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Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Suzana Sukovic
LARK is very happy to announce that we are now part of ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association). Our group page is at

We now have the LARK Committee. The members will be introduced very soon. In the meantime, I can say that we have some nice plans up our sleeves and are ready to start putting them in place from January.

I would also like to invite you, my kind reader, to join our mailing list if you haven’t done so and, very importantly, to try your writing ideas on the blog. Any topic related to LIS research is welcome – an interesting study, insights from research, opinions about research education, and anything you think is relevant. Just send them to

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Virtual smell, transliterate world

By Suzana Sukovic

The smell of the latest muffin recipe from my Mufficious group is emitting from my phone screen so deliciously - you can almost bite into that picture. I’ll certainly try the recipe tonight. But I better check the minutes of our last meeting! My project group is meeting in the library in ten minutes. Today we have an older local resident chosen from our people database coming to talk with us. I am looking forward to meeting him as well as Hildur from Iceland who is joining us for the first time. Her preservation work sounds so interesting. Misha will pop in towards the end of the meeting with some fantastic wood samples he found on the ‘Almost real’ (it’s funny Misha is still called ‘librarian’ - the last time he touched a book was a year ago, he said).  Such a nice mix of languages in our group – always a good time to practise my Chinese and check the latest translation software. My Chinese is getting so much better since I can listen to Wong and look at the translation in a real conversation. I’ll stick with the voiceover for Maria. This new app promises to have Maria’s Spanish translated in the most believable English voiceover for me. I can catch up with Karen after the meeting. Maybe we can try that new Mayan chocolate drink in the library.  

Nuno de Matos calligraphy works

In this snippet of a future scenario, a multiliterate person processes a range of digital and analogue inputs as she goes through her day. Multisensory experiences, collaboration, a range of media and shifting cultural contexts are all part of everyday living. There is a growing recognition in different professional circles that people will increasingly require an ability to work in multiple contexts with a variety of media and, most importantly, in collaboration. A proliferation of literacy models in recent years arises from a need to capture the complexity of skills required in new environments. A number of LIS authors feel that a well-established and important framework of information literacy needs to explicitly include skills relevant for online collaboration and communication.

Transliteracy has become a bit of a buzz word among LIS professionals in the recent years. Alan Liu, an English Professor, initiated the idea of transliteracies at the University of California in relation to online reading (Transliteracies Project). The concept was adopted and taken into a new direction by Sue Thomas, at the time Professor of New Media at De Montfort University in Leicester. Thomas started the Production and Research in Transliteracy (PART) group in 2006. The group discussions resulted in the seminal paper Transliteracy: crossingdivides [i] a year later. In the article, the concept of transliteracy was presented as ‘a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty–first century’ and defined as ‘the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks’ (What is transliteracy?, para 1). The behaviour is old, but it has become particularly complex and important in new media environments with collaboration as its most prominent feature. The authors consider ‘media literacy’ and the space where different experiences and formats meet and mix. In order to understand new cultural production, a transliterate analysis is needed to consider the usual ‘how’ and ‘why’ as well as
...the shift in emphasis from static monologue to dynamic dialogue suggested by participatory narratives; the practices and politics of collaboration, particularly when many geographically and linguistically spread authors collaborate simultaneously; and the existence of a “group creativity” or “intelligence”, perhaps as an emergent property of individual creativities or intelligences (Networking the book, para 6).

An ability to shift between different modes and media is central to the concept of transliteracy, which helps us see new behaviours and practices holistically. The authors see transliteracy as a work in progress and conclude the article with an invitation to join the discussions. LIS professionals have responded enthusiastically and extended the discussions in our own field. The hashtag #transliteracy is a good way to join some of the discussions on Twitter.

Metaliteracy is another closely-related concept, promoted by Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson. In their paper Reframing information literacy as a metaliteracy[ii], Mackey and Jacobson discuss a need to extend the information literacy framework to explicitly address skills needed for collaborative online environments. A range of ‘literacy frameworks’ such as information, media, digital and visual literacies capture various skill sets. The authors argue
... that a comprehensive understanding of information and related competencies are central to these literacy concepts. This approach is grounded in the idea that emerging technologies are inherently different from print and require active engagement with multiple information formats through different media modalities (p.68).

Information literacy is central to the understanding of metaliteracy, which ‘provides the integral foundation for additional literacy types, recognizing social media environments as active collaborative spaces for accessing and sharing one’s findings’ (p. 70). The authors analyse some specific information skills needed for evaluation, use, creation and publication online. They acknowledge and briefly describe the concept of transliteracy, but they don’t consider the points of difference. It seems that the distinction lies in a focus rather than the content. Transliteracy and metaliteracy both arise from the realisation that current and future information environments require fluency in skills and a unifying perspective in understanding these skills.

