Tag Archives: libraries

As the world changes, how do we keep up with it?


Photo from Enokson on Flickr

Books have been a source of information for some time now. But in libraries, the people have been important too. Librarians have been the personal link to information for some time too.

As the world of information has changed from being bound in books to becoming available to all on the net, people have become even more important because of their expertise. In schools, just as we are seeing a movement towards reducing funding to libraries, teacher librarians are skilling up in step with a fast-changing, online world, and are not only supporting the management an overwhelming outpouring of information, but are also able to support new digital skills in a globalised society.

Libraries are no longer prized for their hard-copy content as much as for their intellectual property. Resource centres, stage for events that bring people to ideas, gathering places – libraries have evolved and continue to do so.

If our libraries are recognised in these ways, we will never be redundant – on the contrary, we will be essential.

How do you see the emerging role of libraries and school libraries?

See other retro library posters here.

What do you say to a student who says your reading blog updates are spam?

What do you say to a student who says your reading blog updates are spam? And what do you say when more than one student sends you an email like this one

Could you please stop spamming me. You are cluttering my inbox and inhibiting me from working.

Now, there are several things bugging me about this email and those like it.

I know that students receive many emails aimed at a general audience and that my weekly email is only a drop in that ocean. Emails about sport they’re not involved in, activities, general information, etc. I get the feeling that these emails are just deleted on a regular basis (or left to gather dust, so to speak). I might be paranoid but I think the emails I’ve been receiving are symptomatic of the way students see staff who work in the school library. Now, I may not be about to describe the situation in your school, but I’ve seen a few school libraries where teacher librarians, librarians and library technicians are considered similarly. To some extent, students don’t consider library staff in the same way they consider teachers. Hence, the email without any greeting or mention of my name – something I’ll bet they would never do to any subject teacher.

Some teacher librarians claim that they teach a class (at least) so that they’re seen as ‘real teachers’. That makes sense. It’s a good idea if you can. Currently I teach a year 7 English class collaboratively on a regular basis, and I enjoy the ongoing relationship with the students, getting to know them in a way I wouldn’t when I come into classes here and there to support information literacy or reading promotion.

But if I taught more classes regularly, I wouldn’t have the time to spread myself around the school, offering my expertise across the curriculum to different year levels at point of need. A teacher librarian’s skills are diverse, and as we keep up with changes in education (which respond to changes in the workplace and the world in general), we have the potential opportunity to become involved in rich ways.  As an example, I’ve been teaching within a ning for the first time, experimenting with enriching learning possibilities for the year 7 class I’ve mentioned. I’ve been constantly developing resources within wikis for English and Art, and I’m about to begin the same type of support for Maths and LOTE faculties. This is a time-consuming, out-of-hours, but ultimately satisfying job. I can do it because I’m not having a full load of face-to-face teaching. I love this work, and I believe teacher librarians have a lot more to offer now than they ever used to. I know many colleagues will agree with me on this.

The other thing that I find problematic when I think about the student’s email to me is the view that reading is not relevant to him. Information about books and related films, animation and the such, belong to the library, and are not relevant to this student’s subject-based focus. I think this reflects the problematic nature of developing a reading culture in the school. I started the fiction blog in order to begin to address this very important aspect of school life. I absolutely believe that developing a strong reading culture within the school community, including everyone in that community, is essential to and will have direct bearing on every other aspect of education. For a start, research demonstrates that reading is directly associated with academic results. And why wouldn’t it be? The more you read, the more you understand, the more ideas and perspectives you glean, the broader your outlook and access to diverse information will be, the more you will engage in discussion to further develop your ideas, practise delivery of what you want to say, etc. You get the point.

And yet, reading is still associated with libraries and librarians. That’s what we do. Other people do other things but we just read books. At least that’s the common perception.

