Wednesday, July 7, 2010

World of Warcraft library seminar

24 June saw 31 one people assemble outside the Stormwind Keep. These people, via their human, dwarf, gnome, draenei and night elf toons were turning up for the first ever library seminar or conference in World of Warcraft (well, we think it was the first).

The participants came from Australia, New Zealand and the USA to hear Liz Danforth who write the Games, gamers & gaming blog for the American Library Association, Scott Nicholson Associate Professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University and expert on board games, Adam Beck from the Central Arkansas Library System and Peggy Sheehy, a teacher from Suffern, NY talk about games and libraries.

Note toons is the accepted term for the online figures which are used in World of Warcraft. Stormwind Keep in part of the human city of Stormwind. The seminar participants also travelled to Ironforge, the stronghold of the dwarves and home of the exile gnome leadership. The seminar mostly took part in the Stormwind Library and the Ironforge Library.

Liz Danforth provided an introduction to massively multi online games and some considerations for their use in libraries

Adam told us about his library is using World of Warcraft to engage with the community and teach skills. Quite a few of the new players wanted to sign up for his classes.

Peggy talked about how some schools are using World of Warcraft to teach students a range of life skills and seeking ways to help “at risk” students.

Scott Nicoholson provided a crucial contrast by talking about the use of board games. He highlighted the importance of not defining a target age group as often whole families or other groups of mixed ages would come to libraries for board game events. Board games have relatively low start up costs and no maintenance costs.

Transcripts of the day are available. This wiki will be used to discuss games and libraries, so you might want to join the wiki to participate in the discussion.

Although I write "talked about" the seminar was done using instant messaging. A guild was set up so that guild communication could be used. You can see the guild page. Note not all the members of the guild are visible as quite a few had not reached level 10.

One seminar was not enough time to cover all the discussions which need to take place about how libraries can use games. It provided an environment where it was easy to have an international discussion, and this provided a lot of benefit.

We will be having future meeting in World of Warcraft to discuss library use of games. You will need to set up an Alliance toon (human, dwarf, gnome, draenei or night elf) in Saurfang and join the guild. The easiest way to to this is to turn up early for the next talk. The talks could take place in any massively multiple online game, they just happen to take place in World of Warcraft. Other venues will be explored in the future.

Friday, June 4, 2010

r u game?

r u game is the name of a seminar, in two parts which is coming up 23 and 24 June. It explores current practice and possibilities for using games in public libraries. Quite a few of these possibilities relate to reference and information services provision.

Part 1
The 23 June seminar is at the State Library of New South Wales. Speakers include, Gary Hayes, Coordinator & Lecturer, Multi Platform Content at the Australian Film TV and Radio School, Sam Doust from ABC innovation, Dr Martin Masek from Edith Cowan University, Jaap Van De Geer and Erik Boekesteijn from DOK, the Delft Public Library, Huon Longman, Sue Killham from Narrandera and Penny Amberg. You can see the full program and book here.

Part 2
24 June seminar takes place online in World of Warcraft. The meeting place is in the Saurfang realm, outsite the Stormwind Keep.

Presenters include Adam Beck from Central Arkansas Library System will be talking about how his library uses World of Warcraft, Liz Danforth who is well known for writing the Games, Gamers, and Gaming” column for Library Journal both in print and online will be talking about some of the possibilities for public libraries using online environments, Huon Longman will talk about his research into the value of online relationships in World of Warcraft will talk about his research into the social value of online communities, Shawn McCann, the first immersive learning (gaming) librarian appointed at McMaster University in Canada will talk about his experiences and ideas, Scott Nicholson, Association Professor for Syracuse University School of Information Studies will talk about using board games in libraries. I will also be exploring some ideas relating to readers advisory work and games.

You can find out more about the seminar here. Don't forget to check out the links in the navigation bar as well.

This slideshow gives you some tips for getting started for the seminar

You can book for the seminar here.

While holding a seminar in an online environment will be a first for New South Wales public libraries, a very successful science conference was held in World of Warcraft in 2008. You can read a write of this science conference, it was featured in Online worlds : convergence of the real and the virtual edited by William Sims Bainbridge and there is more information here.

If you are tweeting, blogging or posting to Flickr, please use #rugame2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Don't forget the databases

This video has been doing the rounds, and it does have some points to remember when providing reference services:
  • Use the catalogue
  • Don't forget the databases.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Writing for Reference Excellence

Immediately following Phillipa's talk on using Reference Excellence as a training tool at #risg2010, Geoff Potter from Gosford Library shared his experience in writing the Local Studies Module on Ref Ex. He told us of his initial apprehension upon being asked and the eventual satisfaction at having completed the task. Finally, Geoff encouraged others to get involved.
If you would like to get involved as part of the editing and maintenance of Reference Excellence contact Ellen Forsyth or Cathy Johnston.

