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.

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Curating Content with Digital Tools

I’ve just arrived back at school this morning after a fantastic weekend in Wellington.  The highlight of this weekend was getting to hang out with the fantastic group of librarians and educators who came along to support the SLANZA Wellington weekend school.  I got to catch up with some very dear colleagues and I enjoyed meeting so many new people, all of them passionate about school libraries. (My next blog post will be about one particularly amazing primary school librarian I met who is a total inspiration!)

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to present a workshop on using curation tools for professional development as well as teaching and learning and after a quick overview from me on some of the hows and whys and a quick look my top curation tools, it was about rolling our sleeves up, getting our fingers tapping those keyboards and doing it for ourselves.

The buzz in the room was amazing as everyone shared and discussed and asked questions about whatever tool they were interested in using, and thanks to Wellington Girls College IT guy Steve, the computers and the internet played the game and didn’t cause us any hiccups. Also a big thanks to the Wellington SLANZA committee for inviting me to be part of their workshop and to Lynne from Wellington Girls College for hosting us.  It’s an amazing school library and it’s going to be an awesome hub for next year’s SLANZA conference.  Remember people – Wellington, July 2013 is where it’s going to be happening!
As you can see from my presentation, my top two tools currently are Diigo and Livebinders.  I’d love to hear what your top tools are and how you use them.  As an example, here’s a great blog posting by Librarians Are Go blog author and librarian from Sydney.
Before SLANZA conference in Wellington last year I really didn’t know a huge amount about any of these curation tools and and certainly hadn’t thought about how I could use them in my professional practice.  Between Judy O’Connell and Joyce Valenza I was overwhelmed by the possibilities and my brain was racing at a million miles an hour with ideas of how I might just be able to do some of this stuff!  Experience has taught me to do a brain dump of all my thoughts and ideas and then go about organising and prioritising them according to how much time do I need or have, what skills or tools do I need, how big is the project and how sustainable is it.  You should see my To Do list!! 🙂
And finally, just hot off the press, an article in School Library Monthly by Joyce on Curation.  It’s a must-read if you want to know why you can’t ignore it.

Tertiary Prep Unit

While I seem to have been very quiet on my blog of late, I have actually been working very hard on it, as well as creating a new one.

I have been adding pages to my blog, including both a Resources page and a Lesson Plan page. These both link to aspects of the James Hargest Libraries Information Literacy Programme, which began from a seed of an idea in 2005.  These pages will not be static and I will continue to add resources I’m developing, trialling and using.

For those of you who attended my session at SLANZA Conference in Auckland on Creating Information Literacy Opportunities in Your School, it’s been a bigger job than I thought developing resources in a format able to be shared easily, but it’s now achieved and so any of the units and resources I mentioned there should be found somewhere within the pages on this blog.

I have also this past weekend created a Tertiary Prep wordpress blog to replace the existing Webs website as it gives me more flexibility for use.  In the SLANZA Collected article  published in November last year,  where I wrote on my Tertiary Prep journey, the old website is mentioned but this is the replacement for it.  This revamp has come about partly due to planning for my next presentation which is at the LILAC Conference  (Librarian Information Literacy Annual Conference) in Glasgow in April.  One of the conference themes for 2012 is transitions: from school through to higher education which is the area I’ll be presenting in.  James Hargest is generously supporting my attendance at conference which falls during a planned private holiday in the UK.

Where are all the crazy ideas for libraries? Take 2

I’ve been thinking …… a lot …….

I came across this blog posting thanks to Sally Pewhairangi’s Twitter link today.  I’ve recently been introduced to the wonderfulness of  The Wikiman, Ned Potter. I really like what he has to say.  He’s thoughtful, insightful and most importantly inspiring.

No more so than in the posting he published almost a year ago entitled Where are all the crazy ideas for libraries? Take the time to read it …. and the responses to it.  The gist of it is really that the day before a break-through idea becomes a break-through idea is is just a crazy idea.  And that if it weren’t a crazy idea it would just be the next step in a measured plan.

I particularly appreciated the response posted by Andy Woodworth with two creativity quotes:

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.” – Sir Ken Robinson

“The problem is that you can’t have good ideas unless you’re willing to generate a lot of bad ones.” – Seth Godin

He went on to say: “I think librarians are the caretakers of creativity. We are surrounded by acts of creativity in all forms of expression: books, music, movies, prose, journalism, websites, databases. All full of acts of creativity.

We shouldn’t be afraid to get a little creativity on ourselves. =D”

So ….. I put this thinking into a New Zealand school library context.  I find as Kiwis we’re a pretty inventive, risk-taking lot who are freely willing to share our good ideas.

The thread of responses to The Wikiman’s posting affirmed a number of projects currently in planning for our 2012  library school year here at Hargest.  I feel we are definitely on the right track.  We are a large secondary school, with a very busy library.  We get over 800 visitors a day, with a portion of these being students coming in during their interval and lunch breaks.  Lisa, my wonderful “librarian partner-in-crime” (often referred to by me as Batwoman) and I have been working on a series of activities we can offer these students to make their time in the library more meaningful.  We want them to want to keep coming back. So, we’re in the process of brainstorming some great competitions and weekly events in an endeavour to make this a reality for our students.

I also had another “crazy” idea around the marketing and promotion of libraries that just felt too big for Hargest alone, so I have begun a discussion with SLANZA National Executive to see where it might be able to lead.

What are your “crazy ideas” for our school libraries?  How can we promote our products and services in a new and fresh way? How can we market ourselves in a way that makes us more relevant to our communities? How can we get our message out beyond our library walls, our school gates, our professional boundaries to get the movers and shakers in education listening to what we have to say?

Many of you may already be very aware of the plight of school libraries in this country, in their fight for recognition of the great work done and the tenuous nature of budgets earmarked to enable this to happen.  If you don’t you can read about it in both the recent PPTA News article and the Sunday Star Times follow-up to it.

From PPTA News: Library manager at James Hargest College and former president of (SLANZA), Senga White, says forcing schools to fund their libraries out of the operational grant is failing. “Some schools value libraries but some simply aren’t aware of the benefits of putting their money into them,” she said. “Schools spend money as they see fit which means that there isn’t any continuity for service across the country.“ A lot of school librarians fear for their
jobs and are concerned they won’t get any budget at all,” she said.

And from Sunday Star Times: Library manager at Invercargill’s James Hargest College, Senga White said “forcing” schools to fund their libraries from operational grants isn’t working. “There will be a number of schools in New Zealand, for a variety of reasons, that may not have libraries at the moment,” White said. The former president of the School Library Association (SLANZA) said adequately resourced libraries can make a “significant difference” to the achievement levels for all students. “In the schools where they employ knowledgeable staff for their libraries, the curriculum underpins all planning.” White said in an “ideal world” schools would be given a little extra money – calculated on roll size and decile – set aside for the library. And library staff would also be paid out of the staffing fund – not the operations grants.

With the best will in the world, it seems that most of this sounds fairly doom and gloomish.  But what I really want to say is this: I have an enormous faith in our sector, in our people and in the library profession in general.  Yes, we have massive mountains to scale and although it may look impossible from where we stand, some of these crazy ideas of ours might just hold the key to that next major breakthrough, to ascending our Everest.

So ….. why not begin your ascent here, today. Share your crazy ideas with each other and see where that takes us!

Musings of a president – past

What a ride! Can I just say that the last two years as SLANZA President have been in turns and sometimes all at once: busy, rewarding, full-on, frightening, stressful, exciting, challenging, satisfying …… (and more!)

I vividly remember my first SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) National Executive meeting, straight after the very successful Nelson mini-conference in 2006. I was so nervous! I had incredibly big Bridget-Schaumann-shoes to fill and was questioning what on earth I had to offer. I was also a little daunted at who I was sitting round the table with: Liz Probert, Adaire Hannah, Johnann Williams, Di Eastwood, Joyce Richards, Kaaren Hirst and Jan Matthews. Heather Manning was the LIANZA Rep and Dyane Hosler was the National Library Rep. I can’t imagine a better group of mentors. The Dream Team of education-focused librarians.

I was astonished at the range of projects and the amount of work we managed to juggle and just how hard everyone worked. SLANZA is a fantastic organisation which punches above its weight as we do our best to meet the needs of the members, advocate for the changes we know are vital for our profession and represent our interests at every available opportunity. And that is one of the only things that remain unchanged in the ensuing 6 years. The face of National Executive has had a complete change. I’m the only one still there from that group in 2006. Fresh blood is good – necessary even, but so is continuity and it’s encouraging to see the new team building and developing.

One of our challenges ahead as an Executive will be to harness the myriad of digital opportunities available to us. This work has already begun with the SLANZA Wiki and the first stage of the SLANZA website redevelopment completed. We need to work smarter in providing support to our members and the wider library community and I see the key to this is what we can deliver and how we interact in our growing digital environment. For all of that and the can of worms that it is, for me our real strength as an organisation is our people. What a wealth of knowledge, experience, enthusiasm, strengths and ideas we have and my personal vision has always been to attempt to connect all of this together for our collective benefit. Every one of us has something to offer, some skill we can share, some wonderfully wacky or massive or daunting idea brewing away. To scoop all of this up and have every person contribute in whatever way they are able is our ideal.

So people, talk to each other, dream together, don’t assume someone else will do it or do it better. You are all awesome and if we flock together we will achieve amazing things. Let’s keep the discussions going that developed at conference, let’s begin the new discussions as our brains open up to even more possibilities. Don’t think it can’t be done – instead, discuss it with your flock-mates, talk to your local SLANZA representative, email Fiona or myself, post your idea to the list-serve and be an active part of the excitement that is school libraries in the 21st century.