More free #LibraryAtoZ greeting cards

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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.

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#Mozfest fun

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I attended Mozfest last Sunday — what a great event. There was so many sessions covering a wide variety of tech related topics, but I actually only attended one session apart from the session I ran with Stella Wisdom. I spent an hour building circuits with copper wire, sticky LEDs, battery, paper and pens — at the end of which I had a dragon whose eyes glowed when you pressed its belly button.

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Explore Mozillafestival’s photos on Flickr. Mozillafestival has uploaded 2082 photos to Flickr.www.flickr.com

This session was a great example of where creativity and technology overlapped, and its something that would be perfect for a library Makerspace session. In fact there were lots of sessions in the Youthzone and beyond that would be perfect for a makerspace session. Plenty of Raspberry Pi sessions too, quite a few being run by children and young people. Even though I didn’t attend many sessions I spent most of my time talking to other attendees about what they were doing there, sharing ideas and also about what we are doing in Surrey Libraries in relation to this sort of activity.

The session Stella and I ran went well — it was focused on introducing people to interactive fiction, and was a bit of a lighting fast approach. A short intro to interactive fiction (including examples and a quick read through of a handful of Choose your own adventure books), plus about 20 minutes hands-on with Twine and Squiffy — free software you can use to create interactive fiction with. The age range of the attendees was from about 7 to mid-30s, and we had positive feedback at the end of it. One of the interesting things for me was that attendees raised the potential of using the software for things like interactive video storyboarding and simple app development, as both Squiffy and Twine output stories as html and Javascript.

If anyone’s interested in how we organised the session and notes we used,here’s a link to the handouts, simple session plan and example stories created in both Squiffy and Twine.

Thanks to the YouthZone organisers, particularly Dorine Flies for encouraging me to get involved. It was well worth it.

(This was originally posted on Medium)

Running an interactive fiction session at #Mozfest #Youthzone

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I’m heading to the Mozilla festival this weekend and am running an interactive fiction workshop with Stella Wisdom from The British Library in the Youth Zone.

I thought it was a great opportunity to show the sort of things that libraries are involved in away from the library space. There are also a handful of other library staff from around the country who’ll be running other fun/interesting sessions over the course of the weekend, and I’m sure I’ll come away with ideas from other sessions that touch on libraries core role/functions – plenty of ones on copyright, digital rights, and informal learning for example. Plenty of other sessions with a more techy and creative focus as well, including robots, virtual reality, performance, coding, making and crafting.

Here’s some more details about my session.

Mozfest looks like it’s going to be fun.

Multimedia PhDs – Digital Conversations at The British Library

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I attended an interesting event last night at The British Library focused on PhDs that consisted of a variety of multimedia outputs and not just a standard 10,000 word thesis, and the issues this raised when submitting them as research.

All 3 PhDs discussed had very creative elements to them.

Craig Hamilton’s Harkive music focused on the experience of popular music.

Imogen Lesser covered the architectural make up and language of Gormenghast and other Mervyn Peake work.

Tara Copplestone focused on games as an output of archeological work.

Below are the live streams of the session.

One thing I thought of during the session was… even if the researchers can’t submit all the multimedia aspects of their research as part of their PhDs there’s still a huge opportunity to share these outputs with the wider population. All 3 of these research projects have such a wide popular fan base appeal – down to the nature of the subjects they are focused on – that it seems they could have a life beyond their original remit. For example, Imogen Lesser had already created an exhibition of her research including grand scale architect drawings and maps of Mervyn Peake’s world that fans of his work could enjoy too.

Can’t these outputs be made use of and spread the word about this research in a way that will get each of the thesis discovered by more than a handful of academics? I personally found each of these research projects so interesting and creative that they deserve a wider audience.

Cultural Creativity: Events and Ideas

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Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few events focused on cultural creativity. The key ones were Creative Works London, Game Camp, and Guildford Games G3 Futures. All of them have touched on my day-to-day role as a librarian with an interest in the digital and the creative, and all of them gave me a buzz of inspiration.

