Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
Best wishes to all our readers in New Zealand and elsewhere. We hope that you’ve enjoyed and been inspired by our blog throughout the year.We’ll be back in the new year with plenty of posts about Libraries and Learning.
We’ll be focussing on School libraries, Digital tools, Advocacy, Teaching and learning and will provide lots of professional reading for you. Let us know through the comments section if there are topics you’d particularly like us to cover, suggestions and general feedback.
New posts will start again toward the end of January just before the start of Term one 2013.
Very best wishes
Our children are our future
It was my privilege at Ulearn 2012 to hear a keynote presentation by Khoa Do, an acclaimed film director, screen writer and teacher. In the past ten years Khoa has specialised in working with marginalised communities, including at-risk and homeless youth, former prisoners and refugees of many nationalities.
Khoa’s own story is a remarkable one. At the age of two he arrived in Australia from Vietnam as a refugee on a tiny fishing boat. He grew up in poverty in Sydney’s western suburbs and since then has won numerous international awards as a film maker and was young Australian of the year in 2005.
His passion, humour and enthusiasm are infectious and uplifting. Throughout his career as a film maker, Khoa has worked with the most disadvantaged in his community, guiding them and inspiring them to incredible success. His message was simple and powerful. Khoa believes everyone, no matter what their background or experience, is extraordinarily gifted, and our goal is to help others to realise their true potential.
He urged us to believe in our young people and to instil in them the self belief that they are valued and that anything is possible.
Khoa encouraged us :
Libraries in our communities and our schools have a rich tradition of inclusion and empowerment. They are known as havens, sanctuaries - where no one is turned away or judged. Libraries build communities. Libraries and their staff have a long tradition of supporting individuals to grow and realise their potential.
Recently however, there was an incident which angered and disturbed me. It is a reminder of the damage and hurt that can be caused by putting library routines and procedures before empathy and understanding, by not listening - not trusting, by putting books before people.
A week before the conference a mother accompanied her beautiful Pasifika daughter - an avid reader - to the local community library. It was their second year living in New Zealand and the library was one of the girl’s favourite places. She had been back and forth almost every day in the school holidays. She always had at two or three books on the go and was always eager to see if her requests were on the shelf waiting to be collected. On this particular day as the mother and daughter left the library, squeezing through the security gates alongside an older pakeha woman, the security alarm sounded.
The librarian approached mother and daughter on the steps outside the library. The little girl explained that the books in her bag had been issued the week before. The other woman, leaving the library at the same time, explained that she had probably tripped the alarm because she had had difficulty self-issuing ther book.
The librarian ignored the older woman and did not wish to check her book. Instead she demanded the little girl go through her bag and remove her library books. The little girl complied, rummaging through her clothes, her leftover lunch treats, toys and games to find the books.
The mother did not understand why it was necessary to search her daughter’s bag on the pavement -in view of passers-by. She did not understand why the librarian didn’t wish to check the other woman’s book. She did not understand why the librarian did not listen to her daughter, or believe her.
She felt humiliated, belittled. She wanted to return to the community she had come from in the islands – where she and her children were treated with respect and dignity. She did not want to ever return to that library. The little girl was confused and did know what she had done wrong.
Library practices and routines that put books and procedures before people, serve to marginalise and alienate us from our communities. Library staff must recognise the hurt and harm they can do when they don’t listen, trust, and care. They need to understand the fragility of our young peoples’ sense of self belief and confidence.
Libraries have the power to lift people up. There is no place for library staff in any school or community who treat others with disrespect and damage their confidence.
As a library professional I was outraged.
As a husband and father I was heartbroken. That beautiful little girl was my daughter.
A recent article in The New York Times has a lot of people talking about whether readers can trust book reviews on sites like Amazon. Titled The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy, the article exposes a practice I had never considered: authors paying for positive reviews.
Self-published writers trying to get their books noticed want good reviews, but with so many books out there they struggle to get attention. Enter people like Todd Rutherford, who worked for a marketing company catering to self-published authors. When Mr Rutherford struggled to get legitimate reviews for his clients he decided to just start writing them himself. His new company (since closed down) delivered over four and a half thousand reviews and was pulling in $28,000 a month.
One writer named in the article says he has spent approximately $20,000 on reviews. Clearly, the market exists for these services. But what does it mean for those of us who scroll through the reviews at the bottom of the page before we click ‘buy’? How can we tell a bought review from a genuine one?
