Librarians who have moved out of the library space. Are you willing to be interviewed?

I am doing some research into librarians who have moved out of the library space without undertaking further study – that is they have built a new career based on their library skills and knowledge. This includes those who have moved to new organisations, new positions within their organisation and those who have moved out of libraries and have also returned to working in libraries after undertaking other roles. It may be you have moved to records management, knowledge management, project management or a position which on first impression looks like it is not even related in any way to information management. It may even be that your ‘library’ no longer resembles a ‘library’ as such.

The research will be in two parts:

  • first an online survey to gather the demographics – this data will be aggregated up so I get a general profile of the group being interviewed in part 2.  I do not intend to identify individuals unless they are happy for me to do so. You can link to the survey here;
  • second will be one on one interviews to gather the narrative (or individual stories) about your key skills, knowledge and attributes which made your library training valuable outside libraries. This will include how you have made the move and what parts of your library/information management skills and knowledge have been most valuable in achieving the move. Interviews will be achieved via Skype (if possible) to keep costs down.

I intend to publish the results of this piece of research late in 2012 or early 2013.

If you are wondering why I want to to do this research my story is as follows:

From 2006 to 2009 I was engaged as the Program Manager for the Knowledge for Regional NRM Program at Land & Water Australia.  The team had a total of three professional librarians (including myself).  We also had an ecologist, a science communication professional and an environmental science practitioner in the team.  It was an excellent and diverse mix of individuals and we all learnt a huge amount from each other.  One of the things we noticed as we moved around the National Resource Management (NRM) organisations across Australia was that we experienced similar conversations and comments from our stakeholders when they discovered the library background of the three librarians.  It was basically “Thank goodness you are here”.  Every organisation we went in to had challenges with information and knowledge management and the identification as a ‘librarian’ brought about a very positive reaction.

Since leaving my position at Land & Water Australia and the Australian Public Service to set up my own consultancy I have had nothing but positive comments about my library background.  I constantly discover just how much I know about finding information in comparison to my clients and colleagues. I used to call myself a ‘recovering librarian’ but now am happy to state that you don’t recover as your librarian skills, knowledge and attitude is one of your greatest assets.

As the 2012 President of the Special Libraries Association ANZ Chapter and a former Chair of the KM Division, I decided it was time to get some hard evidence on why librarians are viewed so positively outside the traditional library sector. As such I invite you to be part of my research.

To take part please send me an email to with a brief background and contact details (especially your Skype ID) and I will be back in touch with more details.

A brief update on this project – I will be sending out the survey component the first week of July as other work pressures are keeping me busy at the moment.  There is still time to participate by sending me an email.

Last night I was lucky to be able to attend the latest actKM forum where Graham Durant-Law presented on Network Numerology. This presentation was part of Information Awareness Month in Australia.

“Numerology is the study of the purported divine, mystical or other special relationship between a count or measurement and life. The term is most often used in a derogatory sense. Network science is replete with numbers, algorithms and formulas. Often, to the uninitiated, these numbers are akin to numerology and represent a “black art” understood only by a few. In this presentation some of the more common measures used in Social Network Analysis will be demystified. However some numerological numbers will also be discussed. These include Dunbar’s Number and the lesser know Wellman’s Number, along with the Bernard-Kilworth Number and Wu’s Heuristic. It will be up to you to decide whether these numbers are real or a divine measure!”

A link to Graham’s paper can be found on his blog site and is well worth reading. Graham really emphasises how important it is to know what you are doing with Social Network Analysis – the new software available allows you to press all the buttons to get a visualisation of the network, but unless you understand the limitations and boundaries of the numbers you run a real risk of misinformation and misinterpretation.

I also feel very privileged to work with Graham under the HyperEdge Pty Ltd badge. I am constantly on a learning curve but never bored as the SNA space is just fascinating.

It is Information Awareness Month again and there is a wonderful selection of events occurring across Australia.

  • actKM is running a session on the 15th of May where Dr Graham Durant-Law will be presenting on Network Numerology.
  • Celebrate the start of Information Awareness Month by coming along to the next AGLIN/ALIA Information Sharing Forum which will  be held on Wed. 2 May.  Come and hear Dr. Paul Koerbin, Manager Web Archiving at the National Library outline the selection and retention policies used for Pandora in respect to  collecting and preserving government web material. He will give details of any proposed changes and developments  to the system. There will be time for your questions at the end of your presentation. Wed. 2 May 4.00 pm in the Ferguson Room, National Library

I am thrilled that the latest project I have been working on with a number of other consultants has now been published.

True Tales of the Trout Cod has absorbed the last 9 months of my life and has been probably the most enjoyable project I have worked on in a very long time.  Will Trueman (author) has written the most amazing book.  He has spent a considerable part of his life studying the Trout Cod in the Murray-Darling Basin. He compiled the science, photographic evidence with the oral histories to match, and newspaper articles from the National Library of Australia’s Trove database to show us what native fish existed and no longer exist in the lower Murray-Darling Basin.

This is the best example of science communicated through story that I have seen.  It has been a great privilege to work with Will Trueman (the amazing author), Siwan Lovett (Director of the Australian River Restoration Centre), Richard Snashall (our brilliant film maker), Vikki Bell (our wonderful editor and indexer), Allison Mortlock (our graphic designer), Melissa Gabelle (our wonderful web designer) and Heleena Bamford (our fantastic MDBA project manager).

I have to admit to being a bit biased as my favourite part of the project was Will telling us about the importance of the National Library’s Trove database. The video link for this can be found here.  Although the story of how the Campaspe got it’s name is the most memorable – I cannot see the name Campaspe without thinking of his story. You will have to read the chapter to find out why !!

I hope you can take the time to explore the new web site and learn so much about the native fish of the Murray-Darling Basin – I feel I have learnt so much from Will and now see our river system with fresh eyes and find I am keen to see our rivers and streams restored and preserved.


Following on from the very successful Stakeholder Engagement and Evaluation workshop Graham Durant-Law and I ran in Melbourne as part of the actKM Annual Conference in October 2011, we are pleased to be delivering a further refined and updated version of this one-day workshop on the 14th of February 2012 in Canberra.

We all know intuitively that engaging positively with stakeholders makes a huge difference to the outcomes of any project, program, new policy initiative or its implementation.  If we get it right the results speak for themselves.  However, so often we get it wrong and the effort involved in retrieving a poor relationship can seriously detract from the effort involved in getting our core work done.

This workshop/seminar will take you through the processes of:

  • identifying your key stakeholders from the often large number of potential stakeholders,
  • how to engage those key stakeholders effectively using a number of narrative techniques,
  • how to identify the relationships that may be at ‘risk’, and
  • how to evaluate the results of effective stakeholder engagement in order to demonstrate ‘return on investment’ of positive relationships.

The seminar/workshop is aimed at middle managers who are responsible for stakeholder engagement and its evaluation.

Full details of the workshop can be found on Graham Durant-Law’s blog site where you will also find links to our registration site.

For those of you who live in Canberra or the surrounding area – or might be visiting our wonderful Capital on the 9th of February.

actKM, KMRt, Special Libraries Association  (Australia New Zealand Branch) and HyperEdge is pleased to present:

Connected – the film

Have you ever faked a bathroom trip to check your email? Slept with your laptop? Or become so overwhelmed that you just unplugged from it all? In this funny, eye-opening, and inspiring film, director Tiffany Shlain takes audiences on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride to discover what it means to be connected in the 21st century. From founding The Webby Awards to being a passionate advocate for The National Day of Unplugging, Shlain’s love/hate relationship with technology serves as the springboard for a thrilling exploration of modern life…and our interconnected future. Equal parts documentary and memoir, the film unfolds during a year in which technology and science literally become a matter of life and death for the director. As Shlain’s father battles brain cancer and she confronts a high-risk pregnancy, her very understanding of connection is challenged. Using a brilliant mix of animation, archival footage, and home movies, Shlain reveals the surprising ties that link us not only to the people we love but also to the world at large. A personal film with universal relevance, Connected explores how, after centuries of declaring our independence, it may be time for us to declare our interdependence instead.

The event will be held in the National Library of Australia Theatrette on the 9th of February from 1 – 2.30 pm. Entry is by gold coin donation to cover the costs of the AudioVisual. The Theatrette has been kindly provided by the National Library of Australia.

This film was recently shown at the State Library of Victoria and is being provided by Michelle Lambert of the KM Roundtable.

We will be starting right on 1 pm so it is recommended you arrive at 12.45 pm at the latest to get your seats.

Register today

Graham Durant-Law and I will be conducting a 1 day workshop as part of the actKM conference in Melbourne, 10-12 October 2011.  This is the first time we have run this particular workshop and it draws upon a number of previous shorter workshops we have conducted separately. As such it is available at a bargain basement cost of $200.00 for the day (and this includes morning and afternoon teas as well as lunch).

We all have various needs for effective stakeholder or client engagement.  If you get it wrong it can be disastrous and take a lot of effort to retrieve the relationship.  If you get it right the results can be spectacular.

Graham and I will be taking you through a number of stakeholder engagement techniques (including how to identify your stakeholders) with a bit of theory as well as experiential sessions. In the afternoon we will take a look at how you monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of those techniques.

The hypothetical for the day will be:

Your local community has been granted $10m over 3 years to address teenage delinquency and drug and alcohol problems. We need to identify in broad terms: the desired program outcomes; the projects to satisfy the outcomes; the likely key stakeholders for the program and each project; and how we will monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the program and each project.

The workshop will be held at RMIT on the 12th of October 2011. You can register for both the actKM conference and our workshop here

Everywhere you turn there seems to be someone complaining about ‘Information Overload’, but what does this really mean?  Yes, there is an exponential growth in the amount of information availabe for us to access, but it is how we handle the information that determines whether it makes a difference.  I have been thinking long and hard about this issue and have come across some interesting theories to do with just too much information, plus a few theories of my own.

