Stepping into school librarianship…



Back to base in Wagga Wagga, and the beginning of another academic year for me! While here at Charles Sturt University we have three sessions, rather than two semesters, and students may be starting off a graduate or post-graduate course at any one of these three sessions, there is still something ‘magical’ about starting a new program of study with a new year!

So for a whole bunch of students, around about now things are starting to get exciting. In my case, my subject outlines have gone ‘live’ – but the really juicy stuff is yet to come. Meanwhile, we have been spending a lot of time working on learning materials and beginning a process of renewal in assessment strategies. The scene above was taken from the balcony of the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre at CSU which was the venue for our ‘thinktank’. We had no wine (unfortunately!), but we did have a fabulous view for breaks…not to mention loads of fresh air (which I really notice each time I come from Sydney to visit the Wagga campus).

I’m looking forward to ‘meeting’ my newest group of students, who come from Australia and around the world. Those starting the MEdTL for the first time will find themselves engaged in a range of activities, some of which may well be new to their scholarly toolkit. But the very first thing is THE BLOG! When they start blogging they’ll discover that it’s as easy as ‘one, two, three’ once they’ve mastered the basics. It’s also an opportunity to be part of the global conversation, with other teacher librarians – and that is, perhaps, the most powerful thing of all!

I’ve been writing this blog since 2006, and along the way have learnt as much as I have shared. Our new students will ‘meet’ many excellent TL bloggers along the way, and will also discover how to develop or expand their own personal learning network.

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a group of people you count on to:

  • guide you in your learning
  • be your source of advice and resources
  • make you aware of learning opportunities
  • share their best practices
  • point you to answers and support

Blogging friend, Darcy Moore, explains why teacher librarians need to build a great personal learning network. Great words of advice from this innovative Deputy Principal!

Professional people must be the change that they want to see in others and model behaviour that assists students and colleagues to become powerfully multiliterate and critical thinkers!

Teacher-librarians have the important role of assisting students to become culturally literate citizens. They need to be digitally savvy and enthusiastic about the widest possible world around them…

Developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is essential for teacher-librarians to be engaged with professional learning and continually updating knowledge and skills.

Blogging is a great place to start. How else can you learn from your colleagues across the country and around the globe?

The time for libraries is now!


Each new academic year brings me challenges, changes and excitement in ways that I often cannot anticipate. Once again our library shelves have been dusted, collections prepared, digital tools sharpened, and our motivation is running high. Yet the one point of predictability is that the learning landscape refuses to ‘be still’!  When it comes to literacy, information and life-long learning, the pulsing energy of change powers the curriculum of learning  throughout the year at breakneck speed.

Before the year had hardly got underway there were already several indicators that confirmed that education should  never be what it was when you were at school. For example YouTube told us:

Since the dawn of YouTube, we’ve been sharing the hours of video you upload every minute. In 2007 we started at six hours, then in 2010 we were at 24 hours, then 35, then 48, and now…60 hours of video every minute, an increase of more than 30 percent in the last eight months.

Never mind that the ‘dawn of YouTube’ was February 2005, which was just 10 short years after Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met at Stanford University, and before Google was a twinkle in their eye.

We saw the launch of iBooks for education, and iBooksAuthor which promised to challenge the textbook environment in schools by allowing teachers and students to create interactive content for iPads.  Following the unveiling of iBooks 2 Apple saw an incredible 350,000 textbook downloads in in the first three days after launch.

We also saw the new twist on Google+  which finally allowed both nicknames and full-fledged pseudonyms to be used. We got confirmation once again that game-based learning had more to offer than novelty interest. When online gamers topped scientists’ efforts to improve a model enzyme using the online game Foldit (University of Washington in Seattle) a milestone in crowd-sourced research was achieved.

While all schools are now involved in technology integration, laptop programs of some kind, and even iPads for 1:1 programs, it is astounding to think about the myriad ways the core tools and learning opportunities of the 21st century have indeed become extraordinary.

