03 November, 2010

unsubscribing from OZTL_NET : a complex 37 part process?

It must be weeks since I have offended anyone on the oztl_net list by trying to be funny in a format without subtlety or a sarcasm font, so when I sent this email off I prefaced it with "please remember I am trying to be funny but, that many a true word has been said in jest".

I am scared,
scared about what those of us working in school libraries seem incapable of doing and this constant inability to unsubscribe from a basic e-list is one of the things which scares me. We are working in a field chock full of technological bells and whistles. We are the gatekeepers (or perhaps keymasters) of information retrieval. We should be guiding young people in strategies to help them find information hidden in the deep web.

Yet some of us can't manage to type oztl_net unsubscribe into Google?
Hell, this isn't the deep web, nor the hidden web. oztl_net is not hidden behind a pay wall. And as people on the list were discussing just a week or so ago, it is using very old (in web terms) technology.

Why is it then, that people who are supposed to be able to find information for a living are unable, or unwilling, to type 20 characters into a google search box? Seriously, that is 120 characters less than a tweet. Some of you (judging by an earlier topic) are keying in call numbers longer than that.

So, those of you thinking of unsubscribing from this list plese note, it isn't hard BUT if you can't work out how to do it for yourself, then you probably need the people on this list because I doubt your ability to deal with the IT component of a school library without the regular contributors here to help you.
I mean, you obviously need help not just in web searching, but also some help in managing that complex new technology 'email'.
(how difficult is it to set up a separate folder for all your oztl_net emails to drop into? Not very - really. Want to know how? Then use Google and do a search. If you can't work out how to find that information on Google then, please consider another career path because if the year three kids in your school are better at one of your key competencies that you are... well (do I need to finish that thought?)

So, the last person who emailed "please unsubscribe me from the list" to EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE LIST! Well, I unsubscribed them. No, I am not a mod, or an admin (nor even a modmin). I am just; capable of using Google, capable of reading comprehension and then capable of following a 2 step process. And before I berated people for their inability to do such a simple task, I wanted to make sure it was really as simple as I had imagined every time I have read identical requests.

you go to;
(where the email address at the end is yours rather than one I invented in order to mock you).
then you press 'unsubscribe'

That is it.

You shouldn't need 2 degrees and a grad cert to be able to manage this.
And, if you are working in a school library and the process of finding this out is too hard for you, please, do me a favour. Don't ever accept a job at my kids' schools.

06 September, 2010

My (first) library camp reflections

no preabmble, no preperation and no first draft. I am about to write out what I am thinking now, a few days after the camp in a conf. Then I will press 'publish post' and go do some shelving.

The library camp was the most fun I have had in a conference, and I think it was very productive too. We were not completely full (unlike some rooms on day 1) but we had a good core of participants and a significant number of other folk who were dropping in when there was nothing in the other streams which called to them. In fact, a drop in space for those who found a gap in their personal program was a big part of our original plan.

Did I mention I had fun? I like to think that some other folk did too, there certainly seemed to be a buzz in the room almost all the time. I think that the participatory nature of a lot of what we decided to do helped with that. There was, most of the time, an opportunity to interrupt, interject and ask for clarification or re-direction. It was great having a lot of people willing to speak. Sure there were plenty sitting quietly, perhaps because that was what they wanted to do, perhaps because there were a few big personalities in the room (well, big for librarians anyway).
Still, the way things went, I believe that some of the less vocal audience members had the opportunity to speak. Certainly I tried during the sessions I facilitated to get everyone involved (even if it was just my obsession with getting people to divide themselves up into statistical groupings - who had a library job pre-graduation, pre-enrolment, not until after cap and gown...)

There was always the opportunity for the breakout groups to come back to the whole camp and give a summary of their conversations. We also had a scanner set up to scan any notes they took, however that didn't happen (no one volunteered their notes) so I do feel like we lost a lot of what was done. I know it lives on in the brains of those who were there and some of them may well use the ideas generated for; succession planning, library training, environmental advocacy and other stuff which I will remember 30 seconds after I publish this post (but I am not coming back to edit it).

Anyway, I hope some of the campers decide to turn their notes into blog posts or even a series of tweets as I would like to read more of what others got out of the time (and also what happened in the breakouts I couldn't attend due to my inability to perfect my cloning machine).

The day the way ran was fantastic, live updates on the program wiki as we adapted and changed the program when topics came up (or died). The stream committee were a wonderfully fluid crew (and it was an absolute pleasure to work with them). We ducked, we weaved and we proved what we had been saying all along "it will work perfectly on the day". That said, for all that Snail and I are duck and weave on the day kinds of people, the whole planning and lead up work was held together admirably by Kate Davis, while Elizabeth Caplice and Michelle DuBroy proved a wonderful support crew. Adapting themselves to everything from chasing speakers and writing bios to taking photos, leading discussions and playing bouncer on the door.

I won't mention any of the wonderful people who did lightning talks for us, nor those who sat on our pannel (their names are available on the conference program). I will also neglect to mention the names of the people who stood up and joined in to facilitate conversations, move furniture, direct traffic. I won't mention anyone by name because I wouldn't want to single out those I know when there were more than a few people whose names I didn't catch who were a big part of a successful day. Plus, I wouldn't want to forget someone's name.

I think, I need to read someone else's view on how #aliaaccess #camp went, because as I sit here trying to write about it, I realise I was too far into the rabbit hole. Perhaps I need to think a while then try to write this again.
Still, in the meantime I will put this out for your reading pleasure (and with luck, some feedback of what Snail and I could do better next time. Because a mere day after the camp, we found ourselves both using the words 'next time' when talking about how we could have done things better).

(photo: Breakout discussion at library camp by Katie Wiese)

02 September, 2010

Day one - after lunch

Having fun online, first conf for me where I have been twittering and on-site.
But, now I am looking at all the stuff I am going to have to sort through to find the librarycamp session 'hot' topics.

Just sent out a tweet asking folk to add the #camp hash tag as well as the #aliaaccess and your session tag. But where else should I be looking for content? Is it all twitter this time round or are others liveblogging?

ALIA Access day one part one session one part one one one

Woke up to slightly hazy views of the river feeling relaxed and happy. A couple of ciders last night followed by an early night meant I bounded out of bed while Disney style forest creatures frolicked around me. Together we sang a little song as I had my shower. Then it was onto the notebook to check the ALIAAccess hashtag and feel the community waking up.
However, no disney movie is without drama and just as Bambi watched his mother die from the hunter's bullet...
Well, you see my notebook is still on Darwin time.

Oh well,
I arrived at the venue a touch later than I had intended and decided to sneak into the first session.

Conference people,
committee types

Why, would the door to a session open up NEXT TO THE LECTURN?
Now, before anyone suggests that this is a problem for ADHD boy alone, let me assure you that I was not a lone soldier in this. As I was walking toward the room I saw others sliding into the doors of the different rooms. (edit, most of the rooms enter at the back and the one I went into did have a back door, just the signage was on the front door)

As luck would have it, I arrived just as the speaker was asking questions of the audience so the attention of those in the room was not directed forward with the gaze of 100 disapproving suns. However, as it turned out the session was full. Every seat was taken and the latecomers were lined up along a 'wall of shame'. I decided I did not need to be on a wall of shame (and did not want to stand until morning tea time). So slunk straight back out to go buy myself some poached eggs and a latte.

Then it was a bit of networking, some time with the co-op folk seeing what they can do for me in terms of acquisitions and into the next session. Where I sat for a while wondering why the hell I chose that session. Realisation dawned, someone had mentioned errors in our personalised timetables on our ID badges. Once again I slipped out of a session and off to the secretariat to get an accurate printout. Feeling quite happy that I was supposed to be in a session with a back door.

Had some good sessions then, listening to TAFE things which will trickle down to secondary while simultaneously following the new grads' session via twitter. Wireless (free) and twitter are improving my conference experience significantly.

01 September, 2010

ALIA Access tour day

The day dawned with the reminder of the tweetup the night before. A night which had ended mere hours earlier with the last of us (including my room mate and myself) leaving the bar at 1:30 (meaning we arrived back at our room at 2am, before checking the hashtag and reading the tweets until 3am).

Yet somehow it was now morning and I had awoken before my alarm, stood, showered, had several glasses of water before wandering off to return my hire car. So, a slow breakfast in Brunswick Mall, followed by a bus ride back to town and a nice chewy disprin and I was all set to hit the tours.

Theoretically I was supposed to go the the convention center and register first in order to get my tickets for the tours. But I was on the same side of the river as my first tour and the conference venue was across the bridge. So, I took a risk and decided that the likelihood of being refused entry to a library tour because I had a lack of ticket was approaching nil. I mean, other than librarians who is going to try and crash a library tour?

(spoiler alert) I was right, no one asked for my ticket.

