Monday, June 30, 2008

Fontstruct - building fonts online

Fontstruct is an online place to build fonts. It's set up very simply, so you can set a grid size and choose from a wide variety of blocks and elements.

I'd highly recommend viewing the introductory video (runs under 10 minutes, and the narrator has a lovely Scottish accent), and if you're going to use this with students, show it to them too.

Requires registration (free) and an email address, and offers possibilities for storing/sharing/sharing under Creative Commons licences.

Offers possibilities for a number of subjects, and not necessarily a whole alphabet - maybe just students doing a single letter (eg. their initial). Or, from a teacher librarian point of view, it's another way to devise a distinctive library logo.

Friday, June 27, 2008

More on the Twilight film

I was amused to find this article from Variety about the Twilight film - and even more amused by the irate and persnickety fandom who corrected the author's misconceptions and errors in the comments below the article. Politely, but definitely. Be careful whose fans you mess with... The author also links to the MTV movies blog, which has several entries about the film.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

After Twilight, keep reading.. # I

Here's one answer to the question, I've finished reading the Twilight books, miss, so what can I read now?

James Patterson's Maximum Ride series begins with an intriguing premise: 98% human, 2% bird. It's not hard to find info on the net about the series, and students here have been borrowing the books with enthusiasm.

  1. The Angel Experiment

  2. School's Out - Forever

  3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

  4. The Final Warning

and a book five is on the way, apparently. There are also film plans - mentioned in an article from Variety here, scheduled for release in 2010 and 2012 and using 'performance capture' (as found in the film of The Polar Express, for instance).

Book cover image from

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Best websites of 2008

...according to Time magazine and its readers, that is.

Vote or view here.

They're not all necessarily of immediate educational use, but it's anthropologically intriguing to see the rankings - what the users of the net value. Free Rice, of which more soon, was among the top five.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Holiday borrowing

Since part of the art of teacher librarianship is burgling the wheel, or at least flatteringly imitating it (rather than reinventing it), this is an idea inspired by a colleague. She mentioned her program of 'holiday borrowing' - on the OASIS library software system, loans taken out in the last two weeks of term fall due on the first day of school after the holidays. Thus, the normal two week loan period can be up to four weeks. Oh, and if you're not in NSW, this is the second last week of term two.

This is the bookshelf unit from Target that I mentioned a little while ago, all assembled and in the foyer/entry of the library. The twelve shelves provide lovely dark boxes to make individual books stand out, but to promote holiday borrowing, I've put a bunch of books, new and older, in four categories that students enjoy - adventure, fantasy, fun and the real world. (So it's more 'packed' than it would usually be, but for a purpose).

The plan is that over the next two weeks, the shelves will be replenished (as the books are borrowed) and we hope students will take the opportunity to borrow more than they might otherwise have done. Our literacy focus in roll call is currently sustained silent reading, so it ties in with that too.

I've also set up a couple of other things to support our holiday borrowing push/program - of which, more later.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Age-banding" books

By the very nature of our work as teacher librarians, we evaluate books on their age-suitability. It may be simply to decide if it's worth buying, or will answer a need or fill a gap. One does need to be aware of age-suitability - although certainly in high school I gleefully buy picture books that our students enjoy, there are many that work well for more than young children. Occasionally I may put a note in the back of a more challenging book to say that the teacher librarian needs to be consulted if it's being borrowed by a student in the junior years, so we can talk about it first.

It's understandable that adult bookbuyers would appreciate an age-indication on a book, particularly if they aren't especially familiar with children's literature. It's a fraught question, however. To take one example from here, Skulduggery Pleasant has been enjoyed by students in Year 7 and Year 12 - not sure how you'd 'age-band' it, and whether age banding it would make it more successful, or less, as it could deter readers (when a book that's intended as a 'reader' for students with reading difficulties telegraphs this too clearly, that's a cold hand of death on its usefulness or appeal in any other way - questions after each chapter, for instance, signal WORK, NOT FUN).

Phillip Pullman (author of The Golden Compass /Northern Lights and so forth) has decided opinions on the matter. He wrote an article for The Guardian :

And I know that the readers of my most "difficult" books include people of seven as well as people of 90. The same books. To write as well as I can, and then find someone at the door turning readers away, is something I find simply repugnant. It's based on a one-dimensional view of growth, which regards growing older as moving along a line like a monkey climbing a stick: now you're seven, so you read those books; and now you're nine, so you read these.
But growth isn't like that. We grow by getting bigger and including more things, and a child of 11 still includes the nine-year-old and the seven-year-old he was. And if he wants to read a book he might love, it's a bitter shame if some distant adult, out of what she perceives as her commercial necessity, puts him off by labelling it with an age that makes him feel babyish, or exposes him to ridicule.

