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GLAM Blog Club – Passion

If you want to find passion in our household, you can’t really go past a pre-teen boy and his gaming. The word obsession is probably going a bit too far, but certainly gaming would take up a major part of his waking thoughts (and maybe some of his dreams too). His current game of choice is Fortnite Battle Royale, a free-to-play shoot-em-up which is taking the gaming world by storm. Only released in September of last year, this game has already reached the point of having over 3 million players simultaneously. That’s more than 3 million people all over the world playing the same game at the same time. That’s pretty hectic.

A Battle Royale is a genre of game where, starting with a group of players, the goal is to be the last person standing, after killing off all the others. Some people might recognise the name from the Japanese movie from 2000 called Battle Royale, or you might know the concept from the Hunger Games franchise which came out later. In Fortnite Battle Royale, 100 people jump out of a flying bus (as you do…) onto an island with various areas and town, where you must collect weapons, equipment and materials and survive any encounters with other players. A storm front forces players into an ever tightening safe area meaning you can’t just hide out somewhere until everyone else has picked each other off. You can also quickly build structures to provide cover, get a height advantage or get out of tricky situations.

It’s true that I have had my own forays into gaming. There was a time in 1999 when The Sims nearly ruined my relationship with my now husband when we only had one computer. But I have mostly been about strategy and puzzles rather than combat and the level of sophistication of console games controllers these days has certainly gotten away from me. If you had asked me a year ago why I gave up so quickly on the game Dead Island, which my husband bought for me knowing my interest in zombies, I’d have said that I wasn’t good at those kinds of fast-paced, aim-and-shoot games and I didn’t have very good hand/eye coordination. However, this year I’ve been trying to encourage in my kids a growth mindset and I think it’s time to try to practice what I preach.

Carol Dweck coined the phrases ‘growth mindset’ and ‘fixed mindset’ to explain the way people approach learning and deal with disappointment. To have a fixed mindset is to think that you have a set amount of intelligence or talent and so you are ‘good at something’ or ‘bad at something’ which tends to take away your motivation to try. By saying “I am bad at math” it gives you the perfect excuse to avoid helping your kid with their homework, to get a colleague to take over a project or to use a calculator at all times. Alternatively, having a growth mindset means that you can always get better at something by working harder at it. Through effort, dedication and learning you can increase intelligence and improve your abilities. Students with a growth mindset are more likely to challenge themselves rather than take the easy option. So rather than praise my kids by telling them “You’re good at that”, I’ve been trying to praise their perseverance, their effort, their creativity and their problem-solving. A great animated video explaining more can be found on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl9TVbAal5s

So, when a popular Youtuber who specialises in playing Fortnite (yes, that’s right, he just posts videos about playing Fortnite) showed a video where he tried to teach his mother to play, my son got really excited about showing me. My first thought was to shut him down with my usual excuses but then I rethought that. Here’s a great opportunity to show him that I can have a growth mindset as well. So I’ve asked him to teach me. We haven’t had a chance to get into it properly yet (and it’s now the end of the month) but next month my goal will be to learn to play Fortnite Battle Royale. I don’t think I’m going to be the ultimate winner anytime soon (my son is super-frustrated that he hasn’t made it there yet, his best so far is 3rd which I think is an awesome achievement) but maybe I can at least start with a more realistic goal. So you’re just going to have to wait for next month to see how I go. Wish me luck! Or “may the odds be ever in your favour”.

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Posted by on May 30, 2018 in GLAM Blog Club

 

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GLAM Blog Club – Control

My name is Kara and I’m a pessimist.

Not in all things. I’ve been derided before for my optimism for imagining only the best in other people. However when it came to thinking what to write about April’s GlamBlogClub theme of ‘Control’, my mind kept cycling back to dark places.

While the idea that I can control my career is very seductive, I also find it to be misleading and sometimes even disheartening. Life is super messy and there are always factors you can’t predict. When I feel like I’m doing a lot of the right things but still can’t even get an interview for a position that I am repeatedly asked about, “Can’t you just get a job there?”, it undermines my confidence. When I find myself putting too much emphasis on doing professional development for where it’s going to get me, rather than what I might learn, I am left feeling like I’m stagnating. When I have other people relying on me, life can just get in the way.