This is the socially connected era of mobile devices where interaction is key, and where mobile phone cameras are replacing point-and-shoot cameras to provide visual connection to the conversations. Audio and video media are more and more available online and always accessible in contrast to a disk or separate device designed for single purpose use. While some schools (or systems) lag in adopting the tools of today, students generally do not, making this is part of the overall challenge for information professionals.

Both librarians in your public or corporate library,  and your teacher librarians in your school library can have a vital role to play in today’s interactive knowledge environments as knowledge building, literacy and communication in action  takes many forms, shape-shifting before our eyes. This digital information ecology demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connection in which expert professionals understand reading and information seeking in a connected world. In other words, the time for libraries is now!

For schools, all this sounds very much like an environment that is best understood and interpreted by teacher librarians who are passionate about their library’s role in the learning culture of their school. It sounds like the perfect space for teacher librarians who are up-to-date with social media, and who already understand the portable, personal web, focused on the individual, on life-stream, on consolidating content, that is powered by widgets, apps, drag-and-drop, and ‘mash-ups’ of user engagement.

Print materials are no longer at the core of the school library reference collection, the non-fiction collection, or the information search process. Students use technology to research online, anytime, anywhere. School libraries that adapt to the digital needs of their students not only continue to build a reading culture in the school, but provide the divergence and convergence in media needed to provide the materials for motivation, differentiation, collaboration and connections necessary for 21st century learning in the multiple and diverse ways of a true expert.

Put bluntly, the era of the  iPad and other mobile/hand-held devices have changed school libraries forever, but have made the role of the teacher-librarian within the whole school community the most important leadership role there is!

Lisa Oldham, Development specialist for school library futures at the National Library of New Zealand, discusses the future of school libraries in the knowledge economy.

Let’s make 2012 the best ever for our libraries!

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Small is an important [re]action in libraries

Seems the wheel keeps turning, when it’s powered by cultural and community interest.  I remember when I first moved to my suburb with a young family, over 20 years ago. Beecroft had it’s own children’s library, run and staffed entirely by volunteers. This was the greatest thing, and perfect for an age of literacy, knowledge, curiosity and excitement which was powered by the best in youth works in both fiction and non-fiction collections.

Beecroft Children’s Library was a vibrant and significant part of the Beecroft-Cheltenham community for over 50 years.  It was important for two reasons:

  • it was an important resource for the area’s youth, complementing the high quality schools the area is renowned for; and
  • it was a good example of volunteerism, with it’s fund-raising social activities a focal point for the community, as well as the volunteer staffing of the library.

In our connected era, the notion, purpose, and function of libraries are being challenged. In this context, it’s great to see the ways in which grass-roots action is positioning ‘volunteer’ libraries once again in new ways to meet new needs.

I love the the trend of teeny-weeny libraries in little playhouses. The Corner Library is the latest in a slew of “micro-libraries” cropping up at different locations across the United States. Currently situated in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this treehouse-sized book shop is the brainchild of artist Colin McMullan. A mini replica of the classic public library, it contains everything from books to ‘zines to newspapers to comics, all available to check out for free- all you need is access to the lock code. Browse the titles and learn more here!

In much the same way the Great British Phone Box seems to be living on as a tiny library. The red telephone box is a British design classic. And many of these iconic boxes, as well as more modern boxes are getting a new lease of life as part of our innovative Adopt a Kiosk programme. Sometimes this newley adopted phonebox becomes a micro-library.

Meanwhile, the Town of Clinton in New York’s Hudson Valley recently christened a bright red British telephone kiosk as “America’s Littlest Library.” The Book Booth, a branch of the Clinton Community Library houses about 100 books and is part of the library’s book exchange program. Staino in the Library Journal  explains how the library’s Friends’ group created the branch library from the classic British telephone booth. The idea came from Claudia Cooley, a library Friend, who was familiar with the recent British trend of transforming no longer used booths into art galleries, toilets, and, in one case, a pub. Cooley envisioned upcycling the booth, which had long stood outside a local café, as a way to bring together a community that does not have a town center.

