Author Archives: sebastianwilke

My new love for audiobooks – Seven lessons learned

In the beginning of last year, I tried something new and started listening to audiobooks during my daily commute to work. What began as an experiment, soon became routine. Over the course of the year I finished fourteen titles of various genres and authors and the list still keeps growing since then. In this post, I would like to share a few takeaways from this experience, including recommendations on authors and titles I particularly enjoyed, reflections on the joy of listening to audiobooks, and finally some thoughts on why and when audiobooks might be worth looking into for you.

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors.

I had already suspected it from an earlier encounter with The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but now I know for sure: Neil Gaiman belongs to my favorite authors. The past year gave me the opportunity to catch up with many of his works that had been on my reading wishlist for a long time. Most of his novels can be described as fantasy, often with a dark touch and set in a real-world scenario. They are fairytales for younger and older readers you can get lost in while following the main characters on their journey. Being a well-known advocate for libraries, books and the power of reading, Neil also infuses his stories with these themes every once in a while which adds to their appeal. Reading the books is already a pleasure in itself, but listening to the audiobooks read by the author makes them even more compelling, since he is a brilliant narrator, too. If you want to get started with Neil’s novels, I suggest The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

The narrator’s voice can make a big difference.

You are going to spend several hours listening to the same person, so you have to be comfortable with the voice of the narrator. Luckily, most audiobook productions from major publishers collaborate with experienced narrators. Although I enjoyed all of the titles that I finished, there were a number of narrators that stood out: Neil Gaiman (most of his own work), Jesse Bernstein (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Rupert Degas (The Wind-up Bird Chronicle) and Adjoah Andoh (The Power). The sound of their voices and their narration style got me hooked right from the first minutes. What also fascinates me about them and other professional narrators is with how much ease they can switch between male and female characters and impersonate different dialects. But even if you don’t feel an immediate connection to the narrator’s voice, it might be worth continuing with the audiobook. I had this experience with Khaled Hosseini narrating his novel The Kite Runner: By the time I had finished the audiobook, his voice and the way of pronouncing local names and places made perfect sense, but it took me a while to get used to it in the beginning.

It’s worth revisiting childhood classics.

Childhood classics such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Winnie-the-Pooh make for a perfect audible delight in between longer titles or if you are short on time. Most of them only last a few hours and, as a prime genre to be performed for an audience, benefit from great narrators (in this case Jim Dale and Peter Dennis). Being only familiar with movie adaptations and other manifestations based on the original works, I greatly enjoyed listening to them for the first time.

It is okay not to finish an audiobook.

What is true for print books, can certainly also be applied to audiobooks: There is no shame in not finishing an audiobook, if you are not enjoying it for whatever reason. The narrator’s voice is not working for you? The book is not living up to your expectations? There are plenty of other titles still waiting for you, so just move on.

If you are frequently consuming podcasts, try getting started with audiobooks.

Before my audiobook experiment, I was frequently listening to podcasts, specifically in long form with up to three hours per episode. I believe this made the transition to audiobooks quite easy, because I was already used to immerse myself into the spoken word over a longer time. If you don’t want to get right into a 10+ hour novel, a good starting point for audiobooks could be popular nonfiction titles. Not only do they tend to be shorter than fiction, their style and content might fall closer to many podcasts that are usually nonfiction. The only title I listened to in that category was a quick, but entertaining 3-hour production of The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking.

If you can’t make time for reading books, audiobooks might be the solution.

Having a one year old toddler at home at the time, another reason for me to turn to audiobooks was that I simply couldn’t make time anymore to read print books. Audiobooks gave me the opportunity to satisfy my reading cravings and, in fact, to explore many more titles than I had been able to read before in the same time. Of course, it is also a matter of priorities: I don’t spend much time anymore listening to podcasts or new album releases when I am in the car. But the enriching experience and joy of listening to the mentioned titles and narrators makes it worth all the while.

Libby is a great (free) tool for accessing audiobooks.

One of the biggest motivators for me to give audiobooks a try was the fact that I have access to hundreds of them for free through my local library and I don’t have to use any fee-based platforms. This gave me the chance to freely explore different authors and to move on with other titles in case I didn’t enjoy a particular one. I have accessed all of the audiobooks mentioned in this post through the Libby app from OverDrive which is used by many public libraries around the world. Setting up the app is very easy and the User Interface encourages you to browse through the available collection. You can change the preferences to exclude ebooks and only display audiobook content. Offline access, bookmarks, adjustable play speed, 15 second fast forward/rewind and a number of other functions all add to the ease-of-use of the app. Therefore, if you would like to get started with audiobooks, first get in touch with your local public library to see if they have access to OverDrive or similar platforms.


