Shades of Black in Libraries

Libraries: What we are, How we surprise, What we could be


I had so much fun putting together my recent contribution in Weve!  It was one of the most colossal, creative and confronting pieces I’ve ever worked on.  I felt a huge sense of responsibility to put something meaningful together and a huge sense of accomplishment at the end.  However, I had stepped completely outside of my comfort zone and I was nervous.  Had I nailed the brief?  Did it make sense?  Had I communicated my message, or just ended up being too obscure?  I hope it says something to you and that it’s worth hearing.  Then check out the other amazing contributions to the latest edition of Weve on Heroes Mingle. 

New issue of Weve available!

Weve is one of the publications I mentioned in my recent post about professional reading, so I’m thrilled to have been invited to contribute to the latest edition!
This challenged, stretched, excited and frightened me, all at the same time! I’m so proud of stepping outside of my comfort zone and creating something new. I’ve always been a words girl, so parsing my words right back and selecting just the right ones with the right images to express my thoughts was definitely moving beyond comfort. I enjoyed the brainstorming that went along with this immensely! Thank you, Sally and Megan for inviting me to do this, and then actually using my little movie!

Heroes Mingle

Read more Click on the image to open Weve

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Recipe for making library magic

Here is another one of Cambridge High’s library manager Glenys Bichan’s fantastic initiatives. This time it’s combining a splash of food and a pinch of libraries with a bushell of people in a special concoction to become their inaugural Librarian Master Chef competition.


Five teams had to cook two courses based on the themes of books they chose. The teams were:

  1. Harry Potter-concocted “Mrs Weasleys Corn Beef” sandwiches.
  2. Percy Jackson, “Greek Burgers” complete with feta and olives.
  3. Alice in Wonderland had food coloured pasta in a dish called “The Chesire Cat”.
  4. Lord of the Rings made “Dragon Eyes” out of eggs
  5. And the winning team Winnie The Pooh made amazing “Poohs Honey Ginger Bread”.

Food preparation took place in the Food Tech Room and the judging panel consisted of the Deputy Principal, a maths teacher who happens to be an ex chef and the school’s head students. The Principal made a point of checking it out. (I imagine to get in on a bit of the taste test action!)

As if this inventive, creative competition isn’t enough in itself, Glenys as usual, is all about the business of people, as we discovered in her inspirational posting about the two Jaimees in her library. She sees events like this as her way of having input into the lives of her students, making memories for them of their time as part of her library team.

And it brings disparate groups together who might not otherwise associate. She witnessed potential head students working alongside autistic kids; beside students with significant illness; beside kids who have gained recognition nationally for their areas of giftedness.  

ch-mc-jaimeeIn her own words: “We have the opportunity to really, positively impact the lives of these students in powerful ways! They loved it, and being the family they are laughed a lot – it was just a bit tricky stopping the year 10 boys tea towel flicking!

The food was stunning and the planning amazing – two weeks they plotted. They did so well.  Jaime the Giraffe, of course came as well, only his team, which included me was disqualified!!”

Thank you from us all, Glenys!

The intersection between schools, libraries and learning

Information Literacy Spaces

learning schooling

School librarians are a crucial component in enhancing the student learning experience, and while I acknowledge there is huge and important work being done in the development and support of a reading society, in this post I want to focus on information literacy teaching through the library.

Information literacy has never been more important than it is today, yet resources and support for the programs and people who are best-suited to teach and facilitate information literacy has dwindled in too many schools and districts across the nation. Even as the demand for accountability grows and mounting evidence continues to affirm that school libraries staffed by certified school librarians make a measurable difference on student achievement, library resources are too-often reduced or eliminated from budgets all together.  –  School Libraries Work! A Compendium of Research Supporting the Effectiveness of School Libraries

There are many excellent educators working in our…

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Professional Reading Choices

Here are links to some of my favourite professional reading material.

Peer-reviewed journals

il_logo-trans.pngInformation Literacy Journal

Articles in the Information Literacy Journal are written by presenters from the Librarian Information Literacy Annual Conference held in the UK in March or April each year.  Excellent range of articles around all aspects of information literacy in an education context.  I attended the Glasgow conference as a presenter in 2012 and it remains a highlight of my professional experiences to date and marks my introduction to the rockstar Professor Tara Brabazon!


alberta2Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Journal

I discovered this Evidence Based Practice journal when exploring what gathering evidence in my own professional practice could look like following the 2012 SLANZA workshop on Evidence Based Practice with the redoubtable Dr Ross Todd.  Not all of the articles are pertinent to a school library setting, but they all demonstrate how and why we could collect evidence as an advocacy tool.