We may not be able to, and it doesn’t stop with books. Bing Liu, a data-mining expert interviewed for the article, estimates that “about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake.” His findings indicate that “it is all but impossible to tell when reviews were written by the marketers or retailers (or by the authors themselves under pseudonyms), by customers (who might get a deal from a merchant for giving a good score), or by a hired third-party service.”
What does this mean for readers? I have always taken these reviews with a bit of salt, but I will still probably be a bit more careful in future. Instead of just scrolling through Amazon reviews I will check blogs I trust, like the Wellington City Library Teen Blog or our own Create Readers . I will also share the article with students the next time I speak about trust online.
Had you heard about this practice? Will it change the way you view online reviews?
Sometimes we do things because that’s the way we’ve always done them….. it seems to work, everyone else does it this way, but sometimes it pays to have another look at our what we are doing and measure up against best practice and the “big picture” of what we know is really important and what we want to achieve.
I’m talking about library borrowing limits. How many books can your students borrow from your library and what happens if they have an overdue or lost book?
We know from research that:
I suggest if you haven’t already done so, think about your school library borrowing limits, talk about it in your library team and with all school staff, then abolish limits, or at least make them GENEROUS.
Consider what is most important
A library that is really well used will lose some books, but our most important goal is to create readers by giving all children as many positive reading opportunities as possible, not to end the year without any lost books.
flickr image by librarian in black
Increased numbers of books means variety and volume.
When children borrow more than one or two books they are able to select a variety; take a risk on something they may or may not like; have a hard book and an easy book on the go at the same time. The can try a new genre; follow a friend’s recommendation; read what they are in the mood for; choose fiction and also some non-fiction. It takes the pressure off choosing a single “just right” book, it provides plenty of reading until the next library visit, and it might provide a book for parents to read them a chapter at bedtime. From the experience of a practicing teacher, read this great Nerdy Book Club blog post about self-selected reading
Don’t work to the lowest common denominator
Imagine 20 children in a class. Five of them are reading like rockets and always bring their books back, eager for the next one; another ten children are regular readers and their books usually come back. There is an occasional overdue or lost book, but on the whole no problem. Then there are five children who for one reason or another struggle to keep track of their books – they forget them or lose them or a younger sibling scribbles in them. Why bring the whole class down to that level? Start off with high expectations and trust, and have strategies to use if needed such as a chat, an incentive chart, or a book limit for a term to see how it goes.
Proportion of the collection being borrowed
How many of your books are being borrowed each year, and how many are sitting on the shelf? If you have a collection of about 8,000 books and a roll of 200 students and every child is borrowing 2 books maximum that means about 5% is being borrowed at any one time. 95% is sitting on the shelf! There will probably be class or teacher loans too, but 90% of your collection sitting on the shelf isn’t really fulfilling its role!
Sometimes it’s the librarian, sometimes it’s the teacher
Sometimes it is the librarian who has to be persuaded that abolishing or increasing borrowing limits is a good idea, being loathe to risk precious books carefully chosen for the library, duly processed and promoted from a stretched budget. Sometimes it is a teacher, despite the librarian’s best efforts, who insist on limits for their students as a way of managing things, perhaps driven by a fear of losing books.
Sometimes it is simply how it has always been with rules like: “One book for juniors, two books for seniors”, “One fiction book, one non-fiction book”, or even “You have an overdue book so you can’t borrow another one until it comes back”, or “You lost two books last term so you can’t borrow any more until they are paid for.”
Either way, school libraries exist to support student learning and there should be a real conversation about benefits and learning outcomes. Then if necessary, have a trial period with more generous limits to see what the issues (!) really are.
This is an opportunity to use evidence to inform your practice. Your library management system can give you many reports about borrowing statistics: who, how many, how often, and you might want to survey students and staff too. Consider how you can use this information to investigate what is happening, identify trends, and report the impact of any change or initiative you make, and then build on it further.
Stories from other schools
I know schools which have abolished their borrowing limits and relaxed about over dues, and they report that children tend to find their own borrowing level – some more, some less, and that over dues are just the same as ever they were but no more of a problem. Issue statistics always go up, so you could extrapolate that reading mileage is going up too. Conversations in the library tend to be more about books and reading than allocations and over dues.
You may wish to retain limits on high demand areas such as graphic novels, or books in a particular popular series, but these can be managed by manners rather than rules, and strategies such as reserves.
Add a comment here about what you’ve done at your school with borrowing limits. Have you reviewed and relaxed your borrowing limits? What sort of impact that has had? Or what conversations you are planning to have in your school about making a change? Ask any questions you may have… I’m looking forward to reading your comments.
