Category Archives: Weve

Exploding meetings

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A flipped bingo game for people who want to have innovative and creative conversations.

Exploding meetings

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The perfect sky in your consensus reality is ripped

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By Zapata

In which Zapata! the people’s book bandito, rides again! But only until some little girl starts bawling and wants her My Little Pony back.

Warning. Choking Hazard. May include minor outtakes and other small parts from human frailties causing anxiety and irregular breathing patterns. Adults: seek children’s permission first before recognising yourself in these doomed vignettes and swapping hope for some kind of fear and self-loathing in Los Bibliotheca. If symptoms persist, consult your local guardian spirit.

Intro

Once upon a time.

There was you.

And then there wasn’t.

You.

The end.

 

Chapter 1. Tequila Sunrise or Sunset
(I can’t tell the difference much anymore)

Sweet Country Jesus Almighty! Who the $#@k let Leonard Cohen script the prologue?!?!?!

Oh, such a sad opening. So let’s put some cheer into our chit-chat. You get the tequila, I’ll get the glasses and then we can talk about that middle bit, that thing about “there was you”. Yes, let’s do that, because these ruminations can become a lonely path which is better walked by two. Don’t you agree amigo?

My, my, the things these World Wide Weary eyes have seen, the knowledge of lies I’ve accumulated by the ‘truths’ I’ve been told, all lead me to ask you to consider not waiting any longer to be bloody cordially invited to intentionally re-design your life.

So, yeah, I said, ‘Intentionally re-design’.

Cause all you’re doing at the moment is playing Survivor: Corporatocracy Island’ and it’s a pyramid scheme (quite literally if you take a peek at your library’s organisational chart, go on, I’ll wait) which is purposely designed (there’s that ‘D’ word again) to give illusions to the limited aspirations that your life has been pre-set to.

Better times ahead? You bet.

But first, you’re going to have to love yourself a whole lot more than you do now (because why bother saving a wretched soul, right?) And all God’s people said, ‘Amen’.

 

Chapter 2. ‘Octo’ Reduxo

When the Pony Express delivered the mystery envelope containing your old amigo Zapata’s instructions for his next Weve instalment, the Mingling Heroes wrote that they wanted something that related to the kinetic art, ‘Octo’ by Anthony Howe.

So this is the way I seez it.

The structure exudes design…fit for purpose (most definitely)…some might say outwardly attractive and even temporarily mesmerising… but ultimately… repetitive…whose joyfulness fades as it forever remains at the mercy of a force beyond its control.

WHAT WAS THAT?!?! Did I just hear someone scream from the darkest corner of this cantina ‘Ouch Zapata, you’re killing me! That’s my library career you’re describing!’

Sad but true amigo, although such despondency is simply your own life’s resignation writ large and it need not be so comrade.

Your design began with an explosive burst billions of years ago (“We are all star dust” Carl Sagan reminded us, ’Imaginauts’ travelling on a spaceship of imagination rushing around at 67,000 miles per hour) and your own grand designs need not be surrendered so meekly to a library cabal run under the auspices of a fading gentry infected with passive recidivism.

You.

Amazing, wonderful, ‘You’.

The only ‘You’ that this Universe will ever get to see.

Oh, the wonders ‘You’ could perform as a librarian.

And what about your purposeful design of those wonders?

What forces are you going to let close down all the possibilities of those design choices?

A ‘Job Description’?

An organisational disaster zone which still enforces the diktats of a failed business model introduced by short white men in suits over  a hundred years ago and is still in vogue, orchestrated by a largely meandering matriarchy?

Or maybe forgoing your star quality for anonymity instead, in the hope that you will be accepted into the ranks of mediocrity as a jolly good ‘team player’?*

*Hey baby, I know who’s wearing ‘False Positivism’ in the office today, the sensational new fragrance from FCUK EVRYBODY.

 

Chapter 3. Project You.
(In Which You Decide to Pick a Fight)

We have financial systems which enforce global serfdom and misery facilitating a pathway for the greedy to become ever more obscenely wealthy and fill their overflowing vaults with more. We have food industries which don’t actually make people healthier but rather, instigate disease and death, where industrialised killing starts in the slaughter houses but carries right on into our homes. We have entertainment industries which commoditise women so that mothers, daughters and sisters are all for sale, anytime, anywhere.

