Sunday, 12 November 2017

Starting a CoL Librarians' Group

Earlier this year, I got the chance to meet with some lovely librarians in Ipswich.  They are part of a group called FLAPS, which I was so impressed with I shared it as part of my presentation at the SLANZA conference in July.  Here's the slide I used:



Once I found out about FLAPS, I was very keen to see if it could be replicated in NZ.  I felt that this idea might work within the framework of a Community of Learning (CoL).  My school became part of a CoL last year, and it seemed like a good idea to take an existing structure that the government promotes and gives funding to, and work within that.  I like the fact that the meeting takes place during the day, not after school when many of us have a lot of other things to juggle.  I also thought that meeting once a term is not a prohibitive amount of time, and therefore hard to refuse!

I could have approached the other librarians in our CoL directly, however I wanted to have the explicit approval that being discussed at the CoL principals' meeting would bring.  I have to admit that I was keen for the principals who value their libraries and support their librarians (like mine) to be positive role models on those who hardly think about their libraries at all.  I also felt like it was the best option for getting librarians, library assistants, teachers with library responsibility and teacher aides who don't normally go to any other meetings.  Having an email forwarded to you from your principal implies that they are keen for you to go and happy for you to be away for the time needed.

Going down this route did mean having to be patient.  It took several months before librarians were discussed at the CoL principals' meeting (to be fair, they were in the process of setting things up so had lots of other things that needed to be covered).

Once it had been agreed that we could run a CoL Librarians' Group I emailed all the principals in our CoL, talked about setting up a meeting and asked them to pass on the email to anyone involved with their school library.  I asked them to indicate which days would suit them best on a Google doc that covered a couple of weeks later on in the term.  I had set the time as 9.30-11.30.  A bit later on I followed up with an email directly to the librarians of schools which hadn't responded, as I suspected there were a couple whose principals had not passed on my email!

Twelve librarians (I'll call them that although some were teachers, teacher aides etc) from nine schools attended our first meeting on 28 August.  We had seven primary schools, one intermediate and one high school.  It was held at my school and we started by getting to know each other better and talking about our hours and the conditions at our schools.  I was reminded how lucky I am to work in a big school that has a generous library budget.  I showed everyone our library and talked a bit about how we ran things.  As usual, when I am surrounded by librarians I pick up little things that will help improve my job.  Like when students have overdue books recommending that they take out an eBook instead.  Simple but not something I had been doing.  I was pleased that there was an offer from another school to organise and run the next meeting in Term 4, and we decided we would have stocktaking as our theme.

Our second CoL Librarians' meeting was held at the end of October.  We had librarians from three new schools attend!  Our new host seriously upped the ante and made a slideshow about her library and how they handled stocktaking.  It was interesting to hear about a wide range of stocktaking practices and Esther and I picked up some good ideas around training student librarians too.

Looking forward to 2018, I've had offers from our lovely National Library ladies to help should we require it, and we may pull in outside experts too. 

Overall, I'd say that the CoL Librarians' Group has been successful.  It's not a big burden to organise, I've met some new librarians from our local schools, acquired and shared knowledge, and it appears that everyone is happy for it to continue.  If your school is in a CoL, I would definitely recommend setting up a CoL Librarians' Group.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Teachers' Reading Group - The First Five Sessions

At the end of May, I started a Teachers' Reading Group at my school.  I have nine teachers who attend fortnightly, on either a Tuesday at lunchtime or a Wednesday after school.  Interestingly, of the nine there are three teachers who are in their first year, at our school and in teaching.  This is actually all of our first-year teachers, so I had a 100% success rate signing up that group.  It is a shame though, that it appears that they're not being introduced to more children's authors as part of their teaching qualification. 

I also have two teachers in the 1-3 year category, and four who have been teaching for over ten years (including one who has taught for over thirty), so I have a wide range of experience levels.

I selected each of the topics for the meetings from the "Building Communities of Readers" booklet by Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona Collins and Sacha Powell.


First Meeting

Our first meeting was on "widening knowledge of children's authors and contemporary writers".  We went over more of the teacher questionnaire results.  In particular, we talked about how a lot of teachers had written the names of authors who were their childhood favourites, and there was a lack of current writers.

