the social media hat

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For decades teacher librarians were isolated in their schools, often being the only one of them on the staff.  While there were sometimes opportunities for those in a cluster of schools to get together face-to-face, on the whole it was a lonely position with most professional instruction coming from handbooks, college notes and the occasionally print publication.

 

However the development of social media tools has changed the landscape entirely and now teacher librarians are amongst the most visible professions, exploring and exploiting social media to connect with each other, their clients and the ‘long tail’- those who don’t believe that a library has anything to offer them. No longer is the library confined to a physical building or its collection to print resources lined up on shelves. Rather than the transfer of information it presumed users wanted, the emphasis is now on the creation of information that users have indicated they need.

In 2009, Matthews claimed that a library’s website was its “most important feature” because it had become the first stop for clients seeking information and was the public face of the library and its presentation can tell the user much about the organisation. Thus the design, content and structure of the library’s website was and remains of paramount importance. But now there are so many more ways to connect with the world beyond the walls that we have to have a multi-faceted face to it.

“Web 1.0 took people to the information; [whereas] Web 2.0 will take the information to the people.”

Ian Davis

The library’s focus has to be centred on its users, delivering information, resources and services that meet their actual, rather than their assumed, needs, guided by client requests, response, participation and feedback.

“Library 2.0 is based on community, conversation, collaboration and content-creation.”

Lyn Hay & Jake Wallis

Although many libraries have had a web presence for some time, there is now a range of tools that can be added to it or used to complement it encouraging communication and collaboration.

facebook_logo twitter_logo instagram_logo pinterest_logo edublogs_logo wikispaces_logo edmodo_logo
oztl_logo shelfari_logo youtube_logo flickr_logo skype_logo goodreads_logo  eduwebinar_logo

The selection of the applications to suit the needs of the institution and its intentions is critical.  The tool’s purpose, features and functionality must  support the purpose, content and design of the library website enabling it to develop a broad online presence. Choices need to be made based on accessibility to the clients with COPPA restricting access for under-13s  to many apps. The common denominator must be that they are interactive, participatory and support both the creation and consumption of information.

The Arizona State University Libraries websites demonstrate how this can be done successfully. Rather being confined to physical buildings, they have moved beyond the walls and into the realm of the students using a range of applications to ensure that current customers are better served and new users targeted.

the role of the teacher librarian

From Library 2.0 comes Librarian 2.0.

Central to the library’s participation in the social networking environment is a librarian who understands its philosophies, practices and potential. 

Librarian 2.0 is a mashup of the old and the new focusing on the users, services, technology, content and context in a collaborative, interactive environment.

While the traditional knowledge, skills and attributes remain an essential core, they are enriched by new Library 2.0-based capabilities enabling a more diverse, richer experience for both librarian and client. Policies, programs and practices reflect the new paradigm and the users’ needs become their driver. Rather than being the sage-on-the-stage dispensing information, Librarian 2.0 becomes the guide-on-the-side facilitating the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

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librarian_20c
librarian_20d

 

social media in action

There are as many social media tools as there are purposes to use them.   Indeed, one of the most difficult decisions is to choose the one that best meets your needs and which is likely to have some stability and longevity if that is important. Just three years ago there was a post on a blog listing an A-Z of social media tools – not only is the blog post now gone but most of the tools have too!

The ‘padagogy wheel’ identifies iPad apps that satisfy various levels of the Bloom’s Digital taxonomy but not everyone chooses an Apple environment and apps come and go as regularly as the tides. Nevertheless, it offers some starting points to begin or continue embedding ICT into learning and creating a collaborative and communal space. 

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.  Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

 

 

However, while having students engage in using these apps is a critical part of the 21st century teaching and learning environment, social media is also a necessary tool in the TL’s toolkit if we are to connect and communicate with our communities including students, staff, parents, and colleagues further afield.  It is the ideal way to un-isolate ourselves and build bridges to the broader community as well as continuing to grow our professional knowledge and practices. 

Perhaps the most commonly used tool is also among the oldest – the email-based listserv such as OZTL_NET and LM_NET. Popular because questions can be asked as they arise and responses delivered straight to the subscriber’s inbox, most educational jurisdictions host a local list so the discussion is particular to the issues of that state or territory.

Blogs are widely used to share new knowledge, understandings and practices as well as provide a range of opinions and perspectives on issues affecting the profession. Each is as individual as its writer and they are a valuable source of new ideas and information.  Recently The Edublogger posted a list of 23 library-based blogs hosted on the Edublogs platform but there are many more available including those from professional leaders like 

As well as blogs from those within the profession there are many from the wider education field who write posts that will enrich and enhance our professional practice.  Look for

There are also many sites which regularly review new releases of titles suitable for our clientele and these need to be selected according to their focus and your students’ ages, needs and interests. Some to explore are 

Goodreads and Shelfari are also worth having on your radar as community-powered tools to keep abreast of new releases as well as criticisms of popular reads.

Most education jurisdictions require a certain amount of formal professional learning to be undertaken and logged each year and to overcome distance issues requiring expensive travel and accommodation costs, webinars are now becoming a more popular method of delivery. These can be national or international and institutions like ASLA  offer them on a regular basis. They have the distinct advantage of being able to participate wearing your pyjamas with chocolate and coffee by your side!

For communication purposes Facebook and Twitter seem to be the favourite platforms and they are used for a variety of audiences. open and closed.  However the COPPA restricts use to over- 13s so primary schools tend to use them for parental communication only.  Facebook is used for sharing upcoming events, book reviews, and other news associated with the school library as well as tips and links to assist parents with their child’s learning.

There are several opportunities for TLs to connect via Facebook including

as well as pages to follow such as the Australian School Library Association which regularly post links to relevant articles.

Twitter is not necessarily used by students (some research suggests they see it as the world of the ‘oldies’) but many parents use it and it’s a way of spreading important messages quickly. Many of the profession’s leaders tweet interesting tidbits daily and the back channels of conferences can be a worthwhile source of new information and perspectives.

Wikis are also an opportunity to connect and learn from our peers although we must consider the 1-9-90 rule – 90% of participants don’t contribute although they value what they read and observe; 9% add to existing discussions and 1% create the content and the commentary. Two wikis worth looking at are Book Week for Beginners and Guided Inquiry both of which support the TL’s professional practice.

Curation tools such as Pinterest, Only 2 Clicks, and Pearltrees are already an integral part of the TL’s sharing hat, and as the concept of flipped classrooms begins to grow, more and more tools like YouTube, Vimeo, Photopeach and Slideshare will become as important to teachers sharing their teaching as they are to learners sharing their learning.

Whatever your social media need is, there is an app for it.  But for the TL of the 21st century, the social media hat is one we must put on every day if we are to remain relevant and inhabit the world where we will find our students. For those who would like the hat to fit a little more snugly you might like to investigate Social Networking for Information Professionals available through Charles Sturt University.

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the tricky topics hat

 

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In a recent edition of the School Library Journal there was an article entitled,  King & King – and teacher who read it -under fire in North Carolina in which a teacher read a book to his class and now finds his job in jeopardy. 

The book in question is from 2003 and is about a prince who marries another prince and was read to a Year 2 class in response to an issue where a child of same-sex parents was being bullied.It also fit into a unit of work being undertaken focusing on fractured fairytales. The outcome has been outrage and now all books that are not in the library’s collection which are going to be read to a class by any teacher need to be submitted to the principal and parents for prior consent.  

King & King - Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland

King & King – Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland

 

The final page

The final page

 

If you are unfamiliar with the story, there is a (biased) synopsis including pictures here.  It’s not the first time it has caused controversy.

Curious about how Australian parents, principals and peers would respond to the issue of such tricky topics being included in the collection and shared in the classroom, I posed the question on Facebook to both personal and professional forums. I asked parents how they would respond to their young children being ‘exposed’ to stories about non-traditional families, specifically same-sex and whether they would require advance notice; principals about whether they would require to know in advance  if such a story were going to be shared; and teacher librarians about their inclusion and handling of such resources in their collection. 

The results were very interesting.

  • Parents were almost unanimous in their responses that they would have no problem with such a focus because they had had such discussions in their families already, their children knew and mixed with such families and that they are just part of the fabric of society.  One parent would like a heads-up so that she was prepared for any questions her child might have, but being in a non-traditional solo parent structure herself, she saw the value of celebrating such diversity.
  • The principal who responded also want a heads-up so she could field any parental response but would definitely support the sharing of such literature because she trusts the TL’s professionalism and knowledge.
  • Teacher librarians were divided – some felt that to read it without prior approval from parents would be “outrageous and create uproar”; another said we were not censors and if a story was worth sharing it should be shared; and others said such family structures and other issues are part of life and to not share them marginalises those who are “different” even further  and questioned whether studies of families and communities without acknowledging all structures would be valid.  Given the hot topic of marriage equality in Australia, there were those who felt TLs had a duty to help older students be informed about the issues and that literature was a non-personal way of doing this.

Inspired by the diversity of opinions among the teacher librarian fraternity, I then posed the similar questions to three TL online networks, one state, one national and one international.  

Should we be required, as teacher librarians developing the collection and as teachers sharing stories with students, to inform our principals and parent body in advance that we are intending to do share stories that may be controversial?

While we are happy to share stories about children with physical disabilities, mental health issues, particular illnesses and different cultural, social and religious backgrounds as we try to promote the message that these things should not define the person or their worth, why are we so divided about stories which feature different family structures, sexual orientation or assisted reproduction? 

Without even going into the specifics of the opinions, the results were interesting.  There were three responses from the state list, three from the national list and a volume from the international list. This pretty much reflected my expectations based on experience of asking similar “deep questions” – for whatever reasons, local TLs do not respond to challenging issues that are put before them so that there can be discussion and debate and corporate growth of knowledge.  However, if someone asks a relatively simple question that can be answered with a search of Google there will be a flood of responses, as there will be if someone is flamed or the profession is threatened, so “lack of time” cannot be the reason more meaty issues are left hanging. 

The responses from the local list focused on the need for a Collection Policy and a Challenged Material policy and the statistics relating to the prevalence of LGBTI issues in our community – “1 in 2,000 births in Australia have  “sex disorder” or are intersex – (unsure due to non reporting) and about 11% of Australian gay men and 33% of lesbians have children and around 10% of Australian population identifies as gay and lesbian.” The other three who responded supported the “mirrors and windows” view of the collection – resources should mirror the lives of the students and give them windows into new and diverse worlds, and that such titles supported inclusivity of students. However there was concern about the age of the children involved because they don’t ‘understand’ the issues while another argued they don’t need to ‘understand’, that young children do not see things through the adult lenses that we apply and all they are seeing and hearing is a story about families with which they are already familiar.

