Saturday, 28 November 2015

Advocacy through Photojournalism

On Wednesday, I finally got to spend a book voucher a friend got me for my birthday.  Since my birthday was in July you can imagine what it was like for a librarian to have that sitting in her purse for months!  I just never made it to the independent book store the voucher was from.  Anyway, I am so pleased with my purchase.  I had a look at the non-fiction finalists for Goodreads' 2015 awards and then bought "Humans of New York: Stories" because I vaguely remembered seeing posts from "Humans of New York" (HONY) occasionally shared in my Facebook news feed.

It is just a beautiful book.  Obviously I am a bit late to HONY fandom, it has over 16 million likes on Facebook.  I have subsequently read up a lot on Brandon Stanton, listened to podcasts, watched YouTube clips...over-researched as per usual!  But I find the idea of what he does so fascinating.  He goes up to strangers in New York and asks to take their photo.  Then he interviews them and puts a caption or a paragraph, in their own words, alongside their photo on his website and Facebook page.  You get a little insight into the life of an "ordinary" New Yorker, it is captivating.

Being the obsessive librarian that I am, I immediately starting thinking about how this technique could be used in a library.  I have often heard people talk about "always carrying a camera" and "making sure you share the stories from your library" - this is a way to combine both these ideas.  It's a chance to advocate for your library through photojournalism.

This year I started a "Caught Reading" Facebook album that has evolved in a similar way to Brandon's work.  Initially it was just one photo a week of random children who were reading in the library at lunchtime.  Recently I started including a reference to the book titles that the students were reading.  The one I posted on Monday was one of the most popular this year, and was a result of me talking with my subjects a little longer than usual.

Aren't they cute?  Now that I've read Brandon's book I wish that I had been able to use a quote to make it more personal.  So that is my task for Monday - see if I can take a photo and find a good quote to go with it.  Brandon asks about people's saddest moments, happiest moments, who has influenced them the most...lovely, deep questions.  To get a library vibe I've been thinking about asking why they decided to come to the library, what they like about the library, what they are enjoying about the book they are reading, and what their favourite book is and why.  That way, I'll hopefully not only get a good quote to accompany the photo but also more insight into what students are reading and how they feel about the library.

By doing this I can also continue the advocacy that comes from posting to Facebook and hopefully build up my followers.  What parents don't love seeing photos of their children?  The more followers I get, and the more exposed they are to what is going on in the library, the more support I will have for the library from the community.  Hopefully it will also encourage our parents to come along when the library is open to parents - on Friday mornings and in the summer holidays.

I'm excited to get started.  Of course I only have three more weeks this year to give it a go, but that is OK because next year I'm going to start a new album "Stories from the Library", so that I can also show other things the students do in the library at lunchtime.  Launching a new album will be a good time to publicise our page on the school's Facebook page and newsletter.  Then all I have to do is try to be half as good as the amazing Brandon Stanton!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Managing Information Overload

Last week I moderated the #LibChatNZ chat on 'Managing Information Overload'.  It's a topic I deal with on a daily basis!  In fact, I blogged about this in 2013 - Confessions of an Info-holic.  When I look at that post it reminds me of the stress I was under back then and the steps I took to try and overcome my information addiction.  I did have some short-term success but I find myself as buried as ever in emails and websites, blogs and webinars, Facebook and Google+.  

Monday night's chat reminded me that I am not the only one with information issues.  @CorinneHinton described the vicious cycle of information overload really well, "collecting too much stuff and not reading it, watching it, or listening to it before more stuff arrives".

The responses to the chat have me pondering whether librarians are in fact the most vulnerable to information overload.  After all, information is a big part of our job.  As @Maree Silver said "We deal with information constantly - it's who we are".  In a way our strengths as librarians - our curiosity, our connections through networks and our knowledge of a wide range of information sources and platforms - are the very things that create our susceptibility to drowning in information.  We value information to such a degree that we find it hard to ignore any of it.  And we're very good at finding LOTS of it.  The internet gives us more sources than we will ever need.  As @ForrestC8 said "It's like being a kid in the sweet shop!"  @DavisonNicki talked about "thinking that one day [we] will have time to "catch up"!"  Ain't that the truth!  But with a continual supply of information at our fingertips we can't catch up unless we get better at managing our information intake.  

I found an interesting article as I was researching information overload (from multiple sources of course!).  My new favourite phrase comes from it - "Stop Compulsively Learning".  That's what I do!  It's like an addiction, that anticipation of the new things I might learn.  And it doesn't seem as bad as being addicted to other things but when you think about it, trying to know everything keeps you from having the time to do some of those things you are learning about.  

Sometimes I wonder whether this is a form of procrastination.  Once I've read all thirty articles I've collected about Makerspaces THEN I'll start to set one up.  Do we really need new information or are we avoiding that hard first step of getting started on something new? 

