a summary

Oh my, a month ago, I heard the call to participate in a brave and foolish venture, that is to blog every day in June. I was a wee bit flexible and decided a day didn’t finish until I went to bed, which allowed me to get several posts in after midnight. That was ok, as it was still the same day in Perth. The #blogeverydayofjune challenge was indeed just that, though I had it a little easier than most participants, in that I had 30 films to blog during the Sydney Film Festival. I’ve been blogging in one form or another for near enough to a decade; however in recent years I have become increasingly sporadic: a post or two a month and occasionally a month missed. I said at the start that it would be nice to recapture my blogging sensibility ie to achieve that sense that all items encountered, situations experienced, and so on, are potentially bloggable moments. I haven’t quite achieved that, though I am happy with my progress. I would like to think that I will continue to blog on a more regular basis, but I have said that before. Yet it must be said, my blog has continued to wander ever on, so it will continue and there was never any doubt of that. It remains my own space, though it’s also space I’ve been sharing and people have been commenting and that has been really lovely.

As for my stats for the month of June:

  • 34 posts
  • 30 films reviewed
  • 107 comments on my posts by other people! Having people comment on your stuff is really cool. I don’t otherwise pay attention to stats so comments are really nice.
  • over 19,000 words written in those 34 posts. Oh my oh my! The longest post was my Kindle review at around 1,800 words and I generally strived toward 500 words a day as a sort of goal.

There was a second challenge for June and that was to comment every day on someone’s blog, which dovetailed nicely and encouraged engagement and participation. I know I commented at least twice per day on other blogs, often more…yet I know there were quite a few blogs I never quite made it to either. The joy of the ANZ blog community these days is that are so many participating, so many making a claim to their own space. It was only a few years ago when you could count the ANZ Biblioblogosphere on one hand. Now there are many hands.

Now we have community.

There were people blogging that I had never heard of, whereas in the old days I knew everyone. Old faces still going, and new faces stepping in; there is a vibrancy to the scene and a diversity of interests, though all united via a connection with the greater library community.

All up, the month of June has been bloody awesome!

I don’t think I can manage blogging every day as it was rather exhausting…with that said, June is a busy month with work and films and other months are potentially quieter. I can see, with my trips away, that blogging in July/August will be a tricky business but I shall see what I can do. There is continuing panic ahead too, with ALIA Access moving ever closer. Surprisingly, folk are willing to pay money for an unconference style of event…though the stream ADHD Librarian and I are coordinating isn’t really an unconference though it has unconference-y bits. We now know people are going to spend time in our little experimental space. Some of it will be good and some of it may fall flat – regardless, I’m hoping it will be fun. I am tearing out what little hair I have in anticipation :-)


Been that sort of day really but now I am eating chocolate. Got all the urgent “end of financial year do or die this is it blah blah blah” stuff done and a few other things and sort of started to work like a regular human. My regular help desk stuff has suffered but I should clear all the older stuff on Thursday. And of course, new hard bits are piling up already. My plan had been to write a massive post on my history with interactive online stuff dating back to my 80s exposure…that sounds sort of wrong but is actually really right. That post is still in draft and needs lots more work and ties into talk of identity and stuff and possibly even the origins of my nickname. Hmmm…based on my posting effort for #blogeverydayofjune, I suspect that may well be book length but we shall see. I don’t feel comfortable doing a summary of the month nor experience either…that should wait til the next post. Like Con, the muse is failing me this evening and I do have drafts prepared for such emergencies but I have no oomph.

