Friday, May 30, 2008

Your Neighborhood Librarian

(yes, I can spell Australian English, but she's American). A blog full of useful links and ideas and stuff to make you laugh (she's fugged the Britney Spears READ poster now, and I doubt I'll be able to look at a Harry Potter book again without a reminiscent snort).

Bung her on your bloglines list. You won't be sorry. Your Neighborhood Librarian.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

How To Boost Your Creative Output

Again courtesy of, How to boost your creative output. As I read the ideas, I think of the many students I have known and know now, who let a fear of failure or its embarrassing cousin, ridicule, prevent them from making an attempt. There is, in their minds, less to lose by not trying at all than by trying and failing - however they define failure. And we can't know, as they enter our classrooms and school libraries, what their past history may be, and what may have bred or confirmed this perspective. Still, our job then is to create an environment where failure is OK, and an attempt is not a short road to humiliation - a safe place for learning to flourish and creativity and effort are rewarded. It's a verbal and nonverbal game, and sometimes the greatest value for students is when you are prepared to admit to your own failures - not as preachy sermons, but to show that we're all on a learning journey, and as with any worthwhile journey, obstacles are pretty much inevitable.

Quote from the lifehack article - read the tips (these points are expanded in the article):

  • Churn Without Judgment.
  • Creative Input.
  • Be Patient.
  • Use Large Time Chunks.
  • Publish Garbage.
  • Set a Quota.
  • Hit the Challenge Zone.
  • Aim With Your Challenge Zone.
  • Nuke Those Assumptions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Literature opens the door

Let us give thanks to librarians. When I was young and knuckleheaded, fighting against being poor, against being brown, against being an immigrant, against being rejected by my father, it was a librarian assigned to a tiny precinct in Central New Jersey who took the time out of her work and with care and arid enthusiasm introduced me to the wonder of books and in the process, I would argue, saved my life.


Literature is in my estimation best understood as a record of our human selves: of our frailties, of our follies, of our errors, of our limitations, of our fears, of our delusions, of our evasions and of our vulnerabilities. Literature when done right moves us beyond our myths of mastery and invulnerability and reminds us with inescapable force that all we are and all we shall ever be is human. Literature, in other words, bears witness to what it is to be human. Bearing witness to our humanity not only punctures myths and acts as an antidote to those who would dehumanise us through war, deception, the logic of capital and the daily quotidian practice of cruelty and indifference, it also helps to make us more human. And it is in this human-making that literature, like all art, excels.

Are from Literature opens the door to compassion in our brief lives by Junot Diaz, in the Sydney Morning Herald 26 May 2008

Link to article

Tinyurl for this article

I learned about this via the excellent nswtl list.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TED Tuesday: Redefining the dictionary.

From the TED resource of online talks, Erin McKean talks about the paper dictionary in the internet age.

To quote from the TED website:

Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction? When does a made-up word become real? And could you use "synecdochical" in a sentence, please? In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways in which today's print dictionary is poised for transformation in this internet era.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fridge poetry online

I was talking with a colleague about creative writing with junior high school students, and we were discussing the possibilities of 100 word stories (I've blogged a site about these before).

Here's another option: Fridge Poetry, brought to you courtesy of the BBC. I harvested this image with Print Screen, but you can also email your poem (viewable online for a month).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pay Attention

I'm doing some presentations at staff meetings this term, about technology and internet resources, and came across this. And said to myself, why are you spending hours putting together presentations, when someone's already done one like this? I'll still do some myself, but it was an object lesson to remember to use available resources too, not try to reinvent the wheel. Oddly enough, sorta kinda one of the points I want to make to my colleagues. Ahem.

This is a great piece from TeacherTube.

The website it sends you to at the end includes some very useful links pages to things like technology integration and online teacher tools. The site is from the Jordan School District in the US.

url for video above, if it doesn't show up for you:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NationStates: online simulation game

To quote from the website:

NationStates is a free nation simulation game. Build a nation and run it according to your own warped political ideals. Create a Utopian paradise for society's less fortunate or a totalitarian corporate police state. Care for your people or deliberately oppress them. Join the World Assembly or remain a rogue state. It's up to you.

