About Yen Wong

I am a librarian and have worked in public libraries, TAFE, and specialist libraries including the CFA and Vision Australia. Now I’m the Learning Programs Officer at SLV. My role focuses mainly on information literacy programs such as research skills, databases, newspapers, collection based workshops such as maps, genealogy, business, law, statistics, census records, book reviews, health/medicine, research for job seekers, and web searching. I am always on the lookout for new emerging teaching/learning/social trends, and for ideas that assist with developing new programs.

Labrary – experimental library makerspace

Labrary was a 37 day experiment that trialled the idea of a community makerspace that extended beyond traditional library walls. The project was developed by a team of students and staff from Harvard University’s School of Design in collaboration with the Librarian/Assistant Dean for Information Services, Anne Whiteside.

While based on key principles that underpin any library – ideas, information and culture – Labrary encouraged collaborative activities, experimentation and sharing. Labrary, as the name suggests, was a ‘lab’ and a library at the same time. It was designed to be a place where you could explore, experiment and test ideas and where failure was accepted as part of the creative process. More importantly, it gave people the opportunity to develop new themes, and to share interests – providing meaningful projects for the community. Labrary was also community driven so anyone could  walk in off the street and do whatever they wanted, rather than being something procured by an organisation or institution from the top down.

Some of the activities in Labrary included:

Inflatable reading room – A portable bubble for group discussions or a quiet space to chill out. A space within a space designed to transcend and take you to other worlds.

Time/Slice – A crowd-sourced digital bulletin board that opened the library up to different users, letting them discuss, collaborate, extend their personal research and include others’ resources organically. It’s also a way library sanctioned events could appear on a calendar alongside informal meetups and pop-up events.

There were also a series of discussions labelled Library Futures that explored how libraries could work in the future.

Libraries are well known for their role as transactional entities – people come to libraries to find information, then off they go to make sense of it. Labrary gave people a chance to work together to make information meaningful together. This didn’t eliminate the space for quiet solitary thought, but rather, was an additional resource – rich knowledge curation evolving in real time in a networked community.

In terms of how we work in our own libraries, the idea of having a space for experimentation in a library makes good sense because there’s access to information, and space to put that information to use. Working in groups to problem solve, create, and discuss changes the dynamic of work and progress, creating one that collectively builds on our passionate energy, becoming a reserve for everyone involved.  Experimentation encourages risk in learning, with rewards for new ways of doing things, learning and creating that we couldn’t have imagined before.

For more information about the project, you can read an Library Journal article on the Labrary project here.

Archiving digital resources for our cultural heritage

The British Library announced some time ago that they have expanded their legal deposit collection to include UK websites, ebooks, and posts from social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

Ever since the 17th Century, the British Library has been archiving every published book in the UK, with Australia, New Zealand, and the USA following suit. Legal deposit has been widely practised around the world with the intention of capturing social history and thus providing future generations with information about our past.

Previously, legal deposit was made up of published monographs – works that had been carefully drafted and edited but now, with the advent of micro blogging and Facebook, different kinds of publishing are being considered for collection. Although it can seem like a mish mash of spontaneous thoughts and ramblings sometimes, social media provides an important insight into our society. But does it represent how we really feel? Have we lost the art of reflection?

Nevertheless, our chatter can be a good thing because it documents everyday details often overlooked by historians. History books usually concentrate on the broad view, sometimes missing personal narratives. Now future generations will be able to access the minutiae of our lives down to the words we use.  They’ll be fascinated by what we had for breakfast, or feel appalled by the way some of us are in denial of global warming.

One way we can begin to imagine what it might be like for people to study our Facebook posts one day is to read the diary of May Stewart – a Melbourne teenager from 1906. May Stewart did a lot of mashing (flirting) and smooging (kissing), had tea at Coles (Coles supermarket apparently had a tea house back then), she went to the races and ‘had a splendid’ (had a wonderful time). This valuable diary describes how an average teenager from North Fitzroy spent her days, and the document now lives at the State Library of Victoria for everyone to enjoy.

