Category Archives: Libraries

Shopping for libraries – Melbourne University libraries and the Library at the Dock

The most dangerous behaviour for librarians of any sort (public, school, technicians, teacher librarians) is to sit in their library and not go anywhere. Actually, I would say the same for teachers in their classrooms. Staying ‘home’  in a time of change in education and economic life can lead to redundancy.  Going out to visit libraries has been on our agenda recently for several reasons – mainly to take a look at innovative spaces and their functions and to enter into discussion about what we have in common with public and tertiary librarians, specifically the support of crucial literacies for young people.

Recently our library team enjoyed visits to several libraries – the very new Library at the Dock (in the Docklands precinct of Melbourne), 3 libraries at the University of Melbourne, and the University College Library (University of Melbourne). Apart from the sheer pleasure of seeing beautifully designed new library and community spaces, we loved the conversations and connection with librarians. Taking a look at how similar institutions do things differently is without doubt the most fantastic way to spark conversation which leads to evaluation and review of the way we currently do things with a view to an improved future.

The Library at the Dock

From the City of Melbourne website:

Library at The Dock is a three-storey building, 55.3 metres long by 18.1 metres wide, and is made from engineered timber and reclaimed hardwood.

Read about the building’s sustainability features (PDF, 600kb).

As well as a traditional library collection, the library and community centre offers an interactive learning environment and a state-of-the-art digital collection, multi-purpose community spaces and a performance venue that holds 120 people. Connections to Docklands’ rich maritime and Aboriginal heritage is embraced and celebrated with facilities to support local historical research and educational experiences.

This is a beautifully designed library in a fantastic location with gorgeous views. From what we observed, people living and working in the precinct happily use the library and its spaces in a variety of ways. I’m surprised that this exemplary project was funded, to be honest.

The Melbourne University libraries

The first library we visited on the Melbourne University campus was the newly refurbished Giblin Eunson Library. The first port of call was the newly redesigned library and IT help desk. Whereas the old desk was a traditional design where the desk formed a barrier between the librarian and the client, with the computer facing away from the student, the new desk was an irregular shape with the person on duty standing beside the student client and working through solutions with both people looking at the computer screen.

 There is so much we can learn from an ongoing relationship with university librarians in terms of library spaces and design for optimal student support, and in particular, in terms of our role in preparing our students for tertiary academic life (search/research skills, independent learning, navigation of online resources, bibliographies/in-text citations and more). This is particularly important for MHS because most of our cohort will end up at university. We have already developed a partnership in terms of shared online content for research – the Melbourne Uni librarians have kindly allowed us to use and modify their excellent Research Libguide.
In turn, we have shared our Libguides resources for ipad apps with the Melb Uni librarians –
libguideapps
The visit confirmed for us the importance of revisiting the integrating research skills into all assignments at MHS – something which is always a struggle with the overcrowded curriculum and emphasis on content delivery within the VCE.
Of course, we have also greatly benefited from our relationship with Carolyn Brown (CJ), who has worked with us in between her job as College Librarian at University College library. CJ has provided a wealth of expertise, a link to tertiary academia, and to the role teacher librarians play in preparing our students for university.
We all agreed that our visit to the Melbourne University libraries (and our visit to The Library at the Docks before that) were an invaluable form of PD for us all – rich, relevant, ongoing and inspiring.
We will be unpacking what we’ve learned throughout the year, and collaboratively informing our practice and our future directions so that we can best support students and teachers at Melbourne High School.
I’ve included photos of our visit to Melbourne University libraries here, and photos of our visit to the Library at the Dock here.

 

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Is marketing a dirty word for school libraries?

La lectura es el viaje de los q no pueden tomar el tren

I’m writing an article about marketing the school library for the publication FYI.

Marketing. I used to think that it had nothing to do with education. Marketing school libraries? Bad taste. Things of value should stand on their own merits.

