Libraries in dialogue: cultural heritage in museums, archives and libraries

I gave a presentation entitled “Libraries in dialogue: cultural heritage in museums, archives and libraries” to the LIASA conference in Cape Town this week.

Baker K – Libraries in dialogue – cultural heritage in museums archives and libraries – LIASA 2013

I stopped by briefly into one other session, and heard an excellent paper by Prof.Genevieve Hart of the University of the Western Cape, entitled The public library, democracy and the people.

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Posted in Archives, Cultural Heritage, Kim Baker, Libraries, Museums | 2 Comments

IFLA WLIC 2013 conference in Singapore – my experience

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I’ve just returned from attending IFLA’s World Library and Information Conference, held in Singapore from 17 – 23 August 2013.

My primary purpose in attending the conference this year was to deliver a paper, entitled Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage for Lifelong Learning: applying the model to develop texttotechno intergenerational literacies to the Literacy and Reading and Information Literacy sections’ combined Open Session on Intergenerational Literacies – text to techno but, as always, there was so much of interest and delight at the conference. A bonus was that this year’s conference was held in Singapore, a place I find to be inspirational, a shining beacon of tolerance of cultural diversity, a thriving centre of creativity, knowledge, development, innovation, enlightenment values, and a role model of hope for the future. I have fond memories of our ILDS (Interlending and Document Supply) conference held at the National Library of Singapore in 2007, where our hosts were wonderful, and it was a pleasure to experience the warm, friendly and efficient hospitality of the Singaporeans again – they have a way of making everyone feel welcome and at home, that is truly unique.

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One of two absolute highlights for me was the inclusion of Singaporean journalist and media and communications expert, Cherian George, as a Plenary Speaker on 20 August 2013. His presentation was controversial and challenging, highlighting exactly the issues that information and knowledge specialists need to be cognisant of, and engage with. I absolutely loved his presentation, entitled The unknowing of public knowledge (I highly recommend reading it from the link provided), but could see that some colleagues in the audience had some discomfort at this frank and forthright delineation of the powerful role the media has in shaping reality, and he did not mince his words. ALA termed it a “scathing indictment of mass media“. Having come across many of the issues he outlined while researching Chapter 2 – Cultural Heritage within digital information contexts – of my book, where I mined the scholarly output of the Media and Communications field, I was not surprised by what he had to say,  but it was a new and welcome experience to hear these views at an IFLA conference.

At conferences, I tend to “channel surf”, following speakers and topics of interest, rather than attending entire sessions, and there were many speakers and topics of interest to me. The full conference programme is available here and IFLA now has an online, open access library where full text papers can be downloaded.

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One session noteworthy for those following the field of cultural heritage, was the UNESCO briefing session, where more information was given on the Vancouver Declaration on Digitization and Preservation that resulted from the UNESCO conference held in 2012 entitled The Memory of the World in the Digital Age: Digitization and Preservation , which was most interesting. Also of great interest was the update by Ellen Tise on the work being done by UNESCO to rehabilitate and safeguard cultural heritage and the ancient manuscripts in Mali.

The Exhibition Hall was as always, a place of networking with colleagues, and there was a most delightful Singapore Pavilion, among other exhibits which showcased products and services in Asia as a whole, as well as global vendors. I made a special stop by the Emerald stand, as I serve on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal Interlending & Document Supply.

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On the last day, I indulged in pleasant memories by attending the Open Session of the Document Delivery and Resource Sharing section, followed by the Standing Committee meeting where I was delighted to see some of the friends and colleagues from my time of being a member (2003 – 2011), and Chair of this Committee (2007 – 2009) – fond memories! The new Chair, taking over from my successor as Chair, Mary Hollerich (USA), is Pentti Vattulainen (Finland) and I was especially happy to lend him my support.

The open session was excellent, and I especially enjoyed Margarita Moreno’s presentation on how the National Library of Australia has combined digital preservation of out of copyright material with document supply, using state of the art scanning equipment to provide high quality images and documents (400 dpi and text scanned using OCR, done through the Relais system) that serve to fulfil users’ requests, as well as become part of the repository of digitized cultural heritage. This is a natural and efficient combination and streamlining of functions. I also really enjoyed the Rethinking Resource Sharing (RRS) group’s presentation where they outlined four initiatives of bold collaboration in the USA – Uborrow (using Relais), the IDS project (using ILLiad), the CoKaMO project of providing interstate document delivery (using Greyhound buses which are more cost effective than postal courier services), and the 2CUL project, a collaborative initiative between the Universities of Cornell and Columbia. It is so good to know that the RRS initiative is still going strong.

