Little Gems

I’ve spent the last week reviewing the findings of community survey I undertook for a cultural facility in NSW. We had an excellent response and people gave us detailed, well thought out answers which included suggestions, niggles and compliments. Something we can work with.

When we know our service well we can often predict the answers we’ll get, and this was certainly the case here. This can lead to the temptation not to bother with community consultation as we ‘know what they’ll say’. However we also received some little gems which had the client and I contemplating how they could be achieved and how we could use them as a springboard for future initiatives. We also received comments asking for services and facilities already in place which should be a flag that we’re not selling these properly and an opportunity for us to do so.

We received lots of great quotes which can be incorporated into our planning and advocacy but one of my favourites was:

‘This survey is a great idea’

Its good to know that you’re on the right track!

We’re currently finalising an email to let respondents know that their contribution was appreciated and useful, and that it hasn’t disappeared into a black hole.

Those of you who have been doing the NSW Public Libraries Association’s Members engaging, retaining and growing project with me will know that I am am a fan of Angela Hursh at Super Library Marketing . In a recent video she stressed the importance of delivering the programs that your community want not what your staff want to deliver – subtle difference! Which beings us back full circle to the concept of community consultation and the gems you’ll discover when you talk to the people who use (or would potentially use) your service.

Happy days.


Entries for PLOTY, or to give it its full name the 2022 IFLA/Systematic Public Library of the Year Awards are now open. Applications close on 29 April. Established in 2014 these Awards were developed to celebrate libraries which have been built in new or re-purposed buildings in the preceding 12 months. For the 2022 Award this covers the period 1 January – 31 December 2021.

This inspirational, international competition focuses on six assessment criteria to find the public library which best combines open and functional architecture with creative IT solutions and has included both digital developments and local culture. The award ceremony will take place at the IFLA’s Annual Congress (which this year will be in Dublin, Ireland 26-29 July) with winning library receiving $US 5,000. Systematic is the proud main sponsor of the award.

As an officer of IFLA’s Public Libraries Standing Committee I was strongly involved in the development of the Awards and was a member of the Jury from 2014 until 2019. Australia has always punched above its weight in these awards which has always given me great pride in what we have been able to achieve and also in how skilled we are in being able to tell our story.

The whole process has come a long way since the first jury met in Copenhagen in the summer of 2014. The early awards were supported by the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces (don’t you just love that as a name for a government department?), and I was the only non-Dane on the adjudication panel having flown in the afternoon before en route to an IFLA WLIC satellite meeting in Birmingham. There were some amazing libraries but the unanimous winner was Craigieburn a branch of Hume library Service in greater Melbourne. At that stage I hadn’t visited the Craigieburn Library and crossed my fingers that we were making the right choice. Once I did I knew we had been right. There were bigger libraries in the mix and more expensive ones but Craigieburn had that magic mix that suited its community and got it just right.

A handshake seals the deal. Martin Brrochner-Mortensen from Systematic and I shake on the sponsorship deal watch by fellow jury members Leikny H. Indergaard and Jakob Guillois Lærkes

Over the following years the Awards became more sophisticated and the judging process more streamlined. Systematic came on board as a sponsor for the 2018 Awards after discussions the previous year. They are passionate about libraries and highly supportive of the profession. The Awards are now also a partnership between 3 IFLA Professional Units – Public Libraries, Metropolitan Libraries and Library Buildings and Equipment.

Narok Library, Kenya

During my time on the jury I saw and visited some amazing library spaces. Each winner was totally deserving but there were always certain entries that tugged on my heartstrings. Perhaps my favourite was Narok Library,  located about 150 kilometres from Nairobi in Kenya, which plays an important role in informing and bringing together the community. The population consists mainly of Maasai herdsmen who, at times, visit the Library with their flocks of cows and goats. Enclosed lands have been established around the Library to enable the herdsmen to read as they look after their herds. The Library works closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to give technical advice on livestock farming to help the Maasai people. This simple library was evidence of a library which met the needs of its community.

Who will be the winner of the 2022 Award? Now that I am no longer ‘in the tent’ it will be as much a surprise to me as it is to the entrants and the audience. I will be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the announcement and looking forward to a time when I can visit the Public Library of the Year. In the meantime watch the little video above from 2021 to give you a taste of the competition.