The discussion on the international list was very robust and a range of issues was raised. Here are some quotes taken from responses that formed the core of the person’s argument  …

  • “Kids are living this way. Just as kids deal with child abuse, parents getting killed by the other parent, rape, incest, drugs and such- these days kids deal with transgenders and gay parents. People, teachers, principals and librarians need to be on board.”
  • “However, I also recognize that some people do have an issue with homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and that makes it a controversial topic. But shouldn’t this be a part of education? Learning about things that are different than what we experience? Making us think about our values and behavior, in order to develop critical thinking skills and, hopefully, kindness towards all? “
  • “[Such] are all particularly controversial because they question some of every society’s most deeply-held convictions about some of the most fundamental questions we can ask: about bodies and their constituent parts; how people relate in and to their and other bodies; how people are attracted to other people, and to whom they are attracted; etc”
  • “The teachers are not the parents.  I, as the parent, may want handle it differently than a teacher would and I would like to know how the topic is being introduced to my child.” “Addressing sexual preferences with young students is felt by many (and I include myself here) as usurping parental, religious and cultural roles”  (Usurping the parent’s role was a common thread.)
  • “I have worked with enough feminist and pro-LGBTQI teachers who, on these two topics, trended toward calling all those who disagreed with them as mysogonistic [sic} and ironically bigoted…continuing to expose students to these concerns may seem to desensitize them so that they begin to sympathize with protagonists, identify with certain foci, but what it actually does is offend if it’s not aligned with the student’s personal lifestyle choices.”  (Teachers pushing personal agendas rather than using texts in relation to the curriculum was also suggested several times as was the marginalisation of students who did not share the teacher’s viewpoint)
  • “Normalizing behaviors does not make it right. Religion does not give room for changing views as needed based on society’s expectations.” (The religious element was raised and debated back and forth.)
  • “This was a teachable moment, and he seized the moment appropriately.” (Another common thread.)
  • “When we talk of Mummy and Daddy, are we also talking about their bedroom habits? No, so why do we seem to focus on this whenever the issue of same sex parents is raised? Sex, is the underlying issue that causes people to question books such as King and King, but the book itself has no sexual content.”
  •  “I will read civil rights and anti-racist and feminist and anti-ableism books with gusto, but I have to be more cautious than my straight colleagues about queer matters [for fear of losing my job]”.
  • “I feel that to purposefully shield students (especially if they’re middle- or high-schoolers), to close them off from any resources from which they can learn about it, is to do them a disservice.”
  • “… I must also be sensitive to the needs of my student community, many of whom are LBGT, even if this hasn’t become part of their verbal identity yet at age six and seven. Many more have parents who are LBGT. Even more than that know people in their lives who are LBGT. It can be a very scary thing to live in a community in which the books and media around you show no mirrors or windows. We really do owe it to our children to show them that life is different in different places.”
  • “Refusing to have materials on specific topics in the library collection and/or purposefully choosing not to read aloud those materials is, itself, teaching. It is teaching children that these are not acceptable topics to discuss. It is teaching children that these are topics that must be kept hidden away. It teaches that the viewpoint of the materials offered and read aloud are the truth and the only acceptable opinions. I think it is a huge disservice to ourselves, our students, and our communities when we assume that not directly teaching these topics means that we are not teaching them. We are teaching by omission.”
  • “Straight romantic relationships are seen constantly in children’s literature, not to mention other forms of media. Stories of families coping with divorce, death, and abuse are also part of kids lit and aren’t censored. Stories with single parents, grandparents raising children, adoptive families, etc.; all of these scenarios fall outside of the so-called “traditional” family unit and should be represented in our libraries and our classrooms. A story showing a same-sex relationship is no different. It is representation of the world today.”
  • “Remember, LGBT students can and do come from “traditional” families where they are the only ones in their family (immediate and often extended family too) who are LGBT. This is not the case for most other minority students. Most African American students, for example, grow up in African American families where their family members know exactly what it is like to be African American and the types of challenges they uniquely face. For LGBT students whose family are straight, cisgendered folks, their family does not know and understand what the LGBT student faces. In worst case scenarios, that family might even abuse them or disown them for being LGBT. It is therefore up to us to be a safe place for these students. To create that safe place in our libraries and our schools and to provide representation and understanding that they may not receive at home.”
  • “How can change be effected if we do not present students with alternatives to the status quo?  How much of the acceptance and integration and celebration of minorities would have been achieved if “brave” teachers had not introduced the writings of ground-breaking authors to students? “

Clearly this is a divisive and tricky subject within our profession so then I posed the question about how such resources were treated within the collection so that there was acknowledgement of and sensitivity towards all the stakeholders.  Many teachers get students to select the books for the class library and the children do not discriminate; even within a section such as ‘Junior Fiction’ there is a diverse range of age and maturity so how to cater for this; if a child self-selects a book that a parent reads to them without prior knowledge of its content, so should there be some sort of warning label (which then makes them more than they are, gives them a mystique they should not have, suggests that the topic is taboo, and may marginalise those who choose to borrow them perhaps even making them a target.) Or should they just be placed in the collection and we hope for the best? Is it better to beg forgiveness later than ask permission first?  Do we need permission?  Should we need to ask for forgiveness?

The only response has been that this should be covered in the Collection Policy that has been ratified by the school executive, but how should it be worded if the Collection Policy is being written or reviewed? If the school executive is to approve the policy then it needs to be in alignment with the school’s policy (and many schools may not even have such a document) and offer guidance that they are comfortable with.  

The Australian School Library Association’s Bill of Rights mandates

To place principle above personal opinion and reason above prejudice in the selection of materials of the highest quality in order to assure a comprehensive collection appropriate to the users of the library.

Collection development cannot be driven by the personal prejudices rather than professional practice whether those prejudices are more liberal or more conservative than the school’s ethos. Therefore I have asked my school executive to discuss how they wish to proceed so they are comfortable with supporting the library’s policy and procedures and are willing to defend them if necessary. I’ve drafted the wording of this section of the collection policy as a starting point for them and I’ve also shared this Pinterest board of resources so they are familiar with the sorts of titles that would be included in the library’s collection because currently there are none. I’ve offered to take it to a staff meeting for discussion and suggested that there may need to be input from the Student Representative Council.  

Censorship is not part of the teacher librarian’s toolkit but sensitivity should be.  Despite the range of opinions about this subject, there is agreement that it cannot dwell in the too-hard basket.  What would you do?

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the professional learning hat

hat_prof_lrng

 

At the core of our mandate as teacher librarians is enabling our students to become lifelong learners.

Through teaching them about the information literacy process we give them a scaffold they can use in any area that allows them to know how to find out what they want or need to know whether it’s solving a complex mathematical problem or learning how to start a motor mower. As teacher librarians, we pride ourselves on being lifelong learners – but are we?

 

How many of us walk across the stage at graduation, accept that piece of paper that states we are now qualified to teach in this specialist area, and think, “That’s it.  No more study for me”? Or believe that the only way to grow our learning is through TL-specific courses and conferences? Or look at the requirements for progressing our careers and think that they are all focused on the sphere of the classroom-based teacher and therefore irrelevant?  From the messages I read on the various TL networks I belong to, it would seem that all too often this is the case.

Over the last few years, education in Australia  has changed significantly with the establishment of AITSL – Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership – and all teachers are now required to be formally accredited and to log a minimum of 20 hours professional learning each year (100 hours over five years in NSW).  This is because AITSL believes that a great education system is based on its teachers, that the best educators are the best learners and

the best systems make sure that teachers and school leaders can become great as they progress through their profession because people naturally want to grow, develop, and be successful

And for this to be achieved there needs to be opportunities and commitment for learning with diverse forms of support that meet the needs, abilities and preferences of the teachers.  In other words, we do for ourselves that which we do for our students. 

 

 

Most education jurisdictions now require the annual logging and formal evaluation of professional learning based on a formal professional learning plan that has stated personal and corporate goals that identify the why, when, where and how of achievement.

For some reason, this seems to pose problems for many TLs who can’t seem to move themselves beyond TL-focused professional learning and nebulous statements such as having children loving reading (which cannot be measured) or improving circulation stats (which prove nothing beyond the number of times a resource is checked out).  Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely – and the best way to formulate is to consult any formal documentation you can such as the professional standards and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians and identify the areas where you personally need to improve your knowledge, practice and/or commitment.  For Australian TLs, ALIA Schools Group have mapped the AITSL standards to TL professional practice in Teacher Librarian Practice for the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

Examine your library’s vision statement, mission statement and strategic plan to identify what you want the library to be like in three years and from that identify what professional learning you need to be able to get it there.   If it is not readily available then approach your professional network to see if there is a demand for it and whether they can supply it.  Don’t limit yourself to face-to-face delivery at conferences and meetings but look for webinars and other online opportunities, reading books and articles and so forth.

Even if you have been in the position for many years there is always something new to learn but it may be worthwhile to stop, draw breath, and reflect on what you believe and value and develop manifestos to encapsulate this to help you draw together all you have learned and achieved already and provide a benchmark from which to go forward.  Such an exercise will ensure your plans are true to your beliefs, will help you take them to a higher level and ensure you are invested in the outcomes.  Your plan will be more than a tick-a-box-for-authority document.

If a plan is to be achieved successfully it cannot be overwhelming so three goals relating to the domains of professional knowledge, professional practice and professional commitment should be sufficient but carefully chosen. Ask yourself…

  • How will achieving this goal contribute to
    • my personal professional growth?
    • the design and delivery of the curriculum for teachers and students?
    • the achievement of the library’s vision and mission statements and strategic plan?
    • the school’s plan for progress?
    • the perception of the role of the TL within this learning community?

Explicitly identify the elements for each goal so success is even more likely.  So a PLP could look like 

PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement
Identify each strategy to be undertaken to achieve the goal  What you need to do to satisfy the strategy  Short.medium.long term human, financial, physical, time 

Performance indicators

Include milestones for long term goals  

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement
PROFESSIONAL COMMITMENT
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement

 

By explicitly articulating the goal, the reason you are focusing on it, and the professional standard it is addressing you are demonstrating your understanding of your need for professional growth and your commitment to it. You are showing that you are taking the process seriously and professionally and not only does this underline the TL’s role in the teaching and learning process but it is more likely to get you the resources – human, financial, physical and time – you need to achieve it. Even if you are required to use a common pro forma, knowing why you have chosen a particular goal and so forth can be added as an extra and addressed in your formal conversation with your line manager. 

In her presentation Revisioning the School Library Program Anne Weaver states, “Teacher librarians must provide cutting edge library programs, using evidence based practice, that focus on goals directly connected to school leadership priorities…” She argues that if we do not do deliver programs that keep the school leadership satisfied that their investment in our salaries is justified then we put our positions at risk. 

In its publication Global trends in professional learning and performance & development AITSL examined the features of innovative professional learning and performance & development…

Features of innovative professional learning and performance & development

Features of innovative
professional learning
and performance &
development

From: Global trends in professional learning and performance & development

 

Their analysis showed that while there is a trend for individuals undertaking professional learning that is based online, collaborative, self-directed and informal and that this has value for the individual participant, it is not the best way for the organisation to leverage the results and grow as a whole.  The most effective combinations for both the individual and the organisation were opportunities that were

  • individual – participants take part alone
  • self-directed – participants choose the focus, pace and outcomes…and monitor and evaluate their own progress and achievement
  • personalised – learning focuses on the needs of the participant
  • situated – learning is within and geared to the goals of the organisation
  • offered – opportunities are made available to the participants
  • incentivised – learning is highly valued by the organisation and participants are given incentives to take part

If one of the purposes of the professional learning is to build the knowledge capital within the school, then specialist teachers like TLs need to be part of the big picture. Sometimes it is difficult to see how matches can be made between the specialist role and the school generally.  How do school goals about a greater focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fit with the TL role that is traditionally associated with English and possibly History?

Such an apparent ‘mis-match’ just needs some new thinking, the putting on of a new hat and some homework using that information literacy scaffold.  

  • Ask yourself…
    • How can I view this goal with a TL lens? What leadership and/or support can I give teachers and students? What resources are required?
    • What do I already know, do, and have that can provide that support or offer leadership?
    • What do I, as an individual need to learn or do so I can provide what is required to the school as a whole?
    • How can I shape that learning into a personal goal using both the professional standards and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians?
    • Where can I get the learning/training that I need to achieve that goal and deliver what is expected? What resources will I need to access it?
    • How can I demonstrate my learning as an individual and its contribution to the school’s growth?
    • How can I build on what I have learned to strengthen the school’s position in this area and to take it even further forward?
  • Develop a detailed plan to share with your school’s executive which not only demonstrates how your professional learning is in alignment with theirs but will also show that the TL’s role is integral to their success.
  • Put the plan into practice, document it, seek evidence that it is having an impact and share this as part of your formal PL discussions with your executive.

While the focus of the professional learning in a school can be driven from the top-down and for many, remains a passive process of attendance, listening and note-taking, by taking the opportunity to make it a personal action plan that we are committed to, it can have meaning and momentum that really contributes to the big picture.  

If we are to encourage and enable lifelong learning, then we must be lifelong learners ourselves. Putting on our professional learning hat and ensuring it is a snug fit is one way of doing that.

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the procedures hat

hat_proceduresThis post is going to be a work-in-progress.

As I write it, you can follow my journey as a qualified teacher librarian moving into an established library in a primary school at very short notice and find out what I wished I had asked during the short hand-over period but didn’t because I assumed there would be a Procedures Manual available. Because even though I have a wide range of experience and expertise and knew what had to be done, I didn’t know how it was done in this particular context.

 

While there are practices that are common to all libraries, each school and education system has its own requirements that need to be followed and these need to be set out somewhere because you cannot make the assumption that your successor will necessarily be from the same school district as you and therefore know the drill. There are some things you don’t learn at library school but you need to know.  

