Thursday, August 25, 2016

Computer World: New York Public Library reads up on the cloud

Sharon Gaudin | Aug 25, 2016

Four years ago, the New York Public Library began to move its web properties to the cloud.

Today, the library system has all of its approximately 80 web sites in the cloud. The library has shrunk the number of on-premise servers by 40% and is running those web properties 95% more cheaply than if it had bought the hardware and software to do it all by itself.

The library took a risk on the cloud, and on Amazon Web Services (AWS), and it paid off.

"We've grown but we've grown in the cloud," said Jay Haque, director of DevOps and Enterprise Computing at the library. "Today, we're primarily focused on the digital identity of the NYPL. How our properties look. How they merge and integrate. How our patrons use the site … Without the cloud, we wouldn't have the time to focus on the customer experience."

The NYPL is the largest public library system in the U.S. based on the size of its book collection and the amount of materials borrowed annually. Jay Haque is the director of DevOps and Enterprise Computing at the New York Public Library. With more than 90 neighborhood branches, four research centers and about 67,000 free programs under the library's umbrella, the system houses more than 51 million items, including books, to e-books and research collections. The collection also includes a 1493 copy of Columbus's letter announcing his discovery of the New World and a collection of 40,000 restaurant menus dating as far back as 1843.

The library system serves more than 17 million patrons a year through all of its branches.

The NYPL is also focused on serving millions of people online, reaching out to a global audience that can't regularly walk through its doors.

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With the library system's 80 web sites, users can browse its immense collections, find a list of library-recommended international novels, download e-books, find blogs, watch videos of author interviews and view more than 800,000 digitized items, such as maps and photos.

Making all of that work seamlessly, quickly and without pause is Haque's job.

He started at the NYPL as a page in 1992, then went on to work in IT as a support technician until he left for another job in 1997. However, the library work called him back 17 years ago and he's stayed on since then, designing web pages, taking care of servers and working his way up.

Early in its web development, the library's online presence wasn't so well used. Haque said if a website went down, no one would notice. They wouldn't even worry about getting it back online till the next morning.

"Now the website can't go down," he said. "If it goes down for two minutes, people are screaming."

The need for reliable websites was a big part of the push to move to the cloud in 2012.

"The major problem was getting to that sweet spot of having that high level of availability and resilience without spending money on the initial capital outlay to do it," Haque told Computerworld. "We realized that to do that on-premise we needed a significant amount of hardware and software at significant cost to meet the modern demands of a highly available, highly secure and automated system that we would need to be nimble."

What would that have cost? Likely between $1 million to $2 million.

The NYPL IT team wasn't unfamiliar with the cloud, and already used different cloud platforms for certain projects.

Between 2009 and 2010, the library system made its first cloud move, trading in IBM's on-premise Lotus Notes for Google Apps. The library also migrated from Oracle's PeopleSoft human resources software to cloud-based WorkDay.

When it was time to think about moving its web infrastructure to the cloud, the library turned to AWS.

It wasn't an easy decision.

"Back four years ago, AWS was still fairly new," Haque said. "Most CIOs were on the fence about AWS at first. There wasn't much Fortune 500 on there yet."

However, AWS still had more traction than other cloud vendors, and the library system could easily find consultants to help with the cloud move.

The library's IT staff also liked the idea of the AWS pay-as-you-go model, so they got started by deploying one website on the AWS public cloud.

"We realized very quickly it was going to be cheaper than anything we could do," Haque said. "It was easier to manage and we realized the benefits of multiple data centers and the repeatability of the platform -- all without increased cost."

More than not increasing the cost, Haque said he figures it was in "the neighborhood of 95% cheaper."

Today, every website they build is on the AWS platform.

"Four years ago, yes, it was a smart idea for them," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "Now, they could use any of them, but AWS and Google are probably best for what they need. Starting out, you just buy what you need. You don't need a strategy or a road map."

The NYPL's cloud move has gone so well, that it doesn't buy on-premise servers anymore and has scaled back what it had by 40% in the past four years.

Today, it has about 300 servers in-house and about 300 with the AWS cloud.

It wasn't all smooth sailing, though.

The biggest challenges the library's IT staff had came down to training and changing expectations.

