30 June 2011

Farewell to Dr Alex Byrne (Part 2, the film)

This very clever animation was produced by Belinda Tiffen and Sharlene Scobie from UTS Library and it was the final item presented in the UTS farewell last night. It can also be found on the UTS Library YouTube Channel.

Farewell to Dr Alex Byrne (Part 1)

Photo credit: Dianne Garvan, UTS Library.

Last night UTS formally farewelled Alex Byrne as outgoing University Librarian. It was a wonderful function held in the University Chancellery with attendees including former Chancellor Sir Gerard Brennan, Emeritus Professor Brian Low, former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) Robyn Kemmis, Alex's partner Sue Hearn and daughter Kate Byrne.

The function was hosted by Professor Shirley Alexander, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Teaching, Learning & Equity) and Vice President and speeches thanking Alex for his contribution to UTS were delivered by Professor Ross Milbourne, Vice-Chancellor and President of UTS and Professor Jill McKeogh, Dean of the Law Faculty. Professor Theo Van Leeuwen, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences sang an Adieu for Alex to the tune of My Favorite Things.

Given Alex's long and strong commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture it was fitting that the evening was kicked off with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land on which the UTS campus sits by Joan Tranter (Equity and Diversity Coordinator & Manager: Indigenous/Cultural Diversity at UTS).

I spoke on behalf of all staff of the Library and here it is, I think a fitting final post for #blogjune:

All of us in the UTS Library will miss Alex’s integrity, consultative leadership, forward thinking, his commitment to scholarship at UTS and his focus on excellence in library service.

His vision and leadership leaves behind a lasting legacy that has taken UTS Library from mediocrity to extraordinary. We are now recognised as a clear leader in service design, digital library services and e-Scholarship. His inspirational future vision will be realised by the new Library that is now being planned for the centre of the UTS campus, driven by new technologies that open up the library spaces for people and deliver fast and relevant services in both the physical and virtual worlds.

Beyond UTS, Alex is widely respected as one of the most accomplished senior librarians internationally and he has contributed much as both a Board Member and President of the International Federation of Library Associations. Alex has also had strategic leadership with a number of significant national projects such as his role in shaping the direction of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive and earlier work on developing protocols for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library and Information Resource Network. He has also contributed substantially to the growth of cooperative/collaborative arrangements to share collections between different universities like Bonus+.

Alex is also recognised by those who have been fortunate enough to work closely with him as a man of multiple talents and wisdom in so many fields, from literature and the arts to politics, history and languages. He is into everything. He makes his own bookends and he is sketching and print-making at the moment. He meets up with someone he studied French with once a month to practice his French conversation skills. He made ‘from Russia with Love’ for our edible books day. He regularly attends plays, operas, and musical performances. He has friends from all walks of life from countries all around the world, including a best friend who is Polish. He is an intellectual who understands deep conversations about philosophy, politics, literature, religion, history, as well as someone you can sit down and have a beer with.

He is a particularly generous leader who genuinely trusts his staff and is not afraid of having some fun at work. He often told us to push our initiatives even further than we had suggested to him: he encouraged us to “push it over the edge”, unlocking our imagination and giving us the freedom to experiment and truly innovate.

His has been a very humane and consultative style of leadership and he is respected as a sound decision maker, but a fair, honest and open judge. Alex is passionately committed to equity, accessibility, fairness for all and an open form of management.

We will miss his intellect, wit and wisdom in so many fields but all of his colleagues in the Library wish him the very best as State Librarian for NSW.

23 June 2011

On Trust

Mal Booth
Image credit: Paul Hagon on Flickr

I meet with design thinkers, services designers and social innovators every week and we are starting to get them to help us prepare our library for its exciting future model. The model is fueled by the implementation of new technologies like ASRS and RFID, but we also realise that we need to change as an organisation and develop a new service model that fully realises the potential offered by these technologies. We are starting small and our first project to be facilitated by one of these designers (Grant Young from Zumio) will be an in house sustainability initiative. More on that when it gets going.