Or is it that we set ourselves such high standards that we dare not start until fully prepared?  Does perfectionism come into it?  And will this mindset work in these changing times?  Kathryn Schravemade said during her keynote address at the SLANZA conference that we can't worry about being perfect in a world that changes so often.  She said "You don't have time to be perfect!"  I think this definitely applies to information too.  For me, the perfect amount of information is all of it, but if we are to keep up with our changing world we need to be more selective.

At the same time, we can't totally ignore the world around us.  Roger Dennis, another keynote speaker at the SLANZA conference, talked about missing paradigm shifts.  He said that it is easy to miss them if you are focussing on what you do and not noticing what is going on in the world around you. It is important to notice what is going on in other industries as it may impact on you.  So we can't put the blinders on altogether, it's just a question of balance.

In the chat there were a number of useful suggestions on managing information overload and you can see them in the archive here (Q5).  One platform I use is Diigo, a social bookmarking tool. I admit that sometimes storing a website there is simply a way of soothing my anxiety that I might lose it.  By dealing with information that looks useful but I have don't have time for, it relieves my stress even though I know I probably won't ever go looking for it again.  Crazy, huh?!

Some of the #LibChatNZ discussion reminded me of a story I heard once about a man who was chopping a tree with a blunt ax.  He was asked why he didn't sharpen it but replied "I don't have time for that!".  We need to sacrifice a little time in the short-term, looking at our information processes and making them more efficient, so that we save more time in the long run.

I think it is time for me to be a lot more deliberate about managing my information consumption.  I need to trust my ability to get the information I need when I need it.  I don't need to know everything now, and I can't keep up when I try to.  This is the way education is moving now anyway - the way our students will be approaching information. But it's harder for us than for our students because our love affair with information has been a long-term one. 

Equally important is the shift in education from consuming information to creating it.  Information overload can mean you get "stuck" in consuming.  Many of us are looking at bringing more creation activities into our libraries.  In order to do that we also need to change how WE approach information so that we are open to using information to create new things.  That is what Makerspaces are all about.

Even though attending the chat meant gaining more information, I'm glad that I did it.  Talking with others helped clarify my thoughts on this issue and comforted me with the knowledge that I am not the only one getting overwhelmed with information.  It's not something I face alone, in a way it's a side effect of the profession.

I will probably be blogging about the same issue a couple of years from now, and that's OK!  The solutions are not simple and require vigilance and perseverance.  For the future, stressed me, reading this post again as a plea for help, remember this:
  1. Be a better information gatekeeper - think about whether what you are about to read, sign up to or participate in fits your priorities right now.  If not, trust yourself that you can find more useful information when, or if, you need it in the future.
  2. Set aside time to regularly manage your information (particularly those pesky emails).  In other words sharpen your ax!  Unsubscribe from mailing lists, delete read emails, put important emails in folders and prune the blogs you are following in Feedly.  Be ruthless!
  3. Check your consumption/creation balance.  Are you making the hard choices around information and leaving yourself enough time to create things with your knowledge?
  4. Get over your FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and Stop Compulsively Learning!!!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

How to get the most out of Twitter

It's no secret that I love Twitter.  I've blogged about how to join and how it helps me in my work.  It's not just me either, in a recent list of the Top 100 Tools for Learning, taken from a survey of over 2,000 learning professionals, Twitter came out on top.

At the SLANZA conference I attended recently I met people who were on Twitter but needed help with what to do next.  There are a few things that I think you can do to get the most out of Twitter:
  • Try to get in the habit of using Twitter regularly.  For a long time I would open up Twitter on a Saturday or Sunday morning, look through my feed and retweet anything interesting.  And that was enough to keep my presence up and keep exposing me to interesting things.  
  • Mornings can be a good time to catch up as you will see more tweets from overseas.
  • Aim to follow at least 50 people.  Then you will get a variety of tweets to look at in your Twitter feed.
  • It's great to follow NZ school librarians, but to widen your perspective you can follow educators, authors, publishers, tech gurus, makers, public librarians and libraries from NZ and overseas.  By the way, you don't have to know someone to follow them!  However, it is nice if you put in your Twitter bio that you are a librarian, and then people will realise why you are interested in them.  
  • I've done a short list of people you might like to follow (see my "Twitter Starter Kit" below). I'm currently following 743 people so I haven't included all of them!  I've chosen just five people in each category who have a lot of tweets and/or followers.  
  • Have a look at the bios of the people on the list and some of their recent tweets to see if you might be interested in following them.
  • Once you are following a few people, Twitter will start giving you suggestions of people you might like to follow who are in similar professions.  This can be a good way to find more people to follow.
  • Another good way to find people to follow is to join in or watch a Twitter chat and see who is tweeting things that interest you.  I have also listed some chats below.
  • Speaking of Twitter chats, here's a couple of things you should know if you want to join in:
    • I write myself a note - 'Don't forget the hashtag!".  You don't need to reply to the person asking the questions but you do need to put the hashtag at the end of your answer.  For example, if you join in the #libchatnz chat then @libchatnz might tweet "Q1 What's your favourite colour? #libchatnz"  to answer you would start a new tweet "A1 red #libchatnz".  
    • Once you've shared your own answer you might like to read what others are saying and reply to them, or retweet or favourite their answers.
    • If you arrive late to the chat, just pick up from the latest question.
    • The easiest way to follow a chat is by using a tool like TweetDeck on your computer.  This allows you to set up columns - you can have a column #libchatnz to see the chat, one for @LibChatNZ so you can easily see the questions, and one for notifications so you can see if anyone is replying to your tweets.  There are some good tutorial videos on YouTube you can watch to learn how to set it up.
    • Adding a hashtag doesn't have to happen only during a Twitter chat.  If you are tweeting about your library you can add #libchatnz to the end of the tweet so more people will be able to see it.  If you are using Tweetdeck then you can glance at your #libchatnz column whenever you are on Twitter to see if anyone has shared anything new.

