Category: Cultural institutions

What is Inevitable about UTS Library (Pt 3 of 3)

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In The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly discusses every surface becoming a screen in the Screening chapter, but this technological force isn’t just about converting surfaces into screens. He also discusses the possibility for libraries to become platforms for cultural life within their communities and he writes of the importance of encouraging contemplation and how online activities can provoke action. I think we’ve done some of this with our Artist-in-Residence and Curations programs. They’ve both led to ongoing actions and we think they inspire contemplation and further thought with at least some of our users. These programs have certainly had Interactive elements, with the current Artist Timo Rissanen actually creating his work in the central library stairwell over several weeks. Our Artists have asked questions of us and what we do that we’d not have asked of ourselves. This has enabled some reflection on our part and led to improved services, including with our search and discovery platform and our way finding signage.

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http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/about-us/artist-residence-program/shelf-life-exhibition 

At UTS Library the influence of Chris Gaul (our first Artist) cannot be overstated. He has had a significant impact on how we view our collections and this has led to ongoing improvements to discovery as well as search interfaces. His pioneering Spectogram has been recognised and reflected upon by several of our subsequent artists. He played a significant part in establishing a design-led visual identity for UTS Library.

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http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/news/288004/uts-library-s-artists-residence-investigate-library-retrieval-system

Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw were asked to artistically interpret the use of our new Library Retrieval System in 2014. This ambitious project resulted in a truly amazing live data visualisation of the requests and returns to this huge robotically served underground storage system. Their work was inspirational and playful. It also added an important dimension to our identity as experts in data at a time when UTS was focussing itself on the importance of data and data analysis.

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http://cargocollective.com/thebookis

Zoë Sadokierski followed Elisa and Adam in 2015. She has been a long time collaborator with the Library through her design work on various experimental formats for ePRESS, in her artistic installations within the Library and by sharing her research on the intersection of print and screen technology (as opposed to the myth that circulates about these two being competitors). Her Residency explored the very nature of the book through research and by producing artist’s books. She also conducted a very interactive and collaborative production of a book live at the 2015 Sydney Writer’s Festival. Like previous artists her work has had a very significant impact on our visual and physical identity as a library.

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Starting in late 2016, we added digital literacy kits to our collection. Including low cost technology like Sphero, Makey-Makey and basic VR, these kits have been incorporated into both our own staff development and our educational programs for academics and students. They represent a playful way to introduce technology literacies, expanding on our traditional role in developing information literacy skills.

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What is Inevitable about UTS Library (Pt 2 of 3)

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Open Access is something we strongly believe in at UTS Library. We have taken action in many dimensions: to improve our institutional repository; as an advocate for OA at UTS (& the sponsor of our institution’s OA policy); through our active OA publishing arm – UTS ePRESS; by participating in various OA related events and initiatives; and though our advice and assistance on all things OA to students, researchers and academics at UTS. UTS ePRESS has experimented with new forms of scholarly publishing that harness the potential of the web and digital communications and therefore question the very nature of traditional publishing. We’ve encouraged and modelled more open licensing to permit reuse and we continue to support the early days of the OA movement. Some examples of all of this are found in the following images.

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https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/

Our institutional repository was substantially remodelled and fully integrated with the University’s research management system recently. We established new workflows to decrease or eliminate manual processes and the ingest outputs, made UTS research outputs far easier to find on the open web and have substantially increased our reach accordingly.

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http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/books/anatomy-quizbook

The Anatomy Quizbook was our first OER. This was also our first experiment with interactive text and importantly we were learning while making this happen. We have more OERs planned and will build on this initial adventure.

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http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/books/lace-narratives

Lace Narratives was an ambitious and complex publication: it incorporated multi-media and was a major experiment in offering several different formats for a creative and scholarly work. An artistic process was openly shared through this publication and in a very limited edition high-quality hard cover version we were able to offer fabric swatches of the author’s textile art. This was one of our first experiments with different business models and distribution methods.

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http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/pmrp

Project Management Research and Practice is a journal that is both unique in its field and which has evolved over time. The editorial board believes in OA research output and like our other journals have now achieved rigorous COPE and DOAJ standards. Their latest innovation is to publish as articles are submitted and reviewed. This “unbundling” of publishing containers reduces delays in research articles getting published and is much like the unbundling of albums on iTunes or the streaming of movies and series on demand like Netflix.

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https://www.lib.uts.edu.au/open-access/learn

Our OA advocacy continues as suggested in the image above. We help others to understand OA, collaborate across boarders with like-minded people and organisations, and we raise awareness of the benefits and processes surrounding the OA movement.

