Civic Digest: new imaginings of libraries

  
Civic Digest is a new public library experiment in Newcastle, New South Wales. Their website bills the venue as “an Australian-first contemporary library… cutting edge library technology is combined with quality food and beverage services to create an ambient and creative space for culture consumers to meet”. 

I ventured in to try the coffee (pretty good) and to check out the library aspects of the operation. It is a space created in the Civic Theatre so it is ideal for a pre or post show drink. I visited on a cold winter’s morning. The sun was streaming in through the windows making it cosy and inviting and it wasn’t busy so I had my choice of seats.

  
The cafe has a focus on digital library content such as magazines, journals and ebooks that you can access either through the large touch tables or via an app which you can download. There is also high speed free wifi, web browsing, games and what’s on information for Newcastle.

   
  

I asked the barista about the staffing model and he told me that no library staff work in the space but they can call them in to trouble shoot technology problems on the odd occasion something goes awry.
Later that day at a gallery opening, I also asked a couple of Newcastle locals what they think of Civic Digest. My small sample of two, including one Newcastle City councillor, reported support for the concept and a willingness to experiment and adjust as they learn. It has only been open for two months.

Read more about it in the Newcastle Herald.

Newcastle always seems to have interesting cultural ideas popping up. If you are in town, check out Civic Digest and give your support to an innovative imagining of a regional public library.

   
   

Evangelising about libraries

  
Speaking at library conferences feels like preaching to the converted. Sure, it is great to get out there amongst the familiar faces to share our work and learn from each other but what other opportunities are there?

Reaching out to other sectors and industries through their conferences opens up a whole new world of learning and networking. It is also a chance to showcase the brilliant work of libraries, do a little evangelising and gather some new library fans.

I have spoken at two digital conferences this year and both were absolutely worthwhile experiences. 

The first was Pause Fest 2016 in Melbourne. Pause bills itself as “a catalyst for innovation, a uniter of industries, a platform for the future. Pause Fest stands for the content you can’t Google.” 

Sounds a bit like the mission of a library. So my colleague, Peter McMahon and I presented a TED-style talk called ‘So uncool it’s cool, the natural tension of the library’. Here’s the video.

The second conference was REMIX Sydney 2016, a culture, technology and entrepreneurship summit. At Remix I spoke on a panel titled ‘Incubating and scaling ideas: developing new innovation networks and spaces for the creative industries’ along with: 

  • Katrina Sedgwick, Director, ACMI
  • Peter McMahon, Director, Digital, Marketing and Communications, State Library Victoria
  • Anna Lise De Lorenzo, Founder, MakerSpace &company
  • Jon Holloway, Vice President and Managing Director, R/GA 

At both events I was able to bust some myths and speak about innovation and transformation in libraries. People sought me out after the talks and were genuinely surprised and impressed to hear about how libraries are evolving. Both events have led me to new contacts and exposed me to new ideas.

Get out there and evangelise about libraries! You never know who you might meet and what you might learn. As Steven Johnson says “chance favours the connected mind”.