Twitter Starter Kit

NZ School Librarians                                        
@MSimmsNZ (me)

NZ Public/Academic Librarians

NZ Teachers

NZ Principals/APs/DPs

NZ Public Libraries



NZ Tech Gurus

US Librarians

US Tech Gurus

Australian Librarians

Makerspace Experts

@LibChatNZ (NZ School Librarians)
@OZTLNet (Australian Teacher Librarian Network)
@L2_S2S (National Library - Services to Schools)
@Schoollibsnz (SLANZA)
@ALIANational (Australian Library and Information Association)
@sljournal (School Library Journal)

#libchatnz (NZ school librarians - 8pm, 1st Monday of the Month)
#austl (Australian teacher librarians)
#tlchat (US teacher librarians)
#uklibchat (UK librarians)

#edchatnz (NZ teachers - 8.30pm every 2nd Thursday)
#engchatNZ (NZ English teachers - 8.30pm every 2nd Tuesday)
#aussieED (Australian teachers)

#makered (US maker-teachers)
#makerEdau (Australian maker chat)

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Partnerships with Public Librarians

At the end of July the Future of Libraries Summit was held in Wellington, and I scrolled through their Twitter feed a few days later.  One tweet that caught my attention was by @SarahLibrarina, a librarian in Dunedin, and it mentioned a job swap.  It got me thinking about our public library and whether it would be possible to spend some time with my local public librarians to talk together and share knowledge (but not actually swap jobs).  

I already have a good relationship with the Children's and Teen's librarians at Hamilton City Libraries. We run their summer reading programme from our library over the holidays and I had the pleasure of having them come in and teach some of our students, and myself, stop motion animation.

I emailed Su and told her about the summit and asked whether I would be able to talk to some of the staff to learn more about what they do, and then share a bit about what I do.  She agreed and eventually we found a time and day that suited, the morning of the last Tuesday of Term 3.

First up was a chat with Simone, one of the Collections Librarians, about what was popular in junior fiction. I shared our statistics and I got to see their top titles and authors - Geronimo Stilton took out top honours in both our libraries!  

Simone and I also talked about Hamilton City Libraries' Kit Collection.  I've been exploring this idea for a while for our own library, inspired by a couple of blogs about circulating maker kits.  I was able to find out more about whether they were popular (yes, very) and whether they had problems with kits getting damaged (not really).  She gave me the names of some local suppliers for items like sewing machines and telescopes.

Then I spoke to Su and Aaron, two of the Children's and Teen's librarians.  We had a great discussion about ideas for Maori Language week, Star Wars Reads day, display ideas, competitions, Twitter, blogs,

Minion rubbish bins, and


There is a lot of common ground between school and public libraries and I feel that we can learn a lot from sharing with each other.  We often move in different circles and we need to make an effort to reach out and break down those barriers (Twitter is great for this).  A big thanks to Simone, Su and Aaron for making the time to talk with me.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Permission to Play

On Tuesday I attended the uLearn Permission to Play conference.  I was really excited about the opportunity to "explore how playful-learning leads to deeper learning for students".  Given my interest in Makerspaces in the library I chose to attend Mark Osborne's workshop on The Maker Movement in Schools and Tara Fagan's workshop on Future of Learning: Programming, robotics and missions of code.  An Ignite opening was first up with Jane Gilbert and Tim Carr.

I took all my notes via tweets so here they are:

It was great to have an opportunity to play with a variety of electronics, robotics and maker materials.  One thing that struck me was that, without a purpose, after working out what everything did I lost interest.  While it is important to give our students the opportunity to be creative and innovative, for some of them, like me, they will need a reason, a challenge or an objective in order to take the learning to the next step.