But here we are living in libraries within schools – part of the school, not quite part of the school. I have to admit that much of what I do is a form of marketing – the benign kind, the sincere kind, but marketing nonetheless. No, we are not selling our souls but we do need to reach out and make connections with the teachers who have charge of the students. We need them all so that we can make a difference.

Still, I have many questions about this marketing thing. I would love to have a full-on discussion with other teacher librarians about this, and with teachers, to see what they think. To see what you think.

So I’m going to offer a few of my thoughts in the hope that you will leave a comment. What do you think about this as a teacher librarian, as a teacher? The following is selected from my article:

Library promotion and the forging of relationships with staff is what we do every day.I don’t claim to be an expert and there is no ‘one size fits all’, but what I’d like to do is share my personal experience and my story.

Marketing your school library is not optional, as far as I’m concerned.

Why?

Marketing the library is a most important job, not only to make the library visible but also to make it shine, to show its vibrancy, so that teachers and students will take a break from their relentless busyness and take notice; so that they will want to come in to see what’s going on.

Sadly, libraries are sometimes invisible – despite bright and shiny new furniture, despite the brilliant displays, despite the extensive collections, despite the well meaning efforts of librarians. What I mean by that is that the library and library staff are not an intrinsic part of the essential teaching and learning activity of our schools – they don’t show up on teachers’ or students’ radar –  unless we make them so. And we have to keep making them so on a daily basis.

The library used to be THE PLACE people came for information but it’s simply not the case any more. Surely you’ve noticed how often student assignments are set and completed without anyone stepping into the library. We all know how indispensable we can be and should be when research assignments are created so we need to educate students and teachers that we have the experience to support them in navigating the flood of information they now have at their fingertips. We all know our area of expertise: we can show them how to find what they need when it seems like finding a needle in a haystack – how to locate, evaluate, sort through and select, organise, interact with and synthesize information so they can create what is required. But often teachers and students will have no idea that they are playing in a sinkhole when they trust Google to find what they need. There is no doubt that we need to seriously promote ourselves as playing an essential part in everyday teaching and learning.

How?

Granted, that is easier said than done. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. I would say, trust your instincts. create connections, nurture authentic and meaningful relationships with teachers, faculty heads, leading teachers, assistant principals and principals.

Be yourself, be real. Don’t put on your teacher librarian persona and go out door knocking like a missionary. There is no script. You will know what to say.

Be patient. It won’t happen overnight. It might not happen the way you envisage but something will happen. Connect with other teacher librarians, blog and tweet about it, and share your experiences, reflections, evaluations. Be honest, be deep. It’s not all about what can be seen from the outside, it’s also about creating cultural shifts, shifts in understanding. All of this takes time. Look for and celebrate small successes.

Be awesome, surprising, and indispensable. Find and share what teachers want and need, but also make it amazing and wrap it up in gorgeous colours with metres of ribbon and exotic feathers.

Think about the library as a space; it’s prime real estate. The library can be a Wunderkammer, and when people come in, they should feel happy and intrigued, and wish they could stay a while. It should be a refuge for teachers from their relentless running from class to class. And you should become indispensable because you have offered to create something they have little time to do.

Where?

Everywhere – in library spaces, in classrooms, during chats in the corridor or quick catch-ups after a staff meeting, during sports days, music days, and PD days.

Don’t forget the power of promotion online – to your staff, students and school community but also to those outside the school walls. Let’s promote ourselves and what we do in our schools to the outside world, creating a reputation for being awesome, inspiring others, and being inspired by them.

It’s essential that we are seen in places other than the library. Let’s unleash ourselves from that ancient library institution – the desk. If we are stamping books and dealing with delinquent photocopiers for too much of our time, let’s think about what we can do to change that.

How to develop good relationships with teachers

My personal approach is working from the ground up with individual teachers I feel are responsive to collaboration and to my crazy ideas. I recommend you spend a lot of time in that relationship, trying to make solid, deep things happen, and that you blog the whole process with photos and repost everywhere. This way one documented collaborative project can be used as an example for many more such projects. The blog post will capture examples, reflection and evaluation, for teachers who want to see how the project worked, as well as evidence of good things happening.

