Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
Boards of Trustees elections are coming up at the end of May for all our New Zealand schools.
Have you thought about what key messages you would like to give new board members about your school library?
A good place to start thinking about this is to consider the roles and responsibilities of your BOT and shape your messages to complement your Board’s directions. As with all advocacy, it is most effective when you align your message to the audience’s goals.
Boards of Trustees are responsible for school planning and reporting, in an ongoing self review cycle of continuous improvement. Equity and excellence for all students is central, with the goal of raising student achievement across the school.
How does your school library contribute to student equity and excellence? How do you know? How does the Board know?
How does your school library contribute to raising achievement across the school? How do you know? Does the Board know?
Read more about Boards of Trustees and their roles and responsibilities at
Please share your good ideas with all of us through the comments section of this blog.
cc image by alan cleaver
By Peter Murgatroyd
School librarians shape lives. As cradles of curiosity and imagination, school libraries are a community taonga where our children are inspired to dream, to question, to reflect and to aspire to live extraordinary and unique lives.
Libraries are more than the nexus of books, technology and services. Great school libraries are a school’s heart. Pam Sendlian Smith, Director of Anythink Libraries describes libraries as learning spaces that influence lives and create communities. She says that libraries are about helping people to live their most abundant lives and describes librarians as architects of dreams.
In communicating her passion and vision for libraries, Pam focuses on the Why of libraries. We do not win hearts and minds by telling stories of the What and the How.
During the term 1 school holidays I had the opportunity to participate in Ignition 2013, an ‘unconference’ for emerging school leaders. The theme of Ignition is an “incubator for awesomeness”. Ideas were shared and innovations explored. Ignition 2013 is all about the Why. It is all about learner outcomes. It is all about passion.
I recently watched LIANZA President-elect Laurinda Thomas being interviewed on TV One’s Breakfast programme about the future of community libraries. It was important she communicated the Why; communicated the passion. And that she spoke to the values and beliefs that would resonate with those watching. She did: A deep commitment to social justice, equity and participation, and a heartfelt desire to make a difference in our communities.
Simon Senek, author and well known TED speaker, describes authentic leadership as more about passion and emotion than rationality. Martin Luther King, Senek notes, did not have a twelve point plan. He had a dream.
When you have the opportunity to reach people; to shift their perceptions of your library, its role and its value, focus on the Why. Share your passion. Share your dream.
Architects of Dreams: Anythink’s Pam Sandlian Smith on the Power of Children’s Librarians
Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action [Ted talk]
Laurinda Thomas. Libraries are important community hubs .
Andrew Churches: What is the role of the librarian Educational Origami blog
By Linda F
You are literate. In fact you enjoy, even crave books and reading, but you don’t have an income to buy books or a home where you could read and shelve them. Perhaps you’d borrow them, but where could you go if you didn’t have an address with which to secure a library card or didn’t feel you belonged in a public library?
In Sydney the Benjamin Andrew Footpath Library is an inspirational example of libraries as a powerful vehicle for social justice. Founded by philanthropist Sarah Garnett in 2003 the Footpath Library provides new and high quality books and magazines for those who would not usually have ready access to books and reading. The library now also has branches in Melbourne and Brisbane and aims to be Australia-wide by 2014.
The library began on the footpaths of Sydney when Sarah noticed a homeless man regularly retrieving books from rubbish bins. Now, books are delivered by van to the footpaths of Sydney streets and libraries of books have also been set up in refuges, hostels, community centres and other places that look after homeless and marginalised citizens.
In addition, and perhaps because books warm the soul but not always the body, the Footpath Library also co-ordinates the donation of knitted goods like hats and scarves to keep their customers warm during winter.
For those who live on the streets or live on the fringes of ‘mainstream’ society deliveries from the mobile Footpath Library open up a whole world of new places to go, access to different ideas and learning, and a forum for book conversations. It also builds literacy and a community of readers. The Footpath Library is a continuously evolving and inspiring story about the difference reading makes to the lives of a diverse group of people who may not otherwise have access to books.
Listen to Sarah Garnett speaking about the establishment of the Footpath Library, how the library changes lives, and the kinds of books that are most popular:
Follow @Footpathlib on Twitter
By Linda F
Can you remember the time before you learnt to read or, more vividly, the day you or your children or the students you teach began to learn to read?
On 6 March the LitWorld organisation led World Read Aloud Day.
World Read Aloud Day and its slogan Read It Forward was a celebration of reading aloud, but most of all it was a call to imagine and work towards a world where everyone can read.
Currently there are approximately 793 million people in the world who are illiterate and LitWorld’s work with children and their communities aims to build storytellers and leaders who are confident and literate. Their programmes include reading clubs for children and a big focus on empowering girls through literacy. Another strand of their work, the Lit! project, enables the use of solar powered lanterns to provide safe light for reading in places where there is no electricity.