This is what I want to change. I take responsibility for perceptions of reading and librarians such as those expressed by the above-mentioned email. I intend to work through this problem until I’ve made some progress. Not single-handedly, of course. My colleagues and I are united on this one. I admit it’s hard not to take emails like this one personally. But I also think that disciplining the student, as important as it is, will not solve the problem. The problem of reading’s relevancy to learning must be analysed, and the approach of the teacher librarian to this problem, as well as to the role of libraries in schools, must be worked through. Otherwise, if we are seen as not being essential, or even worse, irrelevant, to learning and teaching in schools, we’re in trouble.

Library Odyssey : 2029 future projection



There’s been talk about libraries and librarians becoming an endangered species and eventually dying out. Personally, I think that’s a lot of rubbish. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although, you could say that libraries and librarians are shedding their skins, evolving with changes that are taking place.

The DaVinci Institute does a good job of discussing this and projecting a future snapshot of libraries. Thomas Frey, Senior Futurist of the DaVinci Institute, rejects the predictions that technologies will make libraries defunct, and says this:

Ever since the people of ancient Nineveh began storing and classifying their books nearly 3,000 years ago, libraries have been hallowed and largely unchanging bastions of learning. But in the information age, libraries have been caste with a new identity, and the future is evolving into a very different place.

Ten years ago, as the Internet began to take off, many in the tech elite were predicting the death of the public library. What the critics failed to predict, however, was libraries’ stirring ability to reinvent themselves. Much like plants that flourish with good soil, water and sunshine, libraries have actually begun to thrive in our information-rich environment.
In the school library context, many libraries and teacher librarians are not only reinventing themselves in keeping with the fast-paced changes in the availability and management of information, but they are also often leaders in the future direction of education. Despite this, I still hear people say that libraries should be closed, and that librarians will soon be unemployed.
Here are some of the predictions for a 2029 library by the DaVinci Institute:
Traditional lending has been replaced with downloadable books, which are never out of stock, formatted for electronic tablets and readers. A bigger change, though, has come with the very concept of what a book is. Where once a customer would passively read and, hopefully, absorb a book, every volume now is more akin to an online forum, with authors, experts and other readers available to discuss and answer questions on almost every important book ever written.
I look forward to this change, especially having become hooked on interactive online communities. It would be satisfying to be able to respond to text on the spot, and receive others’ responses. Librarything has paved some of this way, but I think it could go even further.
Here are some more snippets from Thomas Frey’s article
With the Internet having put increasingly powerful business tools into the hands of individuals, more people are working and operating businesses from home. To such people, the library offers not just a refuge from the isolation of their house, it also provides temporary office space complete with podcast recording studios, conference rooms and editing stations.
And of course, predictions should always include a future which inspires the imagination:
With technology having improved so dramatically, a central feature of this library is the Search Command Center, where a team of experts, both real and virtual, assists with complex searches that now incorporate not just words, but sounds, textures and even smells.
What would your predictions be for schools of the future?

Humanity meets in the library

This is how it goes.

I read Jenny Luca’s post ‘The future of libraries’ which she wrote after reading John Connell’s post ‘Education and the cloud’. John wrote his post after reading Kevin Marks. Kevin had read something Tim O’Reilly had written. Tim was writing after having read a book by Kim Stanley Robinson. Before spiralling further, I should redivert to the purpose of my own post which is to contribute my own thoughts following from these threads, and specifically following from Jenny’s valuable insights.

As John Connell remarks, ‘the world of knowledge is shifting inexorably onto the Web.’  Whether we like it or not, it’s true. Now, I’m not saying that, in agreeing with this statement, I’m ready to pull books off shelves, turn libraries into clubs and restaurants (as Russian communists did with churches), or make the whole population of teachers redundant. I’m here to say that the massive shift of knowledge onto the web is happening, and that people will be playing a new, even more important role in the location and management of knowledge and technology.
Thomas Frey, the Executive Director and Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute, has written an interesting account of the future of libraries, which is actually a history of information and knowledge, since libraries house information and knowledge in whatever form they take. Frey comments:
We have come a long ways from the time of da Vinci and the time when books were chained to lecterns.  But we’ve only scratched the surface of many more changes to come…
Throughout history the role of the library was to serve as a storehouse, an archive of manuscripts, art, and important documents.  The library was the center of information revered by most because each contained the foundational building blocks of information for all humanity.
So what do libraries become once information moves to the web? And what becomes of schools and teachers if information can be accessed by anyone anywhere?
Jenny Luca says:
There will still be a need for schools and teachers. I don’t think we will become obsolete. I do think the nature of learning will change; we will need to encourage and foster self directed learners and this is what I see the function of teachers will be in the future…
… What the point of libraries will be, I think, is as a meeting place for humanity to share ideas. A bit like Ancient Greece where the Sophists would meet up together to share ideas.