The library had traditional system administrators, who were anxious about automating much of their regular processes and changing their job functions.

There was extensive initial training, particularly for the first six to eight weeks.

"Initially, people were resistant," Haque said. "Would they pick it up fast enough? But they did really well. We sent people to conferences. We spent a lot of attention helping people get new skill sets. The challenge, these days, is helping people keep up with the new services and the new skills that they need."

Now Haque is thinking about expanding to other cloud vendors.

For instance, he's considering Microsoft Azure to migrate some of the library's Windows-based applications to the cloud.

He's also thinking about storing the library's 3 petabytes of data that's built up with the digital collection program -- preserving maps, photos, illustrations, books and videos – anything the library has digitized.

However, Haque wants that precious data to have serious redundancies.

He's considering using the AWS Glacier cloud storage service because it is a low-cost storage option for "dark" data, which is rarely used or accessed.

"But do we keep a second copy somewhere and a third copy somewhere else?" he asked, explaining that it would be optimal to be able to make a change to the data in one cloud and have it update across all three vendors. "We'd like to use Google, AWS and Azure. I don't know if that's the answer for us, but that's what we're thinking about … It will be interesting to see what they would be willing to do to make it easy to use. We'll talk with them about it at some point."

Gottheil said that should be doable.

"It's a matter of sending the same update to three different systems, not a matter of daisy-chaining the systems," Gottheil added." He may have a problem getting any of the big three to do it themselves, but another actor, a systems integrator, could do it."

To read the full article please visit Computer World.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

NewsWorks: Op-ed: To Stay Relevant, Libraries Must Rethink How They Connect to Communities

A patron is shown at the central branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia .
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)

By John Bracken and Eva Pereira

Since the advent of the Internet, libraries no longer have a monopoly on information. Across the country, the changing digital landscape means that libraries need to rethink the role they play within communities.

Historically, libraries have held a critical role in the fabric of civic life, helping to build more informed and engaged communities by connecting people with information, ideas, and each other. According to Pew Research, library usage has been declining over the past three years, primarily driven by technological change. At this critical juncture, when libraries are struggling to remain relevant, they need to embrace more opportunities to carry the field forward.

Staying relevant 

Libraries are even more vital in our new civic information environment. It is not sufficient for them to survive, they need to expand and thrive. This will require developing new muscles — but new ideas are not sufficient. We also need to escape the old ones. In order to do so, they need to focus on capacity building and understanding what it takes to innovate from within.

The future of libraries will be determined by their ability to stay relevant to the lives of individuals and communities they serve. The field is in need of greater cross-sector partnerships. Libraries can do a better job of collaborating with like-minded organizations working towards the public good. We’ve witnessed a model of this with Storytellers Without Borders, a partnership between the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Public Library. This project is engaging librarians and journalists to help high school students learn about their community while building digital journalism skills.

Community focus

Libraries have not always been clear about their social relevance. Today they have the chance to take advantage of old and new tools for telling their stories and to raise awareness about their civic importance. In the face of budget cuts and disinvestment in public services, this is more critical than ever. The Foundation Center is working on a tool to help libraries identify funders and train libraries do a better job of fundraising.

Finally, it’s important that libraries continue to develop programming that is responsive to the needs of their community — from introducing neighbors to new technology tools to connecting them with untapped collections and information. In Philadelphia, we’re seeing an example of this with the Free Library’s Cultureshare project, which is prototyping a subscription-based, librarian-curated collection of local media content on a monthly basis. In addition, both Chicago Public Library and New York Public Library have introduced programs to loan mobile hotspots to thousands of families living without broadband access.

These all serve as examples of ways libraries can stay relevant during a time of disruption. More than that, in these exciting and turbulent times the expertise, openness and social commitment that libraries have historically provided are even more vital for building and maintaining resilient communities.

Over the last two years Knight Foundation has awarded $10.2 million in support to more than 40 projects to strengthen libraries focused on libraries’ efforts to succeed in this new age. Most recently, in July 2016 we announced 14 winners of the Knight News Challenge on Libraries, which sought ideas to help libraries serve 21st century information needs. We believe these forces of change will continue to disrupt libraries, and we welcome your help in thinking of how to strengthen these important public institutions for generations to come.

