Listening to artist Marina Abramovic share her thoughts about performance and interactions with audiences, triggered the memory of a presentation I saw recently by Cooper Hewitt’s Sebastian Chan on the museums of the future.

“We are so interested in new gadgets and are so interested to sit in the front of the computer, Twitter, or be busy with Facebook, that we don’t realize that maybe sitting at the volcano, or in the front of waterfall, or just in the ocean, or just sitting in the chair quietly and looking out through the window sometimes is more important, more reflective and more vivid to the conscience of your own existence”.-Marina Abramovic 

In keeping with the Abramovic Method, visitors to Marina Abramovic: In Residence at Kaldor Public Art Projects were asked to give up their watches, smartphones and other personal gadgetry, to engage in the simple and mundane task of counting grains of rice. Abramovic says; “technology really f—ed us up so bad…we don’t understand what it means to have three hours without phone and not looking at silly messages”.

Like Abramovic, Chan places emphasis on museum practices which enhance rather than detract from the museum experience. For Chan, this means putting away the gadgets and concentrating on the user experience. Giving visitors permission to play, making  interactive experiences social, and facilitating a memorable, ubiquitous, ‘look up experience’.

Chan introduces the ‘interactive pen’ which put simply ‘bookmarks the web while you walk around’. The aim is ‘getting you away from your phone and bringing you closer to design’, and the original purpose of the collection as an interactive and immersive experience.

“If you want really to connect with the public, you have to show your true self.”–Marina Abramovic



In 2014 we celebrated 75th anniversary of the public library network. It was also a year that marked the 50th Anniversary of Hurstville Library Service. To celebrate, Hurstville Library ran a #bookface social media campaign on Pinterest, where staff and the public were asked to share photos of themselves posing with their favourite books. Working as a librarian at Hurstville Library at the time, and being a self-proclaimed feminist, naturally, I chose the cover of Tara Moss’s ‘The Fictional Woman’. Fast forward to 2015, around the time International Women’s Day celebrations were kicking off, I found myself on the cover of Dec2014-Jan2015 issue of Public Library News magazine. In keeping with the theme for International Women’s Day 2015, I thought it was about time to bring about awareness to issues surrounding the economic, political and social advancement of women, and in particular, librarians and ‘How to be a Feminist?’.

NSW public libraries

While its true, much has been achieved with regards to women’s participation in the workforce since the first International Women’s Day in 1911, see historic timeline, there is still much more to do. New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the gender pay gap has risen by 1.4% in the past 12 months. This together with the fact that women are more likely than men to be in part-time and periodic work, have interrupted career patterns and are often employed in lower paying industry sectors and occupations, have had a impact women’s capacity to accumulate superannuation in recent years. Women workers still tend to be concentrated in lower paying occupations and industries (for example teachers, nurses, childcare workers, librarians) because of societal expectations about what is suitable work for women and in some cases, historical restrictions on what work women are legally allowed to perform. There is also an undervaluation of skills in industries and areas where women predominate. See ABS report ‘6302.0 – Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, Nov 2014, Industry Earnings’.

For example, this can be seen in Australian public libraries. According to the ABS latest report on Public Libraries in Australia, 2003-2004, ‘there is a high concentration of females working in local government libraries accounting for 86.3% or 9,152 persons’. Permanent full-time employees accounted for 42.2% (4,472 persons) of all employment in local government libraries, while permanent part-time employees represented 32.5% (3,444 persons) and casuals 25.4% (2,691 persons). Local government libraries also had 6,315 volunteers working for them during June 2004. This high concentration of part time and casual employment in libraries has implications for pay equity. High levels of women employed in part time work is also reflected in ABS’s latest Labour Force statistics, 2015 where workforce participation of women is significantly lower for women at 58% in Jan-Feb 2015, compared to 71% for men (ABS, Labour Force Statistics, 6202.0, 2015, p. 19).

In 2002, the State Library of NSW won a historic Pay Equity win in the NSW Industrial Commission. The judgement recognised that library work is undervalued because the jobs were historically done by women and that these workers are professionals on a par with legal and scientific officers, engineers and psychologists. However, the benefits have yet to filter down to local public libraries, and special libraries in other sectors.