PS. When we made the long drive from Orange to Melbourne en route to the Spirit of Tasmania and our new life in this state we went through Craigieburn. ‘Where’s this?’ said my husband, waking from a quick nap. Its where the first IFLA Public Library of the Year is I said with pride, looking around to see if I could find it amongst the buildings that had sprung up since my visit in 2015. I must have let my attention slide for a little too long and I missed the speed camera. A few weeks later I received a fine from Victorian Police, location – you guessed it, Craigieburn!

Library Lovers Day – the accidental campaign …

Today is Library Lovers Day here in Australia, a time to reflect on the myriad of ways that libraries contribute to our lives and to say out loud how much we love them. Library Lovers Day (or LLD) holds a special place in my heart as it was something that I helped develop with a couple of much-loved library friends way back in 2006. As often happens it was a matter of serendipity; right circumstances, right people, right time.

January 2006 and the NSW Public Library network was celebrating 12 months of the successful @ your library campaign funded by the Library Council of New South Wales. It was managed by a working group led by my colleague Victoria Anderson, a consultant at the State library of New South Wales, and me. Under the terms of the grant, as Manager Central West Libraries I also held and managed the funding. During school holidays we always used the ‘holiday fun @ your library’ branding and, as the December/January holidays in Australia are our big break, much focus was placed on this campaign.

Now I admit to being a sucker for collateral and at that time spent a lot of time looking at other promotional campaigns to see what I could adapt to our purpose. In 2005 the now ubiquitous (and probably today totally ‘so yesterday’) silicone wristbands were the go to item, and I had made the call to order many 200,000 of them in three fluro colours for our the 2005/2006 summer holiday campaign, each bearing the slogan ‘I ♥ Libraries’. Sadly they were held up in a shipping container on the wharves in Sydney and didn’t finally arrive until mid January – way to late for us to distribute to the state’s 95 library services.

I was despondent, the next school holidays weren’t until Easter and are traditionally lower key from a library programming perspective. Anyone who was unfortunate enough to ask me how I was heard the whole sorry saga. Enter Sue Hutley, then CEO of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), who happened to call and ask what was happening. After listening to my tale of woe she asked if I could spare a few wristbands so that she could share them with her team. She’d read about a Library Lovers promotion in the USA and thought she might do something on Valentines Day, 14 February.

That was the Eureka moment, I had Sue off the phone before she’d even told me why she’d called and was pressing Victoria’s number on my autodial. Library Lovers Day was born. The fantastic NSW Public Libraries network pulled out all stops and made it a huge success based on its adaptability and simplicity. I’m sure that Darryl Lea’s chocolate heart sales quadrupled and as for curling ribbon – we tied everything in sight with red and pink bows!

The NSW campaign was so successful that in 2007, LLD went national under ALIA and hasn’t looked back. It also went from a public library campaign to one every sector could adopt. Victoria wrote a reflection on LLD in 2011 which gives you more details about the early days and another friend, Robert Knight, gave a presentation on LLD as part of Library Love Stories at IFLA WLIC 2019 in Athens. Watch it on You Tube and get a sense of what has been achieved in a little over ten years. (Robert is the first speaker).

Library Lovers Day is the ultimate example of a small idea which really works. To use one of my favourite phrases the original concept was ‘quick and dirty’, but because of the imagination of colleague across the state it took off. It also highlights the importance of networking, collaboration and friendship. Without Victoria and Sue I would possibly still be drowning in a sea of silicone wrist bands! The @ your library campaign generated a raft of collateral over its lifetime but those ‘I ♥ Libraries’ bands still occupy space in my treasure box. The other important ones? Well that’s a story for another day!

Remembrances of NSW Library Conferences past

My NSW public library conference was in May 1994 in Deniliquin and I had not long been appointed to the position of Manager Central West Libraries. The minute I arrived I knew I had found my ‘tribe’ and 27 years later I still feel the same. Of course in 1994 the conference I was attending was organised by the Country Public Library Association of NSW (better known as CPLA). In those days we had two associations – the CPLA and the Metropolitan Chief Librarians which morphed into the MPLA. It didn’t matter if you were country or metro everyone was welcome at all conferences – which is how it should be!

The first CPLA conference had been held in Parkes in 1989 when the Association was formed by a group of elected representatives and library managers determined to get additional funding. They invited the then Minister, Peter Collins, to successfully plead their case and the role of the Association as an advocate for the sector was born.