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Four different aspects of librarianship in Qatar discussed in new ebook “Librarians Around the World”

Librarianship is a truly global discipline with practitioners all over the world. Being aware of larger developments in the field and learning about libraries in other regions can broaden your own professional horizon and give you a fresh perspective on things. The new Open Access ebook “Librarians Around the World” helps gain this perspective. It includes contributions by 34 librarians from 19 countries spanning North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia/Oceania. Initiated by the New Professionals Section of the Library Association of Latvia, the project has been in the making since early 2017 and was finally published in December last year. Participants were asked to write about themselves, their libraries, library systems, education opportunities, library related organizations and other aspects of librarianship in their countries.

Together with three colleagues, I contributed a chapter about librarianship in Qatar. In four parts, we are discussing 1. LIS education in Qatar, 2. the establishment of the Library and Information Association in Qatar (LIA-Q), 3. the diversity of the librarian community and library users and 4. Maktaba, Qatar’s first private public children’s library. Below is the full text of our chapter. I hope you will get inspired by this and all the other contributions in the book!

My two favorite albums of 2018

My list of favorite albums of 2018 is much shorter than those in recent years. This is not so much because of a lack of good music being released, but because I spent most of my free time in the past 12 months listening to audiobooks instead (a post about this will hopefully follow soon). Whenever I decided to put on some music, however, there were mostly two albums that have been on repeat on my phone. As purely instrumental and videogame related soundtracks they might fly under your radar, so here is a little introduction to both of them that will hopefully get you interested.

Celeste Original Soundtrack (Lena Raine)

This portrait of Lena Raine provides a good characterization of the soundtrack to the videogame Celeste: “Raine’s music is brilliant and sweeping, with memorable melodies and diverse instrumentation that reflect its author’s far-flung musical influences—from house to vintage RPG soundtracks and classical music.” The album works totally well by itself, at the same time the music whets the appetite to play the game. I had similar experiences before with other videogame soundtracks such as Transistor, Shovel Knight or FTL that made me play the games (each of them highly recommended!). In return, playing through the games and their storylines usually added even more layers to the experience of listening to the music, so I am already looking forward to exploring Celeste soon. As a sample from the album I recommend “Resurrection” which perfectly shows the above mentioned variety of musical styles used by Lena Raine.

Zelda & Chill (Mikel & GameChops)

Even if you only have the slightest interest in videogames, you will most likely be familiar with the Zelda franchise and some of its iconic music. Combining those well-known melodies with laid-back lofi hip hop beats, as done by Mikel & GameChops on their album Zelda & Chill, turns out to be a perfect fit. My favorite track on the album is “Oath to Order” that originates from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

Grand piano delivery at Qatar National Library

Last week was a big moment for me as a music librarian (and pianist): Qatar National Library received its own grand piano! The Yamaha C7X is located on the stage of the Special Event Area and will be exclusively used for performances in the library.

Apart from the excitement about the arrival of this beautiful instrument, the delivery was fascinating to follow. A special piano lift was used to move the heavy instrument out of the car, through narrow corridors, and onto the stage where it even turned the grand piano into its final standing position:

Now the piano needs to undergo several rounds of tuning, before it will reach its optimal condition to be played. In the meantime, you can find it on the right side of the stage in parking position awaiting many recitals to come at QNL!

Journal article on the benefits of working in a multicultural team at Qatar National Library

The August/September edition of the German library journal BuB focuses on recruitment and features my article “Personalgewinnung aus dem Ausland: Multikultureller Arbeitsalltag bei der Nationalbibliothek von Katar” (International Recruitment: Experiences of working in a multicultural team at Qatar National Library). The article highlights the many positive effects of an international workforce at QNL in a multicultural country like Qatar.

BuB, Personalgewinnung aus dem Ausland

Working in a team of currently 36 nationalities is a great experience that both expands your horizon and benefits the library in different ways. As a national, public and research library, QNL serves every single person in the community, thus you can find many different cultural backgrounds among its users. In this situation, knowledge from their home countries is extremely valuable for the QNL colleagues in areas such as reference services, collection development, library tours or events targeted at specific cultures or languages. At the same time, the multicultural background enriches the daily work within the team when it comes to bringing together professional expertise from around the world and learning about other cultures and languages. For me, especially the insights to Qatari culture and Islamic tradition are fascinating and provide a much more detailed and nuanced picture than I could ever get in my home country.