So join me on my journey as I discover what I don’t know and need to know as I write a manual for the person who will inevitably follow in my footsteps. 

Access to the Library Management System

Providing comprehensive training in the use of the LMS used by the school/district is probably beyond the brief of the incumbent TL particularly if there is a short turnover period, but there needs to be information about…

  • what the LMS is and where training can be obtained, including any manuals, help desks, networks and other support systems that are in place in the short term should they be needed
  • how to access it via username and password and ensuring that the entry level assigned to you is at administrator level so you can access all its functions
  • an overview of the most commonly used modules with brief instructions on how these are used on the surface level so the everyday functions of the library can continue without interruption for the clients such as those governing circulation , adding new borrowers and accessioning new items.

Passwords

While it is clearly acknowledged that usernames and passwords should not be shared. there are occasions where a school as an entity has a login.  These include access to databases, online newspapers and magazines, library support systems such as cataloguing services, vendor accounts and so forth.  So these details need to be made available.  

Documentation

If there is existing documentation such as policies available then state where this is.  If it is online provide the pathway to it; if it is in print format then state where it can be found.  If it is online then it needs to be in a shared folder, not a personal one but having seen what can be done to “paperwork” stored online when uninformed  people decide it is time to clean up shared folders or systems crash and so forth, in my opinion it is worthwhile having both a paper copy of critical documents as well as a back-up digital source.

Essential documentation includes

circulation

As this is a primary function of the library explicit details need to be provided including

  • who may borrow
  • who may undertake circulation – Tl, teacher, students, self-circulation
  • how to access the circulation module of the LMS including any username or password
  • the steps involved in lending, returning, renewing and reserving a resource
  • if ebooks are available, instructions about how these are accessed and downloaded including usernames and passwords if applicable
  • if password-protected online resources are available, instructions about how these are accessed and downloaded including usernames and passwords if applicable
  • authority to override any restrictions placed on borrowers or resources
  • borrower loan categories, resource types and limits, lending periods and renewals for each
  • the generation of borrower barcodes and the maintenance of these
  • availability of class loans and the authority to borrow for these
  • accessing loan histories
  • master due date for returns prior to stocktake and instructions for setting this and other critical dates
  • any other limits or restrictions
  • treatment of overdue resources including the imposition and collection of fines
  • patron responsibilities for lost or damaged resources
  • how new borrowers are added
  • collection of statistics
  • interlibrary loan procedures

Include screenshots where applicable for easier explanation

Acquisition

Acquisition procedures must be clearly stated so that procedures can be followed in alignment with school/district requirements.  Information should include

  • budget preparation, submission and allocation
  • the timeframe for purchasing
  • purchasing procedures such as
    • the use of purchase orders and responsibility for placing these
    • the need for a supervisor to approve purchases
    • the use of school accounts and/or credit cards
    • online purchasing procedures
    • whose responsibility it is to ensure a vendor is paid
    • the reconciliation of the budget with expenditure to ensure limits are adhered to
  • criteria for selecting vendors including 
    • quality and reliability of service
    • preview practices and returns policies
    • value for money
    • payment options,
    • delivery costs
    • speed of delivery
  • preferred vendors who meet the criteria including
    • the use of those mandated by the school/district
    • the use of local vendors
    • specialist vendors
    • online vendors
    • the ability/restrictions applying to the TL making on-the-spot purchases including reimbursement
    • review of vendors for adherence to the selection criteria
  • the use of free services versus paid or subscription including statements about the need for the resource to adhere to the selection criteria for all resources, particularly considering
    • ownership of the resource
    • copyright compliance
    • advertising and offsite links
  • the outsourcing of collection development such as a service which supplies pre-selected titles and the criteria to be considered such as 
    • cost comparisons
    • previewing of titles for suitability
    • the ability to return unwanted items
  • the outsourcing of the processing of resources so they are shelf-ready
  • donations

To be continued…

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the special needs hat

hat_special_needs

 

The mission statement for my library included this statement

We are dedicated to providing and promoting

intellectual and physical access for all

to an extensive range of print and electronic resources,

tools and technologies


It sounded very grand in theory but what did it look like in practice?  Was it even put into practice? Or was it one of those statements that had no substance behind it?

Achieving this part of the mission statement became a very real necessity as the school grew and more and more students enrolled. While every child has their own specific special needs, some experience more challenges than others and as the student population grew so did the number of students with particular needs, both mainstream and in the Learning Support Unit which specialised in working with children of the autism spectrum.

One of these special children was Molly who was a delightful child, but who suffered from severe and very frequent epileptic episodes which intruded on her everyday functioning as well as her ability to learn. She was also the daughter of a close friend so when she entered Kindergarten at age 5, I vowed that she would be able to operate in the library as independently as she could and the spinoff would be that if she could so could all the other students.  

It meant closely examining a number of things

  • how the regular students used the library
    • why they were there
    • what they did when they were there
    • how they used the space
    • what they borrowed
    • what they asked for or expected
    • how they operated within it independently
  •  how Molly and the other special needs students used the library
    • did their use of the library differ from that of mainstream students
    • what were their expectations
    • what were their frustrations
    • how their expectations could be met and their frustrations overcome
  • what their teachers expected of and needed from the library to support the students
  • what we were already doing that was working 
  • what we needed to change to make it better

a familiar place

Above all there has to be an atmosphere that tells the special needs child they are welcome in the library and that they are children first and while their disability is addressed, their needs as a child are what drives what we do.  Invite the children in with their aides (and parents if possible) when there are no other students in there so you can introduce yourself and any other adults who will assist them and show them around explaining how their needs can be met and seek suggestions for improvements.  Talk to the adults about any particular needs a child has and not just how these can be met but how the child might contribute.  For example, Lochie loved routine so he took on the responsibility of feeding the goldfish every morning.  In consultation with his parents, his reward was to take them home at the end of each year (so they wouldn’t starve over vacation) and they bought him an aquarium so he could continue his job.  Goldfish are cheap in comparison to the joy and sense of responsibility it gave him as well as acknowledging his need for rhythm and routine.

Two senior boys with anger management issues who spent more time off the playground than on relished the opportunity to be in charge of a canned food collection while a couple of artistic girls wanted to wrap all the presents that we collected for the children of Charleville when a crippling drought meant Santa probably wouldn’t get there that year.

charleville

Provide teddies or other soft toys which the children can cuddle during storytime, read to or tell their secrets to. If a child got restless and started to throw the teddy or whatever, I’d just ask “Can teddy enjoy the story?’ and it brought about calm again. I ended up having a collection of about 50 teddies sitting on the couches so any child could come in at any time and share a story with a teddy.  Angry kids, sad kids, kids having playground issues – there was never a teddy (or child) left unloved.

Teddies provide comfort

Teddies provide comfort

physical access

The first thing that usually comes to mind when we think of children with special needs is how a child in a wheelchair is going to access the shelves and while we think of allowing sufficient width between the aisles (and some jurisdictions have compulsory regulations to ensure this) it also means leaving room to manoeuvre the wheelchair at the ends of the rows. Because ours was a large library much of the collection had been arranged in ‘rooms’ rather than rows so this wasn’t a huge problem. Wherever possible and practical and particularly for fiction, I placed books in wall-shelves, dumpbins and displays at eye level for little ones so location and selection was easier. Face-out displays allowed for familiar titles, characters and authors to be easily recognised.

Dumpbins, wall shelves and tubs put the collection at the child's height.

Dumpbins, wall shelves and tubs put the collection at the child’s height.

However, there does need to be careful consideration given to the floor-covering particularly if it is carpet. When it was refurbished, a local shopping centre laid acres of new carpet  that was almost impossible to push either a wheelchair or a wheelie-walker on thus denying access to many shops and services for those not physically independent.

Shelf height is also an issue particularly for those school libraries serving older students who are taller so some compromises may have to be made.  In the primary school library things have to be at a lower level so little five-year-olds can access them but nevertheless there has to be a system in place to enable those who struggle and an environment created where they feel comfortable in asking for assistance. Also think about the height of your Returns box, the circ desk and any computers that a child with a disability might access.  Talk to their primary carers about their needs and how these might be addressed.  While the provision of step-stools may appeal, these themselves can provide even more problems. 

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve asked children to tuck their chairs in as they rush off in their eagerness to be wherever they need to be and another dollar for every time the plea fell on deaf ears and I’ve had to go round and tuck them in myself.  But chairs and bags and so forth can be significant hazards for those with mobility issues so the nagging has to continue.  However, when you relate to it a particular student’s movement – “Tuck your chair in so —- can get through” – it is surprising how quickly the children see the purpose of your request and it becomes automatic.  Often they will remind their friends or just move something anyway! 

resources

Under the Collection Policy the collection should offer resources in a diversity of formats to meet the learning styles of its users generally but it is essential that you look beyond the general population and examine the needs of specific groups within it.  Consider the needs of

  • indigenous students
  • English language learners
  • those with learning disabilities
  • those with physical disabilities, particular illnesses or allergies
  • those from other cultures and countries
  • the religious philosophy of the school, if any
  • the LGBTI community

Strive to have resources that will allow the children to read about themselves so they feel they are included and acknowledged. Seek out services that supply or adapt resources to meet the needs of these students such as Vision Australia Information and Library Service  or the Geoff Gallop Braille and Talking Book Library  Ensure your signage is large, visible and readable and include a  picture or other non-text cue where appropriate.

Signage needs to be bold and clear

Signage needs to be bold and clear

As well as signage, write clear step-by-step instructions for using the OPAC or borrowing procedures or logging into the computers, including non-texts cues where necessary. These can become a teaching exercise for the students, peer-tested and then published. Make them available as bookmarks too.

social

As well as catering for the physical and learning needs, be aware of each child’s social and emotional needs so these can be addressed during teaching times.  Some like to work alone, others with a partner or group members; some can cope with being touched or close to other children while this can be an anathema to others; some like public praise, others shy from it. Consider concentration spans (often quotes as the child’s age plus three minutes for regular children) and structure the time so there is a time to listen and a time to respond.

Talk to the teachers and aides about particular behaviour management routines that the child knows and responds to so that there is consistency between classroom and library including any strategies to be used in an emergency.

online

If your school has an online presence strive to make is as user-friendly as possible by making the information easily accessible  even to those without a lot of language skills.  This is the Resource Centre’s entry page of a particular school’s website that was based on that philosophy. Embedded in the graphic were links to various parts of the Centre’s website and there were small graphic-based buttons that led to pages as well.

cprc_entry

 

Working with children with special needs is as rewarding as it is challenging.  But if we have their needs as a child at the forefront of our practice, anything we do to make the library a better place for them makes it a better place for the other children as well.

 

 

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the accountant’s hat

hat_accountant

 

 

 

Of all the hats the teacher librarian has to wear, for many the accountant’s hat may be the most ill-fitting because the management of money matters, particularly the preparation, submission and disbursement of a budget, requires expertise beyond that of our teaching qualifications. And yet it is an essential part of what we do.

From messages to TL networks, it would appear there are three types of budgets…

  • those that are based on the administration’s careful consideration of a properly prepared budget submitted by the TL
  • those that are based on an amount allocated by the administration (often the school’s business manager) with no consultation with the TL with the expectation that the TL will provide all services within that amount
  • those that are non-existent requiring the TL to go to external sources such a parent bodies, book fairs, grants and sponsorship and so on to raise the required funds

Whatever the situation, even it is neither required or considered, it is important that the TL prepare and submit a comprehensive budget each year because

  • it demonstrates our professionalism particularly as the library’s budget is more likely to be bigger and more diverse than those of any other faculty
  • it provides the purse-string holders with evidence of a careful consideration of needs, prioritises these and what is required to fulfil those needs
  • it advocates and educates the purse-string holders about the needs of the library to meet the community’s demands and expectations
  • it focuses our priorities even if there is little or no money to cover them
  • it can be used to show staff that a fair and equitable use has been made of allocated money based on identified and agreed prirorities
  • if necessary, it can be produced to demonstrate to the parent body how funds they have provided have been used within the school

 funding

It is important to understand where the money is coming from because there can be a range of sources and rules regarding how they can be accessed and used…

  • an allocation from the school’s central budget
  • a library fund into which school fees are paid so they become tax deductible
  • philanthropic donations
  • parent body fundraising
  • book fairs and other in-house sources
  • sponsorship

If there is a district or state mandated formula that must be adhered to, know what it is so you have a minimum figure on which to base projections.