Creative Works London Festival: “CWL is a London’s Knowledge Exchange Hub, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) over four years to bring London’s researchers, creative entrepreneurs and businesses together to explore the issues with an impact on the capital’s creative economy.” This was an event that showcased 143 projects that were recently funded as part of the CWL initiative. It crossed all of the arts, but the projects I was most interested in were ones with a heritage background. Projects such as Poetic Places and Lines in the Ice both partnered with the British Library, and made use of its collections in new and interesting ways. The Poetic Places project developed a free mobile phone app containing details of poetry and archive material of London on a digital map, with push notifications triggered by GPS. Lines in the Ice “focused on the 1845 expedition by John Franklin to discover the Northwest Passage”, and amongst other things resulted in the creation of a fictional hand bound diary, games and songs recorded and published on Soundcloud. The Play Your Place project focused on workshops that enabled communities to build their own platform game about issues that were personal to them eg their local area – attendees create the graphics and audio, and then build the game around them. So for example, Southend participants created platform games based on creating a bike friendly Southend; and Westminster participants created a game in response to Fire Station closures. I loved the way all 3 of these projects took original source material, looked at it from a new perspective and turned it into a new narrative.

Game Camp London: This was an informal unconference style event which brought together game players, developers, researchers, academics and anyone else who was interested in games. It was an opportunity to both discuss aspects of games and also play them. All of the sessions I attended were both fun and interesting. That included sessions about Twitter Adventure (a Twitter based Choose your adventure game); empathy for computer generated characters in games; mock games awards; a proposal for a game jam focused around space and Kennington; a discussion on useful game related books for game development courses. I also ran a session to get ideas about how to run more successful interactive fiction game jams in future. I had lots of useful suggestions, including…

  • Decide what your aim is – eg Is it to encourage writers to take up writing interactive fiction? or create new narratives from existing library/written material?  Show traditional readers that interactive fiction is worth exploring too.
  • Split the jam into 2 parts – 1st part creates the story. 2nd part creates the interactive fiction from that material.
  • Use different groups to create the 2 parts eg writers part 1. Game developers part 2. Target the places where they congregate online.
  • Giving a narrow focus to the theme. eg Something broad like Create an Epic Story isn’t a narrow enough focus. 2 or 3 keyword prompts are useful.
  • Give the creators some inspiration eg resources from the library.
  • A shorter game jam period helps people focus their efforts. eg 48 hours or 1 week.
  • Have a physical game jam as well as an online one.

G3 Futures Guildford Games conference: Unlike Game Camp, this was business focused and brought together local game developers and also the wider network of supporters. It was organised by The University of Surrey, UKIE (UK Interactive Entertainment trade body) and technology law specialist Charles Russell Speechlys. Guildford has an amazing amount of high profile and independent game development companies in the area and there’s a real push to raise the profile of Guildford in this respect. One of the key things I picked up on was the need for game developers to connect to their broader community in the local area and spread the message/joy about what they’re doing. I’d be more than happy to help them connect with the wider community. How about a ready made community and new audience in the centre of Guildford with a shared love of the enjoyment of stories – traditionally books, but I know many are going to love those stories in games too. It’s a community that has over 240,000 visitors a year – Guildford Library. One event I’ve been trying to pull together is a demo day for local game developers, and we’ve also run game days, interactive fiction workshops, Minecraft parties, so we know the appetite for games related events and activities in libraries is there.

From all of these events I got a strong sense of how libraries could play a role alongside creative communities, whether that’s making use of existing ideas in a library context, or supporting them to help develop these communities and the work they are doing.

Notes on running interactive fiction workshops

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As I’ve run a few introduction to text-based interactive fiction workshops for the library service (both staff and the public), I thought it would be useful to share information about how I’ve organised them, if anyone was interested in running their own.

Each participant will need access to a computer with an internet connection to participate.

Each of the workshops were between 1.5 & 2 hours in length and followed this structure:

  • Introduce the group to the concept of interactive fiction (IF) as a form of writing for creative writers. (5 mins)
  • Introduce Inklewriter as a free online software tool that can enable them to produce IF quickly and easily, and show an example of IF created using Inklewriter. (5 mins)
  • Run through step-by-step notes on creating an Inklewriter IF, showing basic techniques (branching, images, re-using text passages) and overview of more complex techniques. (30 mins)
  • Give them time to create their own short piece of interactive fiction.
  • Wrap up the workshop (5 mins)

Here are a few handouts I used for various workshops:

It’s also useful to have some creative writing prompts just in case any participant is hit with a blank moment.

