Friday, January 29, 2010

The Visible Teacher Librarian

As I'm preparing for this morning's assembly - the first one this year with all students present, since we only had Years 7, 11 and 12 yesterday - I'm also thinking about Visibility.

I am the Assembly Co-ordinator at my high school, running the weekly whole-school assemblies.  While SRC students do the individual speaker introductions, I top and tail and have responsibility.  I've done this job for most of my years at this school.  The opportunity arose early in my time there, and I happily took it on, for a number of reasons.

One of the chief ones was visibility.  On the one hand, as a teacher librarian, you're easily findable in the library; on the other, the kids that don't come to the library may have only the foggiest idea of who you are.  With the library having several staff - one TL, job-sharing school clerical assistants - it also puts me in a public role where my status as a teacher is confirmed in the minds of the kids.  And while assemblies are a formal occasion, at times there are opportunities to add a dash of humour/personality too.  I also rewrote the assembly policy, revamped the assembly record book and did other organisational improvements.  Always good to have something better for your input...

As a side issue I hadn't considered was the reaction of new staff members in particular.  Assemblies are run by the TEACHER LIBRARIAN?  A tone of surprise.  In analysing this, there seem to be a couple of components.  One is that this role is being done by a classroom teacher, rather than a member of the executive.  Well, my school's assemblies have always been run by a classroom teacher.  Another is that it's the TL (am I supposed to be invisible/lesser/timid?).  I give that comment, when it arises, a wide-eyed look as though it's surprising they are surprised...  When, after a couple of weeks, they see that I do it well, their surprise evaporates.  Yup, it's PR to the staff as much as the kids.

When I did my TARS (annual teacher assessment) last year, my other school involvements ran to a page on their own - while keeping busy in the library I deliberately choose to be involved in other school curricular and extra-curricular activities outside the library, for all sorts of useful reasons.  I know lots of other TLs do the same, and it's a most valuable way to enhance your role/status in the school, to alter perceptions of TL from (sadly persistent) stereotypes (eg. 'hiding' in the library, being somehow 'lesser' etc) to a fresh, accurate view that can then be deployed in useful ways to promote the library and the ways in which the library and teacher librarian can support the school's teaching programs.

So it's worth thinking about the ways in which you are a Visible Teacher Librarian in your school.  Hurrah for all the great things we do!  If you want to post a comment about what you do, so others can be inspired, go right ahead.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GIFSL* 46: Staple-gun upholstery (with a WOW factor)

If you work in a NSW government school, there's nothing more certain than that you've seen, and sat, in one of these standard-issue low lounge chairs.  They're in staffrooms, hopefully a few in the library, in the common room and so on.

Depending on the age of your school, they may have been supplied to the school when beige, 'sunshine' yellow or a somewhat bilious green was considered just right (the one above, and its beige or yellow cousins at my school are shading thirty years old).  More recent colours are muted greens, blues and ochre-pinks.

The vinyl is, let's face it, practical.  But over time they get marked, and maybe the vinyl has splits here or there.

I was up at Katoomba High late last year, speaking at a conference (about sprucing your library, surprise surprise!) (it went well and I had fun - happy to be a presenter at other TL conferences/inservices...) and saw some of these chairs which had been spruced by the library staff there.

Katoomba High (not us, but our inspiration)

The idea took hold.  While the muted green and blue chairs in our mezzanine reading lounge don't need recovering, I knew of four grotty beige vinyl chairs I could take for the library from where they were languishing elsewhere in the school, too unappealing for anyone to be interested.  As well as hiding the grot, cloth is nicer to sit on.  And we were going to be able to set up another reading lounge, this time upstairs in the fiction section; I didn't seem likely to be able to get more comfy chairs for it in the near future, so needed to be ingenious instead.

Off to Ikea for some furnishing-weight 150cm wide fabric...

This is from a range called Saralisa.  The fabric I chose is the second bottom one (multicolour/orange):

Yup, as seen in sneak peek #1.  Images here from the Ikea Australia website.

A couple of useful hints and tips: I deliberately chose a pattern that didn't need matching.  Much easier.  Colours: these went with the blue wall, green carpet and newer blue chairs, and are dark enough to not show the dirt in five minutes.  We may spray them with a fabric protector such as Scotchgard, but realistically, if we don't, it takes just over a metre of fabric (this fabric is $9.99/m) to do a chair, so about $12 later we can recover them in a year or two anyway, if they need it.

More than practicality, though, this is a mad, wonderful, funky fabric, and the transformation is remarkable. 

Don't you think so? The kids do. And pretty much everyone else who's seen them - WOW! is a common reaction. We recovered several chairs before the end of last term, and a sort-out elsewhere in the school (or previously untapped chair-whispering skills on my part) brought us four more bright yellow ones just as term ended.

What do you need?  A bit over a metre of 150cm wide decent-weight fabric per chair.  A staple gun or trigger tacker, sharp scissors for cutting fabric (paper/cardboard blunts scissors, so your usual library scissors may struggle).  A cordless drill/screwdriver for getting the screws out and back in.  Some of that wide tough book repair tape, if your chairs have any splits needing repair.

Another tip: pay attention to which screws come from where, so you put them back in the same place, as they aren't necessarily interchangeable.  Maybe do one seat at a time.