Looking to the future, gender equality in the workplace can only be achieved when the work performed by women in female dominated occupations such as librarianship are valued, and flexible working conditions for both men and women more widespread. Considering that we still live in a predominately patriarchal capitalist society, this will require a a  drastic change in our societal structure. One that encourages and enables both men and women to more equally share and balance work-life responsibilities.

With all the talk about bookless libraries, budget cuts and the digital replacing the physical, it was refreshing to see a different emphasis at the ALIA Information Online conference this year. ALIA’s new advocacy campaign for libraries, FAIR (Freedom of Access to Information and Resources) was launched. Tim Sherratt, Siva Vaidhyanathan, and Mitchell Whitelaw spoke about how the digital and the physical can work together provide richer library experiences. There was a notable shift in emphasis from the usual ‘the online replace the physical’ discourse, to the online enhancing and providing another layer of access to physical and digital collections documenting our shared social, cultural and historical memory.

Siva Vaidhyanathan’s keynote address, ‘The human knowledge project’ was a call to action to ‘be bold and brave’ advocates and activists for core library values. As author of The Googlization of Everything And Why We Should Worry (University of California Press, 2011), much of this opening keynote focused on why we should ‘never trust a corporation to do a librarians job’. Vaidhyanathan spoke about how Google, a company with commercial imperative, has shifted it priorities and mission statement to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” through Google Books, to becoming the operating system of our lives. For example, many of Google’s digitisation efforts have been sidelined, leaving archival projects in limbo, or abandoned entirely in 2010, in favour of new ventures like Gmail, Google+ etc.

According to Vaidhyanathan, it is dangerous to accept and view the Googlisation of everything uncritically and unquestioningly. A big ask, I know, for a tool like Google which seems to so easy, powerful, seductive – seems to read our minds, however Google’s monopolisation of the market has undermined efforts to harness technologies to deliver quality information. While it may be good for shopping, its not so good for learning. This begs the question, do we want companies like Facebook, Google etc to become operating systems of our lives? He stressed that we have an ethical imperative to remember that that these systems are not magical, and that they need to be demystified.

Vaidhyanathan also introduced the ‘human knowledge project’. A project which values human dimensions not just virtual. Its actual, physical, and values skills, knowledge and expertise of people. As information professionals, librarians need to act locally think globally and be strong advocates of the core values of librarianship, which are more important now than ever. Who could be more well placed that local librarians who know what each community needs, to be activists for core library values on global scale? For me, this was an invaluable and inspiring reminder for a profession sometimes too often caught up in what’s hot, rather than on what’s important. A call to ‘set the trend, not follow the trend’, and to ‘think historically and globally’.

Similarly, in his talk on ‘On seams and edges — dreams of aggregation, access and discovery in a broken world’, Dr Tim Sherratt from the National Library of Australia, questioned the idea of seamlessness in online discovery services like ‘next-generation catalogues’, ‘web-scale discovery services’ or ‘discovery layers’. Sherratt’s research draws on literature around discovery, and user behaviour data currently available through Trove, to explore the role of technology in both inhibiting and enriching the online experience. He pointed out the alienating and disempowering effects of technological futures, as people are cast as the passive consumers of the latest gadgets. He asked us, the audience to consider, ‘“If its not on Google, does it exist”?.

According to Sherratt, the Googlisation of modern culture has created a ‘culture of search’ and faith that the simplicity of the single search box will just work. Just like ‘When Marconi Switched on the Lights The Sydney Electrical and Radio Exhibition’, Sherratt reminded us that Google’s dominance gives it immense power in presenting to us an image of the world which constrains our options and assumptions. Pursuing ‘seamless discovery’ in the wake of Google means engaging with questions of politics and power.
Trove too is full or problems, possibilities and limitations. We must remember that being an aggregator which pulls together metadata from a variety of different sources, with close to 400 million resources harvested from hundreds of contributors, it’s inevitable that there will be errors. By exposing imperfections, collection gaps and strengths, data visualisation of cultural heritage collections provides an opportunity to educate, and create sites of analysis and activism.