I gave the teachers copies of reading for pleasure research (from my earlier presentation at a staff meeting).  I wanted them to always have that to remind them of the importance of reading for pleasure.

Everyone signed up to Goodreads and we set a goal to have read a book by the next meeting.  I brought some good books from our library, as I've done at each of the meetings since then.  I take a piece of paper and record the barcodes so I know what's gone where.

Second Meeting

This meeting was about "reflecting upon personal reading histories and current practices and exploring consequences for classroom practice".  However, it started with sharing the books that we had read (which we do at every session) and then going over a few of the results from the student surveys I had helped our teachers carry out prior to the meeting (I ended up doing eight classes - 200 children).





It was surprising that within each class there was a range of answers to the same question.  For example, in each class some students thought their teacher read aloud every day and some thought it was less than once a week!  We talked about individual class results, which showed that when teachers read aloud more often (as indicated by the answers from the majority of students), their students were more likely to believe their teachers definitely read and that they love reading.  

The teachers went on to discuss the difficulty in protecting read aloud time when other things encroached on it, and shared ideas for dealing with that.

Then we looked at our personal reading histories and how they could be shared with students - doing things like talking about the books we liked when we were children, or bringing in old books from home.  During the conversation, one of the teachers mentioned that she did reading recovery as a child.  I asked how she felt about sharing that with her students and she said she hadn't thought about it but was happy to do so.

At the end of this meeting, I took a photo so I could share it on the library's Facebook page and let our school community know what we are up to.


Third Meeting

Our third meeting was about "planning, organising and sustaining regular opportunities for children to read independently for pleasure".  We talked about the opportunities children have to read independently for pleasure, where they get to read, and how it gets worked into the school day.

We also looked at the questions in the student questionnaire about whether students liked reading, whether they thought they were any good at it and whether they read with anyone at home.  We discussed the fact that 66% of our students read more at home.  The most common reasons they gave were because they have more time, their favourite books are there, it's quieter and they're more comfortable.  The students who read more at school felt they did so because "it is a subject" (in other words they have to!), because it's busy at home and because there are more books at school.

We talked about ways to encourage children to discuss their reading with each other.  I shared something that I'd seen work well for a teacher several years ago.  She sat her students down in the library and before they returned their books she gave them time to talk about them with each other.  A lot of teachers from our Teachers Reading Group have now been doing this with their classes and it is very successful.

Fourth Meeting

At this meeting we looked at "extending knowledge of children's comics and magazines".  I brought in a huge selection of graphic novels and we browsed through these.  I'd recently been looking at the borrowing histories of some of our "priority readers" and could see that several had found their passion for graphic novels.  I talked about some of the more popular graphic novel series that had hooked these developing readers.

During this session a Year 2 teacher reported back about what happened when she talked to her class about her own reading journey.  I found her story really heart-warming, so I asked if she could write something so I could share it, and here it is:
This week I shared with my Year 2 class how I found it hard to read when I was little and that a beautiful lady, Mrs Howl, helped me to learn to read.  This created a discussion about Paula's role when she comes into our class at reading time to help some students.  The discussion took many directions with the tamariki [children] saying "we read together to help each other".   One beautiful 6-year-old said, "wow, if you didn't learn to read then you wouldn't be able to be our teacher and teach us how to read".  Another boy said, "as long as you try your best you can learn to read or do anything".  I shared that is why I love to read as the passion and support from Mrs Howl made me want to keep trying to learn to read.  This meant that after lots of hard work I was able to read my own chapter book and now any book I wanted.  Year 2's are so fantastic and it was definitely inspiring sharing my own reading journey.  I observed some of my students sitting on the mat listening with big smiles on their faces.  It was a beautiful, honest, feel-good moment that I will remember so thank you Michelle for inspiring me to share my history with my class.
This teacher said that in particular some of her lower achieving students were very inspired by hearing her story.

Fifth Meeting

The fifth meeting was about "discovering useful information about children's out-of-school reading habits, cultures and practices".  We talked about valuing all kinds of reading - online, paper-based, recipes, signs, receipts, games etc.  I shared the idea of reading rivers and gave them some handouts about it, including Jon Biddle's example on the Research Rich Pedagogies website.  I also showed them the one I had made.