I have a wishlist to take back to school now and am starting to formulate a plan for a Makerspace.  I also bought myself an mBot, for research purposes!  

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Talking like Pirates, Minion Bookmarks, Book Fridges and More!

Now that my presentation at the SLANZA conference is done and dusted I thought I'd go over our very busy last couple of weeks of Term 3.  

On 15 September we celebrated International Dot Day in the library.  This is based on the lovely book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.  We had the iPads out and asked anyone in the library if they wanted to make a dot using a drawing app.  I deliberately didn't publicise it as I knew we'd get too many students then.  As it was, as a random pop-up art activity at lunchtime, we had just the right amount of students.  

A student from my Clever Minions advisory group read the book and then several helped younger students learn how to use the app.  Here's our Facebook album of the event.  I sent the completed dots through to to go on their gallery but they haven't appeared there yet.  It was an enjoyable lunch time, it is amazing how creative students can be when making a dot!

On Friday 18 September we had the launch of a coffee cart outside our library.  This was an initiative from the PTA, but they involved me as thought they might be able to help us increase the number of parents who use the library when it opens on Friday mornings before school.  As the coffee cart was going to be up and running by 8am we decided to open the library earlier to coincide with that (it used to open at 8.30am).  Friday the 18th just happened to be the last school day before Talk Like a Pirate Day (officially on the 19th).  I've been meaning to celebrate this day for a while so it felt like a good idea to combine the launch of the coffee cart with a little pirate celebration in the library!  Esther and I dressed up like pirates and I bought some eyepatches for our student librarians to wear that day.  I found an app that transformed our students into pirates, we played some pirate music and had all our pirate books on display.  And of course we all said "Arrgghhh!" and "Shiver Me Timbers!" a lot.

At morning tea on that Friday I taught the Exploding Minions book club how to make minion bookmarks.  These are so cute!  

It was a great way to road test the activity before running it over a lunchtime.  We discovered that we needed a lot more glue sticks and that it would be easier to have some of the paper pre-cut.  Then on the last Monday of term we gave lunchtime library visitors the opportunity to make their own minions.  We had some of our Clever Minions group available to help but even our youngest students were able to make most of this by themselves.  We had students turning up later who we had to turn down as the activity takes a while to do.  I told them to get their parents to look on Facebook as I posted the video on there for those who missed out.  Here is the Facebook album for this, it had a reach of 548 people, which is very big by our standards.

Also on the last Monday of term we reminded our school staff about using the Book Freezer.  I took a photo of the current books in there and put it up in the staffroom.  I wrote about our Book Fridge back in February, before we launched it.  Jeannie, a friend from the National Library, rang me up and asked me for an update on it as part of a post she was writing.  She's covered everything I would have said there, but I will add a current photo for you:

Oh, and I will mention the name of one of the books on the fridge, "written" by our principal - Mr Sheedy's Guide to Ballet - and how to look good in a tutu. Hehe!

On the last Tuesday of term I visited our public library to talk with their librarians and swap ideas.  I got so much out of that visit I'll do a separate post on that.

And on the last Thursday of the term we had new signage put up, arranged by our visual arts team (although I chose the words, with help from Google Images):

We finished the term with another coffee cart visit, we've had six more parents sign up to borrow books so far, so that has been successful.

I headed off at lunchtime on Friday so I could catch my flight to Christchurch.  I was flying down to the SLANZA conference early so I could visit a friend.  I hadn't visited Christchurch since the big quake in 2011 and was dismayed that so much of it was still so barren.  I do love the ingenuity of using shipping containers for shops while the rebuild goes on,

 and I love the way there is art, sculpture, and... 

a book fridge! in some of the empty spaces.  

I made sure to get my copy of Canterbury Quake signed by Desna Wallace while I was at the conference.  If you haven't read this, it really does give you an insider's experience of the quakes, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Good-bye Cherry Blossoms: A Review of Day Three, SLANZA 2015 Conference

