Thursday, 31 October 2013


I started looking through the course outline for INF506 and I'm a little overwhelmed to say the least.  Most of my courses up to now have had a text book, or two textbooks, supplemented by lots of reading of journal articles as we move through the modules.

This course has no prescribed text, but we've been given a list of 66 resources (mainly books) which are considered to be relevant, all found in the library IN AUSTRALIA, not many ebooks, and few articles.  Joy.  I've looked a few up and found them in the Singapore National Library, looks like I'm going to either spend a lot of time in their reference library or be a regular for their reservation and pick up service.  The question is however, if anything written pre-2010 is actually of relevance if it's a book, given the 2-3 years lead time before a book is even published.

And then I spent about an hour linking all the 26 blogs (and adding to my already growing list) we're supposed to be monitoring on the subject. Quite a few had changed address since the subject guide had been written and one had a posting last from 2009.  The question is how many of these are relevant really, and worth following.  I'm going to have to curtail my Facebook habit severely and start reading blogs instead ...  brain food as opposed to quick snacks.

I've also set up a delicious account (I'm a diigo user, so this is a major pain - must I pretend to use delicious, or duplicate stuff for this course?), resurrected my Flickr account, which I'd emptied a while back when I moved to the MacBook, and opened a Second Life account (yawn, that came and went around the time my son was born - and he's 10 now).   I have the Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blog, must say I'm not an avid Twitter fan - I may get there if I give it more of a chance though.

Based on the clever recommendations of a fellow student from my last course, I've also started organising my learning life onto Evernote - I'd much prefer we used that as it's more immediately useful to us as students - and my Zotero is getting some new collections for this term's subjects.

I see one of the things we need to do as an assignment is to do a social networking project - I may try to deconstruct this course and set up some more useful social networking for students - like putting all the books into goodreads group - and then we can all review the books together or in turn.  The format of the modules and the forums are so passé it drives me nuts.  Or maybe this is not the type of thing I should be saying at the beginning of a course.

when the library is more than a library

In some ways libraries have never just been about the books or the building.  Even since the first libraries they've been about a certain idealism, a world view, a concept of teaching, learning, enquiry, culturalisation, what ever you may call it.

So yesterday it shouldn't have taken me by surprise with Ms. S asked me in a little bit of a panic what should be done with the books on the human body.  Of course once a library starts to become an organised entity, it is easier to find things.   And when one is a G5 boy (or girl) it seems that there are pressing questions that need to be answered.  And perhaps these questions are not being answered at home or at school, so in steps the library and books (thank goodness I'd say).   Luckily Ms. S was of the same opinion as me, but the question was what to do about the fact that some rather indignant parents had been ringing the school to find out what and why and how their kids were reading all this "stuff". (Ironically of course those very children who had the most pressing need to be reading these books).

Now Ms. S is an experienced teacher who has dealt with things that I hope never to have to deal with, she's open-minded, and recognises an education moment for an education moment.  But she's had this library thing only a short while.  Even shorter than me.  So it's hard to distinguish where her responsibility begins and ends.  Our discussion was a little about flipping the question.  Does the school have a counsellor?  Does it have a structured "personal and social education" curriculum? When does this start, what is dealt with when?  And how does that tie into the resources, book and otherwise that the school has available to its students and teachers.

Of course there are much bigger questions - like that of censorship. Like school policies on what is accessible to which age groups and in what context.  None of this can be decided in isolation.  I suggested to her she needed to involve the counsellor and the head of primary and the school have a "party line" so that when parents or teachers or children ask about the existence or not of materials they can refer to a policy or group decision and speak with one voice.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Starting a new course soon: INF506 - Social Networking for Information Professionals 

Part of the assessment criteria is to create an online learning journal - so a new tab/page on this blog in order to accommodate the needs of this course.