Oh, and let’s not forget too that we have a building sector which manufactures properties which insidiously kills their residents. Support services which don’t (support). Justice systems which can’t (provide protective justice for the victims of crime from further harm). And ‘democratic’ governments that will (maim and kill their own citizens when ‘Push comes to Shove comes to Profit’).

Then we have our very own public libraries.

Yip, they too are part of this giant web of ineptitude. Because everything is connected people.

In the Western World, these public institutions boast a mission which is to assist citizenry to achieve specific literacy goals (and in its multiple guises). To serve (and protect?) people, assuming the vanguard against what has been registered by many organisations worldwide as a massive, silent, epidemic, trapping people in cycles of poverty and ill health. It is a plague upon our land and you should know it by thy name: Illiteracy*

And yet, in this single, titanic struggle, public libraries are too, systematically floundering.

Less a Praetorian Guard and more a confederacy of dunces.

Behaviour which has been less ‘Almighty Thunder’, and more ‘Oops, Bloody Hell, Blunder’. Via a historical mosaic of fragmented design strategies, public libraries find themselves encumbered with archaic business models, redundant professional development schema, emaciated revenue supplies and a flagellant penchant for intellectual self-indulgences; all of which have combined to thwart the delivery of our ultimate, glorious achievement: the eradication of this hideous deformity upon human beings.

Put your hand up if you think that our current design and executions of purpose are beneficial, desirable or even preferable? What are you in the public library business for? Who the f**k allows this to happen?!

Listen up amigo, and listen up real good, the Bibliotheca Public is the library of the people, for the people, and – with you starring as the people’s representative – by the people. You dig what the cat Zapata is laying down for you here? Because it’s you, the librarian, while there’s some goddam breath in your body, who is going to save us from this apocalypse. Save is from, Literacy-Which-Is-Ill. How about we demonstrate some controlled panic, and seek to end this pestilence, thereby allowing decent people to live with integrity and dignity?

Yeah, you’re going to pick a fight and bloody win something back for humanity! And should you die in a blaze of glory with a burrito in one hand and an Alien ALH-9011 Handheld RFID Reader in the other then, well, that seems a fitting way for a bibliotecario rebel to go out.

So how’d you like them manzana?! (Hey you, in the darkest corner of the cantina, you still back there getting all this?)

Si, senor Zapata.’

 

Chapter 4. Making Meaning is the New Porn

The weapons for you to fight with have already been provided.

Oh, oh, oh, don’t tell me… elite wordsmithing taskforces have been convening and issuing monumental proclamations in your organisation about ‘Innovation’, ‘Creativity’, and ‘Making the Future Happen’ (sic) ad nauseam with perhaps the occasional ‘Revolutionary Thinking’ inserted, for years now. A continuous business cycle of vacuous declarations sprinkled by a self-effacing neo-feudal overlordship which actually believes its next annual release of 20 Solid Gold Bullshit Hits.

But what really matters, what really counts, was given to you, to all of us, a long, long time ago.

It was little more than the ability to be curious, and ask, ‘What if?

What if things were different – different BETTER – for people than from the way they are now?

What if I designed my life around giving it meaning through the pursuit of helping others find meaning in theirs.

That is true renegade thinking.

Not little-bit-cutesy-aww-Pikachu-feels-sad-levels of cube-farm rebellions, getting kicks from planning another maker space programme; not robotically crafted, impersonal press releases trumpeting our value to our communities by extending the borrowing period over the Christmas holiday period; and not by demonstrating a unique brand of ‘Customer Service’ through the fostering of improved revenue gathering schemes which make no contribution whatsoever to keeping the library operations above subsistence levels, yet cause harm to real people.

No, we’re talking Borg-menacing-planet-destroying-levels of meaning. And they won’t like it.

But being liked by civil servant power junkies is not what your life was ever meant to be about.

Okay, so, before all the doors slam shut on your professional energies, in some kind of obscene Get Smart opening sequence, design meaning into your version of your personal librariany talent; meaning above and beyond small-minded and perfunctory task fulfilment. Designing meaning for yourself and others lends itself towards the attainment of a level of self-determination and mastery which can alter that which only recently felt preordained.