My first tour was QUT and this was the highlight of the tours for me in terms of finding things I could adapt to my own library. Albeit I would need to increase my budget by several orders of magnitude in order to approach the right budget for the quality of the furnishings and quantity of hardware they have provided for their students. The librarian giving me my tour had worked in a school library herself so was wonderfully helpful in pointing out the pertinent parts of their recent renovations.
Plus, there was some very good information about their Study Well web service, which will be quite useful for some of my students (the assignment timeline calculator for example and citewrite)

Oh, side note: I was the only person to turn up for this tour. I was standing near the circ desk about to announce I was here for the tour (while looking around for people who looked like librarians) when I was approached by the campus library manager who suspected I was not one of her students and was therefore here for the tour.
Which means, I obviously look like a libraryman. (beards seem quite popular with librarymans this conference. More so than I have noticed at previous library events.)

Next up was the Public Library in Brisbane Square. It is certainly a fancy place. Book returns via conveyer belt (albeit by barcode not RFID). The big lightbulb moment here was a vending machine full of pens, pencils, notebooks and earbuds. That would go down very well in my library. Almost everything else they did though was too big and too bright to work in a small school library which is dsperately trying to escape the gravitational pull of the early 80s.

My last port of call was the State Library of QLD, this was basically just library porn for me. especially as our tour guide added a stacks tour on top of the official tour of reading rooms and nice new architecture. To top it off, they had a small exhibit on the Lindsays so after the tour I went back into the library to look at etchings of naked ladies consorting with fauns and cartoon drawings of angry koalas wearing hats.
This done, it was off to the welcome drinks, some socialising around the trades hall and then at the new grads' dinner.

15 July, 2010

ALIA Access - filling fast

I have just found out that the ALIA Access conference is getting close to capacity. All that wonderful 'elf n safety' (thanks Boris) means that we are not allowed to shoe horn people into the venue on the off chance it may, at some point, catch fire.

But, at time of writing I believe we have room for 65 more delegates. So folks, if you are reading this and feel like you would like to come along and hear the ADHD librarian adlibbing like mad up front for the library camp (un-conference like, off Broadway component of the programme), then it is time for you to pony up the reddies.

But, if I am promoting the Camp, I should tell you what it is. Well, it is all things to all people. It is everything and anything, it is to conferences what Concorde was to air travel. (Fast, futuristic and potentially so dangerous you will never see it again).

Loosely Snail and myself had a bit of an idea for some adlib sessions throughout the conference. Somewhere people could drop in when none of the set programme appealed to them. A place where you could carry on the Q&A session from the end of the last session or where you could leap up, grab a microphone and expound on your wonderful revelation from the particularly lucid dream you had during the morning session.

It has moved on somewhat from that original (and may I say brilliant) idea. In part because the main committee (after having accepted our idea) recoiled in horror at the thought of what they may have unleashed. So, now we can tell you that we do have some scheduled speakers. Some live, some via the interwebs but we still have space for you to drop in and write your name on a piece of butcher's paper un-conf style.

So, if you fancy being part of ALIA conference history and making this new pleb on the floor driven camp a success jump up now and register for Brisbane in September.

17 June, 2010

School hours

Yesterday I closed the library early and went home.
Well, the library isn't usually open after school on a Friday, and yesterday was the last day of school for our students so I figured I'd be sitting in an empty library as all the students ran, jumped and danced their way home.

Ordinarily I would have stayed anyway and done some shelving on the off chance anyone wanted a library. (oh, yes to answer an earlier question. I don't have to be here whenever the library is open. But there are only 2 of us working here and I do the after school gig).

I decided to duck out early as it was school sports day for 2 of my kids. It is a strange thing that working in a school can make it difficult to find the time to attend things at the kids' schools. Not that I have always been able to do that, the flexibility has varied from job to job. But, unfortunately with only a small staff in the library here, if I decide to go see my kids get an award it can bugger up the day for a whole class of kids.

Perhaps asking for a 3rd library staff member is the next logical step?

I am in PD all day so forget you saw me here.

16 June, 2010

The ADHD philosophy of jingly jangly

Well, a philosophy or something like that.

In my last post I spoke about my plans to go walking for a few days these holidays and alluded to the fact that it has been a while since I did much in the way of overnight walking. There was a time when every weekend was an orgy of bushwalking, caving, rock-climbing and canyoning. When I loaded up my pack with food and whatever equipment was needed for my particular task.

In fact (for those librarians reading this) Snail and I were chatting online about canyoning years before we met as librarians.

But that is taking us away from my unifly theory of jingly jangly. My theory, theory the first by me Anne Elk...

You can tell a lot about someone by the equipment they use in their outdoor pursuit.
Perhaps this is true in other areas of life, do we assess other librarians by their use of open source software (for example).
But outdoors it is so much more noticeable.

I first became aware of this fact as a teenager wandering through Bluegum Forest with friends. I carried my mother's old Karrimor pack (a gift from her father in 1979, I believe) and wore a pair of KT 26 (the high top hiking style they made briefly). All my gear (and the gear of my friends) was old, beaten up and cheep. Our raincoats were $2 ponchos and any gear we couldn't borrow had been bought from disposal stores. We cooked over hexie stoves in aluminium dixies, we drank out of army canteens.

I loved it out in the bush, but I did start to notice that there were increasing numbers of people out there who had different equipment to us. Their packs were in wonderful pastel colours (well, it was the 80s). Their raincoats had hoods and zips, their boots (oh how I coveted their boots) were leather and had fancy Italian names written on them.

Still, as we moved into our final years of high school we were still happy with our clapped out gear. We had begun caving and rock climbing by this stage. We had taught ourselves from books and trialled our skills by buying ourselves some rope, some carabiners and some 2 inch webbing to tie into harnesses. When caving we wore old overalls, bought for the most part from op-shops and wore hardhats scavenged from building sites.

Then we hit Uni, we began to join the Spelio society trips, we met the people who owned more gear than we could imagine. Their overalls were waterproof (rather than water absorbent) but the cavers were a practical bunch. Their fancy gear was well used, I looked at rappel racks where 50% of the aluminium had been worn away by the constant passage of a rope covered in rough cave mud.

It was the rock climbers who put the icing on my cake of jingly jangly theory. They walked around in fancy French harnesses, wearing fitted climbing slippers. They had huge quantities of ironmongery attached to their gear loops. And, their gear was new, oh so new. Always new, always shiny, always expensive.

So, it turns out I have no real theory. Just vague observations and lots of recollections of the purity of being outdoors with the bare minimum of gear needed to do the job. With luck I can instil the idea into my kids that there is something fantastic in spending a few days with just the gear on your back. With not carrying anything unnecessary, with not buying a $230 bedroll, when a $20 will work.

So, perhaps I do have a theory.
My theory is that, people who have all the latest new gear are not my kind of people. I like the latest new gear, but as I sat last night putting seam seal over tears in my rucksack (a nice pastel blue and pink one, just like the ones I coveted in the 80s and eventually bought) I realised, I like new gear for what it will one day become and for the memories I will one day have as I sit replacing buckles, repairing holes and working out if it will survive one more trip before I need to replace it.

When you have noting but new gear, you have missed out on something and (sadly) are probably unaware off what you have missed out on and of why that group of 14 year olds camping under a tarp held together with duct tape are having much more fun than you are.

(oh, and jingly jangly became our name for gear, because of the jingly jangly noise our climbing gear made as it banged together when we walked)

Falling behind

At the beginning of the little 30 posts in 30 days challenge, I said I was only going to blog on workdays. So, the fact that it is the 16th and this is my 14th post is actually better than I expected I would be able to do.

However, I do suspect I am about to fall by the wayside.

Today is the last school day of the term, tomorrow and Friday will be professional development days (which with luck will give me something good to write about), but then on Saturday morning I load the kids in the car along with our rucksacks and drive 1500km to the Larapinta Trail and spend a few days walking.

For my youngest, this will be his first overnight hike. Although he has been a bushwalker for as long as he can walk. I recall, when he was about 3, a well meaning gent saw him walking with me at Kings Canyon. By well meaning, I mean nosy blowhard. He was shocked that I had this little 3 year old with me (and he has always been small for his age) and came over to talk to me about how foolish I would be if I thought about taking him on the rim walk (about 6 km, with a fair bit of up and down). I smiled, and reassured him we were just doing the shorter walk along the flat. Then (because I am that sort of guy) I added, "because we did the rim walk yesterday" In fact, we had done the 6km plus a couple of side trips and the 3 year old boy had happily run ahead and found each track marker for us. That was his usual method for many years, he would wait for the group at the next track marker or the next fork in the path.

Actually, while I am writing non-library stuff, I may add another amusing Kings Canyon anecdote. I took my mother to see the canyon a few years ago. My eldest would have been about 9 and she did the rim walk in a pair of strappy sandals because she had left her bag in Alice Springs and we didn't realise until we got to Hermensberg, at which point I was not turning back. We looked for a pair of sneakers at the Hermensberg shop but there were none in her size, so she spent 3 days in the clothes she was wearing with the addition of an expensive tourist t-shirt from the service station at the resort.