 Humanity. Both Jenny Luca and Thomas Frey have identified the larger concern as humanity. It’s not about books, computers, buildings or technology but the collective resources of humanity. It’s not about books versus the internet. And as Frey says, ‘books are a technology, and writing is also a technology, and every technology has a limited lifespan.’  People locate, write, store, use and share information. How revolutionary was Johann Gutenberg who unveiled his printing press to the world by printing copies of the Gutenberg Bible in 1455? But, as Frey says, communication systems are continually changing the way people access information:

If you were to construct a trend line beginning with the 1844 invention of the telegraph, you will begin to see the accelerating pace of change:  1876 – telephone, 1877 – phonograph, 1896 – radio, 1935 – fax machine, 1939 – television, 1945 – ENIAC Computer, 1947 – transistor, 1954 – color television, 1961 – laser, 1965 – email, 1973 – cell phone, 1974 – Altair 8800, 1989 – World Wide Web, 1990 – Online Search Engine, 1992 – Web Browser, 1994 – Palm Pilot, 1996 – Google, 1999 – P2P, 2002 – iPod, 2004 – Podcasting.

If we bring back the true meaning of libraries – to share knowledge and ideas, or, more specifically, to enable the human interaction with knowledge and ideas, then we can see that schools and libraries, as centres of learning and interaction, are challenged with a new, global purpose. Frey says:

Libraries themselves are a global system representing an anchor point for new systems and new cultures… The notion of becoming a cultural center is an expansive role for the future library.  It will not only serve as an information resource, but much more, with the exact mission and goals evolving and changing over time.
It’s humanity that Jenny focuses on when describing what libraries and schools should be:
The space where students can form relationships, the space where they can articulate ideas and glean advice and encouragement, the space where the human network forms and where they can find ways to make it grow.  
In redefining the library and its purpose, Frey advocates experimenting with creative spaces. He suggests new functionality in the library, including band practice rooms, podcasting stations, blogger stations, art studios, recording studios, video studios, imagination rooms, and theatre/drama practice rooms.
With the whole world changing so rapidly, we have the opportunity to reinvent our learning spaces creatively. In doing this, we don’t destroy what we had in books or teachers, we respond to changes by recognising what is essential, and reshape our learning instead of holding on to external structures out of habit.
Learning is about people as my first paragraph attests to. Thankyou to my learning community.

Own the info, keep the info, hide the info



I was reading Will Richardson’s article Get. Off. Paper. where he talks about people’s dependence on paper, and the reluctance to let go of owning information in hard copy. I’ve also just read what Joi Ito, CEO of Creative Commons, has to say about sharing photos of ourselves. It’s made me reflect on the nature of owning and sharing information, and how that has changed dramatically in the last few years.

When I was at school and university, information was power. If you wanted to be successful and get good marks, you needed information.

I remember how scarce information was. I had to work hard to get it, and I had to work hard to get it before others did, or get it from places others wouldn’t know about.

Sound strange? Think about it. An assignment is set, and the class goes to the library, but there are only a few books about the single subject that needs researching. Once I was jumped from behind by another student who clawed me until I dropped the book she wanted. Sound unbelievable? Believe it; it’s true. That experience shocked me and I’m not about to forget it. I’ve wondered since then, how important is this information, that someone would behave in such a manner? Admittedly, this is extreme behaviour, but think about this. In those days, my assignments were based on the location of content. If I owned that content, I would regurgitate it and present it attractively. Would I be in a hurry to share this information? Well, that would mean that someone else would have the same information as me. Why would I share it? Did we ever do anything with that information? Analyse it, evaluate it, modify it, create from it? No. That information was what my mark was based on.