What is the mission of a library? Is it all about information and story (the content) or is it about books, databases and websites (the medium) or is it about something more fundamental than this?
As I ponder these questions, I am reminded of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. What do we need in order to become fully self actualized individuals and contributing members of society. As a human being, each of us has physical, emotional, mental and spiritual facets to our selves. What do we need to do to nurture all these facets and what therefore, we should value above all else?
What role does our library play in helping our community to satisfy those fundamental needs? Here is my attempt to play with these ideas:
Libraries have a great potential to fulfill these needs. All these components make us human, to understand ourselves, others and the world around us. It takes a shift in thinking about our practice from “how” to “why”. If you see your role as Librarian as an organiserof books, then you are selling both yourself and your clients short. You are focused on the medium, not the outcome. The medium (books, magazines, blogs, kindles, tweets, you tube clips, Facebook) is evolving and changing. The outcome (the” why”) is constant because it is deeply rooted in human needs.
The information and literacy environment is changing quickly. We are at a crossroads. For libraries to remain relevant and essential we may need to adapt our thinking and practice to accommodate these basic human needs for both personal and global truth and wisdom.
Does my library restrict, or enhance, conversations? Through conversations we make connections. We learn. We develop understandings and we share our wisdom. For library spaces, this requires a layout that accommodates both noise and quiet. We need to deliver services that accomodate different types of learning. We need to encourage group activities as well as individual spaces. For some people learning and creativity comes from conversations with ourselves, inside our heads requiring quiet space; for others it is collaborative problem solving that stimulates learning.
As you reflect on the many questions I have posed, consider the “why” of your library and reflect on how you can ensure that your services are both timeless and relevant.
image by Betterworks
By Rob F
This update: Education and Pacific Peoples in New Zealand from Statistics New Zealand not only includes statistics, but has accessed research on the background to the question of “why schools are failing to deliver successful educational outcomes for this group of students.”
Reading Education and Pacific peoples in New Zealand is well worth while. It makes some clear suggestions for addressing the issues.
By juxtaposing the desires of Pasifika parents for their children to have a good education with a data snapshot including: NEMP, PIRLS, PISA and NCEA : Statistica non-fantastica.
Summarising the findings, both problems and positive examples, the authors list eight things that make the most difference.
These are when:
In school libraries, there are implications too. The library can:
Some of the positive examples include:
This article raises hard questions, suggests answers and provides positive examples.
In this article from the Huffington Post, the role of libraries is explored – especially public libraries – as places that can do far more for their communities than provide free access to books. Not only are libraries able to foster lifelong learning and creativity, but they can also provide space to incubate the arts.
There’s a rich range of possibilities – as performance space, gallery, hosting space for a writer, poet, or artist (the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane hosted British artist Stephen Wiltshire while he drew a panorama of the city earlier in December 2011). While many libraries might not have the space for some of these activities, most libraries would be able to connect their community to the arts in some way.
Thinking about school libraries, many secondary schools already display artworks done by their students, and libraries in schools at every level are often the venue for visiting writers. Are there ways your school library can connect not only with the arts scene in your school – but with the arts in your wider community?
If you haven't seen it already, check out the AASL's Standards for the 21st Century Learner (PDF).
This concise, accessible document is structured around some common beliefs, and four key learning areas with expanded standards statements for each around skills, dispositions in action, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies.
Learners use skills, resources, & tools to:
By Rob Finlay
The “summer slump” or “slide” in literacy occurs when the gains made in literacy during the academic year are lost over the summer holidays. It is a particular problem for lower decile schools.
Many low-decile schools make a positive impact in student literacy over the course of a school year which is lost due to the lack of reading over long summer holidays. Clayton Park School in Manurewa tackled this issue by setting up a planned intervention which they monitored, measured and evaluated.
The approach was underpinned by a close analysis of literacy scores in successive Februaries and Novembers to establish a baseline, taking into account variance in months from expected age reading scores. For the study, the students were placed into three cohorts: “at-risk Māori”, “at-risk Pasifika” and “high-performing students”.
Deliberate interventions followed to improve teacher effectiveness. Existing Home-School Partnership meetings were used to keep parents informed. At the last meeting of the year the school set up summer reading contracts, goals and expectations with families as well as giving the parents strategies for helping children with their reading
The reading scores, both during the year and at the end of the summer holidays, were reviewed, and the strategy modified accordingly in an annual iterative process beginning in 2005.