Anyway, this walk will be the youngest's first overnight walk. Middle child has done one overnighter with scouts, but it was a short trial hike to see how they coped with the idea. So I am looking forward to the fun of the walk and seeing how the kids cope with sleeping out under the stars at -2 Celsius and carrying everything you need on your back. And by everything I mean a sleeping bag and some water, I imagine I will be a pack mule for their food and plates and other stuff. After all I don't want them to hate the experience. It is fantastic that all 3 of my kids are now old enough to do this stuff, so I can get back out there myself. Although, the other thing is that the kids are now also old enough that I can ignore them and go off and do things by myself sometimes too. So, this walk is a warmup for the overland track in January. And for that walk only miss 14 will be joining me. Not that we are walking alone, but she is the only one of the kids who is coming along.

So, the short version of that story is...
I am probably nearing the end of my posts for June, but I will be quite a few posts shy of the magic number 30.

15 June, 2010

no ritalin = no regular updates?

It has been a long weekend here, and Friday before the long weekend was a school day at the beach. As such I have had 4 days ritalin free and am feeling damned depressed about how much I have come to depend on my magic tablets. The funny thing (ha ha) is that I am probably more productive sans ritalin that I was pre ritalin but (as I have bemoaned here on the blog before) having seen the matrix, I can't go back to the life I once lived. I am aware that it is all just a computer program. No, mean I am aware that I am not the same person without the drug.

But, I am at work ritalin free today anyway. Why? Well, there are only 2 days of 'work' this week followed by 2 days of PD. So, being as it is the end of term, I think I can manage to check in the piles of returning textbooks without the brain firing on the frontal lobe, so rather than have a couple of days of ritalin followed by 2 weeks 'straight edge' I will make it 3 weeks without the junk and then with luck I can kick the mild depression that comes with the drug free world for me these days.

Oh, and because of the vagaries of the English language, that is a different depression to the one I mentioned earlier. Sure, I get 'depressed' when I realise I am not functioning as I could be. But that is probably more a mild annoyance. But when I don't take the ritalin I get a bit of actual depression. Nothing major, no need for people to remove sharp objects from my house or anything, but I do find that I can come to depend (ever so slightly) on the boost that ritalin gives me.

There is no punch line at the end of this post.

11 June, 2010

Some music, just because...

and some more.

listening to these tracks after having spent a day at the beach with a group of kids. Something I never got paid to do as an academic librarian.
Not sure what that has to do with my taste in music. But I do quite like these tracks (no idea why I went looking for them)

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the Dead Eyes Opened part of the first track comes from the transcript of a real murder case. While much of the second comes from a John Waters film.

This isn't the style of music I usually listen to, but these two tracks are very well done.

10 June, 2010

Slightly longer than a twitter update

The lesson for school librarians today is...

When a student with behavioural issues tells you that if you tell them to get off the computer they will "punch you in the balls".

Believe them.

That said, this sort of behaviour is noting new for a librarian. I remember a homeless man pulling a knife on one of the security guards one night when were were kicking everyone out of the state library.

I also remember a tiny little woman walking into Alice Springs library holding a large branch, walking up behind her husband (who was watching a video) and belting him across the head. When I ran over to stop her going for a second swing she looked at me and said "but he hits me" in such a sweet old lady voice.

Or, there was a patron once who refused to get off the computer (a backpacker) so I flicked the power switch off with my toe and guided him (bitching and moaning) to the exit with my hand on his back giving him a gentle shove. 5 minutes later a police officer turned up to investigate the report of a librarian assaulting a tourist. (at this point all the ladies in the large print section came over and explained to the officer that the nice librarian was; 1 a librarian and 2 nice, while the tourist was neither.)

Looking back on the library jobs I have had...
I do note that I did not see any violence during my 2 years in a theological library, nor during the 2 years I worked in cataloguing.
But the school seems to have better policies in place to deal with these things than any other library I have worked in. Not only did I know who to report the incident to, but I was kept informed about what they were doing/saying. Yep I think I like that about schools (well, that and students with behavioural issues tend to be smaller and less psychotic than the homeless).

09 June, 2010

The post which never was

I started writing a post entitled The Lazy Librarian with the idea that there was a slow food version of the librarian. But today is not the day for that post. I know this because I have written and deleted the first paragraph multiple times. So, today is a flag, a reminder to myself to write this post some other time. It also stands as a reminder to you, that if you want to read that post, you could give me a nudge in the right direction. So, unfortunately today's blog is more of an exploration of what happens when you have committed to writing but can not get your thoughts in order.

But, without having a coherent post on the topic, here are a few spoilers...

Do you want a librarian who can't be distracted by an interesting book when they are shelving?
Did you study for a McJob, but with books instead of burgers?

08 June, 2010

the meme I missed

Do you snack while reading?
I can, but it is not something I have to do. More often than not I read in bed, so I tend to be too lazy to get up if I feel peckish.

What is your favourite drink while reading?
That would be be a home made Masala Chai (for reading in bed) or a Peperjack Ale (for reading in the sun during the day).

Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I am not horrified by the idea, but unless I am reading for a specific purpose I don't.

How do you keep your place? Bookmark? Dog ear? Laying the book open flat?
Most often the current book is open flat, while the 4 or 5 others (the backburner) have some sort of bookmark. Usually my bookmark is a business card or receipt, I tend to be careful what I use as I have twice found birth certificates in returned library books and once I found the sexual heath report of one of the lecturers (you will be pleased to know he did not have herpes).

Fiction, non-fiction or both?
Definitely both, at one stage it was all fiction (unless it was required reading for uni) but I now read more philosophy, theology and pop-science than fiction.

Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere?
I stop when ever I want (unless it is a great book, in which case I will read until I have finished the entire book. As a 10 year old I loved The Lord of the Rings so much I read the whole trilogy in under a week, under my desk at school, under my bed at night, doing nothing else until I was finished.)

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
No, but I am not one to throw objects at all.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
No, I work it out through the context or hope if I keep reading it will become clear.

What are you currently reading?
Essays in love is the current book. On the back burner (as in, still reading them but not as much as the other one) are God for a secular society and The Human Mind. I need to add a bit of youth fiction to the list for work purposes.

What is the last book you bought?
That would be Essays in love.

Do you have a favourite time/place to read?
I don't have a time or a place for anything. Whatever I want, when I want (as long as the kids don't complain too much)

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?
I prefer a stand alone, but I don't mind (with fiction) a reoccurring character, like with the early David Gemmell books, so they do not depend on each other but the more you read the more you understand (I like the way Pratchett does the same with his books).

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
If I like a book I will lend it to someone who I think will like it (I usually then forget to get it back, which is OK because otherwise I would have no room for a bed). But, what I recommend depends on who I am talking to and I recommend to a lot of very different people.

How do you organise your books (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)?
There are some vague runs of books on similar topics, but for the most part there is no organisation other than fiction, non-fiction, kids books (but even that is not a hard and fast rule).

Roosevelt would not approve of my actions

Yes folks, I have been an isolationist and it is time for that to change. I have been a school librarian for half a school year now and during that time I have been introspective. I have looked at my collection with a librarian's eye and begun to weed and to purchase. I have changed some of the rules and tried to make the library a friendly place. I have interacted with the students who come to the library and enjoyed it.

But this can only go on or so long. Once I pick the low hanging fruit of furniture rearranging and encyclopaedia buying I will need to engage with Old Europe the teaching faculty in order to inform my future directions. I will need to begin doing things like, buying for what they will study next term, rather than looking at what they are studying as they study it. But to do this I will need to go on the occasional diplomatic mission. At the moment, I keep the library open until 5, allowing the students to use the facilities after school (at the moment it is 4:30 and I have about 35 students in here. Most, but not all, are borders). But my 5pm finish means I have an 8:30 start. That in turn means I miss out on the 8:00 staff meetings (well, I do sometimes get in early because I don't like being kept in the dark about the day's plans). But I think I will suggest I change my hours, so I get in at 8:00 for the meetings and close the library at 4:30.

Then I will need to start having regular meetings with faculty heads. Do I ignore them now? No I talk to them every chance I get, but there is nothing structured and no record of what we have discussed. Do the faculty heads need another meeting? I doubt it, so I think I might suggest I pop my head in to their regular meetings. Although, that will mean I need someone else to sit at the circ desk on the days of those meetings otherwise the after-school kids may get here and ind the doors locked (which is not a good outcome).

Yep, time for me to proclaim my own Truman doctrine of support for teachers in the face of a rising tide of world wide ignorance.

07 June, 2010

ADHD again

I am not organised enough to catalogue my distractions, but sometimes I notice days where the ADHD me is much bigger than usual. Today is such a day, but I have probably only really noticed because of the blog every day of June thing that a few of us are flirting with. Last week, it seems, I was alert and focused and able to articulate what I wanted to say (albeit that I am aware my posts contain much in the way of my personal unique syntax).