I took leave of Singapore filled with energy, enthusiasm, motivation, inspiration, and definitely professionally refreshed.

Thank you, Singapore, for being such outstanding hosts for 2013!

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Posted in Cultural Heritage, Information Literacy, Kim Baker, Lifelong learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

South African Journal of Library and Information Science review of my book

My book has been reviewed in the South African Journal of Library and Information Science (SAJLIS).

The editorial mention of the review is  here , and the full review by Peter Underwood, in which Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage: Developing a model for Lifelong Learning is described as “a well written and fascinating book” is here.

Posted in Cultural Heritage, Information Literacy, Kim Baker, Lifelong learning | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

In defence of libraries – and – my book has sold out :-)

I have heard from my publisher that my book has sold out within two months of it being published. Very gratifying news indeed. More copies are currently being reprinted, so the book should be available again very soon.

It is noteworthy that there is currently some discussion and rethinking by libraries of their role in society. In Australia,  The Future of the Profession is an Australian Library and Information Association Board project examining what the future holds for library and information services across the nation. The Association has published a discussion paper designed to provoke discussion across the sector between library leaders, information service providers, vendors, practitioners, students, commentators, colleagues in Australia and internationally. More can be found at the ALIA futures wiki here: http://aliafutures.wikispaces.com/.

In the USA, there is some interesting discussion on the topic here: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/12/27/do-we-still-need-libraries

Of course, Librarians are convinced of the role and value of libraries in society, but many others are not. This is an interesting example where different views may not be understanding each other. And it is up to Librarians to engage with society, and to demonstrate the value of Libraries in a pro-active manner, and not just assume, when having conferences “preaching to the converted”, that that will be enough to convince people outside of the profession. Most people out of the profession are still not aware that Librarians even have conferences, and cannot imagine what would be discussed at them. Nor is it enough to assume that simply placing their collections online will lead to Discovery, Evaluation and Use of the collections.

My book was intended to provide a way for libraries to engage their related professional colleagues in the Museums and Archives sector to provide programmes,  using their collections (print, hybrid and digital), as vehicles with which they could impart information literacy, cultural heritage awareness and worldview literacy skills to the general public. The factor of different world views and contested history is an intrinsic component of any cultural heritage programme, and these aspects have been interrogated by Museums and Archives, but not so much in libraries. (The research in my book demonstrated that finding).

So why is worldview literacy, and the ability to learn about, understand and tolerate different worldviews so important? Well, much conflict is generated from clashing worldviews, conflict is destructive, and not in the best interests of society. (My opinion). I came across an illustration which demonstrates why the inability to tolerate another’s view, even if one does not agree with it, is in essence, a  fallacy:

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One can see from this illustration, that both views are in fact, correct. Learning to understand different views gives the ability to see all sides of the matter in a holistic way.

Libraries could take this example to understand their perplexing dilemma of why many people see them as no longer relevant, now that the Internet is here, in those countries that are technologically developed and where unlimited Internet access is available to nearly all of their citizens. I admit that for myself, the first place I go for an answer to a question is the Internet. The sheer instantaneous availability of volumes of information that no single library’s collections could possibly contain, often satisfies most of an information need. However, there is so much that is not yet available on the Internet, and realistically, will still not be for a long time. There is also the matter of critically assessing the credibility of the information, as well as looking for contextual narratives that may cast a different light on the information.

I could go on, and on, but for now, I will leave it at that. In summary: It is very encouraging for me to see Libraries doing some soul searching on the matter,  as I am one who knows their value, but also understands why so many do not.  Museums and Archives have already been through this process, and many have adapted, resulting in them being viewed in a positive light by the general, mainstream society, who understand their value, as complementary to the Internet.

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How my involvement with IFLA shaped the ideas in my book

My book Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage: Developing a model for lifelong learning has now been printed and published.

I wanted to reflect on how the ideas in the book took shape over a period of years, during my involvement with IFLA, serving on the IFLA Document Delivery and Resource Sharing (DDRS) Standing Committee for the period 2003 – 2011, and Chairing the Committee for the period 2007 – 2009.

It really was an exceptional and rare privilege, and I remain eternally grateful to Professor Peter Lor (who was the National Librarian of the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) at the time), for nominating me in the first place to serve on the Committee, and to the Chairperson of the Board of the NLSA at that time, Professor Rocky Ralebepi-Simela, and to John Tsebe, current National Librarian, for supporting my work on that Committee during that period of time.