...and has started an organisation to oppose it , No To Age Banding - there's a long long list of supporters on the site, including authors and librarians, parents and readers. There's another analysis/discussion of the matter here (on the SmartBitchesTrashyBooks blog, which often enough has some very thoughtful discussions on book matters, and can be utterly hilarious, whether or not the books it focuses on most are your recreational cuppa. And it does mention YA books from time to time. And read the comments section, which is an active source of engaged discussion on the SBTB blog).

The has some entries on age-guidance too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Series from Newbery Medal winners

The Collecting Children's Books blog has a useful entry about Newbery Medal winners. It's interesting to read through the years and winners and be reminded of classic titles and more recent books, but the blog entry also, usefully, adds information on books related to each winner.

Kids like the comfort and familiarity of series, so this is a handy list for reference, based on some rather good books.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Australian Book Industry Awards 2008

Sydney Morning Herald article about the winners here.

Shortlist of nominees here - among the books, it can be interesting from a library collection point of view to know what else was considered worthy.

Or, if you want to know some of the winners (some of which are on the CBCA shortlist):

  • Book of the Year - Geraldine Brooks for her novel People of the Book (HarperCollins Publishers Australia).
  • Literary Fiction Book of the Year - People of the Book.
  • Book of the Year for Younger Children - Li Cunxin's children's version of Mao's Last Dancer, The Peasant Prince (Penguin Group Australia), with illustrations by Anne Spudvilas.
  • Book of the Year for Older Children and the International Success Award - John Flanagan for his novel Rangers Apprentice 7: Erak's Ransom (Random House Australia).
  • General Non-Fiction Book of the Year - Kaz Cooke for Girl Stuff (Penguin Group Australia).
  • Publisher Marketing Campaign of the Year 2008 - Allen & Unwin for Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling.
  • The Pixie O'Harris Award for distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of Australian children's books - Kate Colley.
  • The award winners were chosen by an academy of booksellers and publishers.

List taken from SMH link above.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rosemary Sutcliff with GREAT covers

With the popularity of all sorts of fantasy fiction that's got history/histories/imagined worlds' histories in it, Rosemary Sutcliff's novels are ones I'd love to be promoting to my kids. But the only copies in the library right now are older ones, with older covers, and harder to promote. One tries, but one mostly gets that glazed look...
So I was jubilant to find this blog entry, and will be getting my fabulous independent bookseller to track down these editions. Go and read the blog entry at Rosemary Sutcliff: an appreciation and see more eyecatching covers and the titles that have been or will be reissued (I borrowed the image above from them, and suspect it probably originally came from Amazon).
Warrior Scarlet is a particular Rosemary Sutcliff favourite of mine, but I know that the cover on my own 1970s paperback edition just wouldn't cut the mustard with kids now. Not the prose, which is as muscular and engaging and unsentimental as ever it was: it's the cover designs, which can and have dated. But how many kids would at the very least pick up that new cover for Mark of the Horse Lord? More than a few, I'd guess (partly because they'd either like to meet or be the cover model!).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TED Tuesday: a different view

Instead of listening to a TED talk today, go and look at their website.

The access you have is either through a list of themes, or a 'visualisation'.

I don't have the answers, yet; still thinking. But I wonder how that style of presenting information is something we should be considering in relation to how we teach, how our libraries are organised, how we are communicating with our students.

For now, I don't know how to program such a layout/format, but that's not really the point.

Many teachers came through our own education in the linear, text-based age (I was chuckling last week when our school internet cable had been damaged, and there was no internet at all for two days till it was repaired - ye gods, how DID we all manage to get an education without the net???) and yet our students operate in a world that also includes hypertext and the visual in ways that we, too, need to incorporate into the learning environments we create, to engage them where they're at and bring them along on this educational journey.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Library furniture find

I've been keeping an eye out for a shelf unit to use at the entrance to the library to display new books. We've had them on tables, and thought about converting a study carrel desk we had, but *meh* - why is it so often in school that you're making do, making do?

I've looked around at library suppliers (big $$), places like Officeworks, Ikea...

...but found what I want at Target, and they're on special this week, in Sydney at least.

It's a 3 x 4 shelf cube unit in dark wood laminate, and unlike some there is a back on it (it's a relation of the Ikea Expedit type of shelving unit), so it's a set of dark wood boxes that it seems to me will have many possibilities.

They're normally $199, on special this week until 19 June for $99. Self assembly, but that's not too hard to do.

I tried putting a couple of books on the shelves at Target, just to see how it looked. Even large ones fitted in the spaces, and the dark background gave the books a certain impact. I noticed earlier this year that a large and very well funded private school library I was in displayed their new books on dark shelves, and filed that little nugget away for reference.

For the staff development day at the beginning of next term, we're being given most of the day, and a very small budget, to do some 'they have to be visible' renovations. It was done last year, and classrooms were painted, spaces reorganised, jobs that don't get done for lack of time or other reasons, did get done...and so it's happening again (it was popular with the staff and the work done noticed by the students).