Spotlights from the IAML Congress 2018

From July 22-27, me and more than 400 music librarians and specialists from around the world attended the 2018 Annual Congress of IAML, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres. We met in Leipzig, rich in music history as the domain of Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn and so many other important figures, which would set the tone of the whole congress week. Overall, I really enjoyed the conference. It had been three years since my last IAML Congress. At the same time, many members of the German IAML branch gathered in Leipzig, so this was an excellent opportunity to catch up with colleagues, both on a national and international level, and make most of the conference program. Here are some spotlights from the congress week.

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One of my main reasons to attend the conference was to participate in the activities of the IAML Advocacy Committee as a member of the group and to present a work related project during the poster session. For the past two years, the Advocacy Committee has been laying the groundwork for its future activities, among others by formulating the terms of reference and goals of the group, by gathering basic feedback from the IAML community, by documenting good practice related to (music) library advocacy and by building a network of advocacy liaison contacts around the world for local outreach and feedback. During the working meeting in Leipzig, we mainly revisited the ongoing efforts of the group and agreed on further points of action for the upcoming year. One major project will be to create supporting documents built upon the examples of good practice that can be used by music librarians around the world in different scenarios.

During the first poster session of the conference week, I presented my poster “Curated Naxos playlists for philharmonic concerts – A unique collaboration between Qatar National Library and the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra”. Since 2017, Qatar National Library (QNL) is providing playlists on Naxos Music Library (NML) that are tailored to the concerts of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO). Residents of the country have free access to the library’s resources (including NML). While the playlists mean added value for the concert audience who can preview and revisit the music of the performances, QNL benefits from reaching out to a new user group. More information about the project can be found on the QPO website. During the poster presentation, it was interesting to talk with many colleagues about their experience with Naxos Music Library and to learn from a few other libraries who provide a similar service – usually within one particular city rather than nation-wide. Visiting the conference exhibition or one of the vendor lunch talks was a perfect follow-up to this, since you could get the latest updates on music streaming services and platforms for digital sheet music.

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The evening program was rich in music, too, and included a total of three concerts that varied in style and location. My favorite performance by far was the concert of amarcord who presented a huge spectrum of vocal music spanning from chorales from the Thomas-Graduale to vocal compositions by Leipzig Conservatory teachers. Location-wise, the concert “Catholic Church Music from the Dresden Court” was most impressive, as we could listen to the pieces in the newly openened breathtaking building of the Paulinum (see photos below). But the musical performances didn’t stop here. There was plenty more to discover during the week just by walking through the streets of Leipzig which included everything from string quartets, flute duets, pianists and guitarists to singer-songwriters, pop bands, Russian folk songs and even tango dancers.

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Despite the ongoing heat wave in Germany, walking was a constant during the congress week, mainly because Leipzig is a very walkable place and the sessions and meetings took place in different locations covering the area of the University of Music and Theatre »Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy«, the Lepzig University Library (Bibliotheca Albertina) and the Leipzig Public Library. Adding to this, the conference program included a large number of tours which featured a variety of libraries, but also paid tribute to the rich music history of the city. I was able to see the German National Library (including the German Music Archive), the Leipzig Public Library, the Bach-Archiv as well as the Schumann-Haus and the Mendelssohn-Haus. While the libraries on this list were already fascinating, for me and many other attendees visiting the homes and places of creative work of Bach, Schumann and Mendelssohn was undoubtably the highlight of the tours. Below are some impressions from the Mendelssohn-Haus showing rooms of the apartment (first three photos: salon, study and bedroom), parts of the recently opened exhibition about Fanny Hensel (next two photos) and the “Effektorium” which lets you conduct a virtual orchestra.

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Following their motto “It’s all in the mix.“, the organizing committee of this congress managed to come up with a great mixture of conference sessions, musical performances and tours that showcased the best of what music history and libraries in Leipzig have to offer. All those great memories make me look forward even more to the upcoming IAML Congresses in Krakow, Prague and Stellenbosch. See you next year in Poland!

I am the English voice of public announcements at Qatar National Library

If you visit Qatar National Library in the evening and listen closely to the public announcements before closing time, the English voice might sound familiar: it is mine. 🙂

I feel excited and honored to lend my voice to this and a couple of other announcements at QNL. Recording them in a professional studio was lots of fun (and took much more time than you probably think)!