Our children’s future is at stake, so have your say!
What do you think are the biggest science challenges facing New Zealand? Is it climate change, water quality, protecting our biodiversity, or green technologies?
You may have seen the advertisement on TV (that scientist with red hair!) but The Great New Zealand Science Project represents a very real and valid way for New Zealanders young and old to express their views by linking our top scientific minds with a few of the best open-minded, free-thinkers we know, (our kids)!.
In fact, the project particularly wants to hear the views of young New Zealanders, and importantly to encourage more young people to consider science-based careers. They and everyone else can visit The Great New Zealand Science Project to explore these challenges and build their own science project around what they think future science issues could be.
Along the way students can also learn about the challenges through a series of interactive slides and video on the site
In fact its the public’s input that will help the Government focus its investment on solving these challenges for the benefit of future generations. Currently there are eight illustrative challenges to get people thinking and talking. They include: marine resources; natural hazards; fighting disease; advanced materials and manufacturing, and foods for health.
The $60 million of new funding announced in last year’s Budget will be used to support the first new challenge projects, and to extend existing research if that is required.
So visit the site and lets all have our say - its important that we shape a New Zealand our future generations can be proud of.
by Linda M
I attended a course some time ago where we discussed the boundaries we need to understand in our personal and professional lives. Depending on our relative place in a “pecking order”, we have greater or lesser control over what affects us. Our ability to influence others allows us greater or lesser control over outcomes. I’ve found this conceptual structure helpful, particularly in terms of advocacy
The first of these four boundaries is: “The Mandatory boundary 100:00”. This includes all our laws, government requirements, where the ratio of our influence is zero. Yes, we can influence the government via our vote and through consultation, but once the laws are passed, we are obliged to comply, with sanctions – the legal system – if we do not. In schools and school libraries, the mandatory might be: school opening hours, censorship restrictions, labour regulations, health and safety requirements.
There is a 75:25 ratio; “the Consults boundary”. In schools/ school libraries this is when the Principal consults with stakeholders, who might try to influence the outcome, though the ultimate decision rests with the principal. In a library example, you might wish to increase your budget, but the Principal may have other priorities and may decide even to decrease the budget. This is when you need to ensure you have been collecting evidence to illustrate how the library is supporting the school’s educational and literacy goals. Use your 25% influence to present evidence that increasing the library budget will result in enhanced student outcomes: What? How? Why? Persuasion, with supporting evidence, is the name of the game! Remember the L2 blog post on the ‘Elevator speech’? Have your evidence at your fingertips; you never know when you might need to use it!
The 50:50 ratio is about agreements. It is called the “Negotiates boundary”. This is about two parties of equal influence. Each party must consider how their position/lobby affects the other party. Both must come to a resolution which is acceptable to both. In schools and school libraries, It might be an agreement on teaching and learning objectives, perhaps an inquiry sequence agreed on between the librarian and a teacher, who each benefit from the others’ areas of expertise. Or it could be an operational negotiation. “OK, if you do the cataloguing, I’ll do the reference desk?”
The 00:100 ratio is for us to decide: “The Self-Manage boundary”. We know what we need to do and prioritise our own work as effectively as possible to suit. For schools and school libraries, this might be operational. “Today, I’ll put up a library display to support a syndicate’s topic” Maybe it is a decision related to our personal ethics – ‘I am a friendly, approachable information professional-here to support my school community’s learning goals’
I guess the message is: Understand what your limits are, but always challenge yourself always to improve what you can. Remember that ‘your’ students need you to be as pro-active as possible on their behalf.
At the recent National Library’s ‘Sail into Summer Reading” seminars, we have engaged in lively conversations about how pithy quotes can encapsulate the essence of what we wish to convey and can linger long afterwards in the reader’s/listener’s mind.
For example, a gem about the importance of reading aloud is this quote from Mem Fox:
“I’m advocating people read aloud for 10 minutes a day. Because that’s one per cent of the day. If you can’t read aloud to your kid for 10 minutes, why have you got a child? Wouldn’t it have been better for you to have goldfish?”;
Ideas for sharing thought-provoking quotes include:
Another idea is to use a fun online tool such as Tagxedo, which creates a word cloud with a difference. You can create shapes thematically linked to the words.
At some stage, we have all come across quotable quotes that have resonated with ourselves, which we can use on applicable occasions. Mine include:
“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.” William Styron, Interview, Writers at Work, 1958
“I can hear the library humming in the night,
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.”