While my primary purpose and focus was on issues of Document Delivery and Resource Sharing, and I enjoyed very much working with the wonderful, professional people on that Committee during that time, what was simultaneously occurring as I attended IFLA conferences, ILDS (Interlending and Document Supply) conferences, and mid-term business meetings in various countries is that I was exposed to a variety of cultural heritage institutions and their collections. Apart from the privilege of being able to work directly with so many truly wonderful people from around the world, who had a variety of language and cultural backgrounds and yet we managed to work together so well, and in such a good and friendly spirit, each host would show us cultural highlights in their country, and the sheer thrill of learning about all these different cultures was one I wished I could share with everyone.

I realised how museums, archives and libraries, through their collections, could be powerful catalysts in not only providing access to these collections, be they online or in physical form, but should really be catalysts for bringing these collections ALIVE to the general public. They should provide courses that could give the average citizen, who does not have the time or the resources to enter the privileged world of formal education through institutions, a way of benefiting from free choice, lifelong learning courses that teach both information literacy skills, and cultural heritage awareness at the same time. Many museums, archives and libraries all have programmes, of course, but not with this particular combination, and not in combination with each other. So my book is about how to do that.

I am indulging here in some reminisces of my travels and the highlights that made deep, lifelong impressions on me and are imprinted in my memory, and continue to shape my view of the world.

My first ILDS conference was in 2003, in Canberra, Australia, and I nervously presented my first ever paper to an international audience at this conference. I did already have extensive knowledge of Indigenous Aboriginal Australia, and it was wonderful to spend time after the conference revisiting that most beautiful aspect of Australia.

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Pictured above: The entrance to the NLA in Canberra, Australia, 2003.

In 2004, my first IFLA conference took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I was instantly in love. The Latin American culture had me hooked – the passion, the tango, the very high levels of literacy and reading, the love of culture, and the sheer vibrancy of the people. Also, most refreshing, was the lively and at times heated political debates, which really added life to the sometimes very dry and serious forums.  Not everyone approved of this, but I for one absolutely loved it, it brought librarianship ALIVE. I have to say that the Buenos Aires conference remains the one closest to my heart.

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Pictured above: Tango in the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2004.

In 2005, in complete contrast,  my next IFLA conference was in Oslo, Norway, and I was most intrigued by  the Norwegian Cultural Heritage village, which had very convincingly reconstructed Norwegian life in past times. So from the hot-blooded passion of Latin America, I now experienced the gentle and benevolent Nordic  disposition.

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Pictured above: A scene from the Cultural Heritage village in Oslo, Norway, 2005.

Next, I attended a mid-term business meeting in February, 2006 in Rome, and that was heaven! I was already familiar with Italian culture, as a family member had married a member of the South African Italian community, and I was exposed to pasta, passion, and the art of life from a very early age. But Rome was incredible – surrounded by ancient walls that had stood there for centuries, exquisite street fresco art everywhere, having access to the best coffee in the world, and feeling the sheer history of the city, still in present time, was incredible. But MOST incredible was the privilege of a lifetime, when our kind hostess, Assunta Arte, managed to arrange for us to have a tour of the Vatican Library. As we entered Vatican City, and stood waiting outside the Vatican Library for our official representative to take us on the tour, nothing could have prepared me for what lay inside the stone edifice. We were not allowed to take pictures, and could not wander off, which we of course respected, given the rare privilege we were having. We were shown through the main reading rooms, some of the stacks, and shown some of the treasures. The sheer magnificence of the art on the ceilings and walls, the sculptures, the furniture, and of course, the collections, was THE memory of a lifetime, and one I am forever grateful for. It usually takes a long time, and an application process which is thoroughly vetted, and often not approved, before one can enter the Vatican Library, and so, my gratitude to my friend and colleague, Assunta, remains forever.

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Pictured above: A random fresco on a Church, St Peter’s Square, and Committee members waiting outside the entrance to the Vatican Library, Rome and Vatican City, 2006

In August 2006, it was time for a completely different cultural flavour, when I attended the IFLA conference in Seoul, South Korea, and here, we were exposed to the beautiful culture of Asia, and there was a Buddhist sanctuary and temple right across the road. The Seoul IFLA conference organizers also produced the most beautiful, inspiring song for the IFLA conference, and it was a heartwarming conference, where the hosting was outstanding, and we were all made to feel like honoured and special guests. Such kindness, such grace, and such exquisite culture!