After that first conference in Deni (a sign saying ‘Do it in Deni’ welcomed people to town and really took my fancy!), I was determined to host a CPLA conference in Orange. The amazing Central West Libraries team were right behind me and in 2001 we welcomed 350 delegates to ‘Australia’s Colour City’. We had promised delegates snow and as if on cue it arrived. I remember my then GM saying ‘ I always knew you were good, but not that good’! One of the highlights of the social program was a performance by The Heavenly Divas at the Orange Ex-Services Club. Singing torch songs of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s they had expected a quiet crowd who would sit back and listen – boy were they wrong! They are still talking about ‘that library conference’.

Nice eye! Why am I wearing a lampshade on my head? Conference theme was
‘Libraries Light Up Lives’

In the early 2000’s the NSW Library Marketing Group which comprised representatives from CPLA and MPLA plus the Victoria Anderson from the State Library was particularly active. We all fancied ourselves as thespians and decided to enrich the conference programs with skits which demonstrated the importance of marketing your library. I could be cruel and say it was all about the costumes but I digress. When the 2003 conference was scheduled for Tweed Heads we immediately went into overdrive to create an all singing, all dancing routine. My particular number was Hey Big Lender. Given that I can’t sing to say my life Melinda Maybury sang and I flounced around on stage. We were taking our curtain call when I felt a piercing pain near my right eye. Conan the Librarian to my right had moved his real sword at just the wrong time and I had a nice slash. This required a visit to the hospital and a rather lengthy explanation to our WHS officer back at Council. Conan (aka Chris Jones) was mortified – and continues to be as I remind him of it often. For a taste of our cleverness why not listen to our own Roger Henshaw singing one of the songs from that hit show at Tweed Heads (A Bookish Kind of Love) – take it away cousin.

In 2011 the conference organised by the MPLA at the beautiful Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains was impacted by the September 11 bombings in the USA. A number of speakers were unable to attend and the mood was sombre.

Two become one. The joining of the two associations to form NSW Public Libraries Association Glebe Town Hall 20 June 2014. Look at all those familiar faces.

On an historic day in June 2014 the two associations became one. Five months later we had our first joint conference at beautiful Mudgee in Central West NSW.

The Riverina Crew hits the big smoke

Twelve months later the conference was held in Sydney with the nautically themed conference dinner at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney – what a hot night that was!

One of the most important components of our conference is our sponsors (and I am so delighted to be one this year). Its fabulous to catch up with our colleagues who support us through thick and thin. I treasure this beautifully monogrammed journals which was a gift from our friends at Bolinda at the 2019 conference.

Sadly in 2020 SWITCH too fell victim to COVID but its back bigger and brighter than ever this year and a huge shout out to the NSWPLA EO Adele Casey who has done an amazing job of taking us online.

Final question, final hint – who is always the first person on the dance floor at any library conference? Hint: Initials RSK, position, Director Riverina Regional Library.

Good luck with the quiz – the entry form is online and will be open from 8am – 6pm Thursday 18 November 2021.

If you have a moment I’d love to hear your memories of our NSW conferences. Friendships are made in libraries. – I can see an oral history project on the horizon!

Warmest wishes


Switch 2021

Only a week to go and your SWITCH 2021 packets should be arriving via mail including this card alerting you to an exciting SWITCH Trivia competition that I’ll be running.

Now I know that some of you have already popped on by to see if anything is here already (where’s that Playschool Magic Mirror? I can see …..!), but to be fair we won’t go live until 8am on Thursday 18 November. I will possibly do some posts between now and then here and on my Facebook Page that may contain some answers and incriminating photographs from SWITCH’s past (and its predecessor conferences).

See you online next Thursday!


Global Goals Week

Global Goals Week ( 17-26 September) is a time for us all to come together to mobilise communities, demand urgency, and supercharge solutions for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whether it be digitally or physically. Our shared future and the achievement of the Global Goals will be determined by us working together, locally, nationally and internationally. Never has this been more important.

To provide a bit of background, in 2015, 193 Member States of the United Nations made a universal promise to leave no one behind through the 17 SDGs. One year later, Project Everyone, UNDP and the United Nations Foundation came together to honor that promise by launching Global Goals Week, an annual week of action, awareness, and accountability for the SDGs.

What’s this got to do with libraries? Where do I start! As free and equitable spaces libraries are well placed to deliver on so many of the SGD’s either as a key player or in a supporting role.

