Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: "This library is cooler..."

A period this morning, and I'm racing between the Visual Arts class downstairs on the computers (I'd been working with that teacher for the lesson with those seniors and the Obamicon) and the junior class settled for comfortable reading in the reading lounge and upstairs.

"Hmmm," said one of the reading boys thoughtfully, as he took a moment to look around from his comfortable vantage point on the sofa.  "This library's cooler than I thought."

As I happened to be walking by, I gravely thanked him for such a lovely compliment.


And it is a compliment, and appreciated; it's good that this is his perception, and it's apparently a revised one (in favour).  But it's also amusing.

Tomorrow When the War Began: film/movie

As reported in Read Alert here, there is a film / movie version of Tomorrow When the War Began in the works.  I've lost count of how many sets of this John Marsden series I've bought - in the last ten years in this library, I'd have bought at least three complete sets, and only retired the copies that were, as they tend to get, utterly exhausted and falling apart from being loved to death.  When we have holiday borrowing, and double borrowing comes into play, it's a popular pick to borrow the LOT.

Read Alert draws on an entry from Dark Horizons you can find here, and in turn that draws on a longer report from Hollywood Reporter you'll find here.  The director is Stuart Beattie, co-writer of the film Australia, and the plan is apparently to make a trilogy of films from the first three books then move to a television series for the rest.  Filming to start in September.  John Marsden's site links to a shorter version of the HR report from Reuters that you'll find here.

And it already has a page on the Internet Movie Database: click here.  Bookmark that one if you want to check back on developments. 

Cheers, Ruth.

PS I've detailed very carefully the trail of info, what I've found where, as I always try to do, and added value by finding more links/info myself.  If this is the first place where you read about this, and you want to merrily blog it yourself, gosh it would be nice if you could note/acknowledge where you first read it, as I have done.  I've had a few people recently who've lifted things from my blog (sometimes even word for word) and used it on their blogs without attribution.  Please be courteous in your use of information...plagiarism ain't purty.  Play nice.  Thank you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

GIFSL*: 37. Floor cushions and comfort

When we created the reading retreat in the library earlier this year, we didn't know the impact it would have.  On reflection, it's one of the most popular changes we've made, and this is proved over and over by the individual students who come in the morning, recess, lunch, study periods, all through the day, and plonk themselves in a soft chair or on the sofa, book in hand.  You see them relax, and settle. 

For all my years at schools as a student and a teacher, I hadn't realised/particularly thought about how few places there are in a school to be comfortable.  Out in the playground, places to sit are usually, of necessity, hard surfaces - cement, brick, timber.  Inside in classrooms, chairs are generally plastic - again of necessity.  For students, carpeted floors may be the only place to sit on something softer.

We did have some soft seating upstairs in fiction, before, but the reading retreat added in seventeen more seats (or even more, when students, rather in the manner of puppies, cram themselves three on two seats, or four on the sofa). 

The configuration also has corners to settle into - I see these soft chairs in other school libraries and schools but they're often around a low table, with space around them.   What you can do does, of course, depend on your library.  We happened to be working with a narrow mezzanine.  But as I watch how students use this space, the corner-ness of it is, I see, more important than you might think.   Drifting through my mind are thoughts of Ratty, Mole, Badger, and In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.  Even if I had a wide open space, I think, now, I'd still try to achieve cosy and corners, having seen how students respond to this.

We still didn't have enough for every student in a junior class of thirty to have a comfy seat...

Then, last school holidays, another TL pal and I went to visit Reverse Garbage.  This is a non-profit co-operative based in Marrickville, Sydney, that collects and resells industrial discards: Reverse Garbage is a not-for-profit co-operative that sells industrial discards, off-cuts and over-runs to the public for creative and practical uses, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill..  You never know what you're going to find when you go there.  Could be anything.  You need to go with an open mind and imagination. 

If you're teacher librarians without a lot of cash but with enthusiasm and the aforesaid open minds and imaginations.... well, you can go with an idea of what you might like to find, or a need/purpose you have in mind.  What might you find?

I found these.

090615 039a

Once upon a time they were street banners from the Rocks historic area of Sydney.  I've found street banners at Reverse Garbage before (as seen in the background here), but these were different.  The fabric here is a synthetic with a sueded surface, feeling lovely on the hand.  But, you say, they're advertising the Rocks, and what are you going to do with them in a school library?

We were talking about comfort, weren't we?  This is what we did:

090615 044a

Floor cushions.  The width of the banners happens to neatly fit the width of a standard pillow (two for $10 at K-Mart).  We made them 'envelope' style as you see, and were able to make ten floor cushions, using up all the banners. 

Sure, some of the cushions say The or ocks, but who cares?  Our students sure don't.  The ones who aren't on the soft chairs or sofa, reading, during a wide reading period, are sprawled on the floor or propped against a wall, on a floor cushion.  It's only a little bit of comfort, but it's an important little bit.  It says, your comfort is important.  Here's something we can offer, something we have thought of for you.  Enjoy your reading.  Welcome.  I've even had kids give up a soft chair because they'd rather have one of these.  I hadn't expected that.  Floor cushion diplomacy.