The majority of the workshops were aimed at adults, but I’ve also run one for teens, which used the cut-down notes instead of the full step-by-step information.

So, that’s how I’ve run sessions myself, but I’m also interested in hearing any suggestions from others about how I can improve these workshops.

Health & Science Library Camp #HASLibCamp

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About a month ago I attended HASLibcamp at CityLIS, which was a library camp (informal unconference style event) focused on health & science aspects of libraries, librarianship and knowledge management.

I pitched a session on how public libraries can support health and I also attended 3 other sessions during the day. There was a mix of people attending – including librarians in the health sector; those who supported academic health courses; private and public sector; and information and library students. I have to say I was surprised that I was the only representative from public libraries there, especially as one of the Society of Chief Librarian “Universal offers” in public libraries is focused on health.

I attended 3 sessions and pitched a session myself on how public libraries support health.

The first session I attended was focused on health apps and stemmed from an app swap session that happens regularly at St George’s Medical School (London). During the session people discussed the type of health apps that were available; the emergence of related technology such as fit-bits; how health apps can be useful for people to understand and take control of their own health literacy. Many of these apps rely on recording users data, so the discussion also covered concerns around data privacy for health apps; possible use of health data for things you don’t want it to be used for eg health insurance; lack of governance on medical data privacy in apps; and how we (as information professionals) could play a role in educating users about data privacy.

From a public libraries & techy perspective I’m keen to promote health apps on health awareness days that come from reputable providers. eg mental health; living healthier. But the difficulty for me is identifying those apps.

The next session I attended focused on Wikipedia and Wikimedia editing. It was interesting to hear about the background to both resources; how they link together; how they link to other resources (for example The British Library is busy digitising images from out of copyright materials, & detailed subject tagging of the resources on Flickr for them is sometimes created by Wikipedians); and the role of a Wikipedian in residence as someone who is able to focus on specific subject areas for an organisation.

The final session I attended focused on an initiative at Imperial College to archive software that has been created as the result of research projects. It covered questions such as… How can this software be identified? How can it be archived, given that hardware, operating systems and platforms are constantly changing, with some now obsolete? Could virtual machines and emulators be used to run the software? What are the licensing requirements for archiving the software and the platforms they run on, especially if the software produced as the result of a research project is released as a commercial project?

I also mentioned that I pitched a session on how public libraries could support health initiatives. My intention was that I was keen to find out more about how public libraries could do this, as well as sharing some thoughts about areas I knew about. This was a very useful discussion, with around 10 other people in attendance from a variety of health backgrounds. I spoke about the sort of things my library service is involved in including the Society of Chief Librarians health offer; Books on prescription; mental health support; provision of a reminiscence collection; accessible computers and technology; services for those unable to visit the library; dementia awareness training for library staff as part of a bigger “Dementia Friendly Surrey” County Council campaign; the privacy benefits of self-service issue/return; alternative versions of reading materials inc large print & audio books, and Penfriend; creative writing workshops for survivors of domestic abuse; partnership working with local hospitals, health organisations and national organisations inc signposting to reputable healthcare information; producing health related reading lists linked to our catalogue.

Other areas that were discussed were the blocking of sites in public libraries that genuinely provide helpful health related information; providing open access to medical information in public libraries and the best way to do this; the development of sign-posting to further health information; the value of signposting to information on ageing in general; the value of health information professionals coming into public libraries to train staff on signposting.

I have to say that I found this session useful, but at the same time I felt like I didn’t have many of the answers to questions that others attending were asking me about. My day-to-day focus isn’t health in public libraries; it’s tech and digital, and in this instance, I could only really give detailed answers about where tech and digital is used to support health initiatives in public libraries. Hopefully, if this event is run again there will be other representatives from public libraries attending who are better placed to answer the questions I couldn’t.

I thought it was a really useful and interesting event, and I can see the benefit of having other library camps with a focus on specific subjects like this. Well done to all who helped organise it and those who were involved in the session discussions on the day.

If you want to read about other sessions run during the event take a look at this page on the HASLibCamp site.