Contemporary libraries are offering patrons more than information and recreational resources by extending their services to include cultural resources (Gross, 2013). This concept is designed to connect with and engage patrons in cultural activities that have previously been outside the library domain. It is designed to bring people together to open discussions that deliver education and learning opportunities through a different medium.
Whether it is a series of regular exhibits as in Samuel J. Wood Library, or an art installation like Black Opium, or a collection of photographs from a local history group – the concept of pop culture within libraries extends the outreach to a more diverse community. Communication with the creators of thèse worksis key to understanding more about community, with many libraries running a program for artists in résidence.
Creative Spaces Framework, developed by State Library of Queensland, seeks to define libraries as creative spaces to encourage cultural participation through formal and informal discussions, ‘Continuous learning and informal approaches to éducation’.
Rockhampton Regional Library’s Steampunk and Pop Culture Convention ‘CapriCon’ in April this year embraced the opportunity to host a mammoth event featuring Steampunk games, Cosplayers, Tabletop gaming, Costume panels, Jewellery making and a Steampunk High Tea.
Steampunk enthusiasts revel in the Victorian era, Science Fiction and the remodelling and re-inventing of 19th Century engineering artefacts. The convention platform provided a venue for hobbyists, tinkerers and professional artists to enjoy a creative experience. Table Top Gaming included Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a great example of a community project that stimulates conversation and engagement.
As creative spaces within libraries is a relatively new concept for State Library of Queensland, to date there is little evidence-based knowledge of the impact of the program. However, the educational outcomes from these programs might be raising cultural awareness, exploring the history of the culture and in developing understanding and tolerance for diversity and the joy of recreational and interactive learning within a community space. The possibilities are endless.
The GCUH Health Library operates from with Queensland Health’s Gold Coast Hospital Services at Southport and Robina. The mission of the library is to facilitate access to high quality information and customer service .. in information discovery, retrieval and management … deliver(ing) responsive and innovation services and resources in support of patient care, research, management…” for GCUH Health Service health professionals and students.
Within this overarching mission, the library has sought to understand its users’ needs and information seeking behaviours through qualitative and quantitative analysis, including a consultative process with users, non-users, industry professionals and other stakeholders. This aligns with a model recommended by Joanna Ludbrooke. The library offers a suite of regular short lunch-time programs to GCUH staff and students [patrons] designed to develop their navigation skills facilitating access to relevant information from any of the databases available online at any time. In particular, nursing staff regularly refer to the Joanna Briggs Institute [JBI] database in the course of their duty. Therefore, their ability to quickly access information is essential, as it is can be critical to patient care.
The Joanna Briggs Institute database provides information to nursing staff and is designed to guide nurses to identify the issue, test their diagnosis, administer appropriate interventions at the point of care. The two publication types most used are firstly, the evidence summaries based on structured searches of litérature and evidence-based health care databases and secondly, évidence based recommended practices providing the best available évidence including an equipment list, a recommended practice, OHS provisions and an évidence summary where available.
The éducation program for patrons was designed to run for approximately 20 minutes at 12.10 and again at 1.10 to fit with patrons’ regular lunch breaks. The format of the program was an overview of the system, the main features, the popular publication types and the expected results from the program. The research librarians created a PowerPoint présentation using screen captures and call-outs to indicate the preferred méthod of navigation. The dedicated area within the library was set up with comfortable seating, side tables for note-taking and a projection screen connecter to a laptop.
A pre-run of the présentation ensured there were no technical glitches. From my perspective with no health industry expérience and limited health library experience, the présentation logically and simply explained the pathways within the program for the benefit of any new users.
However, despite the well-planned structure of the program which had content, context, relevance, currency and relativity – busy hospital staff and health professionals did not attend. Short lunch breaks are not long enough to include a serving of professional development, as well as a deserved meal break.