Academic Mitchell Whitelaw spoke about digital collections as spaces of potential, realms of possible meaning, interpretation, reuse, and value both familiar and unknown. He presented a number of projects that attempt to explore collection space, and sample the scope of these possibilities, as well as considering the space between collections. For example, tranScriptorum which “aims to develop innovative, cost-effective solutions for the indexing, search and full transcription of historical handwritten document images, using Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology”, the Marginalia machine from the Bloodaxe Archive at the University of Newcastle, UK, which profiles handwritten marginalia, the music genre list of Every noise at once, Internet Archive’s images from books by a map, or on Flickr (derived from a program run over the OCR content), and Succession, which allows people to explore heritage photographs in new ways, and create new content.

Whitelaw, also spoke about the the need to understand, reflect and critique human and computational processes in creating digital culture, and the complementary roles that human interpretation and computational analysis can play. When asked about the importance of controlled vocabularies vs folksonomies, the answer was not a matter of one or the other but both! The librarian and the user, the digital and the physical working together to provide a richer and more meaningful collection space!

Bai, Andy. ‘Never trust a corporation to do a librarian’s job’ , 29 January 2015, https://medium.com/message/never-trust-a-corporation-to-do-a-librarys-job-f58db4673351
Sherratt, Tim. ‘On seams and edges — dreams of aggregation, access and discovery in a broken world’, ALIA Information Online Conference , Thursday 2 February 2015, http://information-online.alia.org.au/content/seams-and-edges-dreams-aggregation-access-and-discovery-broken-world
Vaidhyanathan, Siva. ‘The Human Knowledge Project’, ALIA Information Online Conference , Tuesday 2 February 2015, http://information-online.alia.org.au/content/human-knowledge-project
Whitelaw, Mitchell. ‘Collection Space’, ALIA Information Online Conference , Thursday 5th February 2015, http://information-online.alia.org.au/content/collection-space

Working in a local public library, often being surrounded by children’s books, brings back my own memories of all the books I delighted in reading as a child, from Dr Seuss, Enid Blyton to the Harry Potter series, and how they still speak to us, perhaps even more so as we get older. Lemley (2011) uses the analogy of ‘Chicken Little’ to reflect on the human tendency to view technological changes and developments from printing press to the internet as indicative of a threat to content industries like the media and libraries. This ‘the sky is falling in’ mentality is my no means new. What is most worrying however, is the fact that the more we talk about our profession in this manner, the more likely it is that the powers that be will begin to accept this as fact rather than fictitious discourse that it actually is.

In her Presidential address to the LIANZA Conference last year, Laurinda Thomas (2013) urged librarians to change the conversation, and promote a more positive image of our profession. Far from rendering libraries and librarians obsolete as the media would have us believe, recent developments in Web 2.0 enable librarians to expand our services, and deliver then on demand 24/7 onsite and on user-driven participatory web. According to Maness (2006) Library 2.0 is the ”the application of interactive, collaborative, and multi-media web-based technologies to web-based library services and collections”. This opens up our collections to re-purposing and remixing through mashups and gives our users to ability to engage, share and interact with our collections. Chan (2011) provided some impressive examples of how new Web 2.0 technologies like social tagging and social networking sites like Flickr can be used to enhance online catalogue records and create new possibilities for interaction and engagement between scholarly researchers and students. My favourite example is the catalogue record of an ‘Auguste Bonaz replica Spanish mantilla comb’, where a client had posted a link to an article in Trove about that same fan. In this way, the Flickr Commons and API’s have opened up the library collections to a whole new audience, allowing them to contribute content, and fill in gaps in institutional knowledge by dating and/or identifying unknown images or objects.

However, despite this the public perception that ‘print is dead’, that ‘online’ means free, and tendency for general press to discuss migration to eBook and the bookless library in an uncritical manner pervades. The one that comes to mind is Forbes outrageous claim that we should ‘close public libraries and give everyone a Amazon Unlimited subscription‘. Obviously, this is not only grossly exaggerated but inherently inaccurate, showing a complete misunderstanding of the important role public libraries play in our communities that Amazon could only every dream of. Whilst its true that libraries face significant challenge of adding value by adapting services to meet changing needs and expectations of communities for information in multiple formats to be easily accessible to them anytime and anyplace, this does not mean we should loose sight of our cores strength and purpose of providing universal access to information and knowledge for free, or ignore the important role we provide in connecting our communities with books and reading.