Integrate, integrate, integrate

Become integrated with classes and the curriculum. Avoid feeling happy enough with isolated ‘library program’ -type lessons. As long as teachers view what we do as library programs, they will view what we do as separate, and not take it seriously. This goes for  students too. We need to be there throughout the whole project, either in the classroom or through our interaction with teachers. 

Should we speak up about what we’re doing and how we can help teachers in staff meetings? I’m in two minds about this. Staff meetings are usually after school and staff are tired and want to go home. On the occasion that I did stand up and promote what teacher librarians could do to support staff and students, I tried to be as entertaining as possible, and hoped that laughter would keep them focused. I would be reluctant to do that too often so that staff do not start to switch off. In my opinion, working on deeper relationships with individual teachers is more effective.

So these selections are a small part of the article which will soon be published in FYI. The article includes a lot more practical examples which I hope will be useful to other teacher librarians.

It would be so good to hear from you all. I open to changing my mind about approaches. Leave me a comment, okay?

But seriously, can we afford not to be marketing our libraries?

 

 

 

 

 

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Melbourne City Edge Schools Day – librarians’ meetup

mypeople

 

Photo source: http://www.pinterest.com/ucylibrary/bookish-humor/

I’ve been thinking lately how my blog writing style has changed over time. Reading post archives while searching for something, I realised how informal, loose and reflective my earlier posts were. Now I feel internal pressure to wait until I have something substantial to write about, and that happens infrequently. I often feel that there is nothing I can say better than those who have written before me. I might have to work through that – after all, a blog post is not supposed to be an academic article. Can anyone else relate to this?

So, today is the first day of second term, and the Melbourne High School staff attended a curriculum day with faculty-related staff from the City Edge schools which included the Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, Melbourne Girls’ College, University High School, Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Albert Park College, Princes Hill Secondary College and us. Library staff (as well as Maths staff) met at University High School. 

It was an enjoyable and valuable day, and I thank the principals for organising this opportunity. It makes so much sense to come together and share stories and ideas, to take time out for ourselves and get to know each other. Our session was relaxed and informative. I loved meeting everyone and taking in the diverse personalities and talents. There were a few short presentations, including mine on my use of Pinterest, one from Melbourne Girls’ College about their recent reading initiative and also from Andrew Finegan who has recently taken up the position as head of library at VCASS. After morning tea we decided not to split up into teams of teacher librarians and technicians, and I thought that worked very well. We fit comfortably into a space which was both open and intimate, and we shared and discussed library-related issues ranging from practical aspects, such as security, to controversial issues, such as the relevance of non-fiction in a contemporary school library and the changing nature of information access. I thought that everyone spoke honestly, and that we felt supported by the larger network which understood shared experiences. We are fortunate to have this opportunity, especially since professional development days are usually packed with guest speakers and intensive sessions with little time to socialise.

Later in the afternoon we were treated to a visit from Mike Shuttleworth, Program Manager at Melbourne Writers Festival, who predictably spoke about the Melbourne Writers Festival program and authors. Not really a talk but more of a conversation. Mike was interested in learning from us how we select authors for school visits, how many of us had attended previous festivals, and our feedback from these events. Again, I was grateful for this informal, interactive session – so much more valuable than formal talks which place us as passive recipients. The afternoon ended with several people sharing books they had recently read and enjoyed. Mike shared with us a book by Carol Ann Duffy called 1914: Poetry remembers

To mark the centenary of the First World War in 2014, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has engaged the most eminent poets of the present to choose the writing from the Great War that touched them most profoundly: their choices are here in this powerful and moving assembly. But this anthology is more than a record of war writing. Carol Ann Duffy has commissioned these same poets of the present to look back across the past and write a poem of their own in response to the war to end all wars. 

We thought that we might organise a poetry competition for students to do something similar.

