Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
By Rob F
How we perceive the Pacific, teach about it and provide resource for it matters. For students with Pacific heritage or origins, self-identity is at stake. Attitudes of non-Pasifika classmates are influenced by what they learn in school.
Library staff are in a position to influence learning as they provide resources for learning. New Zealand, as a South Pacific nation with strong ties to colonial history, trade and development with Pacific neighbours and a significant population of Pasifika New Zealanders, recognises that understanding the Pacific is important.
Tanya Wendt Samu, along with Alexis Siteine, both at the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland have written many articles about Pasifika and Social Studies education. These articles present a case for studying the Pacific Islands in the Social Sciences and advise on best approaches.
Samu and Siteine describe three perspectives on the Pacific used in Social Studies units:
The most powerful and affirming is the “Oceanic” perspective. An Oceanic approach recognises common experience and traditional views. Today, the world of the Pacific “encompasses the great cities of Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada” with Auckland as its capital. (Hau’ofa 1993)
Most Pacific cultures have long been in contact each other. Dr. Damon Salesa, the first New Zealand Samoan Rhodes Scholar now at University of Auckland’s Centre for Pacific Studies speaks of the Central Pacific island groups round Samoa, Tonga and Fiji as a “Sea of Stories”. These islands shared histories and influence well before European ships traversed Pacific waters. This shared contact helped spread knowledge of Palagi (Europeans) across the region 200-odd years ago.
A few print resources reflect this approach. Samu, with Mona Papali’i and Alison Carter, produced the Tagata Tangata books: Families and work, Our people, our lands, and Contact and change (Pearson). Though organised as text books, the thematic information makes them valuable for libraries as well. Another resource that supports this approach is Marcia Stenson’s Illustrated history of the South Pacific (Random House , 2006).
A “small islands” perspective focuses on individual island nations, in their “smallness and islandness’’, which needs to be connected to an “Oceanic” focus as above, to give context and to support the significance and relevance of the study of the islands. Many resources support a small island view.
There is also the “tourist” approach, focussing on “food, dress and music” with the effect of putting “the natives… on show, vulnerable to the gaze of the dominant culture. This perspective can perpetuate stereotypes, misrepresent cultural realities, and undermine a sense of belonging and identity”. (Samu 2009)
School libraries also have access to a range of digital resources, much of which will support Oceanic or small islands approaches.
For more information and suggested resources for supporting Pasifika students, read more here.
To support positive learning about the Pacific, staff need to be well-informed about the Pacific and personally connected with their Pasifika students. Pasifika voices need to be validated. This can happen when the school library becomes a focus for engagement with Pacific worlds.
What do you do in your library to support learning about the Pacific? We’d love to read about your successes here.
Samu, Tanya Wendt, The location and dislocation of Pacific knowledge and experience in New Zealand social studies (1997-2007). NZCER, Curriculum matters 5: 2009
E. Wadell, V. Naidoo, & E. Hau‘ofa (Eds.) A new Oceania: Rediscovering our sea of islands (pp. 2-16). Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific.
By Rob F
flickr image by Cockburn Libraries
At the 2011 SLANZA Conference I was impressed by a session called “Hosting a Living Library in your school” taken by Colleen Shipley, from Marlborough Girls College. This is a way to add to the dynamism of your school library, encouraging students to engage with people as sources of information.
Colleen organised a Living Library day with 18 “living books” as part of Library Promotion Week in 2008. As a result of its popularity she repeated it on a smaller scale in 2010.
Frequently-cited benefits of Living (or Human) Libraries are encounters with people who experience prejudice, talking with someone outside your normal zone of comfort, hearing what it was like to be part of a dramatic event in history or scientific expedition.
Consider the potential in a school with Māori, Pasifika or immigrant students where there are few resources in home languages. This is an opportunity to showcase other cultures and their experiences.
I interviewed Colleen for this feature. Here are my questions and her answers:
R: What attracted you to the idea of Living Libraries?
C: When LIANZA put the suggestion out for Library Promotion Week in 2008, I did some reading and thought it was an excellent way to get the girls buzzing, especially as we have a popular biography section.
R: What issues did you face in timetabling and promotion?
C: I timetabled it to fit with the health class which was studying discrimination in 2008 and media class in 2010. Plus we covered a lunch time- so it was open to everyone. We allowed 20 minute slots each, and for some that was enough, but a couple of girls came and “renewed their books”. Promotion was done in assembly, via newsletter and a general tell-girls-about-it when they visit the library. We also had support with an article in the newspaper.
R: How did you recruit your “Books”?
C: We kept an eye out in local newspaper for stories of interesting people, canvassed staff for ideas or contact agencies appropriate to the “book.” The local district health nurse was very useful.
R: What excited you about the experience?
C: Seeing the girls engage with complete strangers was very rewarding and the feedback was amazing. The “books” stayed on for an afternoon tea together and although they often felt self conscious about talking about themselves they found the experience rewarding. In some cases it also changed their prejudices against teenagers.
R: Any warnings?
C: Be prepared for some books to not turn up because something else crops up, and a phone call reminder the day before helps even if they say they don’t need it.
R: Are you happy for people to contact you directly for more information or sample documents?
C: Certainly, love to help.
Thank you, Colleen.
If you have further questions, contact Colleen : ColleenS@mgc.school.nz
For further information:
Twelve inspiring ideals – ways libraries of all kinds can enrich communities everywhere
New Zealanders love their libraries – and although this was published for an American readership, I’m sure Kiwis will identify with these 12 aspirational ideals.
New technologies have changed the face of libraries, creating new ways for libraries to enrich their communities. Here you can read and identify with the many aspects of how libraries of all kinds can play a key role in society. I particularly loved this sentence: “Libraries rid us of fences that obstruct our vision and our ability to communicate and to educate ourselves.”
As librarians and library supporters we may have to advocate for our libraries and the services we offer. Let’s draw on these inspirational statements, and use them to support our libraries in this country.
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