So Grant tweets the other day about a book he was given. Being the nosey parker that I am, I quickly looked it up on our catalogue and found that we had it here, so now I'm reading it too: Tim Brown's Change by Design. It is an easy read, using story-telling to get across the experience of some case studies, and a couple of things have struck me as particularly relevant so far. One was all about trust in a section of the first chapter called cultures of innovation. Here is the quote and now you'll see why I used the above image from a talk I did way back in 2009:
A culture that believes it is better to ask forgiveness afterward rather than permission before, that rewards people for success but gives them permission to fail, has removed one of the main obstacles to the formation of new ideas.
At UTS I've been lucky enough to work for Dr Alex Byrne for over two years now. That is exactly how he operates and I've enjoyed that culture and tried hard to encourage my unit to work together in the same manner. If you work somewhere that doesn't even allow you to speak up before checking with your boss first or if that is how you manage your own organisation, then something is seriously wrong with that picture.

20 June 2011

Loon Lake

Another surprise on Saturday night was the support act to Red Riders: Loon Lake. These guys are unreal. They had us from their first song. Three of them are brothers and they obviously really enjoy playing together. They're fantastic!
I downloaded their new EP Not Just Friends from iTunes Store almost as soon as I got home. It features their single In the Summer that is getting some airplay on Triple J now.

19 June 2011

The Middle East & Red Riders

I had a big weekend of music. It started with The Middle East at the Metro on Friday night and finished with Red Riders' last ever concert at the Oxford Art Factory (video above of Ordinary from that performance) on Saturday night. Both events were fantastic and well worth the money.
The Middle East were a complete surprise. I know their music from their self-titled EP and the more recent album I Want That You Are Always Happy, but in concert I think their music is much deeper, heavier and it has so much more energy. They really seem to enjoy playing and performing and right from the first note it was clear that they had a really big sound and stage presence. As with their album there was heaps of variety in the playing with most band members playing several instruments as they wandered through their amazing repertoire. To me it seemed that they had a long background in live performance and after having seen them now it seems their studio recordings, whilst beautiful, just don't capture the energy and richness they display on stage. They're brilliant.
Red Riders also really enjoyed playing their concert. They seemed to treat it all as a celebration of their musical history and they dropped a couple of hints that it isn't all completely over. They will probably do some individual work or reform in another combination. Guitarist Brad Heald is back with The Vines. I hope all that talent just isn't wasted.
I think I mostly enjoyed the music they played in the second half of this gig (from Drown in Colours) when Brad replaced Adrian Deutsch on stage. His guitar work on Tomorrow/Today and Ordinary is very special. Tomorrow/Today was probably my highlight from this performance. I'd rate Drown in Colours as one of the best albums I own. They are (or maybe were now) such an under-rated band.

17 June 2011

#blogjune Music Meme

1. The album/EP/single I'm currently addicted to:
Red Riders: Drown in Colour. I'm off to see their last ever concert at the Oxford Art Factory on Saturday night too!

2. The last live music concert I went to (date too please):
The Falling Joys at the OAF last Saturday night (10 June 2011).

3. The last album I bought (or downloaded):
The Naked & Famous: Passive Me, Aggressive You

4. The next album I want to buy:
Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys. See video above.

5. The next live music concert I will be going to:
The Middle East at the Metro in Sydney tonight.

6. Most memorable live performance I've attended:
The Cure: Reflections at the Sydney Opera House.

7. I would most like to see live in concert:

16 June 2011

The top 15 reasons not to stop at a pedestrian crossing

Red projection, Circular Quay

(Completely unrelated image.)
“I saw a sad faced, slow moving elderly gentleman as he bounced off the bonnet of my car”.