Being recognised as some Voodoo High Priestess of a specific shelving area in your library should not sum up your life’s design.

You know, a very wise doctor – a Senor Seuss he went by the name of – once articulated, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’

[Amigo in dark corner of the little cantina] ‘Hey Senor Zapata, It seems like you’re never going to bloody shut up so I’m going to leave now and I’m going outside. And Senor Zapata…I am going to walk against the wind. See you later amigo.’

[Zapata] ‘Si, see you later my brave little amigo. And may your pencils always outlast their erasers.

 

Outro

In the end, what does it all mean? Ha! We would need more a lot more tequila before we stumbled upon the likely answers to that question, friend. Hhmm, possibly, the song was right all along; the answer my fine amigo is blowing in the wind. Whoosh. Yes, just like that. Did you catch it? But what you can do, what we all must do, is live our library lives more urgently and DESIGN the hell out of them.

 

Postscript

Your Life.

A Consensus Reality.

Made in China.

Commoditised at 1 Hacker Way, Merlo Park.

Bankrupted at 700, 19th St NW Washington.

Pardoned at the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City.

 

*John Steinbeck wrote, “Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it.”

Not either/or. Both

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A tale of two friends, both self-described avid readers, who’ve read many of the same books, but typically fail to recommend a next-read that the other one would like.

Helen can recite intricate details of the plot, and can predict a plot twist a mile off. Meg rarely figures out a whodunit before the reveal, and usually only recalls how a book made her feel after she’s finished reading it.  If Helen starts a book, she finishes it, no matter what. If Meg starts a book, she might skip to the end, she might put it down & pick it up weeks later, or she might give up partway through. Helen is usually reading a maximum of two books at the same time, and will read typically work her way through all the books by the same author. Meg always has multiple books on the go, but doesn’t immediately seek out other stories by the same author.

Helen and Meg having both just finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Based on their experience with the book, this is what they borrowed next from the library:

Helen

  1. An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
  2. The Scar, China Miéville
  3. Recent copy of Smithsonian magazine

Meg

  1. The Almighty Johnsons, Season 2
  2. Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  3. Zeroes, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deb Biancotti
  4. Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor
  5. 61 Hours, Lee Child
  6. Last rituals, Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Neither of them made their choices through interaction with Reader’s Advisory services of their local library. Prior to their next library visit, they had both already made their next-read choices based on reviews and recommendations from other sources, including Facebook and Twitter, visits to a local bookstore, reviews in favourite magazines, links from Good Reads, online book club. Helen arrived with a list of 10 books, and found 3 available on the shelf. Meg pre-ordered 3 books, picked the DVD from the recent returns shelf, picked 1 title from a new books display and chose 1 title from a themed book display.

How would you have begun the delicate dance of Reader’s Advisory for these two readers based on the same book? Would you have uncovered these materials for these two readers? Can you unlock the reasons behind the choices for each reader?

With more and more library users relying on their recommendations from elsewhere, how can libraries differentiate themselves for their community? As well as personalised recommendations from experienced librarians[1], reorganising the library space to align with bookstore retail models[2], develop themed book displays intentionally focused on extending people’s known experiences[3], there may be other ways to explore your community’s experience to develop Reader’s Advisory for other library users. In the same way that online retailers provide linkages between titles, “other customers bought”, libraries could also leverage their communities’ borrowing data to enrich discovery of new reading opportunities. The ways in which we organise, arrange, display and curate our library collections to connect with our community could be revolutionary. The intense power of tapping into our community’s reading experience could also unlock different and exciting connections for other library users. Libraries could choose to:

  • Organise collections emotionally.
  • Alternate Book Clubs (everyone reads and discusses the same book) with Book Smack events (everyone reads and reviews a different book).
  • Develop Reading Maps.
  • Make a recently returned ebook shelf.
  • Join in Read, Watch, Play.
  • Auto-generate next-read recommendations on check out slips.
  • Create themed Book Club

Leveraging community experience and community data balances the emotional and evidential connections with reading for our library users, because Reader’s Advisory is not an art nor is it a science. Reader’s Advisory is both.