Oh, and did I mention that it was a very wet and miserable day? What has happened to the beautiful, quiet Autumn sun? And so it’s back to business as usual tomorrow. Never mind – public holiday on Friday for ANZAC Day.

Big thanks to Rob Castles and his team at Uni High for welcoming us into their spaces and organising such a great day.

 

 

 

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A year in the library – retrospective

I’ve just written the 2013 library report and thought I’d add it here as a summary and evaluation of this memorable year. Holidays now. The feeling is so good. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. Here ’tis.

Just as Melbourne High School is about more than just marks, so is the library more than just books. The library is both physical and virtual – it is a space for events, as well as for ubiquitous information and 21st century skills training. It is an essential part of the mechanism which drives teaching and learning at Melbourne High School. It is a service and resource, both onsite and online; a treasury of literature; a space for private and collaborative study; a social meeting place; a hive of activity including meetings, games and puzzles.  The library provides a quiet nook for solitude, a space for spirited debate, for collegial help with homework, a table full of familiar friends, (and the opportunity to make new ones), and an ever-changing range of visual and conceptual displays to broaden reading choices and spark ideas. It holds the collective wisdom and experiences of extraordinary people long gone, and stories from every part of the world throughout history. The energy of the library is evident to all who visit.

This has been a year for change on many fronts. The library has developed a new silent study culture – for the first time, VCE students have been given the choice of going to the library for quiet study or the dining hall during their ‘free study’ periods. We have been pleased to witness a quick adaptation to these changes, and impressed to see how many students have preferred to come to a disciplined, silent space to study despite the alternative choice.

The refurbishment of the front of library is almost complete, and amidst temporary changes to entrance and spaces, it has been business as usual without serious interruption to essential services. We look forward to opening the newly refurbished part of the library on the first day of school 2014, with its larger entrance and increased, open space for reading and relaxation, 2 additional study rooms (and potential to open these up to one larger room using the operable wall).

Existing spaces have also been improved. In particular, the Global Learning Centre (GLC), has been modified to create a more effective use of space, with the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) mounted on the wall and reconfigured to Apple TV for improved efficiency. We look forward to reclaiming our small discussion room (currently housing furniture) as well as the creation of another discussion room within the GLC. In all, we should be able to provide 4 study/discussion rooms for students and teachers next year.

In keeping with the developments of public libraries, the library strives to move with the times in all aspects of its service, and so we have encouraged students and staff to be independent library users by investing in a self-checkout unit (RFID). We are also in the process of moving to a new Library Management System (LMS) with improved efficiency and user-friendliness to encourage more students to use our catalogue more effectively in their search for resources and use of databases.

As always the library supports reading enrichment, and teacher librarians work with English teachers to broaden the scope and differentiated reading experiences of students. This year, in support of wider reading, we trialled a move from the Premier’s Reading Challenge to the social media platform, Goodreads, in order to connect students with each other and to the wider reading community. Goodreads provides options for online connection through private or shared class groups, and enables students to share their virtual bookshelves with each other and their teachers for increased engagement.  The importance of real world connections, and student-initiated discussions, combined with practice of appropriate ethical behaviour online, address the need for students to develop important 21st century skills.

Reading breadth and specialisation have been encouraged and applauded, and reading prizes have been awarded in a special Junior assembly to students who excelled in categories of ‘classics enthusiast’, ‘graphic novels gourmet’, ‘the eclectic reader’, ‘the richest online literary discussion’ and other genre related awards.

As always, teacher librarians have worked with teachers to develop programs and projects, to create resources, and teach collaboratively. The library has been flexible, experimenting with varied approaches, and adapting to the needs and preferences of teachers and students. This year teacher librarians have worked in a more focused way with faculties, following their areas of expertise in order to deepen relationships with staff and enrich their own knowledge base.

The 1:1 iPad program in years 9-11 has filled the library with mobile technology which provides students with anywhere/anytime learning. The library has continued to develop its ebooks collection, and so it is a common sight to see students tucked into corners and engrossed in reading on their ipads.