Source: NewsWorks

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Purpose-Based Library

Finding your path to survival, success, and growth

By John J. Huber and Steven V. Potter
July 20, 2016

This is an excerpt from The Purpose-Based Library: Finding Your Path to Survival, Success, and Growth by John J. Huber and Steven V. Potter (ALA Editions, 2015).

 “The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competitors, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” —Bill Gates
Bill Gates’s quote should have you, as a member of the library profession, doing backflips. Librarians are specifically trained to gather, manage, and use information. If we take Gates’s words at face value, libraries should be the most competitive organizations on the planet.

Some of you would argue that your library is a nonprofit organization and is not competing with anyone. We beg to differ. Every customer has a choice and chooses whether to go to the library website or Google’s search bar, to either engage the library or order materials from Amazon.

Amazon would much rather have its customers buy a book than borrow, and Google would much rather have information seekers search its website than seek out a reference or research librarian. There is no question that libraries compete head-to-head with these for-profit businesses.

Libraries are competing against the most successful businesses this planet has ever seen, and considering this competition, libraries have responded admirably. Embracing self-service technology, adopting one-field, deep-web database search engines, expanding ebook offerings, creating staffless libraries, and streamlining service-delivery chains are a few examples. However, libraries must face the reality that they have an uphill battle competing with these impressive and highly profit-driven companies. Google has for the most part won the “surface web” battle, as the role of the reference librarian has become a shell of itself. Amazon is winning the battle for ebooks, primarily because of its effective user interface, wealth of offerings, and easy-to-use digital delivery platform. Libraries are hanging in there and competing effectively, but for how long? They are surviving, but survival is not enough—success and growth have to be a part of libraries’ survival strategies or they will eventually lose their relevance.

To successfully compete, libraries must embrace the words of Bill Gates. Libraries must gather, use, and manage information in a way that large for-profit companies cannot. So the question is: What competitive advantages do libraries have that these organizations do not? Let us count the ways:
  • Libraries have more locations across the country than any other organization.
  • Libraries have a personal presence in every community in the country.
  • Library staff interact with their customers face-to-face.
  • Library staff are trained and skilled to gather, archive, and manage information.
  • Library staff are well educated and motivated to make a difference.
  • And most important, libraries and their staff have a powerful, game-changing common purpose.
To go beyond survival, to succeed and grow, libraries must embrace and leverage these competitive advantages.

The dedicated profession 


If you are reading this, you have dedicated much of your life to helping people. It is why you get up in the morning. You go to work because you know you are going to make a difference in someone’s life. It may be as simple and subtle as preparing a new book for the hold shelf, suggesting a title someone may enjoy, helping someone sign on to the internet for the first time, making a child laugh during story hour, or perhaps even helping someone find a job. No matter the size of the task, you are making a difference to that individual and, as a result, to your community as a whole. Let me repeat that: You are making a difference to the community as a whole.

However, when we perused most library annual reports, we found cold, static numbers: circulation, gate counts, computer sessions, program hours, and attendance. These numbers are fine and important to track, but they do not go to the heart of the matter—that is, your heart. Circulation, gate count, and computer hours are not the reason you get up in the morning and go to work.

If these numbers do not get you excited, what makes you think your community will be any more excited? More to the point, if these static numbers do not motivate you as a librarian or a library staff member, how can you expect your library board, your city and county managers, and your community members to actively and excitedly support increased library funding?

The purpose-based library is not just about circulation, gate counts, and computer hours. It is about how you and your library affect people’s lives and therefore the community as a whole. This is your most significant competitive advantage over Amazon, Google, and Netflix. 

Living the mission

Many people who work in libraries have two common threads. First, they have a previous connection to other people who have worked in a public library. They understand that working in a public library is a “people business.” They understand that it is not about getting to read all day—it is work that connects people and resources. They also know about the warm feeling librarians receive from the work that we do. Second, they have a desire to make a difference in the world around them. This can take on several faces. 

Sometimes it is about helping people create businesses and stand on their own. Sometimes it is about helping children or adults learn to read. Sometimes it is about providing information on the topics of the day to inform the citizenry.

