Monday, June 12, 2006

Can I recommend a good weed, I mean, read?

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that the only thing worse than bad publicity was no publicity(or something like that). So for what it's worth Queensland libraries are receiving a lot of publicity about carrying books about cannabis, marijuana, etc. By chance it all started in my own neck of the woods (how ironic is it that the Library of the Year just announced is also where this whole thing started! I bet the media will be making something of that!) and I only learned about it from my local newspaper when I was reading the week's worth I missed cos I was at the conference. The gist of it is, that a man got off the charge of possessing illegal drug books by presenting to the judge the photocopied covers of similar publications from his local library. Following up on the story, the Brisbane papers had reporters checking their own locals, and lo and behold, many libraries were carrying similar materials. Seems some of them may be illegal depending on how "helpful" they are - ie if it describes how to grow and use the products, then they are (understandably) illegal in this State. Someone should let the booksellers know, as a Google search on "cannabis books libraries" zeroes in on the very helpful title "Cannabis breeder's bible" from the "Buy Australian"website. (Possibly it's only illegal in Queensland.)

At my library, at least twice a year we turn away borrowers who want us to help them find information on how to build a still. We tell them it's illegal to distill liquor in Queensland without a licence so we're not going to assist. But if someone asked for info on cannabis, I'm not sure we would have been quite so unhelpful (prior to this incident of course) - how would we know what the borrower was needing the information for?? Intellectual freedom and all... Although I guess if the borrower wanted to know how to construct a bong we would have drawn the line. Makes me realize how rusty my library ethics are. If, as Doug suggested in his talk at the Conference, it's our professional ethics that make the difference, this is an urgent wake up call to me to review my own convictions. There but for the grace of God go I etc...

Anyway for those of you interested in the story from where it started, here's an extract from the original article:
Library lends weight to drug defence07.06.2006
WHY was Rockhampton’s Graham Manson Holden charged for having books on how to grow cannabis when they are readily available from the city’s library?
That was the argument the 65-year-old used in court yesterday — and it worked.
Magistrate Bronwyn Springer discharged Holden on the May 22 charge of possessing two illegal books, which he had pleaded guilty to.
After noting Holden had no criminal history, Magistrate Springer did not impose a fine nor record a conviction.
In court, Holden said the books had been left in a granny flat of his.
He said he did not know it was illegal to have them.
He produced photocopies of the covers of eight books of the same type which he said he found at the city library last week.
The photocopies were tendered to the court and viewed by Magistrate Springer.
Yesterday The Morning Bulletin borrowed a book titled Cannabis, by Jonathon Green, from the Southside Library.
It included detailed information on how to grow, cultivate and harvest cannabis.
It also had "useful techniques’’ for how to roll a joint and make a bong.
Furthermore, it gave three "classic cannabis recipes’’ including hash brownies (cakes), bhang lassi (potent drink) and cannabis ghee (clarified butter).
Last month, Rockhampton’s Michael Wickenden was fined $300 for possessing an illegal book after he bought The Secret Life of Weed for $25 at a Sexpo in Western Australia.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Conference Pictures (Sorry about the same silly grin)

Thanks all of those who have found my conference coverage interesting, and especially to Doug for leaving a comment and thus PROVING my brush with fame was not a figment of my imagination!! Also Ivan and CW - I really value your ongoing interest - also to a lurker I discovered at the State Library workshop, who revealed he had been reading my conference diary - Warren from Thuringowa Library - last year's QPLA Library of the Year winners. Warren writes a great IT/Library column for the Townsville Bulletin - here's an example.

Setting up the booth at the Innovations Showcase - generated lots of conversations!

A more nervous grin - just before the dive onto the outer Reef. Magic!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

barely aLIVE! from the conference 3

Well it's the last day of the conference, and feeling a bit seedy after the Conference Dinner at Tjapukai Aboriginal cultural centre - which was a lot of fun, and it was great to continue the conversation with our Singapore visitors. And also - not the winner of the QPLA Library of the Year, but a very credible runner up with a Special Certificate of Recognition for our Youth Library - very nice to be acknowledged. And anyway the winner was a neighbouring library (Rockhampton City) - I suggested to Cheryl that we do a joint press release (the same daily newspaper serves both towns).

The speakers today were very interesting - a firm of architects (did I mention I love architects?) who have done incredible things with existing buildings to turn them into fantastic libraries. Picked up some more random architect speak that may come in handy: "fenestration" = windows; data reticulation = wires (or wireless more likely).

Followed by Alan Butters who is a technology consultant, again with some very sanguine advice about returns automation - a very commonsense graph showing that there is a point beyond which the costs associated with sophisticated solutions can't be justified by the productivity gains, based mainly on the size of the library. (I wonder how relevant these physical returns processes will be when ebooks become the dominant format??) During this talk I had a flash of inspiration on how to develop a staged technology plan for our library service...

