New Workshop: Creative Digital Experiments with Collections

On 21st April I’m running a new online session as part of the Beginning Cataloguing seminar programme, which will be focussed on how libraries and heritage organisations make use of technology to share and re-work their collections and resources in creative and engaging new ways. I’ll be sharing a variety of inspirational examples from organisations, along with how online mapping and narrative tools can provide visitors with a new digital discovery route into your collections.

You can book now via the Beginning Cataloguing Teachable site.

While you’re there, take a look at the range of other interesting cataloguing, bibliography and book history seminars and workshops that Beginning Cataloguing is running.

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Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

Digital Classification Games Workshop

A couple of months ago I was very pleased to become an Associate for Beginning Cataloguing, which is run by Anne Welsh, and focused on:

  • working with individuals to manage and document their papers and collections of books, drawings and other objects;
  • providing a range of institutions and individuals with advice on managing their collections, including writing / updating their in-house training manuals and policy documents;
  • writing and delivering bespoke training for heritage organisations and commercial companies (including law firms).

More recently, Beginning Cataloguing has begun to provide online training, with a focus on cataloguing and related areas of information and library work. As part of Beginning Cataloguing’s training offer, I am running a two hour online workshop on 2nd December. It covers the creation and use of digital classification games to help library users gain a better understanding of classification schemes. It will be a hands-on interactive playful learning session, giving participants the opportunity to experiment with a prototype game on iphones and Android phones made with a free easy-to-use tool. Amongst others, the session will be of use to library staff exploring ideas around classification training and inductions for staff and users. For example, student inductions in universities and colleges. The workshop is also intended to spark ideas about how other digital games could be of use in a library setting.

More details about the workshop and how to book can be found here.

Mentoring for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2020

I mentioned a few months ago that I was participating as a mentor for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) for the second year in a row. This is now over for another year, and I wanted to follow up on that original post.

For those who don’t know, GSoC is “an international annual program in which Google awards stipends to students who successfully complete a free and open-source software coding project during the summer. The program is open to university students aged 18 or over.” (Wikipedia)

A Mentor for Catrobat

I mentored on behalf of Catrobat, the organisation behind Pocket Code and other open-source mobile coding apps for teens. As a mentor I supported a single student/mentee who was developing a game based on Metroid to showcase the possibilities of Pocket Code. It’s the first time I’ve acted as a mentor on a one-to-one basis (outside of my 9 to 5 jobs) – last year I was part of a group of mentors working with a group of students. At the start of the project I made sure that I was mindful of the fact that acting as a mentor is different to acting as a line-manager. The way I see it, I was there to support the mentee on the project they had scoped for Catrobat. I was there to give guidance, offer suggestions, provide advice, show them options to achieve the result that was needed, and act as a point of contact with others in the mentoring organisations (Catrobat and Google). That doesn’t mean I would wait until I was asked for help before raising my head above the parapet. We set up a regular weekly meeting right at the start of the programme in May. During the meetings we could talk about the progress of the project; the student’s plans for the coming weeks; where they were up to with their overall plan; discussions around new ideas, how to develop the project, and the best way to resolve issues; and any other support they needed. It wasn’t a conversation just around the game itself. I wanted to highlight broader aspects of open source game development and the game and open source development communities. For example, making a game is only half the work (maybe less than half the work) in making it a success, so I pointed them to a list of over 1,000 game developers to follow on Twitter, ranging from hobby game makers, to those working on AAA games; as well as talking about the value of game jams; small and local game communites; and initiatives such as Pitch Ya Game. I also made regular contact with my mentee between meetings, just to make sure things were okay with their progress on the project. And they were very proactive staying in contact with me, and discussing ideas and issues between the regular meetings. And after a few months of working with them, it’s great to see the fantastic game they’ve created in Pocket Code, as part of the GSoC initiative.

A Positive Experience

I enjoyed last year’s GSoC, and this year I found the mentoring experience just as enjoyable. I think it was also as much a useful learning and development experience for me as much as it was for my mentee.

Mentoring one-to-one with a student who was responsible for driving a complete project forward, from the initial proposal to developing the idea, and producing the coding, art and music for the game, was such a positive experience.

If anyone is considering mentoring, I would say go for it. I found it a rewarding experience, and I’m looking forward to getting involved again next year.