While libraries exist to transform communities, they are on a path toward full automation, which will eliminate staffers’ ability to have contact with their customers. It’s a great paradox that lives within today’s libraries. We propose that library staffs are too valuable of an asset to lose, for in our path to automation we lose the ability to seek, engage, and transform.

New York Public Library’s (NYPL) mission statement reads:
“The mission of The New York Public Library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities.”

Our all-time favorite is from Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) in Colorado:
“Provide resources and opportunities that change individual lives and build community. Seek. Engage. Transform.”

“Seek, engage, transform.” Wow. Simple and to the point. However, while the statement is inspiring, it does not often correlate with the primary services in which staffs actually spend their time. Rather than seek, engage, transform, the default mission of the modern library appears to be to build a self-serve organization that is quicker, faster, better. For libraries to survive, this path is correct, but therein lies the paradox. When you streamline your operations, move to more digital interfaces, and reduce the face-to-face time you have with your customers, where does the wonderful mission statement of “seek, engage, transform” truly fall in the future of libraries’ priorities? How is your purpose fulfilled?

To survive, libraries must streamline their core operations, reduce clerical activities, increase self-service, embrace digital content and interfaces, and become quicker, faster, and better. However, to go beyond survival, to succeed and grow, libraries must become much more than just self-service, efficient suppliers and distributors of books and media. They must embrace the purpose behind their mission statements. NYPL’s mission is to inspire and strengthen its communities, and PPLD’s mission is to build and transform. These are both good. We believe most libraries embrace and pursue a similar mission. “Quicker, faster, better” is only the price of admission for survival.

What is the difference between a mission and a purpose? A mission is a direction and path to guide, while a purpose is the passion that you have within. An organizational purpose is a passion you share with others in your organization. A mission can be cold and static, and a purpose is always warm and dynamic. A mission has a start and an ending, but a purpose has no beginning and no ending; it just is. A mission is something you are told to do, while a purpose is something that you can’t help but do. A mission drives an organization on a determined path; a purpose drives itself. You as a member of your organization have within you a self-based purpose to help people. However, you are only one person and you can only do so much, but as an organization, where all of your passions are combined, a powerful compounding effect occurs. A purpose-based organization can transform entire communities. What a great reason to get up in the morning. This common purpose is libraries’ key to competitive differentiation with Google, Amazon, and Netflix.

Walmart is one of the most pervasive organizations in the US and, for that matter, the planet. It has around 4,350 supercenters, clubs, or retail stores throughout the country. Walmart also has a huge influence on US manufacturers’ pricing policies and the products they offer, as well as what consumers buy. What other organization has a presence in nearly every community? You might think of the US Postal Service, which has around 31,606 locations throughout the US. However, this pales in comparison to the nearly 119,487 libraries throughout the country. No one even comes close to the geographical coverage that libraries possess.

Each of these 119,487 US libraries has one common purpose behind its mission: to build a healthy community. It is a powerful statement. No other organization has more potential to impact the overall health and well-being of our nation’s communities than libraries. So what is the most powerful and influential organization in the US, Canada, and perhaps eventually the entire planet? The answer is libraries. And more to the point, a library with a purpose.

The geographical footprint libraries possess is one of the most important, powerful, and valuable strategic assets of any group, business, or industry. Add to the mix a highly educated workforce dedicated to serving the public, and you have the most valuable asset this nation possesses.

We cannot allow this asset to be gutted, marginalized, or left to die a slow death. Libraries must leverage their geographical footprint, fully utilize their purpose-based staff, embrace their mission, and create a partnership with their community that will be of such value that libraries’ path to success and growth is assured and celebrated. Libraries are the right resource at the right time to recapture the purpose behind their mission and lead their communities toward a stronger, healthier state. Libraries are apolitical, they fight for the fairness of information access for all people, and most important, they are trusted. What other institution in today’s broken society is better situated to make such a large impact in its local community?


What is your purpose?

There are more libraries in the US than McDonald’s restaurants—a staggering statistic that should make libraries proud. Libraries should also be proud of our history when adopting new technology as a method of information access. It is surprising to people to learn how frequently libraries have been on the leading edge of technological adoption.

Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) in Independence, Missouri, launched its first website in 1995, the same year that most of the world “discovered” the internet. The whole idea of ordering through an online catalog and picking up your order at a local store (sometimes called “bricks and clicks,” or what Walmart calls “site to store”) actually sounds a lot like interlibrary loan service, and it is something MCPL has been doing in some fashion since the early 1990s. Libraries are in every community both physically and in cyberspace and in greater numbers than any other institution. We are everywhere, but do we really take advantage of that fact?

Too often, libraries become a checkmark on a list of public assets that supposedly lead to a great quality of life. Do we have a park? Check. Do we have accredited schools? Check. Do we have a public library? Check. Is it good enough just to have a public library in your community, or should your public library be purpose-based to truly earn that checkmark?

What is your library’s purpose? Is it to check out books? Is it to be a jobs program? Is it to be publicly subsidized recreation for people who don’t want to play sports? Is it to provide a spectacle so people can come and see what crazy thing is happening at the library this week? Libraries are ideally positioned, both physically and virtually, to make a great impact on nearly every community in this country. The question is what does your community need, and how can your library behave in a purposeful way to help achieve that community vision?

JOHN J. HUBER formed the management consulting firm of J. Huber and Associates in 1986. He is author of Lean Library Management: Eleven Strategies for Reducing Costs and Improving Customer Services (ALA Neal-Schuman, 2011). STEVEN V. POTTER is library director and CEO of Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) in Independence, Missouri.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Libraries Improving Lives in Asia and Oceania

Helping people create sustainable communities globally

August 15, 2016

Keynote speaker Loida Garcia-Febo, a library consultant with international expertise and a member of the IFLA governing board, addressed how libraries are using their powers to do good around the world.

The takeaway from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA) Asia and Oceania Section presentation on August 15 was how libraries in many countries—from highly industrialized economies to fragile island states, from the Middle East to French Polynesia—can help people find the information they need to create sustainable communities.

Section Chair Jayshree Mamtora said that the problems these countries face—relations with indigenous peoples, developing economies, immigration, climate change, multilingual populations, and communication over vast distances—are all being addressed by libraries that are experimenting with new ways of contributing to the social and economic development of the communities they serve.

Keynote speaker Loida Garcia-Febo, a library consultant with international expertise and a member of the IFLA governing board, said, “Libraries have the capacity to organize knowledge in ways that can help people to increase their quality of life and promote lifelong learning opportunities.” Libraries are using their powers to do good, she added. “We are trying to save the world.”

“Library efforts have a cascading effect,” Garcia-Febo said, “from impacting our local areas, to the city, country, region, and the world.” She noted some of the ways citizen access to information can be used as a tool for education, engagement, and empowerment:
  • Los Angeles Public Library helps immigrants fill out forms for naturalization.
  • Toronto Public Library provides Newcomer Settlement Services for new Canadian residents.
  • An initiative of the Association of College and Research Libraries helps US college students to manage their finances.
  • Harris County (Tex.) Public Library’s iKnow card lets residents access digital resources.
  • Dokk1, a city center and library in Aarhus, Denmark, allows parents of newborn babies to press a button at the hospital and ring a giant gong at the library.
  • Ames Public Library (and other libraries in Iowa) lets patrons renew their driver’s licenses at a special kiosk.
  • Alaskan libraries are lending devices that compile data about bats, allowing them to control fungal disease among bats.
  • The San Juan Planes community library in Honduras began a project to bring safe drinking water to the community.
  • The National Library of Uganda offers a tech training program in local languages for female farmers, showing them how to read weather forecasts, follow crop prices, and set up online markets.
“When it comes to connecting people with information,” Garcia-Febo said, “librarians do it better.” Because libraries are essential to global development, IFLA was instrumental in getting access to information included as part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations to be achieved by 2030. Sustainable Development Target 16.10 is to “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” The 2030 Agenda is a global plan of action for people, the planet, and prosperity. She added, “We hope these initiatives encourage associations, national libraries, and librarians in general to advocate for the inclusion of libraries in national government agendas.”
 Margaret Zimmerman, an LIS doctoral student at the University of South Carolina

