant than sitting and listening to the next speaker?

At the recent THETA conference they offered an alternative to the traditional presentation.

More universities are offering flipped classrooms.  Instead of coming to class to listen to a lecture and then complete assignments, students study the topic first and then come to lecture for informed discussion.  At THETA 2013 you can flip your session, turning it into a facilitated discussion instead of a presentation.

I proposed a 'flipped' session on Next Generation Library Systems.  I prepared some notes including pre-reading as requested by the organisers and which was promoted to conference participants. I was more nervous about this session than my presentation because it was untrod territory for me.

I set out some ground rules at the start of the 50 minute session, with my primary ground rule being no passengers only contributors. Many people then decided to go to another session but I was left with 40 odd people who actively participated in the ensuing discussion. I had some talking points and directed the discussion, moving it on, introducing new topics and encouraging people to elaborate or listen as required.

We had a robust and informed conversation on a topic of interest. I thought the session was more productive than if I had spoken to slides. I got some very nice feedback after the session, including from one of the library systems vendors who had attended and participated.

I'd like to see more flipped sessions at conferences and less stand and deliver; more conversations beyond the coffee break. I think we would get more value from having more conversation. On the down side it would mean that preparation for attending a conference would about more than airline and hotel bookings. Attendees would have to have done the reading and thinking beforehand and be primed to participate and not just passively absorb.

Shall we talk about it?

Thursday, June 06, 2013


I'm a little sluggish today.

When you visit another country it isn't always the grand views or the historic monuments or the appalling coffee that grabs your attention. Sometimes it is the small, unexpected, unanticipated thing that piques your interest and engages your camera. In this case the shiny blackness of the slug, the large size and its apparent delight in the rain and cold caught my eye. I'd never seen such a thing before and I laughed when I saw it. I think of visitors to my home town when they see a black swan or a kangaroo and know how they might feel.

Travel, ain't it grand.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Virtual Bookshelf

As I mentioned in a previous post we have been working in my library on a way of compensating for some of the discovery that has been lost in our transition to an online, virtual, electronic library. In particular the display of new books and the ability to browse the shelves are disappearing in the modern academic library. The books are NOT just physical items and the books that are paper are NOT on the shelves (hopefully) but have been borrowed and are sitting on someone else's bookcase/desk. Our Virtual Bookshelf can provide display and browse in a way that is as good and in some ways better than traditional display and browsing (for instance the books are ALWAYS on the shelf in a virtual bookshelf, not on loan or misplaced).

The Virtual Bookshelf has a number of manifestations.

The library homepage has a mini-carousel that moves, can be scrolled and clicks through to the item record in the catalogue. This brightens up the home page and encourages discovery.

The New Books display has a large carousel format of all new books that can be scrolled and links through to the item record. It also has a bookshelf view.

There are new items as curated faculty/school lists with PDF, bookcase or RSS views.

And there is a shelf browse available as a tab for each local item in the catalogue.

These manifestations of the Virtual Bookshelf work on all platforms, including mobile and tablet devices.  The shelf browse inevitably includes older titles that don't have cover images but dummy covers are produced. The software is robust, visually appealing and quick, very quick. FTW.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Innovation, not a great idea

Innovation isn't the great idea, the leap forward, the vision to do something new or better. That is only the start, the 1% of the effort as Mark Twain might have said. The 99% of the effort is getting the idea into solid, substantial, ongoing reality. To be an innovative organisation (or individual) means doing new things or doing things in a new way, it doesn't mean having lots of ideas.

We have an annual event at my library to encourage innovation. You can read about it in the winter newsletter. The innovation event is largely about giving ideas enough time to be developed so that others can grasp the concept and then selecting one or more idea and giving it strategic priority (money, staffing and time). Without time to develop 'the pitch' an idea may languish just because other staff couldn't get their head around it.