Perhaps the library could consider delivering the présentations to staff rooms closer to clinics or wards so that patrons could benefit from their sharing of knowledge and information. They could also trial social media as a means of communication. However I believe that the major barrier to the ongoing délivery of this excellent program is dépendent on commitment and support of the parent organisation to give patrons more time to take advantage of the librarians’ expertise and willingness to co-ordinate instructive sessions.
A further initiative of the GCUHH Library program was the issue of a Quality Scale Survey, enabling them to measure the success of the program and inviting comments about future programs. The survey focussed on outcomes for the user asking questions about content, basis and navigation of JBI, ability to access JBI, available reports, understanding of advanced searching and overall satisfaction with JBI. Unfortunately with the lack of patronage all of this excellent planning did not déliver results at this time.
My fieldwork placements at Hervey Bay and Helensvale public libraries gave me the chance to see public libraries at work, creating a hub for young families and teens to explore and discover literacy through a supported community environment. I gained a deeper understanding of the value of providing communities with a meeting place, welcoming all ages and facilitating access to print, digital and electronic resources that may otherwise be unavailable or unknown.
Queensland Pubic Libraries Association, ALIA and State Library of Queensland have been proactive in formulating programs, products and services to meet the needs of young families in Queensland, guides by organisational policies and vision statements.
The recent Queensland Government initiative First 5 Forever is a literacy program freely available at public libraries, for ‘children and their families from babyhood’. The program is scheduled in public libraries and is designed to introduce babies and their parents or caregivers to literacy, rhymes and interaction developing both social and language skills.
Hervey Bay and Helensvale libraries offered additional programs, inviting young mums, dads and caregivers to bring their babies and toddlers to ‘Rattle and Rhyme’ sessions in a dedicated space within the library. The sessions include favourite rhymes and activities to engage participants through music and literacy. Toddler Stomp and Story Time similarly engaged young toddlers, aged 2 – 6 years in more active participation in the program – bringing a story to life with movement and playful actions.
The catalyst for increased funding for early literacy was the release of 2012 Australian Early Development Census data which revealed that 26.2% of Queensland children are ‘developmentally vulnerable or at risk on one or more developmental domains – including language and cognitive skills’. Follow the link to see a compréhensive report on early learning literacy.
Activity and play elements within these programs increases children’s learning according to The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Playing increases ‘physical, emotional, personal, spitirual, creative, cognitive and linguistic aspects, which are ‘intricately interwoven and interrelated’. Playing in a non-confrontational environment with carers and library educators working together, gives children confidence to be creative, develop new friendships and to make connections with new concepts.
The literacy program extends to children over 5 years with school holiday programs to introduce coding and computer programs. These programs allow children without internet connectivity access to wifi and experience with programs not otherwise available to them.
After school programs conducted at Helensvale involved play activities based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [STEM] learning. By structuring the program on play and interaction with craft materials, children are guided through basic STEM activities interactively. Individual folders record the child’s participation with a token sticker of success. Using straws, pom poms, glue and cardboard, children constructed a maze board and blew the pom poms through the maze.
Another activity used marbles, paper plates and coloured paper to construct a rolling ball maze. Children learned about science (gravity and physics) and engineering (design of the maze).
Scratch programs also offered as an after-school activity are small group activities using a media room with eight children and instructor, following simple coding instructions to create an interactive computer game. Children can continue to navigate this program at home as it is an open access program freely available on the net. The library facilitates that first step, giving the participants the confidence to try it.
Libraries in regional communities such as Fraser Coast, bridge the digital divide for children who may not have internet access at home. Coding programs are a major initiative of VISION 2017 to provide challenging learning experiences in digital literacy. The Kodu, Scratch and Python program was chosen by Fraser Coast Libraries as the preferred program for children based on consultation and collaboration with children, parents and educators. The critical first step in any program is to know what it is that your users want, when they want it and why they want it. Building a program around this foundation is key to connectedness and engagement.