The Occupy Wall Street library encouraged readers to set up People’s Libraries around the country: “if you’d like to open a branch of the People’s Library in your New York neighborhood, find a [Privately Owned Public Space], bring down some books and meet your neighbors. It all starts with a few books in a box.”

Wow – public spaces that people own adopted for ‘libraries by people’ is great!

GalleyCat also suggests that we explore free eBook collections at eBookNewser, Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive for ideas. Post your list on your blog, Facebook page, LibraryThing page, Twitter account, Goodreads page or Tumblr blog.

Seems to me that the small [re]action in libraries has a lot going for it!  It’s all part of the cultural voice crying out that LIBRARIES MATTER.

Revolutionizing Libraries with Social Media

We are seeing faster and faster changes in the technological
landscape. In fact, in the past few years cloud computing has gone from an abstract idea to state-of-the art storage that we cannot do without.

Within this shifting environment we find libraries in a wide range of organisations (academic, public, corporate, special, schools)  re-visiting, re-imagining and re-branding their spaces, functions and service design.

In the full panalopy of library services, one aspect that occupied a busy group of people last Monday was social media in all its many dimensions. Don’t just think of Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Engaging in a conversation around social media opportunities is much more than than just choosing tools and  developing a social media strategy.

At the heart of the conversation was the issue of purpose, and the factors to consider in developing a social media strategy. As Bradley and McDonald write in the Harvard Business Review blog:-

What is a good purpose for social media? Would you recognize one if you saw it? And if you could identify a good purpose, would you be able to mobilize a community around it and derive business value from it?

Success in social media needs a compelling purpose. Such a purpose addresses a widely recognized need or opportunity and is specific and meaningful enough to motivate people to participate. Every notable social media success has a clearly defined purpose.

However, as librarians, we should have an interest that transcends that business approach. We are curators of knowledge and culture and embed products, tools, objects and strategies  to add value to the trans-literate environments of our communities.

At the day-long seminar Revolutionizing Libraries with Social Media,  co-ordinated by ARK Group Australia,  I explored  these issues with the attendees, ranging from the obvious, to the ambiguities of workplace structures, digital preservation issues, content curation options, community, collaboration, personal social networking vs corporate social strategy, e-services, and more. My colleague Lisa Nash from the Learning Exchange, Catholic Education, Parramatta Diocese also explored eBooks and eServices.

Always at the heart is our  need to ensure that  social media empowers connections within and beyond the library. We are ‘letting go’ – in order to allow our customers, patrons, or corporate clients to shape these services with Apps,  eResources, recommendation services, or strategic information delivery systems. Not every library will benefit from the same social media tools. But every library can develop new options for marketing their services and change the way their clients or community interact with the library.

In fact, there was so much to consider in one day, that the day was really just the start of more planning when the librarians got ‘back to base’.  To facilitate this I put together a LibGuide as a digital handout. The advantage of this was that we could  add requested items immediately as the day progressed , and can continue to curate this resource for future workshops as well as for those who so willingly engaged with us on Monday.

You can visit this guide at Revolutionizing Libraries with Social Media


Image 1  cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery
Image 2 cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Teacher librarians are important


Web 2.0 revolutionized the means at our disposal to filter and share information. Whether by managing information by social bookmarking or RSS reads and feeds, or communicating with our school community via blogs, wikis, podcasts, YouTube, or Facebook, students, teachers and school librarians have entered into digital conversations. Widgets, portals, Apps, Feeds and Aggregators and more now provide us with our ‘tools of trade’ for information curation.

The importance of the teacher librarian is intrinsically linked to effective and responsive information curation and dissemination in distributed environments within and beyond the school. Use of Web 2.0 tools has become embedded in good practice, and information curation has extended beyond the library catalogue to library and school information management systems for bibliographic and media resources, and various organizational tools that reside beyond the school in web environments, such as Libguides, Diigo, Live Binders, wiki, Delicious, Google tools, RSS, media tools, netvibes, iGoogle, and many more.

But when a technology focus subverts students’ conversation and development of critical thinking skills (and their ability to evaluate and analyze the information at hand), the mental processes that change knowledge from information to concept are not learned (Bomar, 2010). With the maturation of Web 2.0 tools the importance of nurturing information literacy skills and strategies has shifted to become a meta-literate approach to engagement with information.

This is exactly why teacher librarians are re-thinking what ‘collection’ of information means, thereby supporting personalized and collaborative information seeking and knowledge conversations. The new core information research tools available for students, teachers and school librarians adopting information literacy in a networked environment includes:

  • Microblogging tools for information sharing by teachers, students, classes and the school community in primary and secondary schools.e.g. Edmodo, yammer, Google+, or Twitter
  • Social Bookmarking and tagged collections e.g. Diigo, Delicious, PearlTrees, Flickr, Vodpod
  • Collaborative writing, editing, mindmapping and presentation tools e.g. Google docs, Exploratree, Voicethread, Mindmeister, Wikispaces
  • Research tools for online information management, writing and collaboration e.g. Zotero, Endnote, EasyBib, Bibme, Mendeley, Refworks,
  • Information capture in multiple platforms and on multiple devices .e.g. Evernote, Scrible
  • Library catalogues, databases, and open-access repositories – all used for information collection, RSS topic and journal alerts, and compatible with research organization tools
  • Aggregators, news readers, and start pages e.g. iGoogle, Netvibes, Symbaloo, Feedly
  • Online storage, file sharing and content management, across multiple platforms and computers e.g. Dropbox, Box.net, Skydrive

These tools have allowed us to re-frame information collection as highly flexible and collaborative information and knowledge conversations, while also facilitating information organization.

Technology and online integration can facilitate critical thinking and knowledgeable actions, rather than merely permitting the access and transformation of information as part of the information literacy skills set. The point is to engage our students in multiple conversations and research pathways that reflect the changing nature of scholarship in multimodal environments. As Lankes (2011) explains, at last we have a departure from information, access and artifacts as the focus.

In the lens of conversation, artifacts and digital access are only useful in that they are used to build knowledge through active learning.

Content exploration and learning demands a mix-and-match approach:

  • Search strategies
  • Evaluation strategies
  • Critical thinking & problem solving
  • Networked conversation & collaboration
  • Cloud computing environments
  • Ethical use and production of information
  • Information curation of personal and distributed knowledge.

Be sure you are understand online learning environments and the extra-ordinary potential of the social-media mind. Be sure you are involved with and present new ways and new information strategies to your teachers when  working within the curriculum and the full knowledge dimension of learning. Be sure you bring with you a full understanding of information literacy and information fluency as the underpinning of all that you do.

Bomar, S. (2010). A School-Wide Instructional Framework for Evaluating Sources.Knowledge Quest, 38(3), 72-75.
Lankes, D.R. (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Image cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photoshared by mikefisher821

Doing social media ~ experience the space



Since some time in July  I have been wrangling with the multiple dimensions of social media as they impact on the spaces of information professionals. I chose that word deliberately, because doing social media so it matters is at the heart of the what it means to be a socially networked information professional. It’s only by becoming active in social media spaces that you can really hope to be able to determine the best  social networking strategies for your library services.

You cannot read and write about social networking in order to learn social media strategy without engaging in the full dimensions of it. It is only through engagement that practice turns theory into understanding.

I always felt that had to be the case, but my recent teaching in INF206 Social Networking for Information Professionals has brought that message home to me loud and clear.

I have had the outstanding opportunity to engage with a group of information professionals scattered across Australia who are working in as diverse a range of libraries as you could ask. The services their institutions provide are, in some cases, second to none, and I was delighted to see that during the course of our study program some of the students were able to step up to join committees  formulating and/or delivering social networked services.