A reading river is where you record everything that you read over the course of 24 hours or a weekend.  It helps the children to notice how much they are reading when they don't realise it.  It's also really good for teachers to get an idea of what kids are reading at home.  Our teachers were very enthusiastic about this, they liked the idea of putting reading rivers up on display so students' peers could see what they are reading.

I was pleased to see that one of the teachers took this idea and shared it back with the other teachers in her team.  The impact of the Teachers' Reading Group is moving wider and I'm really happy about that!


As we have gone along the teachers have got to know one another better (none of them are from the same team and several are new to the school).  We have had some great discussions around reading, not always directly related to what we've been covering!  I'm learning a lot and the cross-team pollination of ideas has been wonderful.

We have just had our sixth meeting, with a guest speaker talking about poetry.  I'll cover that in my next post, as this one is already quite long!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Teachers' Reading Group - Getting Started

Late last year, I read an excellent book called "Building Communities of Engaged Readers: Reading for Pleasure" by Teresa Cremin, Marilyn Mottram, Fiona M. Collins, Sacha Powell and Kimberly Safford.  The book is based on two studies by the UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) on teachers' knowledge of children's literature, and how they can improve it and build reading communities in their classrooms. 

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to fly to England and research reading for pleasure.  I met with Teresa Cremin and heard her keynote at the UKLA National Conference.  She was very inspirational and it was a highlight of my trip.  I was really keen to share her work with the teachers at my school.  I felt it would be an excellent way to work with teachers and help them to better help their students foster a love of reading.




Less than a week after I returned from England, I persuaded our DP to let me attend a staff meeting and administer Teresa's Teachers as Readers questionnaire (choose the 'Review your practice" tab).  This is part of the Open University's Research Rich Pedagogies website.  I copied the questionnaire and made a couple of little adjustments (like changing 'literacy coordinator' to librarian).  I didn't want the teachers to do it online as I wanted to collect the results myself.  

Part of the questionnaire has the teachers name six children's authors, six children's poets and six children's picture book authors/illustrators.  I had several teachers come up to me later on to tell me that they had remembered more names after they handed in their questionnaire, or that they were embarrassed that they couldn't name more authors.  One put a little sad face directly on her questionnaire!  It definitely got them thinking about their knowledge of authors.

My main aim for administering the questionnaire was to initiate our own Teachers as Readers project at my school.  I was told this would need to be voluntary; I would have to convince our teachers to give up their own time to be part of this project.

The following term, I was able to get ten minutes to talk about my trip at a staff meeting.  I  chose two things to talk about, that I thought would be of particular interest to teachers - Empathy Lab (see my SLANZA conference slides to find out more about that) and Teachers as Readers.  

I started by emphasising the importance of reading for pleasure.  I shared some research from the OECD (Slide 2 below).  This had quite an impact - I could hear mutterings and surprised comments arising from it.  I also shared other research (Slide 3), showing the impact reading for pleasure has on academic achievement.  I talked about the fact that reading is not just learning to read, but wanting to read.  The will as well as the skill.

Then I talked about the Teachers as Readers work done by Teresa and her team.  I reported back about the results from the questionnaire (Slides 6-8).  I compared our results with those from the 1,200 UK teachers that Teresa's team surveyed.  We were quite similar in our knowledge of writers, worse when it came to knowledge of children's poets, and better in our knowledge of children's picture book writers/illustrators.  Then I shared the conclusion from Teresa and her team based on the results of the research (Slide 9):




I talked about phase two of the Teachers as Readers research, which was a project to help widen teachers' knowledge of children's literature and build communities of readers in their schools (Slide 10). 

Then I flicked over to the last bit of our research (Slide 11).  This was our teachers' own rating of their repertoire of children's books.  Only 25% of them gave themselves a seven or more.  I said that I felt that they should all be aiming for a seven or above, for the reason I showed them in Slide 9 - to support their students in their development as readers they need to have a good reading repertoire.  I said that if they were interested in improving their rating, I would be running our own Teachers as Readers project.  I went over this in Slide 12.  I didn't want to put them off by talking about the questionnaires involved or the length of the project, but I did want them to know what they were signing up for.