Working on the service desk in a local public library, writing customer surveys and literature review for an eResources strategy as Digital Resources Librarian in a local public library, has opened my eyes up to the social and economic inequalities that still exist in our communities with regard to access and ability to computer and information technologies. Whilst there is an acknowledgement of the convenience of online collections and services, my survey of 211 respondents revealed that there is still a strong preference for reading in print. By comparing lending statistics for print and online collections in public libraries, it is clear that print still far outweighs online.

This is supported by recent reports on elending and the future of libraries compiled by library and information associations like ALIA and IFLA. They place much of the commentary questioning the role of public libraries in an online world, into perspective in terms of current and future developments in the provision of digital and electronic resources in libraries. For example, two studies carried out by the Australian Public Library Alliance, part of the Australian Library and Information Association (2014) illustrated the difficulties faced by libraries in providing their users with eBook collections. Key findings included:

  1. eBooks make up on average 5-6% of a public library’s collection, and account for less than 1% or 5% of loans.
  2. Between half and two thirds of libraries are less than satisfied or not satisfied with the choice of bestsellers, books by Australians, popular authors and overall content by ebook providers.
  3. The major publishers, including Penguin, Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Macmillan, have struggled to find a model for lending eBooks to public libraries

The latest Nielsen Books & Consumer survey showing that ebooks were outsold by both hardcovers and paperbacks in the first half of 2014. According to Nielsen’s survey, ebooks constituted only 23 percent of unit sales for the first six months of the year, while hardcovers made up 25 percent and paperback 42 percent of sales. In other words, not only did overall print book sales, at 67 percent of the market, outpace ebook sales, both hardcovers and paperbacks individually outsold ebooks.

Also, the pervasion of digital technologies into every aspect of how we live, work and play, and the perception that online means everything for free, masks the one of the major social justice challenges of our time, digital exclusion. A recent submission to the National Curriculum review by children’s education charity The Smith Family found that for many disadvantaged families the internet is a luxury many could not afford. The latest ABS report on Household Use of Information Technology in Australia from 2012-13, shows similar inequalities amongst older persons age group (65 or over), who represent the lowest proportion of internet users. Similarly, in the 2013 Sensis Social Media Report, shows 97-100% of people in the 14–49 age group access the internet, compared to 84% for 50-54 age group, and only 60% for +65’s.

My experience in working with clients has and will continue to inform the ways I provide access to the Library’s collections. That is embracing new media opportunities to promote and improve library services, to provide collections in multiple formats and to enhance existing print and digital collections in a manner which adheres to fundamental core library values (IFLA, 2014):

  1. freedom of access to information
  2. universal and equitable access to information
  3. delivery of high quality library and information services
  4. access to these services without regard to citizenship, disability, ethnic origin, gender, geographical location, language, political philosophy, race or religion.

In my current role as Digital Resources Librarian, I play an important role in the community as a guide to online eResources including eBooks, emagazines and research databases, legal and drug information collections and physical reference collection. This involves liaising and negotiating with suppliers and publishers to ensure that our eResource collections meet the needs of our community, Council’s strategic priorities and Collection Development policy. It also involves embracing new mobile and online technologies as alternative access points to the Library’s services, physical and electronic collections. For example, I have created Pinterest Boards for our eResources. My role also involves educating clients and clients in digital literacy, online research skills, database and catalogue searching, identifying authoritative sources of information.

Chicken Little, I beg to differ. The sky as far as I can see it, is not falling down on books, reading and libraries!


I myself have never been able to find our precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute” – Rebecca West, You Rebecca in The Fictional Woman, page 284

As a young female under the age of 30, I have worn many labels in my personal and professional life. The young librarian, single woman, femme fatale, unionist, witch, dumb blonde, teacher’s pet, social butterfly, chef’s daughter, Aussie, German, shire girl, westie, feminist…and most interestingly ‘tutonic temptress’! So, naturally, I was incredibly moved when I first saw Tara Moss on Q&A talking about the common fictions and gender archetypes that define and confine us, and bravely speaking out about the all too common and personal experience of sexual harassment, violence, rape and inequality experienced by far too many women including herself.