Tweeting for Trove, Australia’s national online resource of books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives ?

How good is that!

What is unquestionably the case for anyone wishing to delve into the spaces of social media is that engagement is participation! How else can you determine what, how, when, or why you might adopt a particular tool or strategy for your organisation?

There is no single “right” social media service that will fit every library. Comparing social media sites is part of the research, as is determining what kind of social media your library is interested in. Given that social media sites come and go, side-by-side comparison charts will not give you all the answers. Interaction and conversation with others active in social media will be an essential part of your litmus test while you keep your library’s objectives in mind.

My main message is that a participatory culture is unavoidably participatory!  I have discoved that students in a program about social networking,  who do not actively embrace experimenting and exploring, inevitably have gaps and weaknesses in applying social networking to the provision of library services. But by jumping in and giving it a go, fluency begins to emerge, and the transformation is quite exilerating!  Library 2.0 is vibrant, viral, communicates, promotes, and engages with it’s ‘people’.

It’s like learning a new language and going on a trip to a new country – you can get by with a tourist translation or develop fluency that allows you to become immersed and enjoy every aspect of the new cultural experience.

I know which option I prefer!

Top Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photoshared by Έλενα Λαγαρία
Bottom Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

United we stand – or do we?

When it comes to school libraries in the 21st century, there are many challenges that need to be addressed by teacher librarians and school administration teams. There is abundant research evidence that good school librarians and good libraries make a difference – a radical difference in the learning  lives of our students.

But the evidence is of little value unless school librarians and/or teacher librarians  also work together to empower their own learning and forge new pathways for integrating into the learning needs of students.

Sadly, in Australia, I would suggest that teacher librarians are their own worst enemies. We do not present a united voice – rather the tensions that abound between various teacher librarian groups who choose  NOT to work together with a national voice is to me particularly alarming. No matter how good your local group or state group is – it is the national voice that influences government and other national organizations. What has your local or state group done to promote the national needs of teacher librarians? Are they supporting the work of ASLA national -  actively, courageously, generously, and relentlessly?  Our own national organization has done so much to ensure the past, present and future of school libraries across the nation.

So how could you not be excited by the upcoming opportunity in October in sunny Sydney? If you have not as yet registered to attend the XXII national bi-biennial conference of the Australian  School Library Association  please do not miss this chance to collaborate with your peers from Australia. Registrations close this week!

It is more important than ever to put regional and sectional interests behind us. Just this week our own national listserv is replete with stories yet again of school principals who are removing teacher librarians from their school library. Others, secure in their own jobs, forget to take a national view on preserving and promoting the profession. It’s not enough to attend local events. It’s not enough to take out membership of a regional or state group – if in doing so you are cut off from national action and do not lend your voice to national collaboration.

I want to personally thank  ASLA national for providing us with national publications, national standards, national events, and for taking national responsibility for our profession.  Let’s never forget – there is no other school library organization that  can do this for us!

Think local and act national – this is the only way to ensure the future of good school libraries across our nation.

Come to the conference!

Do you have the keys to tomorrow?

Today I have had the most amazing day – really I have!  I am with school librarians in New Zealand, at the 2011  SLANZA Conference. This Monday morning saw me bright eyed,  ready,  and presenting their first Keynote – to set the foundations for three busy days. Though what I presented was a little different to the slideshare embedded below, the message is much the same…”at last we can make a difference”. You’ll see I broke my rule of having slides with minimal text – simply because with a diverse group of people, the presentation has to include take-away notes complete with reminders and references.

My thanks  to Oxford University Press for sponsoring my visit to the SLANZA conference in New Zealand.

After the morning Keynote  we had some really yummy information-rich workshops throughout the day. What has amazed me most has been the complete passion, camaraderie and willingness to do the seemingly impossible in the most remarkably diverse situations.   My New Zealand colleagues are an inspiration.

