VALA14 – Thursday synopsis

Thursday began with Mia Ridge from Open Universities UK speaking about bringing maker culture to cultural organisations. Mia was keen to broaden the conception of ‘making’ – it’s not just 3D printing and crochet!

After the morning coffee break, Tom Joyce form the University of Queensland gave a great overview of the state of copyright law in Australia, and gave some great commentary on when libraries should be more relaxed about the fact that the law technically outlaws customary practice.

Joyce stated that the original idea of copyright as a ‘utilitarian’ right has morphed into a ‘natural’ right, led by the Berne Convention constantly pushing in a maximalist direction.

An important question for librarians is “Do I really have to choose between laws and norms?” After all, we pride ourselves on ‘best practice’ – doing what is required at an exemplary standard.
There is widespread recognition by governments at every level that current copyright law is seriously deficient. The Internet and related tech are genuinely ‘game changing’ and highly disruptive. Consequently a lag in legislation is a natural outcome.

There are risks with not following black letter law, but we do have options:

  • look at accepted norms in the field
  • look at past behaviour of copyright owners as a guide to future behaviour.
  • focus on their economic interest – that will strongly guide their behaviour
  • non-commercial owners are more likely to rely on ‘natural right’ notions because there is little commercial incentive. This makes them less predictable.
  • move on a sector-wide basis where possible (don’t go out on a limb by yourself)

Joyce says that fairness is the key. Australia needs a ‘fair use’ provision like the US Copyright system. This needs to be ‘principle based’ as per the ALRC recommendation.

After Tom Joyce, Amanda Nixon from Flinders University spoke about eResearch at Flinders University, and following that, Holley and I gave a well-received presentation about I read this thing… Unfortunately I didn’t take any notes for either of these!

After lunch, Constance and Michael Wiebrands continued the theme of staff training. They said that staff often ask for more hands-on training, but what they need is self-directed learning. Training doesn’t necessarily lead to learning, learning doesn’t necessarily come from training. The Wiebrands posed the question: as trainers, are we actually creating life long learners or are our information literacy programs just creating more dependency? Are database training lessons going to help students become life long learners?

Self directed learning isn’t just going out and doing whatever you want – there needs to be an appropriate learning environment. Jane Heart has a concept of the ‘quadrant of learners’ : self-directed / directed learners (binary) and willing / unwilling (binary) along the other axis. This leads to four quadrants: willing-selfdirected, unwilling self directed, willing directed, unwilling directed. We need to identify which group a particular learner belongs to so we can best help them. Constance stressed that she was talking about STAFF here, not clients! Training is not completely useless – there will always be task-training required, but we need programs to help staff without self directed learning skills and create an environment for those who are already self directed.

At the end of the day, the Wiebrands told us that it’s not about the tools or the classes we can run, it comes back to library leadership.
1. We need to know what staff need and what their skills are.
2. Self directed learning should receive equal weight with ‘training’. It suits some staff better, but they shouldn’t have to do a double load.
3. Put staff together to learn from each other.
4. Create ‘learning contracts’ for staff (don’t start by trying to do it for everyone!)
5. Provide time, space and tools to learn.
6. Regularly review and change goals if needed.
7. Leaders need to model self directed learning ourselves! Don’t be a hypocrite. By doing this you show how much you value learning.

After the Wiebrands I went to a session by Brendan Fitzgerald from InfoXchange. Brendan spoke about digital exclusion. Nearly 20% of Australians have no or limited access to the internet, yet it is required to interact with government and potential employers. A Salvation Army study recently found that many impoverished Australians rated internet access as more important than a meal every day.

Brendan would like a national discussion about the social justice ramifications of digital exclusion, and digital literacy policy to be part of the discussion about a National Broadband Network. He challenged librarians to stop being ‘so complacent’ about digital access.

Brendan pointed out that most people only want to learn digital skills because they need them to learn about something else. This is a reminder that when designing digital literacy training and education programs it’s worth thinking about how to personalise it to people’s other real interests.

