Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman Ninja Gig at City Library

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:14 pm

This blog is a personal reflection on the ninja gig at City Library. I’ll write something more librariany/library-focused at another time.  I know the inimitable Kathryn Greenhill is also planning a post about this topic. For now, this is my fan squee-age/slight sense of “did that just happen?”.

On Thursday 29thof December, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman visited City Library, on Flinders Lane in Melbourne, and performed a ninja gig, where Neil read two unpublished stories and Amanda performed some songs on the library’s piano and on her ukelele.

You can read Neil’s thoughts about it here, and Amanda’s here.

I was one of the organisers, and the most common question that has been put to me is various questions on “how the hell did you manage that?!”

Well, we asked.

My colleague Rose emailed me and a manager to ask what we thought about getting Neil to sign a book for the library, which quickly evolved into “let’s invite Neil to the library.” We worked on an email together, almost as an intellectual exercise since we weren’t really expecting it to go anywhere. Neil wrote back in a ridiculously short period of time. Like, less than an hour. I went home from work that night on a high. When I got to work the next morning there was an email from Amanda asking if she could come too, and could they perform? I was not at my most useful or productive for the rest of the day. And it all moved on from there. Amanda’s summary is snappier and more amusing than anything I could put together.

Photograph by @KateMulqueen

I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved so far in two years of librarianing. But standing in my beloved workplace and introducing Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer to a cheering crowd of hundreds of people all crammed into the gallery and surrounds is pretty high up there on the list of Awesome Professional/Personal Stuff.

I’ve seen some activity on Twitter from other libraries talking about doing the same thing, and it makes me glad and excited. I’m excited by independent musicians and writers using social media platforms and thinking about getting themselves out there in other non-traditional ways (and, in fact, indie authors shucking the whole self-publishing stigma and following the lead of indie musicians is one of my favourite things to keep an eye on, as far as trends go). I’m really excited about libraries following suit, and partnering with authors and musicians and artists and performers of all stripes for mutual benefit.

Two of the things I spent 2011 learning (to unintentionally riff on Amanda’s blog post; I’d started writing this post before I read hers, but I guess the endings and beginnings of years tend to attract this kind of introspection) were SAY YES and MAKE OPPORTUNITIES. Actually I like to call it MAKE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YES TO BE SAID, because I enjoy ungrammatical cat’s cradles of words. I could also call it ASK, but where’s the fun in that?

The fact that my year ended with a really powerful, overwhelmingly awesome demonstration of what can happen when you do the second one of those things (the first one has also worked out well for me from a creative standpoint) is exciting and inspiring beyond belief.

And one of the best things of all? When people who you admire artistically also turn out to be incredibly lovely humans. That’s a massive load of WIN, right there.

You can see a great set of photos from the gig here, and this is City Library’s (@melblibrary) page about the event.

And on a final note:

JAZZ HANDS! Featuring library folk @LeoneeAriel, Rose, @aimee_rhodes and @vevnos. Photograph by @StuartMoncrieff


Serving GLBTQ Youth in Public Libraries Presentation

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:00 pm

On Friday 11th November 2011, I gave a presentation at the Librarians for Young Adults conference run by Melbourne Library Service (@melbyouth). My presentation, Serving GLBTQ Youth in Public Libraries, was a short rundown of the research I’ve been doing, and a call to arms of sorts for youth services librarians to think about ways to serve their young gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning users.

I’m deeply invested in this topic, and plan to do more with it in the future (although I’m not yet sure what shape that ‘more’ will take).

I had a great time speaking at and helping organise Librarians for Young Adults (so many fingers, so many pies), and I met some really great people who I’m looking forward to catching up with again, as well as seeing some folks I hold dear, including the amazing, passionate team behind the ProTeens volunteering kit.

In the meantime, I’ve put the resources list I handed out on the day up here, so please feel free to wander over and check some of them out. I plan to update the list periodically, and am open to suggestions if you think there’s a great link I should have up there but don’t.