[i] Transliteracy: Crossing divides by Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Mills, Simon Perril, and Kate Pullinger. First Monday, Volume 12 Number 12 - 3 December 2007

[ii] Reframing information literacy as a metaliteracy by Thomas P.Mackey and Trudi E.Jacobson College & Research Libraries, 72.1 (January 2011), 62-78

A version of this article appeared in InCite, Nov-Dec 2013

Friday, 8 November 2013

LARK meeting

Suzana Sukovic

Yesterday LARK had its second meeting ever. The first meeting was a year ago when the group came into existence. Yesterday we met again to touch base and discuss where we are heading. LARK isn’t and shouldn’t be a closed club, said someone in the meeting. The gathering was a case in point. There were some well-known faces for continuity and new ones for a sense of growth. The gathering was small, but there were representatives from different information sectors – school and academic librarians,
vendors and indexers - sharing research interests, concerns and wishes.
It was a most enjoyable evening, but also an opportunity to think about what next. As time passes and LARK develops, I am more and more convinced that research in the profession needs care and a helping hand to grow. On good days, like yesterday, I feel that professional LIS research is ready for a boost.

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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Making a way to the place in future

By Suzana Sukovic

Thanks to Kristina Stoney for her generous permission to reproduce her and Nicolas Arney's beautiful photos.
In transition (Turkey)
This week I learnt at some majestic places – NSW Art Gallery, State Library and sandstone buildings of a private college. However, the main part is happening right now as I am trying to make sense of it, writing this blog at my desk – a very modest place of learning.

The week started with the ALIA Future of the Profession summit at the State Library when we tried to work out what the future holds for us, librarians and other information professionals (see #alliafutures on Twitter). On Tuesday, it was the AIS ICT Integrators Conference where we talked about using wonderful digital tools in a meaningful way in education, which refuses to change fast enough (#aisitic). Anne Cutler, Director of Learning at Tate, topped the week with a guest lecture at the NSW Art Gallery.
In all these events, we talked about knowledge industries and repeated the same questions: Will we be needed in the future? Where is our place? What do we need to do and how? Professionals in ‘easy target’ industries worry about copping another round of cuts, but it isn’t the only problem. Even doctors wonder whether they’ll treat sick patients in the future, I’d read just before the summit. Democratisation of knowledge enabled by fast developments of ICT has quickly shifted our sacred grounds leaving us slightly insecure on our feet.
People working in the knowledge sector have lots of questions and doubts but, fortunately, they also have some (tentative) answers.  Librarians, teachers and curators believe that future knowledge will be shared, collaborative and learner/client-centered. But, where will we be with our professional knowledge, authority, special buildings and artefacts in the culture of Google, Facebook and Wikipedia? There, with people, working as facilitators, we say.
 A key to that shared vision can be described in four points.
Checking it out (Casablanca)
1. People, our students and clients, should be trusted to set their own learning agenda. Kristina Stoney ( travels around the world on her bike and engages students in challenge-based learning. Students choose their challenge and find their answers thriving in the experience, explain their teachers. 

Some community libraries have started people records describing their unique knowledge. Community members can ‘borrow’ a person to talk with them in the library.

‘We are misunderstanding what our public wants from us,’ says Anna Cutler. She wants visitors at Tate to set up their own gallery programs. Young people organised a festival at Tate gathering 20,000 participants who spent hours at the gallery.

People want to learn, to participate and share. We have to allow them to tell us how.
Bread tools
2. Our tools and resources are valuable and, often, unique. We need to use them in partnership with other players.

Google doesn’t know everything, but makes an information professional’s job easier, says Mark Pesce. Is this question Googleable? may be the question to filter reference enquiries. Today, a meme has come my way. The joke is about the infamous question Do you have that green book by that famous guy? But, the whole joke is a misunderstanding. The question is legitimate. Librarians have reference interview, knowledge of literature and search tools to answer questions that can’t be searched online, though Google may come handy. Students need teachers to guide them, although YouTube is often better for specifics.
Our greatest tools are our mind and professional knowledge.
3. Values. What are our values? What do we mean by them? How do implement them? - are questions at the core of a learning transformation at Tate. How do we recognise our values in practice? asks Cutler’s team.
Tyre inspection
4. Evidence is crucial for change. In order to answer the questions about values, the Tate team constantly gathers, analyses and shares data looking for evidence that they are on the right track and finding areas for improvement. The title of Cutler’s talk, Changing the refrain: creativity and the idea of learning, suggests a creative change of the learning refrain. But, even a creative change, needs a systematic, evidence-based practice.
Schools and libraries don’t talk often about evidence-based change. They tend to be more focused on assessment of what they have always done – How much has the reading improved? Are we getting good HSC scores? How many visitors do we have in library spaces and online? In schools and libraries, we rarely gather evidence to inform change. Perhaps, a lesson is in this point of difference. We should stop waiting for our institutions for instructions and start gathering evidence of a change we want to see and lead. That way, we’ll be a step closer to that future we envisage for our profession.