Our first questions are:

(a) define what social networking is (in your own words);
(b) list what social networking technologies and sites you already use (for personal, work and
study purposes); and

(c) describe what you expect to learn from completing INF506

Friday, 25 October 2013


The great thing about being away on vacation is that sometimes (at least when you have great staff) you come back and amazing things have been achieved.  Here are some pictures from the library yesterday. Books are in a logical order, most shelves are labeled, the NLB books have arrived and been checked and scanned into Delicious Monster.   AND ... big bonus ... the ladies from kindergarten and the head were around to have a good look at the "store" room and "cupboards" where all sorts of stuff was being stored in not related to the library and BINGO - they've agreed to move them upstairs to the kindergarten area.  As that was one of my "nice to have" items on my transformation plan it feels even better.

Also, we met up with the IT / Systems guy to have a look at the catalogue.  That's a hmmm.  They've got a sort of home made database that they've managed to populate with the library book list from about a year ago.  The potential fields they have are:
* Book ID (automatically generated)
* Title
* Category
* Loan type
* Loan status
* Location
* Ownership

Of which only the Book ID and Title is filled in!  Eek!  After being used to working with Follett Dynasty and another systems as a user, it's rather lean.  I then have to take a step back and ask myself what is really really needed and why.  Our task is going to be to scan all the books in that can be scanned in (seems only English at this point), and then do some kind of export to excel and field match and discard the ones that are missing and add the ones that are new.  Joy.  And tell them what additional fields we'd like to see - like "author" may come in handy.

Ms. Katie forwarded me an email from LibraryWorld who is offering a month's free trail for their online system. It's certainly not terribly expensive, but of course it's more than an in-house home made system.  I tried to export the 2000 odd books we'd scanned into Delicious and immediately ran into the age old library barrier of MARC.  It only reads MARC ... so I contacted them, sure they could convert - for $300 - now that ain't gonna happen I can tell you now.  Second problem I ran into is that it didn't recognise the ISBN of our Chinese or Korean Books and third was I couldn't find a logical spot to distinguish between NLB and own books.    May I make a comment as a "not yet quite librarian" - really you need to make things simpler and more intuitive and exchangeable.  I know I know I know about MARC and spent a whole semester getting intimately acquainted with him and his mates Z39.50 etc.  But to tell me in your manual there is no get around having to pay you to convert my data, when it's a simple database matching exercise ...  nope.  If contact software can covert from one to another with ease this isn't all that much more difficult - especially since all you really really need is the ISBN number to get going.

Anyway, let's keep positive, and here are some very pretty pictures!

NLB boxes - 3 of those our old books!
Ordering our PYP books

Primary books getting in shape

2ndary books all sorted by call number
Shelves moved passage either side
NLB books on shelf
Hardcovers on display

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Haves or have nots?

Library at Kuma Cambodia - no borrowing only reading onsite
I've just spent 8 days in Cambodia on an extremely interesting services trip run by UWCSEA-East. During the time we were exposed to 5 of the Global Concerns that the school supports through its service program commencing in the infant school with Kuma Cambodia, Green Umbrella (grade 3), Epic Arts (grade 5) up to ISF (grade 6).

The focus of the trip was on exposing parents and students to the various organisations and to allow us to "get our hands dirty" - literally - we took part in a variety of activities ranging from playing football - where the most important attribute seemed to be a very muddy field, to arts and crafts, dancing, cycling, teaching English, making paper planes, and some back breaking work on building 2 houses for indigent families.

 Although the focus was not libraries, I couldn't help taking a keen interest in what, if any books and in what type of storage or lending format these were presented.

Unfortunately my camera died early in the proceedings, and so I only have some iphone shots from later in the tour, so I'll just have to describe.

The first organisation we visited, fresh off the plane after a 4am start was ISF and I was a little shocked to see a couple of shelves and a nice sign made of christmas tree glitter saying "library"  I admit to thinking "oh no, that's it?"  As the day progressed and we went to the squatter camps where the children lived and saw the extreme poverty and deprivation that they were coming from, the existence of even one shelf of books would have put those kids into the category of "haves" rather than "have nots".  Doubly so as they had books both in English and Khmer.
Books divided between English & Khmer

Donations are a double edged sword as many commentators have spoken of in the past.  In one sense, to have books, any books, is a wonderful thing.  There are caveats though.  One of these is that by bringing good into a country one stifles or overwhelms a local industry.  Another is the very important aspect of cultural relevancy - I had to laugh at the puzzled faces in an English class I was teaching as one of the kids in my team tried to explain "white" by reference to "snow".

33 consonants and 23 vowels to deal with
However, I think the most important thing is that children are allowed to learn literacy in their mother tongue and that this is supported by sufficient books in that language AT ALL LEVELS - starting with simple picture books, to the graded readers, chapter books, young adult novels etc.  And of course the absolutely critical "hi lo" books with high interest level at a low reading requirement for children who have slipped behind or have the possibility of education at a later age.  This site provides some fantastic strategies for struggling readers, aside from true disability, it is rather ironic that the "developed" world camps with "reluctant" readers, while the "developing" has children desperate to learn and enthusiastic learners without the resources that could take them where they need to be.

When I started researching this to write this blog post I found there is plenty happening in this area - it's probably more a question of gathering the information together, sifting through it and deciding what is the nice to have, need to have, affordable, practical and any other criteria that an organisation can use to judge where their literacy spend goes.
In no particular order, here are some of the things I found:

Bookshelf @ Green Umbrella
Worldreader: operates mainly in Africa and "Since we started our efforts to eradicate illiteracy, Worldreader has been committed to gauging our impact through extensive monitoring and evaluation activities, which measure the number of books read before and after deployment, students’ reading ability, as well as own ability to provide delivery and support. We’ve been research focused since day one and have a long term track record of examining what works and what doesn’t when it comes to eradicating illiteracy. - See more at:"

Books treated with great respect
 Room to read, with their publishing arm: "One of the greatest challenges to early adoption of the habit of reading in developing countries is a lack of high-quality, age-appropriate children's books in the local language. Often, the few books that are available are either second-hand books in foreign languages or low-quality, black and white books for more mature readers. Room to Read responded to this need by going into the publishing business. Our Book Publishing program is committed to providing children with materials that will inspire them to read, expand their minds, and develop a lifelong love for reading and learning."

Sipar is a charity which "For over 20 years, has helped Cambodia fight illiteracy and develop school and public reading. An enrichment to this program has been the establishment of a publishing branch for books in khmer ten years ago.  What has been accomplished to date ?
  • 230 school libraries opened containing 2000 books each.
  • 2000 school librarians trained. 
  • 8 mobile libraries set in service and circulate in the poorer areas of Phnom Penh in order to introduce book-based activities. 
  • 26 public Reading Centers established as meeting places for exchange of ideas and knowledge for all ages.
  • 10 projects of communal educational services development set up in 2 provinces 
  • 95 titles for children and young people published in the khmer language, adding up to a grand total of 1 001 500 copies, thus reviving reading and writing in Cambodia.
  • 86 000 books donated to Teacher's Training College."
Richard Scarry a hit - pictures say it all
Lists are always good - here is one by Playing by the Book - of various literacy charities around the world. Most probably not completely relevant to this article, but good for borrowing and adaptation of ideas.

Children delighting in books -
even if some were upside down and being read back to front
 There is no harm in being critical, nor in asking for evidence of success in intervention.  This article by "GiveWell" provides some research on various aspects of developing-world education.  And I admit some bias as it quotes my favourite development economist - Esther Duflo.

 It is easy for me to maintain my book and library bias in all of this, but I guess there are hard questions to ask.  If I have a dollar, do I spend it on a book, on deworming a student, on a school uniform, on improving a teachers salary, on feeding a child?  Here's a great video from Esther Duflo giving a TED talk ...

Look carefully at the choice of word for this
alphabet poster - what were they thinking?
And no, it doesn't make sense in Khmer either,
I checked.