And here’s my slides from the day:


Picture Books: Sam Lloyd’s Mr Pusskins

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:35 pm

I am a huge fan of Sam Lloyd’s Mr Pusskins books, from a storytime presenter perspective as well as just someone who never really stopped enjoying picture books (yet another bonus of my job, really). There are three books in the series so far, and I’m hoping there will be more, because while all of Lloyd’s books are a delight, Mr Pusskins and co hold a special place in both my heart and my Storytime repertoire.

Mr Pusskins: A Love Story is the classic tale of the grump who comes good, as rendered through a cat and his ever-loving, long suffering owner, Emily.

Emily loves Mr Pusskins unconditionally, but Mr Pusskins does not have the same regard for Emily. He finds his safe, comfortable life boring and sets out for adventure, only to discover that the world away from Emily, while initially full of naughty fun with the Pesky Cat Gang, is actually a frightening and unhappy place. He must overcome his guilt and pride and atone for his bad behaviour to reclaim his place in Emily’s life.

It’s ostensibly a story about appreciating the good things in your life, and not taking the people who love you for granted. The story is snappy and smartly worded, but it’s Lloyd’s illustrations that are the true joy. Mr Pusskins has an hilariously expressive face (I think it’s the eyebrows, to be quite honest), and his emotions are rendered brilliantly.

In Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers, Mr Pusskins is a reformed cat, but now he has to deal with competition for Emily’s love in the form of the new kitten, Little Whiskers. While Mr Pusskins himself was the antagonist of the first story, in the sequel, Little Whiskers must go through the experience of mistake and atonement, after she gets Mr Pusskins blamed for her own actions and banished from the house.

Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers
has the added bonus of being a book that can be read to young children who have a new sibling on the way and aren’t sure what to expect; Mr Pusskins’ feelings toward the new arrival echo quite accurately the negative feelings many young children experience upon the birth of their new sibling, and his acceptance and growing love of his new adopted feline sibling provide a guideline for children struggling with their own sense of familial displacement.

Mr Pusskins: Best in Show sees Emily enter a grudging Mr Pusskins in a pet talent show. Initially unenthusiastic, he changes his mind when he sees the beautiful trophy, but unbeknown to him, there are other pets at the show who will stop short of nothing, including sabotage, to ensure it is theirs. Although tricked by a sneaky poodle, Mr Pusskins wins out in the end through his effort and talent, snaring a better trophy than the one he originally coveted. The book thus ends on a high note, while reminding the reader that winning isn’t everything and Emily would have loved Mr Pusskins regardless of the result.

The major joy of the Mr Pusskins books is that they’re sweet books that are essentially about love, but which manage to be so without being cloying or saccharine. Young children and adults alike will see themselves reflected in the main characters, whether it’s the two-footed one or the four-footed ones. The gentle humour and great illustrations are the icing on the cake, and they read aloud extremely well.

Why Hello There!

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:04 pm

It’s nice to get back to blogging. The last couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind for me on both personal and professional levels. Mostly things have been good – for one thing, my husband and I moved house, and we absolutely adore our new place (even though it took six torturous weeks for our internet to be reconnected), and work moves at break-neck but positive speed. There have been some personal downsides, but things are looking up again, I am happy to say.

I don’t think I’m really less busy than I was (maybe a little?), but I feel like I have a little bit more equilibrium now, so hopefully I’ll be blogging again with a lot more regularity, and continuing to review what I read. Some wonderful books have gone unreviewed, but that’s neither here nor there. Although if you haven’t read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, you really, really should. Particularly if you’re a fan of dystopian fiction, of course, but it is one of those books I feel should be read very widely, and added to high school reading lists. Because it’s awesome and completely relevant to contemporary society.