1. You just don’t like to. (Fair enough really.)
2. You are too important to stop. (Of course you are.)
3. You are far to busy to stop. (Snap.)
4. You were smoking or drinking. (Quite right too.)
5. You were using your phone. (And that is O.K.)
6. This is a very busy road and people should cross elsewhere. (Why didn’t I think of that?)
7. You wear a dark suit (see #2 above).
8. You were simply following the car in front. (One must keep that traffic flowing.)
9. YOU HAVE CHILDREN IN THE CAR! (Bingo: you win this beautiful lounge suite.)
10. You have a pet on your lap. (How did that get in there?)
11. You were listening to music or the radio. (Lalalalalah)
12. You needed to adjust your hair. (I flick my hair back and forth.)
13. You really don’t like to use the clutch and the brakes. (We must all be environmentally responsible.)
14. The pedestrian wasn’t directly in front of your car. (Face palm.)
15. You don’t like pedestrians, runners, bike riders, people who don’t drive cars, etc. (Double face palm.)

14 June 2011

@flexnib's five books meme #blogjune

1. The book I’m currently reading:
Isherwood by Peter Parker

2. The last book I finished:
Beneath Hill 60 by Will Davies

3. The next book I want to read:
Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot

4. The last book I bought:
Rouleur Photography Annual 2010 (Vol 4) Edited by Guy Andrews (See image above.)

5. The last book I was given:
Donna Hay's Fast, Fresh Simple. Does a cook book count?

10 June 2011

Falling Joys at the Oxford Art Factory

The Falling Joys played an amazing show at the OAF last night. It followed their first live gig for 15 years earlier this year at the National Museum of Australia. It was almost a full house at the OAF and just about everyone seemed to be a dedicated and loyal fan if you can judge that by how many times they felt the need to sing the lyrics.
The indie band seemed to have lost none of their feel for their music and their talent for playing live. Age certainly hasn't wearied them. The guitar work was just as unique and recognisable as ever and they played with heaps of energy. Lock It (1990) has always been my favourite of all of their songs (image above during Lock It performance), but Jennifer (also from the 1990 album Wish List) was certainly another highlight of the show. They also played some new songs that also were received very well.
I was so glad I managed to get to this show!

What is a discovery layer?

A Vivid discovery layer at MCA

Storytime. Last year a few of us from UTS Library were invited to go and talk with students and then help to assess their augmented reality (AR) application concepts that could be applied to the UTS campus. They were advanced Visual Communications students working with some pretty clever and inspiring academics, including a visiting lecturer (Dr Keir Winesmith) who is normally the technical lead for SBS Digital Media. From memory, nearly all of the concepts they came up with were influenced in some way by the students’ use of and experience with social media. One of the concepts was tightly focussed on the Library and based on mobile service including mobile search and discovery and mobile check out.

The student library application included many features that they expected to see and use to search and discover our library’s collections: a basic item record; tags; ratings; reviews; comments; AND the item’s history of use. The history was represented graphically to show frequency and periods of use and even whether the item had been the subject of a fine for late return. We have taken their suggestions very seriously and it has confirmed our belief that we needed to add a basic social media layer to our “discovery layer” with new features such as folksonomic tags, ratings and reviews or comments. We are also looking into the feasibility of adding the item’s history of use.

This experience started me thinking about a number of things. Are we really offering true “discovery”, i.e. the chance of uncovering something accidentally or serendipitously that you may not have been specifically searching for in our online search interfaces? I don’t think so, not yet. They are mostly enhanced search, federated search or unified index based searching. Are we offering our clients, or users, or readers (or whatever you want me to call them Kathryn!) the kinds of services they are expecting to find online now based on their use of social media and various online services and applications that enable profile sharing and which deliver a more personal or shared experience online? No again I’m afraid. To do that I think we need to find out what our clients are doing, observe their behaviours and also talk to people from outside the library world to find out how we might leap ahead of what the predictable, slow-moving crowd that sells us library management systems and so-called discovery layers has to offer. In short, we need to stop walking like Egyptians and learn some new dance steps.

Now, in case you still don’t get it, here are some suggestions that might lead to enhanced serendipitous discovery. They are taken from my own experience with social media and other online services that I think are a long way ahead of our offerings. They enhance your ability to discover new things accidentally through your network of contacts or friends or through the “muddy foot prints” of others who have gone before you and altruistically shared their experience. For me I think it all comes from understanding the power of connections and sharing that is now offered by the web.