Know if your school-based allocation is reduced by the amount you expect to fundraise or get from external sources. 

Make yourself familiar with any regulations regarding money from external sources, such as cash commissions from a book fair, because some education jurisdictions mandate that any money that comes into the school after a certain date must go into consolidated revenue and not spent till the following year.  Even fines for overdue books or the payment for a lost or damaged book can be affected.

Know which services such as subscriptions to library management software, cataloguing services, ebook platforms. databases and so on are paid for by a central authority.

Cover these issues in your Collection Policy.

preparation

There are many factors to consider when preparing a budget

  1. Start early.
  2. Prepare it in alignment with the school’s preferred procedures and timeframe. If there are standards or formulae mandated by your educational authority or local or state government then make yourself aware of these and quote them in your submission because the purse-string holders may not be aware of them.  
  3. If you are uncertain about the number of resources or dollars that should be allocated per student, seek advice from colleagues in similar school situations so you can provide the evidence on which your estimations are based.
  4. There must be a clear understanding of what it is to cover – that which is to be covered by the library and that which is to be covered by the budgets of other departments, faculties, and committees. The origin of funds for such areas as teacher reference, readers, class sets, textbooks, ICT hardware, maintenance and subscriptions must be made clear. Those things acquired by the library from the library’s budget, excluding consumables, can be subject to formal audit and thus must be accounted for in a regular stocktake. 
  5. Know what is already paid for by central funding so it is neither included in your budget or deducted from it. For example in New South Wales government schools subscriptions for the maintenance of the library management system and access to the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) are covered by the NSW DEC. 
  6. Know who your educational authority’s approved/must-use suppliers are so it is their prices that are quoted. Know the rules for purchasing from these suppliers and when you may go beyond them to source what you need. Indicate preferred suppliers in your submission so that the purse-string holders are aware of the necessity to purchase from them.  If quotes are required for particular services or items, attach these to the submission as an appendix.
  7. Ensure your submission is based on facts and figures not wishful thinking.
  8. Use your Collection Policy and strategic plan to identify agreed priorities for acquisition and ensure these are costed and included. The evidence supporting these priorities should be contained in the Policy and the strategic plan, but if necessary provide a brief explanation as an appendix. Draw explicit links between the purchase of items and the support of teaching and learning. The 2014 Softlink Australian School Library Survey report  demonstrates “a positive correlation between annual school library budgets and NAPLAN Reading Literacy results.”
  9. Share those identified and agreed priorities with staff and seek suggestions for purchases from year-level groups and faculties in the form of a wishlist to fulfil them.  If possible, meet at least one request from each submission but if it is not possible meet with the group to explain why. Look to negotiate a compromise – perhaps costs could be shared or a purchase made the following year as a priority.  Engaging staff in budget preparation not only gives them some ownership of and input into the process but helps to educate and advocate, staving off complaints and behind-the-hand comments.
  10. Seek out those teachers with students with particular special needs and discuss the resources, formats and facilities that their students need that the library can provide. so that there is not a one-size fits all collection or environment.  For example, you may have to budget to get lower shelving for wheelchair-bound students or special signage for the visually impaired. Make the library fit the client, not the other way round.
  11. If there is a large, expensive purchase to be made, consider asking the parent body to make this the focus of their fundraising for the year.  These bodies like to see tangible results of their efforts such as an interactive whiteboard or a set of e-readers.
  12. If there is pressure to abandon the print collection in favour of digital, attach the research into the development of traditional literacy skills using traditional formats being a prerequisite for effective and efficient online reading, interrogation and interpretation making the maintenance of a print collection which appeals to and engages readers an essential. Also identify the need to provide a range of resources in a variety of formats to meet individual teaching and learning styles.
  13. Be specific.  Identify where the money will go and calculate what you need for each based on an actual costing or an estimate based on the current year’s expenditure. A clear breakdown of expenditure is more likely to attract some money than just an application for a lump sum.
  14. Distinguish between those expenditures which are recurring and are required for the smooth operation of the library; those that are capital expenditure likely to be made very rarely; and those that are considered consumables
  15. Create and adhere to policies relating to online purchasing; the outsourcing of collection development; free versus paid acquisitions; replacement of lost or damaged resources; selection criteria for suppliers and other budget-related matters. 
  16. Be prepared with evidence to support a claim for a paid commercially-available service rather than a free one such as extra features, greater security and privacy of information, lack of advertising, lack of inappropriate links, validity of content and so forth.
  17. Consider these areas
    • acquisitions
      • purchases of new print, digital and audio-visual resources
      • replacement/renewal of existing resources such as dictionaries or atlases; outdated non fiction; damaged or lost items
      • subscriptions to databases, journals, online resources to support teaching and learning
      • interlibrary loan charges
    • subscriptions
      • recurrent expenditure to manage the library such as a cataloguing service, library management software, video streaming facility
    • hardware
      • items such as an interactive whiteboard, tablets, laptops, cameras and so forth to be used by students
      • maintenance of these including printer cartridges and lease payments
      • scanners, OPAC and circulation computers
      • security systems
      • insurance
      • furniture and shelving
      • personal items, such as a tablet, that are required to do your job as TL effectively
    • consumables
      • stationery relating to the processing of resources
      • stationery relating to the smooth operation of the library such as signage
      • stationery for staff and student use 
      • printing and photocopying costs
      • batteries, printer cartridges, recordable CDs and DVDs
    • promotion
      • author visits and other literary functions such as Book Week
      • catering
      • awards and prizes
      • purchase of items for displays
      • Makerspace resources
      • board games, jigsaws etc
    • professional learning
      • costs of registration, attendance, accommodation and travel for required/desired professional learning
      • costs of cover by a casual during TL absence
      • costs of subscriptions to professional organisations
      • costs of subscriptions to professional journals
    • salaries
      • salaries of casual relief and admin staff to be covered during mandatory stocktake including time for collection appraisal and evaluation and the identification of future development needs
    • miscellaneous
      • compliance with workplace health and safety issues
      • professional assistance in packing, moving and unpacking resources if library is to be painted or recarpeted
  18. Use the figures from previous years as a platform for improvement and gather and include statistics to show the increase in prices to support the required amounts.
  19. Know what you are purchasing by reading the Terms and Conditions of subscription services, particularly in the case of ebook platforms, database access and so forth.  Know the questions to ask the supplier and ask them.
  20. If you are seeking funding for hardware such as e-readers ensure that the terms and conditions of purchase or warranties covers school-based use.  Some paperwork only applies if the device is for personal use.  If there are extra costs to cover multiple uses then these need to be factored into your submission.
  21. While the budget needs to relate directly to supporting teaching and learning, include a contingency fund to take advantage of unexpected opportunities or student-driven trends.
  22. Collect statistics relating to the use of the collection (where it is feasible, break this down into sections such as print, online, ebook, audio, visual, fiction and non fiction) and the library’s spaces as evidence of demand as well as the money being used effectively to support teaching and learning.
  23. Seek advice from the principal, the business manager or colleagues so you can prepare the most informed submission possible backed by knowledge and evidence. This shows professional practice rather than inadequacy.
  24. Be realistic and consider the school’s annual budget and commitments.  Be willing to negotiate rather than being greedy.

disbursement

Know who has authority to access and disburse funds from the library’s budget or who may give authority for this to be done. Establish policy and procedures that ensure that the TL has the ultimate authority so that acquisitions meet the priorities and selection criteria of the Collection Policy.

Ensure that any procedures relating to disbursement are in alignment with school and education authority procedures. However, it may be necessary to negotiate some adaptations so that purchases and payments can be made to allow for unforeseen circumstances such as an unexpected fad among students such as the Harry Potter phenomenon, a too-good-to-miss sale or an unscheduled author visit to the district.

Establish the need to be able to buy online and if necessary seek special dispensation for those purchases that can only be paid for with an online payment.

Establish the procedures and authority required to make on-the-spot purchases to take advantage of bargains and special offers if personal funds are used and reimbursement is sought.

documentation

Each school may well have its own pro forma on which budget submissions must be made and therefore this must be followed. However, it is worthwhile establishing a spreadsheet for in-house use which may contain greater detail than that which is submitted formally. While I must stress that I am NOT an accountant and have no formal book-keeping education I found the following headings worked for me.  Apart from showing that I had carefully costed items and estimated usage, it gave me a way to keep track of continued expenditure as well as providing the basis for the budget for the following year.  (It also provided a record of rising prices as evidence for required increases.)

CATEGORY DATE PURCHASE
ORDER
SUPPLIER/
SOURCE
QUANTITY/
DURATION
COST
PER ITEM
ORDER
TOTAL
CUMULATIVE
TOTAL

For statistical and evidential purposes, it may be worth keeping a more detailed record of acquisitions using these headings…

RESOURCE FORMAT SUPPLIER COST FICTION PRIMARY GENRE NON FICTION PRIMARY KLA/
FACULTY

New South Wales teacher librarian Carolyn Mock has written a procedures manual that contains models of a number of forms and what could be included on them that would be useful in the preparation of a budget.  She is willing for people to adapt her work but asks she be credited as the original author. The Library Supplies checklist is very useful.

Keep purchase orders, invoices and other documentation in alignment with school procedures and requirements. If payments are made through the school’s business manager request monthly updates of the overall budget and set aside administrative time to reconcile these.

Keep documentation for the mandated time period and refer to it in future budget preparation to inform you of expenditure, trends, what needs to be acquired and which faculties are receiving boosts and which may need a collection appraisal and attention.

Regardless of how well the hat fits, as the information service manager in the school we have a responsibility to put it on and wear it as well as we can.

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the events manager hat

hat_events_manager

 

 

 

Whoever thought being a teacher librarian would encompass being an events manager?  Staid, middle-aged women guarding and counting the books in the the twilight of their careers having such a glamorous title goes right against the stereotype!  But in fact, it’s one of the most important roles we can have if we are to get out students to be readers.

We all know the competition that we have from other media for occupying children’s leisure time and while, in the past, the “passive” activity of reading only had to compete with the more passive activity of television viewing, especially after dark when outside play and sport was no longer an option, now there is the interactivity of computer games and other screen-based activities to compete with.  Coupled with the observation of Donalyn Miller (aka The Book Whisperer) that by the time students reach Year 6 they view reading as a school-related subject only and it is a means to an end to complete assignments, our role of reader leaders  is more critical than ever. 

If our students are going to be readers they need to see it not only as a valid, valuable and valued use of their spare time but they also need to see it as fun!  Something they want to do rather than something they have to do.  And we, as teacher librarians, are in the best position to do that.

Even after we have created the most enticing and exciting environment in the school there is much that we can do to persuade our students that reading can be right alongside their other activities and that rather than competing it can complement it.

seuss_quote

 

 

special events

Scattered throughout the year are many events that are focused on literature and literacy that lend themselves to creating a special event

 

Susan Stephenson (aka The Book Chook) has compiled a more extensive list of these and each lends itself to a library-focused celebration.  Often there are particular themes associated with the event and there are always discussions and suggestions for ideas on teacher librarian networks but consider asking the students how they think a particular event could be celebrated.  Share the load of ideas, organisation and implementation.

Put A Poem In Your Pocket Day sparked a focus on reading and writing poetry

Put A Poem In Your Pocket Day sparked a focus on reading and writing poetry.

 

literary luncheons

Literary luncheons sound so elegant and can be so much fun.  

Select and set aside a day a month (such as the third Friday) for the entire school year.  Use the calendar to identify any special events that might be occurring close to that date, including those that might not be related to literature and literacy) and use that as your focus.  Consider how you can bring a literature focus to the event.  For example, Harmony day might involve looking at books about peace and examining the peace movement of the 60s.  Or invent a theme such as Cinderella Day when participants read and hear all the different versions of Cinderella from cultures around the world, or perhaps have a focus on a particular author or character.  Cast the net as widely as you can so that more students are attracted and understand that the library does have something to them.