Will Richardson talks about a paperless society. What I remember most about university, was the time I spent photocopying chapers in the library. Not complete chapters, of course, just the legal percentage of what was permissable. I focussed on collecting bags full of coins so that I would be able to photocopy pages from all the books I’d found that were even remotely relevant to my topics of study. I needed those copies, I felt empowered with all that paper, all that information that I may need during my research. When I was finished, I kept that paper. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. I might need it. I think I still have it.

It’s a relief but also kind of strange to be functioning now in the potentially almost paperless world. I turn to people for my links to information, and I share freely, as well as receive in abundance.  My networks are not mean. They are made of people who are smart, connected, varied, informed, interesting and willing to share ideas and knowledge. I’m happy that I’m still learning so that I can turn my back on the old ways.

Reading Victoria

Reading Victoria is a program for adults run by the State Library of Victoria which encourages reading as a creative activity, expands choice and promotes interaction amongst readers. That’s what the website says, and I’m thinking – here are three essential aspects of reading that would work as a point of departure for reading promtion in schools. Creativity, choice and social interaction – all good reasons to get stuck into a book.

One of the offerings is ‘The Bedside Books Club’, a quarterly book club throwing open discussion of ‘the great, the awful, the perpetually unfinished and the can’t-wait-to-start books’. These categories are tantalising – the invitation reads ‘Have you ever wondered what books other people have on their bedside table?’ Can anyone think of other categories? I think the quarterly get-togethers, where everyone brings a book they’d like to suggest in light of the topic, would work well with teachers or even parents, and could be a way of fostering a reading culture within the school. Featured in the meetings are such delights as an author talk (Alex Miller – Journey to the Stone Country, 2003 Miles Franklin Award winner); a presentation by Mark Rubbo, Managing Director of Readings, about ‘What’s Hot in the Shop’; and guest reader, Genevieve Tucker, author of the blog, reeling and writhing. This sounds great, and we can still all go to it on Tuesday 14 October, 6-7.30pm at Mr Tulk cafe, State Library of Victoria. Wouldn’t mind going there myself.

The 2007 Summer Read is a compilation of readers’ top 5 books out of a shortlist of 20 recently published Victorian books. Discussion and voting is over, but the book information is still up. We really do live in a literature-rich state, when you consider the number of novels, short stories and non-fiction titles which are set in Victoria or are by Victorian authors. What a great promotion and idea to take away for school reading programs.

The Summer Reading blog treats readers to blogging by shortlisted Victorian authors. I intend to set aside time for this! It’s a treat being privy to the thoughts of such interesting people on a variety of topics and literature. Recent bloggers include Dorothy Porter, Paul Mitchell, who talks about how he became a writer. Craig Sherborne, author of Hoi Polloi, raises an interesting point about blogs: ‘They are quasi diaries and memoirs that may one day, soon enough given their popularity and conversational nature, replace books as the means for publishing autobiographical narrative; and their readers can be in constant communication with each other.’ There are others but I haven’t scrolled down any further yet. The blog also features reviews and opinions posted by the community of readers.

Celebrity Victorian readers also share their thoughts on their favourite books. Find out who reads in the bath, who reads in the Botanical Gardens, and who reads in their mother’s apricot tree. Where do you read?

We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in Reading Victoria, and I think that some of these ideas would work well in promoting a reading culture in our schools.


Banned Books Week Banner

Originally uploaded by DML East Branch

If you click on the photo of the banned books banner, you’ll be directed to its Flickr home, and you’ll be able to hover over each book to discover what it is. An interesting theme – banned books.