Margaret Zimmerman, an LIS doctoral student at the University of South Carolina, offered her research findings that link the literacy of mothers in 44 Asian countries to maternal and child health. In Kerala, India, in the 1990s, an increase in female literacy reduced the deaths of children under 5 years old from 156 to 110 per thousand. In general, Zimmerman found that “literate Asian women are less likely to die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth,” and “their children had increased odds of surviving delivery and the first five years of their life.”
Prasanna Ranaweera, director of the National Institute of Library and Information Science at the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka

Prasanna Ranaweera, director of the National Institute of Library and Information Science at the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka, presented the results of a study the institute conducted in the remote village of Dodamgolla in Uva province. He found that improvements in “domestic information management,” which he defined as “managing household information efficiently and effectively to uplift the community lifestyle,” resulted in improved student performance in the local schools. Household information included things as simple as arranging home study spaces and schoolbooks tidily, using mobile phones and television for educational purposes, maintaining first-aid kits, and managing home gardens efficiently.
Irhamni Ali of the National Library of Indonesia pointed out some of the many bureaucratic, technological, and political restrictions on information sharing by libraries in his country and called for more government transparency and public participation in libraries to improve the quality of life.

Opeta Alefaio of the National Archives of Fiji was unable to attend the IFLA conference, but Paul Nielsen, a colleague from Australia, read his paper. In 2014 the archives embarked on a program to bring relevant historic and cultural documents and photos to the remote islands of this Pacific nation. As a result of this “government roadshow,” Fijians for the first time saw documentary proof of their oral traditions and, in some cases, sons and daughters saw photos of their parents and grandparents for the first time. As an example, see the YouTube video, “Eparama Finds Priceless Photograph of His Father at Archives Outreach in Namosi.” The archives also made use of Facebook to publish historic photos that Fijians could add information to and share with their friends and relations on remote islands. One photo, for example, of Beqa villagers participating in a fish drive in 1947 was viewed more than 7,000 times and garnered dozens of comments.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Finland library installs karaoke booth

Google Maps
It might not look like a karaoke hotspot, but Tikkurila library visitors can belt out Whitney classics for hours

A library in southern Finland wants people to sing their hearts out during their next visit - in a soundproofed karaoke booth.

Officials in the city of Vantaa, near Helsinki, installed the karaoke zone at Tikkurila library earlier this year as part of a scheme to provide new services at libraries, public broadcaster Yle reports.

The idea is that people who don't fancy performing to a packed bar after a tipple or five can instead enjoy a sing-along in relative privacy, regardless of their ability to hold a tune. "Anyone at all can sing karaoke," says manager Villa Karinen. "Everyone can perform with the voice they have and there's no need to fear criticism here."

Locals can reserve up to two hours in the booth using their library cards, and once inside they'll be able to choose from more than 3,000 songs, all listed on the library's website. As well as hundreds of Finnish tunes, there's the option to tackle foreign numbers ranging from Black Sabbath to Engelbert Humperdinck via 50 Cent and - of course - Whitney, Mariah and Celine.

The idea has proved popular with all ages, Yle says, including residents of a nearby elderly care home, and those who want to overcome stage fright. The library even ran an adult education course using the booth - called Be Brave, Sing Karaoke - which offered pointers on using a microphone and dealing with nerves. Participant Anniina Rantanen tells the broadcaster that the booth allows people to practise in peace, and means that "you can sing while you're sober".

Source: BBC News

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Magic of the Library at Night


Simply walking into the Grande Bibliothèque in Montreal is a terrifically inspiring experience. The combination of soaring windows, reading nooks, and six floors to browse through is enough to get anyone excited about literature.

But one of the library’s greatest features is the basement exhibition space that has housed some truly terrific works in recent years.

Their latest undertaking, in celebration of the Grande Bibliothèque’s 10th anniversary, is called “La Bibliothèque, La Nuit” or, “The Library at Night,” and it is sheer magic from beginning to end.

 Photo by Stéphane Bourgeois 

Based on an essay of the same title by Argentinian-Canadian Alberto Manguel, the exhibit is brought to life by Robert LePage’s brilliant production company Ex Machina. You can get a glimpse of their beautiful work in the trailer (which is absolutely worth a watch, even if you can’t make it to the exhibit itself).