Organisation is quite simple, particularly if you involve your student assistants.  Have them devise the publicity strategies and be responsible for its production and display. Also have them develop the program, selecting texts to be shared, activities to be undertaken (and organising the required resources)and deciding if a guest speaker is appropriate  If there is to be a guest speaker, have them write the invitation explaining its purpose and what would be required of the speaker. Students are also responsible for thanking the speaker at the end. Putting the responsibility of running the event on the shoulders of the students not only lessens your workload (although as the adult you need to oversee everything for feasibility) but also gives them ownership and helps them develop an array of life skills.

Participating students just have to bring their lunch and enjoy – or arrangements could be made with the school canteen or the Home Economics faculty to cater for it.

Promote the event to the local newspapers and television stations who are always looking for local colour – another avenue for advocacy.

 

author visits

Author visits involve preparation, time and money but given they can be better than a visit from Santa as the joy is relived every time the child picks up one of the author’s works, they are worth the effort.  Sometimes it is possible to share costs with other schools; in other cases the author will come for free but requiring the opportunity to sell their books at the time. In some extreme circumstances, some authors will also consider negotiating their costs (which are set by the Australian Society of Authors.

Book Week for Beginners (managed by the author of this blog) has a host of ideas for organising a successful author visit including a downloadable pdf file with a step-by-step guide 

 

book week

Each year the Children’s Book Council of Australia hosts Book Week with winners of the Book of the Year awards being announced on the third Friday of the month, the Friday preceding the celebrations. It is also a grand opportunity to have the school community’s focus squarely on the library.  Book Week for Beginners  has been established to share ideas of how this week can be celebrated in a school. While there is a specific theme for each year and specific ideas are offered to highlight that, it also contains a lot of other information that relates to hosting Children’s Book week anywhere including how to hold the ubiquitous book parade.

 

book fairs

Book fairs are huge events for teacher librarians requiring a lot of collaboration, co-operation and manipulation of timetables.  But for many children when the bookshop comes to school is the only opportunity they have to browse and purchase a new book for themselves.  For some school libraries, a book fair is its only source of revenue and so it deserves the time and effort required. The most successful fairs are often held in conjunction with other events in the school such as parent-teacher interviews, concerts, or Grandparents Day because they bring parents into the school with more dollars than a child’s pocket money.

Companies offering packaged book fairs often supply everything that is needed including ideas for the theme but it is always worthwhile approaching a local bookseller and working out a special deal.  

Ideas for organising and managing a successful book fair are available at Book Week For Beginners

The Polar Express wens its way around Christmas books at Santa's Book Shop

The Polar Express wens its way around Christmas books at Santa’s Book Shop

family nights

Host family nights – mother-daughter; father-son; mother-son; mother-daughter, grandparents, whatever combinations works for your demographic where parents and children can get together to read together.  Depending on the time of the year, include a sausage sizzle or hearty soup so there are opportunities for parents to talk to other parents and maybe establish new friendships. Offer a compelling reason such as showing the movie version of a popular book or students performing a readers’ theatre for families to make the effort to come.

 

book clubs

There is a host of configurations for book clubs in a school based on age, genres, and purpose.  While they may take the TL’s time and expertise to set up, they can often become self-sustaining particularly if you enlist the assistance of another teacher who has a particular reading interest and knowledge.  What is critical though, is to set the book club’s activities apart from being a school-based lesson in disguise so while adult book clubs might focus on discussion questions about the plot, characters and setting or deconstructing the techniques the author has used, encourage student book clubs to go beyond that to focus on fun activities that are related to the particular book so interest is maintained.

One of the easiest book clubs to manage is Pair and Partner.  Dig out all those multiple copies of class readers that have been shelved away and encourage friends to check out the same book and discuss it amongst themselves. Reading it at the same time means the interest is parallel, not one person having moved on while waiting for the other to read the single library copy. 

Another is a Movie Book Club, particularly for those who are a little older. With so many books being made into movies that become very popular arranging a viewing of the movie and then comparing and contrasting it to the original text can be a great way to reach out to those who prefer to view than read.

Putting on the Events Manager’s hat can seem like an added imposition but the benefits are so worthwhile.  It can be a better fit if you follow these tips…

  1. Create a calendar of events
  2. Claim the dates
  3. Invite your students assistants to help you with ideas, preparation, promotion, and delivery
  4. Offer variety to reach as many students as possible especially those who have not yet realised that the library has something for them
  5. Understand the value of the results and enjoy them as much as the students.

 

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the landscaper’s hat

hat_landscaper

 

 

 

 

The landscaper’s hat is a much more important hat than many realise.   The environment we provide is a critical element in a student’s perception about whether the library is for them and their choice to use it.

In 1999, eminent management researcher, Peter Drucker predicted that in the Information Age workforce of the 21st century the most successful person will be a knowledge worker – one who

    • has had a strong formal education
    • is able to apply theory to a practical world
    • can continually update their knowledge and upgrade their skills.  
    • is able to access, evaluate, interpret and use information
    • is committed to lifelong learning.

Their greatest assets will be what is between their ears and their ability to continually learn.

The library is the information center of the school and its staff are the information specialists.  We know how to provide “[the] services that make specific suggestions about how to use the information, [how to] ask specific questions regarding the user’s business and practices, and perhaps provide interactive consultation” that Drucker (2001) says are necessary for the knowledge worker to be able to make meaning from the information.

It is in the library, and through the programs and products that we offer, that the knowledge workers of the future will be nurtured.

But to be nurtured, they need to be in the library and so it needs to be a place that invites them in.

Does your library look like the one ruled over by Madam Pince at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in J. K. Rowling’s series about Harry Potter –  “tens of thousands of books, thousands of shelves, hundreds of narrow rows”?

Is this your library?

Is this your library?

Are those books standing shoulder-to-shoulder like soldiers in mufti, in strict alphabetical or numerical order, ranks only broken when some clever student breaks the code and finds what she is looking for?  Is it quieter than troops being inspected by the general, a place only for reference and research, serious study, and no nonsense?

Or is it a place that invites and excites?

Or does it invite and excite?

Or does it invite and excite?

As well as Drucker’s research, research into learning tells us

  • the brain functions at many levels simultaneously as thoughts, emotions, imagination,  predispositions and physiology  interact and exchange information with the environment
  • the brain absorbs information both directly and indirectly,  continually aware of  what is beyond the immediate focus of attention, to the extent that 70% of what is learned is not directly taught.
  • learning involves conscious and unconscious processes, including experience, emotion and sensory input, and that much of our learning  occurs and is processed below the level of immediate awareness so that understanding may not happen until much later after there has been time for reflection and assimilation
  • the brain is “plastic” because its structure is changed (or ‘rewired’) by exposure to new experiences so the more we use it, the better it gets.
  • the brain is stimulated by challenge and inhibited by threat, so students in safe, secure environments, both mental and physical, can allow their cognitive brains to dominate their emotional brains and will explore, investigate, take risks and learn.
  • that 30%-60% of the brain’s wiring comes from our genetic makeup (nature) and 40%-70% comes from environmental influences and impact (nurture)
  • the two critical factors in learning are novelty and interactive specific feedback

In addition, in What Do I Do on Monday? eminent educator John Holt talks to us about the four worlds of learning.

 

The Four Worlds of Learning

The Four Worlds of Learning

The first world is that intense, personal world of our thoughts, emotions, attitudes, values, and preferences based on our experiences and how they have all merged to give us our perception of the world.  It is a changing world, but the common core of beliefs strengthens as we age as we tend to take from experiences that which confirms those beliefs.

The second world is that of the memory of what we have actually seen and done.  It is the world of direct experience, the things we have seen, felt, smelt, touched, heard, tasted by ourselves and with others.  These interactions with the world around us shape our World 1.

The third world is the world we know because we have learned that it exists.  It is the world of books, television, movies, plays, pictures, the internet – it is the world of words and pictures that others create for us to learn about.

The fourth world is the world we don’t know about yet.  It has no boundaries.  It is a world of possibilities because we don’t know what is in it simply because we don’t know what we don’t know.

As we learn each world influences the other. Learning is how we integrate our experiences into our knowing.

 

gateway

The library is the gateway to World 3.  Through the world of words and pictures we can introduce our students to worlds that they don’t yet know, or explore the worlds they have visited via television, the movies or the internet.  

peek_inside

 

The library allows them to revisit their experiences in World 2, to shape their World 1 and have a peek into World 4.

The astute teacher-librarian will understand the impact these research findings can have on the services we offer and how we offer them.

With a little imagination, it is easy to compromise between the austerity of Hogwarts and the flamboyance of the bookstore that thinks it is a coffee shop. Your library can be a place where the students choose to be even when they don’t have to, as well as a must-see on the principal’s itinerary when prospective parents are shown through the school. And you can have confidence that the environment is built around sound pedagogical principles which provide sound evidence for the time you spend creating it. 

Giving your library the WOW factor does not mean having to change any of your core business practices.  It just means examining what you do and considering how you could do it with a bit more flair.

peek_inside2

 

Place your Space 

Whether you are planning a brand new library or renovating an established one it is important to go back to basics and identify

  • what is the purpose of your school library now and envisaged
  • who are its target users
  • what are their interests, needs, abilities, demands and priorities
  • what essential services must be provided to meet those needs and priorities
  • what resources will meet those needs and in what formats and how these will impact on layout
  • which parts of the library are best suited to providing those services
  • what is the library’s role in helping students develop an awareness for and appreciation of aesthetics
  • how the users tend/want to use the library’s spaces
  • how the library can be future-proofed by being able to respond to significant changes without significant investment 

Answering those questions means you can develop a plan that organizes your space and provides you with a priority list of projects. 

  • Create a scale floorplan of your space and mark in the fixed furniture and fittings, windows and power points.
Floorplans help place the space

Floorplans help place the space

 

  • Check your building or district fire safety regulations so you can comply with their entry/exit requirements, what can be put on walls, hung from ceilings and any other constraints. Make sure that nothing interferes with the line-of-sight of your security cameras, scanners and sensors
  • Using your priority list place spaces that are dependent on those non-negotiables, such as the quiet reading corner near natural light and computers near power sources.
  • Top priority must go to being able to see as much of the space as possible from the place you spend the majority of your time. Under duty-of-care legislation we are required to do “everything reasonably practical” to ensure the safety and well-being of those in our care. We are also charged with being in loco parentis (in place of the parent) so there is an extra layer of supervision imposed on us.
  • Consider the needs of the disabled so they are able to operate as independently as possible – some authorities impose regulations about minimum width access aisles and so forth.
  • Apart from those considerations, design the space for flexibility so it can be reconfigured to meet various and changing needs. Support motivation, collaboration and personalisation.
  • Plan for learning that is both mobile and connected; interactive and supported; large group, small group and individual; as well as remote and face-to-face. Think about these verbs… choose, read, listen, connect, think, reflect, write, collaborate, co-operate, discuss, debate, share, plan, prepare, present, design, deliver, inform, entertain, inspire, delight, integrate, display, store, perform, circulate, meet, organise, select, play, challenge, manipulate, demonstrate, change, access, involve, engage, inquire, investigate, dream … 

Above all the space should be a place where staff and students want to be, where there is mental and physical comfort, safety and security. 

Consider the unique aspects of being a child, especially if you are working with younger students.  You need to bring the kids into the world of words before you can put the world of words into the world of kids.

What to us seems to be a regular space and regular proportions, especially if we are familiar with it because it is our daily environment, can be very overwhelming for a small child.  So we need to consider bringing the space down to their size and make it as friendly as possible so they feel that this is a place for them and they are welcome in it. High ceilings that seem to soar almost to heaven, can be “brought down” by hanging things like kites, or signs or swathes of fabric.  Connect the floor and the ceiling with Jack and the Beanstalk or other displays, or build semi-permanent displays on top of shelves.  All fool the eye into thinking that this is a manageable, comfortable space to operate in.

Use displays to bring the space to the scale of the child

Use displays to bring the space to the scale of the child

Rooms or Rows?