I did have a lovely evening winding down while attending the monthly “Library Folk in the Pub” (LFIP) gathering. The attendees tend to be a mix of public libraries and specials. It’s a nice, warm crowd and I’ve been going for years. Originally organised by a friend several years ago, I sort of stopped for a while having done the conference committee thang, and needed a break. I can’t believe that conference was 4 years ago. Anyway LFIP is a different beast these days with different folk and different conversations. It went through a very quiet phase but these days, it seems to hit double figures most times. A nice, friendly bunch that constitutes my regular face to face contact with the folk in my profession. Twitter provides day to day contact with a varied group of folk, but it’s great to have face time too. Interesting, most of the folk I know through LFIP, I communicate with via facebook but, with one or two exceptions, don;’t see in the twitter space…and perhaps vice versa too. Different spaces for different types of people, but all spaces valid as a point for gathering.

my job

Working in the dark. Troubleshooting other systems without actual access to the systems themselves. I have no idea who does my sort of thing at most other vendors. I work in a bubble…or a cage as folk like to joke :-) I’m sort of expected to know, or at least to troubleshoot, every library system in the known universe. I cover all tiers of libraries and people from non tech libraries to IT staff – and somehow I need to be able to have a conversation with them all, if only to resolve their problems. As a friend at SLNSW would comment, I’m bilingual: I can talk librarian and IT. Though amusingly, all my IT friends don’t see me as IT whereas all my library friends do. That says something about the broader continuum of tech and where various folk see themselves and see others.

In my cage, I don’t know, for the most part, who does my sort of thang at other vendors. I go to conferences and primarily see sales reps and librarians. I rarely come across the support folk, the people like me. For some vendors, that person is in another country, but there are others who are local too. Within my company it’s much the same, except that the folk who do what I do are spread across the world: Singapore, Tokyo, India, UK, Mexico and of course the main teams in the US office.

The downside of working for a vendor is that I miss the bigger picture of what’s happening in library databaseland. I don’t have access to their wares, nor what they’re doing…beyond press releases and comments here and there. That may well be a good thing. Sometimes I have customers say to me “vendor X does this but you don’t…why?” and I don’t really know. Different vendors have different approaches as well as trying to support recognised protocols (eg OpenURL, z39.50). There are different corporate structures, technology bases, and they’ve each got to where they are via their own paths. My vendor was (and is) a print publisher of directories and encyclopedias and they made the jump online many years ago. They transitioned from being a print publisher to the online world whereas other vendors started out in this space.

Prior to this job I held a couple of roles at the State Library of NSW in training and support. I got to travel all over NSW, teaching librarians how to search online and more specifically how to search some of the databases they had access to. Scared the daylights out of me at first, but I grew into it…and loved it. Loved the training and loved the travel and got to most of the State one way or another, though I missed a few and never made it to Bourke alas. Whereas my current job has mostly been city based but it has got me to several parts of the country though not to WA or Tasmania as yet. On the other hand, it has got me to New Zealand several times and I’ve managed to travel there a fair bit too.

i babble

I am vague.

Words spew out of my mouth…unstoppable.

That has been my day. Spent in a bubble of vague babblings. Woe to those who encountered me this day. Feel for the poor sales rep, I took visiting to libraries. He’s learning the ropes of libraries and databases and such. Then he got stuck with me. On a day when I was very vague, very disorganised, very little of what I needed to be.

“This is a library” I said “those are books” I said “…and computers too”

We wandered about, upstairs and downstairs…through two libraries. We chatted about searching: the way we do it, the way it sort of works, even played with a federated search at a real library. I think it was a real federated search too.

I am starting to relax a little…my babbling seems mostly of the mouth, and less of the fingers. Thus my worst babbles will escape permanent record.

I babbled so much I missed the first film, Lebanon, at festival. I heard it was good though rather overwrought…somewhat unsurprising as it was shot entirely within the confines of a tank. I arrived at my seat with minutes to spare before the next movie…rushed, I had not taken time to stop, to remember that I was at filmfest once more. Felt a bit strange. The second movie, Heartbeats, was good…ish. The director was more interested in telling a story through framing and image and in mood. He likes to use feet and shoes as something of a narrative device too. It was a story of two friends, guy and girl, who fall for the same chap. Unrequited. They play, they compete, they tussle, they get hurt. Not bad and an interesting start to the evening. A lot less angsty than I was anticipating and a more delicate mood perhaps than I’ve managed to convey.