We've got our eye on the foyer/entrance of the library, and so this shelf unit is a good beginning. I want to renovate the foyer/entrance to have impact and excitement, so the kids will walk into the library and the specific atmosphere of a place where things happen, things are possible, and learning is exciting.

Budget? Small. Ideas? Big!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Do school libraries need books?

A recent article in The Age newspaper about a school in Coburg prompted discussion on the oztl list about the shape and features of information services in schools now and into the future. Does the future hold libraries at all, or is the model defined by a space and its contents outmoded? (in which case, who's doing the work a teacher librarian does now? It's not all simplistically replaceable by Google and a keyboard. And is a library simply a space and books anyway?).

Read the article here.

Link in full:

or tinyurl:

There is an article written by the Principal and staff, with their view of this situation: New age, new paradigm: the Coburg experience published in Access, November 2007. (Let me know if you're aware of an online link to it).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Books in the future

An opinion piece in the New York Times, Bits, Bands and Books by Paul Krugman, puts forward the view that:

In 1994, one of those gurus, Esther Dyson, made a striking prediction: that the ease with which digital content can be copied and disseminated would eventually force businesses to sell the results of creative activity cheaply, or even give it away. Whatever the product — software, books, music, movies — the cost of creation would have to be recouped indirectly: businesses would have to “distribute intellectual property free in order to sell services and relationships.”


Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.

In an e-book world of the future, what is the role of the library? If the price of books, delivered to e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle (when will this be for sale here in Australia?) comes down so much, will it make that content more widely available, and students will be able to own, or rent? content independently of a school library. They can now, of course, with the internet, or physical books.

How can authors make a living if content is sold so cheaply?

How will students learn to navigate the e-book jungle to the ones that will be of most use to them? - just as they need this guidance with the net.

Food for teacher librarian thought.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Libraries obsolete? - a quote

I burgled this one from a teacher librarian's email signature. We are of course biased, but even so... (mad idolatry, that's a nice phrase...)

The Web is great; but it’s a woefully poor substitute for a full-service library. It is mad idolatry to make it more than a tool. Libraries are icons of our cultural intellect, totems to the totality of knowledge. If we make them obsolete, we’ve signed the death warrant to our collective national conscience, not to mention sentencing what’s left of our culture to the waste bin of history. The Internet is marvelous, but to claim, as some now do, that it’s making libraries obsolete is as silly as saying shoes have made feet unnecessary.

Mark Y Herring

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TED Tuesday: Goodbye textbooks; hello open source learning

From the TED online archive of talks, Richard Baraniuk on: Goodbye, textbooks; hello, open-source learning

To quote from the TED website:

Rice University professor Richard Baraniuk explains the vision behind Connexions, his open-source, online education system. It cuts out the textbook, allowing teachers to share and modify course materials freely, anywhere in the world.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A short week about the future

It's a long weekend in Australia, with the Queen's Birthday holiday Monday. So this is all the post for today, but coming this week are several angles on the future of books and creative content in the digital age.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

EdPod on ABC radio/podcast

If you're after a regular 25 min podcast focusing on educational matters, EdPod may be just what you want.

To quote from the ABC website:

EdPod presents a mix of education stories from early childhood to the end of secondary school.It's a jargon-free look at the experience of educators, researchers, parents and students. EdPod examines new education ideas, and asks whether things could or should be done differently.From the classroom to the staff room and on to the home, EdPod brings you the latest ideas about learning.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

We love The Pigeon

Mo Willems' wonderful picture books about the Pigeon - my favourite is probably Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and I can't tell you how many people I've shared it with, and enjoyed watching their fun with it - were first brought to my attention by our wonderful local independent bookshop. If you haven't read any of them yet, seek them out. They're just as good for high school as primary.

The latest one is just out - The Pigeon wants a puppy. And now I learn that Mo Willems has a blog. Right here. Mo Willems Doodles.
Pictures from

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TED Tuesday: Our cellphones, ourselves

From the TED resource of online talks, Jan Chipchase on the many possibilities of cellphones (mobile phones):

To quote from the TED website:

Nokia researcher Jan Chipchase's investigation into the ways we interact with technology has led him from the villages of Uganda to the insides of our pockets. He's made some unexpected discoveries along the way.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Twilight: Breaking Dawn cover

Just to get your Twilight enthusiasts even more enthusiastic, here's the cover design for book 4 in the series. Image from

I'm putting together a list of 'books for Twilight enthusiasts while you're waiting for Breaking Dawn'. We have some at which we point them - but do add your suggestions in the comments, and they can improve our list, which I will of course share on this blog. Among those on our list are the Vampire Academy series and Sunshine, by Robin McKinley. It's good to have keep-'em-reading lists like this.

(Idle thought: if Bella's the queen, who's the prawn, I mean pawn? Edward, merely a pawn? Jacob?)

ADDED LATER: here's a link to Stephenie Meyer's FAQ page with an explanation of what this cover means.