As far as blogging goes, I’ve decided to extend my reviewing reach to include picture books and children’s fiction as well as young adult fiction. I read literally hundreds of picture books a year, as well as many middle-grade novels, and I love both as art forms, so it seems strange not to include reviews of these as well. I’m also planning some more opinion pieces, because I have many opinions and need somewhere to put them.

It has been an eventful couple of months for me on a professional level. The paper I co-wrote for the Auslib 12s-24s @ Your Library Conference arrived in hard copy conference proceedings form, along with all the other wonderful papers that were presented, which was really exciting. Then it was published in Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services magazine, which was also exciting. I’m now plotting another paper for another conference, but more on that when and if I can get to it. In other news, I was accepted into the State Library of Victoria’s Shared Leadership Program, which is both a great honour and an absolute personal thrill. As of this past Friday, I’ve now completed the first residency module (which was at a lovely place in the Yarra Valley), and am thoroughly enjoying the program so far; the course has a lot of fascinating things to learn, and the other folks doing it are all absolutely lovely. I think it’s going to be a big six months.


Australian Library and Information Association Electoral Campaign Kit

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:54 pm


The Australian Library and Information Association has realised a campaign kit for its members outlining advocacy opportunities for the upcoming federal election.  It’s aimed at achieving some admirable goals, both in terms of support of the profession and work of librarians, and in ensuring Australians’ rights to free access to information are upheld.   ALIA has previously come out swinging on the issue of internet censorship, partnering with the likes of Google and Yahoo! to release a very sensible statement on the issues surrounding the proposed filter.

That said, it is a little disappointing to see that internet filtering is listed as the eighth of ten lobbying priorities, given that the issue has the potential to be not only broad reaching, but destructive of what we as librarians try to do, and given that it’s been a major promise (or as I prefer to think of it, threat) of the Labor government, with the Liberal unsurprisingly offering no opposition or alternative, and Steven Conroy’s facile comments about not supporting child pornography being given a lot of airtime.  Although Labor has wisely shooed the filter to the back of its media blitz for the time being, given its lack of popularity with the public, it will not be forgotten about or rejected any time soon.  Now is a great time for librarians, and our industry body, to really take part in discussions about the future of free access to information in Australian society.

The campaign kit is comprehensive and well put together, and I urge library types to take a look at it.  ALIA may not always get it right, but the issues they raise are important, and now is the perfect time to raise them.


You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:17 pm


Megan Berry is a Zombie Settler by birth, which means she’s part-time shrink to a whole bunch of semi-dead people with killer issues. All Megan really wants is to go to homecoming, but when you’re trailed by a bunch of slobbering corpses whenever you leave the house, it’s kinda hard to score a date. Let’s just say Megan’s love life could use some major resuscitation.

Megan’s convinced her life can’t get any worse – until someone in school starts using black magic to turn average, angsty Undead into scary, hardcore flesh-eating Zombies. Now it’s up to Megan to stop the Zombie apocalypse. Her life – and more importantly, the homecoming dance – depends on it.

In a lot of ways, You Are So Undead to Me is Buffy with zombies instead of vampires.  Whether or not that’s a good thing will, of course, depend on your perspective.  And while Buffy has spawned a slew of outright imitators and just generally a lot of interested in the kick-arse-girl-fights-monsters genre (yay!), this is one of the better kinda-homages I’ve come across for a while.

Megan Berry is a high school student, aspiring cheerleader, and Zombie Settler – not that she remembers that last part, until an undead turns up on her doorstep right before a hot date and needs to be settled.  Megan has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of being attacked by Reanimated Corpses as a child, which are the evil beings more often associated with zombism.  She doesn’t remember her powers or anything about the Settler world, until her powers begin to re-emerge and it becomes apparent that someone is out to get her.  That’s when gore starts to hit the fan and Megan is assigned a bodyguard/teacher in the form of Ethan, a dishy older guy who used to be her best friend before the Reanimated Corpse attack.