On the weekend I wrote an outline for a post on being a Lazy Librarian (perhaps something along the lines of slow food vs fast food). This was interesting because

  1. I wrote an outline, rather than writing stream of consciousness
  2. I wrote my outline with a pencil on crisp white unlined paper in my notebook/journal
However, today being a nice day of; brain fuzz, shiny objects and such things I have left my notebook at home.

This would seem to be a bad sign. And, were you a potential employer, you may be tempted to say "the man writing this post has just told me he is often crap at things which would impact on his work". However, this is untrue. I just have these days, you know. But having had these days all my life I have discovered ways of dealing with them. So, today I am not working on any long term planning documents. Rather I am browsing all sorts of library things and reading emails from teacher librarians which I have in the past flagged as worth reading. I have been up and opening boxes on high shelves which I haven't looked at before and working out whether to throw out their contents.

It just means knowing what to do on these days, and luckily a librarian has a variety of tasks so I can choose what to do on a mental health day rather than just phoning up and saying "I can't come to work today because I am useless"

04 June, 2010


Yesterday I mentioned, in passing, a post entitled Does every librarian need to be an involved expert on everything? Well, without worrying about the actual direction that that post takes, I thought I would ask myself if as I librarian I am (or should be) an expert on everything.

Firstly, I must state that I am (obviously) an expert on everything. That is not in doubt. But I need to know, is it a required skill for my job? As the chemist said to the incontinent customer, the answer is depends.

If you are the librarian in the BP library of oil leak fixology, then obviously you don't need to know very much about the current state of Chick-Lit. Although, it is possible that the current BP library of oil leak fixology is stocked with nothing but chick-lit. It certainly seems to be refreshingly untainted by books on the correct operation of; diamond bladed, robot operated, underwater saws.

But, while the BP librarian may be expected to know a bit more about petroleum and engineering than I do, I don't think it is too much to expect them to also have knowledge of metadata, search strategies, online privacy issues and such things. Some understanding of social media could be good too, although I would assume BP have a slightly bigger budget than my school and as such can probably afford to hire a social media douchebag to work on their free 2.o online stuff. (although, do they really want a facebook site with only 752 people who like them? And, do you think it is smart that they still have a 'Related global posts' feed which puts every whiny comment about their recent little technical error onto their front page?).

But that wasn't the point I started to make. My point, is that if you are a public librarian, school librarian or academic librarian (well, other than those faculty librarians) you are much better at your job if you are a generalist rather than a specialist. Sure in a big library system you know who is a fan of obscure 1940s Jazz musicians and who is the aspergers type librarian who knows everything there is to know about trains. But you don't want to be ducking out to the tea room for help every time there is an enquiry which doesn't fit into the exact subject area of your undergraduate major.

Confession time, I am not an expert on everything. I just appear that way to others due to a wonderful mix of overconfidence and a reasonable general knowledge. So, no I don't think a librarian should be an expert on everything but I think a good librarian in a Jack of all trades. While a great librarian is a Jack of all trades and a master of one or two. Should we all be social media gurus? Probably not, but we should all be good enough to be able to follow the online prompts at a pinch. We should be more than just literate, more than multi-literate, we should be mega multi meta-literate. We should be able to adapt our skills to most any situation and know enough of what we don't know to know that we don't know it but know how to find out what it is in this context, then use our knowledge of our lack of knowledge to fill the gaps in our knowledge for our clients.

(shouldn't we?)

03 June, 2010

Playing by the rules

I had a chat with someone about whether they should join one of the teacher librarian email lists. Would it lead to them developing a greater disrespect for their colleagues, was the gist of the question. My answer was basically yes, which is interesting because I am glad to be part of the list. Yet, most of the posts are irrelevant things which clog my inbox and there are plenty of questions which I think any librarian worth more than $2.50 an hour should already know. But then I need to remind myself, a lot of these people are working in isolation from the librarian arm of their profession. They don't get support to attend conferences, they don't have the time or inclination to read all of the odd stuff which I read online. Their stupid departments won't let them look at youtube or even boing boing at work, they probably don't read EFF or think much about DRM or Creative Commons...

So, I forgive these people for asking stupid questions. The ones that drive me mad are the ones who don't realise they don't know anything, who will leap up with an opinion despite actually having less sense than the poor person asking the question (who at least knows they are ignorant on the topic).

An example? Why, yes I do have an example...
Downloading You Tube clips is a bit like kids in the candy store. You can't always have what you want - no matter how much money you have or how much you want it. Describing how to circumvent the 'you cannot have this to store and keep' rules - to me - is a bit like telling kids it's OK to steal from the candy store if they don't have enough money! The bottom line is - if you cannot live without a particular clip, contact the person who posted it and ask for their permission. If permission is not given - for whatever reason - too bad, so sad. The world will not end. We can't always have what we want. One of the difficulties with sites like You Tube - while they have fantastic and often hilarious clips that would engage students, they are quite often a mix of original and 'copied' material. This may mean that the person who posted the clip doesn't have the right to give you the right. If you are seriously trying to do the right thing in regard to copyright, you need to be cautious about this aspect in particular.
Did I roll my eyes and get back to cataloguing? No, I can't do that. I needed to surgically excise the stupid before it infected others. The trouble is, the sharpest tool in my surgical kit is the rubber mallet of sarcastic insults.

I'm going to argue with a few points you have made,

Firstly, while I applaud the idea that schools should play by the rules, it is important to remember that we play by different rules. This is not a bad thing, in education we are looking after the interests of our students first and foremost. And the education of our students is an important issue for the nation as a whole. Australia needs an educated populace, so why should we be bound by the same rules as the great unwashed sitting at home watching you-tube for a laugh? We pay for screen rights, we have copyright exemptions (some of which have been hard fought to get and some of which we may lose in the future if society continues to act like the special interest group of publishers, record companies and film studios has some sort of monopoly on deciding what is in our best interest).

To continue your you-tube/candy store analogy. We are not random candy store customers, we are market researchers bringing in new mouths/brains for a taste testing session. If the candy store owner demands that the kids who come in with us pay for the candy we have asked them to taste then it is a candy store run by a moron of the highest order.

To drag the analogy even further. The person behind the counter in the candy store is not always the owner. Just as the person who posted the clip is not always the copyright holder. So asking them may be completely pointless. There is a lot of content on youtube which it is perfectly legal for us to use without having to ask permission, so why add unnecessary steps to your process? I know you recognised the person who posted the clip doesn't always hold the copyright, but the example you gave of "a mix of original and 'copied' material" fails to take into account that it is often perfectly legal to use extracts of another's work. It is also legal to use someone else's work for parody or criticism. There are a whole manner of legal ways to use someone else's intellectual property. Sure, you should be making sure you give proper attribution but that is another issue.

Likewise, when it comes to adding content to an intranet or a moodle style site. Yes, asking for permission works, but why go to all that trouble if you can legally do it under the current copyright framework? I know that when I am asked about things like this it is more often something which is needed in the next five minutes (or on a good day, tomorrow). Your chances of getting a reply in that timeframe are slim at best but remember, we have all sorts of educational exemptions we can use.

Using the exemptions and licences we have as educational institutions is not robbing the candy store. No, wait, I am going to use an exclamation mark! Perhaps even two!!

Not only that, asking permission to use something you are already entitled to use just creates work for the poor fool who created the work you are using (as well as for you). I know a couple of very frustrated people who write very rude and sarcastic emails when people ask if they can use the Creative Commons licensed photos they have on flickr. Sure it isn't the fault of the masses that they are unaware of the different types of licence which can be used. But we are not the masses, we are specialists and this is our field. If we don't do this properly ourselves, how can we stand up before a government enquiry and tell them that not only are we worth having, but they need more of us and we could do with a pay rise thanks for asking?

The kids who come to my school deserve every opportunity I can give them. If there is an exemption I can use which will save me a few dollars then I will use it because every saving I make means they have more resources available to them. If there is a technology I can use which will save the time of the teachers in this school, then I will exploit it because any time I can save them is time they can use for the school, for the students or for themselves (and most of them deserve it).

(now to continue the candy store analogy to the nth degree, if I go to the candy store and buy a bag of ginger creams the candy store owner does not tell me that I have to eat them all myself. He doesn't get to tell me where I can eat them, if I give the bag to a friend he doesn't care, if I haven't eaten them in a certain time frame he doesn't get to reclaim them. Plus, if I come in and take a photo of the ginger creams he can't charge me with shoplifting. nor can he charge me with any crime if I go home and make my own ginger creams. In fact if I go into his store and he is rude to me, so I go buy my ginger creams at another shop there is still nothing he can do about it.)