I guess my visit resulted in more questions than answers. And especially me questioning my "developed world" assumptions.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

My first LibGuide

I've managed to make my first LibGuide, otherwise known as a pathfinder or guide.  It was a requirement for my current course INF406 "Information Sources and Services", which to be honest I enjoyed so much that I've decided to change the way I'm going on this degree from "youth and adult services" to a more digital and reference librarian bias.

Once I got my assignment I asked at school if there was anyone who wanted / needed a pathfinder and the Economics head asked for one on Development Economics.   I have to admit that Economics was never my favourite subject, neither in my undergraduate degree nor in my MBA.  Well, I liked and was terribly interested in the concepts and case studies, but hated the graphs and so called "academic rigour" that was applied to something that I found totally behavioural and that didn't follow any of the supposed "rules" or "theories".   Luckily things have moved on somewhat and it was quite a fascinating process deciding what to include and leave out of the pathfinder.

I was terribly (and luckily) constrained by the demands of the assignment that it was kept to 20-25 information sources, included at least 5 journal articles and 2 books and a limit of 2500 words. Otherwise it would have grown like topsy - speaking of which, is a rather nice new social media tool where you can agglomerate what's happened on the web within a specified time frame... cool for some time wasting if you're not busy researching anything else (try "chinese" and "homework" for some fun).

Anyway, here is my "official" libguide, which was submitted and the "unofficial" one, or rather the one the school will use which is much more extensive.  There are some pretty cool videos - and I've found a new favourite economist - Esther Duflo! Check her out.

I've learnt a TON by doing this. After I'd submitted a fellow student and experienced reference librarian who is a LibGuide ace - and taught me how to use it, showed me hers - I have a way to go yet, baby steps!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Moving the deck chairs - well at least the shelves

Old VCR boxes as flexible shelf labeling
A huge amount of progress has been made by Ms. Sheryl who has managed to get rid of the boxes cluttering up the floors and to start sorting those books which have any type of DDC number on the spine into DDC number order.  But there still are piles and piles of orphan textbooks that no-one appears to particularly want to use.  We've been lugging them from shelf to shelf it seems each time trying to find a logical space while we sort out the rest of the library, when actually the only logical place for them is ANYWHERE but the library.... which is why I titled this moving the deck chairs...

Yay an empty wall
In order to make the library shelves a bit more accessible physically we decided to move the magazine shelves out. Another factor was that due to the humidity, anything displayed on them started to have curling corners.  Since we wanted it done sooner rather than later, we just rolled up our sleeves and played moving ladies ourselves.  As you can see from the photo it's looking good - albeit empty. These are the shelves where the NLB books which arrive next Thursday (whoopee) will be located so they don't get all mixed up with our own collection.
Shelves ready and waiting for NLB delivery

We managed to finish sorting and shelving the 000-300 DDC sections using the old VCR covers kindly donated by Ms. Katie.  It's looking like a real library - at least on those six shelves!  Did I mention that the library is really quite dusty and everything has to be cleaned and wiped down as we go?

Progress:100-300 in Chinese sorted and shelved
delicious Monster 3.0 as a temporary solution
 The biggest issue right now is the arrival of the NLB books next week and we still haven't managed to locate the old catalogue, nor the cataloguing system, nor does it look like anything will be in place on time.  That called for a quick meeting with the HOS to talk about a plan B.   Which had to be quick and easy and cheap.  I brought along my laptop with my home system - yes ironically at this point, my home books and CDs and DVDs are better catalogued than the schools.  I've been using Delicious Monster 2.0 and quickly upgrade to 3.0 in order to show the potential for doing something, that would be better than handwritten lists and checking.  At $25 it was somewhat a no-brainer, but it had to happen and be confirmed. I also broached the question of cleaning ... (captive audience) and got permission to exchange some of the duplicate Korean and Chinese books with Ms. Katie for some of her surplus donated books that were needed, particularly in the primary section.  At this rate of shelf and book and box of book moving I'm going to be able to cancel my subscription to the gym!