Firstly we have Information Overload

This is where you are not in control of the amount of information being directed at you. It could be that it is all work related and there does not seem to be a way to turn it all off.  We have seen a proliferation of courses (such as Personal Effectiveness Program – PEP), systems for prioritising emails, new ways of managing meetings etc – but it just seems you cannot turn the information tap off. I am not sure there is a solution to this one – except for turning off the world and becoming a hermit.

Secondly we have Information Obesity

To me this is similar to the issues described by Clive Hamilton in Affluenza where we just want more and more and more.  Luke Naismith called this Infoluenza – but I think it is more like the obesity issues we have in our society.  We feel like we have to have it all or we might miss something.  This one really is self-induced and probably requires a level of therapy to overcome the problem. I also suspect this one has a lot to do with lack of information literacy as I am sure there are a lot of people who unable to make a judgement on the value of the information they are busy collecting.

Then we have Information Anorexia

Like the eating disorder ‘anorexia’, information anorexia is where the information receiver starts off trying to limit the amount of information they are consuming.  This control becomes an obsession and they run a real risk of limiting their intake to such a degree that they only see a distorted view of the world.  I have seen this when working in libraries when doing information research where the client says I want information on ‘x topic’ but I only want you to look at this source and that source (often these were 2-3 think tanks only).  By limiting or controlling the source you end up missing potentially important and perhaps counter-evidence in your research.  Potentially a very dangerous situation if you are doing research for public policy, medicine, intelligence or legal issues.

And finally we have Information Dismorphia

This is a symptom I have seen often where the information receiver is so obsessed by the detail in the information they miss the big picture. I remember a situation many years ago where I sent a data visualisation example to a colleague and suggested they have a look at the method being used to communicate complex data only to have it sent back telling me there were gaps in the data being used.  If  I remember correctly I made a decision not to pursue the idea as I was aware that my colleague was unlikely to understand what I was driving at as he was too far down in the weeds to see the landscape.

I know I am probably in the information obesity category – but my excuse is that I love finding information and then being able to send it to someone I know is also interested in that topic.  I just wish I had more time to read and learn about new and exciting topics.

Reverse Brainstorm “Eliminating collaboration in your organisation”

I first heard about this technique from David Gurteen who used it with a group of librarians in Ireland.  He told me the story of trying to get them to do some strategic planning and how they kept going back to the negative as their libraries were all being closed down (now doesn’t this sound familiar).  He then decided to take them into the negative space to let them vent and his topic was – What would you have to do to ensure your library was closed?  Apparently the session went exceptionally well and so I decided to try this for myself. I have now used this technique with many of my clients and also at the Origins conference in Singapore last year with great success.

The May meeting for 2011 will be a Reverse brainstorming session to uncover how to introduce or improve collaboration in your organisation. Reverse Brainstorming helps solve problems by combining brainstorming and reversal techniques. Humans are better at being negative than positive and this technique goes negative in order to realise the positive. More theory and practice.

Come along and learn this relatively simple but powerful technique for both identifying risk and articulating the problem you might have in your organisation.

Facilitated by Nerida Hart and Siwan Lovett

When: 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm Tuesday 24 May 2011
Where: The Chocolate Olive Cafe, Colbee Crt Phillip Canberra
Skype in address: david_williams546
Cost: Gold $5 donation on the night to cover coffee etc

Register at:

On Wednesday morning this week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to facilitate a World Cafe as part of the Institute for Information Management conference and Information Awareness Month here in Canberra.  This was a fantastic experience and the 35+ participants came away with some really meaty foundations for the development of a Community of Practice around Information Governance.

So what is a World Cafe (or variation called a Knowledge Cafe) – it is:

A structured round of conservations to:

  • Create an open, creative conversation on a topic of mutual interest
  • Unearth collective knowledge to share ideas and insights
  • gain a deeper understanding of the subject and the issues involved
  • build and improve relationships
  • improve business networking and make new connections
  • better decision making and innovation
  • generate tangible outcomes
Why Information Governance? This is a topic which is often not fully appreciated in organisations and is ‘the set of multi-disciplinary structures, policies, procedures, processes and controls implemented to manage information on all media in such a way that it supports an organisation’s immediate and future regulatory, legal, risk, environmental and operational requirements. Wikipedia.’
The topics covered by each table included:
  • Objectives / mission / goals / length of life
  • Rules / protocols / etiquette
  • Format and frequency of meetings
  • Virtual or physical or both?
  • How the CoP would be governed and coordinated?
  • What would be the topics covered?
  • What would our online presence look like?
  • How do we know if its working or not?
  • Criteria for disbandment

This is a great way to get your Community of Practice started as it engages those who are interested and provides a sound foundation for going forward by setting out what it is you are trying to achieve as well as the risks along the way.