After making the space student-friendly, the most important consideration is access to the resources by the students. They need to be able to find either what they specifically want, or something that appeals to them, very quickly – that is the instant-gratification nature of the 21st century child.  The days of taking time and pleasure in reading reviews, browsing titles, reading blurbs, flicking through pages and looking at pictures have slipped away, particularly as a library visit is likely to be squeezed in between changes in classes or shared with 30 other class members.  Even using the OPAC for leisure reading selections comes second-place to an eye-catching display, a quirky title or a colourful cover.

Even though the need for orderly, organized access is imperative for staff and important for students, rows and rows of shelves can be daunting.

rows

So think about how you can create or rearrange sections that make the popular titles easy to find by even the youngest patron or the most reluctant reader.  Put yourself in the shoes of the new entrant who can confidently and independently find the books about dinosaurs.  How do you feel? Put yourself in the shoes of the 6th grade student who would love to learn more about Tyrannosaurus Rex but does not want to publicise his ignorance about numbers by having to ask for help.  How do you feel? If our students are to be regular users of the school library, or any other, then they must be able to access what they want easily and efficiently without any stigma or feeling of being marginalised. It is our job to make this place one where everyone can operate at their own level regardless of ability, gender, race, ethnicity, religious and cultural beliefs or sexual orientation.

Many school libraries are reinventing themselves into a learning commons.

The learning commons, sometimes called an “information commons,” has evolved from a combination library and computer lab into a full-service learning, research, and project space.

 

rooms

 

School libraries shelve tradition to create new learning spaces provides lots of examples, ideas and photographs of how to look at the space with new eyes. Many school libraries are including a makerspace and there is a gallery of these on Pinterest. If you don’t have space for a full makerspace consider devoting a table to a community jigsaw puzzle.  Attaching thin dowel around the edges prevents the pieces falling off and it’s amazing how many stop to place a piece.

Come in!

Making your library say welcome is essential. 

First impressions are critical so what happens at the front door is really important.

Have the children create a Welcome sign and surround it with the word in all the languages spoken in your school.  This display is a constant talking point even though it has been up for several years.  Children traveling overseas often bring us a doll to add to the collection!

On either side of the front door there is a water feature offering some movement and sound (the library is a talking place) that was our contribution to the ISLD Growing the Future project that was initiated after September 11, 2001.  The poem above is the students’ version of John Marsden’s  Prayer for the 21st Century.

There is also an imposing RETURNS box.  As well as making for easier administration, it serves as a constant reminder for those who are forgetful.  This one is made from cardboard boxes and accessories from El Cheapos and it works for our little people but a more sophisticated one could easily be an opportunity for collaboration between you and the staff and students of the technology department.

First impressions are critical...

First impressions are critical…

If you can, create a large eye-catching display to catch the eye as people enter the library. This can be seasonal, topical, whimsical or fanciful.  The best 

  • are big, bright, bold and beautiful
  • incorporate the students’ world
  • offer them something to interact with
  • include books, both fiction and non-fiction, displayed with the topic and these are able to be borrowed while the interest is piqued.
  • involve the children’s work.

It all helps to create the perception that the library is an exciting and interesting place to be, somewhere where it is worthwhile to spend their time because there are always new things to discover. 

Students are engaged in this display based on a popular TV series and 'The Eleventh Hour" by Graeme Base

Students are engaged in this display based on a popular TV series and ‘The Eleventh Hour” by Graeme Base

Santa's Book Shop heralded our Christmas book fair
Santa’s Book Shop heralded our Christmas book fair

If you’re stuck for an idea here are 30 Quirky QuickiesIf you want inspiration for your displays then there are ideas aplenty at Library Displays and School Library Displays or you can search Pinterest or even Google images for either general designs or your particular theme.

Being comfortable is part of being welcome. Create special spaces in your library.  If you regularly read aloud to your students have a special story-tellers space with a unique chair, a rug for students to sit on and a space to put all your props. Ideas for establishing a read-aloud space are included in The Art of Reading Aloud and the importance of this activity in the read-aloud hat

Tusitala's Chair - named after Robert Louis Stevenson who took the native Samoan name meaning "teller of tales".

Tusitala’s Chair – named after Robert Louis Stevenson who took the native Samoan name meaning “teller of tales”.

Strive to provide areas where clients can just curl up and read – either to themselves, to others or even a friendly teddy.

Comfortable seating encourages lingering

Comfortable seating encourages lingering

 

Create child-friendly spaces with permanent displays that encourage and enable independent choice and selection.

Investigate the sorts of books that your students, especially the reluctant readers, consistently borrow and then group these books together.  Consider grouping favourite fiction titles, series, characters and authors together so

  • the students can find all the works by their favourite authors quickly because they are all in one place
  • all the books in a series are collected together
  • shelves are not so tightly packed or left scattered and shattered after a class has been in
  • shelving is easy and quick

 

An array of authors...plastic tubs are cheap.

An array of authors…plastic tubs are cheap.

Booksellers' dumpbins create interest and a natural display space

Booksellers’ dumpbins create interest and a natural display space

 

Consider putting

  • all the fairy tales (usually at 398.2) under the banner of Timeless Tales – experience shows that these are the first choice of the new students making the transition from pre-school and being able to find such familiar favourites gives them a feeling of confidence and independence
  • all the perennial favourite characters such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Franklin, Spot, Arthur, and Elmer under the banner of Family Favourites – again, the children feel very grown up being able to find these for themselves and show their parents who often come in after to school to borrow together. 
  • all the series in their own tubs under the banner Select-a-Series –ice cream containers, lunch boxes and planter boxes are sturdy, cheap and easy to obtain
  • all the works by popular and prolific authors together. 

If you see a display stand in a shop, don’t be shy about asking if you can have it when their display is over for your library.  Often they will be grateful that they don’t have to worry about disposing of it.  Cover any unwanted advertising with colorful, self-adhesive paper, turn the header board inside out and create your own, and for the time it took you to collect it, you have a personalized yet professional stand. Ask for the posters and any other paraphernalia that accompanies the display and then re-create the display in your library. 

fiction3

Even though it make take some time to arrange your collection like this, the increase in circulation and students’ discussions and recommendations  will make it more than worthwhile.

Uncover the Covers

Let’s return to one of those principles of learning that underpin the need to landscape the library

  • the brain functions at many levels simultaneously as thoughts, emotions, imagination,  predispositions and physiology  interact and exchange information with the environment

Many researchers have proven that the key factor in book selection is the book’s cover, so it makes sense to display as many books with their covers showing as you can. Think of some of the more successful bookstores that you have visited.  Do you spend ages getting a crick in your neck because it is turned sideways to read titles on spines? Or are you attracted to those books whose covers you can see? Did you know that, just as in supermarkets, publishers pay bookstores for a book to be displayed with the cover facing out, because they know that the cover sells the product?

Like us, children don’t choose books that look like they have “don’t touch me” signs on them, that are lined up with just a sliver of spine bravely trying to sell themselves and packed so tightly that little fingers cannot prize them apart, creating a barrier rather than a gateway.

Make mini-displays wherever you can that allow covers to be displayed and to give the students greater access to new authors, genres and topics.  These can be about anything that takes your or the students’ fancy, be as large or as small as space allows, and be as temporary or permanent as you want, but the aim is to get the covers of the books to catch the eye.

Mini-displays can fit into small spaces and invite exploration

Mini-displays can fit into small spaces and invite exploration

Encourage the students to have input to and ownership of the space by inviting them to create displays; asking class teachers to contribute the students’ work to accompany collaborative research projects and inviting them to read, reflect and review their reading and share it with others.

Encourage students to have ownership of the space by seeking their input.

Encourage students to have ownership of the space by seeking their input.

 

Facing Facts

In the 1870s, Melville Dewey spent a lot of time organizing subject areas to create a classification system that is now used in more than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries in more than 30 languages.  According to the Online Library Computer Center (OCLC), the official owners of the Dewey system, 95 percent of all public and K-12 school libraries use the system.

While it is very important that our students know how to use this system to be able to find specific titles, and there is a strong argument that understanding how to locate a resource is a transferable lifelong skill, it is not much use to them if the students cannot and do not want to read.  So, in the elementary system at least, there is an equally strong argument for manipulating the arrangement so that students are encouraged to choose to read. Time enough for them to learn the difference between 994.04 and 994.4.

The nature of non-fiction means that more-or-less adhering to the Dewey Decimal Classification system in the non fiction sector of the library makes sense. Even if you use a simpler adaptation to meet the needs of your students, staying within the basic concept encourages independence and helps them build lifelong skills. Nevertheless, it is still possible to make certain subjects easier to access and circulate.  Again, do some in-house investigations to identify the subjects most often borrowed by the students, particularly for leisure reading.  Books about topics such as space, pets, dinosaurs and cars are usually borrowed before they are shelved, so consider giving these a space of their own in your non-fiction section.

Consider putting

  • all the picture puzzle books (usually at 793.73) under the banner Pick-a-Puzzle
  • all the joke and riddle books (usually at 808.88) under the banner of Side-Splitters
  • all the Horrible Histories, Horrible Science and their cousins on a stand
  • all those skinny beginner information series in baskets or a stand so that even the kindergarten children can find something of interest
  • all the books about your country together

non_fiction

Despite their not being in strict Dewey order, students very quickly learn to locate their favourite sections so they can make their selections independently.

Circulation data shows that non-fiction displayed in a similar way to fiction is much more likely to be borrowed, and that even if the reader is just looking at the pictures, there is a lot of information being absorbed, including the format and structure of this type of text. 

Be very aware of what is being studied in classrooms, is on the news, or is topical with students and be pro-active by displaying resources about those subjects while they are of such interest.  

Sign on

Whether you landscape your library strictly according to the principles of the Dewey system, or whether you are more flexible, the key to unlocking the space for the user is signage.  Everything must be clearly labeled so that even the very youngest student, or one with specific special needs, can find what they are looking for with a minimum of help.  Being able to find what you want for yourself is very empowering and being able to show someone else, particularly a parent, is the icing on the cake.

Signage is critical.

Signage is critical.

The best signage

  • uses large letters
  • backs up words with pictures
  • has  dark lettering on light backgrounds and the opposite for special effects
  • uses plain sans serif fonts
  • uses capitals and fancy fonts for short captions only
  • has a consistent colour schemes for similar signs
  • includes hanging signs using lightweight objects from El Cheapos strung together with fishing line hung over the appropriate section
  • has correct spelling
  • uses child friendly language

Near the non-fiction section display posters that summarize the DDC system and also a ready reference so that the student wanting a book about the moon can see at a glance that there will be something at 523.3.  

In your non-fiction section label the shelves so the student can see just which numbers are housed there, but make sure they know that 500-510 also includes the numbers in between. If you have space, list the main topic areas covered.  Sub-divide the books into practical breaks using index blocks available from your library-supply store, or recycle plastic video boxes.  Assign numbers that make sense rather than just an arbitrary number of digits.  The more divisions, the easier it is to find (and shelve) what you are looking for and reinforces the belief that this is a space where the child can operate independently.

In your fiction section, label every ”room”, shelf, container and display, particularly if you have diverged from the standard DDC layout.  Such clear signage means that students soon learn where to look for those out-of-order books and shelving them after they have been returned also becomes much easier, especially for student and parent volunteers.

signage2

 

The world of words

Returning to yet another principle of learning …

  • learning involves conscious and unconscious processes, including experience, emotion and sensory input, and that much of our learning  occurs and is processed below the level of immediate awareness so that understanding may not happen until much later after there has been time for reflection and assimilation

we can do much to support our students’ reading by ensuring displays have captions or even provocative questions that lead to further investigations.  Bare walls can be covered with children’s work samples or charts that support their learning. It will all be absorbed at an unconscious level.

Wherever you can have the students contribute to the wording, design and construction of the charts. Ownership is a powerful motivator. Charts can include behaviour guidelines, borrowing instructions, instructions for using the OPAC or caring for books.  It gives them ownership of the space and is one more way to put the world of words into their world. 

Captions and instructions encourage students to read.

Captions and instructions encourage students to read.

Retailers spend millions of dollars on market research to identify what entices customers to buy and what turns them off

Reuse, recycle, rethink

So you don’t have to be an interior designer (frustrated or otherwise) to landscape your library.  Every time you go shopping, look at displays and how they are constructed and then take the ideas and elements and reproduce them.

Think of it as recycling – their research and its output into your environment – two displays for the cost of one!