I sent them out an email after the staff meeting, with a Google doc attached so they could indicate what the best times were for our Teachers' Reading Group, and how often they wanted to meet.  And then I crossed my fingers!  I was hoping for four teachers, one from each of our Year 3-6 teams.  I got nine!  They teach from Year 1-6 (in fact, one was a new entrant teacher who didn't even have any students yet!).  I also have another two teachers who can't attend in real life but did join our Goodreads group.

I ended up with two Teachers' Reading Groups, as I didn't want to have to turn anyone away.  I have a Tuesday lunchtime group and a Wednesday after school group.  The consensus was for fortnightly meetings, which has worked well.  Having the two days has also proved useful, as we've had teachers switch between the two as commitments come up.

So, I started with the questionnaire and that highlighted the gaps in some teachers' knowledge and made them feel uncomfortable.  Then I showed them the research that proved why it's important, and I think those two things really helped get teachers on board.

In my next post I'm going to summarise what we covered in our first five sessions.  The "Building Communities of Readers" booklet is a big help if you are going to run Teachers' Reading Groups as it goes through what you can cover in each session.

I am SO pleased with how things are going - I am having lots more conversations about books and reading with teachers, even those not in my Teachers' Reading Groups!  I think running the project has positioned me as an expert in children's literature and reading for pleasure in a really visible way.  There has also been some lovely feedback from the teachers about the impact on their students.




Another benefit that arose after I administered Teresa's questionnaire on our staff, was that I encouraged our principal to promote reading by having his photo taken each week while reading various picture books.  This has proved a popular segment on our library's Facebook page.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

#slanza17 - Wednesday

Reading for Pleasure Presentation
#slanza17 - Unconference
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Tuesday

Wednesday, the final day of the conference, arrived all too quickly.  I was just getting warmed up!  The keynote (Flipping the Format - How Contemporary Teens Connect to Story) was from Adele Walsh, who I had the pleasure of meeting the day before (although it took me a while to realise I was talking to a keynote speaker!).  I'll admit I was worried that because the focus was on teens I wouldn't get as much out of this keynote, but it turned out to be one of my favourite sessions!  Here are some of my notes (you can find more in the tweets from the day, below):


  • This padlet has all the websites referred to
  • Commit to the world of teens - it's not about you!
  • Embrace discomfort, otherwise you're not learning
  • Digital is not just ebooks - expand your thinking.
  • Digital storytelling, transmedia storytelling - telling stories through multiple platforms
  • The majority of teens online are creating content, making stories.  Digital stories aren't less important than other stories
  • Stop saying 'in real life', digital life is real tool, being online is real life for teens
  • Don't take over their content creation, support them in what they're doing
  • Stories are not just the written word, they're video, photos, emoji
  • 'Reading' can be a loaded term for teens, but they're used to stories being everywhere - connect with their world
  • Adele runs the 'Inside a Dog' website. Teens are involved in content creation for the site, including creating the longlist and shortlist of the Inky awards.
  • Have bookmarks with book covers and checkboxes (Love this idea! I'll be using it).
  • Got feedback on what teens want to feel in a digital community, how they felt about the site.  Going to relaunch.
  • Teens love to discuss book covers (will try this in my book club).
  • Dog Advisory Board for website, teens advising.
  • Polandbananasbooks - popular book review site (can we do something similar with our kids?)


How many of these do you recognise?



The last keynote was from Steve Braunias - "How I Survived the Bad Librarian at Mt Maunganui College, and other tales".  He was hilarious.  I immediately reserved "The man who ate Lincoln Road".  

For me, the conference finished after lunch.  I didn't attend the library tours because I had already visited one of the libraries and to be honest I quite liked the idea of beating the traffic!

A big thanks to the organising committee - I think the event was extremely well run and I really enjoyed the new additions, the quiz and the unconference.

Here are the final lot of tweets for the conference:


Saturday, 22 July 2017

#slanza17 - Tuesday

Reading for Pleasure Presentation
#slanza17 - Unconference
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

Day Two of the conference, Tuesday, started with an author breakfast.  Those of us staying on-site were lucky enough to be able to hear from Stacy Gregg.  Stacy is a popular author at my school, however because I considered her to be a "horsey" writer I hadn't read her books myself.  After hearing her speak I can't wait to read her books!  The details behind each of her stories were fascinating.  For example, she wrote a letter to Princess Haya, daughter of the King of Jordan, asking if she could please write her story, and ended up travelling to Jordan to meet her.   

