VALA2020 CC1 Rundle

Making professional development less abstract

Wednesday 12 February 2020, 10.50-12.30

Hugh Rundle
  • newCardigan
Sae Ra Germaine
  • Linux Australia

Please tag your comments, tweets, and blog posts about this session: #vala2020 #cc1


Professional development opportunities in the Australasian library and GLAM sectors hold largely the same shape they have for decades – a few large annual or biennial conferences, user-group meetings for specific tools and consortia, with the occasional one-day workshop for sector-specific needs.

Many libraries and other collecting institutions have seen their training and development budgets cut under various austerity regimes, whilst the vendor community that has been relied upon for sponsorship continues to consolidate, limiting exhibition and sponsorship opportunities. At the same time, new PD opportunities have been opened up by digital and online tools and technologies – for example over forty million people are registered with, attending largely decentralised regular meetups and mini-conferences. What future do we want for the sector, and how should we create it?

This Critical Conversation will provide a space for Conference attendees to discuss the purpose of professional conferences and similar events and gain an understanding of the community’s needs and desires regarding future professional discussion and knowledge sharing.

Attendees will hear ideas and perspectives of other LIS and GLAM professionals both attending the conference and from the broader professional community.

This session will provide important data for a future discussion paper on the future of GLAM conferences. The session and subsequent report will be useful for GLAM professional associations and GLAM institutions in planning future conferences and/or alternative professional development events.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

VALA2020 CC2 King

Digital Dexterity: Curiosity, confidence, competence

Wednesday 12 February 2020, 10.50-12.30

Sara King
  • AARNet

Please tag your comments, tweets, and blog posts about this session: #vala2020 #cc2


This critical conversation seeks to understand the tension between the high curiosity in technology in the library sector versus the low confidence in digital skills that seems to exist within the profession, and what we might be able to do about it.

VALA2020 CC3 Gardner

Is it worth the time experimenting with a new skill in order to make a library’s task more efficient?

Wednesday 12 February 2020, 10.50-12.30

Julie Gardner
  • Victoria University
Graham Massey
  • Victoria University

Please tag your comments, tweets, and blog posts about this session: #vala2020 #cc3


Taking inspiration from an xkcd cartoon, this Critical Conversation will examine the question – is it worth the time spent learning a new skill in order to make a library work task more efficient?

Although there are large scale library automation projects in libraries (e.g. automatic indexing, inter-linking library data) this presentation focusses on the many small scale tasks that librarians regularly undertake that are repetitive and/or time consuming in nature. Pressure on library budgets coupled with organisational restructuring mean that many libraries operate with fewer staff than previously. Potential automation of routine library tasks or using existing software more effectively holds the promise of workplace efficiency and improved productivity. Time consuming and repetitive tasks are good candidates for programming and can present opportunities to experiment with software features or try out new tools.

The problem however is the learning curve. It takes time to learn a new skill before it becomes useful, then there is the actual time it will take to write and test a program or to apply the new software. Library professionals are reluctant, or are unable, to find the time to explore and experiment with programming or other data techniques. It is hard to justify time spent learning how to use and record a macro for example when it might only take 5 to 10 minutes every month to copy and paste in an Excel spreadsheet.

We will look at a range of real life library tasks that were subsequently automated or improved by using a variety of coding and software tools. The examples are drawn from the functional library work areas of repository management, research data support, cataloguing and acquisitions. Techniques or tools utilised include XSLT, Open Refine, Python, Regular Expressions, and APIs.

We will attempt to quantify the trade-off between time spent making a task more efficient versus the time saved. However, this simple time trade off doesn’t take into account other potential benefits of automation. These other benefits such as professional development and elimination of human errors will also be explored.