A good place to start is at our desk.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Library users & design

Edward Kostraby

UNSW main library tower

Getting the right fit between a library, and users is an ever evolving environment. Libraries, are no longer archetypal, but with constant refurbishment and build of new spaces and constructs, design, plays an ever increasing central role in the right fit for all who use a library. The right fit is not a “now thing” but has been evolving for a number of years. It is perhaps now that library design is actually considering users within this concept. Both of the Australian articles presented provide welcome content for the use of library spaces, while the third article discusses this from a school perspective. 

Nimmo, an architect, explores, the process of innovation in spatial design and the process of design, “…an interactive design…between architects, librarians and stakeholders”. This is a welcome statement. The process as outlined, seems to provide a worthy consensus outcome. Nimmo looks at two projects he has been involved in, refurbishing the UNSW Menzies Library, a ten year venture and a green fields build for the Gold Coast City Council, a somewhat quicker outcome. Critical is expounding ones first principle, what are we actually going to do?  A three stage workshop process is explored, from basic concepts to the final master design.

Further, “…new libraries are often an eclectic assembly of design components…without a coherent framework for strategic intent” To overcome this, a qualitative “workshop process” was used and described in some detail, to include all stakeholders. Through this process all gain insight on issues outside their own areas of concern and likewise, all gain insight of others concerns. The stakeholders become part of the process and not just onlookers accepting a fait accompli, the final product, a concensus model of design. A pararell process is separate consultative meetings being the kernel of the working design is also essential as this is where the first principles are made into practicalities. Data such as visits, loans and various uses are important as this quantitative area then supports and fuses with the qualitative, supporting the initial move to refurbish or build. 

What are we looking for when it comes to design for use? This has to be the basis of any move to redesign libraries and their spaces, flexible spaces, fewer books, more digital access, a communal/social centre. One gets a sense that the process is lengthy, requires commitment from all for the betterment of the communal environment. The formal process has solid merit, particularly as there are varying inputs for a costly building.

Norman’s views (a Sydney based librarian) are broad, challenging and in the public domain, in that public libraries to survive, must be and are regenerating their roles, constantly repositioning themselves to take advantage and align themselves with their paying communities. The community (users) must be at the table, they cannot be ignored. The issues raised can be articulated for both tertiary and many school libraries, all finding themselves in a similar position. The many topics briefly discussed are realistic and intertwining throughout the article is the user. What does the user want from the design of spaces? How libraries are reimagining services and their place in society in general and in particular instances?

Perrault and Levesque’s small article begins with a quote from To kill a mockingbird, a text well known to most from secondary school. It is this connection that they use to look at library design from the point of view of the student. The term “empathic design” offers a means of empathy, putting oneself in place of another, such as organisations to better understand users’ needs.  The concept is taken from an earlier article and used in their article as a ”relatively low cost, low risk way to identify potentially critical customer needs”, one would think this applied in terms of time and finance. Again quantitative data is useful to add weight to change. Complementing this is the qualitative aspect, that is observing the user in the environment and how the user engages, what they do or don’t do.

They discuss a relatively easy five step process, in contrast to Nimmo’s detailed design process. “The empathic process offers a proactive and purposeful strategy to offer fully inclusive programs and services”. It is not articulated in any detail, but others a snap shot of its characteristic and if interested the reader is lead to investigate the original article.
Empathic design addresses unarticulated user needs – its strongest feature. This user centered approach becomes an intimate model as distinct from a more structured model. 

One gets the sense that library design of today is about legitimising the users, their use of the space, the services they require  and not so much of a collection. It is the users who are driving library use. This is a critical factor to remember at all stages of design and ultimately the practicalities of daily use. To be flexible enough in 10 or 20 years – like a built in wardrobe, so a library too must have built in flexibility. 

What are user needs, their experiences, how are they articulated, establishing a broad consensus for the final design is paramount and one can only wish that such detailed processes really infiltrate the design process so that users and libraries are one fit. 

These offerings provide solid insight and practical directions for all stakeholders to contribute and make the library experience an ever evolving and collaborative environment. Proactive connections, is the future for libraries and users.


Nimmo, Andrew. “An architect’s perspective – how to encourage genuine innovation in library design”. Australian Library Journal 61:3, (2012): 200-6.

Norman, Mark. “Frail, fatal, fundamental: the future of public libraries”. Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services 25:2, (2012): 94-100.

Perrault, Anne Marie & Levesque, Aimee M. “Caring for all students”. 7Knowledge Quest 40:4, (2012):16-7.

This article first appeared in Incite June/July 2013.

Edward Kostraby is a member of ALIA Research Committee and Head of Library, St Michael’s Grammar School, St Kilda, Victoria.