Here's what I get up to on the final day of the conference:
  • Our first keynote is with Kay Oddone - "Beyond the Buzzword".  I am enthralled because she is talking about Makerspaces and that is what I have just started exploring.
    • Kay is from Australia and for some reason didn't want to have a suitcase full of timers, switches and wires when she entered the country so we don't have any physical props to look at!
    • Her essential Makerspace resources are "Invent to Learn" and the "Makerspace Playbook".  She also has her own, very useful website.
    • She discusses the future of work, and uses this Australian report which has some really interesting infographics in it.
    • Kay mentions how Makerspaces have links to the curriculum, in particular STEAM subjects.  They also encourage lots of talking and explaining.
    • Kay shows a continuum of digital users and introduces me to the awesome term "digital muggle"
    • She says that a Makerspace is a mindset.  It is about solving problems with raw materials.  And a library is a natural fit for a Makerspace.
    • But she also reminds us that just because it's hands on doesn't mean it's mind on, there should be an educational purpose.
    • She shows some examples of soft circuit bracelets, Lego We-do, Squishy Circuits, Rolobox, Makedo, Makey Makey and Scratch.  I want to try them all!
  • The last workshop for me is with my Twitter friend Alison Hewett - "Everything eBook".
    • First off, Alison clearly knows eBooks inside and out.  I am impressed with how much she knows about suppliers and licensing models and all things eBook.
    • She says students love to increase the size of the font on eBooks, to make them easier to read.  
    • Only 29% of her budget is spent on print books, this helps free up physical space in the library.  She doesn't use dummy physical eBooks for promotion as she feels this negates the benefits of extra space.  Instead, among other things, she uses stickers on the physical books to promote the audio/eBook versions.
    • She says you need to spend the same amount of time on your digital collection as you would on print.  I immediately resolve to give my own eBook collection some more love!
    • Alison says popular authors, titles and series work well digitally because they are already known.
    • She recommends keeping your eBook collection fresh by regularly adding new titles for interest.
    • She book talks in all formats and doesn't view digital and print as separate collections.
    • She believes the crux to eBook success is to have enough books.  Students need a proper choice, for her school that means at least 500 books.
  • The final keynote is from Helen Stower & Kathryn Schravemade - "Moving from a Traditional Library to a Contemporary iCentre.
    • An iCentre flattens walls and takes the library to the people.
    • Helen & Kathryn make sure that they push traffic to their website with social media.
    • They say the key to Twitter is following the right people.
    • Kathryn says you need to connect, join in the conversation and don't worry about being perfect in a world that changes so often.  You don't have time to be perfect!
    • They get students to use FaceYourManga to make themselves a personalised avatar.
  • The conference finishes at 12.45pm.  I have had the most amazing three days (see my summaries of Day One and Day Two).  My brain is pretty full but I have so many ideas and I am so buzzed by the energy and passion of everyone at the conference.  See you next time!
The Cherry Blossoms were well-photographed!

Intro to Power Walking: A Review of Day Two, SLANZA 2015 Conference

Day two of the SLANZA 2015 conference starts with me getting up so early that I end up being late.  You know how that happens?  You have so much time that you do some other things that don't really need to be done and the next thing you know you're power walking along Papanui Road trying to get to St Andrew's College on time!  I had arranged to meet with one of the conference team who would be in the room I was presenting in, so I could set up and be confident that the technology was working.  I see her as I arrive and she explains that the lights aren't working in the Science Block so I can't set up anyway.

Here's a summary of the rest of my day:
  • Before the first keynote Cathy, our wonderful conference spokesperson, gives a great promotion of Twitter and #libchatnz.  Yay for Cathy!  She suggests a Twitter training session over the second half of lunch that she, Clare (one of my fellow #libchatnz moderators) and I can facilitate.
  • The first keynote is "Modern Maori Learning" with Janelle Riki.
    • Janelle encourages us to think about whether Maori children who come into our libraries and hear, see and feel that we value their culture.
    • She says we are moving from learn-assess to learn-create-share.
    • She talks about encouraging the "c" words - creative, confident, capable, collaborative, connected, competitive, culturally responsive.
    • She says relationships with students are important.  We need to know them so we can figure out what they're good at, celebrate it and leverage off it.
    • She says the library should be a place for everyone to come home to.
  • The next workshop is mine - "Raising the profile of your library by having fun".
    • The technology works!
    • I promise to share my slides, so they are embedded below.
    • I get great feedback from the participants. One does the wrapped up library books idea around Christmas, but uses them like an advent calendar and unwraps one every day.  Another talks about how you can get dogs for your students to read to in the library and a librarian from Australia actually has an exercise bike in her library (she says she was sick of using her one to hang her clothes on!)