How about I suspend my belief in this illusion of control? By grasping too tight to it, it’s causing a rigidity where what I really need is flexibility and fluidity. Isn’t that what we need more of in this information landscape? I’m seeing some great things in libraries by people who are throwing out the old rulebook and reimagining what libraries can be and what they can do for people.

Maybe I also need to broaden my definitions of success and celebrate the small wins. Indulge my interests and find my niche. Or maybe just stop worrying so damn much because it’s another day tomorrow, and it might not be as bad as I think.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in GLAM Blog Club

 

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Swedish library tour

In July of 2017, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Sweden, which some might be surprised to find out, is a country that is not only just about meatballs and self-assembly furniture. It’s a beautiful country of rolling countrysides, grand architecture, and, of course, libraries. While I was there I was able to visit four very different libraries.

Firstly I explored the Stockholm City Public Library. Designed by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund and opened in 1928, the spectacular central domed main room took my breath away, as books completely surrounded me. Side rooms allowed for additional separate zones for different parts of the collection in this busy city public library branch.

Next, I dragged my reluctant children to the Kungliga Biblioteket (National Library of Sweden) in Humlegården Park, Stockholm. This research library’s historic building was adapted in 1997 to include two five-storey underground storage areas. It was a dramatic blend of traditional and modern architecture with beautiful views form the research rooms through large windows out to the surrounding parkland.

Traveling later to the city of Linkoping, about two hours drive from Stockholm, I was impressed by the Stadsbibliotek (City Library). Damaged by fire in 1996, the library was rebuilt into a grand multipurpose space with huge walls of windows. This use of light makes the best of Sweden’s often harsh weather, making it a welcoming space. The building also includes a museum space downstairs and a number of large cylindrical ‘pods’ to create separate spaces for distinct collections, including a kid’s storytime area and local history collection. The director of the Linkoping City Library Service, Lena Axelsson was kind enough to give me some of her valuable time to answer questions and discuss the differences and similarities between libraries in Sweden and Australia. I was very happy to hear that the Swedish people valued their libraries, even if they were not library users themselves, as I think this is a current problem in libraries internationally.

Last, but certainly not least, I was able to pop into a small local public library in the town of Åtvidaberg. This library reminded me that you don’t always need the fanciest buildings as long as you are serving and supporting your local community.

Experiencing these libraries, I could see that there were many similarities between libraries in Sweden and Australia. Library technology, like self-service kiosks, automatic returns chutes, customer computers, and wifi access, ways of displaying the collection and library building architecture were obviously based on the same principles as those I’m used to. The globalising effects of the internet as well as international conferences and the like mean that it is easy to discover what other libraries are doing and to share best practice and research.

I did see a few things though that surprised me. I saw some adorable book trolleys, the style of which I’ve never seen before. I was surprised by the number of picture books in English when children don’t start learning English until a few years into primary school. However, my biggest shock of all was when I realised that Swedish books were catalogued to a different classification system than any I had seen before. I’ll be writing more about the Swedish SAB cataloguing system soon.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

GLAM Blog Club – Happiness

About 15 years ago, I was sitting in a pub in London with my husband and a couple we were good friends with, talking about our jobs. One of the people at the table was a nurse. When it comes to fulfilling careers, this one is pretty much at the top of the scale for feeling like you’re doing good in the world. Her husband and my husband worked together for a record store chain, so while they were working for a large corporation, they also really believed in the product they were selling. Through their jobs they were bringing joy into people’s lives and supporting artists. I, on the other hand, was working in search engine optimisation, helping to drive increased traffic to our client’s websites. Around this time SEO was moving from reverse engineering Google algorithms and was becoming more about writing copy for Google Ads, which was just taking off. While I was good at my job and enjoyed what I was doing, it struck me at this point that helping people make more money wasn’t really where I wanted to be long term.

It took me a few more years and a country relocation before I got the opportunity to go back to university and study to be a librarian and a lot of things have happened in that time. I have so many reasons to be happy with my life but when it comes to my working life, the fact that I am now able to help people on a day-to-day basis gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Whether it’s giving a homeless person somewhere to shelter from the weather, sparking off a love of reading in a child, assisting in formatting a resume, or helping foreign-language speaking customers to practice their English, everyday as librarians we are able to visibly see ways we are helping people. And this makes me happy.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2018 in GLAM Blog Club

 

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The kids are alt-type

My question for today is, why aren’t kids learning typing at school? My kids are in primary school and I work at a high school, but nowhere am I seeing typing classes. Back in my day… (watch me really date myself here) we learnt to type on manual typewriters with no backspace and no delete and it was a real work-out for your fingers. Not everyone did typing lessons, I imagine it was seen as a rather feminine skill to have but this was before computers were ubiquitous. How times have changed.

