The Librarian has left the building


I woke this morning to a grey sky, and many pieces of writing about teacher librarianship that my students have submitted as their first dip into a new profession. The grey sky seems to symbolise the mental consternation that is expressed by those entering the profession, and by those responding to the extraordinary changes and cutbacks discussed by  Buffy Hamilton and others at her post Do I Really have to Leave the Role of School Librarian to Work as a School Librarian?

Carolyn Foote and Judy O'Connell

I’m just recently back in Australia, after a number of visits in the USA related to libraries now and in the future. I was fortunate to attend the Computers in Libraries conference in Washington (CIL2012 – do access some of the presentations), and during the three days of the conference was delighted to spend time with Buffy Hamilton, Carolyn Foote, Sarah Ludwig, Polly Farrington and others involved in services to school libraries. I was struck by the extraordinary passion, the outstanding work happening every day  – and by common complications (in some schools) caused by the ignorance and lack of vision demonstrated by school leaders when it comes to libraries.

The reality is that teacher librarians  can be the best person to have in your school – but only if they have actually learnt how to fill that role well, and have understood and assimilated the principles of embedded librarianship.That’s what undertaking a Masters degree in Teacher Librarianship is all about! It’s an energising and complex profession that you just can’t learn on the job.

As Buffy rightly argues, we do not need to leave the role of librarian to become a better librarian.  What I sincerely believe is that we need school librarians to be recognised for their significant and vital role in the life of a school, and we need for their position to be better staffed and better supported within the school.

The School Library Journal allowed a provocative piece to inadvertantly lead a discussion that is vital to school library futures.  Linda W. Braun interviewed Sarah Ludwig, whose session I enjoyed at CIL2012,  and in showcasing how Sarah Ludwig left the library, became a tech coordinator, and forged a path to the future implied that perhaps this was a good thing.  It was not!

I believe that Next Year’s Model (term used by the school library journal)  is not the school librarian escapee – any more than the classroom escapee was ever the right person to be a school librarian!

I loved Sarah’s presentation at CIL2012, because she was engaging and clearly enjoys working hard to make a difference.  She is achieving some of what is possible as a teacher librarian.

Sarah Ludwig at CIL2012

So it was  nice – it was not innovative! The model adopted by her school was nice – it was not innovative. I’m guessing that Lorri Carroll
Director of Technology and Information Services Hamden Hall Country Day School is in fact not a qualified teacher librarian, though she certainly recongises what it is that makes Sarah’s work relevant to her school. The fact that Sarah said in the interview piece, and at the conference,  now it’s easier to get people to trust my opinion on technology, which enables me to do more than I could as a librarian is a reflection of the challenges in the teacher librarian profession.

It’s so important to look past technology, and to stay with the model that Buffy and other leading teacher librarians espouse in their work  (under circumstances that almost few Australian teacher librarians need to contend with) and to continue to shape a responce to change in the profession. This theme is not unique to school libraries – it is the same tune throughout the LIS sector.

We have had  better solutions taking shape in many Australian schools. In Hybrid Synergy – the Future of School Libraries you can read about a model that would suit Lorri and Sarah to a tee! Check out St Ignatius College, Riverview here in Sydney. They have realigned their library services to create a new hybrid synergy under the direction of the  Head of Digital Learning and Information Services (who IS a teacher librarian), supported by several  Digital Learning Facilitators who teach a subject as a classroom teacher, work with a faculty, and also support students reading, learning, and research needs in the library.  Of course, with such a commitment to empowering student learning, there are other important roles such as a Library Manager, and library and media technicians.

In other words – poor school, rich school, country or city school – we need a great teacher librarian at the helm to lead learning and innovation with and beyond technology!

Good luck to any teacher librarian of quality who becomes a curriculum leader, technology leader, Principal, or who takes on any number of other significant roles in the education sector.  Education is all the richer for it – but don’t leave for the wrong reasons!

Has the librarian left the building?

Ask yourself ~ Who is better off now? What stupid cutbacks by senior administrators has resulted in a move that will impact future generations of kids?  What is it that needs to change in our understanding of Teacher Librarianship so that we can make more of a difference? In times of economic constraint, why are school libraries under threat?  Are teacher librarians committed to keeping up-to-date? What do we need to change to improve?

The time for libraries is now!  .

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

Libraries and social media X

Wednesday was just the kind of day we need more of in our libraries!  Wollongong City Libraries (WCC) are taking charge of their future in a very positive way. Having decided that social media is now an essential part of the future of library services, WCC took the initiative to schedule a Staff Development Day for all the staff.