Some of you may enjoy this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeTybKL1pM4 (sorry it is youtube, my school lets me go there because someone at my school had common sense at some point, I don't know who they were, but I thank them). To get on my soapbox a bit more here, there is a broken business model out there and there are plenty of people within the publishing, film and recording industries who recognise it but it is likely that the current copyright regimen will need to collapse completely before we get any real reform. The question of how we in schools deal with that in the meanwhile is fraught (at best). To compare copying to theft is a flawed analogy. But to compare copying in an educational setting to theft is not just flawed it is wilfully denying access to information and potentially (given we are often the copyright specialists in our schools) confusing the hell out of a whole host of teachers and students.

Why I didn't quit facebook

A couple of days ago it was Quit Facebook Day. The idea seemed to have spread online that facebook was an information vampire (and not a baseball playing, sparkly one). It was sucking up your (and your friends) information, it was causing you to be unemployable. You know because of all those photos of you drinking absinthe and biting the heads of budgies could decrease your chance of getting that job working for the Sydney Anglicans' department of being very, very moral.

Stephen Abram had an interesting post on the subject. Walt Crawford had a different view. But I didn't quit, I didn't not quit because of the recent changes to their privacy settings but I did not quit because facebook still works for me. It allows me to keep in contact with a few groups of people I would probably not keep in contact with otherwise. Not that I don't want to be in contact, but rather that I am lazy about things like letter writing. it also allows me to let people who seem to want to be in contact with me for some reason feel like they are in contact. Sure, I hide their feeds so I don't have to be bothered by their inane prattle. What was the point again?

I didn't quit facebook, I have however deactivated all my email accounts because I am worried about all the Nigerian email I get.

Countering the facebook experience is the fact that I haven't been on second life in almost three years. Why? Well, while facebook, despite its flaws is still best for what it does, Second Life doesn't actually seem to me to do anything. I enjoyed second life, met a few library folk there whom I may not have met in meat space, but it didn't do anything for me. I see SL as being an idea of what is to come, so I think it behoves information professionals to be familiar with the technology, to test it and see what we can do with it. But I have done that and am waiting for what comes next. That said, I didn't need to sign onto a web site to tell people I wasn't using SL. I didn't have to convince others to quit with me, nor did I even delete my account, just like I didn't delete my geocities account, nor make any announcement to tell people I don't use my yahoo chat any more. To move to the furthest reaches of sarcasm, I didn't send out a press release when I decided not to buy a new microfiche reader for Alice Springs Public Library. Dead tech doesn't need to be announced it just fades away.

02 June, 2010

What am I missing?

One of my recent posts got this comment
"Ms. Yingling said... Wow. I am sorry that you are so angry about so many things. The one thing I did notice is that you speak very infrequently about books. I do very little with technology because so much of my time is spent as Readers' Advisor, and that works very well for me. I hope that things improve in your world"
So, I decided to think about what I am missing in my current way of running a school library.
For example, today in the library I had a Wolfmother concert playing on my IWB. It was loud and raucous (kind of like a lot of my students). I wandered around the place, laughing at the kids who were photocopying bits of their anatomy (I think we need to get some sort of swipe card system on the copier before I end up finding copies of bits of anatomy I do not wish to see) and generally being social. I didn't do much reader advisory (I let one of the senior girls into the back room to look at the new books and asked her opinion of what I've been buying) but I did talk book with a couple of students (and x box with a couple of others).

The library here is not yet a hub of literary activity. Borrowers are the minority of my users, the majority would be here for; computers, air-conditioning, a social space or a safe place from the confusing melee of the playground. Does that make me any less a librarian or my role any less librarianish? Well, it probably depends on where you have been and what you have done. Working in Alice Springs Public Library I spent as much time dealing with the homeless as I did dealing with reference requests. The library there was also a safe place for the disenfranchised and a cool place in the NT heat and we aimed to walk a balance between being a drop in centre for those who had fallen through the cracks in society and being a source of fiction reading and a location for research. After all, the homeless were as much our patrons as the backpackers who wanted internet access and they were still going to be part of our community when the American servicemen and women of the Pine Gap Base took their return flight.

But even in the less socially disadvantaged Penrith, I worked for a library service which aimed to be at least part social space. I organised cartooning workshops for the school holidays, clowns, musicians. I once had a drumming workshop, foolishly I decided to have it in the main library rather than in our theaterette as I wanted all the patrons to feel part of the school holiday program. Some of our Mills and Boone readers didn't seem to see it that way.

Which takes me to another point, it isn't that long ago that the idea of fiction in a library (especially populist fiction) got librarians all hot and bothered. Now we have those who seem to feel their job is all about fiction (which sometimes it is, check your job description if you are unsure). But if you are a school librarian you have much, much more to be working on.

In a recent post, Teresa Bennett touched on the idea that some librarians are not teaching information literacy skills to their students citing the example of a TL who directed library staff to put‘selections of items from the class topic on a trolley so the students wouldn’t have to waste time finding items in the catalogue or on the shelf. NomesD took it a bit further in a comment on the same post saying
"academic librarians have to deal with the utter ineptitude of so many TLs when their students get to university. So many students have never found a book, have no idea what a call number system is, let alone how to use keywords, or how to - God forbid - evaluate information, especially on the internet."
And having worked in a couple of academic libraries I can clearly state that there have been many (oh so many) students who get to Uni with fantastic traditional literacy skills but a complete ineptitude when it comes to finding information. So, it turns out that librarians telling students how to find information, rather than spoon feeding them facts, are not causing the students to waste their time. Rather they are teaching valuable skills, skills which will be needed if that student decides they are going to go on to further study.

So, why do I speak infrequently about books? Especially being as I love books, be it curling up with some Kierkegaard or de Botton for my own amusement or reading Isobelle Carmody because, despite disliking her writing style, I do feel I need to know my collection and what my students are reading. Why don't I devote huge chunks of my blog to reviewing the books which sit on my bookshelves? Well I read and love reading but people reading this blog are by and large librarians, I don't need to sell them on the idea of books. Nor do I need to expound on the benefits of literacy we are all aware that reading is fantastic.

So, does doing what I do work for me (and more importantly my students). It is still to early to tell, but in a school of 500 students I average about 60 students in the library each lunch break. I am taking that as a good sign, just like I am taking the fistbumps and high fives I get when I go to the shops on the weekend as a good sign (please don't tell me they are being ironic. I love my delusion).

The next step though is to get more of those kids who come in here to find the reading material that rocks their world (not just the old copies of Where did I come from). But it is also to get those kids who are online doing their work to understand how to reference the stuff they have used, how to find better stuff than they did last time and how to make sense of the masses of data that exist. And it is also, getting the kids who are playing games or watching videos of people being hit in the balls by children, to feel comfortable enough in the library and with me that when they decide they are going to work that they can ask me for help.

So yes what I do works damn well for me and if things improved any more in my world I would imagine I was dreaming.

Chipping at the edges

As I have mentioned before, the school I am currently for has a rather neglected library. It has been under funded and under staffed for a while now. So I am here to, among other things, get the place up to scratch.

But, I do find sometimes that my mind gets me into some sort of state of inaction. I look at al the 30 year old books on environmental issues and the books on terrorism which discuss the possible ways we could deal with the IRA (and don't mention Islam at all) and think, right first I have to weed. But then I look at the bent shelves and think, no first some general tidying. However at that point I look at our new (but odd shaped) tables and think, no I need to find a way to reconfigure the space, but no point doing that until I move some shelving to create space. Though, moving would be easier if I bought wheels for the shelves. That said, I should probably buy some new uprights because some of our shelving is too tall for our middle school students. But is there any point doing that before the builders come in and knock out a couple of walls because then I would be in a better situation to realign things...

There is more to it than that, but you get the idea. I am looking at so much work that I get confused. I do need to do another big weed (so far I am only up to the 600s) but the part time TL they had last year didn't spend all of the budget so there is a lot of buying I need to do and I don't want to leave that too long.

My point? Do I have one?
It is that no matter how much I do on any given day, I still leave feeling like I have hardly scratched the surface of what needs to be done.

Despite that, the Principal brought some people over (who they were or where they were from I didn't find out) but they came to talk to me about building type things. Which walls I want knocked down, where I want my circ desk moved to, where I want new walls built, which of the bizarre nooks and crannies in this stupidly inappropriate building could be filled in to create new bits of building (and to make the library less hexagonal).

So, I know that I am being supported in my plans to make this library not just pretty, but usable. Now all I need to do is put this mental block aside and choose any of the things on my list to do today.

01 June, 2010

The Australian Library Blogosphere Exploods

(which is kind of like exploding, only quieter, as befitting a library)

I don't know...

Shall I start again?
Well, over the last half an hour twitter has been abuzz with the idea that we should blog every day for the month. I won't explain too much, if you care to know more you can check out CW, Snail or Libraries Interact.

So, what new things do I have to say that make it worth blogging every day? Oh, wait. I am not going to blog every day (didn't I mention that?). Sure it seems like a good idea, but I think instead I will blog every workday. So, no public holiday posts and no posts at the end of the month when I am working the Larapinta trail (no, not all of it).