There are many subtle ways that they get us to part with our money.  Consider how you might employ some of these tempters in your library.

 

With just a little knowledge and lots of imagination you can make your library a model of the very best in student learning environments and know that you are putting the world of words into the world of kids.

 

And, if you want to read further try

Divine Design: How to create the 21st-century school library of your dreams

Learning Commons Transformation – Ten Steps

Ideas for Inspiring Contemporary School Library Design

Power Up! / The New School Library

School Library Journal’s Buildings/Design page

Can the physical environment have an impact on the learning environment?

Designing Spaces for Learning 

Designing Spaces for Effective Learning

Spaces for Knowledge Generation – Seven Principles

Learning Spaces

Contemporary Library Checklist

50 of the Most Majestic Libraries in the World

Designed for Learning: School Libraries

 

References

Caine R. and Caine, G. 1994 Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain, Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley

Drucker, P. F. 1999 Management Challenges for the 21st Century New York: Harper Business

Drucker, P. F. 2001 The Essential Drucker  New York: HarperCollins

Industry Commission, Work, Health and Safety, Report No. 47, Sept 1995, National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, Australia

Jensen, E. 1998 Teaching with the brain in mind Alexandra, VA: ASCD

Oliver, M. & Christenson, J. 2001 The Rain Gutter Literacy Revolution

Rippel, C. 2003 What libraries can learn from bookstores : applying the bookstore model to public libraries

 

 

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the censor’s hat

hat_censor

 

 

 

 

Putting on this hat is one that does not fit well for many teacher librarians.

Is restricting access to some resources censorship or duty of care?

 

Certainly it is a question that raises its head frequently on the teacher librarian networks, moreso in the US where the ALA has very clear policies and statements on the freedom to read which is “essential to [their] democracy”.    In terms of Australian libraries the closest I could find to a similar statement was the ALIA Statement of free access to information .

While these are critical statements that govern a library’s right and responsibility to provide resources regardless of an individual’s perspective or preference, as teacher librarians we must remember that we are in a school situation and as such, we have an official duty of care to the students in our care.  We cannot not set ourselves up to be paragons of virtue or the moral compass of the community, but what we do and offer must reflect the values and attitudes of the school community we serve.

Unlike the US where censorship seems to be alive and well – ALA state that there were at least 464 books challenged in 2012 alone but they also say that probably 70-80% are not reported- such censorship does not happen in Australia. The last book banned here was Portnoy’s Complaint. We do not have a Banned Books Week to celebrate the freedom of speech but that’s not to say books aren’t challenged – recently one person complained of one word in Roald Dahl’s “Revolting Rhymes” which was selling in a national supermarket chain and the chain’s reaction was to pull the entire stock off the shelves!  The resultant publicity resulted in their selling more books than ever!

However, there is still the issue of what is appropriate to a particular audience and who decides.

The answer comes down to our professional knowledge about the development and maturation of the students, their reading needs, interests and abilities, the curriculum the collection is required to support, the underlying ethos of the school and its community and collection development practices.

In the ideal situation, that collection is built up in consultation with the teachers and selection aids, including reviews and recommendations, are used to guide choices.  Given that most teacher librarians have more contact with children than the average parent, they are more likely to have a deeper knowledge of what is appropriate, although parents should be able to make suggestions but these should always be measured against the selection criteria of the Collection Policy. The TL is also in the position to have the broad overview of what is happening in the school regarding teaching, learning and the curriculum as well as being the most likely to have a knowledge of what is available and suitable to support this.  TLs are also highly connected and so they can find out what else there is very quickly and get suitable suggestions from a range of other professionals.  They can put their leadership hat on top of their censorship one.

Censorship, to me, is when a book is not added to the collection because of the personal prejudices of the librarian, principal or someone else.   The most recent widespread controversy I can think of is when many schools banned Harry Potter because of the witchcraft/magic aspect and while many may have justified their decisions because of their personal interpretation of the tenets of their faith, denying children access to that series is censorship.

Conversely, NOT selecting a Jodi Picoult novel (for example) for a K-6 school is about knowing what is developmentally appropriate. It is not about being the Book Police. Teachers and parents rely on us using our professional knowledge to make the call, BUT they always have the option of purchasing titles or borrowing them from the public library if their child wants to read beyond what we acquire.

No school library can acquire every resource that is available for its target age group – that’s why the Collection Policy is such a crucial document and needs to be tailored to the individual school.  A one-size-fits-all-policy copied and pasted from elsewhere cannot reflect the unique needs of a particular school because the demographics of each school are so diverse.  This policy should identify who the readers are; the goals for developing the collection for the next three years (such as a focus on a format or curriculum area); and have specific selection criteria that will guide choices so they are in alignment with achieving the goals. But most importantly, it is underpinned by the needs, interests and abilities of the collection’s users based on the professional knowledge of those who are teaching them.  A Collection Policy developed by the TL and ratified by the administration is also the best defence if a selection (or lack of) is questioned. Demonstrating how it meets the selection criteria (or not) of a formal policy is hard to argue with.

Censorship is not always restricted to titles that might seem obvious because of their focus on sex, violence and other unsavoury practices.  These are some recently challenged in the US…

  • True Diary of a Part Time Indian.
  • Color Purple
  • Year of the Jungle
  • It’s a Book
  • Looking for Alaska
  • Bridge to Terabithia
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Of Mice and Men
  • A biography of Oprah Winfrey
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
  • Forever
  • Killing Mr. Griffin

Even Bob Graham’s Let’s Get a Pup is on the US list. And I’m sure many of us are familiar with stories of Mr McGee’s penis being hidden by white-out in Mr McGee and the Biting Flea when teachers or parents have been offended.

lets_get_a_pup

;

Censored and Banned Books: From John Steinbeck to Dr. Seuss

Recently there was an issue in a primary school I know where a pre-school child selected a book from the Junior Fiction section as a class read-aloud and it was clearly not suitable for that age group.  It happened because someone had decided that because it was in picture book format then it was Junior Fiction, something we know not to be true.  This has prompted a formal collection appraisal and evaluation of the collection, judging the location against an authoritative list and making changes where appropriate.  We also established a Senior Fiction classification (identified by a sticker on the spine)  acknowledging that some students are intellectually and emotionally mature enough to read materials that might be considered YA and their needs should be catered for just as those of children who are not yet reading independently are catered for.

This was not censorship – it was duty of care exercising our professional judgement to cater for the individual needs of the students.  While students have access to the entire collection, identifying those that might be cause for concern because a young person does not have the requisite maturity to deal with the content (particularly in collections that cater for a wide age group) is showing responsibility not restriction. Until our students are old enough to take personal responsibility for their choices  (and the Child Online Privacy Protection Act would deem that to be 13)  it is our role as teachers to provide the scaffolds to help them and we must never step back from that.

Of course, there are always going to be individuals who disagree with your selection and location of resources and that is why having a Challenged Materials Policy (scroll to the end)  as part of your Collection Policy is vital.  Such a policy means one person’s agenda cannot drive the development of your collection. It provides a formal way for a complaint to be made and considered while also showing that an individual can only dictate what their own child/children can have access to – they cannot make decisions on behalf of other parents. It requires the complainant to specifically identify the focus of the objection rather than relying on hearsay or gossip.

Nevertheless, censorship in itself can be an interesting topic and it offers much scope for investigations…

However, ultimately we must see our selection of the collection as guidance not censorship.  Hopefully, the hat will sit more comfortably now.

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the reporter’s hat

hat_reporterAs Australia’s school year draws to a close, many are thinking about writing reports, summarising in a few lines all that has happened over the school year so parents can see the learning journey their child has undertaken.  This examination and accountability is occurring in school libraries too as more and more teacher librarians are being asked to report on the individual progress of students (my opinion of the validity of this is for another piece) as well as to the school community as a whole as evidence is required to show where all the dollars have been invested and the new budget is submitted.

 

In my opinion, the end of the year is too late.

The reporter’s hat should be one that is worn constantly with every opportunity to share a story from the library taken.

Over the years there have been a number of investigations into and reports about the impact of quality school libraries staffed by qualified teacher librarians and offering targeted teaching programs on student learning particularly since Keith Curry Lance  turned the spotlight on in 1994 and has continued to do so.  But what has been the impact of these studies?  Have they changed the perception of the school library and the teacher librarian’s role within it so that the provision of such a facility, fully staffed and fully funded is a given, a non-negotiable in the learning landscape?  Given the constant queries to TL lists such as LM_NET and OZTL_NET, I think not.  For, despite all this credible, authoritative, well-documented evidence the role of the TL is still misunderstood and under fire.

 

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Old-fashioned and narrow though it may seem, the most effective change comes from the ground up where those who are most directly affected start to own a concept or  a vision and want to move towards it.  Despite their being nearly 400 submissions from the best brains in the business and 12 media releases when an Australian federal government inquiry into school libraries was conducted in 2010, there was very little public notice taken and very little action was recommended or taken when the final report was released in 2011. Therefore, wearing the reporter’s hat, the teacher librarian is in a perfect position to be educating the community about the importance of the school library, the services it offers and the TL’s role within those.

There are six key groups who need to know what we do, how we do it and why…

pupils

Our students are the reason we are there.  We want to help them develop informed, information-literate, well-read adults who can contribute positively to society both now and in the future.  They are the grass-roots users of the library’s services and given there are more of them than any other sector of the community, they have the loudest voice.

parents

Parents can be your strongest allies and your greatest critics.  You start on the common ground of wanting to provide the best education for their child; they volunteer in the library doing a myriad of tasks that free the TL to teach; and they raise many of the funds that are used to build the library’s collection.   They also have a powerful weapon – they vote! 

They vote when

  • they ring the principal to praise or complain
  • they put themselves on P&C and other school-based committees
  • they chat to the parents in the carpark, the most powerful grapevine of information and mischief yet invented
  • they go to the local, state and federal ballot boxes

They have a voice with the most important power-brokers and purse-string holders in your professional lives.  And it’s a loud voice – louder than the whisper of one teacher librarian amongst a staff of 30 or more; louder even than the murmur of all those TLs who wrote submissions and the thousands who didn’t but still backed the Inquiry. 

peers

These are our classroom colleagues whom we know are so swamped with administrative paper work, reporting to parents, curriculum design and delivery, student social work, and extra-curricular activities that they don’t have time to take on board what they perceive to be the extra task of collaborative planning and teaching, and information literacy particularly, as just another subject to try to squeeze into a frantic timetable.

They perceive the teacher librarian to be the provider of the resources and when they want them they want them now.  They may well have had no experience of a teacher librarian who can offer so much more, so we need to show them that we can lessen their load, not add to it.

Research demonstrates that the greatest influence on a student’s use of the school library is that made of it by their teacher. But they won’t use it if they don’t know what it can offer.

principals

The most common theme in  messages to teacher librarian lists is that “the principal doesn’t understand the role of the teacher librarian” and there is a belief that as principal, he/she should make it their job to find out what it involves.

But, just as we acknowledge the workload of our peers, we must also acknowledge the workload of the principal, particularly as new policies and programs are thrust on their shoulders and they are required to do more with less.

More and more, principals  have the say over the configuration of their staffing and every position will be up for review.  If your principal’s perspective is that the teacher librarian is the “keeper of the books” and “who needs a library when you have the Internet” and the whole job can be done more cheaply with a clerical, then your job will be on the line.

pre-service teachers

As far as can be ascertained, there is no requirement for Australian  pre-service teachers on prac or their internship to have to demonstrate they have even visited the school library let alone collaborated with the teacher librarian.

 However, these are the teachers who will take education forward and be teaching our children and grandchildren.  They are the decision-makers and the teachers of the decision-makers of the future and given it’s our future they are making decisions about, we need them to be as informed as possible.

If a pre-service teacher understands the particular, specialist professional knowledge, expertise and experience that the teacher librarian has then they are going to be looking for and demanding it when they are in their own classrooms.

Nurture them!

politicians

Politicians hold the purse-strings – they are the people who direct educational authorities to implement the big-picture changes like National Partnerships, teacher accreditation, new curricula and so forth.  They tie their demands to funding to ensure they get their way. In 2004, then Prime Minister John Howard and Education Minister Brendan Nelson mandated that every school would fly the national flag and have two hours of PE each week or they would miss their share of a $31 billion federal schools package.  