What you need: there are lots of places to find fabric (new or, like us, recycled) at discount prices.  Look for one that does feel good - this has been commented on by a lot of kids in relation to our cushions.  Partly because of the dimensions of the banners, and partly because they were price-competitive with cushion inserts, we used the pillows.  Students have liked this size, too - for sitting, lounging, draping themselves over lying on their bellies (and...and...they'll always think of something you haven't!).

How much were the banners?  I filled a nearly sack-sized bag for $30 - and got more banners in than the ones that became the floor cushions.  Plus some other good things (you'll see 'em blogged soon).  Total spend was about $60, and it's an environmental tick too.  At Reverse Garbage, some items are sold on a per-item price basis, others on fill-a-bag - from around $6 for filling a supermarket green bag size on up.  And yes, I'll tell you that given that these banners have been up lamp-posts, out in the air and weather, some are a little more faded than others...but it's part of their life, and authentic.  And I don't care, and neither do the kids, as they sit down to read.  And in the end, that's what matters, that they're reading and happy and comfortable in the library. 

Cheers, Ruth
*GIFSL = Good Ideas For School Libraries

Friday, June 26, 2009

When Buffy Met Edward....

To celebrate the unblocking of YouTube (with provisos) by my employer, here's a video: (This is just wonderful!  - I fell off my chair laughing!)

I've seen it in a number of places, library blogs, book blogs.  It originated from Rebellious Pixels, where it is described thus:
In this remixed narrative Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer at Sunnydale High. It’s an example of transformative storytelling serving as a pro-feminist visual critique of Edward’s character and generally creepy behavior. Seen through Buffy’s eyes some of the more sexist gender roles and patriarchal Hollywood themes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed in hilarious ways.

And oh yes, it is funny!

Cheers, Ruth

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZwM3GvaTRM&feature=player_embedded

A thought for Friday on: Mistakes...

How many students do you know who HATE making mistakes?  And will choose inertia in preference to risk?*

I like this one.  Might adapt it to bookmarks/posters...


Found here, from here (pic)/ here (blog).

Cheers, Ruth

PS Dare I ask if you know teachers and teacher librarians who are like this too?  I do.  Sometimes it's me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

GIFSL*: 36. Stats are your friend (2)

Now you've had some fun with maths and a calculator, here's another easy library stat to keep an eye on.  In my library's OASIS library software, I can see each week's total number of loans.  I can see the daily ones, too, but they can vary due to assorted things.  But keep an eye on the weekly number.  What was it at the same time last year?  Same? More? Less? 

I also compare the same term from last year with this year's term - the total number of loans, and the weekly average.  Without in any way having a robotic enslavement to stats, it's motivating to know how things are going.  To be encouraged to keep going, when they're going well.  To be inspired to do better, when they're maybe down a little.

You can also check the impact of specific programs - the first couple of days of holiday borrowing usually produce a spike, and the last two weeks of term when we promote holiday borrowing usually have elevated figures compared to other weeks during that term.

This is by no means the only measure of your library's success; but it's a useful tool, for sure and certain.  The stats I've mentioned here and in the previous entry are relatively basic ones, and library software should yield these to you without too much trouble.  In OASIS Library (as found in NSW DET schools) I get this info from B2 (Circulation) then M1.

Again, if I was sharing these figures, I'd be inclined to % them rather than talking raw numbers, as that can be clearer (or less likely to be misinterpreted).  But these are ones I mostly just check for my own knowledge of our progress, our 'sales'.

Cheers, Ruth

*GIFSL = Good Ideas For School Libraries

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

GIFSL*: 35. The library is not a Café , but...

It actually happened kinda sorta as an accident.  Last period one afternoon a fortnight, a slightly bolshie Year 9 English class come in for their regular 'wide reading' period.  We're training them, their teacher and I, and fortnight by fortnight you can see them settle into what's expected, and find it (unexpectedly to some?) a pleasure.  Most of them now arrive with a book in hand; for those who don't, I've put out a tempting array, cover-up, on the tables in fiction (this usually ends up, like birdseed, looking like it's caught the attention of at least some of the birds... ha!).

So one of those afternoons, I made a cup of coffee for the teacher, who rather needed it, and a couple of the kids said, what about US, miss? and then I said, well, what if we have a draw and I'll make a cup of hot chocolate for one lucky student...

Couple of things, here.  First, our standard library rule is, for all the obvious reasons, no food or drink in the library (we make exceptions for bottled water on 40deg+ days in summer) - to deter vermin, prevent damage to books etc.  BUT sometimes breaking a rule (one cup of hot chocolate probably won't do major damage) can have useful power and impact.  Second, leverage your advantages. I have boiling water, a foam/china cup, a sachet of hot chocolate from my private stash.  Nothing tricky there, for me.  But to a kid, last period of the day, to find yourself with a cup of hot chocolate?  Lottery win!