Haven't yet created my own nation with it, but it has potential for History/Society and Culture/Geography (so I've pointed those teachers at it so they can see if it's useful). It was devised as a ploy to draw attention to a novel (Jennifer Government by Max Barry).

Check it out by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TED Tuesday: From 1984, four predictions about the future

From the TED resource of online talks, one from 1984, in which Nicholas Negroponte discusses convergence in technology.

To quote from the TED website:

Speaking at the first TED Conference in 1984, Nicholas Negroponte waxes prophetic on the converging fields of technology, entertainment and design. Years before anyone was using the word "convergence," Negroponte was thinking about TV screens as the "electronic books of the future" and computers as the future of education. In excerpts from his 2-hour talk (this was before TED's 18-minute time limit), he foreshadowed CD-ROMs, web interfaces, service kiosks, the touchscreen interface of the iPhone, and his own One Laptop per Child project. Oh, and there's also a fascinating project called Lip Service, which, well, let's just say it's still ahead of us ...

Australia film teaser trailer

I'm sure this film will end up scrutinised as a version of Australian history and a representation of Australian culture. Quite apart from all the people who'll just enjoy it. Baz Luhrmann is a clever, clever director (and Strictly Ballroom is an HSC text, of course).

Here's the first teaser trailer for Australia, which stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (sourced from the website which seems to be OK for DET computers).

Link for this trailer:

Here's a fansite dedicated to the film.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Graffiti Artist by

This amuses me - and it has school possibilities, as you can print the results of your (or your students') work. From Widgetbox. And there are other widgets over there you might like. Go look. (No, I'm not paid to say that).

I've always liked the canny simplicity of Keith Haring's work. Apart from Visual Arts, how much fun could you have with this devising library signage? Just drag an image up into the white space, or click left/right to see what other colours/images you can play with.

Friday, May 16, 2008

You learn something new every day #1

Some days it's just great to have someone look over your shoulder and point to something on the screen , and say, why don't you....

For example, Why don't you click on the button that sizes up this trailer to the full screen?

Excellent. I just learned something - didn't know what that box icon was for, hadn't particularly noticed it. Float the cursor over it, and I'd have learned. Ah well.

A nice thing is, it works for TeacherTube videos too.

On one of the TL (teacher librarian) lists I belong to, there's been a brief discussion recently on stupid questions. See, the thing is, if you don't ask 'em, it'll take a lot longer to learn. I'm not a techspert, but I know stuff and I know how to ask questions, I'm a teacher and a learner, and that's likely to be The Way Things Are for the rest of my career. And that's fine.

I'm sure some of you knew how to use this little button, but in the hope that some didn't, and can now say, 'ooh-that's-clever' - well, it's worth posting this.

Using this blog with my school community

In a recent comment (so far there haven't been many, so the least I can do is be attentive when someone takes the time - and it is a fair question!), Jenny wrote:

Could you add to your blog some of the ways you use this to communicate with your school community?

Um, OK. Right now, I don't. Not won't, but don't.

The school intranet structure has been undergoing a revision this year, with a fairly specific format, and there is a library section on that, although at present it's staff access rather than student access. I'm still learning how that format/software works, so I can see how to exploit it most effectively.

As you probably noticed, this blog exists on the internet, on the web, on an independent platform (Blogger/blogspot). I'm already familiar with wrangling Blogger, so when I started planning a blog related to my work, it was the obvious choice. And then it added scheduling entries (I often create a run on the weekend, and schedule them for during the week - you didn't really think I was blogging ten minutes before the roll call bell, did you?? You login at which was useful.

My first goal in setting up this blog was entirely selfish, to bung in one spot stuff I'd found that looked useful, so I could find it again.

My second goal, hard on its heels, was the one common to so many teacher librarians, sharing this stuff in case it helped someone else not have to reinvent the wheel. The community this blog serves is the teacher librarian and teaching community, rather than specifically my school staff/students.

My third was to see what I did find, if almost daily posting was do-able not just in terms of time, but in terms of content/source material.

So far so good, I'm finding and posting and, to judge by the stats, being found by others.