Speaking of archetypes, I would just like to get one thing straight by clarifying one of many misconceptions. When I say I am a feminist, I am not proclaiming that I am a perverse bitter and twisted man- hater, simply that I am an advocate for women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men, and the expectation of being treated with R.E.S.P.E.C.T. on those terms. In fact, I believe that males and females have both masculine and feminine traits, therefore men can and should be feminists too. After all, “every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man” (Margaret Mead, The Fictional Woman, page 256). Just like women, feminine traits in men are the subject of ridicule, and seen as sign of weakness, and a threat to their masculinity. In my experience, this is most especially true of artistic pursuits such as singing, dancing or anything to do with the arts, culture and humanities. Traditionally, these are seen as ‘feminine pursuits’, often making then off limits to men and boys who want to protect their masculinity. Far too many times I have seen men with a certain artistic flair struggle underneath the weight of expectation put on them by their mates, and frightened off by the fear of being the ‘token male’ amongst a group of females? For women, one only needs to look at the appalling treatment of our first female prime minister to see that we are still uncomfortable with displays of leadership and power in women

fictional woman
So when Tara mentioned her new book, ‘The Fictional Women’, I did the librarian thing and quickly jumped online to reserve a copy at my local library. From the moment I had the book in my hands, I couldn’t put it down.

twitter tara moss
The next day, commuting to work, still glued to the pages of the book, I was about ¼ of a way through when I thought wow, this is really something. Getting closer and closer to my destination, I added ‘Fictional Woman’ to my reading list on Goodreads and shared it on Twitter. Not long after that, I had a retweet from the author herself, and a personal expression of thanks. But that wasn’t all. Obviously, she could tell by my Twitter account that I had an interest in flamenco dancing, and asked me my opinion on her description of the male flamenco dancer in the chapter ‘The Beautiful Man’.

Naturally, I jumped ahead to chapter 12, The Beautiful Man. Her description of an encounter with male flamenco dancer in a small tavern in Madrid while on tour in Spain, is full of surprise. Expecting to see a woman in a polka-dot dress dancing, instead she sees a “beautiful man” dressed in “a male corset, and small but flamboyant turquoise polka-dot scarf tied around his neck….and bolero” which “enhanced and showcases his masculine physique….emotionality, strength, vulnerability and sensuality” . Obviously struck with this expression of “male beauty”, and “the profound absence of the sensual, idealised male beauty in Anglo- Saxon culture so dominant in Australia”, which rejects and ridicules men and boys for “grooming or dressing in a way that aims to be aesthetically beautiful, or aims to attract a partner”?

Being a dancer who has learnt many styles over the years (including Latin American and ballroom) from a young age, flamenco always struck me as incredibly empowering for both men and women. Tara Moss points out this essential quality of flamenco. The “extraordinary fierceness and strength” shown by both male and female dancers.

not once does the viewer sense that the woman….is a passive and decorative object, succumbing to a dominant man…man and woman are presented as forces of nature, clashing, moving together and showing their pain, anguish, lust and determination” – Tara Moss, The Fictional Woman, page

In doing so, Moss accurately and poignantly makes the connection between flamenco and feminism, most particularly, flamenco and the equality of the sexes. This has been reasonably well documented in books written on the historical and political context of flamenco. Donn Pohren was the first writer in history to communicate the mysteries of flamenco to an English-speaking audience. See http://www.salon.com/1999/10/02/pohren/. He writes about flamenco ‘as art’ and flamenco ‘as a way of life’. In this way, flamenco is not just the music of southern Spain. More than that it is a way of life that influences the daily activities of may southern Spaniards. The art of flamenco is the outward expression of the flamenco way of life, expressed by anyone who is emotionally and actively involved in this unique philosophy’ Pohren 1962. The central philosophy and narrative is that of the social outcast, the wandering gypsies who passed through Andalucian, and were bound up in the history of colonisation, conquest and persecution throughout the ages. See flamenco family tree http://nylonguitarist.com/flamenco_family_tree.html