I'm not going to give detailed instructions: basically, you're unscrewing the two cushions from the metal frame, covering two rectangles (we went right over the top of the vinyl), aiming to turn under/staple down any raw edges, then reassembling the chair.  It isn't grand upholstery, but it's do-able and has fabulous results.  As you can see! 

We didn't refinish the dark brown metal framework of the chairs in any way - just the revamp was enough to make the chairs special.

Before term ended, one faculty had already recovered their yellow vinyl lounge chairs in another Saralisa fabric (we have green carpet, they have green vinyl...:

...and during the holidays, another faculty went from yellow chairs to these (they have blue carpet):

...which also uses Ikea fabric, from a range called Inger.  I wouldn't be surprised if more around the school got this treatment - at about $12 a chair, with equipment to hand in schools, what's not to like? Although I think I've sabotaged any possibility of acquiring any more chairs from within the school, now people have seen what's possible.

The blue/black/white Inger chairs are in the Visual Arts faculty, which also now has a word wall, after seeing our library word walls.  They went with the wonderful vocabulary of colour names.

It's lovely to have the library inspiring renovation elsewhere in the school again (chairs, word walls... and other areas have been painted after seeing what we've done inside and out).  I have great colleagues, and we all work hard for our kids.

Many many many thanks to the Katoomba High school library staff for inspiring this Good Idea!



PS these chairs are for a new (changed) area in the library - I'll show you soon...

PPS. Snaffle every chair you can from around your school BEFORE renovating, because it's harder to get 'em after everyone else sees what's possible...!!

PPPS. We'd love to read your comments....

*GIFSL = Good ideas for school libraries

Skulduggery Pleasant book 4: Dark Days (+film news)

Here's the answer to a question I know I'll be asked week one: it's called Dark Days, it's out on 1 April 2010 and it's got a purple cover (as opposed to orange, lime and aqua).  It's Skulduggery Pleasant book 4.  And I've had a waiting list for this since April 2009, when Skulduggery Pleasant book 3 came out.  I will be requiring several copies (and have been advised so by young persons at school.  Repeatedly.)
Here is the blurb from the publisher's Australian site (which seems to have the wrong release date on it, methinks):
What can we say, without giving too much away?

Not much, is the answer.
But what we CAN say is that this book is hilarious, it′s tense, and it′s packed with all the eye-popping action, crackling one liners and imaginative set pieces you′ve come to expect. There′s a new threat to our plucky heroine, of course. But that′s not all. There′s also the little fact of the Big Bad, the uber-baddy who′s going to come along and really, really destroy the world. (Really.) And what we learn about that villain in this book will literally make your jaw fall off and your hair go white with shock. (Not really.)
Will Skulduggery make it out of the Faceless Ones′ dimension? Who knows. The problem is, he may not have much to come back to...

Ah, there's a useful bit of information with which to start the new school year in 2010!
PS If you've not heard the audio book versions by Rupert Degas, you've missed a treat.  And not just for the lovely Irish accents. Download from or buy on CD from
PPS. According to IMDB, there is a film of Skulduggery Pleasant in the works.  Current listed release date is 2010, but I wouldn't hold my breath - seems like there isn't much info yet.
PPPS. There are several interviews with Derek Landy on YouTube, like this:

PPPPS, or however many P's are right... Hey, welcome to a new school year!  I was at the Australia Day celebrations at Katoomba yesterday and saw the Bushwackers play - great stuff!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Popping in during the summer holidays

Near the end of an excellent summer break (they're all excellent; it's only the young who find them long and boring... miss, I was bored and was glad the holidays were over.  Crazy kids!  Us old folk revel in the time!!) I've popped into school for a few hours several days this week.  I won't get everything done that I would like to, but a few things are sorted.

Would you like some sneak peeks at some of the changes from the end of last term and finds from the holidays? There's been some working and some renovating and some excellent discoveries...

Peek #1 (where's that been used?)

Peek #2 (what's the keyboard on?) (and do you appreciate the holiday key choice/allusion??)

Peek #3 (four shelf units in fiction, not three? but only three fit in, before...)

Peek #4 (a desk with a creative twist...)

Peek #5 (improving the view)

Peek #6 (now where will you find this, six times?)

Peek #7 (love the post-Christmas sale at Ikea!)

Peek #8 (maybe these will, or maybe not, but the kids will enjoy them)

Peek #9 (what's this for?)

Peek #10 (what's the plan for this?)

Peek #11 (today's find)

But what does it all MEAN?  (Do comment if you wish to! - hmmm, if anyone gets most or all right, I might even find a prize of some sort).  Stay tuned to Skerricks in 2010 to find out more.  I've already started on entries which will roll out after school goes back, the day after Australia Day (OK, Australia Day is 26 January, for those outside Oz).

In the strange but true department, I took a batch of chocolate brownies to share with the cleaners/general assistants at school, and just look at the shape left after they'd been (first) attacked:

...squint and it's sorta kinda a map of the US.  It didn't stay that way for long... Now it's maybe a map of Vatican City; or possibly an uninhabited section of the Pacific - ie a clean plate.

Enjoy the end of the hols (if you're on hols like we are still, woohoo!), see you next week...