Next comes the best answer I can presently give to your question: I don't know, but I'm thinking. With a body of work established, I have a stronger foundation to go the powers that be at school and suggest ways in which I could adapt this to serve my colleagues. I'm also thinking about how/where I might do a library blog pitched at students (one key: if they trip over it, they're more likely to read it, so where can it go in their login process so they do trip over it?). Lots of questions.

As I've alluded to in posts, I'm consciously drawing on a small part of this for the library piece I write for the school's monthly newsletter, providing some internet resources/ideas for parents. I don't print this blog address in there, because it is, in this form, not an official school-related document.

I do like the way a blog organises itself, stuff getting older and retreating, but findable through tags. That immediacy and regularity has benefits which aren't the same as a complex school library website on the school intranet, and I'm not sure that I have either the time or the wish to create or effectively maintain and develop such a website. I like blogging, and see its benefits in a variety of ways.

I'm not sure if this does answer your question, but it's the best answer I can give right now. I'll keep you posted. Thank you Jenny for your comment and kind words.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will libraries be extinct by 2019?

Courtesy of Pimp My Library, a link to a photoessay on Slate about the future of public libraries. It asks:

What sort of public library does the "digital world" of Google, Wikipedia, and Kindle* require?

The photoessay shows some modern and older library spaces, all with a monumental grandeur but with varying futures.

Alongside the final slide, it says:

Ross Dawson, a business consultant who tracks different customs, devices, and institutions on what he calls an Extinction Timeline, predicts that libraries will disappear in 2019. He's probably right as far as the function of the library as a civic monument, or as a public repository for books, is concerned. On the other hand, in its mutating role as urban hangout, meeting place, and arbiter of information, the public library seems far from spent. This has less to do with the digital world—or the digital word—than with the age-old need for human contact.

And so, in the context of school libraries and teacher librarians, what can we do, should we be thinking about and doing, to make our libraries remain current, relevant, answering the needs of our clientele?

*Kindle note: you can't buy a Kindle if you live outside the US, and even if you bought one while there, I'm not sure that you could download anything after you'd left the US, or if its wireless system would work outside the US. Maybe one day. Vague equivalents here in Oz seem to be twice as expensive, to start with (eg. Dymocks' iLiad, which retails for $899AU).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

5 Ways to Get Out of Faffing Mode

One for the senior students, perhaps? As teacher librarians, we have got opportunities to convey dispassionate advice - some seniors we rarely see, while others work in the library whenever they have a study period. Giving them a cheery greeting as they walk up to the senior study, or advising them about which areas of the library are booked/not booked, all these things build bridges, make the library staff known as people who help. Not that this prevents the necessity of pinging them at times for being too noisy, or the need to point some faffers, who are disturbing others, in the direction of the door.

When I was a year adviser, I maintained a page on the school's network for my year group, and this is the sort of link I would have added to the section on study skills: 5 ways to get out of faffing mode (courtesy of

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TED Tuesday: 18 minutes with an agile mind

From the TED resource of online talks: Clifford Stoll, 18 minutes with an agile mind.

To quote from the TED description:

Clifford Stoll could talk about the atmosphere of Jupiter. Or hunting KGB hackers. Or Klein bottles, computers in classrooms, the future. But he's not going to. Which is fine, because it would be criminal to confine a man with interests as multifarious as Stoll's to give a talk on any one topic. Instead, he simply captivates his audience with a wildly energetic sprinkling of anecdotes, observations, asides -- and even a science experiment. After all, by his own definition, he's a scientist: "Once I do something, I want to do something else."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Twilight teaser trailer (DET accessible)

The previous embedded trailer was on YouTube, and thus inaccessible through the NSW DET portal.

This trailer is not (currently) blocked, so you can play it for your Twilight enthusiasts. Mine sighed and pined and thought December was a LONG time away....!


14 Ways to Cultivate a Reading Habit

This year, in our school's monthly newsletter, I aim to not only write a general library report, but also to provide a link or two for parents to follow, if they wish. Another article from, 14 Ways to Cultivate a Reading Habit, looks like a good candidate.

Friday, May 9, 2008

How to fuel your idea machine the title of an excellent article on

The gist of it?

Read books.