Similarly, libraries and the library brand is still alive and well with children, teens and families. Summer Reading programs and Reader’s Cup invite participation from older children and teens. Book series and themed collections offer a challenge to compete and to interact through discussion of the books, trivia quizzes, critical reviews.
ALIA’s primary guideline for providing services to young people is.. to assist in the development of early literacy and promote literacy. A further guideline is to provide access to resources and materials identified as being needed by the community the library serves.
I think that the SLQ VISION 2017 framework is providing a realistic structure from which public libraries can develop literacy programs that relate to their communities.
So, why do I think that research and library are a perfect partnership?
The concept of a partnership between research and librarianship is not new, nor is it one that not been discussed widely and explored actively by academic and specialist libraries over many years. ALIA’s recognition of the connectedness of these skills was first adopted in 2002 and has since been amended in 2006 and 2015 to recognise the tumultuous evolution of information and data.
Library disciplines of organisation and descriptors perfectly complement the analysis and synthesis of information skills of researchers, placing librarians in a position to support research. This aligns with the ALIA’s basic principle on its role in research:
ALIA is committed to promoting and encouraging a research culture and research practice amongst library and information professionals in order to improve theory and practice.
Evidence-based practices are emerging in the form of research data management plans which are developed to meet the rigorous demands of professional standards. Academic libraries are focussing attention on data, developing roles for data librarians who manage and organise the data.
Emma Uprichards speaks of the v-dimensionality of ‘big data’, the top three descriptors are volume, velocity and variety with a second tier of value, veracity, validity, vitality and viscosity. The characteristics of data become increasingly complex. With so much data being produced so quickly in so many formats, the big question is how to deal with that data in a meaningful way. According to Alice Keller, Australian academic libraries are taking a lead role of research data management, with many dedicated data management roles being developed.
Similarly a survey of member libraries of the Queensland University Libraries Office of Cooperation (QULOC) revealed that 77% of their members have research plans in place. This proactive and innovative approach to partnerships between librarians and researchers is further supported in a paper by Janke & Rush, 2014 , who argue that librarians play a pivotal role in the investigative team for research because they have a suite of advanced skills in literature review, copyright issues, publication policies and compliance. The partnerships deliver an amalgamation of skills to create structured plans that contextualise information and provide a framework for future projects.
During fieldwork placement at Gold Coast University Hospital and Health Library (GCUHHL) I observed firsthand the benefits of partnerships between librarians and health professionals. With branches at Southport and Robina Hospitals, the library mission is to ‘provide a range of information and knowledge service … to support the provision of patient care, clinical research, professional development, education and management activities’.
The research librarians work closely with their users to deliver information that is relevant, current and accurate. This aligns with the base principles discussed in a paper presented to ALIA 2014 conference Sharon Karasmanis and Fiona Murphy discussed the changing role of librarians supporting health researchers at La Trobe University, Melbourne (LTU).
They talked about collaboration and relationship building to create a connectedness that was a partnership between researchers and information professionals rather than support. With an abundance of online resources and a myriad of pathways to information, librarians were key to guiding researchers to resources through improved information literacy. The La Trobe Future Ready: Strategic Plan 2013 to 2017 identified five Research Focus Areas to ‘measure and improve research quality, impact and volume and to increase cross-disciplinary research collaborations while developing and implementing strategically important research partnerships‘ (p.4).
Under the LTU 2013 Library Business Plan the traditional role of reference librarian expanded to include expert searching, training and research consultations. Through consultation and collaboration with researchers and faculties, a system of evaluation of reference services was developed to measure the effectiveness of the new services. This shift in focus has resulted in greater visibility for information professionals with better alignment with researchers and a plethora of opportunities for diverse professional development.
I do wonder what I was thinking when I opted to be twitter champion for the week of Makerspaces. So much to say, so few characters – the dynamic medium of twitter communication with an intrinsic demand for being succinct did not fit well with the wide horizons of Makerspaces.