I had had some hopes of this evening’s blog, being of a poem’s form as that’s the sort of space my head is almost occupying. Alas, such grand designs were dashed by the third movie of the evening, Howl. This was a mix of recreated reading, interspersed with reconstructured scenes from a trial. Howl is probably the best known work of Allen Ginsberg, the publication of which sparked an obscenities trial over whether the book should be banned. The movie is a retelling of the poem and trial, combined with animated effects to illuminate some of the imagery created by reading the poem. The poem was well read and there were also acted interviews with a younger Ginsberg. It was an interesting take of something that is for me mostly historical, a matter of which I am vaguely aware. To my shame, I am still yet to read Howl in its entirety.

oh what to do…

I have time on my hands…or rather I am procrastinating about other commitments. As per a recent realisation that it’s been a while since I visited the fair shores of NZ…I keep popping my nose online. A site I have visited upon occasion is that of DigitalNZ which strikes me as really cool. I came across initially as I think someone I used to know in other circles, is involved with this. It’s a site devoted to sharing and making available, the digital content of NZ. When last I wandered here, I think I came across a bunch of requests to digitise this or that.

This time round, I have happened upon their API stuff, or more specifically, they have an API and are welcoming folk to use it and share their creations. There’s a whole bunch of resources for developers, code samples, and useful widgets that folk have created. This reminds me of a plan I had to create a complicated widget for the NLA’s Trove…though that project never got beyond the basic search plugin (probably should host this somewhere other than the work server) I did for IE/Firefox. I really should revisit that as the NLA too have been encouraging folk to play.

I s’pose the problem for me is that I haven’t really done any raw coding in far too bloody long. What coding I do for work is very basic reworkings of existing perl templates. Nothing that you could call programming, or even hacking for that matter. Oh how times have changed; I used to be conversant in several languages and completed a major in computer science, old school geek was I…but then I choked, got scared…got frustrated spending days finding missing semi-colons in C, and generally burnt myself out. In some sense I s’pose, I ran away. I eventually came to my senses, and commenced a library degree to celebrate my 10th year of uni…back in the mid 90s. And I’ve never really looked back.

But every so often, I go ” but what about…”, and I know I miss the problem solving, I know I like scripting, I know the satisfaction of a working program. I know I miss coding. These are thoughts that have been swirling in my head for a few years and I still haven’t done much about it. I recently read an interview with Paul Hagon, and he too commented on the problem solving aspects. There’s a lot of fun stuff happening these days in libraries, and with coding, and doing stuff with the vast archives of online data that exist now.

I just need to work out what bit I really want to do and try and stick to it. I did have a plan at the start of the year to pick up python as part of a MARC project for work. That remains interesting and I need to pick it up again. Mostly I just want to rediscover the fun of coding that I remember.

a collection of notes

As I spoon into my latest tub of Serendipity ice cream (much to the regret of my waistline), I have been reading on the future of the book in digital. Craig Mod has put together a nice piece on the benefits of digital: both in terms of disposable books (a fair chunk of most fiction) and keepable books ie in the digital age; printed books will have their own significance and appreciation. I think this manages to capture my own approach: my fetish with regard to nice editions yet my desire for something portable and light to read.

For some books and authors, I am keen to have a nicely bound edition, but for the most part, what I read are disposable books. Books that are nice to see on the shelf, but ultimately, I am less likely to treasure or read again. Though “reading again” is not necessarily a boundary in terms of books I want in print. Reading once, in a nice edition, is often sufficient. Though I realised last night that if my home were to burn down, I already have too many nice books to grab and save – better to let them burn and start afresh once more I think. Speaking of which, I really must get round to contents insurance one of these days. Touch wood.