As cultural institutions begin to collect social media, this new dimension of legal deposit will provide us with much to celebrate.

Research skills: searching strategies

Research is a process. Think of it as a series of problems we solve as we come to them. The more problems we solve, the better we become at doing research; because we bring our new knowledge to the next problem we have to solve. So, where do we start?

1. Understanding your question

It’s important that you understand what you are trying to find – dictionaries, the internet, or books can help.

Take the following question as an example:

Women’s lives in the seventeenth century

The research topic is rather straight forward, but then we might wish to draw some boundaries such as’ where’? In England? In Australia? Or in a specific community?

2. Identifying the concepts in your research question

Women’s lives in the seventeenth century in England

We have three concepts here: 1) women, 2) lives, and 3) 17th century

3. Brainstorm synonyms for the key concepts

Using different combinations of synonyms for your search. Be aware of spelling variations (eg civilisation and civilization), and the differences of word usage in different parts of the world (eg. bathers and togs, or bush and forest). See below for an example of the different synonyms we could use for our search.

4. Search

Now comes the fun part: search by stringing the concepts together. You do not need to use ‘AND’ when searching the internet, library catalogue, or databases because the ‘and’ function would have been built into the system and set by default. Try searching in as many combinations as possible using the synonyms you’ve brainstormed. For example:

women lives “17th century” England
(note: I’ve used the ” “sign to ensure that 17th century stays together and in that particular order)
woman role “17th century” England
women livelihood “seventeenth century” Britain

5. New knowledge gained

You’ll find that you’ll gain new knowledge as you gather your information, and this could influence you to change your question to something a bit more specific – and that’s quite alright. Good luck!

Save quotes with Citelighter

Citelighter is a free online bibliographic management tool. It claims to be a simple tool that allows you click on a ‘Capture’ button every time you want to add a resource to your collection. This will then allow you to automatically create a bibliography.

After downloading the widget to Firefox, I ran into trouble right from the start – the Citelighter toolbar didn’t seem to let me login and the ‘Capture’ button didn’t seem to work. I tried logging off and logging back on but that didn’t help.  But after a few attempts I managed to get it going. Using the toolbar in Google Chrome seemed to work better. Despite the way Citelighter lets you save quotes with one- click,  I still have a few reservations about the extent of its usefulness:

– The introductory video mentioned that it “grabs most of the bibliographic information”. Despite this, Citelighter will not grab details of books. In this way it is less powerful than tools like Zotero or BibMe. Citelighter is not as efficient if we have to source and enter the missing information.

– Citelighter seems to rely on the user to highlight the text and also fill in several bibliographic details. This can be problematic for people who prefer to read from the printed text. This indicates that Citelighter is only capable of recognising websites but not printed resources such as books and journals. And yes, sure enough, you will need to manually add all the bibliographic details yourself – how inconvenient!

Citelighter lets you highlight and capture quotes

Overall I would say that Citelighter and the toolbar is a useful tool for keeping track of online quotes, but it is not as powerful as a tool like Zotero. But if all you need is a service that lets you save quotes and produce bibliographies for online materials, then Citelighter could be useful. Have a look at our guide to using Citelighter to see how to get started.

Even more Pinteresting…

Recently we had a post about Pinterest – a social media platform for pinning images to virtual boards. Pinterest has really taken off, most likely due to the lovely presentation and the way it allows for browsing of images rather than text.

To give you some more inspiration about how you might use Pinterest, we’ve collated a few articles and posts about how Pinterest is being used in libraries and in other fields.

See some examples of how other libraries have used Pinterest at this article: 25 Libraries we love most on Pinterest (OEDB).

Have a look at this Pinterest board put together by Laura Gentry about Libraries using Pinterest.

The fabulous Joyce Valenza recently wrote about how she harnessed the power of Pinterest to overcome her Bulletin board anxiety and search for great library display ideas.

Pinterest also has uses in the field of cultural heritage: Pinterest for Cultural Heritage  (Archives Info).