  • Workshop 5 is "Libraries in Aotearoa" with Joanna Matthew.  
    • Joanna is the Executive Director of LIANZA and she goes over the new branding of libraries in New Zealand.
    • Libraries Aotearoa represents ALL libraries in New Zealand.
    • They want to ensure libraries and librarians have a relevant place in the future of NZ society.  They want to shift attitudes, to make sure our communities understand the changing roles of libraries.
    • Joanna describes the values of Libraries Aotearoa, which are set out on their website.
    • At the LIANZA conference in November they will be launching Community Engagement packs which will help libraries advocate and spread our message to our communities.
  • During lunch we see some librarians interested in Twitter. Cathy shows several people how to use TweetDeck to watch a Twitter chat and Clare and I show some others the basics of Twitter.  We run out of time all too quickly, I think it might be worth running some hands-on PD about this in our regions.  It is heartening to see people showing interest.
  • My next workshop is with Anne Williams, the Teacher Librarian at Ashburton College - "Promoting reading at Ashcoll".
    • Anne is using those plastic clip-on name tags as a way to attach a book recommendation to the book.  She also shows book trailers and does book talks.
    • They have set up groups with the older students (reading mentors) reading to juniors.  The juniors all follow along with the same book.
    • When students have permission to come to the library they bring a flyswatter with their teacher's initials on it!
    • Anne runs a competition where teachers take a photo of themselves reading something they like to read and doing something they like to do, with their faces covered, and students have to guess who it is.
    • To split us into groups Anne hands us random pictures of characters from stories.  We have the characters names but have to work out what story they are from and find others who have characters from the same story.  When she does it at school she has the book covers on different tables so the groups know where to sit and can see the cover of the book their characters are from.
  • The last session of the day is a Primary School Library Tour.  We visit Fendalton Open Air School and Halswell School.  
    • Fendalton Open Air School is the school my book club Skyped with a few weeks earlier, and coincidentally they have a library signpost similar to the one I have been in the process of arranging.  I brought Dave, our bookclub mascot, down with me so that I can take some photos of him at Fendalton's library.  I mentioned that in my presentation in the hope that people wouldn't think I was too weird when I starting doing it!
    • I am very impressed with their library.  It is small like mine but it has lots of interesting things in it and I get a sense that the students love to visit it.
    • Desna, the librarian, had a great relationship with her very creative caretaker.  She asks for things like signposts and trees and tridents and he builds them for her.

    • Halswell School has a library that was rebuilt after the earthquake.  It is a MLE school (Modern Learning Environment), and it is interesting to learn that they considered whether they needed a library and what the role of their librarian would be.  We get to look around their classrooms too.
  • We get dropped off back at St Andrews so by the time I power walk (again!) back to my motel it is almost time to be picked up for the conference dinner and I end up not having time to get changed.  And I did bring a dress to wear!  Then we wait for twenty minutes for the bus so I would have had time after all.  But never mind, we have a lovely dinner, great company and a very funny entertainer so it is an excellent night.

Friday, 2 October 2015

#Awesome: A Review of Day One, SLANZA 2015 Conference

Earlier this week I attended the SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) 2015 Conference.  I had such a wonderful time learning new things but the best bit was meeting people I only knew from Twitter, catching up with librarians I only see at conferences, and being surrounded by people who love what I love.

Here's a review of day one of my experiences at the conference (and here is day two and day three):
  • The first keynote is from Roger Dennis - "Digital Acceleration - the world's changing faster than you think".  
    • Roger talks about paradigm shifts and how easy it is to miss them if you are focussing on what you do and not noticing what is going on in the world around you.  It is important to notice what is happening in other industries as it might impact on what you do.
    • He prints a 3D bolt while speaking, and I'm impressed when he says they're 3D printing houses in China!
    • He talks about future jobs and how anything based on rules will be taken over by computers.
    • He suggests subscribing to Wired magazine to keep up with how people relate to technology. I've followed them on Twitter - @wired.
  • Workshop 1 for me is "Selfies in the library: using social media in school libraries" with Lorna Smith and Julia de Ruiter.  
    • They remind us that we need to be aware of what platforms our users are using, share their excellent blog and a video that has certain people "hashtagging" throughout the rest of the conference #hashtagsrule!
    • Somebody in the session mentions they have a library cat that has it's own Twitter account.  How cool is that?!  Perhaps our bookclub minion mascot could have one....
    • They mention book "shelfies" and posts where they "ask the librarian" unusual questions about their lives (e.g. would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?!).
    • They give permission for us to e-stalk if we're not ready to contribute yet.  But when we do start, have a strategy and make consistent and regular posts.
    • And "always default to cat videos" is great social media advice, complete with a good example!

  • Workshop 2 is "Don't Panic! The Hitch-hikers Guide to....Book Week! with the lovely Cathy Kennedy, one of the organising team for the conference.
    • About a year earlier Cathy decides on a theme and then gathers resources and books that fit it.
    • Cathy is a teacher and I am impressed with her approach to Book Week that takes into account the teachers' workloads and ways to keep them manageable.
    • She schedules Book Week so that it doesn't clash with busy school activities, rather than coinciding it with national or international book/library celebrations.
    • She provides teachers with a Teachers' Resource Booklet to get buy in for Book Week.  It outlines events and competitions, has lesson plans and summaries of books that fit the theme.
    • She uses Graphic Leftovers Stock Images on her posters and I may just have been persuaded to shell out a few dollars for images because her promotional material is so classy!
    • She takes the opportunity to introduce students and teachers to new technology by incorporating it into her Book Week competitions - clever!
    • She does a Battle of the Books book quiz using a Livebinder.
    • She invites performers to attend as she has had great success with them.  She tells them her theme and often they tailor their performances for her.
    • She does bookmarks, photo booths, scavenger hunts, staff competitions (so they don't feel left out), and ads to promote Book Week using Animoto.
    • To decorate the library she uses party decorations, and she always decorates her doors (they look amazing!).