Lottery was what we did.  The refinement is that not every student gets an entry slip in the draw for the cup of hot chocolate - their teacher wanders the group (scattered around fiction upstairs and filling up the reading retreat on the mezzanine) with slips, handing them out when a student is reading.  And hey, most of them got an entry form.  So then we did the draw, and I made the hot chocolate, and that student settled back with their book, the mug and the biggest grin....

Now each period they come in, books in hand, and ask about the draw.  For a simple idea, it's working rather nicely.  Today, their teacher brought a box of sachets and more than one kid scored a foam cup of hot chocolate.  And nobody spilled any of them, and all of them come to the library with happy anticipation, and they read as they didn't before, and it's another step for them, and a success for them and for us.  It's good.  It's not happening for every wide reading class in the library, but with this group (and the teacher's other regular group) it's become a 'tradition' and one of the reasons they look forward to coming to the library (hurrah!).  Hot chocolate diplomacy!

I wrote this, as a throwaway line, in an email, describing the library yesterday afternoon, and got asked what I meant by the draw...

Year 9 are curled up on the soft chairs and floor cushions, reading (most of the time) ... and we're about to draw the One Year 9 Student Who Was Reading ALL The Time Gets A Hot Chocolate And Makes All The Others Jealous winner.

.. so now you know.  Floor cushions, you say?  What floor cushions?  I know, I haven't told you about them.  Next week, OK? 

Cheers, Ruth

*GIFSL = Good Ideas for School Libraries

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

GIFSL*: 34. Stats are your friend (1)

Me, I'm a humanities creature - stats aren't something to which I'm naturally drawn.

But library loan stats?  They're a friend.  Tough love friend, sometimes.  Best buddy, sometimes.

With our computerised system (OASIS) and a calculator, I regularly do a wee bit of totting to see how our various programs to encourage borrowing and library use are influencing our loan statistics.  I would never never say that this data is the only way to evaluate a library's success - and indeed some of our programs, in intent and execution, cannot be measured in this way.  Nevertheless, checking our 'sales figures' does provide a snapshot of one area of library activity.

With our system, I get the figure on loan statistics - the number of items loaned so far this year, for example (A).  I then set the parameters to give me the figure for the same date range for each of the last three years.  I add up these three and divide by three to get an average (B).  A-B = C, or the difference (hopefully a + number).  C divided by B then % gives you your percentage increase (hope it's an increase!) in loans for the year.  I would do this calculation at least once a week, sometimes more often if I'm interested to see the impact of something in particular (eg the first day of holiday borrowing).

An example with fake figures:

2009    400 loans (A)
2008    300 loans
2007    250 loans
2006    200 loans

Adding up 2008 + 2007+ 2006 = 750 divided by 3 = 250 (average) (B)

A - B = 150 (C)

150 divided by 250 then hit the % key = 60%.  So loans in 2009 in Fake Library are up 60% on the average of the last three years.

If you want to just get the difference between the current year and the previous one:
400 - 300 = 100.  100 divided by 300 then hit % key = 33%.  So loans in Fake Library in 2009 are up 33% on 2008.

Important: to those outside the library, I speak of percentages, rather than raw numbers.  A primary school library, lending to every class every week, for instance, may well have much higher raw numbers than my high school.  Schools, of course, vary in student population size.  Raw numbers can be taken the wrong way.  My goal is to do better here, at this school, my competition is our previous record and seeing if we can better our 'sales figures'.  Saying, "our loans are up 70% on the average of the last three years" is instantly clear and useful.  I am my own competition.  If you convert your school library's loan 'sales figures' to a percentage, then it is easier for us to compare our progress than with raw numbers, when they can involve so many variables.

It's also a motivating thing to do - when there's a dip, you look and see why, and what you can improve.  When there's a rise, we all feel good about books and resources being in the hands of kids and teachers to help them achieve, read, learn, enjoy, progress.

And when I checked last week's figures, we had managed to pass the 70% increase milestone - woohoo!

Cheers, Ruth

*GIFSL = Good Ideas For School Libraries


Monday, June 22, 2009

GIFSL*: 33. Lessons from Elsewhere

I never studied marketing or merchandising in any of my tertiary qualifications.  More and more in the last couple of years I've been paying attention to what I can learn from the world around me every day.  How do shops entice us in?  What draws the eye in a particular advertisement layout? How can I borrow, adapt, rework these ideas for my library?

Last week I bought a magazine to do with Elsewhere, the life that isn't about work and teacher librarianship, but about other interests, activities, people, places; the life funded by the happy life of being a teacher librarian.  This magazine showcases craft shops, and as I read, I was finding lessons from Elsewhere.  I've only tweaked the quotes slightly... how many can you tick for your library?