This afternoon we are off on the bus to look at some libraries around Cairns. Later I hope to inspect some bookshops too as I have this killer idea to explore for the new library...Tomorrow will attend the State Library's visioning workshop, and on Friday I'm off to snorkel on the Reef before going home on Saturday. It's a tough life...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Live! from the Conference 2 - Degrees of separation?

Yesterday I met people who know people I've met in the blogosphere...well person actually. When Doug Johnson visited my "booth" and asked whether I had seen what Singapore does for its young people, I replied that, actually, I was an active blogger and had contact with The Rambling Librarian who had directed me to some info about Jurong. Well blow me down if he wasn't also a fan of Rambling. So this is the first case for me of the global equivalent of "you're from x, do you happen to be acquainted with y?" - would that be a second degree of separation? And then seeing that Veronica Boudville from Singapore National Library was speaking at the Conference, I strategically positioned myself to sit next to her and let her know that I had learned a lot of things about Singapore libraries from reading The Rambling Librarian, who of course she knows well, and we had a little chat about blogging. However, I think I remain in the very minority of bloggers at this Conference - if they're about they're lying very low...still stunned/politely disinterested or pained looks when I mention blogging...Maybe I could do a paper at the the next conference??

Veronica's presentation on "The virtual library 2010" was info packed and quite mindblowing. Perhaps the biggest point of interest (if I understood her a-right) was the experiment with the "DIY enabled" service points which do away with library staff altogether and just have a "concierge" who looks after security, and a "cybrarian" for contact - either screen based or telephone based. (?How do the books get reshelved - I just thought of that.) Very scary stuff for library staff!! But apparently a necessary response in a climate where the government has told you that you will not get extra staff but you still have to provide a service. And does it meet people's needs well? Maybe it does for convenience. Although Veronica did say that they were thinking of reintroducing some staff to these libraries. It's obvious that Singapore libraries are thinking very hard about what they want to achieve for their society and how this can be achieved in different ways from the traditional - imagine lending/vending machines at the airport for instance, or book pick ups at Macdonalds!! And the imponderable opportunities when ebooks really take hold...

The next speaker had some very sanguine things to say about adopting RFID especially how to choose a vendor. Always keeping in mind what YOU want to achieve, not what the vendor wants to achieve. He gave some very good advice and we'll be seeing him again tomorrow when he'll talk specifically about self-serve loan technologies. Something I'm hoping to implement in stages starting with our Youth Library, and certainly this will be integral in the design of our new main library, so this is very timely for me.

And finally the traditional "hype em up, make em feel good" motivational speaker who demonstrated the trademarked "FISH!" program for customer service. "Have fun, Make their day, Be there, Choose your attitude". I am a sucker for these presentations, no matter how many times I hear this sort of presentation I get fired up..I'm a pushover.

Yet another enormous conference lunch awaits...

Monday, June 05, 2006

LIVE! - from the QPLA Conference

Well here I am in Cairns, having arrived yesterday and set up my "booth" in the innovations area promoting the Youth Library. Already done my "spiel" to lots of colleagues and very chuffed at their interest and reactions.

As usual the speakers give me more ideas than I can poke a stick at - I just realized that the staff probably have a horror of my returning from conferences as I fire all kinds of crazy half baked ideas at them!

The first speaker was Timothy Hyde who encouraged us to "think like a magician" - here are some conference "bites" of his ideas -

Innovation = Excitement and enthusiasm; knowledge is down on the list of necessary ingredients

Note to self - ensure staff have time together to brainstorm innovative ideas.

Our next speaker was Doug Johnson from the US. His said something very affirming - that in most libraries it's the 2 or 3 new things you do each year that make the difference, not necessarily the big flash program. He had a lot to say about e-books and I concur, they are inevitable. But librarians will still have a role (?) in brokering community deals for access. To be boring and do nothing will lead to failure. New paradigm = "The riskiest thing you can do is the safest".
We are being called back to the next session so more "live action" to follow later...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I Love Architects!

No, not a Monty Python sketch, but a much anticipated day "locked up" with an architect to discuss the preliminary brief for the new main library. It was challenging, exhausting, exhiliarating, stimulating, exciting...and that was just the first hour!!! It's wonderful to be able to describe an outcome that you envision in words and feelings and have the architect translate that into a tangible space - even if it is only notes and sketches so far. Also the pleasure and pride of showing your visitor around your town - looking at the familiar architecture through a discerning set of eyes. And imagining the new library all built and new on the selected site.

"My" architect is no pussycat - he pushed and challenged, and perhaps a less self-assured soul than myself would be a bit intimidated by this approach - but after thinking about this project for so many years, being confident in my knowledge of the community (both gut and documented, ie numerous community audits and surveys), I found the challenges warranted, stimulating and ultimately productive. Confident too that I've kept up my knowledge of trends and can speak on an equal footing about examples from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore etc., cutting and pasting the bits that could be translated to our own community - in fact I like to think that a knack for synthesis - blending existing ideas to create something new - is one of my strong points. So all those skills and interests were validated today. Which spells job satisfaction.

Let's hope the euphoria is maintained after we take our preliminary concept to the Director tomorrow.

Architects truly do have beautiful minds...