New Zealand based professional reading

SquareGreenLogo_400x400SLANZA Collected magazine 

Published two or three times a year, each issue of Collected tends to have themed feature articles along with a variety of shorter articles and regular features including book reviews.



Library Life has recently had a facelift. It is a regular monthly newsletter with plenty of topical issues across library sectors and provides New Zealand food for thought for informational professionals.


HMWEVE Magazine 

A yearly publication from the Heroes Mingle stable which takes a fresh approach to thinking about librarianship, what inspires us and how that inspiration can make a difference.  Watch out for their next offering in the latter part of this year.


What are your favourites?  Would love you to share them in the comments!




Libraries Are About People

This is my space.  It’s where I can talk, rant, vent, discuss and share things that inspire me, that will hopefully, in turn, inspire you.

My most recent inspiration has come from Glenys Bichan, Library Manager at Cambridge High School.  However, I couldn’t possibly do her story justice so I asked her if she would be prepared to share it with everyone here.  I’m thrilled to say she agreed, so here is the story of a fluffy giraffe called Jaimee eLula.

Jaimee is the culmination of my six years as a librarian at a co-ed secondary school.  How can this be? I have learnt some stuff……Jaimee Giraffe

Being a librarian is not about books, it’s not about information provision, it’s not about collection collation, it’s not about cataloguing, it is not about my blog or Facebook page, it is about people.

Our people here are predominantly 13-18 year olds. The seekers and finders of life.  Those in the midst of discovery about who they are, what the world is, where they fit in it, and this means they need Jaimees.

Jaimee the Giraffe is named after a young man who worked in our library, He suffered a brain tumour at a young age, attended our school as a differently abled student and then we had the honour of employing him in our library. Very sadly while I was attending a SLANZA conference Jaimee Moore passed away.  He left us his determination, his gentle heart and his courage. Our giraffe continues his story and his qualities. Jaimee touched people, and now he still will.

Jaimee readingA month ago I organised our Waikato/BOP SLANZA training day. I wanted to impart the concept that the power of a library is based on relationships, on people. All we do is based around this. We invited a school counselor and other panelists to talk about the needs of our students, what they face as Generation Z, the issues that they grapple with and how we as librarian practitioners can support them best. The counselor suggested all libraries need a big cuddly toy. I thought Yeah, but Nah, a great kiwi colloquialism meaning maybe a good idea for others, but not for us.

Two days later I had a student bowl into the office- 14 years old, top graded student, witty, sporty, a different thinker, and I like her a lot. She sat down, burst into tears and said “Miss I feel so empty”.

Jaimee TypingI listened, I empathised and then I got into my car raced down to The Warehouse and bought Jaimee. Yesterday she came into my office, hugged him and smiled “Thanks Miss for getting Jaimee. It is so good to just snuggle up to him.” Since then I have had students who have never before engaged with us ask for him.  They sit him on their knee, they get on a computer and they type like fury. Their teachers are blown away. They have never concentrated like that before.

Jaimee seems to have super powers.

Attending professional development, listening to the experts and doing what they say works. It’s no surprise, but maybe we should not be in such a rush to say Yeah-Nah. We participate in professional opportunities to learn, to be challenged, to glean. It’s not about the lunch, it’s about changing our mind-sets. Why? For our people! The challenge of professional development is to activate the gleanings and knowledge we acquire, otherwise our expert speakers become void, a hollow voice, a waste. What makes us tick? What is the driver behind our school library? It is to impact people.

Jaimee and friendsThe usage of libraries continues to evolve. It is no longer a place of quiet study and silent reading. Instead it is a thriving community, a place of learning by discussion, of people not being informed only by notes and pages, but by social engagement, online learning, open discussion – and fluffy giraffes called Jaimee.

In our library here at Cambridge we call it a HUB – Holistic, Ubiquitous and Bold. We deal with the whole person. Not only their learning but as members of our community. We challenge old preconceived ideas about librarianship and are moving into a new area where a “library’s mission is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in communities” as stated by David Lankes, author of The Atlas of New Librarianship. He goes onto say that one of the most vital parts of that knowledge creation is through conversation!  And, “By establishing a climate of participation, risk-taking, acceptance of “messy” learning and inquiry, we can create conversations that in turn create school libraries that are responsive and organic. A participatory approach to librarianship can ultimately lead to learning experiences that in the words of Steve Jobs “make a dent in someone’s universe”

Jaimee reading at deskAt Cambridge High School this looks like a lounge, a place you retreat to as a safe place. It is warm; it is filled with people you connect with; it is a place where meaningful discussion occurs; it is comfortable; it is a place where you read, a place you watch TV, a place you discuss what you read, what you watch and how you react to those ideas. It is place of debate; it is a place of security. It is a place where you eat; a place where you are most relaxed.

