library comms

Two great new sources of free-to-use stock photos


I got sent this guide to image sources, and it contained links to a couple of image sources I wasn't familiar with. They're both a little different to the sites I normally recommend, and I think they'll be very useful. I use stock images a lot, mostly in presentations but also in tweets, blogposts, other parts of this site, graphics and posters etc.

The downside with these particular sites, for me, is that it's hard to search them - they're both blogs rather than depository style sites like But actually this presents images, added on an on-going basis, in a new way (to me) which is potentially quite helpful.

The upsides are firstly you can do anything you like with them and you don't even have to attribute. The second updside is the standard of photography - and I've been looking for a free-to-use source vintage images for ages, and finally I've found one. Let's look at that one first.

New Old Stock

New Old Stock curates vintage photos 'free of known copyright restrictions' - this means you can use them for whatever purpose you like, however you want. Hey look, here's a library example!

METU Library, via New Old Stock

METU Library, via New Old Stock

Some of the pics go WAY back, like this Egyptian example:

There's a huge amount to explore on New Old Stock, mostly B&W or sepia but with some early colour too, and if you're on Tumblr you can subscribe to get notified whenever they post more.


Unsplash adds 10 new images a day (you can subscribe to keep updated) and again, it has a 'do anything' licence. Specifically the site says:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

... which is good to know!

There are real advantages to not having to attribute. Although I'll always do so in a presentation, when you're tweeting in image or designing a poster or web materials, it's nice not to have to take up space with a URL and author name. It's also important to be able to modify the images in any way you please - on Flickr, for example, the majority of the Creative Commons images aren't set to allow this, meaning you can't use them in presentations or posters, or indeed do anything expect display them as they are.

The images on Unsplash are just a cut above most free image sites - for example I've used pictures of both coffee and bridges in presentations before, but never as nice as these examples...

The header image for this post is also from Unsplash.

So take a look and see if these images will be useful either for you or your library comms.

In Australian librarianship there's room to breathe


Last month I ran some library marketing workshops in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. I was invited over to do this by PiCS, who were wonderful to work with and really looked after me. I don't normally write 'this is what I did' type blog posts, but working in Australia was one of the most amazing things I've ever done! So it seems silly not to write a little about it.

Australian librarians are ace. Engaged, reflective, getting things done. The marketing workshop relies on people being happy and able to discuss what they're doing and thrash out ideas in small groups, and every one of the delegates did this brilliantly.

I've now run a lot of workshops in my freelance career, so I hopefully have a good feel for the level at which to pitch them. What struck doing these was what a high level Australian info pros are working at. I had to adjust the tone of the training as I went along because everyone already doing a lot of things I was suggesting. To take one example - there's a section on marketing with video, and using nice animation tools to move away from tired talking-head or screen-capture videos. In every single workshop in Australia, participants were already using these tools at their own institutions. In the UK I'm used to maybe one or two institutions in a group of delegates who have used these tools already.

I don't mean this is a slight on UK librarians - I think what it comes down to is that there is room to breathe in the Australian library system. Although they are facing financial cuts there is nothing like the crisis facing libraries in the UK. They aren't being attacked by their own Government the whole time. And when you don't spend all your time fighting for survival, that frees you up to experiment, to prioritise, to innovate. It seems to really make a huge difference. (I also spoke to Australians who put their libraries being ahead of the curve down to the fact that they're an island who traditionally had to find answers by doing, rather than waiting to hear about the rest of the world was up to...)

The other main difference to my eyes - and I was only there for six days so I'm sure there are plenty of nuances I missed - is how integrated the libraries are with the rest of a city's public buildings. For example in Brisbane, a Library is part of the City Council regional business centre. And the the State Library of Queensland, also in Brisbane, sits right in the middle of the cultural quarter on the south bank of the river, within the Queensland Cultural Centre, in between the Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art. It's a destination - not just somewhere a council can save money by slashing services. Have a look at the first few seconds of this video to see its glorious location:

I'm not saying libraries in Australia have it easy. But - surprise suprise - when a library system isn't forced to spend 90% of its time defending its services, those services have more opportunity to develop and become more vital still to the community.

Incidentally, via Twitter I found a new photography app just before I left (thanks Amanda!), which is a neat hybrid between video and still image, allowing you to pan across a larger view. Here's where I had lunch in Brisbane, in a cafe that was part of the Gallery of Modern Art. The library is on the right as you pan across by clicking and holding the image and moving your mouse (or finger if you're on a tablet or phone).

I loved Australia. I've never been anywhere so many of the people were so genuinely nice. I felt completely at ease there. The way the trip worked is I arrived in Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon, had just over a day there to explore and recover from jet-lag, then did a 9 - 5pm workshop on the Monday. As soon as it finished I was off to the airport, and flew to Sydney that night. Then I had a day in Sydney, followed by a full-day workshop and flight to Brisbane. Then a day in Brisbane, a full-day workshop, and a 2:30am flight home via Singapore and Dubai. It was intense. It felt almost surrealy short. But I didn't want to spend any more time away from my family, particularly leaving my wife to cope with both the girls on her own!

So to all intents and purposes, I had a day to explore each of the three cities. Everyone told my Sydney was magnificent, and it was - although it had its worst storm in a decade when I was there, and I've never been so wet. I couldn't NOT go out in it as it was my only day there. But it was bad enough that people were being advised across the State to leave work early and get home to safety! But I really fell in love with Melbourne. What a great city!

   Melbourne has a river running right through it, and when you're on the bank it feels like a great vantage point to be both IN the City and seeing the best of it at the same time.


Melbourne has a river running right through it, and when you're on the bank it feels like a great vantage point to be both IN the City and seeing the best of it at the same time.

Thanks to everyone who came to the workshops and participated so enthusiastically. You made me feel very welcome. I'll be back in a couple of years for another round.

Header pic is a Creative Commons image by Wotjeck Gurak.

Peripheral Vision: the non-traditional things we do to help our library users


Below is a Storify of responses I got, when I asked on Twitter what 'non-traditional' library services they offered their users. I'm interested in the ways Library's plug gaps and address their communities' needs, even if what this entails is either only distantly related, or entirely unrelated, to the core library offering. This appearing in places our users don't expect - in their peripheral vision - is often really important in building relationships, and establishing the importance and usefulness of library staff. It opens doors.

People asked me to share what I found, so here we go: