Learning from the Aussies

I just returned from a five-city”road show” hosted by CAVAL and VALA. I spoke about open source in libraries while Lizanne Payne of WRLC spoke about mass storage. In two weeks we visited libraries in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne.

(I think Melbourne was my favorite, but that’s because I grew up in San Francisco, which looks and feels a lot like Melbourne — two cities with Victorian gold-rush roots.)

As always, I learned a lot from these visits. First I learned from all the preparations I did for my talk — piles and piles of books about library history, going back to the mid-1900s. I tried to tie together a full century of library innovations to the open source movement today. Then, as always, I learned from the visits themselves.

There were many good things to see throughout my trip (and some delish cream scones at our next-to-last library stop), but Brisbane City Library made my socks roll up and down. I encourage you to visit the entire Flickr set (just click on the picture above).

Some innovations at this library include:

* A highly-sophisticated self-check system where patrons can watch their books disappear into the automated-sortation area

* Tools and space for gaming and media that as Bibliotheka points out has resulted in a bump in library use among males aged 18 to 35

* Color-coded Dewey shelving (“Go upstairs and find the pink shelves…”)

* A lovely glass meeting room that floats celestially above the first floor

* Comfy, attractive furniture that can be angled around the terrific city views from library windows or pulled together into impromptu study circles

* A business center staffed by city experts

It’s not that I haven’t seen bits and pieces of all these innovations in various libraries — but this library has a sustained “wow factor” that keeps going and going. Should you happen to find yourself in Brisbane, do stop in.