This is our library.  It is all of those things; secure, open, real, and it has a fluffy giraffe. It is not the family room of chaos, it is a lounge of being and learning. If our lounge is the umbrella, the spokes are the HUB.

Holistic – deals with the whole person. We provide information, knowledge and support to all our stakeholders in a way that adds to them as people and as members of our community. People leave our space feeling valued and respected.

Ubiquitous – impacts on and is accessible to our users 24/7. Not just with information and knowledge but because we have had conversations that have challenged and affirmed our users. We build confidence, value, character and resilience.

Bold – our library has an open vision which is imaginative and we think outside the box – what box? We embrace the big picture of a 21st century information provider. We scan the landscape and shift accordingly. The outcomes of being bold is that our students will flourish, not just academically but socially within our community.

Jaimee MooreSo Jaimee eLula Giraffe is now a staff member. He is being told secrets, read picture books to, held while his friends type like fury. He is carted around the school on grand tours; he is there, and he can be whatever our people need him to be in their often confused, shaken, broken and scary worlds. Jaimee is an identity when they struggle to have one, and he is soft and gentle when their world can be hard and harsh.

Jaimee, according to my people, will soon have his own blog. He will tell their stories, and this will be amazing to read. Maybe the story of Jaimee will become its own story within the stories of our people!

They will be determined, gentle and courageous – just like Jaimee Moore.

What students need from me – a teacher reflection

Brick wall & ladder
CC Flickr – Assault Techniques

Author and English teacher Tania Roxborogh has today shared her reflections on being a teacher with her English teaching colleagues on their listserve.

This really resonated with me both as an educator and a mum and thought it might be the same for many of you, so I made contact with Tania and she has kindly given me permission to post it here for you all to read.

It reminds me that part of learning is repeatedly wrestling with information and often feeling like you’re beating your head against a brick wall.  Maybe teachers are the ladder over that brick wall. This is reinforced for me as I embark on this year’s Tertiary Prep Programme.

What My Students Need From Me – a Self-Reflection

Confession from a returning soldier teacher:
Yesterday, I got close to losing my temper at a class. For the millionth time, I had to explain again an instruction that was:

a) contained in their handout

b) up on the board

c) in a message home to the parents

I was really frustrated. Couldn’t they just pay attention? Couldn’t they just read/check it for themselves? Couldn’t they be grateful at how awesome I was as their teacher to be providing them with this awesome task using all the correct pedagogical tools that make the work relevant, help with different learning styles and needs…?
Yeah, nah!


I talked the day over with my pōtiki, the one who had us up at nights, who slammed doors and screamed at us for being horrible parents. And who is now back living with us, happily having these kind of conversations because (apparently) we’ve learned from her and are the best parents ever.
‘Mum, just be like you were with me.’ For a moment, a Vietnam flashback of those teenage years threatened to send me to bed with a headache but my daughter continued. ‘I knew that you would never ever give way with me. You never gave up. No matter how bad or sad or sick I was. Be like that for them. Be their wall to knock against. You once told me that the world of school is a hard place and I could come home and let it all out cos I was safe. Maybe they are asking and complaining because you make them feel safe.’


Once I got over the surprise at my 20 year old’s wisdom, I sat back and thought: yeah, they are fourteen. Who’d want to be fourteen. Keep being kind. Keep being patient even to the smart-alec kid who likes to take pot shots at me.


What they really need is for me to LET THEM ask (again), tell me they don’t understand, complain that it’s too hard.
Yes, really.


As much as it nuts me out, my time in the trenches of student-ville (see what I’m doing here) have taught me that if I couldn’t get it the first time, or the next, and what I needed then was my lecturer to have the patience of Gandhi (am I pushing the metaphor too wide?), and, because I knew my lecturer would always answer my questions (again and again), I sought help more and I learned, even if those around me caught on quicker.

Telling them I already know the stuff and that they need to is unfair and a bit unkind. Telling them I know the stuff and why it’s good to know it is more helpful.