Here in Australia ALIA has led the way in highlighting the role that libraries play in achieving the SDGs and consulting widely with the Library and Information Community. This included the SDG Roundtable held in Canberra in September 2019 where participants mapped the way forward. Over the ensuing two years these have been further refined by ALIA’s International Relations Advisory Committee (IRAC ), of which I am a member, and this week the Stretch Targets for Australian Libraries 2020-2030 have been released. Targets address literacy; access to knowledge; equitable access; culture and heritage; sustainable communities; contribution to health and wellbeing; diversity and gender equality; lifelong learning; and global citizenship. The report outlines activities and measurements to allow progress to be tracked.

With my friend Roxanne Missingham at the SDG Summit in Canberra – note my SDG Badge. Rox and I have spent many hours together in this room (and more recently on Zoom calls).

While I will continue to be actively involved in the SDGs through my engagement in the IRAC my personal commitment the the Global Goals Week and the SDGs is to spread the word. Working as a consultant across multiple jurisdictions gives me an ideal opportunity to engage in conversations about how libraries contribute to the SDGs. It could be as easy as pointing libraries in the direction of the SDG Calculator ; referencing how libraries are contributing in reports I am developing; and showcasing best practice examples. Even something as simple as wearing my SDG badge is a conversation starter!

As the world still grapples with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change is a very real threat, achieving the SDGs is more critical than ever – the Goals are the pathway to progress towards a safer and more equal world. We’re all in this together, let’s leave no-one behind.

Stories That Matter

Yesterday we encouraged everyone to take some time out of their day to mark the Australian Reading Hour – it doesn’t matter if your ‘hour’ is in the morning, afternoon or evening and really ‘hour’ is only a concept, make it longer or shorter it’s about making the time to turn off the world and READ. This annual event was originally launched during the National Year of Reading in 2012 which I was deeply involved with. 2012 – how long ago that seems and what strides we’ve made in promoting reading since then but what miles we have to go in the area of national literacy. More of that in a later post.

I was excited to be part of the event organised by the newly reformed ALIA group here in Tasmania (ALIA Island) to celebrate the Australian Reading Hour. Colleagues from across the state (and one from Victoria) zoomed in to talk about books that a made a difference in their lives; their favourite book; and/or what they were currently reading. It was a lively discussion. The full list of books is here if you’re interested.

I chose to talk about When we were very young, the classic book of poetry by A A Milne first published in 1924. My Mum read to me religiously ever night and I credit my parents with my love of reading – they modelled best behaviour and neither was ever without a book in close reach. Mum and I loved this particular book, and all of her life she would respond to something I had said with a line from one of the poems within. My own copy is badly foxed and really quite manky! I have recently bought the 95th birthday edition for a very special little man in our lives and know his gorgeous Mum will read to him from it.

A highlight of the night was an appearance by Rauri Murphy, who spoke about his newly published Two Sets of Books which is set in Hobart Public Library – available from good bookstores – check on line. It looks like a wonderful read and profits from the book sales will be used to purchase books and eResources for Libraries Tasmania Literacy Service and 26TEN (which is about improving literacy and numeracy here in the Island State) .

I’d love to know what is your Story that Matters?

A new chapter

The past couple of weeks has been a whirlwind of all things IFLA – the wind up of the 2019-21 term; the World Library and Information Congress; and the start of the 2021-23 term. Normally IFLA in August would signal an overseas trip to some wonderful location (think Milan, Puerto Rico, Helsinki, Lyon, Singapore, Cape Town, Columbus, Wroclaw, Singapore, Athens), often with a satellite thrown in for good measure (Klaipeda, Birmingham, Bergen, Rome). It may sound like a junket (and some of you have been guilty of using that word), but believe me an IFLA WLIC is 7 days and nights of hard work. Its also incredibly rewarding.

In my studio, glued to the screen!

The 2020 WLIC which was scheduled for Dublin was cancelled due to the Pandemic, but the 2021 WLIC which was to be in Rotterdam was moved online and what a success it was. Spread over three days the program explored the themes of Libraries Innovate| Libraries Include| Libraries Sustain| Libraries Inspire| Libraries Enable. Each day was targeted at a specific world time zone (Europe & Africa| The Americas |Asia/Oceania) and all sessions were recorded to allow delegates to catch up at a later date. I was delighted to be a member of the program curation committee and to see the amazing work that went on behind the scenes.

Despite the WLIC being online there was still the IFLA buzz in the chat area as friends and colleagues from around the world caught up with one another and social media was in overdrive, especially with ‘remember this’ photos. There were a few minor hiccups but for a first time it was pretty special. The automatic captioning raised a few eyebrows and quite a few laughs – bet you never knew that ‘reading will give you pneumonia’ or that IFLA translates to ‘evil library’!