With all that said, and my predilection for things bound nicely, I have decided not to get my nicely bound edition of Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I’ve not read it but Gaiman has become one of my favourite writers and I do have some lovely editions of others of his works. As I’m trying to arrest my rate of spending and perhaps save some money for a change I managed to refrain, though at leastt in part because I am hoping to buy the cheaper versions of The Club Dumas and The Martian Chronicles. The latter particularly as it’s going to be a comprehensive gathering of all related tales – including one of my favourite stories from primary school: “Dark They Were And Golden Eyed”. Whereas The Club Dumas, is a book I’ve read, having seen the Polanski movie on which it is based, starring Johnny Depp, The Ninth Gate. Fond of both, I’d sorta like a nice edition of the book…which I will re-read. So too, the same Press, Subterranean Press, is doing a nice hardcover of a favourite Oz Author, Terry Dowling. I have several of his in paperback and not read any of what will be contained in this volume…and it is a reasonable price, rather than an “eep!” price.

In other areas, I have managed to get in to the 2010 Ideas Forum at the National Library. Once again, they have an interesting lineup of speakers, and already I am already aware of several friends and colleagues attending. My boss has been very supportive of my attending such, as it contributes to my own professional development. I’ve gotten better at asking for stuff rather than waiting for stuff to happen. Not only that, the trip coincides with some friends going to Melbourne for the Mueck exhibition, which I mentioned to my boss and as a result I’ll be working in Melbourne for the following week as well. Serendipity.

vala once again

I’m having something of an odd time. A good time. A time as part of a larger community of shared interests. There’s people I know, with stories to tell. There is buzz and chat and depth and laughter and most of all, friendship. I have been looking forward to #VALA2010 for months and it is proving to be wonderful and everything I hoped for. I work for a vendor yet feel most at home in the library community; they are my peers, my friends, my colleagues. They made me feel welcome.

I’ve been in Melbourne town for a week, having arrived a week ago for the company sales conference. I’ve been careful and taken it slow; pacing myself. Admittedly all such efforts were cast asunder on Saturday and Sunday and Monday, as I caught up with various library folk.

Twitter too, has provided, or facillitated, conversation and connection. I finally got the hang of twitter mid last year, once I moved it from SMS to client-based on my laptop;nevermind the serious smartphone envying I’m currently experiencing. I work in an office mostly by myself, occasionally surrounded by sales reps; no techies to speak of. My twitter community, those who follow and engage, have provided me with a working environment of sorts. Utterly unexpected. I feel disconnected now without that access; disconnected without that community of friends and colleagues.

I am rambling.

VALA started properly yesterday with the OCLC API Mashathon Boot Camp. This was an all day session for coders, or rather, it turned out to be for folk who are code aware, much to the relief of at least half the attendees. It was led by one of my library gods: Roy Tennant. I’d even convinced my boss to send me to LIANZA a few years ago as Roy was giving a keynote. The boot camp didn’t have much time for coding but that was ok. There was plenty of time for ideas, for interaction, for exchange, for communication. For me, it was the first time I’d been in a room where most people were twittering including the presenters :-)

Boot camp was as much about sharing company as sharing data. Meeting new folk and new data streams. If there’s a theme emerging from VALA, it’s likely to be that of data streams. Exposing the data, developing access, and allowing others to re-purpose that data and create new tools, or enhance old ones. Create stuff, put it out there, and let other folk run with it. It’s about contributing to the community rather than keeping it to yourself.

VALA2010, for me, seems to be about creating a sharing, caring environment on so many levels.

odd times

Odd times indeed. I have several multi hundred word posts fighting for space in my head…because I can’t manage to find the time to sit down and type them up. Distractions abound. Many of them silly…well almost all of them I s’pose. There’s a post on The Great Book Sorting – whereby I regale you all with the tales of opening boxes of books and putting them on shelves…some are even in order. Fascinating stuff. There’s the post where I guide you through the exotic minutae of adding your location ID to one of Gale’s generic MARC URLs. Oh the rapture. The things that exist inside my head. Oh deary deary me.