  • Inside, she went for the WOW! factor.  "I want [borrowers] to be overwhelmed."
  • Samples sell, so she hangs dozens throughout the shop.
  • "If they haven't been [reading] we want them to start.  If they don't want to [find books] themselves, we do it for them."
  • "We cater for different tastes".  She includes [staff/students] in her [book-buying] decisions to ensure customers have variety.
  • "I want to make the [library] fun, " she says, "to make sure it's the best experience of the [borrower's] day."
  • She builds customer self-esteem by helping them finish their work, by posting photos of it around the [library].
  • Customers travel long distances to visit the [library].
  • Customers can [borrow] small pieces or large [quick reads or long reads].
  • "We help our customers.  I don't want anyone to quit because they [can't do it/understand it/need help].
  • "We give a little to our customers and get a whole lot back."
  • "They appreciate seeing things in my shop that they don't see in other places."
  • "I want to encourage [students] to do things they think are out of their reach."
  • "Being part of this network of people who love [learning/reading] is so rewarding."
  • X is a regular at the [library].  How regular? "I have to go often! They get new [books] in all the time and are always changing the [library] around."
  • One of the [teacher librarian's] key goals was to create a welcoming atmosphere.  "People come to our [library] because they know we care about them and are always happy to see and serve them."
  • "We carry a wide range of [books] - not just my favourites, but your favourites, also.  People come for the variety and stay for the fun."
  • "The [library] is always filled with wonderful [books], with new ones introduced [highlighted] weekly.  I don't know of one [borrower] who leaves the [library] uninspired."
  • The space is small, but its character compensates.
  • [I'm doing] "what I've dreamed of doing," says the [teacher librarian].
  • There are many artfully arranged displays of [books], making it easy for [borrowers] to pick them up.
  • "We pull together [books] that go together.. [Borrowers] find these irresistible.  They're an inspirational starting point."
  • Near the front of the [library] are frequently changing displays of [books].  The myriad samples around the [library] provide additional inspiration.
  • "I [read] a lot, every day," says the [teacher librarian].
  • "It's fun and it's exciting," says the [teacher librarian].  "I love to see [lots of books borrowed/read]; it means that my customers are happy, that we've made good choices for them and that we get to make more."
  • "We asked our customers what they wanted."
  • Special events, large and small, are always happening.
  • [Teacher librarianship] has changed a lot.  Now there are so many directions you can take."
  • "You get people hooked, show them how easy it is, and they're amazed they really can do it."
  • Service with a smile is the [library's] philosophy.  "We're friendly and helpful to everyone who comes in the door."
  • "It's comfortable."
  • "If a student says she can't do it, I take it down to a level where she can."
  • In the [library] she likes [borrowers] to browse.  "I tell people their [reading] doesn't have to be perfect.  I want them to enjoy the journey, and to feel like they want to come back - right away."
  • An ever-changing array...
  • "We're known for..."
  • "I work hard to make sure my customers find things here they won't find in other places."
  • "I take great pleasure in meeting so many people who share a passion for [books/learning/reading].  The world abounds with talented people, and I gather a lot of inspiration by surrounding myself with them."
  • "We try to offer a variety, a kaleidoscope of ideas."
  • "[Borrowers] are proud that this is their [school library]."
There is no way I'll tell you I ticked off on every one of these - because I didn't.  But there's great food for thought.  For the shop owners quoted above, the importance of meeting their customers' needs is of dollar sign importance, business survival, business success.  These are the strategies they are using - successfully - to get it right.  While I sometimes inserted 'borrowers', I left in the word 'customers' here and there too.

Wouldn't it be great if our kids found that a visit to their school library was "the best experience" of their day?

Cheers, Ruth

*GIFSL = Good Ideas For School Libraries

Friday, June 19, 2009

OECD International Teaching and Learning Survey (TALIS)

I'm writing this entry before the report has been issued* on 16 June 2009, but click here  or www.oecd.org/edu/talis to read all about it.  From the site: 

The development of the new OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey programme (TALIS) is a significant contribution to the OECD evidence base on education. Never before have we had the opportunity to gain such an understanding of the teaching and learning environment inside schools and how these contrast between and within countries. In providing this, TALIS will help countries to review and develop policies that create the conditions for effective schooling.

Barbara Ischinger

OECD Director of Education

Cheers, Ruth
* scheduled/written in advance blog entries are so useful!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: how to appal a student



"You know when you were young?"

"Yup."  I'm not sure how much of a feat she thinks this is, remembering So Long Ago.  Harrumph.

"Did you really not have the internet?"  She clearly can't imagine how this could be.

"Nope.  No computers when I was at school, either."

"Oh my god, miss."  I am clearly an object of considerable pity.

"We didn't have mobile [cell] phones, either."

"Oh-my-god!!!!  What did you do?" (Currently her mouth is hanging open enough to catch Louie and every one of his winged pals).

"We did have phones."

"Oh.  You mean those dially ones?" (She does a dismissive hand gesture).  "I hate those.  I won't use them."

Ah, the luxuries of the young.  And the happy life of teacher librarians, when it's so darn easy to appal them with tales of long ago.  Well, not that long ago, but it depends on how you measure time.  I have heard, more than once, students say, "When I'm old, like, 26..." and my old, old self chuckles.....