Damn, I distracted myself from my own question,
What will I blog about?
Probably I will try to put online a few of the ideas I have about the library camp section of the ALIA Access conference and see if any of you folk can help me get my head around some library related stuff.

04 May, 2010

why do they hate me?

OK, perhaps I am being over dramatic (and perhaps posting this on my blog rather than as a reply to the list I will be talking about is a tad passive aggressive?) but...

The recent government enquiry into school libraries has lead to a spike in posts on the OZTL_NET list. Amongst these posts (and here) there have been some at which I take umbrage, but I have decided not to engage in a land war in Asia pointless online argument. Instead, I will work out my thinking here on the blog and then decide whether I have anything to add to the debate.

What has been said?

Well, in short there have been questions asked about how to properly staff and resource a school library. There have been some, nay, plenty of very good arguments for teacher librarians (TLs), but then some TLs have taken a slightly different tack and argued against public librarians (seems to be shorthand for non-teacher librarians) and their suitability in a school setting.

as a school librarian who has come to this position via (amongst other things) public libraries I have found a lot of the negative stuff rather affronting. Take these extracts (from a couple of different people) for example

A public librarian might learn *some* of these (teaching) skills through the school of hard knocks, their own child-rearing, journal articles, or short professional development courses...
It's a legality that while students are at school they *must* be under the supervision of fully-trained teachers at all times. If a school opted to staff its school library with parent helpers, clerical assistants, or a former public librarian, the students could not legally be left alone in their presence.
In Australia, public librarians are not teachers in the sense of having a teaching qualification and therefore an understanding of pedagogy, curriculum, student management and administration and all those sorts of things... They may have learned about information literacy and children's lit during their qualification but it is all that other stuff... that requires that extra year at least.

A non-teaching librarian (with no teacher qualifications) might be called upon to demonstrate skills to library patrons, but they wouldn't be designing a program of lessons (for school students) with no teacher input.
Can I argue with these people? What do I offer that a TL does not or what don't I offer that a TL does and am I just being over-sensitive when I feel insulted by these posts (and others like them)?

Before I reply, I will make it clear that I am thinking for the most part about high school libraries, rather than primary school libraries. I think a TL is much more important in a primary school setting. That said, given the choice between a teacher who is not a librarian and a librarian who is not a teacher I would suggest the library needs the librarian more but the public system in Australia does not make employing a librarian possible while many of the school librarians I meet are teachers not TLs.

Public librarians are not teachers...
No, fair call, I am not a teacher. In fact I keep forgetting what a pedagogy is, but does that disqualify me from performing my duties here?
I don't believe so. Sure, perhaps others here are better trained in the theory of teaching but unfortunately a lot of them don't know the things which I teach. Search strategies, referencing... There seem to be a lot of gaps in the knowledge of many teachers in these areas. Would these gaps exist in the knowledge of a TL? I would certainly hope not but then, just as I know plenty of overly conservative librarians who are reluctant to embrace change there are plenty of TLs who are in the same situation. TLs who still act like the book is the be all and end all of the profession, who engage in petty and pointless arguments with students about the unsuitability of wikipedia or whose library are dry vaults, tombs to the memory of a bookcentric information gathering process.

As a non-TL, I may be called upon (so these folk believe) to demonstrate skills, but little more. Well, in fact no. I am writing lessons (and have delivered lessons) to students on topics relevant to the library, to research, copyright, referencing. Yes, I have done so at the behest of a teacher and that teacher has been present with me when I have delivered the lesson. But there has been enough respect shown for my professionalism to allow me to deliver the lesson as I see fit.
It is interesting that in my last position, no one thought it inappropriate for me to write and deliver lessons to students in higher education (including those studying for a B Ed). So, somehow I am qualified to teach teachers, but not to teach their students?

Now, of course my last job was as an academic librarian rather than as a public librarian. But I did feel that the public librarian term was being used as a catch all term for non-TLs. Still, in defence of the public librarian... As a public librarian (Children's and Youth Services) I was regularly invited into schools by TLs or teachers to talk to students about research skills, to demonstrate databases and to teach them how best to use these resources. No one ever asked to see my proposed lessons beforehand. No one ever saw fit to correct my pedagogy (can you correct a pedagogy?). Plus, the public library is often the place where kids come and do their research. And due to the rarity of a kid who knew what the hell they were doing when it came to researching their work the public librarians are often the ones to teach that skill. Now, sure the one on one nature of teaching research skills in a public library make it very diferent from a classroom but it is certainly not an unusual thing for a public librarian to be doing.

The legalities of leaving students supervised by non-teachers vary from State to State but as a non-teacher I certainly would not want to be shuffled off sideways and told to teach year 9 English. In fact, even were I a qualified teacher, I wouldn't want to be shuffled off sideways into a classroom because that would cause all sorts of problems for the correct running of the library. Indeed, that is (at least part of) the reason why my school decided to employ a non-TL. Because I am here and can not be dragged off to become a free relief teacher.

Yet, despite the fact I am not a teacher it is quite legal (here in the NT) for me to be running the library at lunch time and after school (we average about 65 kids in the place at lunch). This does involve student management which, despite my never having done my Dip Ed is not dissimilar to the sort of crowd control I would use in a busy public library. In fact, at one stage in one public library I would regularly be doing storytime for 90 pre-school kids. So yes I have learned these skills in the school of hard knocks.

Which leads me onto another aspect of this public library dissing. Where do teachers learn their student management? I would say in the school of hard knocks, the same way I learned. Why would I say that? Because I have friends who are teachers, I work with teachers and I have watched teachers. New graduate teachers do not arrive fully operational and ready to go. Just as new grad librarians do not have all the skills they need. They arrive with some ideas, some part formed skills gained during practicum and they leap out of their nest and try to fly. The theory you gain during your studies in a good resource, it gives you something to model your style on and something to fall back on when things don't work but it is not everything. I have seen new grad teachers who have the personality to leap into a classroom and do all they need to do with consummate ease. But I have also seen teachers with years under their belt who crumble (or worse yet, begin screaming and shouting) at the first sign of dissent of defiance.

The bit of paper is unfortunately no indicator of how well someone will perform under real world conditions so, in the right school, with the right conditions and the right person I stand here and tell you a Public Librarian can do the job and do it well.

Andrew (librarian idol, who is like me an ex-public librarian now working as a school librarian) wrote a post where he looked at the difference between the deprofessionalisation of librarians and the employing on non-TLs in schools. I would like to suggest that employing a librarian is not in any way deprofessionalising. It is looking for a different skillset, but my skills are every bit as professional as a TL. Unfortunately, the posts I have been reading (and the comments on Andrew's blog) seem to clump all non teachers into one big basket, so the arguments against employing a librarian are the same as those against staffing your library with a support officer or with parent volunteers. This is unfortunately a very disingenuous line of reasoning and completely ignores the professionalism of a librarian.

Like Andrew, I recognise that a Dip Ed could "enhance my current skills" and unlike Andrew I am lucky enough to be in a position where my employer would support me in gaining that nice bit of paper. But, if I were to go out and get it, my reason would be that it makes me more employable, not that it is in any way necessary to do my job and do it well.

30 April, 2010

Argh, some things are new. Lets all panic!

If I may quote the principal of this? school...
(emphasis is mine)
...It is time for every single member of the BF Community to take a stand!
There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! Let me repeat that - there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None...

Most students are part of more than one social networking site.
Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still) and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social networking site. Today!

Let them know that you will at some point every week be checking their text messages online! You have the ability to do this through your cell phone provider.

Let them know that you will be installing Parental Control Software so you can tell every place they have visited online, and everything they have instant messaged or written to a friend. Don't install it behind their back, but install it!

Over 90% of all homework does not require the internet, or even a computer. Do not allow them to have a computer in their room, there is no need...
Have a central "docking station" preferably in your bedroom, where all electronics in the home get charged each night, especially anything with a cell or wifi capability (Remember when you were in high school and you would sneak the phone into your bedroom at midnight to talk to you girlfriend or boyfriend all night - now imagine what they can do with the technology in their rooms).

If your son or daughter is attacked through one of these sites or through texting - immediately go to the police! Insist that they investigate every situation. Also, contact the site and report the attack to the site - they have an obligation to suspend accounts or they are liable for what is written...

The threat to your son or daughter from online adult predators is insignificant compared to the damage that children at this age constantly and repeatedly do to one another through social networking sites or through text and picture messaging.

It is not hyperbole for me to write that the pain caused by social networking sites is beyond significant - it is psychologically detrimental and we will find out it will have significant long term effects, as well as all the horrible social effects it already creates.

I will be more than happy to take the blame off you as a parent if it is too difficult to have the students close their accounts, but it is time they all get closed and the texts always get checked...