Reference Excellence Training at Gosford Library

Another presentation from #risg2010, Phillipa Johnson shared with us Gosford Library's experience using the Reference Excellence wiki for staff training.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

#risg2010 and RedBubble

Just prior to the 2010 Reference @ the Metcalfe seminar the RISG team put together some simple artwork to reflect the Twitter tag for the event (#risg2010) and with the help of RedBubble were able to turn this into a selection of tee shirts of varying decsriptions. Cathy Johnston briefly introduced this foray into the world of wearable promotions with this brief presentation.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trove: Collecting, Sharing and Improving Data

Rose Holley, manager of Trove - the National Library of Australia's discovery service, gave us all some food for thought at risg2010 with her presentation on the changing roles of libraries and librarians.  She spoke about the Australian Newspaper Digitisation project, especially the role that crowdsourcing is playing in correcting the digitised newspaper text.

One of my favourite slides posed the question of why we need libraries? To which, the answer was...
  • Long term preservation and access
  • No commercial motives
  • Universal access
  • Free for all

The Living Room Library

Have you ever considered whether reorganising and rearranging your collections could have a positive impact on your users experience of the library? Pam Langridge introduced us to Tamworth Library's concept of the Living Room Library. For loan and not for loan non-fiction material is interfiled in subject based collections that improve the browsing experience of library users.

Council Staff and You

In one of the Lightning Talks at risg2010 Kathryn Joss from City of Sydney implored those in attendance to consider thier council staff as potential library users...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Linked Data: a talk by Tim Sherratt

One of the most exciting presentations of the day at risg2010, but probably the most challenging at the same time, was given by Tim Sherratt. It was titled (a hopefully fairly painless introduction to) Linked Open Data.

Linked Data is a way of embedding machine readable meaning in text on the web. It is fundamentally linked with the concept of the semantic web, one of the hot topics in the emerging development of the web.

Tim introduced those in attendance to the concept and challenged us all to help build the semantic web by tagging photos in the flickr commons with machine readable tags generated by Wragge's Identity Browser.  You can view his slides below and read more about it in a post on Tim's blog.  Even better, get involved and start building meaning into the web - keep an eye out for the 'Great Flickr Machine Tag Challenge', coming to a computer near you!

Presentations from RISG2010

The Reference @ the Metcalfe seminar for 2010 was held at the State Library recently and a great day it was.

It was a fascinating program with inspiring talks well received by the library folk in attendance.  For me, the day was summed up by one of my favourite responses left in the follow up evaluations, "to think, I got paid to go!"

We'll be posting the slides from the presentations where available over the next little while so keep your eye on the blog to catch up with what went down or relive the glory.

First up, I'll add my slides asking the question...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

New URL for the RISG Blog

As a result of Blogger's decision to cease support for publishing blogs via FTP we have had to change the URL for the RISG blogs.

This blog is now located at
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Friday, February 26, 2010

Got Something to Say? Here's Your Chance

This year at the 2010 Reference @ the Metcalfe Seminar we're opening the microphone to you, library workers of NSW.  On 4 May 2010 at the State Library we're offering you the opportunity to talk about an aspect of reference and/or library services that inspires, delights, annoys, frustrates or puzzles you.  We're dedicating part of the seminar program to a series of  Lightning Talks - brief, 5 minute talks on a topic of your choosing.

Lightning Talks have been a successful feature of barcamps, unconferences and Public Sphere events for some time. They allow the agenda of the day to be generated (at least to some extent) by the people attending in an effort to keep the program relevant.

So, if you feel passionate about library and reference services we need you to put your hand up and share your thoughts.  Register your interest in speaking on this form.  Based on the responses received, we'll put together the list of speakers and get back to you with confirmation of your place.

This is no time to leave it to someone else.  The library world needs your voice!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Libraries and Journalism: Same, Same but Different?

One of the topics that has been floating around of recent times that has caught my attention is the decline of print Journalism in the face of the onslaught of news on the web.  It strikes me that the newspaper industry's uncertain future echoes that of libraries. They know that the impact of the web is fundamentally altering their future and they are not sure how their business model will need to change to accommodate the cultural shift. Sound familiar? (beware... long post ahead!)

First, we had Rupert Murdoch announcing that he believes that consumers will need to pay for online news. Then as he developed these ideas he pledged to block Google News from indexing content on his News web sites.  More recently, there has been a negative response to the ABC's announcement of a 24 hour News channel, now that digital TV is gaining traction in Australia, from commercial media outlets.  Their argument stems from a belief that public funding (and subsequently the lack of profit motive) gives the ABC an unfair advantage.  By taking market share from commercial media their advertising revenue is reduced and consequently it is more difficult to stay in business.   ABC argues, of course, that more competition in the marketplace is good for consumers.