Anthony Browne: UK Children's Laureate

Illustrator Anthony Browne is the new Children's Laureate in the UK.  Read all about it in the Guardian newspaper here.  There is a gallery of his work to see if you click here.
I love the AHA! moment when kids are looking at one of his picture books, and realise that you darn well better pay attention, because there is STUFF going on in the pictures and if you don't pay attention, you'll miss it.
Cheers, Ruth

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What libraries are worth to us

An excellent article from the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Read it here.  My thoughts were provoked by the mention of the importance of the library space, as a sanctuary, as a public-private space.  Although I'm not sure if librarians are truly eerily psychic in their ability to divine what library users need...
Found via Pimp My Library (which you can see regularly over there in the blogroll on the right).

Cheers, Ruth

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

GIFSL*: 32. Thrillers (sizzle marketing)

One of the great challenges of a library, as opposed to a bookshop, is that you generally only have a single copy of a book to 'sell'.  So you do a GREAT job on persuading a student that Book X is worth reading, and the student borrows it... and you have to start again with Book Y for the next student.
So when promoting books, 'sizzle' becomes important.  An approach that can be adapted to a wider range of authors or titles, so when Book X is borrowed, there are other options around.
I've been experimenting with 'sizzle marketing' this year.  One of the recent experiments was Thrillers.  Narrowly defined, Thrillers could just mean Ludlumish books.  I went hunting for definitions of thrillers, and burgled out the bits I liked, deciding that Thrillers were books with thrills/excitement/adventure, and by gosh and by golly,what school library doesn't have books falling within these generous parameters?
Using a thrilling colour scheme of yellow and red, (easily found in standard school cardboard) we had a header on our foyer bookcase:
bookcase thrillers
...and extracts from the quotes I found on the noticeboard behind the borrowing desk:
0905 thrillers
And bookmarks based on these quotes, using yellow and red cardboard.  I also had a plan for a banner, but time and other commitments defeated that plan, this time round.
There wasn't an especial spike in lending, but the purpose of this isn't the spike anyway.  We had something else on the noticeboard/bookcase/bookmarks before this, and something else after, and the regular changing of the guard on these is a signal that our library is a place where things are evolving, not static, where there's something new to see, something new to find or discover.  Subliminal sizzle, as well as more overt marketing.
What do you need?
The yellow and red cardboard are standard school colours, nothing special.  Some of the more unusual fonts came from Scrapvillage.  The quotes (formatting is my own) from assorted googling.  Bookmarks were my usual 2x4 grid using Microsoft Publisher.  If you're on the nswtl email list, I sent a copy of the file for the bookmarks and the file for the posters (with my school name removed) to the list a week or two ago.  The bookcase header letters are laminated, and behind them you'll find nothing fancier than a metal bookend.
Cheers, Ruth
What are your ideas for marketing the sizzle?  Do leave a comment!
*GIFSL = Good ideas for school libraries

Monday, June 15, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: one like Twilight, please

Sometimes it's hard to overestimate the impact Twilight has had on kids' reading.  Apart from the obvious (we have five copies of the first book, multiples of the rest and rarely any on the shelf, plus steady reservations going onto the computer) - it's become a touchstone.  I had this brought home to me again today when a junior English class was in borrowing free choice nonfiction for a class assignment.

"I can't find a book, miss".

"Any ideas, or topics that you're particularly interested in?"

"I want one like Twilight.  It's the only book I've read.  Something to keep me reading like that did."

There's an interesting challenge, isn't it?  We did some fossicking among biographies -  unfortunately Chinese Cinderella and Falling Leaves were out - all our copies of those.  We had one copy of Hana's Suitcase, and various other ones that caught their eye, and in the end they all found something. 

What would you suggest, for a nonfiction book "like Twilight"?  And I'm still thinking over all the implications of "the only book I've ever read".  Whether or not it IS, that's their perception.

Cheers, Ruth

DailyLit (and Sherlock Holmes)

So if you've got kidlets paying attention, they may have twigged to the arrival at the end of 2009 of a new film version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law (as Watson) and larded with explosions, smart dialogue, mystery, intrigue and other stuff likely to be enjoyable Boxing Day cinematic fare.