For a start, we definitely must start offering these features for our catalogues and search layers: comments (e.g. Flickr); folksonomic tagging (Flickr, Twitter); easy to use ratings (iTunes, LibraryThing); virtual browsing using Cover Flow (I know some libraries are already offering this); and reviews (Amazon, Expedia, iTunes Store).

And now a listing of the other features I like to use and would like to see some of us playing with:

  • Little icons that quickly allow you to share a link to what you are viewing on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or a blog (Flickr does this very well now). I was also going to suggest little icons to social bookmarking services like Delicious and Diigo, but maybe the toolbar icons that are now added so easily in browsers like Google’s Chrome account for that?
  • Like” icons (Facebook, Tumblr).
  • Reblog, retweet or re-post options (Twitter and Tumblr again, and yes Kathryn, I think we have much to learn from the pr0n industry online).
  • The optional ability to establish, customise and share online profiles (last.fm) for “your library” that then facilitates the use of favourites (Flickr), “following” (Tumblr, Twitter), asking (Tumblr, Twitter) and things like wishlists (Amazon) which for libraries could mean things like planned reading lists stored for later and shared with friends or colleagues. I see this kind of thing being really useful in facilitating peer-to-peer help or advice that would be helpful to those using our databases or journals.
  • Online profiles would also enable features like “scrobbling” your reading, use, borrowing history (last.fm). These profiles allow us to explore through the eyes of others. It works for music because people can easily find music they might like that is well beyond the boring and repetitive play lists of most radio stations.
  • A check-in or currently reading/viewing service that might operate something like FourSquare. So, instead of locating yourself geographically, you are sharing where your headspace currently is in the library.
  • Randomly exploring what you already know but have forgotten (Apple's Genius) related items (iTunes Store Genius recommendations).
  • "Looking within" or sampling from a catalogue entry (Amazon & iTunes: e.g. listening or getting sample of an e-book before you buy).
  • Is anyone offering an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button yet (Google)?
  • Item use history (UTS students), including the application of late fees!
  • Stumbling (StumbleUpon) another opt-in service that tracks your searching, browsing, use or borrowing history and then feeds you other items you might also find interesting or relevant.

I realise that doing all of the above isn’t feasible, nor would it be wise. We do, however, need to try a few of those features and when we set them up we must make them really easy and simple to use. I’ve probably missed a few things, so please let me know what you think.

This post also appears over here:


07 June 2011

Seven things meme


Seven Things that Scare Me

  • Sharks
  • Snakes
  • City traffic (when I'm riding my bike)
  • City traffic (when I'm driving my car)
  • Tony Abbott
  • Extreme heights
  • Speeding

Seven Things I Like

  • Plain chocolate
  • Music
  • Abstract impressionism
  • Calligraphy & illumination
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Champagne

Seven Random Facts About Me

  • I get on well with most of my ex-partners (let's not try counting them all now
  • I worked in London for a while doing intelligence analysis
  • I've rafted the Franklin River in Tasmania twice in an individual raft
  • I never miss a vampire series on TV
  • I now own a Pinarello Prince (bike)
  • I painted an Australian coat of arms that was signed by HM The Queen (and dated by the DoE)
  • I own rather a lot of shoes (maybe it is a gay thing?)

Seven Things I want to Do Before I Die

  • Visit NYC
  • Visit Italy
  • Return to Sweden & visit Norway
  • More painting, calligraphy & photography
  • Develop better bike handling skills
  • More surfing
  • Read more and see more movies and live music

Seven Things I Can Do Well

  • Swim
  • Run (well, I used to)
  • Cook fruit cakes (like Xmas cakes)
  • Coach swimmers and triathletes
  • Get on with a lot of animals
  • Quickly digest and analyse complex data or facts
  • Shop

Seven Things I Can’t Do But Wish I Could

  • Play a musical instrument
  • Fly an aircraft
  • Gymnastics
  • Ride a track bike
  • Juggle
  • Graphic design
  • Be more tolerant of idiots

