How to design a library that makes kids want to read

The Robin Hood Library Initiative

We all need inspiration and validation for what we do.  Today I received this in spades when I watched the Ted Talk by designer Michael Bierut about his involvement in creating a logo for a Robin Hood project.

About a decade ago, this philanthropic organisation wanted to do something to improve the public schools of New York but didn’t have the level of funding required to update all the schools’ buildings so instead chose the place in the school that would reach the most students – the library!  It’s called The Library Initiative and has redeveloped libraries in almost 60 schools in New York City.

Robin Hood Library , New York NY , Richard H Lewis

The Library Initiative 2

These libraries look like places of magic and wonderment! And while I loved everything Michael spoke about, I was particularly struck by his theme of unintended consequences and how speaking with one of the school librarians about turning out the lights at the end of each working day became a touchstone of what unexpected consequences can look like.

I think it’s also a reminder that doing something we feel strongly about can bring unexpected consequences as a result of the action we take and how it may impact us personally.  And I love that!  Receiving of unexpected gifts.

If you want to see more of the libraries and their unique murals, you’ll find some at Environmeant.


Research Planning with Students

Some of the work I’m currently doing to support research at Southland Boys’ High School. More to come!

Information Literacy Spaces

Planning ResearchThe library I work in at Southland Boys’ High School has been a flurry of research activity this year!  Last term Year 7 & 8 classes were researching World War I, Year 9 & 10 social studies classes a variety of events from the 20th century, Year 12 biology classes were discovering element of the abyssal zone and Year 13 history students were investigating New Zealand-focused topics.

This term has already become a real juggling act to accommodate all the research that’s happening.  The Year 12 history classes have come onboard the research train with conspiracy theories, English classes are researching inventions as well as conspiracy theories, and our lovely Year 7 & 8 classes (all 11 of them!) are undertaking individual research about a conflict of their choice, following on from their WWI topic in term 1.  To say we are a busy library would be an understatement!

Y10 Group

Research becomes…

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Why This Scottish Quine is Proud of her Mihi

Maori Proverb

I am an immigrant.  I came to New Zealand in the mid-sixties as a toddler with my parents, a young couple then in their early 20’s who arrived with £20 in their pocket and a huge dream for a new life.  After 50 years they acknowledge it was the best move they ever made!

This meant I started my schooling here at the beginning of the 1970s, and while at primary school I learned to make a poi* and to play tī rakau, the Māori stick game, (I can still sing the song!) I learned very little, if anything about Māori history or culture and have remembered even less.

*poi – a light ball on a string of varying length which is swung or twirled rhythmically to a sung accompaniment.

As an adult, and since beginning my career in education almost two decades ago, I have muddled my way through situations that required some understanding of Māori tikanga, feeling uncomfortable and somewhat out of my depth while also feeling it had no bearing on me or my heritage.

However, that is no longer true, and the catalyst for this change was the Mātauranga Māori within New Zealand Libraries workshop I attended just over two years ago. It was delivered by Anahera Morehu and her team through Te Rōpū Whakahau at the Murihiku marae in Invercargill and it was awesome.  I certainly came away from that day with more knowledge about tikanga, te reo & kaupapa Māori, but it was the epiphany about my relationship to these that was transformative.  If you get the opportunity to attend one of these workshops, please please please do it!  It is because of this very positive experience I began my journey towards understanding Māori ‘s connection with their whakapapa & their place in the world.

As a result of attending this workshop and listening to Victor Manawatu speak to our staff about local Māori history last year, I approached Leon Dunn, one of our wonderful staff members at Southland Boys’ High School about helping me to write my mihi*.  I came to realise that a large part of my reluctance to use Te Reo Māori was my insecurity regarding pronunciation and not wanting to offend Māori by speaking their language incorrectly.  Big thanks to Leon for helping me to face my fears and do it anyway!

*a Maori greeting, formal welcome speech, or expression of thanks

Then the rubber met the road when I was recently provided with the opportunity to use my mihi in public for the first time.  I had been invited to present to the senior students at Aurora College about successful learning and felt it was not only appropriate but necessary for me to begin with my mihi.  I admit to being more nervous about delivering a 30-second mihi than an hour-long presentation on information literacy skills!

Being courageous paid off when the Year 13 group applauded my mihi efforts! I was stunned and delighted, and when I shared with them that this was the first time I had been brave enough to do this in public they further encouraged me with a “well done, Miss! That was awesome!”

I now treasure a whole new appreciation gained about the power of mihi, mixed with the strong sense of pride and belonging it can bring, putting your own story together, sharing your lineage, your family roots in this way.

My regret is not embracing my fears earlier as it would have been very special to have been able to introduce myself in my country of birth using my adopted country’s native language when I presented at the LILAC Conference in Glasgow in 2012.  I will not miss another opportunity like that again!

This is me with my parents, celebrating 50 years in New Zealand last year

Information Literacy Skills for Senior Secondary Students

So, here’s one of the things I’ve been up to so far this term …..

Information Literacy Spaces

Tips & Tricks Photo

Today I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of working with the Year 12 & 13 students at Aurora College in Invercargill.  Aurora is a small co-educational Year 7-13 secondary school, which is part of the group of schools working in our project.

Following on from our initial Hui in February I was invited by their lead teacher Kirsten Erasmus to present an introduction to their senior students about information literacy skills needed for successful learning.

Success for LearningI had two one-hour sessions, the first with Year 12 students and the second with Year 13 students.  I kicked off by talking about what makes us successful learners and why a positive attitude is vital to push through when things are hard.

The Research Process

We then went on to cover

  • the importance of following a research process
  • using a research pathfinder to keep on track
  • Google searching strategies for successful searching
  • moving beyond Google and using databases

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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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