When all is considered – is it worth your time?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

VALA2020 CC4 Edwards

The challenge of finding better indicators for library use within Victorian Public Libraries using standardised technologies and approaches

This session is sponsored by Informit

Thursday 13 February 2020, 10.50-12.30

Tom Edwards
  • Wyndham City Library
Premal Niranjan
  • Yarra Libraries
Lloyd Brady
  • Municipal Association of Victoria

Please tag your comments, tweets, and blog posts about this session: #vala2020 #cc4


Operating within our State’s Local Government Performance Reporting Framework (LGPRF), Victorian public libraries are faced with the challenge of creating evidence-based indicators that reflect the dynamic and multi-faceted modern service offerings of the sector across the state. This is effectively a challenge to tell the story of how Libraries change lives, using quantitative data as the narrative.

There is a recognition amongst professionals working within Victorian libraries that the current set of indicators used within the LGPRF are largely unsatisfactory and unrepresentative of 21st century libraries. One component of this is the measurement of ‘active’ public library usage, defined as “having borrowed a library collection item in the past 12 months” which omits much of the valuable activity that occurs within our vibrant public spaces (eg. Program attendance, PC usage, co-working and study etc.)

The ICT Special Interest Group of Public Libraries Victoria met in late 2018 to grapple with the problem of advocating for better indicators using the tools of technology. One working group (comprised of the authors) was formed to specifically examine the task of measuring the broadest and most compelling indication of library use with a reproduceable, standardized methodology. Implied in this is a technology that must be economical and accessible to all Victorian Public Libraries. The authors investigated several modern technological approaches to provide this data, including WiFi analytics and AI people counting solutions (the latter being a component of Jason Griffey’s “Measure the Future” open hardware project), however a satisfactory and reliable solution has not yet been found.

The authors seek critical input from others in the sector to assist in progressing our work to effectively measure active library use with emerging technologies.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

VALA2020 CC5 Tharmarajah

Can a chatbot help children learn to love to read?

This session is sponsored by Informit


Thursday 13 February 2020, 10.50-12.30

Meena Tharmarajah
  • State Library of NSW & Wriveted

Please tag your comments, tweets, and blog posts about this session: #vala2020 #cc5


Australia’s first chat-bot designed to get kids reading was launched at the State Library of NSW on 8 November 2019. Scout is a fun, interactive robot that uses a conversational interface which helps children quickly discover books matched to their interests and general reading ability.

Scout was created by award-winning experience designer Meena Tharmarajah in collaboration with the State Library’s DX Lab. It assesses a child’s interests and reading level before dispensing a list of up to five books they will enjoy reading in The Children’s Library.

Meena is the creative force behind the ABC Play School iPad Apps (The Art Maker and Play Time) and spent a few months working on the chat-bot concept at the Library as a DX Lab Digital drop-in. She believes “all digital experiences should be both useful and enjoyable.”

“Scout is an experiment in understanding how children might find a book they will love to read. And really the people best equipped to provide insight on what will really work for children are the children themselves,” says Meena.

Meena consulted with the Library’s Learning team and ran design thinking workshops with Year 5 students from Balgowlah North Public School which helped inform the chat- bot experience, including the physical design. Meena says Scout is a great tool for librarians and could inform how a collection might be organised, but also the type of books that could be added to a collection.

Participants in this session will be asked to give critical feedback on:

  • The overall experience of using the Scout chatbot
  • The manner in which books have been tagged and then recommended
  • Data literacy activities that expose children to:
    – the language that can be used to describe and find books,
    – the impact those tags have on their ability to find books,
    – the impact ‘liking’ a book may have on future recommendations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

VALA2020 CC6 Cormack

Indigenous data sovereignty and open source

This session is sponsored by Informit

Thursday 13 February 2020, 10.50-12.30

Chris Cormack

  • Catalyst IT

Please tag your comments, tweets, and blog posts about this session: #vala2020 #cc6


This talk will start with introducing Indigenous Data Sovereignty, with particular reference to Māori Data Sovereignty and the work that Te Mana Raraunga are doing. It will then go on to discuss how, by using open source tools, we can exercise this sovereignty. This is important for libraries and other GLAM sector institutions to be aware of, as traditionally they have assumed they have sovereignty over data collected by them.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.