Learning and connecting are core needs for all our students and staff, and the library has responded to the digital environment by continuing to develop rich educational content, a revised library website, with an improved homepage for easier navigation, further developed subject- and skill-related resources, and blogs for specific audiences. Lifelong learning begins in a school whose library staff provide the tools and expertise in guiding students towards understanding the learning process, and in particular, in the management of information and research in preparation for tertiary studies and life.

The library team has successfully integrated the use of Google Drive and Docs into meetings in their team approach to ideas mining and problem solving. Google Drive is a collaborative, flexible and cloud-based suite of applications which allows live, multi-user sharing and editing of documents accessed via sign-in on any device. Google Drive has been the perfect tool for a democratic approach within the library team, an approach which has empowered individuals within the team and deepened collaborative relationships.

As many have remarked this year, there is always something happening in the library. The library continues to support interest groups, including Library Assistants, Cyber Book Club and Competition Writing. In Library and Information Week we ran a ‘Book spine poetry’ competition. In Book Week we ran a number of photography competitions including ‘Bookface’ and ‘Holding up books for no reason’. Our inaugural event, ‘Bookwiz’, a literary quiz which included 15 tables of student and teacher teams, was a sell-out event, and featured a talented student Jazz quartet for our listening pleasure. Also for the first time, the library organised ‘The Great Book Dominoes’ event (which was run and filmed by students) and ‘The Great Book Swap’, a fundraising initiative for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Of course, the traditional ‘Dress as your favourite literary character’ competition is a favourite event during Book Week, and this was definitely a year to applaud the English teachers’ efforts, as well as those of the students. In conjunction with the English faculty’s concurrent Literature Festival, Book Week has offered an impressive range of literary events.

This year the library hosted the launch of Laureate, our student literary magazine, after its 10 year hiatus.  This was organised by Mr Sam Bryant and featured special guest, renowned Australian poet, author and educator, Judith Rodriguez.

Students have been extremely fortunate to have talented, engaging authors visit the school, including Emilie Zoey Baker, Spoken Word Performer, and author and graphic novel artist and illustrator, Nicki Greenberg.

Students were also given the opportunity to be part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival where they attended a Q & A session with Ambelin Kwaymullina about her debut novel, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, and enjoyed talks with Alison Croggon, author of Black Spring, Cassandra Golds, author of Pureheart, Justine Larbalestier, author of Team Human, and Myke Bartlett, author of Fire in the Sea. They also attended a session on “How to Make a Book,” featuring Melissa Keil, author of Life in Outer Space, and Tony Palmer, a cover artist who has collaborated with authors such as Morris Gleitzman and Sonya Hartnett. The session was hosted by Lachlan Carter, creator of “100 Story Building,” a social enterprise for young aspiring authors. A group of students also attended the Reading Matters conference organised by the State Library of Victoria. Stonnington Library’s Literature Alive festival, with guest presenter, author/illustrator, Kevin Burgemeestre, was a fantastic opportunity for year 9 Art students.

The library has been involved in Transition sessions for year 10 students. Teacher librarians have taught the essential skills of online research (in particular, databases), study skills and digital citizenship, to prepare students for the tertiary environment. Teacher librarians have also contributed to introductory sessions for the Year 9 Melbourne Project, helping students brainstorm ideas to prepare them for their city project. For the first time, students were instructed in the use of Google Drive for collaborative research. Year 10 students have also been supported by teacher librarians in their Civics and Citizenship research project and, for the first time, an essay which centred on their solution to a real-world problem of their choice.

As well as our library website (Libguides), our digital presence resides on the ‘Melbourne High School Library’ Facebook page which informs the school community (including alumni), as well as the broader community, of library events and literary news, and updates posts from the Melbourne High School blog. Teacher librarians have also led the way in experimenting with new digital platforms for curation of online resources, including Pinterest and Scoop.it, to mention only a few.

