Thursday November 26, 2009

SWITCH: Public Libraries in a Changing Environment

Surry Hills Library
Surry Hills Library by Helen K, on Flickr

This week Mosman Library attended the 2009 NSW Public Libraries Conference and Exhibition hosted by the Public Libraries NSW Metropolitan Association.

The theme was ‘SWITCH: Public Libraries in a Changing Environment’.

The “S” in SWITCH refered to sustainability: economic, social, cultural and environmental, and the role that public libraries, in partnership with governments, businesses, educational organisations and community groups, will continue to play in social inclusion, community development and community sustainability.

Some highlights from our librarians…

Co-creating the future

Frank Panucci, Director of Community Partnerships, Australia Council spoke about the importance of engaging our community and working with community organisations and individuals to ‘co-create the future’. He highlighted the value of going out to our community, meeting with groups and individuals in their ‘places’ rather than expecting them to come to us. This approach helps develop trust between participants and provides more opportunities for people to contribute to the cultural development of their community. The session was particularly relevant to Mosman Council’s Community Engagement Strategy which outlines the ways in which we inform, consult and involve our community.

Jill C., Manager Library Resources

Reading matters!

I really enjoyed hearing Paula Kelly from the State Library of Victoria Centre for Youth Literature talk about her job to promote the truth that ‘Reading matters’. From the video showing a 4 month old baby reacting to a story, to websites such as for young adults who want to read for pleasure not because they have too. I also thought that Penny Amberg from Bega was a really passionate and energetic speaker.

Jacqui G., Library Officer, Technical Services

Cultural sustainability

The SWITCH conference was interesting, informative and very relevant to cultural sustainability in the community. Paula Kelly (The State Library of Victoria) gave an insightful contribution about the importance of reading to babies at an early age and the consequent improvement in their literacy levels in later years.

Anne Hall (Library and Museum services, Fairfield City Council) discussed an interesting website This site provides access to search engines, web directories and news in different languages. A useful tool in promoting information services to diverse cultural communities.

Another interesting contribution was made by Marvis Sofield (Library Manager Broken Hill Library) in which she talked about the importance of libraries in regional areas and maintaining a successful writing group in Broken Hill.

The SWITCH conference showed that Public Libraries have many varied roles in relation to community development and it is important for society to have access to information and resources for their particular needs.

S.T., Librarian, Lending & Information Services

The library and local business

An interesting and enthusiastic talk was given by Stephanie Kelly, manager, economic development, City of Canada Bay on the partnership which has developed between the library and business. Businesses are encouraged to promote their wares in the library and the library gains a percentage of sales made, which in turn brings in much needed revenue, business meetings are also encouraged in the library, again marrying business and library users, to the advantage of both. Awareness is thus promoted and library use has escalated. Very pleasing and encouraging for all.

Jacqueline E., Technical Services Librarian

Where are libraries headed?

Although bandied about at the moment sustainability is something that needs to be addressed on an individual as well as a group level and presents a number of challenges for those working in the library sector.

The fist half of the day focused on economic sustainability. Michael Pascoe economic and finance commentator, painted a very positive picture of Australia’s financial position despite what many consider an onerous national debt. Various speakers followed who offered some examples of what they are doing in practice to address the issue of economic sustainability. Oliver Freeman and Richard Watson’s report on the four long term possible scenarios libraries may face was particularly interesting. The bookends project will be released on the web next Monday November 30th.

The afternoon session ‘social sustainability’ began with the always interesting Hugh Mackay who spoke about the changing face of Australian society and how these changes affect the way we live our lives. His take on the future of libraries was encouraging and he suggested that despite the increase in online social networking people will be craving both the physical and social interaction that comes with a public community and cultural space such as the local library. Following Hugh we listened to a number of speakers who provided examples of ways in which they are seeking social sustainability.

Overall the day provided a great opportunity to see what others are doing out there in library land as well as offering food for thought on where we are headed both as a service and a profession.

Merilyn P., Inter-Library Loans Officer

Australia’s environmental footprint

I was inspired by the keynote presentation by Associate Professor Tony Masters – Towards 2020: Australia’s Environmental Footprint. He spoke convincingly on Climate Change and how little time the world has left to do something about this issue before it becomes too late. Climate change has been recognised as a scientific reality for centuries and the effects of man on the climate in the last one hundred and fifty years has been amazing and some would say catastrophic. He urged librarians as the information specialists to provide access to information on climate change so that public opinion on this issue could change with the acquisition of knowledge of the real facts. Perhaps this way world governments would be forced to act now and think long term for the benefit of the planet we all share. A timely presentation given the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen next month.

Linda H., Manager Library Services

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