October 19, 2015 at 5:42 pm #2629Paola BerettaParticipant
Program review: guided tour at the QAG prompts reflection on library services
I recently visited The Photograph and Australia at the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and decided to take a guided tour of the exhibition, as I wanted an informed introduction to the exhibition. I must disclose that I have previous experience as a tour guide in a large cultural institution. That means that I not only pay close attention to the content, but also the manner of delivery, the guide’s awareness of the audience, how questions are answered, timing and clarity of language. In sum, I focus on the quality of the overall experience provided by the tour guide.
The tour guide who conducted the tour at the QAG was knowledgeable and attentive, conducting a small group of visitors at a good pace. Most tour participants were happy to tag along and listen in, but I had questions and engaged in interesting discussions with the tour guide. I learnt some interesting facts about the evolution of photography in Australia, in particular about technological developments.
In my view, the objective of a guided tour is to provide a good background to the exhibition and pique the visitors’ curiosity to explore further on their own. A guided tour provides an orientation and discovery layer to the exhibition: it is all about first impressions, interesting facts and anecdotes that add to the direct experience of the items on display. Most large galleries and museums offer daily exhibition tours, often free of charge to visitors. There is certainly an art to tour guiding when the goal is to provide just enough content, without overwhelming visitors with too much information. I think that libraries can adapt tour guide’s techniques and approaches to better respond to library users’ information needs.
Interaction and engagement with visitors or library users is certainly much easier to achieve in person than online. However, as many library support services are increasingly available online, a skilled and attentive librarian can often acts as a ‘tour guide’, showing key resources that may answer an information need.
In my current work as Library Adviser I often refer to the techniques I learnt as a tour guide, even if unconsciously. As I guide users through an ‘information landscape’, I suggest how they can best conduct a search to fulfill an information need and indicate the best resources and tools available to them. But, in the same manner that you stroll through an exhibition and browse what’s available, you may notice other relevant ‘information objects’ that you might like to come back to later and explore at your own leisure and pace. Like a tour guide, a librarian might leave a few strategic ‘blanks’ that do not detract from the objective of providing users with the information required, but might create interest so that users can explore them by themselves later and have their own independent learning experience.
Both in my professional and personal lives I have always gravitated towards libraries, museums and art galleries and have been interested in how they are connected, yet distinct spaces that provide great material for wonder, new ideas, creative thinking, learning and reflection.
October 20, 2015 at 2:48 pm #2655Jennifer CottonParticipant
It appears we have similar interests. I LOVE looking at old photographs and watching old movies! Admittedly, I usually explore my interests on my own so I am wondering if there was a bit about early Australian Film?
I would love to explore the National Film and Sound Archive. If you’re interested in early Australian cinema this site is interesting. ‘The Story of the Kelly Gang’ is a fascinating film. It’s considered by many to be the first feature film in the world and it was made right here in Australia! The film was made about 20 years or so after Kelly was hanged and so his family (he’s mother and brother I believe) attended the premiere.
Looking at those old photos and movies is a wonderful way to connect to the past, and it should be preserved.
October 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm #2670Luke MysliwyParticipant
Hey Paola I went to the very same exhibit! (In fact I also reviewed it in my week 11 forum post… so great to see another perspective!) I really like the way you have brought the tour guide principles back to a Library environment. We sometimes do a tour of the library for school students, but I wonder if patrons from the general public would benefit from a tour of the library and basic search techniques as well?! I think we often just give patrons a card and send them off into the library after a brief explanation of their privileges, taking it for granted that people can then go off and find what they are looking for without further guidance.
October 23, 2015 at 11:00 pm #2711Ruth McConchieParticipant
Hi Paola, I think library tours would be great fun. Every library I’ve been to has something special about it, whether it’s a huge collection of periodicals or access to a specific technology or space. I think tour would be a great way of catering to all levels of users informational needs. I have some students come in to the library who don’t know what a call number is, and the idea that the librarians have organised the resources in a system to make it easier for them to find what they need is equally foreign.
October 26, 2015 at 7:11 am #2764Katherine LeeParticipant
That’s such a great idea Paola! I had never considered approaching library services as a guided tour, but it would be a really effective way of introducing people to materials and search techniques. As Luke suggested guided tours could even be integrated into library programs as a kind of information literacy service.
I also really like your comment about the strategic blanks, I will definitely be keeping that technique in mind 🙂
October 26, 2015 at 8:34 pm #2781Robynne Kilborne BlakeParticipant
Hi Paola, I loved your idea of comparing guided museum/gallery and library tours, maybe it’s a question of libraries becioming more creative with their collections so they feel they have something to “show”, rather than just talk about. Like Katherine, I also liked the idea about inserting strategic blanks, getting people thinking, planting ideas.
I’m feeling inspired to go and see this exhibition now – one of my great, great grandfathers was a young Canadian photographer when he visited an exhibition in New York of photos of Australia in the late 19th century that inspired him to emigrate. So “photos and Australia” is a theme close to my heart, as I wouldn’t be here at all without them 😉
October 31, 2015 at 9:56 pm #2875Samantha MaddoxParticipant
Hi Paola, I really enjoyed this post and i liked how you could correlate the artistic landscape to an information landscape. This is an interesting concept. And like with anything, each individual is going to extract their own interpretation of that landscape. 🙂
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