“They’re as mild as, well, a roomful of librarians.” SMH 14th Nov 2009

The essay in Saturday’s Spectrum featured the above line as part of a discussion of the future of the State Library of NSW. Very much of the old school I’d guess. All those teenagers working on group assignments in the hallowed halls, interrupting his quiet time. If he were as deaf as me, rowdy teenagers would never intrude again. Libraries, and much of society it must be said, are wonderful places for quiet solitude…so long as I remember to switch off my hearing aids. Though he is mostly right when he argues that there is a disconnect between the old and the new. The two parts of the SL have never really seemed to fit. They are different spaces. Folks at the SL do have plans for new spaces…fingers crossed and all that.

To be fair…I’ve barely touched on my own thoughts on the matter as I type once more, few words seem to make it to the page. My muse is absent and the words are not flowing. My word count is higher than expected but this piece is mostly fluff of my own making.

However there is some interesting news and proof that I am late to the party once more. In my hunt for a link to the above essay, I discovered that the SMH back archive is now free! Free I tell you! I did a search on Newsstore, found the article and a link that that said all was free. They are charging no longer. I don’t know when that happened. I find it curious that they are not charging at a time when the Murdoch papers are threatening to go the other way. Interesting timing I s’pose…or at least I guess it would be if I had any sort of clue as to timings at all.

My apologies for the dreariness of my words and the lack of intellect and response to this week’s essay in the SMH. I was struck by the quote it is true but seem unable to recall my thoughts at the time of reading.  I do you, my readership, a disservice. Regardless, I shall continue to post, inane though it may be at times…as I tend to find, it’s easier to write, if I’m writing regularly. If I can regain the flow, I may be able to write of bigger things once more.

texting book stuff

Was reading recently about catalogues and liked the idea of a button in a catalogue for texting the book details to your phone. This may well be an idea already becoming obsolete with the recent revolutions of the blackberry/iphone folk. However, it remains the case for me, and I guess many others, that standing in front of a catalogue, or an interesting book in a shop, and wanting a way to record the necessary information. In bookshops, I have long had the practice of saving ISBNs as notes in my phone. My phone is a very simple one but it can handle notes. However, in a library, I find the item on the screen and I either memorise the location details (approximately) or I look for a pencil and paper (also difficult as I’ve mostly lost the motor skill of writing long hand – I need a keyboard).

For this intervening period, a catalogue that can text book information sounds like a good plan. I suspect I’ll be upgrading my phone capabilities before too long (I need to start begging work to give me a blackberry – chance: almost zero) but many others will always be in catch up mode.

library 2.0: the hard yards

We’ve done the courses, we’re flash with our flickr, faced the space, blah blah, social networking/ning/twitter/facebook/irc. All the fun of the fair. Do we still have a clue about our users, our patrons, are we talking to them or each other? Stephanie Rosalia (bugmenot.com) does and other folk do, but does it matter if we do or don’t?

I dunno if I’ve said it online, I’ve certainly said it offline…one of the coolest things about the whole, bloody library 2.0 movement…is that it’s got librarians thinking about what it is they bloody well do. It’s shifted a whole bunch of folk out of rutts (hmmm is that one t or two – can’t be arsed walking to the Shorter in the next room), some of their own making, some they’ve fallen into. Some folk will return to their rutts, others will become super librarians, others still, will do something else altogether.

What matters is that folk have had a shake, looked around, and gone hmmm…what next? Library 2.0 has been a useful tool to kick people into gear, into reassessing, into self evaluation. Where to next?

I’m interested in surveying folk in a few years time (always putting work off lazy bugger that I am) and seeing where they’re at. Seeing what they’re doing in the future now and whether they’d be doing that if 2.0 hadn’t come along. I’m interested in the effect of 2.0 as a catalyst for change.

Where do you think you’ll be in 5 years time ? How far have you come in the last year or two? How much further do you want to go?

There’s a PhD in that question alone I reckon. Nevermind the effect of professional change on personal change and vice versa…bugger that, it’s never possible to have a clear delineation of such…what’s interesting is the mix…