One of the things I really enjoyed about You Are So Undead to Me is the book’s zombie lore – while Reanimated Corpses are the relentless, brain-hungering monsters we’ve come to know and love from movies, actual zombies, the kind Megan settles, are more like traditional ghosts – folks with something to get off their chests before they can finally rest.  The fact that zombies are drawn to Settlers around their own age adds a tint of pathos to what is otherwise a frequently frothy book, particularly when Megan remembers her powers manifesting as a young child, and visitations from pre-school zombies.

Jay’s writing makes the story bounce along, with just the right amount of genuine horror and reality mixed into an otherwise humourous, bubbly story.  Megan isn’t given to a great deal of introspection, but she’s smart in her own way and likeable regardless; she reminded me a little of both Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson and Legally Blonde‘s Elle Woods.  Her “realness” is frequently what gives the story both its pull and its humour – like her anxiety about getting rid of an inconvenient undead not because he’s a dead guy in her loungeroom, but because she’s about to go on a high school popularity-defining date with a hot guy from the football team.

You Are So Undead to Me is the first book in a series; Undead Much? has recently been released, and My So-Called Death will be released in Australia later this year.  I’ll be looking forward to both.  I suspect that “high school zombie novel” is a trickier genre to get right than it appears to be, and Stacey Jay does it very well.


Looking at Various Stages of Syphilis, or, What I Did on My Holiday

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:40 pm

It feels kind of pointless to write about travels having not having uploaded any photos, but this gives some indication of how behind I am in simple tasks.  It’s also why I’m not posting about the libraries I visited just yet – illustrations are good!

It was my first time on the east coast of America – my husband Stuart and I travelled to Washington DC (him for a conference) and New York.

It is a small point of pride for me that we spent our first wedding anniversary in New York, eating amazing Mexican food in Chelsea before going to see the Dwarves at Bowery Electric.  That show was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time – I’m only a casual Dwarves fan, but they were fantastic live, and the energy in the crowd (and the pit) was electric.  I would’ve danced the night away with the rest of the crowd had I not been feeling less than brilliant; however, I got almost as much beer spilt on me as I would’ve dancing anyway, so it’s a wash, really.  As for the wedding anniversary aspect, I like to think that we’ve started as we plan to continue – and when you run away to Vegas to get married by Elvis, you kind of set yourself a precedent anyway.

My favourite way to structure a holiday is to do touristy stuff that interests me during the day (and since I love museums and galleries, there was a lot to keep me entertained), and try to sample the local nightlife of an evening.  This trip I was also able to catch up with some old friends, which was absolutely fabulous and I’m so pleased we were able to arrange it!  We also managed to view karaoke performed with a live band in the East Village, Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley’s gig in DC (I would say the Evelyn Evelyn gig, but we actually managed to miss that part of it), and a taping of the Letterman Show that proved the man is even more smugly loathsome in the flesh.

America, I have to say, does museums really well.  It also does diversity in museums really well.  Shamefully, I did not get to nearly as many of the Smithsonians as I’d planned, but I adored the Natural History museum; Stuart suggested that I should seek work as a museum guide.  If anyone from the Smithsonian Institution is reading this, and you want to liven up your guided or audio tours with a guide who declares things like “Fuck yeah, MASTODONS!” and “Hey look, it’s the Starbucks logo chick!” (admittedly that was about a siren statue at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), contact me!

It was two slightly unusual museums that really stood out for me, though.  We took a day trip to Philadelphia to visit our friend Steph, who very kindly took us to the Mutter Museum, the College of Physicians’ medical museum.  Dead things in jars are my favourite type of museum exhibit, but many of the exhibits were still…challenging, to say the least.  Challenging and fascinating, of note for many reasons but partly, I think, because so many of the items on exhibit would have been collected in ways that would be considered unethical today.  The wall of skulls (exactly what it sounds like), for example, had a number of Eastern European and gypsy skulls that I suspect may not have been attained in the most wonderful of ways.  Another big challenge were the books bound in human skin; interestingly, this was done as a sign of respect for the deceased, rather than with the horrible intentions later evidenced by the Nazis.  That said, the one that still had a tattoo visible completely creeped me out.