Reading books, fiction and non-fiction, fuels your idea machine. It gives you fodder to think with. The brain is essentially nothing more than a computer (albeit much more complicated); it takes an input, processes it and produces an output. In other words, you can’t create ideas without inputs. Life experiences and memories are your starter inputs; books allow you to branch out into the experiences of others, in the non-fiction section, and fiction allows you to reach the realm of fantasy - experiences nobody has really had. Fantasy breaks all the normal rules, and so do the best ideas and solutions, so what better place to start?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pimp My Library

...before you have a Spasm, take a squizz at this librarian blog.

Pimp My Library (out of New Jersey in the US) has lots of good ideas and links, from the sublime and useful (Teaching with Wikipedia) to the sublimely ridiculous (Dress up a librarian - !). One of the bloggers belongs to a library committee, Highlands Regional Library Co-operative, with some useful handouts explaining topics such as blogs and wikis - find them on this page.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Colour-themed displays

Last term I was idly thinking about doing a colour-themed display or two or more sometime this year. We always have a display at the entrance to the library - situated to catch 'em on their way in and their way out, or so we hope. It's usually new books, although for special occasions we've done other things (eg. Aboriginal books for when the Prime Minister apologised earlier this year).

I can keep thinking idly, because over at Grooming Tips from Sneaks, they've done a bunch of the thinking for me. Thank you! Great minds...I'll see how it develops.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Technology, Entertainment, Design: resource of online talks

Sourced from Ali Edwards' blog (her entry is here), I found Technology, Entertainment, Design.
To quote from the TED site:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.

It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free.

Click here to go to the TED site and explore an extraordinary range of talks to see and hear, online. For example: Sir Ken Robinson on "Do schools kill creativity?"

which is part of the theme How We Learn.

It's the kind of place where individual teachers should explore to see what they can find for their subject areas and interests. The A-Z list of themes (each theme has a number of talks) is a good place to start.

Each Tuesday on this blog, I'll highlight a different talk from this amazingly rich resource. They'll all be labelled with the tag TED, so you can look at them at a group if you wish.

Monday, May 5, 2008


I've been running school libraries for over twenty years, and it's utterly true to say that I learned at uni how to run a nineteenth to mid twentieth century library. Library catalogue cards (no computerisation for school libraries in the 1970s or early 1980s). Stocktake by calling from the shelf list, item by item.

Technology, in the context of my Dip.Ed., meant audio cassette tapes, film cameras, Fordigraph duplicating machines, reel to reel film projectors. And now (apart from audio cassettes for taping speeches, and they're close to dead, replaced by digital files - microcassettes always had format compatability problems) they're all gone. In most cases long gone. I couldn't thread up a film projector any more unless I gave it some serious thought (consulting an instruction book), and indeed film has been replaced by video, then DVD, and now the creep of online on-demand video and so forth (see, it's like the printing of posters mentioned on Friday). I haven't used my own film camera in some years, although the art students at school still use film at times, for obvious reasons. Fordigraph? Ah, one still remembers that restorative whiff of metho...and photocopies haven't been stinky for decades. So the technology I learned, when I learned to be a teacher and a teacher librarian, has pretty much all, in the way of technology, been superseded.

So the challenge is up to us, to learn the new stuff and think creatively about how it can serve the ongoing challenge of teaching: to engage our students and help them to learn. How do we construct the choice architecture of our classrooms?

From the library perspective, you still see teachers who haven't yet transitioned from the way things used to be - our 'stuff' was what we knew, our bank of knowledge hoarded and developed over the years - to the way things of necessity are, in the internet world. Our stuff now is how we teach, how we can bring our expertise, experience and insights into play in the classroom to make it a creative and engaging learning environment. We have to be prepared to learn with them as well as teach - and that's not easy for every teacher. And yet hasn't that always been part of our stuff, perhaps overshadowed by the knowledge?

You can observe a great deal in the library, as classes come through.