Seven Phrases I’m Known to Use

  • Okay (& okey dokey)
  • Hang on . . .
  • For s*** sake!
  • What?
  • Look . . .
  • Hey . . .
  • You d*** head


03 June 2011

Future Smarts: Education for the 21st Century

Sydney Opera House: Vivid
I went to this event last night as part of Vivid Creative Sydney (#VCS). With me were: Jemima McDonald (change agent, @jemimaeve special subject: Shark Island), Sophie McDonald (Jemima's mother, @misssophiemac special subject: workplace disruption) and Dr Belinda Tiffen (intellectual, @bella1609 special subject: big words). I was invited to tag along because they felt sorry for me and because they thoight it would be good for me to hang around with some smart people.

It was an after hours event so in the spirit of "life-long learning" (the subject of one of the questions asked of the panel) we will all be submitting forms for overtime, time-in-lieu and for exposure to hazardous risks (ideas coming from outside the library and university world).

I was not expecting to get much from this event and had already thought up an excuse to leave early, but I was surprised by how stimulating some of the plainly-spoken issues raised by the panel were. We couldn't Tweet live because inside the Playhouse there was hardly any mobile phone coverage, so I took a few notes and they form the basis of this post.

After the moderator finished talking about himself the first panelist Raju Varanasi told us about what is currently happening in NSW schools. It was good to hear and see him illustrate co-creation, fun, interactive game-based learning, the use of multimedia, collaboration and cross-curricular learning. He recognised the enormous challenge in keeping teachers up to date with technology, but I don't think we had the time to fully explore any real answers.

Philip Cronin from Intel talked about the fast pace of change and showed an interesting Wordle about what mattered in education (now) in which music and video were writ large. I could see "mobile", but books and text were not readily evident. As I've said before most libraries are still locked into a text-based universe and that along with their failure to embrace technological change is probably why many are now under threat. Philip stressed the importance and growing development of connections.

Christopher Nicholls the founder of Sistema Australia was up next and spoke of the power of unlocking imagination through culture and technology. His initiative with Sistema brings to Australia a program started in Venezuela that transforms the learning and development of disadvantaged students through the power of music. He says it develops their ability to imagine and that is lacking in our current learning structures, possibly because of too many boundaries, rules, measures that do not value creativity and competition between institutions.

Finally Sharon Clerke from the Foundation for Young Australians/NAB Schools First program spoke of the benefits of deeper community involvement and partnerships in school education programs.

The discussions after their short presentations stressed the importance of social connections, sharing and a future in which personal and learning connections extend well beyond physical and institutional boundaries. The panelists saw great benefit in immersive sharing and the use of social capital if it is accessible as well as blurred boundaries between school, community, home and work. There was some talk about performance measurement and assessment in schools and how that fails to properly recognise the humanities and creative skills.

When asked to quickly sum up their key points for the future these were their final messages:

  • We must unpack all of our current assumptions about education;
  • We should embrace change now because it is only going to become more rapid;
  • We must understand our humanity; and
  • We need to increase our openness to community & our willingness to share.
For me I was reminded of the power and importance of connections and community and the importance of altruism for the future. I think that if these key points are ignored institutions will be locked into a world of isolation, defending their own selfishness.

01 June 2011

How to select a hashtag

I couple of days ago I suggested a shorter hashtag for #blogeverydayofjune to @flexnib. I suggested #bedoj for obvious reasons and so then it was on (& still is) for young and old. You see, some see this as a metadata debate and as most of us work in libraries (I resisted saying we are librarians for I am a shambrarian), it could carry on for several centuries before consensus is achieved.

So here is my suggestion for the process we should follow now, with thanks again to Perian Sully who first suggested it. It comes from a slide I used at ALIA InfoOnline in a keynote a couple of years back:

Oh, and just in case you are interested, for this month I'm going to use several different platforms (including this blog) just to add a further layer of confusion and chaos. These platforms include, but are not limited to:
So be sure to tell everyone to avoid all of this content because it will be randomly more obscene than the #RipNRoll ad.