I will illustrate my point with an idea that I put forward with my colleague Matthew in 2010 to use the enduring visual attraction of the book cover image to respond to the decline of traditional promotion and discovery, in particular the ineffectiveness of new books displays and the loss of shelf browsing caused by the transition of monographs to electronic format. I later spoke about this topic at the 33rd Annual IATUL Conference in Singapore and you can read my more considered thoughts in the full paper Visualization for New Generation Users in the Age of the Electronic Book.

The technical work that was required to progress this idea into a substantial reality took a few years, suffered the inevitable false starts, dead ends and frustrations that come with the territory and passed through a number of hands. I will talk a little more about the virtual bookshelf in a later post, but I wanted to illustrate my point that we should think about innovation as getting an idea to the 'market' not just having the idea.

Monday, June 03, 2013

WAIN Mailing List spawns a Twitter List

I moderate a mailing list for library people in Western Australia. The list is called WAIN (Western Australia Information Network) and I established it in 1994. The list has over 1800 subscribers and is an active but low volume list with lots of local job opportunities, requests for local assistance and promotion of local events.

Recently I decided to curate a Twitter list that reflects a subset of the WAIN community and it has 70 members and over 45 subscribers. If you think of a mailing list as the notice board in your staff room, then a Twitter list is like overhearing the conversation of a room full of staff having morning tea. Same work place very different activity. Lists are one of the essential tools used by those who are immersed in Twitter as a way to manage the information deluge. You can subscribe to a list or the list can be a useful source of people for you to follow. I know that the internet is global but I think locality matters and WAIN is a geographically defined subset of like-minded people with a common interest. Hence this is a list with a local flavour.

I see the WAIN Twitter list as having the following characteristics:
  • It contains those subscribers to WAIN who are on twitter (to the best of my ability) 
  • It will NOT be a mirror of WAIN, will NOT replace WAIN, will NOT provide the information functions of WAIN 
  • It will be an ongoing conversation, babble, information stream by people who happen to also be WAIN subscribers
  • It will be useful resource for finding like minded library people to follow
You can find the list at

If you would like to be added then ping me at @WAINmoderator or @lgreenpd -- I will expect you to be a WAIN subscriber (that is my criteria for curating the twitter list).

If you are NOT on WAIN then join at

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The view from above

I love looking down on cities and towns, and think that you haven't seen a city if you haven't gotten above to have a good look. Here are a couple of examples.

Two years ago I was in Edinburgh for the first time. We stayed in an apartment on the Royal Mile, explored the Castle, walked the New Town, visited Gladstone's Land and climbed to the top of the Camera Obscura from where this picture was taken.

Earlier this year we visited Paris staying in an apartment within walking distance of the river. We climbed the North Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral and I took this picture amongst many snaps of the gargoyles and grotesques.

When I return from a holiday I like to take time to look at these photos and zoom in on the detail. Engrossing and thought provoking.

We live our lives walking the streets and occasionally we should climb up above it all and have a good look down and a bit of a think.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Late to the (online) shop

I recently celebrated a birthday. This year I asked the family for iTunes vouchers. I decided that the purchase of music over the internet was sufficiently mature for me to enter the field and with a little annual leave on my hands I entered in style, purchasing the following albums, loading them onto my iPod and inflicting them on the family (along with stuff from the CD collection such as R.E.M., David Bowie, John Denver).

The Cat Empire
So Many Nights - The Cat Empire
Steal the Light - The Cat Empire
The Stranger - Billy Joel
Turnstiles - Billy Joel
This is The Moody Blues
The Very Best of Deep Purple

In the process I discovered something that you, the reader, will likely already know. Online shopping is easy, robust and fun! Also The Cat Empire are awesome.

With the dam broken I then purchased the following from Amazon.

Howl's Moving Castle (the anime motion picture)
Flash Gordon (classic version featuring music by Queen)

There is joy in having your music purchase available in a few moments but a different pleasure in waiting for your purchases to arrive by post. The fast and the slow. All to the good.

I'm not sure there is any way back from the slippery slope of online shopping. Fortunately I return to work on Monday and in the normal world I am a reluctant shopper in all modes of shopping, but I do have a taste for it now.

BTW, I burnt my new music to CD because I don't really trust that the online shop won't eat my music one day!