Censorship. It takes me back to when, as an Australian of Russian descent, I attended a Saturday Russian language school (RS, we used to call it), during the time when our parents’ fear of Russian communism was raw. My own grandfather witnessed his father being shot at the age of six. The censorship that ensued at Russian School (RS), through the eyes of young people, took on a comical aspect. The more paranoid members of our community (am I being unkind?) decided to protect us from ‘evil’ by eliminating our exposure to all things Soviet (which means ‘council’, by the way). We spent our Saturdays drawn like moths to the flame, peering through thick black texta-covered chunks of text through the light, or trying to unstick glued pages. In most cases, our discoveries left us disappointed or confused when the forbidden words revealed themselves as ‘pioneers’ (soviet scouts) or the date of a celebration we weren’t supposed to know about. Continue reading Censorship

History of libraries – fascinating

Originally uploaded by tsheko


After a brief hiatus, due predominantly to brain fag, having almost exhausted all things Web 2.0 (or is that, exhausted myself?) I decided to offer a morsel of general interest, to whit, a fascinating site detailing the early history of libraries. Have a look, too, at Survivor: History of the Library from History magazine.

Notice my reversion to bombastic and antiquated expression when I have nothing to say.

Wait, I do. Continue reading History of libraries – fascinating

Regional libraries

2nd Spider Web – 5

Originally uploaded by meeyauw

In search of a Web 2.0 presence at my local library, I eventually discovered an impressive array of things. I say ‘eventually’ because the link from the homepage was not outstanding in any way. Apart from clearly written explanations of Web 2.0 applications, as well as links in each section, the library boasted the following:

  • a readers’ advisory wiki
  • a training wiki
  • Facebook profile, including a catalogue search
  • Librarything-generated book cover images and tag clouds
  • MySpace youth forum (to meet online and discuss music, reading & movies)
  • Podcasts author talks
  • Links to Second Life resources and directory of virtual worlds by category (eg. for kids, for techies, for teens, for newbies, for artists, for 40+, etc.)
  • YouTube (list of popular video hosting sites

That’s a great start, and I think the problem of attracting users here is the same as in school libraries. There is a lot of great stuff there, it’s a matter of marketing to users.

#17 Library 2.0


Originally uploaded by David Warlick

I haven’t slept well for the last few nights. I’ll tell you why. I haven’t been able to let go of a significant stuff-up in a job interview for the position of teacher librarian in a secondary school. It still astounds me that, when asked how I would engage students in reading if money were no object, I completely forgot to resource the collection! No mention of buying books! My library would somehow engage young readers bypassing a collection altogether.

I blame my present conversion to all things Web 2.0. Seriously, it’s almost as if a vibrant collection of resources is taken for granted. But, to be fair, when I analyse my giant faux pas, I would have to say that we all know, and have known for some time, that school libraries need a fantastic variety of all things readable, countless copies of every author, genre and style. But it’s not enough! One of the other questions that challenged me during the interview (an excellent question) was ‘how we get to know adolescents’ at our school. I think this is one of the most important questions, because if we don’t think about how we are going to understand young people in our schools, then we’re buying books for ourselves, then our programs are for a mismatched audience, our money is spent in vain.

During the course of this Web 2.0 journey, we’ve had a taste of the world that our students more authentically inhabit than we do, a world we have to force our way into perhaps, so as to have an insight into the question ‘how do we engage young people in reading?’ After crawling into Facebook and MySpace, feeling our way through Flickr photosharing, and other Web 2.0 applications, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that we’re living in a new information landscape, one where interacting and sharing understandings, views and knowledge is the purpose behind everything we do. David Warlick noted a graduate student’s comments about school in his blog,

“There’s not really an avenue at school for me to share, or publish my own stuff, or especially get feedback from people all over — That’s really the only reason I rush home to do MySpace so much.”

I think the reason I omitted to talk about the provision of books and concentrated on Web 2.0 applications, is that, like Will Richardson, I see this generation as a read/write generation. It’s not just about reading – it’s about reading and sharing opinions and ideas about what we’ve read with our friends.  If we provide books, then we should provide the opportunity for socialnetworking amongst students. Teachers should not be the sole audience. Young people care about what other young people think. This is what Library 2.0 is about – innovation, people and community building.