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.

Action and Reflection: Aligning and Mapping the Work of a Library to Its Community of Learning

As part of my workshop at the SLANZA 2013 conference on engaging with your school community I talked about the importance of articulating your school vision. Here is a concept from Buffy Hamilton which will enable you to take that vision for your school library and puts meat on the bones of it so that everyone can see. I love not only the visual aspect to this idea of mapping the work you are doing in your library but also the connection to the work being done in collaboration with the rest of the school. It makes those links very clear and understandable for anyone who is involved or has an interest. I also think the idea of having this both physically in the library as well as online is important for the sharing of these ideas and projects as well as the promotion of further discussion and brainstorming. Mapping this work will also provide intersections for further collaboration and allows you to identify and follow through on areas for potential evidence based practice. Thanks so much to Buffy for sharing this. Great idea, and I look forward to seeing how this progresses.

Love Letter to Hargest

Love letter

I have loved every minute of my time at James Hargest College.  The school initially did a great job in educating me back in the 1970’s and 1980’s and I’ve always held very fond memories of my high school years.

When I started as a part time librarian back in October 2000 it felt odd to be sitting in the staff room alongside teachers who taught me (Yes, there were still quite a number continuing to teach here in 2000 and there are still some today – you know who you are Mr Elder and Miss Dunlop!!) but I felt welcomed and quickly became part of the life of the school.

Plans were already afoot for the redevelopment of our new library when I started and it was fantastic to be part of creating the wonderful space that all of the Hargest community now uses to great effect.

After having had a variety of different jobs from receptionist to administrator to radio producer through the years after high school I can say it is truly magical to finally know what I want to do when I grow up!  For me, the intersection of libraries and learning is what spins my wheels and gives my working life meaning and purpose. It has been both satisfying and rewarding to develop my understanding of how these two different facets of education work together to bring about the best outcomes for students and how to grow programmes and lessons that are enjoyable and meaningful for everyone.

I want to take the opportunity, as I embark on my last day working at Hargest, to say the biggest, heartfelt thank you to each and every current and past colleague who encouraged, listened, advised, responded, discussed, brainstormed and collaborated with me over the past 12 years.  You have all contributed to my professional journey in a myriad of ways which is incalculable in the continuing development of my unique role in a school teaching and learning team.  I am very excited to be moving on to the next chapter in a career I’ve grown to love with a passion. And I look forward to some of you at least, continuing to share in that journey alongside me.  I will always be very proud to say that I worked at James Hargest College.

PS:  If you don’t know who Miss Dunlop is, ask Nadia.

Thank You

Reading, Research and Recreation: the three R’s of a school library

Last night I had the undivided attention of a small but appreciative group of parents who had come along to the monthly PTA meeting to listen to me talk about how our school libraries support their children’s learning and ways they, as parents could be doing that at home.

Reading, Research and Recreation: the three R’s of the School Library

In this presentation I introduced parents to the school-wide information literacy programme that I have developed to date and described how it fits across year levels and curriculum areas.
To support parents in their endeavours to help their children with homework and enthuse them to read (or keep reading) I also created a Parent Resource Livebinder with some good links in it for author websites, book reviews, book trailers, research help and online safety.
I had several parents stay behind after the presentation to discuss various things that had occurred to them during my talk as well as to talk about their favourite books and how some of the strategies I mentioned had already worked for them or how they intended to try this or that one out.
There was definite interest in sessions for parents to up-skill in their use of the internet and searching strategies so I am adding that to my goals for the 2013 school year.
We have also invited parents to become members of our library for the first time, so it will be interesting to see how many take up that offer and how that aspect of community involvement develops.