Beginning in a room modeled on the writer’s own library, you are treated to excerpts from Manguel’s lively text, animated by lighting and other effects. Simultaneously spooky and cozy, making you feel like an interloper and an invited guest, this recreated room perfectly conveys what Manguel’s essay is all about: that a library is both the deeply personal story of your life, as well as a window onto the story of the world.

Upon exiting the small room through what appears to be a secret passageway, you enter a forest of books. Trees made of texts, leaves of pages swirling overhead and on the ground. When people say that reading is like stepping into another world, this is that other world’s foyer. Its delightful anteroom. This is what my dreams look like.

A series of desks appears in the woods, each equipped with the classic green reading lamp and with a 360-degree video headset. Donning the headset enables you to visit 10 of the most spectacular libraries in creation – some real, some imaginary. My personal favorites were the Library of Alexandria, and Captain Nemo’s library aboard the Nautilus. This is way beyond clicking through photos of famous libraries on the internet. Sitting in a swivel chair, you can spin all the way around at your leisure, getting the full view of each room and taking in both everyday goings on and events of historic significance, from the destruction of the Bosnia-Herzegovina’s National and University Library in Sarajevo to a break-dancing troupe practicing outside the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City.

                                                                  Photo by Michel Legendre

It was, without a doubt, the most enchanting literary exhibit I’ve ever seen. An intelligent concept executed flawlessly. But most importantly, it captures that special feeling libraries give those of us who love books, and dramatically portrays their transportive power.

I highly recommend accompanying your visit with Manguel’s book, The Library at Night (2009). Even if you can’t make the exhibit, do pick up a copy. It is a moving history of libraries in their many incarnations from a passionate champion of books and reading.

The exhibit runs until the 28th of August 2016. More information and tickets are available at the BAnQ’s website. Or you can call this number: 514 873-1100.


Programming Librarian: Blog - Library Olympics

By Katy Kelly
August 8, 2016

On a rare sunny but cool June day in Dayton, Ohio, the University of Dayton Libraries staff competed (and excelled in!) the inaugural Library Olympics. Developed by the professional development team, led by Erik Ziedses des Plantes, the day featured journal Jenga, journal toss, cart racing, book balancing, speed sorting and a scavenger hunt that played out on Twitter.

Randomly assigned teams quickly had to strategize how to stack journals the highest in the first event, journal Jenga. (All journals used for the event were marked for recycling.) Competitors exuded speed, strength and cat-like reflexes jumping out of the way when the tenuous towers teetered and fell.

Teams then moved through the circuit of other events. The journal toss provided everyone an opportunity to demonstrate creativity with their throwing form. Competitors aimed for the target on a tarp, and points were awarded accordingly.

In the speed sort, players were timed as they quickly sorted a shelf of books by Library of Congress call number. My colleague was overheard saying, “I didn’t know I would need my reading glasses at the Olympics.” At the book balance station, everyone balanced bound journals on their heads for as far as they could walk.

Best of all was the book cart racing event. Even walking with a book cart is difficult, so the organizers amped it up a bit by having us run a course with multiple turns. Competitors swapped stories and strategy, and in the end, the mantra was, “just let the cart lead you.”

The final event called on us to find examples of objects around campus corresponding to 25 Library of Congress call numbers. We submitted our photos via Twitter using the hashtag #udlibpic. One point was awarded for each successful interpretation of a call number.

At the end of the games, numbers were tallied, and the awards ceremony commenced. With much anticipation, it was announced that my team won by one point.

As a self-proclaimed indoor cat and non-athlete, I thoroughly enjoyed Library Olympics (and not just because my team won, but yeah, OK, that was awesome). All libraries should take pause and turn programming creativity inward. Library Olympics allowed us to work with new people and engage in some friendly and competitive games. It took a lot of work on the professional development team’s part, and they did a great job (no scandals were reported at Library Olympics).

Originally, Library Olympics was created by Matt Shreffler, now at Wright State University Libraries, as a student employee event (see his poster presentation about it here). Our professional development team built upon it to create a winning event for all. What other programming models might be used for a staff team-building day? What are some other possible Library Olympics events?

All photos by Larry Burgess.

Source: The Programming Librarian