Some people advocate that the parents and the school should teach responsible social networking to students because these sites are part of the world in which we live. I disagree, it is not worth the risk to your child to allow them the independence at this age to manage these sites on their own, not because they are not good kids or responsible, but because you cannot control the poor actions of anonymous others...

Anthony Orsini
Principal, BFMS
I think I have already expressed the idea that schools should be about schooling and that if the teachers of my kids were to start intruding into our lives outside of school I would be expressing my displeasure quite bluntly.

There is some decent advice in this message in terms of being aware what your kids are up to, but there is so much stupidity that it beggars belief. I think it may be time for people to pull out their copies of On Liberty and see if they like anything John Stuart Mill wrote. What? Doesn't everyone have a copy of On Liberty?
Well, then go to a library and borrow a copy!

The tyranny of the majority shouldn't be what drives our decision making. Sure it is hard sometimes in a school setting to deal with the individual. I see teachers still using the cry "one of you is talking so you will all stay back" and I remember the mouthy young kid I was. I remember often wanting to get up and walk out rather than accept the punishment for the actions of others (and sometimes I did).

But, how can we think this is acceptable behaviour? Because they are younger than us, is this the only reason?

I know that some people (mostly on the left) have the idea that the real purpose of school is to create grist for the mill. We are all sent into these factories to be indoctrinated in order that we become good plebs and live our lives in the role society hands us. I hate that idea and don't believe that is what modern schooling should be about. We are not creating cannon fodder for the frontline or mindless drones, we are here to help small humans to become the best adults they can be.

So, perhaps "...the school should teach responsible social networking to students because these sites are part of the world in which we live..." but even if that is not our role, it is certainly not our role to prevent them engaging with that part of our modern world.

Do I teach responsible social networking. Well, not exactly. It comes up when I talk to the kids about online research, but the social networking sites are blocked by the NT education department. Perhaps it is logical to ensure there aren't too many shiny things to distract the kids but it does mean we are not engaging with the kids through those networks. There is no twitter back channel displaying school news (although, I am hoping I can get one up and running some time soon). There is no library facebook page with research hints, I would like there to be one but even if there was the students would only be able to access it from home. And any parents who listen to a Luddite like the one quoted above would be preventing their kids from joining the conversation anyway.

To quote Mill "
over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign" this includes the freedom to hold an opinion and the freedom to publish it (I'm not sure Mill would have used facebook as his medium, but I strongly suspect he would have supported your right to twitter inanely and blog without censorship).

Goodhart goes to school

Are you familiar with Goodhart's law?
No, not Godwin's Law of NAZI analogies. While that may have some impact on your school or library (teaching kids how to debate or write signs for a teabagger rally), Goodhart's law is the one I was wanting to think about today.

Goodhart came up with his law during the Thatcher years in Britain and it related to monetary policy. In brief it suggests that measuring something changes it (yes, that is similar to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle but that is quantum theory and I don't usually like the idea of assuming that what is true of waveforms is a universal truth to live my life by). But Goodhart goes further than that, to suggest that in finance or social policy the change makes the measuring unsuitable for its original purpose.

A government decides to test all students nationwide to determine how well students are reaching certain educational markers (good idea).
but then...

Private schools work out that they can use a bit of game theory and teach specifically to the test. Thus improving their appearance of success (but not necessarily improving real world outcomes for their students).

So, our public schools follow suit (teaching to the test). Private schools must then raise their performance again, so poorly performing students are jettisoned before the testing date or given a convenient diagnosis of ADHD or dyslexia to allow them extra time on the test.

Before you know it you have a test which measures nothing more than the ability of teachers and administrators to play the system.

As you may gather, I see very little of benefit in the information I as a parent can gain from the my school website that our wonderful Labour government has set up. It shows almost nothing which will allow me to work out how my child will perform in a particular school. Not to mention, if I am sending my kids to a public school, I have very little choice where they will attend (the nearest one is usually the rule). So, if I am well off (or willing to make sacrifices) I can send my kids to a private school. But if I am well off I am probably living in a good socio economic area and as such will be close to a well performing school.

This is old news I know. But the complete stupidity of thinking that you can measure the ability of teachers through standardised testing performed every few years is insane and it is about to happen again. Except, it seems a lot of teachers are now willing to take a stand and are refusing to administer the test.

Damn, I have come to the end of my post and have reached no conclusion.

Goodhart's law makes sense to me. There, done.

19 April, 2010

But, all I know of Indian burial grounds I learned from a Stephen King novel

Today my inbox contained an email which I had received via OZTL_NET (cross posted on six other lists) entitled "What does Neil Gaiman know about American Indians?".

This email was from a Professor of American Indian Studies and pointed to a blog post she had written concerning some remarks the Author Neil Gaiman had made in an interview about The Graveyard Book. It seems the professor had concerns that these comments were ill-advised in relation to the true nature of American history.

I shot back a reply to the list (but not to the cross posted lists) saying that I thought the comments made sense in the context of the book (and perhaps made a joke in there about reading comprehension of the original poster).
I considered sending @neilhimself a tweet to let him know there was a blog post out there in the world which seemed to be suggesting he was... ? Racially insensitive, culturally ignorant?
but I decided that I am not such a fanboy that I needed to do that.

A short time later I noticed via the Tweet Tubes that Neil was aware not only of that post, but also of another post which seemed to take things further and suggest that his quote (if not he himself) was racist.

Neil lashed out, using foul language like 'twit' but then recanted and apologised for it. But the damage had been done and internet white knights rode into battle, some defending their hero Neil while others rode in to defend the two bloggers who had called out this racist Brit.

All in all it was a wonderfully amusing internet sideline for me today, but it left me wondering a few things.

Why do people get so offended so easily, why do we all feel we know the authors whose books we read, is this all a storm in a teacup...

oh, and did the original blogger invoke the name of a literary celebrity beloved of many online folk just in order to ramp up some blog traffic? If not, why would she be emailing a list for Australian teacher librarians to mention her blog post?

Apparently there are follow up blog post on the issue, but I don't believe I care to read them. I think I'll read a book instead but if it has Indians in it I will make sure I consider the cultural implications. Ohh, seems spaming newsgroups and bagging authors may be a good method to get your point across?
I wonder if anyone out there in academia is looking at the representations of Indigenous Australians in children's books? I know that Biggles in Australia is appallingly racist but I don't know many kids these days who read about Biggles and his chums. And if I were to come across a kid with a love of the hero of the Camel Squadron, I think I would be able to have a nice conversation about outdated British imperialism and ideas of racial superiority.

31 March, 2010

Don't ask "can I" ask "how can I"

I have noticed during my long career as a school librarian (almost an entire term now), that school librarians seem more likely to ask the question "can I?" when dealing with technological or legal issues.

As in "Can I use this youtube video in class". This is problematic (it seems to me) as the answer that is easiest to give to that sort of question is "no". A no answer is completely safe from a legal standpoint. However, from an educational standpoint it is a crappy answer. Especially as most of the people who are going to answer your question for you are not specialists in the field you are interested in.

Your principal is not a digital media specialist.
Your IT guy is not a copyright lawyer.

I would like it if School Librarians (and teachers themselves) started phrasing their question "How can?"

As in "How can I legally use this youtube clip in a mashup". That way, you are forcing the person you are asking into a different mindset. They may have to answer "I don't know" but they are then admitting they don't know rather than giving you a default "no".

From there, you can move onto finding out the real answer.

You can create mashup works using videos covered by a creative commons licence or of “insubstantial portions” (the words of the act) of a copyright work.
You can get permission from the copyright holder to make use of their work, you could be covered under your educational licence.

Parody and satire do give you another exemption. You can use copyright material for the purposes of parody and satire without permission, provided your use is fair. This would include things like the Hitler videos which were all the rage on youtube recently, where the use of the original work was necessary for the parody to succeed.
(It is worth noting that the act does not define parody or satire, but that probably doesn't mean you can invent your own definition).
You can also make use of an original work without permission if you are doing it or the purposes of criticism or review. So a student could make a video where they analyse works as examples of film making or style and could extract examples from the work they were discussing....

I've been watching this mindset online in the questions TLs are asking each other, but I suspect that the same passive questioning is being used when we ask for;
new shelves,
bay ends,
a bigger budget,
money for a visiting author
a week off to go to a conference...

And that is my thought for the day.
Thank you, come again.

29 March, 2010

My reply

Seems most folk want to reply to me privately on this issue, rather than add any support for me via blog post or on the original e-list.

I wonder why?

Anyway, this was my reply. It took me a while, and is as considered as any of my opinions ever is. And perhaps more thought out than most.

I paste it here unedited.

I am going to take the rope you have given me and use it to hang myself.

Yes, it is a non-issue, I made that statement and I stand by it. It is part of a modern day version of reds under the bed driven by a media who either does not understand the issue or deliberately misrepresents it to the public. This is not trivialising the issue. And I am sorry if it appears that way, however I take the issue very seriously. But no matter how I look at it I just come out with a different conclusion to some of you. Or perhaps it is just because I have looked at the statistics and read the studies, rather than relying on the investigative journalism of Today Tonight for all my fearmongering needs.
Why is it a non-issue?