They are driven by power, economics and votes (and remember the parents have the voting power) but despite public appearances, most are genuine and busy.  The role of the teacher librarian is not at the forefront of their responsibilities and many have perceptions based on what they remember of their experiences, however long ago that was.  In the US, the Federal Communications Committee is thinking of spending $200 000 000 to train  a “digital literacy corps” so there is someone in every school and leisure organisation who can show the students how to use computers properly so they are not ‘time-wasting’ on games and entertainment, even in their leisure time. 

While that federal inquiry did raise awareness of the role of the teacher librarian amongst some federal politicians , governments and their members them come and go and policies, programs and funding  put in place by one are just as quickly overturned by another as is evidenced by the Gonski reforms in Australia 

But if local politicians, actual and would-be, who are the local decision-makers or opponents of them, are kept informed of what it is the teacher librarian adds to the education experience of their constituents and they can see there is the likelihood of votes from parents then they can be powerful allies. 

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McKenzie’s interpretation of the role of the TL

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Buchanan’s interpretation of the role of the TL

In her blog Library Grits Dianne McKenzie has examined the role of the teacher librarian by using Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto to create a pictorial representation of the TL’s role. In the same post she has also included Ruth Buchanan’s interpretation which has a different set of words which reflect the human side of what we do.

How can we tell others about what is obviously such a complex role?

  1. Know your audience, their interests and needs.
  2. Use social media

Each audience has different interests and needs which shape what you will tell them about, while social networking tools  make it easier for you to tell them about it.

pupils

Pupils have three key requirements…

  • resources which support their current ares of study
  • suggestions for leisure-time reading
  • information about events in both the school and the community

How to create an awareness of these depends on the age of the students, particularly the use of public social media where those under 13 are not permitted to have accounts.  But teaching them how to use the OPAC; how to access Learning Paths or hotlists that are available via the school library’s website; creating and displaying posters of events; creating displays of new resources are all ways that you can spread the message to young students.  Older students may access and contribute to a blog for reviews of the latest releases; access and contribute to a wiki that supports their current curriculum; create and access online posters for events and so forth.

Involving students in the selection process and having them review their choices or involving them in the hosting of an event and then being the Junior Journalists who report it for the school newsletter not only spreads the workload but also helps them develop a sense of ownership of the library.  It becomes an integral part of their school experience.

parents

Parents want to know

  • what their child is learning
  • how they can support that

So

  • Have a prominent presence through your newsletter, website or social networking and keep them regularly informed of what each class is undertaking while in your care; events; new releases of books or movies and their suitability.  Parents are particularly subjected to pester-power and may not realise that something while popular, might be unsuitable.  Make yourself or your presence their go-to place for information. 
  • Provide homework support with links to curriculum-related websites, YourTutor, safe game sites for each age group; interesting sites that will engage them like Kid’s National Geographic
  • Provide a parent information lounge both on your website and in your library with information about the school, child development, supporting their child’s literacy and numeracy development, cybersafety, local services and entertainment for children (collect brochures or link to sites), help lines such as the Poisons Information Centre or Lifeline, even appropriate authors, titles or series for each age group for birthday or Christmas lists.
  • Support parent participation programs with literature and practical advice such as how to read with their child; the art of reading aloud; the information literacy process or any other initiative that is happening. Interpret the professional literature so parents understand new pedagogies or programs.  Be the pivot on which the relationship between the home and school balances.
  • Review new titles and old favourites (or find them) and share these through your social networking outlets.
  • Encourage students to be Junior Journalists and report on library events, new displays, new releases and so forth
  • Open the library during all school events so parents can wander in and see what’s happening.  Consider offering it as a child-care space during concerts and so forth.
  • Speak at P&C meetings about what you do so the word spreads that the school library is a very different place from that which they might remember.
  • If you are required to write on the reports of individual students make sure your comment is defensible if a parent want to seek an interview.
  • Keep a diary of notes,quotes and anecdotes so you can prepare an annual report that shows them how their child’s learning has been enhanced and enriched and the value they have had for the money invested in the library, its resources and its staff. That is the focus, not stats about circulation and loss rate and so forth.

peers

Classroom-based teachers want

  • resources to support their teaching
  • ideas for integrating information literacy and ICT
  • suggestions for class read-alouds
  • information about professional courses and events

So

  • Conduct an Information Needs Audit and find out what their priorities are and how they would like them delivered.
  • Provide them with a booklet that outlines the key services of the library and how these can be accessed and utilised
  • Be pro-active and take every opportunity to find out what’s coming up in their program that you can support this with physical and online resources – develop learning paths, pathfinders and hotlists, and give them catalogs to browse for suggestions for collection development. Let them know what you have gathered and how these can be accessed. Offer to write a statement about how the library has contributed to students’ learning for reports.
  • Be their professional learning scout. Co-ordinate a program of professional learning opportunities to develop information literacy and ICT skills, such as how to use the databases. Provide a summary of instructions or a list of Web 2.0 tools that support a particular strategy or Bloom’s Taxonomy  Help them understand the SAMR model so they can prepare more effective lessons.  Introduce them to tools such as online scheduling apps that will make their administrative tasks easier. Share teaching tools that will assist their planning such as this Teacher Planning Kit for Bloom’s Taxonomy or this new take on the KWH chart.
  • Monitor listservs and other professional services for information about upcoming events, conferences, professional learning opportunities, programs and competitions their students could be involved in and so on and email these details to individuals directly.  
  • Use your non-teaching time to go into the classroom and booktalk the bulk loan, new releases, the PRC titles, the upcoming Book Fair or Scholastic BookClub titles, authors, series or themes.  Watch the interest grow and the teacher’s problems with sustained silent reading diminish
  • Offer the library as the venue for displaying the class’s work on a theme or invite classes to develop a display on a mutually agreed theme. Look for ways that student work can be seamlessly integrated into what is happening in the library.  Whenever the media or politicians go to a school, they always go to the library – have it loaded up with student work.

principals

Principals need to know the big picture of what is happening and how money is being spent so keep them informed by

  • preparing a detailed budget in advance of the preparation of the school’s budget identifying the priorities and how these have been determined.  Apart from demonstrating your professionalism, it enables the principal and those allocating the money to be aware of your needs so they can make informed decisions.
  • organising events like Literary Luncheons, author visits, Book Week celebrations and so forth.  As protocol ask permission and keep the principal in the loop.  Invite the media to such events -it always makes the principal look good.
  • sending a weekly email which keeps them in the loop of
    • the events happening in the library
    • collaborative planning and teaching opportunities;
    • comments about individual learners – you know who;
    • individual achievements like who has reached their PRC goals so he/she can congratulate them;
    • significant new purchases;
    • anything that shows the range of duties you undertake that is not a load of meaningless statistics.
  • becoming their personal information specialist and send information aboutsetting up a professional Facebook account and subscribing to the pages of  library-based organisations such as ASLA, ALIA, iCentre, Children’s Book Council of Australia and a host of others which are continually sharing interesting articles about libraries, reading and learning that principals should know about and may choose to share with staff
    • research they should know about
    • publications and articles they should read
    • events (school and local) they should attend
    • promotions and programs the school might be involved in
  • submitting policies, plans, proposals and so forth for approval and ratification so he/she is aware of your professionalism, the scope of your role and the seriousness you devote to it.  Act with integrity, dignity and respect and it will be reciprocated
  • offering to co-ordinate a Principal’s Reading Challenge that allows students to set and meet their own targets and be acknowledged for their efforts with a certificate from the principal. If you use a prescribed list of must-reads, ensure that the books are available from the library, that the students have input into the list, and that they are not restricted within it by arbitrary levels or lexiles
  • co-ordinating a school-wide professional reading program that meets the requirements for inclusion in teachers’ professional learning documentation

pre-service teachers

Because pre-service teachers are in the school for such a short time we really need to get in early, but they are often on information overload with their head moving like Noddy’s. So greet them on their tour of the school and give them an information pack that has the essential information about what you offer, how they borrow and so forth.

Include anything that will help them understand what you do, how they do things, things they might use on this prac or at a later date

  • a formal invitation to discuss their prac assignments with you,
  • any forms for booking the library
  • access to the school’s computer network and the significant folders and files they need
  • a diagram of the information literacy process that you use
  • a library map
  • a summary of what the spine labels cover (eg if you have your PRC books colour-coded for stages explain this)
  • pro-formas for book reviews that they might be able to use
  • a list of titles, authors and series that are appropriate for each age group within your school
  • a form they need to fill out to get borrowing privileges (so they are responsible for what they borrow not their associate teacher) which includes contact details for after prac is finished.  You might also want to make it clear that their prac report won’t be signed until all loans have been returned.
  • a link to  Doug Johnson’s 10 Things a Baby Teacher Should Know which has become a seminal article that helps during those few weeks
  • include a bookmark or some other freebie (even a chocolate frog), to add to the atmosphere of friendliness.

Set aside a time (even if it’s a recess) early in the prac when they can show you what they need to achieve and how you can help them do this, either with resources, ideas or collaborative planning and teaching.  Make sure they know that the resources are not limited to print and that services are not limited to circulation. This may be their first experience of working alongside a teacher librarian and if you do it well, they will be looking for the same support in their next school and when they have their own class for the first time – knowing that there is a colleague whose core business is to collaborate and support can be the rock on which they base that first year on.

If you live near a university which offers a B.Ed program, get to know the staff and offer yourself as a guest lecturer to explain and demonstrate information literacy.  Given that the new Australian Curriculum has its inquiry aspects built into each strand, teachers are going to need to know the language we are speaking to the students so that there is uniformity and conformity not confusion.

politicians

Politicians love to be seen as being ‘in on the action’ which is attracting their constituents.  They love an opportunity to be seen and talk and getting them on your side is imperative.  Be apolitical and put your personal preferences aside.  Don’t limit yourself to the sitting member – wannabes need to get their names into the community so people recognise it on that election sheet, and those in Opposition love to be informed enough to ask Questions in the House.  Build up a positive relationship so when the politician needs a school for a photo opportunity, a launch, a place to place funds, it’s your name and face that come to mind.  But first, make yourself aware of any school or education-authority protocols that need to be observed and adhered to.

  • Invite them to any library-based function you have but look for unusual celebrations – the Unique Selling Point that will make your event stand out – such as a student-organised Literary Luncheon, a poetry reading by a local poet, a book launch by a new author or illustrator – anything that is also likely to attract the media so they can have a photo opportunity
  • Invite them to be guest readers, bloggers, speakers, artists or presenters, especially celebrating students achievements based on library challenges. Do a lot of the legwork for them such as
    • booking well ahead, including information about the importance of the event with the invitation, sending a reminder with a background brief and an indication of what they are expected to do – it’s about getting them to value the library not necessarily save them work.  They will come again if you are PROFESSIONAL 
    • selecting the book and getting it to them in advance to practice
    • suggesting the focus of the blog post such as their opinion of a particular hot topic relating to education
    • have them be a focal point of your citizenship studies so they talk about what they do
    • if you know they have a passion for poetry, drawing, music or whatever invite them to perform as part of a school-based event.  It doesn’t matter if it’s not library-related, it’s about reinforcing the connection
  • Email, write or phone them  to let them know how decisions affecting the employment and deployment of teacher librarians affects the teaching and learning in the schools in their electorates – let them know that the parents are the voters who will keep them or not
  • If there is a particular policy or program that is really going to impact on the teaching and learning at the school, make an appointment and visit them. Be prepared and demonstrate how the issue will affect the families in the electorate rather than your employment.  Keep in mind that votes talk and there are more parents than teacher librarians.
Australia's Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister of Education at a local primary school

Australia’s Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister of Education at a local primary school

 

Putting on your reporter’s hat is not an added extra – it’s about taking yourself and the things you do in the course of your day beyond the library walls.  Many teacher librarians seem to have covered themselves with Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak and when you say you’re a teacher librarian even those who should know look blankly and move on because they’re not really sure of just what it is you do.  Be subtle but be VISIBLE and be seen to be promoting teaching and learning rather than your own employment barrow and you will be acknowledged. It is YOUR responsibility

Be PRO ACTIVE

Be PREPARED

Be PROUD

Be part of your own future

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