  • The second keynote speaker is Mark Osborne - "Innovative Library Environments". 
    • Like Roger Dennis he touches on jobs changing in the future and the fact that any job that can be routined is rapidly being off-shored or automated.
    • He says that knowledge is a commodity that's free like air or water so it's not what you know but what you can do with what you know.
    • He says an important skill will be the ability to solve real world, authentic, challenging problems together.
    • He sees the library as moving away from being a storehouse of books and towards being a service centre, community space, gallery and storehouse of specialist equipment.
    • He asks what we think the modern school library should be.  Here are the results.
  • My final workshop for the day is "Building reading warriors: Engaging boys in reading" with David Riley.
    • David starts by saying how much he enjoyed "The Magic Faraway Tree" as a child, and then describes his enthusiasm for Barry Crump's books, which had characters he could relate to.
    • He describes the inspirational story of Dr Ben Carson, an African American living in poverty who was struggling at school before his mother made him read.  He tells his class "There was a doctor in that guy, the least guy you would have thought of".  And they all clamour to get a book.
    • David talks about why boys aren't reading:
      • Lack of connections to the library and library staff
      • Reading not seen as connected to aspirations and real life
      • Insufficient guidance in choosing what to read and reading strategies
      • Discouraging certain kinds of literature: graphic novels/manga, magazines, Guinness Book of Records.
    • He suggests giving boys a choice about what books to buy and then having a box opening celebration - making a big deal that the books have arrived.
    • He talks about tapping into pop culture trends, using students' interests, planning father and son events and giving students competitions e.g. Rugby League Reads.
    • David approaches well-known male achievers who read and asks them to come to his school, to make reading look cool and connect it to real life.
    • I have David Riley's books and they are great. He wrote them because he couldn't find any sports books at the right level for his students.  I am so impressed with David as a reading mentor and would highly recommend getting him in to speak to your boys (David is a drama teacher based in Otara, Auckland).
  • Next the SLANZA awards are given out to some very deserving librarians and then it is time for our Twitter dinner. We are a mixed bunch - primary, secondary, co-ed, single sex, public, librarians and a teacher. And yet there is no shortage of conversation and it is great to get to know people that I have connected with on Twitter.
    • I text my husband with a photo of my food.  I've never done this before but have recently received a bunch of photos from when he was away and feel he needs payback.  This is what I get in return!

  • I get back to my room and go through my presentation one last time. I am pleased it is on before morning tea the next day so that I can get it over and done with and relax again!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Fun with Minions!

Our mascot, Dave

This term I have not one but two clubs with 'minions' in their name.  Obviously the Minions movie has been influential for our Year 6's this year!  Last year I was the one who named my book club, we were the 'Ninja Readers'.  I was reacting to the rather lame name (in my opinion) the students chose the year before - 'Very Important Readers'.  This year I felt I should give the naming back to the students, but I did help them come up with some creative ideas first.  We brainstormed a variety of adjectives, then nouns, then combined a few to see how they sounded.  This worked very well, and our book club is now called...the 'Exploding Minions'.  I love hearing our office staff use the intercom to announce our meetings on Fridays!

I let the Exploding Minions decide what sort of things they would like to do in their book club.  This has led to a system where they challenge each other, and me, to read books that they have liked.  I am also in the process of arranging a Skype visit with a book club in Christchurch (I know the librarian from Twitter).  I've never done anything like that before but plan on letting the students do most of the talking!  I'm quite excited to see how the clubs will interact with each other.

I also have an advisory group that meets on Tuesdays.  I learned my lesson from last term's club and made two groups rather than trying to cram everything into one session.  The second group is my attempt to bring more student voice into my decision-making.  The group is made up of selected students from our book club.  I wanted a smaller group so I chose the students who are not student leaders to come and have an opportunity to advise me.  We have an excellent leadership programme at the school but unfortunately not all students get in and I felt this was a way of giving those who were left out their own exclusive club.  And they love it!  They are called the 'Clever Minions' and they are helping me with a number of things.  Just the fact that the group exists has influenced my thinking more than I expected.  I find myself considering an idea and then thinking, "I'll see what the Clever Minions think about it".  So already they've:

  • Helped publicise our book fridge
  • Come up with place names for our fantasy worlds sign
  • Thought of words for our new word cloud signage
  • Had ideas for our Skype session
  • Taken a survey about "discovery kits".

Their ideas are different and useful and I have a big agenda for our next meeting!

With fresh clubs, new ideas and lots of enthusiasm I am really enjoying hanging out with the minions this term!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Introducing #LibChatNZ!