Normally the WLIC includes the change over meetings of the many committees and the Governing Board but these have been done on either side with the official change over yesterday following the IFLA General Assembly. For me this marked the transition from being Chair of Division 1 to Chair of the newly formed Division E which has responsibility for the School Libraries, Indigenous Matters, Information Literacy, Libraries for Children and Young Adults, Literacy and Reading, Reference and Information Services and Library History Sections. I am really excited by this step which is part of IFLA’s new governance structure.

The ‘Australian Mafia’ in Athens

The last few days have also been an opportunity to thank our outgoing President, Christine McKenzie and outgoing Professional Committee Chair, Vicki McDonald. I have had the great pleasure to work with both of them through ALIA and IFLA over many years. Christine was a fabulous President over this time of uncertainty and while being a ‘Zoom President’ isn’t what any of us would want she did it with grace and certainty. The ‘Aussie Mafia’ (aka the ALIA International Relations Committee) surprised both Christine and Vicki with flowers and champagne during our meeting on Tuesday.

So now we look to the future and a time when we can once again meet face to face but until then the spirit of IFLA thrives. We are IFLA.

Reflecting on IFLA

Today I was looking for something in my IFLA files and found myself heading fast down the rabbit hole of memory. And what memories!

My first IFLA WLIC was Milan in 2009 when I went in my role as ALIA President. As gigs go it was pretty good! My friend Vicki McDonald ( who is currently standing for President-elect of IFLA) recounts how at her first Mid-term she was warned she would get the ‘IFLA Bug’ by a German colleague while walking back to the hotel after dinner. I was alerted to the ‘IFLA Bug’ by the then IFLA Secretary General ( and fellow Australian), Jennefer Nicholson, way back in Milan. I poo, pooed the idea. Here I am 12 years later, an IFLA devotee standing for a position as Professional Division Committee Chair!

And what a 12 years it’s been. I have met some amazing people, some of whom are now amongst my ‘bestest’ friends; I have visited over 25 countries to participate in Congresses, mid-term meetings and conferences and have helped in developing programs for these; I have been part of the Global vision journey; and I have been privileged to represent IFLA in India and Iran, two of the most magical countries in the world. But more than that I have been welcomed into libraries around the world, every one centred on their community. Listening to them I have worked with my colleagues to develop initiatives and explore advocacy opportunities to promote libraries.

So getting back to the photos! There are so many of them and some of them are archived on my old PC! I’ve grabbed a few for the video and apologies to my many IFLA buddies who don’t appear (unlike my travel buddies Marian and Margaret, and my friend Anette who is teaching me Swedish by osmosis, who are overexposed). I deliberately kept the misadventures and the shopping excursions to a minimum but the epic 60 hour trip from Columbus Ohio back to Australia has a place in our memory.

This year the IFLA WLIC will be online which is an exciting opportunity in these uncertain times. I might not be able to hug my friends in person but they will be close to my heart.


I am currently engaged with colleagues from public libraries across New South Wales in talking about members, how we engage with and retain them, and how we expand our membership base. It’s a timely discussion as, in many communities, use ( and membership) has been significantly affected by COVID. This is an initiative of the NSW Public Libraries Association (NSWPLA).

Step one has involved a series of online workshops and, as I write, we are currently two thirds of the way through this. We have deliberately kept the groups small to facilitate discussion and it has been great to see such a diversity of libraries represented (and to see so many friends online). I have been joined in every session by the NSWPLA Executive Officer, Adele Casey, who must be sick to death of hearing my spiel, though I do try to throw something new in to see if she’s paying attention!

Step two will be an online discussion and resource sharing site. We already have a wonderful bank of ideas and suggestions to move forward. I am a strong believer in a collaborative approach, it has been good to be able to share experiences in a safe environment and bounce off each other for a way forward.

Today I’m having an R&R day in Hobart after back to back sessions for this project yesterday followed by and IFLA Governing Board meeting last night. I need a day where the sound of my own voice isn’t constantly in my head. Zoom is a lifesaver but ….

Heading towards Kettering aboard the ‘Parrabah’. The ‘Mirambeena’ approaching our port bow Bruny bound.

To finish the week a photo of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel coming into Kettering this morning from poll position on the ferry en route to ‘Town’ (ie Hobart). There are worse ways to start the day ❤️.

Happy weekend.