Interestingly, the political nature of flamenco is discussed in ‘Anything but background music’ by writer on the politics of culture Mike Marqusee in red pepper magazine. See http://www.redpepper.org.uk/anything-but-background-music/. Marqusee, points to the poetic influence of Lorca in the cante jondo, the ‘deep song’ associated with the gypsies of southern Spain. Lorca found in it a source of inspiration in his lifelong political-cultural-sexual struggle against bourgeois philistinism. The recovery and promotion of deep song was part of a larger democratic embrace of popular beauty, an antidote to what he came to see as the inhuman machine of modern capitalism. As a leftist and modernist, he embraced cultural diversity and plural identities of flamenco, whose unique expressive forms, gave access to remote but shared human realms and opportunity to champion the music of the gypsies, as he did the Muslim and Jewish roots of Spanish culture. All of which made him a prime target for the fascists, who murdered him in the early days of the civil war.

In ‘Flamenco: Passion, Politics and Popular Culture’, William Washabaugh describes flamenco as that which remembers, celebrates and plays with male and female centered “moments of sociality”. This is illustrated in a dance from Seville called the sevillanas. In this dance, the woman imitates the bull with arms curved over her head, challenging the composure and self discipline of the man with her wild and dangerous naturalness. Public fraternity and male bonding occur in small public gatherings, late at night in pubs and taverns where working class men gather together to celebrate camaraderie with wine and spine chilling emotionally charges and poetic flamenco cante. For women, bright, daring and carnivalesque festivals like the feria, represents a release from the constraints of social life, which allows women to dress in daring clothes and dance provocative dances. This corresponds to my own experience of Thursday night flamenco at the Spanish Club

Every Thursday night, we would finish our flamenco class, and venture downstairs to the bar where the party had only just begun. There was live music, singing and dancing all night long, and the club would be filled with Spaniards of all ages, drinking, eating tapas, and talking with friends after a long week at work. Men and women would spontaneously get up to sing and dance with the musicians. Occasionally, I would get up to dance the sevillanas and tangos we had been working on in class with my fellow flamencas. Being a working night, a late night of escapism and dancing all night felt very indulgent, liberating and empowering. It was as though all the pressure and worry of the week was suddenly lifted from my shoulders, and instead was filled with the joy of music and dance.

The next chapter…

‘A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’ –Margaret Mead, in ‘The Next Chapter, page 305, The Fictional Woman
In the same way, I feel that by bravely documenting her personal experiences in the Fictional Woman, Tara Moss ‘makes the personal political’, empowering for the next generation of feminists to ‘change the story. To look beyond the fictions of the past, stop viewing activism and feminism as radical and see the bigger picture. To acknowledge that woman in the 21st century can be as strong, complex and multi-dimensional as men. Tara’s book pave the way for next generation of women and men to arm themselves with use statistics, research and lived experience, to draw attention to the existence of gender inequalities. To challenge those who would have us believe that the position of women as secondary to man is part of the natural order of things. To dispel the myth of ‘meritocracy’, which has for centuries ignored the simple fact that the so called ‘best person for the job has been from the same demographic. This book is calling us to take actions both large and small. By acting with new knowledge and using our democratic rights to lessen bias, practice inclusion, seek out facts to challenge assumptions, and to speak out against inequalities where they exist – we can change the world, one decision, one action, one word at a time.

On that  note, I would  like to leave  you with an inspiring Farruca traditionally danced by men, but this time danced by Marina 

Sydney Ideas – Tara Moss: The Fictional Woman

Author Tara Moss on molded gender narratives, toxic silences, and damaging stereotypes. In conversation with Professor Elspeth Probyn and a fellow PhD candidate in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, Paul Priday.

In April 2014, Paco Pena and his Dance Company returned once again to Sydney with ‘Flamencura’. In the past, productions have included imaginative and often cross-cultural musical fusions. The last production to reach Australia’, ‘Flamenco sin Fronteras’ translating to ‘Flamenco without borders’, told the story of the Venezuelan musical influences in flamenco, emanating from a history of Spanish colonisation in Latin America.

This year however, there was a strong emphasis on paying tribute to flamenco’s heritage, the light and the shade. The minimalistic staging helped the roots of flamenco cante, dance and guitar to shine through, allowing the audience to experience the kaleidoscope of emotions which is so characteristically flamenco. The happiness of the Alegrias, the loneliness of the Solea, the suffering of the Martinete and the profound darkness and tragedy of the Peteneras.