Extend your Reader’s Advisory knowledge:

  • Crash Course in Readers’ Advisory, Cynthia Orr
  • Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (7th), Cynthia Orr and Diana Tixier Herald
  • The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, Joyce Saricks
  • BookLust podcast with Nancy Pearl
  • Book Riot website
  • EarlyWord website

 

[1] Christchurch City Libraries’ Staff Pickles, Auckland City Libraries’ My Librarian, Hamilton City Libraries’ Your next great read

[2] Public Library of Almere

[3] We Need Diverse Books website

Editorial

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When oppositional forces collide, something different emerges from the chaos and the result is both beautiful and ugly. The power of acceptance when confronted with something different is exciting for it allows us to see and feel and experience the world in another way.

We’ve been intrigued and inspired by Anthony Howe’s Octo, unravelling our reactions to the experience behind his creation.

We’ve learnt to embrace the confluence of hard and soft, of harmony and discord. We’ve grown to celebrate the subjective, creating something new from disparate things.

My awkward becomes your elegant. Your weakness becomes my strength. My ugly becomes your beauty.

We are mesmerised by the unknown. We are frightened by the unexplained. We are challenged by the uncomfortable.

But despite all of this.

We willingly step into the risk of not knowing before we try, allowing vulnerability to propel us instead of paralyzing us. We willingly seek out the challenge of the unknown, for everything in our lives was unknown once. We willingly find a way to navigate the journey, without knowing the destination.

We seek hope amidst anger and pain and frustration.
We seek vulnerability amidst dread and reluctance and fear.
We seek acceptance amidst rage and despair and hurt.

Art and Science. Individual and Collective. Owned and Borrowed.

It’s not about understanding the either/or, it’s about accepting both.

It is Consilience. 

Ask Me A Question

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Invite your community to begin the conversation:

  • What does it mean to be vegetarian?
  • What does it mean to be a refugee?
  • What does it mean to be a global citizen?
  • What does it mean to be homeless?
  • What does it mean to be a New Zealander?
  • What does it mean to be a Buddhist?

Allow your community an opportunity to reflect on what these words mean to them. Invite people who identify with the above statements to share their experience and to respond to people’s perceptions of what it means to be these things.

Watching the second series of Go back to where you came from (an Australian TV show about the refugee experience) made me reflect that it may seem straightforward to emphatically state opinions about situations which we have no deep understanding. Yet, when faced with the reality of people’s experiences, it is harder to reconcile our previously stated beliefs.

This TV series is deliberately provocative. It could be a starting point to engage with your community about their attitudes to refugees, in particular, highlighting the many complex reasons which may influence a refugee’s decision to illegally enter another country.

There is also no definitive way “to be” homeless. It means different things to different people, and the understanding of the word “homeless” can be influenced by culture and language.

There are numerous TV shows, books, films, TED talks, podcasts that attempt to dispel the myth and misunderstanding of situations such as urban homelessness, to show that, underneath we’re all human, and that homelessness isn’t a situation that occurs in the same way for everyone.

The “borrow-a-person” idea has been around for over a decade, and LIANZA has information about how to involve people as “non-traditional information resources”.

Could undertaking a programme like this within your library be a way to invite people into conversations with others whom they might never otherwise encounter? Could it be a way to develop an openness and deeper understanding about other members of your community?

In a secondary school environment, librarians may work alongside career advisors to develop a collection set of “living resources” (aka real people!) who are open to sharing their career experiences of what it means “to be” in a particular job. It might also be a useful way to demonstrate to young people that they can be interested in many seemingly unrelated topics and develop a career path that involves many of their interests.

What does it mean to be intrigued by both art history and chemistry? It could mean that your career as an art restorer has begun.

What does it mean to be fascinated by both photography and biology? It could mean that your career as a medical imaging specialist has begun.

You could also show that being interested in science, but fainting at the sight of blood, doesn’t preclude someone from being involved in the medical profession, they just may have to expand their thinking beyond training as a surgeon or a phlebotomist.

The photo-essay, This is what a Librarian looks like, by Kyle Cassidy demonstrates that although we may share the same job title, not only do we do different things within that job title, we clearly don’t all look the same.

And, as the stories in the Share your Path to Librarianship series (published on Finding Heroes) clearly show, we definitely didn’t all become librarians by following the same path.

Allowing others to share their experiences enables us all to gain an insight and understanding to lives that are different to our own. It may be the beginning of a different model of community conversations.