The ‘hunt and peck’ style of typing will certainly get you by in a pinch but shouldn’t we be aiming for more? Of course touch screens and mobile devices continue to gain in popularity and perhaps future innovations will make keyboard typing so very passé. We may one day reach the point where the accuracy of voice input is as good as the sci-fi movies of the 90s. But until then, we need to be focussing on a skill that young people need right now and for the foreseeable future. If we are pushing coding as an important proficiency for students, typing should be right there alongside it.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

GLAM Blog Club – Watch and learn and contribute

Part of the allure of the modern online life is the ability to sit back and watch what’s happening without having to really interact. Facebook is the ultimate example of this, where we all feel like we are keeping up with other people’s lives even though we haven’t seen them in person for three years. 

In my school job, I take care of the library OPAC site as part of the LMS we use. I subscribe to a user group email list where my counterparts in various libraries across Australia and internationally can ask for help and advice on processes, issues and enhancements. Of course when you start out in these kinds of groups, you often are a newbie, flailing around trying to work out what you’re doing and how things work. At this point, all you can really be is a passive recipient of information with nothing to contribute. 

But then it starts to happen, you get to know your way around the system and you work things out, often as a result of the advice of others. And one day, you realise that the question that someone is asking is something you know, something you’ve learnt, something that’s already fallen into place for you. It’s a wonderful feeling when you can be the one to step forward and give some help. You can move out of the shadows of watching and lurking and give something back. 

It’s a strength of the library profession, wanting to help and contribute in our communities, but I think one that sometimes we need to be reminded of as we get caught up in our daily minutiae. Not just sitting back and watching but jumping up and diving in. Come on in, the water’s divine. 

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Review – Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I came across this book after a query from a new student, and interestingly it turned out to be a “proper science-based” science fiction book which deals with some of the same ideas (of dealing with ‘otherness’) as ‘In The Dark Spaces’, which I reviewed recently.

Spanning thousands of years, Children of Time uses the concept of cryogenic sleep to jump over long spans of time and to allow us to explore the concepts of evolution, the risks in meddling in ‘godlike’ creation, humanity’s hubris and propensity for violence and war, and how is it possible to find common ground when meeting a completely ‘alien’ lifeform.

The book begins in a future time when technology has progressed to the point of interstellar travel and planet terraforming. In an experiment to ‘seed’ the universe with human-parallel beings, on a terraformed planet 20 light-years from earth, a cargo of monkeys and a nano-virus which supercharges evolution are about to be released. However, at the last moment, an operative for an earth-based terrorist organization blows everybody up, save the architect of the project, Dr Kern, who escapes in a sentry pod, the purpose of which was to keep one person in cryogenic sleep until intelligent life was detected on the planet.

Meanwhile, back on earth, humanity has descended into war and destruction (a recurring theme and comment on humankind). The following centuries include a mankind-caused ice-age with only ten thousand survivors clinging on in primitive conditions, a grasping back towards understanding of the previous generations’ technologies, and the eventual understanding that the earth has been poisoned beyond saving. The remnants of the human race are then forced to abandon the earth and embark on a last-ditch journey to the stars to try to find a habitable planet.

Over the same time, on the terraformed planet, instead of the monkeys which were blown up along with the people, the nanovirus finds purchase with spiders who then evolve in unexpected ways, forming huge cities and matriarchal societies, creating a vibration-based communication system, developing technologies such as computing systems based on controlled ant colonies, and eventually contacting their god-creator, Dr Kern, barely clinging onto sanity after thousands of years in a tiny space-freezer.

When the remains of humanity realize their only hope of survival is a planet populated by giant spiders, well, there’s going to be trouble, isn’t there?

This is an epic book, both in span and in heft (coming in at 600 pages). I found it fascinating and would recommend to anyone with an interest in science fiction and speculative futures. I think however that the sheer size of this book might make it a difficult sell for some of our students.

 

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Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Book Reviews