End of Part 2. And Part 3 is right here. Don’t stop now.

What is Inevitable about UTS Library (Pt 1 of 3)

This is the guts of a presentation I gave at EduTECHAU on 9 June 2017. It’ll be a bunch of images, text to explain those images and a few links.

Thanks to my colleague Dr Belinda Tiffen for her assistance with this presentation: she is much smarter than me.

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Last year I read Kevin Kelly’s book The Inevitable and I was struck by the way he described the 12 technological forces that he thinks will shape our future. The forces are named in the image above, but they’re not all that easy to understand. I’ve thought more about them and believe that at UTS Library we are actually making progress in all these areas, not always exactly as he describes, so I’ll outline what some of our initiatives are in the following images and text. For the sake of brevity, the only force I won’t be illustrating is Tracking, but rest assured that we are already doing some of that too and in fact you can see it in some of the examples I am using.

I am concentrating on three major areas: discovery and search; open access; and cultural and artistic stimulation.

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For Discovery & Search I see our efforts are consistent with the four forces and examples illustrated above: Becoming; Accessing; Cognifying; and Filtering. We are in the process of completely redesigning our discovery interface on the basis of some in-depth UX research that we conducted ourselves. We have long taken an iterative approach to website and digital services development, and our latest work builds on that. In our UX work we have recognised that there is a spectrum of user needs and behaviours from search to discovery, so we are adding new features to aid and enhance discovery, but they are designed in a way that will not distract or delay those searching for known items and wanting to get out of there fast. Our collection development has seen major improvements with regard to collaborative borrowing arrangements and these options needed to be carefully included and distinguished in the search/discovery catalogue in order to increase the options available to our users, while not confusing them with respect to immediate availability. Finally as others like Amazon, Uber and Netflix have done we are introducing features that allow for a more personalised and tailored search and discovery experience, should the users opt in.

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In response to our research insights and user feedback, the following slides outline the initial user interface concepts for UTS Library’s new search and discovery system. These solutions have been designed from the responses and feedback gathered from our previous wireframe prototypes.

The following design concepts will be developed into a working prototype where the new search engine can undergo further user testing in conjunction with the user interface.

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Overall search page results in our catalogue. From left to right you see columns arranged to show search filter options; search results list and a new contextual discovery panel.

The addition of a contextual discovery side panel to provide the user with results that are personalized to the individual. This feature will assist the user in the discovery of information that the system believes will be helpful to them.  Information will be displayed based on their search request and will provide related content matched to a logged in users profile.

Article results intergration: A common request amongst users of our current system is for the ability to combine Article results in a search with Books and Journals.

Using the default ‘All’ search, the new system will combine the top 3 Article results alongside Books and Journals.

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This slide shows a few new features related to the item display within search results:

  • Ribbon colour display: (LHS of record) Integrating the colour ribbon into the catalogue items establishes the direct link between the two. For users, this creates a better understanding of the search functionality the ribbon has. It also more directly displays the relationship between the search results and the items physical location within the library
  • Shelf view: Shelf view button is located under the book cover display; this better suggests shelf views functionality to the user.
  • Save item: Save item button enables a logged in user to quickly save an item of interest to a list.
  • Item status: Improving the clarity of an items status means a user can quickly see an item’s availability and its location.
  • Locate item: Simple and clear call to action buttons has been added to each item. This button describes the necessary action to preform in order to get the item.
  • Call to action buttons (options are shown in the lower image above) The description on the call to action button indicates to the user where that item is located. For example, an item on the shelf will indicate where to “Locate item” or if an item is in the LRS it will indicate to “Request from LRS”. If an item is unavailable the call to action button describes to the user what further options are available to receive that item. When multiple resources are available for one item the button will display a drop down menu. This drop down will display the available recourse types to choose from.

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Discovery of related items: The contextual discovery panel (“You may also like …” on RHS of full item page) will have the flexibility to provide related content to a particular item. On the Item page, the discovery panel can suggest related books by the same author or display items other people have viewed or borrowed.

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It is of course fully responsive design, meaning the experience is fully optimised for mobile devices.

End of Part 1. Part 2 is here. Go there now. Do it. You know you want to.

“The Battle of Coral” by Lex McAulay

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The crew of No. 6 gun, 102 Field Battery, photograph by Greg Ayson: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P01769.010

More Anzac Day reading …

This book tells the story of the largest unit-level battle involving Australian and New Zealand soldiers in the Vietnam War. A series of actions were fought over 26 days in May-June 1968 around Fire Support Patrol Bases Coral and Balmoral, north-east of Saigon. The North Vietnamese Army actively took the fight to the 1st Australian Task Force positions and even artillery gun positions fought close-combat actions.