And I'll turn that searchlight on teacher librarians, too. At a recent social occasion, I was brought down to earth by talking informally with some high schoolers who told me about the teacher librarians they knew - all, without exception, cranky gorgons. Damn that stereotype. I know so many teacher librarians who AREN'T the stereotype, but still we have a long way to go, so the 'stuff' we think about and talk about at conferences and through mailing lists and blogs and with each other in the real world translates to practice. If our libraries aren't welcoming, and we aren't perceived as helpful, then it doesn't matter how much technology you have, or how hard you work at other things to make your library useful. Perception is so important.

I've been a cook on youth camps, years ago, and a leader too, and it's absolutely true that if the food isn't good, the whole camp is seen as poor: and conversely, if the food works, the camp works too. The atmosphere of a library, the environment physical and in human interaction, is so important. Libraries, first and foremost, are about people. Nobody's going to ask you for help if they don't think you'll help them - unless they're desperate. Conversely, where people feel valued, they'll be happy to spend time. An harmonious library team is an important part of that environment.

Through the years of being a teacher librarian, there are the things that don't change. Every lunchtime, there are students who come to the library to read, to research, to do a multitude of things: and some students who come to the library to feel safe. And year by year, that cast changes, as they venture out and others come for the same reason. High schools can still be scary places, for all sorts of reasons - bullying is so difficult to fully eradicate. Other things, good things, don't change - the delight in sharing books (we are loving Skulduggery Pleasant book 2 - can't keep it on the shelves!), in finding answers, in learning stuff. I have a bunch of post-it notes on my noticeboard of student requests for various fiction books, and each of those represents a vote of confidence, a positive interaction, a student feeling that the library can validate and serve their interests.

When a lesson flies, or a you're able to help kids individually travel a journey of understanding and really 'get' something, small or large - that's such a high. When you see a kid so eager to borrow a book they're almost hyperventilating. When you help a kid find something, or understand how to use a computer program to serve their needs, or... or...

or when you see that happy-kid grin...

...or when you just take an interest in them, or something that interests them, and help them feel not-invisible. I find Possum Magic's prose clunky to read aloud, but it's a book that connects with kids, and its idea of 'becoming visible' has such psychological resonance; on some level separate to language it makes sense to kids. I hadn't truly realised, for example, until the first student-art manga bookmarks were on the borrowing desk, how much that meant to those kids in validating them and their creative pursuits. I'm still learning this job. Every day.

Friday, May 2, 2008

State Library of Iowa posters (free!)

Your Neighbourhood Librarian mentions the downloadable posters available from the State Library of Iowa. Yes, on the one hand they're printable, sure, no worries (just make sure you have enough ink in the printer tanks).

BUT they're images. Which means that it's worth thinking outside our paper-based square, to digital options. A school library home page or blog? Screensavers on computers or interactive whiteboards? Yes, I need to go back and read the terms of use, but for local, site-only use, this is probably OK. And involves no ink tanks, and wider promotion of the library and library options/possibilities/windows on the world to our users than just having posters within the physical walls of the library.

See Monday's blog entry (yay for Blogger finally having scheduled entries) for a bit of musing on the implications of this.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

About those ALA READ posters...

Update: there's a Twilight READ poster.  More info here.

In the search for visual display items for the library, I have over the years bought American Library Association READ posters (in Oz, you can find a selection at Southern Scene). Although I do wonder about the relevance of the choice of some of the celebrities to the kids at school... Still, they're large and positive about reading and one hopes, attention-getting and environment-enhancing...

Still, I laughed like a drain when Your Neighbourhood Librarian decided, in the fugging spirit of the celebrity fashion analysis/snark site (or, to use its own phrase, its ogling of the fashion-wicked), Go Fug Yourself, to fug the READ posters. Among other things, she channels Jane Austen speaking to Keira Knightley.

JANE: Hello, Keira.
JANE: How nice to see you again, dear.
KEIRA: Mmm-hmm.
JANE: Dear, your thumb is over my title.

Well played!!

(I do sometimes if it's old library persons what are picking them thar celebrities. It always worries me a tad if the teachers and staff are keener on the posters -however carefully we pick 'em - than the kids. And then you take a look at the ALA site, and realise how many more Celebrity Read posters are available there, including some which may be more kid-friendly - Southern Scene makes the best selection it can, I guess, but hmmm, the temptation to buy directly, on the basis of price and selection, is certainly there.)