Billy Collins, Extract from poem: Books in Sailing around the room. 2002
“There are books so alive that you’re always afraid that while you weren’t reading, the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away. No one has stepped twice into the same river. But did anyone ever step twice into the same book?” Marina Tsvetaeva, Pushkin and Pugachev, 1937
“When students read for pleasure, when they get “hooked on books”, they acquire, involuntarily and without conscious effort, nearly all of the “language skills” many people are concerned about…” Stephen Krashen, The Power of Reading, 2d ed., 2004
And the list goes on…..
For other examples of quotable quotes on creating readers, join National Library’s Services to Schools Online Community: Inspiring Readers! and view the listed quotes. Do add your gems!
If there was a book about you, what would the title be? How would your students, and your school staff, describe what you do? Perceptions of the role and character traits of library staff have been captured through the decades by writers, cartoonists and movie-makers. Stereotypically these have varied from the stern old dragon to …… [fill in all the images that sprang to your mind!]
Delightful portrayals include:
“You see, “I don’t believe that libraries should be drab places where people sit in silence, and that’s been the main reason for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians.” Monty Python
“As a general rule, librarians are a kick in the pants socially, often full of good humor, progressive, and naturally, well read. They tend to be generalists who know so much about so many things that they are quite the opposite of the boring old poops they have been made out to be...” Bill Hall, editor, Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune
Librarians are not to be taken for granted:
”Mary Kay is one of the secret masters of the world: a librarian. They control information. Don’t ever piss one off.”
Spider Robinson, The Callahan Touch
Certain expectations are required of librarians:
“People flock in, nevertheless, in search of answers to those questions only librarians are considered to be able to answer, such as “Is this laundry?” “How do you spell surreptitious?” and, on a regular basis, “Do you have a book I remember reading once? It had a red cover and it turned out they were twins.” Terry Pratchett, Going Postal
“If she can’t spell, why is she a librarian? Librarians should know how to spell.” Beverley Cleary, Ramona’s World.
Beverley Cleary was a librarian, whose school librarian had instilled in her a belief that she, too, could write for children someday.
The value and influence of the librarian from a student’s perspective:
“As a kid in West Virginia, I had a very rich imaginary world. And my dream was to grow up to be a librarian, because I had a librarian named Mrs. McCann who I thought was the most magical woman on the planet. She used to publish little versions of my stories, typing them on manila folders and illustrating them with pictures of me and my teddy bear: T-Bear Goes to Mars and T-Bear’s Trip to the Moon. She was my first mentor—the first person who really took an interest in me for me, which when you’re a kid is a major deal. I’ve had other mentors, and those relationships were based on reading. They gave me a sense of who I was.” Jennifer Garner Interview, Oprah Magazine
“She’s a librarian, Sim said. They’re not teachers; don’t give you half as much hassle. If there’s a fire in the school and I’ve got to choose who I’m gonna save - a teacher or a librarian - the teacher’s gonna burn every time.” Keith Gray, Ostrich boys
With annual reports and performance appraisals looming, what feedback on you and your library’s services could you include from your students, staff and parents/whänau? What would their responses look like, sound like and feel like? In 10, 20, 30+ years’ time, what memories will your students have of you as having been an influence on their lives?
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.
The American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) met in Vancouver earlier this year. The theme was ‘Non Satis Scire: To Know Is Not Enough’.
Educators’ knowledge about learning and teaching continues to increase through the publication of scholarly research. However, although AERA gave high marks to advancing knowledge about education through scholarly inquiry, the report was not as glowing for “the use of research to improve education and serve the public good”.
What would our New Zealand report card look like?
If your Board of Trustees asked you for studies and evidence that reading for pleasure supports student learning outcomes, what would you suggest?
What research would you mention as part of an ‘elevator speech’ about the value of school libraries?
Reflect for a moment. Check your list against the information in Education counts.
Which studies do you consider most useful? Are NZCER, PISA and PIRLS on your list? Which others? What about research on improving students’ inquiry learning skills, what examples would you draw on?
For starters, we could refer to BlueMountain College, Tapanui (Otago) where teachers and library staff used the National Education Monitoring Project’s (NEMP) Information Skills survey to test Year 8 students. The findings showed the need to focus on developing the students’ skills and attitudes to writing.
How can we place more emphasis on using research as well as adding to the body of research on the difference school libraries make?
Let us know of anything you have done that has transformed the impact of your library service on your students’ learning. Share your research journey and inspire others with examples of evidence, which supports student achievement.
One avenue for you to share your research experiences and to learn about others is National Library’s Online Community: Collaboration, Advocacy and how libraries can add value to learning.
For inspiration, these research findings will help you on your way.
National Library’s Services to Schools includes research findings on school libraries, learning and pedagogical models. See:
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