The number of students who complete their contracts has grown over the six years the programme has been running has increased from 6 percent to 23 percent. For those students who complete the contracts, the results have been very gratifying, with an average gain of 5.7months in reading age over the summer break. Furthermore, as compared to students who fail to complete the contracts, these students have also experienced a year-on-year gain even greater than the national average annual reading gain. Conversely those who don’t complete their contracts slide backwards in their reading levels and do not experience a “catch-up” effect when they return to school.
The authors: Paul Wright, Principal at Clayton Park School and Dr Cathy Wright, researcher at Auckland University, conclude that the sustained practice of summer reading as part of a wider strategy leads to improved literacy gains.
For the full article :
Wright, Paul & Wright, Cathy. “An initiative to counter the “summer reading drop”: an iterative process”. Set 2, 2011, p 38-46, NZCER.
The theme of this year's conference was Passion, People and Power. The conference invited us to think critically about ourselves as professionals, our contributions to the library sector and the place libraries have in society. The conference included many speakers from New Zealand and overseas who reiterated that one of our greatest challenges is our ability, or not, to advocate effectively. For the full keynote and other sessions transcripts go to LIANZA.
The keynote speakers outlined a range of advocacy ideas and suggested that we should be advocating in the good times, not just the bad. There seem to be some important questions to ask. How do we promote ourselves and our industry? Who should we align ourselves with and what message do we want to send? Libraries are always facing threats, obstacles or challenges; the question is: how do we respond? Do we continue to just respond? At what stage do we become proactive? Advocate during the good times, advocacy as par for the course – Imbed it into our behaviour.
Research is another area that is crucial to developing a strong advocacy base. Molly Raphael, 2011 -2012 President, American Library Association mentioned several research papers that are particularly compelling. These include The Importance of School Libraries compiled by Keith Curry Lance, Ph.D. Director; Library Research Service; Colorado State Library. Looking at research ensures we are always seeking evidence around best practice.
Andrew Booth is Reader in Evidence Based Information Practice at the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield. He spoke about evidence based library and information practice. Stating that we need to be sure of the decisions we are making and use evidence, research and stats to support our decisions. Use the 5 A’s of Evidence Based Library Information Practice:
Karen Coyle has over 30 years library experience and currently is investigating the possibilities offered by the semantic web and linked data technology. Are library catalogues holding us back? Restricting our clients and ultimately boring? Linked data may be the answer. In this brave world information links to information, even the link is information. You don’t just look up an author or a title, but an entire web page of information. See Open Library Here you get a range of information – imagine the possibilities. At The Virtual International Authority File you can search across a range of National Libraries that are linked by authority files, making the information available on the web. The update at conference is that the Library of Congress is to replace Marc with the Symantec web! Check out Karen’s blog at Coyle’s Information and here.
Jenica Rogers is the Director of Libraries at the State University of New York at Potsdam. This was the last keynote session of the conference. The theme was Reality based librarianship for passionate librarians. Jenica was challenging, inspiring and realistic in her view of librarians and libraries. Jenica believes that there is an issue in fostering leadership within libraries and more needs to be done to identify and mentor current and future leaders. Jenica also stated that budget cuts, stereotypical views of librarians and libraries is par for the course and “we should just get over it”. We should spend time moving forward, not concerned with where we are now.
Jenica spoke about being passionate, how in the pursuit of goals and objectives one big question determines if it is all worth it “is this a hill you are willing to die on?” If you ask yourself that question, then you will gain clarity on the things that count, and the things you can maybe let go of.
Some engaging workshops included Sally Pewhairangi – Finding Heroes The ideas factory: what is the biggest challenge you will face next year? This was a very practical, thought provoking session where we worked as individuals and teams to decide upon our greatest challenge. Interestingly many of the same issues concerned the groups. These included funding, professional development, staff training and development, customer outreach and growing our client base. Each group analysed a range of issues and came up with responses that prioritised their level of importance. The information gathered can be viewed and discussed at NZ Libraries in 2025: Ideas.
The LIANZA workshop was on Building a stronger profession – is the library and information service profession dying or a profession which remains relevant and is worth strengthening? In this session 4 groups each examined a question set by LIANZA hoping for member feedback. 1. How do we keep the best and brightest in the profession – how do we get them? 2. We are in silos and fragmented – how to unite? 3. How do we articulate our value 4. Our skills have changed, how does LIANZA help this? A fun, stimulating and practical idea may be to ask your colleagues, staff or users these questions. They may form the basis for an introspective look at our own services, and skills. The questions could be altered to accommodate a variety of environments.
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