It is an appropriate book for the Anzac Day period because the Patrol Bases included both Australian and New Zealand Army forces (as well as US Army units and elements).

Lex gives the background to this period in Vietnam and introduces us to all of the major players and the units involved. I don’t think I read this book until about 2003 or so, but over the course of my earlier time in both the Army and within the Department of Defence I had already met many of the characters mentioned. What surprised me was that over the two decades before reading the book, none of those people had sat me down and told me about what happened at ‘Coral’ in 1968. Even after 2003 as I started researching Coral and meeting with some of the battle’s veterans, most seemed very reluctant to say a lot about what happened, particularly with respect to the major NVA assault and battle on the first night (12/13 May 1968). None were boastful of their own actions and many told me that certain individuals deserved, but disappointingly never received, major bravery awards.

So all that makes Lex’s book a pretty essential record. He tells it in a typically laconic Australian manner. Lex covers the stories of most of those Australians who were wounded or killed during the battle. One well worth reading is the saga of Gunner Mal Hundt who was hit six times during the Battle for Coral on 13 May, at least two of which came from his comrades. Even as he was being evacuated, as Lex puts it “His troubles were still not over.” Mal continued to serve in the Army as a gun sergeant later on and I am pretty sure I met him during a Coral veterans’ 50-years on reunion in Canberra in 2008. He seemed pretty well adjusted to me. I like the way Lex manages to relate the way some of the soldiers kept their dry sense of humour and their ability to make massive understatements in even the darkest of circumstances.

“Anzac to Amiens” by Dr CEW Bean

ART03022“8th August, 1918” by Will Longstaff: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/ART03022/

More Anzac Day reading …

This single volume narrative covers the entirety of all Australian forces and their involvement in the First World War. It is based on the 12-volume “Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18”, of which six were written by Dr Bean himself. He observed first-hand many of the battles fought by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as Australia’s official war correspondent during that war and is noted by theUNSW historian Dudley McCarthy in the Foreword for his “capacity to convey the feelings and qualities of thousands of ordinary soldiers”.

Dr Bean was wounded at Gallipoli in 1915 and also mentioned in dispatches there. In 1916 he suggested the idea for a national museum to the Minister for Defence and in 1917 he urged the systematic collection of records which, with the formation of the Australian War Records Section marked the birth of the Australian War Memorial.

In the final chapter of this book Dr Bean says what caused Australians to enlist in the AIF was “the principle of protecting their homes and their freedom by sustaining a system of law and order between nations”, but he also recognises (in 1946) that this war did not end war itself. Later in that chapter, he writes that “only in conditions ensuring freedom of thought and communication can mankind progress”: words that ring true today.

“Prisoners of War: Australians Under Nippon” by Hank Nelson

More reading for Anzac Day …

This 1985 publication is based on an award winning ABC Radio series of the same name that was first broadcast in 1984. It was presented by Tim Bowden, AM (war correspondent, journalist, broadcaster, documentarian, author and oral historian) and Hank Nelson, AM (historian, author, mentor and ANU Professor). I listened to that series week-by-week, on Saturdays as I remember, because I was named after Dad’s older brother who was killed as a POW when the Japanese ship the Rakuyō Maru, transporting over 1,000 Australian and British POWs back to Japan, was torpedoed by the USS Sealion II in September 1944. My family would never tell me much about my uncle’s tragic experience as a POW when I asked and this radio series and book helped me to understand why. They simply did not know. Some earlier accounts had been published, such as Russell Braddon’s “The Naked Island”, but I think this broadcast and publication really helped us to understand the experience of those POWs because it was made at a time when so many ex-prisoners were finally more willing to talk about their incarceration. That the stories were brought to life is also not least down to the skill of both Tim and Hank.

The book is quite simply full of almost unimaginable memories of endurance, mateship, courage, compassion, humour and the most beastly brutality. It begins with the fall of Singapore in February 1942, and then covers life in Changi, the infamous Thai-Burma railway, the capture of Australian Army Nurses, the decimation of ‘Gull Force’ on Ambon, the atrocities committed on Borneo and the Sandakan death march, escape and evasion attempts, forced repatriation of some POWs to slave labour Japan, the severity of punishments handed out in Outram Rd prison in Singapore, survival and eventual freedom and the legacy of wounded minds.