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Pictured above: A display at the National Library of Korea (South), and a scene from the Buddhist temple. Seoul, South Korea, 2006.

In February 2007, it was back to Europe for a mid-term meeting, this time in Lisbon, Portugual, and our colleague Elisa Soares was the kind hostess. We held our meetings at the National Library, and enjoyed a tour of the beautiful buildings in the region.

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Pictured above: A sculpture in a church in Lisboa, Portugal, February 2007.

IFLA 2007 took place in Durban, my home city where I grew up, in South Africa, and it was such an honour to return the favours granted to me by my Standing Committee colleagues over the years, and be able to be the hostess to them for a change, arranging for a local cultural experience for them on one of the evenings. It was also the Conference where I was elected as Chair of the IFLA DDRS Standing Committee for the term 2007 – 2009.

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Pictured above: the ICC in Durban, South Africa, August 2007.

In October 2007, my first duty as Chair was to co-host the IFLA Interlending and Document Supply conference, held at the National Library in Singapore, and there I had the immense pleasure of working with Gene Tan, and many others. I loved this conference, and the cultural evenings arranged for us included exposure to the main cultural influences in Singapore – Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and European. The Singaporeans were outstanding hosts, and took care of us really well. The people of Singapore are beautiful, and I was really, really impressed with the National Library of Singapore itself. It is a beautiful, people friendly building, aesthetically pleasing, a hive of activity, and was “the place to be” for Singaporeans. Everyone in Singapore knew of the National Library of Singapore, it was the place to go. And the theme of this new, transformative library was: “Knowledge – Imagination – Possibility”. The whole concept was brilliantly  conceived, and designed to last into many future generations. I definitely left another piece of my heart in Singapore.

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Pictured above: The National Library of Singapore, and a scene from the cultural evening in Singapore, 2007.

In February 2008, our mid-term meeting took place in the beautiful French Town of Nancy, at INIST, and was hosted by our colleague, Jacqueline Gillet. I stayed in the historic old quarter in Stanislov Square, and visited the many art and cultural centres in the town. When our business was concluded, we took the train to Paris, for an extensive tour of the Biblioteque Nationale, and that was truly  inspiring. I also took some time to spend rather a lot of time at the Louvre, and absorbed the magnificent collections of art there, leaving France with a whole new respect and understanding for the immense contributions of the French to our global cultural heritage.

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Pictured above: Ornate sculpture in Stanislov Square, Nancy, the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, and the Louvre in Paris. February 2008.

In February 2009, our next mid-term meeting was held in Hannover, Germany, which was appropriate as we were in the final stages of planning for the 2009 ILDS to take place in October, later in the year, in Hannover. This time, we were kindly hosted by Uwe Rosemman, and his wonder-worker marketing staff, headed by Nicole Petrie. It was a pleasure to absorb the German culture and art, and also the sobering history, and to admire how far Germany has evolved from that past. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Uwe and his team who were the very personification of professionalism, efficiency, and friendliness, and our ILDS conference held later that year in Hannover was a wonderful success, with both the programme being praised for its innovation, and the cultural events being pleasing to the delegates. (A later survey confirmed this).

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Pictured above: The TIB in Hannover, February 2009, and two scenes from the ILDS conference in October, 2009.

In August 2009, the main IFLA conference took place in Milan, and I was thrilled to return to Italy and see a different aspect of it. There were many places of cultural interest to visit, and again, it was a pleasure to interact with professional colleagues around the world. I handed over my responsibilities as Chair at this conference, grateful for the opportunity I had been given by my colleagues.

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Pictured above: The entrance to the IFLA conference in Milan, and a sculpture on the shores of Lake Como, Milan, Italy, 2009.

My final IFLA conference was in Gotenburg, Sweden, 2010, and it was fitting for me to end my IFLA activities in this Nordic country which is the home of so much enlightenment, scholarship, culture and art. I absolutely adored the Swedish people, who were such kind and generous hosts, and again, I was very, very grateful for the privileges I had been given over the years.

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Pictured above: Entrance to the IFLA conference held at the Gothia Towers, and a sculpture in the streets of Gothenberg, Sweden, 2010.

In closing on this trip down memory lane, I can truly say that the book would never have happened, had I not had these experiences, and the ideas in the book are my way of giving something back to the profession, which I hope will add value to it. I also acknowledge my debt to the NLSA who supported me throughout this time, as well as the University of Cape Town’s Library and Information Studies Centre, when I started doing Honours through them in 2010, and had the opportunity to do a research project, which was essentially a literature review that lead to the beginning of the formalising of the ideas. At that stage, I had only been looking at developing a contextually relevant model to teach information literacy and cultural heritage at one institution. However, when Chandos approached me after I had left the NLSA to write a book, this necessarily expanded to provide a contextually fluid model that would be applicable internationally, and able to be adapted to any cultural and political context.