And do you have a copy of the book in your library?  A nice copy?  And even then, is it too big or offputting for a Young Person to enjoy?
Fear not, because you can offer them the chance to read it in bite sized pieces.  Delivered free, direct to their email, in 131 instalments.  Really.  It's what DailyLit does.  They're building their library of copyright material, and will charge you for that, but they also have a bunch of public domain material too (Pride and Prejudice? Romeo and Juliet? Yes, and yes again).  Five minutes a day, or less.  Achievable.  Amusing? Fun? Different? Worth trying?
I think so.
Thanks to Wonderbooks for alerting me to DailyLit (and for the lovely entry mentioning how a Skerricks idea had been useful, too!)
Cheers, Ruth
PS. I will be going to see the Sherlock Holmes film for assorted reasons, one idionsyncratic one being that it includes the actor William Hope.  Who?  He and Laurel Lefkow are the readers on the unabridged audio version of Audrey Niffenegger's novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, one of my favourite books ever ever ever (on the wrong side of the bonking line for a school library, though) and probably my favourite audio book.  The best audiobook readers may well be those who you don't know so well, so you don't get distracted by your preconceptions of them from elsewhere.  But Hope and Lefkow do the most brilliant job with TTTW as Claire and Henry.  I don't know how I'm going to cope when later this year the film of TTTW comes out, and Eric Bana becomes Henry (and, curiously, Rachel McAdams who is in the Sherlock Holmes film, is Claire in TTTW film).   If you want to listen to TTTW unabridged audio (note the unabridged, there is an abridged version with different readers), it's obtainable on CD from Amazon etc, or to download from audible.com - even in Australia, which is not always the case.
But enough about me.  Try DailyLit.  Let your students know about it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

GIFSL* 31: To cull is not to lose

A couple of years ago I went through the fiction section and culled.  My goal, on that particular occasion, was to fish out the classics which were making the shelves look old and tired.  I wasn't sure, then, whether to keep or toss (I lean more towards hoarding, in general terms, so this is sometimes harder for me than it may be for you, dear reader, if you are and I mean this in the nicest possible way a tosser).  So I reclassified these as "Fiction Classics".  They stayed in the collection, but housed in our back room, so borrowers had to ask for them.  I figured that a year or two would give a sense of what was likely to get trade, and what was not.

0905 fiction classics
Isn't that in inspiring collection?  Not?
So over the last couple of years, a few of these have been reclassified back into Fiction, and have gone back to the ordinary fiction shelves - Alice in Wonderland is one example, probably driven to some extent by interest in the upcoming Tim Burton film (Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter...).  I bought a new Pride and Prejudice, since the ones from here were all ratty.  Ditto Wuthering Heights.  Ditto Jane Eyre. Ditto a few others, redeemed for various reasons. 
Nobody has come hunting for Dostoyevsky.  Or Hesse.  Or Xavier Herbert.  (I can name you the only student I know who read Dostoyevsky, and she did her HSC five or six years ago).  I don't quite know why some of these were acquired in the first place - unrefusable donations, perhaps?
So now the time has come, and the Fiction Classics are being reviewed.  A half dozen or so have been selected for redemption, but most have been disposed of.  They aren't being used.  They aren't appealing editions (for some, the spines are unreadable).
To cull, though, is not necessarily to lose.  For all the material here that is out of copyright (most of it), it won't be inaccessible to our students.  There are plenty of e-book libraries online where these can be obtained, in a format readable on a computer - eg. web page, or pdf.  E-reader not required.  A whole class can access the one book, so it's more than the physical printed books we had here could do.
Certainly, the copyright material isn't so readily available; but if it's not being used now, and hasn't found friends for years, how strong is the library-as-depository argument anyway?  We can't keep everything.  Taking this material off the shelves has made room for, and showcased, a lot of other books which have been finding friends and encouraging our students to read and borrow.  They may not be reading Xavier Herbert, but they are reading Scott Westerfeld.  And finding books they want to borrow more easily, without these dreary-looking books.
Local libraries offer access to interlibrary loans, if copyright material is needed.  Our role has changed, with the opportunities the internet offers, from what we thought we oughta or needed to do, twenty years ago.  So these books are now culled, but to cull doesn't mean to lose.  Now we have a responsibility to make our students aware of the other possibilities to support the collections we keep - like e-book libraries.  More on them later.
Cheers, Ruth
*GIFSL = good ideas for school libraries


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: founts of knowledge

A couple of lovely girls, poring over a newspaper job section, called me over at lunchtime.



"Can you help us with this?"


"We're looking for part-time work."  First formal jobs, I'd be guessing.

"OK."  They're checking out something in the casual work section.

"What's a..." (one reads from the paper) "... lingerie restaurant?"

"Ah, well.  Not somewhere you'd want to work, sweetie.  I'd guess that the waitresses wearing as little as possible is a higher priority than the quality of the food."

"Ick!  No way!"

"Very pleased to hear it.  Wise decision."

"Thanks, miss."

"No worries."
There are so many ways to be useful, as a teacher librarian.  Just last week at the school's Crossroads seminar (where all sorts of health issues are the topic under discussion by/with senior students) I had a couple of girls ask me earnestly at morning tea just how long a Pap smear took for the doctor to do.  All righty then, you say to yourself, if they're game to ask....without an exact minute count to hand, I had to resort to, ...ummm doctor picks up 'salad servers'....inserts.....time passes.... and so forth.  You get the picture.  The happy life of teacher librarians!  Absolute founts of knowledge!  Although I hadn't heard the analogy used in the intro to the section on checking for testicular cancer before...you know how you play a Playstation?..... see?  Always something to learn, too!!

Cheers, Ruth.