Now, I don't think that anybody is going to pay for the kind of news that is available all over the web for free.  Indeed, the word-of-mouth effect of social media - twitter and the blogosphere for instance - is making the 'race to announce' a global phenomenon.  Coupled with the sloppy journalism and rehashed media releases we see in much of the current environment's so-called news media, so often exposed through channels such as Media Watch, I think that pay-per-view news announcements are certainly not a viable business model into the future.
(Media watch succinctly sums up the debate in End of the Free Ride and Building the Paywall)

That sort of news is simply information and information will be increasingly available. No... To generate enough revenue to survive news media will need a different focus. Be it analysis or opinion or something else they will need to add value to information.

What was that?  'Add value to information', isn't that what libraries do?

Forget Google. Maybe news media are the biggest threat to the ongoing future of libraries. Are we trying to occupy a similar space in the information management landscape?

I don't think either industry will survive on the fast fact - quick answers with raw information.  Google has that covered (at least until something better comes along). All the evidence points to people finding the information they get from Google Searches 'good enough'. Google's ease of use trumps any desire to seek out best quality.  So the future for libraries, and reference services in particular, is in adding value to information. Especially in situations that warrant more than a simple answer.  But maybe that's the future for news media as well?

Do we have any competitive advantages over news media?  I actually think libraries are well positioned to take advantage of possibilities of adding value to information due to several factors:

Libraries are trusted institutions. Libraries are generally funded by parent institutions and that funding is not reliant on libraries making a profit.  As a result we strive to be unbiased in delivery of our services.  This can't be said of commercial news media.

Our collections have been developed over a period of many years. We have historical material to draw on.  And it has been maintained so that we can access the full depth of our collections. We have a long tail.

Libraries have a long history of sharing resources.  Because we aren't generally required to turn a profit we are more willing to collaborate and share.  Commerical media are more than willing to accept contributions but it's a one way street. They can't afford to give away what they create.

But it's not all beer and skittles.  For all the self congratulatory rhetoric from within the library industry about librarians being the information specialists, I think we have a long way to go to add the kind of value that I'm talking about.

Librarians need to get much better at Information Design. From what I've observed, librarians are very good at collating information but the presentation of that information still leaves a lot to be desired.  We could learn a lot from the field of Experience Design - bringing together disparate information and designing it to be easy to consume, yet really useful.

Let me give you an example. Most NSW public libraries collect and arrange by subject lists of useful web sites in some form or another - something like this list of resources on Climate Change.  Some great resources in there but often buried deep in the information architecture of the library web site and not a great deal of value added.
Compare that with this special feature on Hurricane Katrina from the BBC (I used the Wayback Machine to get this screen shot from a week or so after the hurricane).  It has news articles but it also inlcudes audio and video material, history and analysis and space for readers to participate. And it is prominently promoted on the site, at least while the story is still current.
Notice however, that the bulk of the content is generated from the BBC's normal news production process. I believe libraries have a wider pool of content to draw from.  Here are some thoughts about where we can really add value to information.

Focus on the uniquely local
Almost all NSW public libraries maintain a local history or local studies collection. Uniquely and intensely local material that is often not available anywhere else.  In my experience, local information is highly sought after. However, the physical objects are locked up in a collection and only accessible while the library is open and sometimes only by appointment.  Let's digitise and promote this content, mix it with the rest of our collections and set it free. I think local content is a real drawcard for local public libraries.

Get more from your Collection
Let's start making more of our collections.  Let's surface interesting content, different resource types and bring them together in interesting ways.  Let's create a useful experience for our users (we might have to abandon Dewey for this!)

Provide Participation Spaces
As librarians we can add value to information but we should also recognise the amateur experts in our community and provide opportunities for them to add value to our collections.  Let's provide digital spaces where they can bring together their knowledge, our collections and resources and data from the wider web.  The rise of citizen journalism, blogging and so on shows the will to participate is there in the community.

There are regular calls for libraries and librarians to become better at promotion and it's true, we do need to get better at that. But there is more to creating a great user experience and adding value to people's lives than better promotion.  This quote sums it up:
While there are many quick, one-time things you can do to make your content findable, we’ll address those later. First, we have to make sure that there’s a reason to promote your library and its website. If you’re not offering relevant services or interesting content on your site, there’s really nothing to promote.
The most important and effective thing you can do to make your content findable and to draw people back is the most difficult: Make a good website. Creating a website is ridiculously easy, and it takes about 5 minutes to start a blog. Filling such sites with interesting content, however, takes skill, effort, and inspiration. Anyone can hit the “publish” button, but to learn about the interests of your community and to systematically present relevant content takes time. This is what you must do.
How to Drive Traffic to Your Website: Aaron Schmidt and Sarah Houghton-Jan
 Libraries need to deliver a better product than our current offerings as we move forward (especially in our web presence).  If they don't there will be others who will occupy that space. The phrase, 'painting lipstick on a pig' might be overstating it but you know what I mean.