As to the title of this post…given that I’ve read that syphilis is making a comeback, I think it would be very educational to send people with a laissez faire attitude towards sexual health for a visit, where they could see casts of faces affected by sores, and skulls damaged by late-stage syphillis infections.  Having also seen pictures of what syphilis microbes look like, I feel like I’ve followed the damn disease from its conception, as it were, to its bitter end.  And recalling some of those casts and skulls kind of makes me want a shower.


While You Were Away…

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:13 am

Well.  Exciting times in the ol’ homeland.  Of course, we would have a leadership spill that results in a new Prime Minister – and Australia’s first female PM – the one time I’m overseas for a holiday.

I’m still trying to catch up on all the news; my husband Stuart and I returned home yesterday, and most of our time was spent sleeping off jet lag.  I mostly kept up with what was happening while I was away through text messages and emails from friends, and Twitter, with the occasional peek at the Age website.  Hooray for living in an age of digital communications!

So I’m not as well informed about Julia Gillard’s rise to the role of PM as I could be, but since that’s never stopped anyone from forming an opinion about anything, I’m going to post about it anyway.

I am…cautiously optimistic, but I’m witholding full optimism until a Gillard-lead Labor government is put into place by the people of Australia.  I think it’s worth noting that, even though we don’t directly elect our PM in the way that Americans elect their President, a lot of people seem to consider that we do.  And I don’t think that’s just ignorance of how the Westminster system works (although that probably accounts for some of it) – both Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have referred to the Australian people electing their PM, and one would think that they’re both pretty well-versed in how the system works.  It’s an acknowledgement of how much Australian politics is a game of personality, of good-old-boyness and appearing to be a Top Bloke.  John Howard played that game well enough and long enough that he had a enough voters convinced of his Top Blokeness, even as he put actions into place that would shaft a large proportion of the public.

So I guess that Gillard still needs to convince voters of her Top Nonblokeness, although there seems to be a lot of goodwill aimed her way.  I am certainly excited at the prospect of having a female, unmarried, non-religious Prime Minister.  I don’t think Gillard’s success is necessarily a blow for feminism though; if women getting into positions of political power were always a sign that we’ve achieved all the goals of our movement, then Margaret Thatcher would be a feminist icon. 

That said, part of the Top Blokeness of the past has relied upon pollies convincing voters of their squeaky-clean, upstanding personal lives, with faithful wives and 2.3 kids and blah blah whitepicketfencecakes.  The fact that we’ve got a leader who quite openly does not have those things, and who has weathered criticism from her opponents about not having those things with a great deal of grace, makes this recently married but cheerfully “deliberately barren” woman quite happy, because I think it’s a step forward regardless of gender.  Yes, we want our elected representatives to be upstanding people, but a person’s upstandingness does not hinge on whether they’re a “family” man or woman who’s done the marriage and children thing.  I’d like to think that maybe, this is a small step forward in moving away from so much political pandering to families at the expense of others.  I’d also like to think it’s perhaps part of a cultural shift away from traditional values about a person’s worth, when the Shadowy Figures who helped support Gillard’s rise to the top think that an unmarried, female, childless atheist with a unionist background is what the country wants.

Personally, I’m waiting for What Gillard Does Next (presumably not become a professional travel companion).  I’d like to see the internet filtering shenanigans ditched once and for all, because as a person who likes freedom of information and, for that matter, as a professional librarian who likes the same thing, DO NOT WANT.  I’d like to see a government that doesn’t pander to Big Mining (you may say I’m a dreamer…), and I’d like to see Gillard use her status to work towards improving the status of all women, which is what would make hers a feminist Prime Ministership.  And about a million other things.  I don’t ask for much.