These are interesting and exciting times for school libraries everywhere. The digital revolution has challenged libraries to reconsider how they should remain relevant and engaging to the school community at a time when ubiquitous information requires even more explicit skills development for our students than ever before. Teacher librarians have been involved in continuous professional development in order to prepare students to be informed, critical users of information.

As head of library this year, I would like to thank the wonderful staff of Melbourne High School library who have worked hard to make tremendous contributions to the library and the school community. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the principal, Mr Jeremy Ludowyke, the assistant principals, teaching and support staff, casual relief teachers and parent volunteers, as well as book donors. We look forward to the leadership of Ms Pam Saunders as the new head of library in 2014.

 

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What’s our future – school libraries and librarians

It disturbs me that we are not seriously thinking about the future of school libraries. This statement will receive incensed objections; teacher librarians are, after all, talking about changes in what we do and how we do it at conferences and in their own libraries. We talk about some of these changes in my own school library – delivering ebooks, providing transferable skills such as critical literacies to our students, delivering online resources. Well shoot me down if I upset you but I still think we’re not getting it. We can’t make changes to our libraries and continue to hold onto the way we’ve always done it. I seriously think we’ll be out of a job soon unless we move along with public libraries and transform what we’re doing. We need to look at future predictions for education and the world of work, let go of what we’re comfortable with and make serious and fast-moving plans for change.

I don’t know about you but I can’t stop thinking about this topic. I don’t plan to retire for a long time (God willing) and don’t like to see myself made redundant. I’m also enamoured with my job and its possibilities, its enormous range of roles, its creative and connective nature, its freedom from the daily grind of curriculum and assessment of exhausted and time-poor teachers, its focus on school community, the empowerment of essential skills teaching, its embracing of transformative technologies. I could go on.

Just this morning I asked Jenny Luca on Twitter what she would be speaking about at the SLAQ2012 conference. She said she hoped ‘to talk about the future of the profession – what we need to do to ensure there is one’. I look forward to following her talk online because I know Jenny understands the imperative nature of this topic and will be worth listening to.

Also this morning I found on Twitter (via Judy O’Connell) a link to this article from Northwest England: ‘Special report: The future of public libraries; what the senior managers think’. I can see in many ways that school libraries (at least the ones in Melbourne, Australia) are lagging behind public libraries in their unwillingness to move with the times. New, shiny, colourful spaces – lovely, but that’s not fixing the problem. I found myself thinking that many of the points made in this article applied equally to school libraries. (You can read notes summarising the meeting here or listen the 60 minute  recording.

I’ve pulled out what I think is relevant to school libraries (open to discussion about these) –