Now that the 16 parts of the series are available for download, I think that it is best to take the opportunity to listen their voices and then read their words, perhaps chapter-by-chapter. Together, the program and the book bring to life the experiences of many memorable prisoners such as Stan Arneil, George Aspinall, Keith Botterill, Vivian Bullwinkel, Dr Kevin Fagan, Don Moore, Ray Parkin and Snow Peat.

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A George Aspinall photograph of three “fit” workers on a camp on the Burma Thai Railway: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P02569.192

Nearly all ex-POWs would have passed now, but I had the opportunity to meet and talk with some while I was working at the Australian War Memorial. It always amazed me that so many went on to lead healthy, productive and reasonably long lives knowing what they endured and also what they went without for so many years as POWs. I think it would’ve been around 2004 that several ex-prisoners tracked me down at the Memorial and asked if I was related to a mate of theirs (they had enlisted, served and been captured in 1942 with my uncle). They were all in their 80s or 90s by then and I got to know them all. They marched together every Anzac Day in Sydney and had all survived the sinking of the Rakuyō Maru in 1944. They asked me if they could meet with my father and I remember getting them all together one Saturday morning in West Ryde at one of their homes. After all those years they had managed to track me down and finally my father and I knew what had happened to his brother so many years ago. For me it was just like meeting many of those who told their stories to Tim and Hank.

The Broken Years

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Image source: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P04604.016

Dr Bill Gammage AM, FASSA is an academic historian who wrote The Broken Years based on his PhD thesis at the ANU. First published in 1974 it tells the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War through the private records created by a thousand Australian soldiers in their diaries and letters home.

At that time Bill was still able to correspond with some veterans of the Great War and he also  skilfully selected records that were mostly collected by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in the 1920s and 1930s and ties them together to form a chronological story from 1914-1918, covering campaigns in Gallipoli (ANZAC), Egypt, Palestine and France.

I first read this book back in the late 1970s whilst training at RMC Duntroon and studying military history. It had an enormous impact on my attitude to war and made me fully aware of the awful realities, well beyond what I had heard from veterans, or seen in movies or on TV. I think the power of this book comes from the voices of those who served, who tell their own stories so powerfully. As the cover of the book notes, it is both a horrifying and emotionally moving account. What Bill Gammage does in The Broken Years is demonstrate the enormous importance and power of those archival collections at the AWM and he also highlights the vision of the historians, librarians, and archivists who created them so many years ago.

It is also worth noting that Bill Gammage is a highly respected historian and that he revived the tradition of Dr C.E.W. Bean, the official Australian historian of the First World War who focussed his story on the experiences of those who served rather than the battlefield strategies. Bean was also the founder of the AWM. Bill was later employed by Peter Weir as the military advisor for the film Gallipoli.

Bill’s book also seems to have had a not insignificant influence on at least part of my working life. I did not spend that long in the Army after graduating from Duntroon. I had a number of career changes and then somehow managed to wind up at the AWM as Head of their Research Centre (library and archive) in 2001. I was privileged to be responsible for the collections that this book was based upon and also for managing the addition of names to our Roll of Honour as we were again at war in the Middle East.

The critical thing with archival collections is that one must not just concentrate on preserving, cataloguing and exhibiting or providing access to what is already there. Those collections need to be developed as time marches on. With my curatorial colleagues at the AWM in the early 2000s, we soon realised that we faced new challenges in order to do what the AWM had done in the 1920s and 1930s to collect contemporary records of war – in the form of both official accounts (like unit war diaries) and private records in the digital age. We soon began asking to make curatorial visits to war zones to see what was being created for ourselves and to tag or collect what the AWM would need for future exhibitions and research into the conflicts that were still being waged. This started to happen from about 2007-2008. A colleague visited Iraq to mark and collect military technology and paraphernalia and then in late 2008 I was sent to Iraq (Baghdad) and out to sea with the RAN in the Northern Arabian Gulf to collect war records before our forces withdrew from Iraq. I was able to mark or tag some items such as map collections and official records, find out how people were corresponding or keeping diaries, made many photographs and recorded oral histories for the AWM collections. I left the AWM for UTS Library in 2009, but those AWM curatorial visits to war zones have continued in places such as Afghanistan ever since.

The Broken Years will be part of our featured book display at UTS Library for ANZAC Day 2017. I am not aware of any volume like this that has been written about any conflict after the First World War, so it is still unique. As a librarian, curator and collection manager I think it reminds us of the important and continuing role of archives and collecting institutions to preserve public knowledge, even as formats change.