We hope you can use this collection of ideas as a launch pad for something amazing at your library or classroom. We’d also love to hear how you’ve made use of Pinterest in your work.

eSmart Libraries

On Monday 27 August, 2012 The Hon Julia Gillard MP officially announced eSmart Libraries  – a 8 million dollar partnership between The Allannah & Madeline Foundation and the Telstra Foundation to address cybersafety through public libraries.

Given that over 54% of Australians are members of libraries, this could be a valuable piece of work – providing a roadmap to the tools and resources that will equip the library community with the skills and knowledge for smart, safe, and responsible use of technology.

A pilot will commence in early 2013 , and the initiative will eventually be rolled out to all public libraries nationally.

eSmart Libraries is an extension to eSmart Schools.

Open Library project: a web page for every book

Yen Wong, Learning Programs Officer at the State Library, continues her search for the best free library resources. In this post Yen looks at the Open Library project.

Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive – the folks responsible for the Wayback machine. Open Library is a massive catalogue with an ambition to catalogue every published book. The project is relying on libraries and individuals from around the world to contribute to its catalogue by adding books, fixing mistakes or writing descriptions of a book. Over one thousand libraries have contributed to the project to date.

Where possible, links to free ebooks have been listed, but Open Library account holders can also borrow from a smaller collection of books made available by Internet Archive and its partner libraries. Registering for an account is easy – just fill out the form with your name and email and you’re set to go.

Up to five books can be borrowed for two weeks at a time.

Open Library is a wonderful resource, and I’m excited that it’s got an extensive collection such as the ancient Chinese text ‘The secret of the golden flower‘ translated by Richard Wilhelm.

Thanks to Yen for sharing this useful resource with us. You can look forward to more posts from Yen in the future, as she explores library resources, research skills and information literacy.


ebooks at the State Library

Yen Wong, Learning Programs Officer at the State Library, explains a new Electronic Book Library service for all registered SLV users.

The State Library of Victoria has recently launched the Electronic Book Library (EBL) pilot to the public. The pilot will give the Library an opportunity to assess which books our users want to read.

This means that you will be able to download an ebook to read on your computer or ebook readers. Any downloads will be for paid by the library, thereby adding them to the Library’s collection.

The EBL collection is available to all Victorian registered SLV card holders. Registration with the State Library of Victoria is free and can be completed online

Once a book of interest is found, users can browse the book for 5 minutes for free. After that time, the option to download is provided.

Acessing ebooks:

1. From SLV’s homepage go to ‘Research tools‘ (top right corner)

2. Scroll down to eResources and either click from the Library or from home.

3. Select Encyclopaedias & dictionaries & ebooks

4. You will be asked to login with the barcode on your library card.

5. Search away!

You can also read a full guide to getting started with the EBL at the SLV website. 

Zotero available for Chrome and Safari users


Good news for users of Zotero, with the service now available to users as a standalone program. For those unfamiliar with Zotero, it is a free online bibliographic management tool. It enables you to collect and organise your resources (books, images, journal articles, newspapers, videos, websites, etc.) and helps you put together a bibliography – plus it’s really easy to use. There is also an opportunity to create an online community to share and collaborate.

Up until this point, Zotero was only available through the Firefox browser. Now the service has been updated to a standalone program with plugins for Google Chrome and Apple Safari users too. All you need to do is download Zotero version 3.0 on either Chrome, Safari, or Firefox browsers.

You can find more information about this new enhancement at the Zotero blog.

To install Zotero 3.0 go to the download page

To learn about the functionality of Zotero, watch these short videos.


Social media and new online behaviours

Seth Godin’s written a short blog entry about social media’s ability to spout and scout. By that he means:
Spout: to talk about what we’re up to and what we care about.
Scout: to see what others are spouting about.

Godin also points out that up until now this information was pretty much private, and our activities were not commercial. Now we are seeing a flourishing of sharing activity – access to information about our interests and passions has never been easier.

For example, it has enabled like minded people to pursue their interests together, collaborating with strangers, or learning more about our friends; and has enabled new ways of doing business – such as self promotion via blogs, and businesses gathering information about ourselves to better customise their products to name a few…

You can read more of his thoughts here.