The haunting images evoked in the Peteneras by the apparition of the black veiled Aranda behind fellow dancer Angel Munoz, who tragically succumbs to the veil of mortality, was spine-chilling. The second half of the show opened with a lone cantor singing the Martinete surrounded by a group of palmeros, culminating in a dance of the oppressed to the call of the heart-pounding rhythm of what sounded like percussive church bells.

By the end of the show, the flamenco heartbeat was so strong, you could literally feel the hearts and hands of the audience beating together as one in a very well deserved standing ovation.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/paco-penas-flamencura-pays-tribute-to-flamencos-heritage-20140408-36b3k.html#ixzz2ynncdbtQ

In an age where  digitisation and the availability of information on the internet is being used to justify the cost-cutting and economic rationalism that is happening in libraries across the globe (for example, in canada, New York Public Library, Sydney’s Fisher Library and the Mitchell Library Reading Room) , three weeks working in a local public library as Digital Resources Librarian and doing service desk shifts, has really opened my eyes to what a library is and what our profession is all about – the community. 

Firstly,libraries open their doors to everyone. From the elderly, to the very young, school kids, the disabled & the ill, stressed parents  – you name it, to ensure that everyone regardless of their age, abilities, race, beliefs, social, economic or cultural background has access to quality information. In an age where there is an abundance of information available through many channels, much of which is hidden behind a paywall, rubbish and advertising, this role is ever more important.

Having recently delivered training to year 7 students on identifying quality information on the internet, searching research databases, the library catalogue and and using ebooks, I was astonished by how many students had no idea what .com means, and how google really works. That is, the difference between the information provided by a travel company found by ‘googling’, to peer-reviewed or scholarly content found in research databases, electronic and printed resources provided by a library. Clearly, there is more for us to do, or we will have a mis-informed generation of young people growing up thinking that all the ever need to know is on google. With massive public sector staffing cuts occurring across NSW in libraries and cultural institutions, we risk loosing and having the voices of the knowlegable custodians and curators of our history muffled by (not naming and names), the loud ‘white noise’ of commercial media shock jocks, conservative politicians etc!. Instead, of nurturing this consumption, we can and should continue to challenge by striving to provide a better alternative to google. Trove being a great example – the lethal weapon! Afterall, as Evelyn Juers points out, ‘what is a library without books?’ 

Having only recently come through uni as an undergraduate and postgraduate student, the argument that books and printed material are no longer required is absolute rubbish. In fact, its quite the contrary. Universities expect their students to adhere to proper academic research standards and referencing. Put simply, this means using a mixture of sources, both printed and online to do their research. Whether that is by using ebooks or consulting physical books, that’s beside the point. The point is, that regardless of the format, libraries and librarians still play an ever-important role in acquiring and providing access to up to date, quality information, resources and services which meet the needs of their communities.

However, looking at the public outcry and online petition that followed the sudden removal of librarians and access to printed reference material in the Mitchell Reading room, (btw, all of which occurred without one ounce of public consultation), anyone would think that even librarians have forgot what libraries stand for, and  the importance of, as Brian Kennedy puts it ‘tending to our core’. In the Mitchell’s case, this was its writers, scholars and historians – the  likes of Kate Grenville, David Marr and David Malouf – even the Royal Australian Historical Society!. It took a damaging media campaign and public relations nightmare for some form of public consultation to be had, culminating in a very well-disguised policy backflip with an ‘Update on access arrangements’ posted on archives live, article written for the April 2013 edition of ALIA’s Incite magazine, and sudden ‘Change of heart‘ as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Finally, but perhaps not lastly for I could and probably will go on, another fallacy I’d like to challenge is the assumption made by the educational systems and even libraries, that  all children and young people have access to resources such as computers and the internet. An article by Alexandra Smith in the Sydney Morning Herald, about a submission to the National Curriculum review by children’s education charity The Smith Family found that while ‘digital literacy was vital to education, it could not just be assumed all students had access to the same level of technology’. For many disadvantaged families struggling to put food on the table, the computer  and internet is ‘a luxury many could not afford’. See http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/national-curriculum-undermined-by-1-in-5-students-not-having-the-internet-at-home-20140331-35u8u.html#ixzz2y3kme7AT