I have blogged about my love of Twitter before but now I find myself the founder of a NZ Twitter chat for librarians.  That's what happens when you ponder aloud on Twitter about whether there is such a thing!

I'd already decided to hold the chat monthly and, based on the results from a survey of interested librarians, it is going to be on the first Monday of the month at 8pm (except January, let's enjoy our holidays then!).  

For the first chat, on Monday 3 August, we are going to talk about Makerspaces.  These are the hot topic in American libraries right now.  The NMC Horizon Report for 2015 talks about important developments in educational technology.  In their "one year or less" timeframe it lists two developments - BYOD and Makerspaces.  So let's see whose interested in these, if anyone already has a Makerspace and how we can get started if we want one.

Back to the topic of Twitter, I got to thinking about one of the comments on the survey, which was that "perhaps some guidelines would be a good idea".  I searched for some basic information I could share about Twitter but couldn't find anything that said exactly what I wanted it to.  So I am now thinking that I should make a little guide for newbies to Twitter...

Newbies' Guide to Twitter

First off, if you have some reservations about Twitter Ned Potter will answer all your concerns.  But here's my two cents worth - I know we have the listserv and Google+ and Facebook but Twitter has some unique benefits.  It can connect you to a broad range of people who have interesting ideas and experiences, and by getting involved with a Twitter chat you can have a real time conversation about a particular topic.  

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Obviously the first step is to sign up with Twitter.  If you don't want Twitter texting you with notifications (I prefer to check my app), I'd recommend you sign up with your email address and not your phone number, although you can change that later anyway.
  • You will need to choose a username that hasn't already been taken.  A lot of NZ tweeters, myself included, put NZ at the end of their Twitter handle (username) and that usually does the trick. 
  • You also need to upload a photo or cartoon or else Twitter will give you an egg as a default.  Speaking from experience the downside of having a cartoon picture is that if you do meet fellow tweeters they don't know who you are!
  • Make sure you put something in your profile too.  People will use that to  learn what your interests are and to decide whether to follow you back.
  • **Update - I just had to add this in, an excellent resource from Kay Oddone that helps you get to know the Twitter interface.
  • Send out your first tweet by typing in the "What's happening?" box on your computer or tapping the box with the quill in it in the top right-hand corner of the Twitter app.  It doesn't have to be amazing, if you get stuck you could just say "Hi @MSimmsNZ, I am sending my first tweet!".  By including @MSimmsNZ I'll be notified about your tweet and I'll reply to you.
  • Then try searching Twitter for @LibChatNZ by using the magnifying glass at the top. Scroll to the bottom of the results page and you should see the account for @LibChatNZ.  If you click/tap on that then you can follow @LibChatNZ and then click/tap on the followers button to see all of the followers of @LibChatNZ..  These are your fellow NZ librarians so you might like to follow them too.  
  • Once you follow people you will get their tweets in your Twitter feed.  They may also follow you back.  I panicked a bit when that happened as I felt people might be expecting me to be tweeting a lot - don't worry, they don't!  You can watch what other people are tweeting without having to join in.
  • If you do see something of interest in your timeline then you can retweet it, or reply to it and start a conversation.
  • If you have followed quite a few people your Twitter feed will fill up quickly.  I have been on Twitter for four years and after a while I found I couldn't read all of the individual tweets that were coming through.  And then I realised that I didn't have to!  It was very liberating.  Now I just swish through the timeline a bit and stop at random to read interesting tweets.  If people really want me to see their tweet then they will include my Twitter handle in the tweet and I will be notified about it.
  • If you're feeling confident try searching for #tlchat or #edchatnz to see what U.S. librarians or NZ teachers are sharing on Twitter.  And of course our new hashtag for NZ librarians - #libchatnz.
  • Once you're ready to join in the #libchatnz chat, you need to be on Twitter at 8pm on the first Monday of the month, and you need to have searched for #libchatnz. #edchatNZ has some great advice about how to participate in a chat.
  • For the more confident user, @mrkempnz has some good tips for following a fast Twitter chat.

I hope this all makes sense.  I've been trying to see it from a beginner's perspective and be as clear as possible but I didn't want to make it too long either.  Hopefully you'll manage to get set up and then if you need anything else clarified just tweet me (unless you can't work out how to tweet, then we have a problem!).

Thanks to @ariaporo22 and @ReidTeachNZ for their help and advice about this (and where else but Twitter would a librarian in Hamilton have found help from teachers in Rotorua and Auckland?!).

Update 5 August 2015

I connected with @MissDtheTeacher who was very generous with her time and sharing her experience as moderator of the very busy and successful #edchatnz.

Then I survived moderating my first chat!  And what a great chat it was too.  There were so many interesting people posting their thoughts.  We had primary and secondary librarians and teachers and public librarians too.  That meant a good range of views and experiences to draw from.