No easy thing to do – but Wollongong City and Branch Libraries closed ALL their doors on Wednesday 7 March to focus on their e-initiatives and Social Networking strategy.

The Social Networking Team has already laid the foundations for this important initiative, but the message on Wednesday was that everyone was now part of the conversation.  Their Facebook page is just the beginning of their future!

Guest speakers provided wonderful ideas to stimulate thinking to help the group discussions. I personally enjoyed the contributions from  Leanne Perry (State Library of NSW) and Kimberly Williams (University of Wollongong).

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery OAM dropped in to catch the vibe @ the Library Staff Development day. His words of encouragement were the best I have heard in a long time from a public figure. He was delighted with the energy of the social media shift!

Libraries represent our values, expand our minds, help in the construction of our realities and test them.  Libraries provide opportunities for the expansion of personal horizons, no matter what life circumstances have been.

One of our own CSU students, who was a keen leader in my Social Networking for Information Professionals Facebook group in 2011 was right there in the thick of it all! Fantastic work Clara!  The energy and buzz generated throughout the day was outstanding, and I know that I was the luckiest person on the planet to be there, and to have been chosen to provide the Keynote presentation for the day! Thank you Wollongong City Libraries.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by *MarS

Rat cunning and Library 2.0


Tonight I am in reflective mode while also being in frantic planning mode. Like anyone involved with education in Australia, we are very busy getting into a new academic year. In my case, I am working with a raft of new teachers who are learning about the challenges of being a teacher librarian.

Last week I worked with around 40 friendly folks as part of a program with the Department of Education here in NSW. These people came from a range of schools, and brought with them a range of experiences. One thing in common was enthusiasm. It reminded me of my days of training to be a TL. In one of my placements I was lucky to be mentored by a vibrant TL, whose forte was ‘rat cunning’. Looking for opportunities to work smarter, and influence your staff as often as possible was part of her overall approach to efficient management and advocacy, and underpinned her philosophy which in every way saw her and her school library address the Australian School Library Standards of Professional Excellence.

As I watch another batch of experienced teachers become students once again, I see and feel the nervousness, difficulty, confusion, and amazement that epitomizes a teacher’s discovery of what a teacher librarian actually can know and can contribute to a school. So many come into this thinking it is going to be a ‘walk in the park’. After all, they may well have seen or been in a school with library that has no teacher librarian – so in that context all they has seen is perhaps 5% of what is possible. It’s why I know that experienced Teacher Librarians are extraordinary, and that every single school and every single student deserves to have a TL leader in their school to make sense of 21st century multi-literacies.

On the other hand, there are also students who have come into the course who have a passion to be a Teacher Librarian. They already know some of the features of the job, and perhaps sense the power and magic of the possibilities. These people are looking for a life-changing transition which they want to be wonderful, colourful, and inspirational.

This week I’m also revisiting other aspects of my own TL journey. I am working with a small central school in mid-west NSW. Recently this town experienced dreadful flooding, and the school library was one of those spaces that was affected.I have worked in a variety of settings and operated with a shoestring budget. I still recall how the Principal and I re-organised the library layout with wire – literally re-shaping and re-organising the ancient library shelves to create useful and exciting spaces. I then raided the bargain bins at iKEA and the reject shops, and made that library a hub of activity. In a primary school of 400 students we ended up having a lunchtime rule – after the first 100 students got into the library, we had to shut the doors. They queued outside..waiting for their turn. And no, we had no air-conditioning!

So here I am consulting to a recently flooded central school – saved books, destroyed library. What next? Once again it’s the same issues – what exactly should a school library in a central school provide for its students? How is this achieved with budget and staffing constraints. Surprisingly the answers are the same here as they are in any school, and what the Principal is discovering is the complexity of what’s required in just the same way as my new students are surprised.

But of course the facility is only half the story. As we all know, it is what happens in the curriculum that is also critical. If you are a teacher librarian you already know the answer. My new students are barely even aware of the questions they are going to be asking themselves in a few weeks! But through all that turmoil, what is exciting is that they will make the journey. I recall last year the absolutely glorious and inspiring thoughts and ideas that some students were able to write about by mid-year.

If you are new in ETL401, and reading this – courage. You have taken the first step in the journey of transformation. Teacher librarianship is not just something extra. It’s a brainstorming, mindshifting, electrifying opportunity to meet 21st century learning needs in all its dimensions head on. Nothing can stop you after that!

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Trois Têtes (TT)

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