Thank you for indulging me this long, but I did feel this was essential contextual background, in terms of personal experiences that shaped the intellectual concepts that developed and evolved in the book.

Posted in Archives, Cultural Heritage, Information Literacy, Kim Baker, Libraries, Lifelong learning, Museums, Open Knowledge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

What does the Internet think of librarians, archivists and museum curators?

I was interested, upon discovering the site What does the Internet think? to find out what the Internet thought about librarians, archivists, and museum curators. This, of course, is not a conclusive scientific study, but it is an indicator of perception, and of course, does not take into account the Deep Web, and there is no benchmark to determine how representative the sample is. Nethertheless, the results were interesting.

The first search was for the term “librarians”, and this was the result:

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I next searched for “archivists”, and this was the result:

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Finally, I searched for “museum curators”, “museum workers”, “museum scientists” and “museum professionals”, and none of those terms have been indexed yet, so I will check that in the future. I ended up simply searching for “museums”, and that yielded this result:

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This is quite fascinating. Of the three, indicated here (and again, this is an indicator only, it would need further testing for both reliability and validity), museums are viewed most positively, followed by archivists being viewed positively.

Librarians, however, are viewed negatively. There is, of course, the flaw that the question of perceptions of museum professionals could not be tested, so will I check on that again in future, once this category is indexed. But this snapshot raises a host of interesting questions for further reflection, especially for librarians.

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On the Timbuktu Manuscripts, the majesty of Mali, and the need for media literacy

It has taken me a while to gather and formulate some thoughts on the situation in Mali. First, I will indulge in some subjective expressions of love for Mali. Mali is beautiful, and represents a part of an ancient African culture and wisdom that was so advanced, civilized, and mystical, that it was beyond the understanding of “Western” culture at the time. Within the shifting desert sands, an ancient and civilized culture of knowledge, scholarship and the arts was built, a civilization that was undisturbed by the ravages of invasion for many centuries. Perhaps the best way to convey the majesty of Mali is through the exquisite music of musical genius, Salif Keita, where you can perhaps find some of his music that has not been purged from YouTube.

 

In recent years, the ancient manuscripts that had been buried in the desert for safekeeping from the plunder by colonial forces for centuries, were rediscovered. Much excitement was generated, and everyone wanted a piece of the action. The manuscripts restoration project received support from the South African government as a special project of President Thabo Mbeki, who had a dream of an African Renaissance. Financial and practical support was given by the South African government, and variously, the National Archives of South Africa, National Library of South Africa, and others contributed to the project. The most stellar work has been done by Dr Shamil Jeppe and his team at the University of Cape Town based Tombouctou Manuscripts Project. Shamil co-edited this beautiful book, entitled “The meanings of Timbuktu” which I have a copy of, and it is a truly exquisite accounting of the scholarly highlights contained in the manuscripts.

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The sheer irony. After having been protected for so many centuries, the unearthed manuscripts now came under threat from the recent conflict in Mali. A report came out that the library had been burned to the ground, the manuscripts were all destroyed and lost forever, and the story went viral. Like all of us who love cultural heritage, my heart broke, but then I thought, before reacting – to wait for further reports.  I am happy I did. The initial story is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/28/mali-timbuktu-library-ancient-manuscripts And sure enough, thanks to the efforts of Shamil Jeppe and his team, we received an interim update that gave a very different version of what had occurred. In fact, the library had not been burned at all, but it was looted. Some manuscripts had been destroyed, but the majority of them were safe. See this comprehensive and credible report from the Tombouctou manuscripts project here: http://www.tombouctoumanuscripts.org/blog/entry/timbuktu_update/ If my book was not already at the printers, I would have used this as a graphic illustrative example of the need for media literacy. Too often, people simply believe what the media says, and in situations of conflict where it is difficult to obtain reliable source information, unreliable sources can be quoted or misinterpreted, conclusions can be jumped to, misinformation goes viral and becomes accepted as fact. The full range of information literacy skills, including media literacy, has never been more essential in this age of instant and prolific information output. There is a lesson to be learned here. But most of all, we need to collectively improve our ability to protect our priceless cultural heritage. My heart goes out to the people of Mali.

Posted in Information Literacy | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments