Neil Gaiman speech

“But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories – they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

In the last few years, we’ve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need.”

Neil Gaiman speech to the Reading Agency – Read more at The Guardian

Library of the living dead – a novel way to introduce patrons to the library!

The Miller Library at McPherson College in Kansas has come up with a novel way of introducing future library users to their libraries – a graphic novel that features a zombie fighting librarian! Library of the living dead walks users (ok, runs from zombies) through each section of the library where the helpful librarian uses the collection to highlight the many and varied uses of the resources that the library holds.

Zombie fighting at Miller Library
Zombie fighting at Miller Library

I won’t give away the ending, but if you’re not convinced to read it yet, a comment from one satisfied reader might just get you over the line: Great art, great story, and epic beard action… what’s not to love? What indeed.

Librarians are awesome

Tell us something we don’t know, Wil Wheaton. Or, better yet, add your voice to the growing numbers of people advocating for the future of libraries and tell us exactly why you think librarians are awesome.

If you’re a librarian today, you probably don’t hear this very often, but thank you. Thank you for making a difference in people’s lives.

And thankyou, Wil, for speaking up! Read more here.

Nobel prize games

To celebrate the announcement of the latest crop of Nobel laureates, the Nobel prize website has created a number of online activities.

There is a set of word mazes featuring the names of previous winners in the category of literature.

nobel word puzzle image

I have done the first one for you, there are 3 more to complete. Happy name searching.

For those who want something a bit more challenging than the humanities there are also games on the hard sciences and a great one where you get to be the commandant of a prisoner of war camp. Being a good camp commandant you will of course provide a library for your detainees under Article 38 of the Geneva Convention.

nobel game image

Imagine a world without shelves

empty library shelves

Photo credit Salim Virji

Imagine, it’s not hard to do, a world where knowledge and information is off the shelves and available online at any hour in any community.

Where a stack is never closed to an open mind. Where the only access requirement is an e-reader, computer or smart phone. Where you don’t need an address for a library card, but only the address of a library catalogue, Community Books or Google.

A knowledge rich world, where sharing is more important than ownership.

Let the good incendiaries with charred fingers come! Here they are! Heap up the fire to the shelves of the libraries!

Futurist Manifesto

As librarians, we can realise the possibilities of a connected and open world. We can (metaphorically) burn the shelves and set the books free.

And in doing so achieve Goal 1f of the IFLA Strategic Plan 2010-2015:

encourage the library and information sector to work with partners and users to maximise the potential of digital technology to deliver services that enable seamless and open access by users to cultural and information resources

The incalculable cultural significance of The Library

New article over at Meanland entitled: The incalculable cultural significance of The Library, not a title one could possibly disagree with.

Some quotes:

Libraries are not just warehouses that hold books. Libraries are hubs of learning and research, of interactivity and community – and this is what we have an obligation to preserve. How many free, comfortable places can one still go to to study? How many communal spaces are there in which learning, exploration and reading are fostered

Libraries, moreover, have librarians – amazing people who help you find books, source information, make the photocopier work. Librarians are living libraries, experts in helping find information that’s hard to unearth or has been lost

The article talks of the traditional physical use of libraries and the, what may seem conflicting, need to serve the offsite reader with digitised content (using natch an NLA example). I think most librarians agree that we need to continue to retain the Library as Place, as well as recognise that the majority of our users will now be online. It should be understood however that one has not replaced the other, the traditional user has not generally gone online only, the online user is in fact part of a vast and growing new usership.

Librarian’s roles may change and expand, so that we may serve both onsite and offsite readers. But, the actual physical public library will continue to serve a purpose that cannot be fulfilled with any amount of digitised or born digital content – as (mentioned in the quote somewhat) it is the single remaining indoor place where it is possible for the public to congregate without needing to purchase or pray. As such, it should be the hub of every community as well as the local resource centre.

There will also, obviously, be the need to continue to have a building to house the digitised contents. For files and servers don’t actually repose in the clouds (well some do but they are owned by Google).

Library Hotel

Thinking of somewhere to stay in New York, of course you are. Why not consider the Library Hotel where you can choose your room according to the Dewey Decimal System.

I suppose it will have to do until we get the much promised but never actually appearing Libraryland theme park.

In the meantime, check out this site

Weeding the collection has never been this much fun

What does a library do when the technology that was used to access the resources that it holds is no longer in vogue? Well, you could try some sort of conversion process before the technology is totally outdated to ensure that the resources remain accessible. However, this can be a fairly resource intensive and costly exercise.

If you decide to totally weed these items from the collection, you might like to celebrate with some form of library dominoes like the good folk at the Tea Tree Gully Library. Goodbye, VHS!

Paul Hagon on ALATechSource

Paul Hagon, the National Library’s senior web designer, has a lot of interesting ideas on the ways that libraries might be able to utilise emerging technologies. Paul recently spoke to Michael Stephens over at ALA TechSource and made an important point about the way that libraries provide their information to users, primarily through a search box interface. But how easily is information available and findable through such interfaces? Paul suggests that there are a multitide of other avenues to finding and gaining access to information and asks,

How can we easily provide this information to others to use? There are too many applications for us to be building them all. I think this is the important part. We should just be the ‘pipes’ that provide the information.

Michael asked Paul about what he thought libraries could do to start moving in that direction. Paul said:

I would love to see libraries opening up their information for others to use in an easier manner. Currently libraries are both the custodians of information, and also the custodians of how you access that information (eg: through a traditional catalogue/search interface). Libraries can still be the custodians of the information and retain that authoritative role that they should have, but they shouldn’t necessarily be deciding how people access that information. There are a lot of smart people out there building clever applications. Let them use the information how they want. Good ideas come from anywhere.

Read the full conversation here.

You can’t own an ebook

Check out this new short and a bit over positive article Are Libraries Dying? about ebooks and their potential impact on Libraries.

In particular the reference list is excellent and will give you a good idea of the arguments on this subject. In particular this one, are we screwed?

ALA National Library Week

“… public libraries provide equitable access to information of all kinds. With information comes knowledge and the possibility to learn and achieve, the opportunity to work and advance, and the power to participate in the democratic process.”

It is Library Week in the US of A. Check out the publicity resources here.

Neil Gaiman is featured as he is the honorary chair of the Week.

Listen to him speak the profoundest wisdom ….
“Libraries are as important as anything gets”

And then as you listen you can picture him in his personal Library here.

What are users doing in libraries?

See how users interact, and use libraries by following the search term ‘library’ on Twitter at

Yes, that post says “Yo momma’s so fat, I saw the back of her neck and thought I was in a library!”  What could they possibly mean?

The images don’t seem to view properly, you may have to click on to them and they will open up in a new page.