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.