In the meantime, I will continue for now to enjoy the little frisson I get when I’m listening to the radio and hear the words “Prime Minister Julia Gillard”.


Conference Aftermath

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:52 pm

I’m currently sitting on a couch at SLQ’s The Edge, and had every intention of writing a comprehensive rundown of the 12s-24s@ Your Library conference while it was all still fresh in my mind.  I even have my bulgingly full notebook with me.  However, several weeks’ worth of sleep deprivation are getting the better of me (although I’m going to try to sleep away as much of the Sydney-LA flight as possible to make up my sleep debt).  I am feeling distinctly manky, at least in a mental sense, although the cold I’ve been having an off-and-on affair with for the last few weeks is threatening to settle in, right in time for the long-haul flight to DC.  Lovely.  So an actual meaty entry about all this will have to wait until I’m in a better mental state to unravel things (not to mention read my own handwriting, which is so appalling that I’ve been accused of writing with my feet in the past).

Presenting and attending the conference were wonderful experiences (and now I think I’ve got a taste for this kind of thing, which would bring the percentage of people in my household who write papers for and present at conferences up to 100%).  Leonee and I have met so many wonderful people and had such a good time.  It was great to meet new faces, and put faces to names I’d seen on e-lists or heard glowing things about.  It was also fantastic to be in an environment with so much enthusiasm and energy for library youth services provision; an absolute blessing, in fact.

There was a reasonable amount of live Tweeting happening (although I didn’t get around to much of it myself); if you’re curious, the hashtag is #12to24.  Leonee has also finally bowed down to the pressure to join Twitter; you can find her at @LeoneeAriel.

One of the things I’m planning to do when I get back, along with writing up a report about it all and thinking further about how I can turn what I’ve learned this weekend into concrete planning for my own library service, is to make a page on this website with the collection development information we shared in our presentation.  The slides we had were only a small sample of what we use for youth-focused collection development, but several people suggested that it would be a great thing to have easy access to, so I figure it will be good to have it as a working document here for anyone who’s interested, perhaps with a broader focus than our rather Melbourne-centric one.  If you’d like to have some input, feel free to contact me via email or twitter.

I jump on a plane tomorrow afternoon, and it looks like I’ll be meeting with the youth services manager of the DC Public Library while I’m in town, which is very exciting.  No rest for the wicked(ly nerdy librarian).

One of the things I find embarrassingly exciting about flying overseas is picking which books to take to read on the plane.  I’ve got a fair bit of YA on my TBR pile at the moment, including Karen Healey’s debut novel Guardian of the Dead, which I’m ridiculously excited about reading.  Expect some further reviews when I get back.


Presenting at the Auslib 12s – 24s Conference

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:49 pm

I’m about to head off to Brisbane (well, Logan City via Brisbane) with my colleague with whom I’ve co-authored a paper on engaging urban youth with public libraries.  After months of preparation, it seems strange that it’s finally come around, to be quite honest.  This is my first conference paper, and also my first time presenting anything like this (although I like to think various public speaking arrangements across the years, and my regular Storytime gig have prepared me somewhat – at least none of the conference delegates are likely to tickle my knees or express affection by drooling on me).  Hopefully, however, it won’t be the last, in either case.

Our paper is second up tomorrow morning, the first day of the conference, and I will be bringing my best game face and trying not to talk too fast (quite the challenge as I normally speak at a rate of kilometres per hour at the best of times).

After I get back from the conference, I head off almost immediately to join my husband in Washington DC, where he’s also presenting at a conference, and then we’ll be taking a small holiday in New York City.  Posting may be thin on the ground around these parts until we return, but I’ll see how I go.

I’m planning to visit the Library of Congress in DC and the New York Public Library at the very least; there may be some others in there too.  I take my duties as a professional nerd very, very seriously.

See you on the other side!