Create Readers: NZ book blog

Read more here.  It's also in my bloglist on the sidebar, so you can see the latest entry there.
Cheers, Ruth

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians

Have you come across the Darien Statements yet?  They were written earlier this year by three librarians.  Worth reading and thinking about.  I particularly like the one about hope, and the one about choosing wisely what to stop doing.  But read them for yourself, think, agree, disagree, work out what you would say and how you see libraries now and into the future.
The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians
Written and endorsed by John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor
The Purpose of the Library
The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.
The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change.
The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence.
Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict.
Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will.
A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library.
The Role of the Library
The Library:
  • Provides the opportunity for personal enlightenment.
  • Encourages the love of learning.
  • Empowers people to fulfill their civic duty.
  • Facilitates human connections.
  • Preserves and provides materials.
  • Expands capacity for creative expression.
  • Inspires and perpetuates hope.

The Role of Librarians
  • Are stewards of the Library.
  • Connect people with accurate information.
  • Assist people in the creation of their human and information networks.
  • Select, organize and facilitate creation of content.
  • Protect access to content and preserve freedom of information and expression.
  • Anticipate, identify and meet the needs of the Library’s community.

The Preservation of the Library
Our methods need to rapidly change to address the profound impact of information technology on the nature of human connection and the transmission and consumption of knowledge.
If the Library is to fulfill its purpose in the future, librarians must commit to a culture of continuous operational change, accept risk and uncertainty as key properties of the profession, and uphold service to the user as our most valuable directive.
As librarians, we must:
  • Promote openness, kindness, and transparency among libraries and users.
  • Eliminate barriers to cooperation between the Library and any person, institution, or entity within or outside the Library.
  • Choose wisely what to stop doing.
  • Preserve and foster the connections between users and the Library.
  • Harness distributed expertise to serve the needs of the local and global community.
  • Help individuals to learn and to use new tools to create a more robust path to knowledge.
  • Engage in activism on behalf of the Library if its integrity is externally threatened.
  • Endorse procedures only if they guide librarians or users to excellence.
  • Identify and implement the most humane and efficient methods, tools, standards and practices.
  • Adopt technology that keeps data open and free, abandon technology that does not.
  • Be willing and have the expertise to make frequent radical changes.
  • Hire the best people and let them do their job; remove staff who cannot or will not.
  • Trust each other and trust the users.

We have faith that the citizens of our communities will continue to fulfill their civic responsibility by preserving the Library.
Creative Commons License
Cheers, Ruth
PS It's bad form for a ballerina to tell you that pointe shoes hurt like the dickens, isn't it?  Bad form for for the work to be talked of too much, or the labour involved to be dissected?  All I'm gonna say is that for assorted software reasons, I've formatted and reformatted this entry about seven times.  Because I wanted to share this text here.  Despite crashing browsers, and uncooperative blog software, and all sorts of other things.  Dang, those pointe shoes hurt like the dickens!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Queen's Birthday

Monday 8 June is the Queen's Birthday long weekend holiday Monday in my neck of the woods, so normal blogging will resume on Tuesday.  Today, non-school life will take precedence.  With a bit of bleed-over with some professional articles I have to get done asap....



Thursday, June 4, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: one use for a ruler

Sometimes at lunchtime, the library will be occupied by a couple of students doing octopus impressions - wrapped up in each other.  In my experience, humour can be vastly effective in solving this, as it generally wrecks the mood and is a more pleasant strategy than a "hands-off" direction.  One useful line is, "Yuck!  Get away from him/her!  You don't know where he/she's been!".  Said of course with a grin - and in deeply appalled and horrified tones.
There has been one rather persistent octopus couple recently.  They apparently believed that I could not see the back of the library at lunchtime, and so they sat back there with other friends, the two of them glued together.
So the other day I took sterner measures.  I got out a ruler (a loudly coloured fluorescent one, 12in/30cm) and walked down the back of the library, brandishing the ruler and a cheerful-but-determined expression.  Octopus Couple looked at me with some suspicion, and made a token effort to separate.
"Nope," I said, "Not good enough.  THIS far apart," and I put the ruler between them.  Now there isn't a specifically stated distance (in centimetres) for students to be apart, but hey, they didn't ask and I wasn't volunteering (the school has a general 'hands-off' policy for all students).  Smiling at them cheerfully, I got them, grinning reluctantly, to separate by the length of the ruler, including moving their chairs apart.  Nearby students were very amused.  Distance established, the ruler and I left that area of the library.
Five minutes later, (as I had always planned), brandishing the ruler again, I trotted back to that area of the library.  Several metres away, Octopus Couple had spotted me, separated again and said, with all the injured innocence of teenagers caught out, "Look, miss, see?" as they gestured to the 30cm-ish gap between them.  And they smiled, and I smiled,  and the students nearby looked amused too, and the ruler and I went away.
Five minutes later I just looked at them, from the other end of the library, and caught their eye.  They weren't nearly as glued to each other, and instantly separated, indicating the airspace separating them in a righteous fashion.  I grinned at them, gave them the thumbs-up, and all was well.  (Well, except for the fact that he was now wearing her glasses, and peering about in a rather blind fashion, but that's not behaviour I'm going to fuss with.)
So you can win with humour, and by being more persistent than they are (I do not, however, underestimate the persistence of the Young Person of Today).  Also, it's amusing.  Part of the happy life of teacher librarians.
Cheers, Ruth