What are the core services of libraries now and in ten year’s time?
  • To provide unbiased access to info.
  • To promote community and civic engagement (For us we definitely need to take a more pro-active role in connecting to the school community and also the wider community. Yes, we’ve been doing that through parent book clubs, providing our libraries for school related meetings and events  but I think we could break out even more and organise events which are not traditionally associated with libraries and books)
  • Digital access (We should provide more online, taking notice of an attractive and user-friendly web design – how outdated are some of our web pages! Let’s not ignore – or block- the students’ mobile devices which already enable them to connect to and create so much)
  • No longer transactional [that is, not based on stamping out books] but moving to transformational [presumably, this means, improving people’s life chances]. (Oh yes! Some school libraries have got this but at my school we are still spending most of our time stamping books and putting print credit on our boys’ printing accounts! How can we move into a transformational role? Something we should be discussing. I’m going to tread onto dangerous ground and even suggest that we avoid freeing ourselves up from the desk because provides us with the busy work our school community is used to observing. If we freed ourselves up we’d be challenged to organise engagement with teachers and students).
  • Force for social change (We can be leaders in modeling and integrating social media into learning and teaching. What other kinds of social change can we impact?)
  • Libraries can be a space for businesses and entrepreneurs,  providing meeting space, patent clinicsinventor clinics.  (Our school libraries should provide spaces for teachers to get away, relax, take part in discussions, collaborative planning – whatever. How many TLs are finding it difficult to catch a teacher on the run for a meaningful conversation? Money is always an issue. Some schools have been able to afford refurbishment, creating beautiful new and welcoming spaces. That hasn’t happened in our library yet but I think we should seriously think creatively and rearrange our spaces. So much space is taken up by our vast and archival non-fiction and reference collection. Beautiful but not the most contemporary face for our library. We also have small rooms housing journals and text books going back so far! What we can’t afford we can make up for using collective creative thought.)
  • In the larger cities, libraries can in the future supply 3D printing and fab-labs (Wow, I’d never heard of fab-labs before) (More about 3D printing here.)
  • Community spaces for all sorts of different things (Bring our school community in! Who has done this and how?)
  • Libraries will increasingly work with communities, where “anything can happen”.  Libraries will be very different “two miles down the road”. Volunteers can deliver more so “every neighbourhood is different” and every library will be different.  We need to employ people who positively react to community and allow libraries to be places which  “people can recognise as their own space”. (I wonder if our school community views our library as their space or our space? Certainly our students treat our library as they would their lounge room – noisy but vibrant. How can we do the same for teachers? I know that Kevin Whitney (Head of Library at Kew High School) does this by providing a quick, friendly service, a ‘yes, we can do that for you’ manner and a cup of coffee and CD playlist.

I like the idea of libraries being places where ‘anything can happen’. Yes, we should run ‘library-type’ events, as we always have, but what about breaking out of our mold and planning something unrelated to libraries and books. How better to dislodge the community’s narrow view of us and our role? I think public libraries are doing this better than us.)

This point interested me –

Public libraries will need to engage more with e-books and encourage “live” literature such as author visits which are really important. [However, it seemed like all the participants, with the possible exception of Ciara Eastell of Devon, did not really have their heart in this one and saw the delivery of books as, well, tedious and somewhat old-fashioned.  This was summed up by one panel member who said “we’re going to get savvier than offering just books”.

Of course school libraries focus on reading for enjoyment and literacy which is central to education. There’s so much more we can do (and are doing in many cases). Reading is not just decoding the writing and that’s why we offer audio and ebooks. But it’s also about many others things such as the thinking, discussion and debates that come out of it. Why not provide regular activities which focus on these things? Some of these things are happening in our libraries and others outside the library. Let’s become event organisers and creators for these things so that we’re not just limiting ourselves to author talks (fantastic as these are). We could do these things in different ways. I haven’t yet skyped an author but I plan to. I have brought authors into our yr 9 English student blogs, and students are thrilled that authors are commenting on their posts and sharing ideas. I’m hoping to organise a Slam Poetry event at the school – outside the library and hope to include teachers from different curricular areas to sit on the judging panel. What are you doing? What would you do if you had more courage?

Are there any limit to what libraries can do?
  • Libraries are provided by local authorities so need to have a responsibility to make life better for people.  However within this,  “the sky’s the limit” as long as framed by core needs.  “The ambition is to create surprises.”

I really like the idea of surprises. I have a plan for a surprise which I can’t share in case it’s not going to be realised. If I had my way, our library would overcome its financial limitations by decorating ‘grunge’ or be a kind of Wunderkammer. What I’ve seen in beautifully refurbished and designed school libraries is fantastic but it’s more a reflection of what librarians want and how they perceive their space than what students want. I say we listen to our students and include popular culture in our designing of spaces.