What outstanding work by the Committee in making this conference such a success already – and it is only the first day! Follow #slanza11 to pick put the vibe.

Uplifting school libraries


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by visualpanic

This week I picked up an interesting post from Doug Johnson ~ Not your mother’s school library. If your mother’s school library captured your passion, then it served a great purpose for the times  – but that’s a whole different story. My interest was piqued because of the (expensive) Workshops for School Library Teachers  being offered by Simmon’s graduate school. That title stumped me a little as it seems particularly out-of-date (school library teacher?), but the professional development courses seem to be quite current.  Interestingly, they are exactly the sort of courses that we offer free or at low cost via our professional associations here in Australia.We also learn a lot from our personal learning networks, with twitter and local lists always busy sharing the sort of information we need to keep our libraries current and vibrant places of 21st century literacy and learning.

Perhaps we are lucky! The Australian library scene is a vibrant one, as evidenced by the report tabled in the Federal Parliament that highlights the importance of teacher librarians and school libraries in education. The purpose of the Inquiry that led to the release of the report  was to look into and report on the role, adequacy and resourcing of school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia’s public and private schools.  So we are being noticed.

I like to think that we are also working hard to promote quality education for those who aspire to be a teacher librarian, as well as those who want to undertake further postgraduate study. It’s great to know that our CSU Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) aims to remain current.  We introduce teachers to the world of teacher librarianship, and we use the most current technologies as part of the course. Think blogs, wikis and social bookmarking, and you’re at the starting line. I’m pleased with the extension opportunities that we offer as well, and next session I am keen to get stuck into some new subjects.

For those ‘in the know’ I’ll be teaching ETL501 Information Environment which is supported by the work of international leader James Herring who keenly promotes improved web use as an element of 21st century information literacy.

I’m also looking forward to INF443 Creating and Preserving Digital Content, and INF206 Social Networking for Information Professionals.

Throughout our courses at School Library courses at CSU  we explore foundational and ground-breaking issues and technologies for school libraries and teacher librarians. I will be using Facebook, blogs, wikis, Diigo, Flickr, Slideshare, Zipcasts etc – in fact, a swag of online tools that helps makes learning relevant and vibrant for those in the courses – allowing them to learn about them and then integrate them into their own school and personal learning needs.

Our students have to be involved in their own architecture of participation if they are to help their schools and school libraries embrace the challenges  to create a renewal of pedagogy and technology work practices.

So I think that we are certainly addressing the passion that our our mother’s school library inspired, and the focus and vibrant 21st century literacy and learning that our grand-children’s school library will need!

Don’t believe me? Here’s what a few students said at the end of my first session of teaching at CSU.

Thank you for a most stimulating, informative and challenging course. I have already adopted some new ways of thinking and learning into my classroom practice and I know that there is a long list that I look forward to reflecting upon and enacting as time allows.

What a pleasure it was to do this subject with you at the helm. What it has taught me is invaluable.

Thank you so much for all the wonderful resources and support throughout the course. You’ve taken me from someone who really had no idea what she was doing to someone who has some idea with a thirst for more. It’s very transformational, challenging and definitely lifelong learning.

Paint your own horizons


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Werner Kunz

What will you do in your school library this year?

While we are always looking for opportunities to encourage growth and development in our school library services, and new ways to promote what we do, there are some ‘tried and trustworthy’ options for advocacy and promotion that should not be missed. The Horizon Report 2011 K-12 edition  points out how important it is for school library professionals  to keep technology in the forefront of our thinking.  The National Australian Library Associations ALIA and ASLA have provided a site to help us tell our community What a Difference a School Library Makes.

I really want to share with you Buffy Hamilton’s Annual Report.  She shows us three key things:

  • what you can and should be aiming for in your school library each year (even if you start small)
  • strategies for promotion beyond the school through media promotion
  • how to ‘package’ a professional annual report (even if you start small)

Congratulation to the Creekview High School library  team for another great year. Thanks for the inspiration :-)