Because it is part of our current societal belief that we can make the world safe by eliminating risk and danger.
Because it is so statistically unlikely that the fear we put in these kids is more problematic that the danger.
Because the worst case scenario should not be the driving force in all our decisions.

You have personalised the debate, so allow me to personalise it myself. When I was about 13 a very good friend of mine was killed while cycling out to a river for a swim. I often cycled with him, that day I didn't. However, cycling was not to blame. Nor were rivers. It was an unfortunate confluence of events which lead to his death.

What the hell am I talking about? I am talking about the fact that a week or so after his death I cycled the exact same road on my way to the exact same river or a swim. Yet somehow I did not die.

Likewise with your student, there is a horrible confluence of events which no doubt lead to her situation. Yet does that mean that we need to ban metaphorical bicycles? No, it doesn't. It means we do need to teach kids a few things about personal safety but these lessons will be laughed out of the classroom by almost all of our students if they are presented in the paranoid and overly simplistic fashion that some on here have demonstrated.

The idea that a school photo existing online has any parallel with the death of your student would be laughable if it wasn't so often the way the debate is directed. By creating this paranoid fear we are doing damage to our children, this is not just true of online paranoia but of the way children are taught 'stranger danger' or the way I meet so many kids who are too scared to climb a tree or the number of my 8 year old's friends whose parents are too scared to let them ride bikes or walk to school and as such these kids grow up thinking that anything which scares you slightly should be avoided.

There is a line between risk management and risk avoidance, and too many people today seem to have forgotten that kids need to be taught to manage risk rather than have us round off the corners of the world and send them around wrapped in cotton wool.

But enough of me riding my hobby horse. What are the facts? http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV194.pdf
http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/internet-crimes/factsheet_1in7.html Sure, these are American statistics, but they are the best figures available that I am aware of. Anyone here want to claim that Australian kids are less safe online than American ones?

To those of you who have watched me destroy my professional reputation on here today while sending me quiet messages of support off-list, here are a couple of things worth reading on the topic of over protective parents (which I think we can apply to school librarians).

and, how to talk to kids about the issue (the sane way)

Yes, I continued the debate.

OK, I can be quite rude sometimes caustically sarcastic perhaps. But come on folks, "The stupid. It Burns"

I will avoid going into detail about the various bush lawyers who leapt into the debate, all with their personal ideas about copyright law
Dear John Regardless of the personal practices of particular photographers, international copyright law still vests the photographer with the copyright ownership of their images.
No, it doesn't! That is simply untrue under Australian law, there are just too many variables to make that statement.

It wouldn't surprise me if this is a breach of the Privacy Act if she hasn't obtained permission of all the people in the photo to use their image or name.

Ah for crying out loud. We are librarians folk, we have the ability to look stuff up. Two clicks later and I can confirm that the Privacy Act covers personal information gathered by " government agencies and private sector organisations."
Wow, the Privacy Act doesn't cover information 13 year olds put on Facebook? Who could have guessed that!
Even private schools aren't included in the act unless "they have an annual turnover greater than $3 million, or provide a health service"

OK, lawyers aside...

How should I respond to this;
I am deeply concerned by your trivialisation of an issue about which so many of our colleagues
have so justifiably expressed concerns.
Because one of our ex-students (aged 15 years) was stalked and murdered by a middle-aged interstate predator who "discovered" her via her social networking page (MySpace).
A non-issue? I don't think so.
I will await people's ideas of how I should have responded, then will put up how I actually did respond. Sound fair?

The internets are going to rape your children!

As a school librarian, I have of course subscribed to an email list of school librarians. This has opened the floodgates to a lot of emails, most of which I read the subject line of, before deleting; some of which I read and am grateful for but others which lead me to the conclusion that many in my profession are a group of reactionary old fools who should be put out to pasture before they create another generation of kids who think libraries are pointless.

Take today's example (one which got me up on my soap box in the forum and now here in my blog, where I can write without the "OMG paedophiles are everywhere" brigade having the right of reply).

The issue of school photos on facebook came to a head with an email which read (in part);
We have a Year 6 child who has scanned a class photo... to her Facebook page.
We now realise that we will have to put something in place in terms of
privacy etc. This was done at home with the child's own property. Do you
involve yourselves in this or is it a home issue? ... is it OK for her to post photos of other kids without their permission? Can we really do anything about this?
I replied in calm and measured tones;
I'm going to leap in on this one and say "do nothing"
As a parent, I would be appalled if my daughter's teachers thought they had any say in what she did on facebook. I am surprised that there are teachers who think that there is any role for the school in this. Aside from the fact that the photo was taken at school, what is the issue?
Is it OK for her to put up photos of the other kids without permission? Yes. There may be a copyright issue depending on who your school photographer is and how they feel about it, but that is not a school issue, it is for the photographers to follow up if they feel they need to. That aside, the kids will fill their albums with photos of each other. Photos from the school social, from the camp, from the swimming carnival...
As for teaching kids about their safety and privacy online, most of them know more than most of their teachers. At least, by the time they are 13 (the age when you can get a facebook account - unless they lie about their age).
Now, some of the folk took issue (and quite rightly too) with my saying the kids know more than most of their teachers by talking about how little protection many of them use online. It was a throw away line and while I still believe I could argue my point I will try to focus on the real issue. Such as the person who said;

there are also safety issues because any would-be predator now has enough stuff to start a conversation with either that child or one of her friends....
There could be repercussions from the photographer against the school....
If I were in your shoes, I would be contacting the parents and explaining the privacy issues and asking them to ensure that the student removes the photo.
Seriously? Arghhh

Let me go out on a personal limb here and say that the world is mad. But that is no excuse for those of us who should be educated to believe this sort of A Current Affair rubbish.
Forget the paranoia and look at reality.

Slipping out of my School Librarian role for a moment and into my parent role, if a teacher was to contact me about my daughter's facebook profile I would be asking them why the hell they were looking at it, and questioning why they didn't have anything better to do with their time. If they added the paranoid OMG the paedophiles are everywhere rubbish I would be hard pressed not to laugh.

My eldest (13) is on facebook, her photos can be seen by her friends. If her friends are in the photos, then those photos can be seen by their friends. Who are those friends of friends? Who cares! As I said before, the world is mad. We have taken risk management and decided if there is any risk we will manage it by eliminating it. Risk can't be eliminated, nor should it be. Kids should be given the opportunity to learn how to accept risk and how to deal with it is a sensible fashion.
Remember folks, the reality is that abuse comes from those our children know. Uncles, grandfathers, friends of the family...
Yet, I don't believe the school has a role in telling parents not to let the kids visit their grandfather without a chaperone, so why should we be butting in on their online private life,
Unless your school has a particularly high number of students who are on the witness protection program, this is a non issue.

As you an imagine, my logical and reasoned approach was greeted well. Actually, that sounds sarcastic. But I did get a flood of emails along the lines of "thanks for not drinking to cool-aid" But those were all off-list. On list there were messages like;
...it is implicit in our duty of care that students cannot be tracked through FB, Google or anywhere else if we can prevent it...
I wonder what the outcome of a lawsuit might be if something happened and it was proven that I, as a teacher, knew about it and did nothing.
And the person who wrote that was lauded as
...a voice of reason in this discussion.
Seriously, that is a voice of reason? that is not a voice in the same vicinity as reason. That is a voice of paranoid insanity. If 'something' did happen. What the hell is 'something' and how is something prevention a part of my job description?
Some of the paranoia seemed also to be about students whose non-custodial parents must be avoided. OK, now we at least have a real issue to discuss. Yes, if there are problems in custody battles we don't want that student on the front page of a major newspaper with directions to their home. But, rather than go for an instant paranoid overreaction, how about we hope that the custodial parent is sane enough not to have their kid on facebook at all.

Trying to be logical in this, how many random facebook profiles of 13 year old girls would I have to search through in order to stumble across a photo of my own child if they were not on facebook? The odds are astronomical and I would have a much better chance of finding my child by randomly standing outside actual schools watching kids come and go.

Trying to be logical again, I decided to look at the other issue, copyright. Because the paranoid librarian quoted above made a good point in a later email;
It is part of our role as the school community's information specialist to inform the school community about the legal aspects of IP, copyright and acceptable use, including legal ramifications of possible use.
I called three school photographers at random and asked them where they stand on the issue.
Their answers were a unanimous acceptance that kids (and their parents) will put the school photos online. They all said that the only reason they would care about digital reproductions would be if the someone was trying to make a profit from them.
So, there is one less issue for everyone to cry "OMG people is going to sue us all ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" about.

None the less, the debate continues online and I am currently deciding whether to continue trolling the message board with my persistent and countercultural insistence on not being paranoid.