And this brings me to my final, and most dangerous, paragraph. This is where I lose friends (I hope not!) I’ve observed a defensiveness in our profession. One which occasionally divides teacher librarians and technicians into class distinctions; which sometimes sees us frustrated when we understand more about important literacies than teachers do but are unable to get a foot into classrooms to make any difference; which sees us taking up our precious class time cramming what our professional journals have told us we should be doing – unaware that nobody sees the value in this, unaware that the teacher really only wanted a quick 15 minute talk. Sometimes we don’t listen enough to the teachers, don’t have enough patience to build trust in the relationship before we go for it. Sometimes we don’t ask students if they already know something, or ask them what they really need help with, because we are determined to ‘do’ our planned information literacy lesson. If this isn’t you, then I apologize but I know I’ve been in all these situations at some stage and I’m never going to be there again. Our separation from the rest of the teachers and from ‘owning’ classes of students is difficult, and we have to work hard to build these relationships, because we know that relationships need to be forged before we can successfully teach our skills. I believe these relationships have to be sincere, real, not just as a way of promoting ourselves, and teachers can see through the marketing approach.

The Institute For The Future (USA) has published its Future Work Skills 2020 report. If you look at the summary below, you get an idea about what we should be thinking about in terms of our own future for school libraries.

You’ll have to view the original version to be able to read this. There’s so much here we could be helping the school community to realise: novel and adaptive thinking, new media literacies, transdisciplinarity, cross cultural competencies – we have the potential to play a role in all of these. We should take note of the ‘rise of smart machines’ prediction and free ourselves from the repetitive work which stops us from getting out and doing more essential things. We can do so much for social media competencies across the school so that the whole school focus is on a globally connected world. Just take a look at the Optus Future of Work Report 2012-2016 and its appeal for flexible workspaces. Futurist speaker, Tom Frey, lists teachers as one of the jobs which he predicts will disappear by 2030. But coaches and course designers will stay, according to the report.

Believe these reports or not, we should be looking at the future; things can’t stay the way they have been. We have been lulled into thinking that education will not be subject to the changes which take place in business because it actually hasn’t changed for such a long time! But this disconnect will not last too long, and we need the mindset and understanding to move with the changes. We should be part of schools which educate students for their future world; let’s look outside the walls of our libraries and our schools, and start moving.

(I am a secondary school teacher librarian and speak from this perspective. Views expressed are my own and do not represent those of my school).

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Poetry Graffiti at MHS

The library is a space with unlimited potential. Of course I’m not talking about things that are financially prohibitive. It’s not bound by faculty, it serves an enormous range of purposes; it’s the social and cultural centre of the school – at least potentially.

I’ve been thinking about how to dispel the fallacy that the library is just about books, how to include popular culture and encourage students to feel that the spaces in the library belong to them. It’s good to start small. I spoke to my colleague, Denise, about setting up a ‘Poetry Graffiti’ board. The idea is that students pin up poetry they like and have either found written. I thought we’d add some pictures to inspire thinking and whimsy, and we hope the students will understand ‘poetry’ in a broad sense and contribute both text and images.

To share pictures with Denise without the hassle of emailing them back and forth and keeping separate folders, I decided to try Pinterest. I warn you about Pinterest, it does suck you in if you’re a picture person (no, I’m not talking about wedding photos or recipes). My Pinterest boards have grown amazingly fast. I started collecting interesting or quirky images into a poetry board.

To provoke interest in a cryptic way, we decided to start off by creating a ‘Watch This Space’ board. This is how we did it.

Denise has done a fantastic job on creating the board. In the solitude of a library on Athletics day, she has created a brick wall using A4 prints and pinned up a couple of poems to get the boys started.

I hope this board will take off and that creativity, love of poetry and poetic image will fill the space and give students the chance to contribute their graffiti. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.

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Judith Way’s Virtual Aussie Libraries Tour

This has been cross-posted from the Melbourne High School Library blog.

I am privileged to have as a friend Judith Way. Judith makes things happen – I’ve said this before. As soon as I heard she hit on the idea of a virtual library tour I knew it was going to be good. And it is. Take a look here.

Thanks to everyone for sharing photo of your gorgeous libraries – so many ideas for those of us who are thinking about how we can improve our library spaces. And thanks to Judith for going to the effort of putting this project together.  It’s one step towards bridging the distances between all our libraries and sharing library design ideas.

Historypin looks fantastic – have a look at all the different tours.

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