We then heard from Smita Biswas about how Hamilton Libraries in New Zealand have used software called ‘Kete’ to provide community driven digital archiving. The concept was similar to the Singapore Memory project, but on a smaller scale. The public could upload photos and video directly, and Hamilton also used the Twitter and YouTube APIs to pull down local content.

The had no budget or IT support and managed to do it all with free tools.

Strategies to get the community involved were:

  • use every opportunity to talk about the project
  • get Council ‘ethnic coordinator’ on board
  • enrol enthusiastic volunteer (e.g. from community groups)
  • check out local newspapers and contact local hobby and arts groups to record their history etc
  •  local artists will love to display their work
  • partner with local papers
  • talk to history/media department of your local university

Kete is pretty easy to administer – it takes about 10 mins to set up a ‘basket’. They left it unmoderated. They do not allow anonymous content, and can delete ‘malicious’ content but so far have had no need. They developed specs for uploaded content so that it was appropriate size, standard quality etc

Challenges included:

  • Slow uptake from indigenous Maori community (trust issue)
  • Staffing questions- what is this project? Is it reference service? As far as Smita was concerned it came under reference services, but this needed to be discussed.
  • library advocates needed to be brought on side.
  • lack of ongoing support for Kete software development – it’s now reached a point where it needs bigger user group to continue to be developed.

Smita said that the project enabled an extensive digitisation space and international publishing for a library with very few resources at the end of the word. They were surprised by how successful and big it became.

We ended the conference with a keynote address from Joe Murphy, Director Library Futures with Innovative Interfaces.

Joe says that in 2014 the future of libraries is bright, but that

“The outside world is burning the ways that we have done things.”

We have no choice in this, but we can help build what comes next. Do you have curiosity? If not, Joe thinks you have no future in libraries.

Joe sees libraries as “multipliers of community creativity.”
Joe tries to:

  • multiply library creativity
  • multiply instances of innovation
  • empower future leaning library projects

The future of libraries is a question.The question is do libraries have a future? The question is do we want to engage in the ongoing story of our communities. Joe went on to speak about the diffusion of creativity in the industry: Libraries supporting local publishing, use of open source, making etc. Joe said he was not just talking about a future, or some future. The library is an analogy for our larger futures.

“Everything involving the creation and consumption of information affects libraries, and usually libraries before others.”

When looking for new opportunities, we should now ‘be where the data opportunities are’ rather than ‘where the users are’.
This could include cars, TVs and ‘wearables.’

Joe then went on to talk about “libraries as a gap filler”. All ‘gaps’ are a ‘profit opportunity for libraries’ because we can help eliminate them and prepare to fill new gaps. “We need to be institutions that can harness the energy from the tensions of change in our community”. Joe may or may not be aware that this would have enraged and horrified David Lankes of Atlas of Librarianship fame.

Joe has a new job description for front line librarians: “Sees & accepts change, redirects the library work to be the change we need to see.” He says that the first question we should ask regarding a new thing is not ‘what can we do with it’ but ‘what is the impact of this on the information environment’?

There is nothing to fear but death and obsolescence.
There is nothing to fear but un-optomistic views of our future.

There is nothing to fear, but fear itself

And that was the end of VALA 2014. Now let’s go do awesome stuff.

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2 thoughts on “VALA14 – Thursday synopsis

  1. A great wrap up, Hugh. I agree about the digital divide. The elderly are particuarly isolated. There are others unable to particiapte for socio economic reasons. I also think perosnalising training is the key. People say, ‘I’m not interested in technology.’ Well, neither am I. But I like what I can do with it! Ten years ago, I couldn’t even use an iPod without teenage help. :-) Under the banner of learning Welsh I have scaled a number of technoligcal hurdles. I also think we need to do more staff training in the use of various products. I often find myself helping people with their mobile products on the desk – even ones I’ve never used. It’s no excuse to say ‘Oh, I’m an android user.’ Or, ‘I only know Apple products.’ We need to have a broad knowledge.

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