Pocket Code

LGBTQ+ Lives Online Web Project

As part of the CILIP LGBTQ+ Network, I’ve been involved in developing the collaboration with The British Library focused on the LGBTQ+ Lives Online UK Web Archive project. This project aims to identify and archive regular snapshots of public facing UK websites with an LGBTQ+ focus. Anyone can nominate a site to be added to the archive. You can find out more about the project, and how to nominate sites for inclusion on the UK Web Archive blog. It’s an interesting and important project, and I’m pleased to be involved in it. Even though the project already includes 400 sites, we know there are many more out there that fit within the scope of the collection. I’m a volunteer curator for the UK Web Archive, and it will be interesting to see the sites that get nominated. I’m happy to see sites representing organisations and groups with an LGBTQ+ focus, but I’m also hoping that many personal sites get nominated as well. I think it’s important to capture (with their permission) personal everyday experiences of a wide range of LGBTQ+ community members in the archive. Archiving these websites is not only about being able to see “what life was like back then”, but also about reading these individual personal stories and being able to relate to them and feel a connection regardless of long ago they were written. The web has enabled minorities, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, who in the past may not have had been heard, to share their stories. Hopefully as part of this project we will find those stories and preserve them for future generations.

Find out more about the project and how to nominate sites here:

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

LGBTQ+ information and library resources

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Since coming out a few years ago I’ve thought more about library and information resources and services for LGBTQ+ people. In my last post at Surrey Libraries we had a pro-active outreach team who worked with external organisations and people to develop the scope of our resources and services in this area, but I never really got involved in that side of things until after I came out. From a personal perspective it was useful and reassuring to see that the library service were aware of the need to support minority groups within the community – partly because the libraries learning team ran an LGBTQ+ awareness training session around 2016, and it was after that session that I had a lightbulb moment about myself. It was also useful as a starting point to explore where I fitted into the world in relation to my sexuality and gender, especially as I struggled to make sense of the thoughts and feelings I’d had for over a decade. Once I felt more comfortable about being out, I thought it was also time I played a pro-active part in the services and resources we provided, even if that was a minor role. Over my last couple of years in Surrey Libraries I was able to support and work on a few local projects in this area. They included proposing the idea of hosting the Transworker photo exhibition in some of our libraries and introducing the photographer to our outreach team; and creating displays, zines, reading lists and social media campaigns to support of LGBT History Month, and Pride in STEM. I feel on the whole, library services across the UK do support the LGBTQ+ community through the stock they provide – I acknowledge that this varies from library to library – but at I feel it’s important to have a visible show of that support and take the opportunity to do that when you can. It’s partly about saying “This library isn’t against you… it welcomes you.” Creating small campaigns like this can help. I’m assuming that as about 80 of the zines were taken away from one of our library displays that it was a useful thing to do.

Following on from leaving Surrey Libraries it’s been good to be able to channel my librarian background into something useful for LGBTQ+ library users, staff and the broader LGBTQ+ community. So, last year along with Binni Brynolf and Tom Peach, we began creating an online resource for library, knowledge and information workers focused on LGBTQ+ library and information services and resources. Anyone can suggest additions to the resource, but it’s moderated just to make sure that anything that is added is in scope. I also joined the newly formed CILIP LGBTQ+ Network Steering Group at the end of last year. The idea of it being to “… create a community which can work with CILIP to include the specific development needs and the perspective of LGBTQ+ Library Knowledge & Information workers; and aims to provide guidance, support, and a safe space to share knowledge and experiences for library, information and knowledge workers who identify as LGBTQ+.

I’m proud to be involved in both projects, as I feel they will have a positive impact on library services – not least because UK library, knowledge and information workers will have an online space and peer network they can interact with to support themselves, their work and also the broader LGBTQ+ community.

Participating in Google Summer of Code

The Google Summer of Code (GSoc) coding period kicks off today after a month long community bonding period. As part of this initiative I’m mentoring a student working on a Pocket Code game project for Catrobat. It’s one of 12 projects Catrobat are focused on for GSoc this year.

In case you’re wondering what GSoC is, it’s a worldwide annual programme “in which Google awards stipends to students who successfully complete a free and open-source software coding project during the summer.” The program is open to university students aged 18 or over. Since 2005, over 15,000 students in 109 countries have worked with 686 open source organisations, & created 36,000,000+ lines of open source code.

It’s exciting to see how my mentee’s project is taking shape. I’ve acted as an informal mentor in the past, and I was also a mentor for Catrobat last year. But it’s the first time I’ve been a mentor formally on a 1-to-1 basis, & I’m really enjoying it. I was very happy to be asked to participate again. Being able to focus on supporting a student in developing their project by listening to their ideas, providing guidance & encouragement is a positive experience. It’s also made me realise that I know more than I thought I did! It’s also great learning experience for me.

I’m also curious to know what other people’s mentoring experiences have been like – whether that’s as a mentor or mentee for GSoC, or another profession or industry. Please add a comment below and share your thoughts.

Catrobat logo

Game Library Camp – #GameLibCamp17

Last weekend, along with Darren Edwards (Bournemouth Libraries), Sarah Cole (TIME/IMAGE) & Stella Wisdom (British Library),  I was involved in organising & running Game Library Camp at The British Library. On the day we had nearly 50 attendees from different sectors of the library community (public, academic, health, national, specialist) and outside of it. The discussions covered a range of topics, including:

  • running different types of games events
  • use of games for teaching and information literacy
  • the value of game activities in a library context
  • archiving games
  • virtual and augmented reality.