Writers who used to be school teachers

The Times has an article listing a number of well-known writers who spent time as school teachers.  Read it here. (Pop quiz: how many can you think of, before you click on over there?). 
The accompanying photo of Michael Morpurgo (was he on your list?), apparently in lounging on a pillow in bed, with a pad and pencil, suggests the attraction over an argy-bargy bunch of hormonal Year 9 students on a wet and windy afternoon.  Hmmmm.  I suspect it's not as easy as all that.
The follow-up article is here, from Kaye Umansky, explaining Why.
Cheers, Ruth

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Twilight: New Moon: first trailer + official posters from imdb

nw moon

These are apparently official posters -the other group one in the little row is the wolf pack.  Sourced from IMDB and something to share with your Twilightery.  It's worth keeping an eye over there to see what turns up...
Cheers, Ruth
PS. The Twilightery at school tell me that they saw an official New Moon trailer this week, and it's on YouTube.  They are VERY excited!

Here it is (on trailerspy, which usually works where YouTube is firewall-blocked):

link, if the above doesn't work:


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The power of a novel, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I would say that in an age of iPods, games consoles and YouTube, I still believe that nothing can tell a story with the depth and beauty of a book. I believe that language is the software of our minds, the blueprint of our identity. Our brains function along narrative structures and crave stimulation. Among many other things, good literature should tickle the brain. I try to do that. I try very hard.

Read the whole article, from the author of The Shadow of the Wind, found in The Times, here.



Monday, June 1, 2009

GIFSL*: 30. Naughty books about sex

This month, our Year 11 students (in their second-last year of high school) will be undertaking the Crossroads course, which covers all sorts of issues related to personal safety and identity - sex and drugs and youth driver awareness and many more topics.  I've been involved in this at my school for as long as I've been there, and present a couple of sessions - one on resilience, one on internet safety - and this year, on two of the three days, I'm doing the daily intro as well.
Ha!  Lots of fun to be had.  Especially since the Crossroads organiser and I laughed ourselves silly over a couple of picture books (that I'd also watched multiple kids laugh themselves silly over, too).
Have you come across Where Willy Went?

Willy is a sperm.  He's not very good at counting, but he's very good at swimming.  And the pirate-style maps of Mr and Mrs Brown (with arrows) are absolutely fabulous!  Well done Nicholas Allen!
Also not to be missed: Mummy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole.

Mummy and Daddy fudge their way through airy-fairy explanations of where babies come from, until their kids take things firmly in hand and explain, with rather more accuracy and an hilarious paydirt page (which includes a space hopper...).
These books are written for a younger audience than high school, but in a high school library, they have multiple uses.  They're fun.  Really fun.  I like letting them loose on a wide reading class, just one kid and watch them going viral (the teachers have enjoyed watching this too).  They aren't rude, but they're about naughty things, in kids' minds, and the frisson they get from these cleverly written and so amusingly illustrated books confirms in their minds, consciously or unconsciously, that books are fun and the library is a place where fun is to be found - and thus a place worth visiting (or at the least, a place you don't mind being dragged to with your class....).
Sure, we've got more clinical books about sex, but the humour of these is great to include in the library as well (our picture book collection is in regular use by a number of faculties/subjects).
For Crossroads, it's going to start the day cheerfully, ahead of the serious nitty-gritty of the topics under discussion.  One of the reasons I am involved in Crossroads is because I think it pays for the kids and the library for me to be involved in an outside-library school activity like this.  An opportunity to talk with and listen to some of our seniors.  An opportunity to be seen in a different teaching role - as a presenter, group discussion leader, facilitator.  I never know how much this pays back in the library, but I'm sure it does, and that it's another way to open up lines of communication that may lead to ways in which I can help kids in my role as teacher librarian.
Although, I don't know if you've really lived until you've had a group of senior students with large print A3 cards which they have to get in order from "buy condom" to "dispose of condom thoughtfully" - that particular year, our venue was a university campus (during a uni vacation period), and I had to facilitate this activity in an open area near their library's entrance.  You can just imagine the faces of the people walking by as the kids vigorously discussed (sometimes with unwonted optimism) the correct order of the cards, and the people glimpsed the subject matter.  I needed something to lean against, I was laughing so much.
(I do wonder how this blog entry will turn up in search engines, and just how disappointed some googlers may end up being...!!)
If you don't have these books in your library, do consider them.  And ways in which you can have a wider role within your school, and how it may have a positive effect on your work in the library.

Cheers, Ruth
Images above are from The Book Depository, links to the books' pages are from each title.