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.
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.
Mozfest looks like it’s going to be fun.
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.
We’ve just finished a great week of events at Guildford Library under the banner of Surrey Geek Week. It tied in with British Science Week and also Innovate Guildford festival. It included events for children and adults, including robotics workshops, programmable Lego, learning sessions, Dungeons and Dragons, a gaming afternoon, a Raspberry pi jam, and a gamification talk. It’s the first time we’ve run it and it was a great opportunity to try things out to see what would work and to build links with different groups and individuals in the local community. Many of the events were a success, with sold out sessions. I was responsible for organising the robotics workshop (big thanks to Carlos and his Maker Cart, who was also key in the January Maker Day), the Gaming Day (big thanks to the staff who worked on a Sunday and also local gaming groups who came along with board games and retro consoles), and the Maplin Meccanoid drop-in (big thanks to Maplin – a couple of robots in the library got a lot of attention).
My library service is currently exploring the idea of making in libraries – specifically on the technological side of things – 3D printing, robotics, electronics, programming/coding.
We’ve run a couple of code clubs and have plans to run more. As well as this we are running our first Maker Day event this coming Saturday, with the help of Carlos Iszak, who I met at the City Mash event last summer. Carlos will be coming in with his Maker Cart kit and people will get the chance to try out 3D printing, paper cutting technology, robotics and electronics. We are also encouraging those attending to share ideas they have about making with technology, things they’ve made and their experiences around digital making in general. I’m really excited about this event and I’ll be helping out with the robotics and electronics side of things – Arduino, Makey Makey, Littlebits. It’s a hands-on event and we want to give people the chance to explore these new technologies for themselves.
The library service long term ambitions are to host a makerspace: “a place where people can meet to collaborate, create, learn, and innovate, using similar technologies to those available during our day of making.”
As well as this Maker Day event there are also 2 other events related to makerspaces in public libraries happening over the next couple of months in London that are worth attending if you’re working in libraries and want to find out more about makerspaces.
Making Library Makers: an intro (16th Feb, evening) – Carlos is also involved in this.
And finally, I wanted to share one of my favourite maker stories – one that’s especially relevant to libraries too. 14 year old William Kamkwamba’s electricity generating windmill in Malawi.
CILIP recently launched a new campaign (My Library By Right) in defence of public libraries. Full details of the campaign can be found on CILIP’s site, including details of how you can get support it. One of the key and very easy things you can do is sign the petition calling for MP John Whittingdale (current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) to “act now to protect my statutory rights to a quality public library service”, and also ask family and friends to sign it too. If you need to persuade them of the value of public libraries try this.
This is just a short post to say that I’ve sent out around 80 #LibraryAtoZ cards to candidates election offices throughout the UK in the lead up to the General election. I originally intended to send them out sooner, but the difficulty was identifying which parties would be standing where. I decided to target areas/regions where I knew cuts were either happening or were being proposed. Even though public library funding is the responsibility of local authorities, having library support in your area from a possible future MP (and therefore an influencer at central government level) is important.
The Library A to Z cards focused on the usual message of “These are the great things that libraries provide”, along with a request that the candidates’ party in that region pledges their support for libraries.