There was also a chance to play a few games during the afternoon too.

It was a great opportunity for people to meet up and discuss ideas with others who have similar passions. About 14 sessions were run in all, and to keep the conversations going after the event we have encouraged attendees to join up to the Games & GLAMs discussion group. This online group has a broader focus of games activities in Galleries, Libraries, Archives & Museums, but there are plenty of ideas being shared in the group that cut across these different sectors.

I led on 2 sessions on the day:

  1. Free & easy to use digital game making tools.
  2. Interactive fiction – what is it and why is it relevant to libraries?

My take on both making games & interactive fiction is that they fit perfectly into the core purpose of libraries as places to share stories (regardless of whether they are fictional or factual/biographical), and as places to support literacy/readers/writers. Games & interactive fiction can also be great ways to re-purpose existing collections held in libraries in new and exciting ways.

Free & easy game making tools

In this session I wanted to highlight that if you wanted to encourage people to make games in libraries starting out with game making tools that are free & easy to use reduces the entry level for game making as a starting point. The following tools were mentioned during the session by myself and others:

  • Inklewriter – create the digital equivalent of Choose Your Own Adventure
  • Twine – interactive fiction tool
  • Squiffy – interactive fiction tool
  • Bitsy – a retro looking game maker for creating story led games
  • Flickgame – make a game by draw pictures & linking them together
  • Scratch – used by Code Clubs. Build games by putting together blocks of code
  • Pocket Code – an Android equivalent of Scratch
  • Jigsaw Planet – upload a picture and turn it into a jigsaw that others can try to put together
  • H5P – this site provides a variety of web site plug ins, some of which allow you to create quizzes and memory games.

There are other free or low-cost game making tools available that allow you to create much more complex games, which are also worth exploring, but they are more complicated than the tools mentioned above. Here are some of the most popular ones.

Interactive fiction – what is it and why is it relevant to libraries?

My focus for interactive fiction in regard to libraries, is that most commonly stories in libraries exist within the pages of a printed book, but interactive fiction expands writers opportunities for sharing their stories in new digital ways. I’ve run workshops (using Inklewriter, Squiffy & Twine) on creating interactive fiction and target creative writers when promoting them. One thing I focus on is that interactive fiction fits nicely in with the core idea of libraries as places that develop literacy, reading, writing, and as places for sharing new ideas. Interactive fiction could be described as the digital equivalent of a choose your own adventure book and is the successor to computer text adventures that were most popular in the late 1970s and 1980s. I wanted to emphasise that interactive fiction doesn’t just have to be fiction – it can be factual and/or autobiographical. I’ve seen it used as a tool for creating empathy and sharing personal stories on subjects like mental health, cultural differences, and LGBT (much like the living library concept). It’s also a way that library services can re-purpose their collections. For example, making use of local history collections to create a digital story that brings a local area to life.

For inspiring examples of how collections can be re-purposed to create games and interactive fiction take a look at:

Even though all 3 are high-profile organisations, you don’t necessarily need to be high-profile to get involved in these sort of activities. For example, I’ve run online events that encouraged writers and game developers to get involved in making games with a literary twist – Alice Jam 150 (Alice in Wonderland); Bard Jam (Shakespeare); and Odyssey Jam (Homer’s epic tale).

I really enjoyed the event – it was a great opportunity to meet others with a similar passion, and to help develop the network of people with an interest in games in libraries.

And don’t forget to start planning for International Games Week @ Your Library (29th October – 4th November).

Free Game Library Camp – 12th August

I’m involved in organising a free 1/2 day game themed Library Camp at the British Library on 12th August.

If you’ve got any interest in the overlap between libraries and games (board, video, card, physical, games for learning, playing or making games etc etc etc) it’s well worth attending and will be a great opportunity to share ideas and discuss games in libraries with others passionate about these things.

Here’s the site for Game Library Camp with more details:


#Odysseyjam – an interactive fiction writing challenge

For Read Watch Play we’re running Odyssey Jam, an interactive fiction writing challenge focused on Homer’s The Odyssey. It’s open to all – whether you’re an experienced interactive fiction writer or not. The deadline for submissions is 27th March, and it’s been great following the #odysseyjam hashtag on Twitter – so many interesting interpretations of the theme being shared on there. If you want to get involved follow the link below. I’m really looking forward to trying out the entries one the deadline has passed.

More free #LibraryAtoZ greeting cards

The #LibraryAtoZ project has more free greeting  cards to distribute. So, at this time of year it would be a great opportunity to send them as an extra special festive greeting to your local library funders etc and remind them of why we love our libraries. Or maybe you’d like to use them in another way to spread the message about the value of public libraries. That’s fine too.

If you would like some sent to you for free please fill in the contact form on the Library A to Z site.