A lot of Stacy's stories involve embellishing real life events to make them fiction, she likes to write strong women role-models and she loves to write books about places she wants to visit (so she can go there to do research!).  I am very keen to ask Stacy to speak at my school one day.




The keynote was by Hamish Curry, from design thinking firm NoTosh.



Here are some of his key points:
  • It is important to take the time to really understand our problems before trying to solve them.
  • Sitting by a window is an incredibly powerful way to allow yourself to relax and slow down 
  • To see how students are using a space, at three different times during the day put a dot on a floor plan to show where students are 
  • We need to have visible learning and model the same practises we want students to do - Hamish suggested doing this in a bunker room in the library
  • You need to work out patterns and what they mean, make connections
  • Use 'hexagonal thinking' as a tool for thinking, ask good questions to connect concepts together
  • When you are prototyping you need to be open to feedback on how you can make something better
  • Management is about problem solving, leadership should be about problem finding, pattern finding
  • Don't start analysing in a secret laptop, do it in an open, visible way
  • There is a difference between space and place - place has belonging, character, community
  • Get the students to speak to search - once they start asking a device a question, they'll ask more because it's easy
  • We should be inspiration service providers
  • When you want to share an idea you don't need an hour, ask for ten minutes - everyone has ten minutes
  • Put things on ceilings and floors to surprise people
  • How do we create space to slow people down so they can relax and enjoy - e.g. corners, windows.



A bunker room with visible learning




This was for a local history unit.  The teacher buried a suitcase on the grounds for the students to find.  They were totally engaged and the teachers enjoyed the unit more too.



There is more from the keynote in the tweets from the day (below).

Following the keynote, I attended Georgi de Stigter's session "Digital Technologies #FTW (For the win)".  Here is a link to her slides.  It turned out to be mainly on Google Forms which I have used before, but I did learn some more tips:

  • Use a linear scale so students can choose from 1 to 5
  • Use humour in the choices e.g. 'never, ever, ever' or 'you are the best'
  • Use sections to take students to different questions depending on if they answer yes or no
  • Ask open-ended questions e.g. 'why do you think...?'
  • Ask students and staff how effective you are e.g. 'On a scale of 1-5 how helpful do you find the library staff?' and 'What can we do better?'

Next up was Rachel Van Riel's workshop "Improving your Library Environment without Spending a lot of Money".  Here are my notes:

  • Angle bookshelves to face the door
  • There is a difference between destination and impulse.  Impulse is not planned, whereas people will ask for a destination e.g. toilet, reserved books, photocopier, OPAC.  Keep your impulse items in the best places as people will search for the destination ones.
  • We should learn from retail.
  • Paco Underhill - "Why we buy: the science of shopping" (I've reserved this)
  • We need a rest for the eye - don't fill up every wall with posters
  • Trial different locations for things and see what works
  • There shouldn't be a visual clash with books e.g. posters.  It is better to focus on the books
  • Use smaller Dewey signs to be less intrusive
  • Bay ends are rests for the eye, don't cover them with posters or books
  • Put face out books amongst the shelves, sometimes in the middle, sometimes to the left or right
  • Let the book jackets do the talking
  • People will go through a space e.g. doorway, when there's more space around it (so don't narrow the space with trolleys etc nearby)
  • Don't shut yourself away, get out on the library floor as much as possible
  • Let pillars and staircases sing - don't cover them with posters
  • If you have glass display cases put them in the foyer as they're transient areas
  • Bookshelves should always be more than 70% full, preferably completely full, otherwise people will think that the best has gone
  • Empty shelves signal that you don't have enough books

Participants in this session had been invited to send in photos of their libraries so that Rachel could give suggestions.  I'd been too busy working on my presentation to send mine through, but I did manage to catch up with her on Wednesday and she generously went through some of my library photos too (she did say in her email to participants that she would be around on Wednesday for free advice, so I wasn't stalking her!).  I'm going to do another post about the advice she gave me and show some before and after photos as I put it into practice.  


After lunch was Hamish Curry's workshop "Designing Library Discoveries".  Hamish talked about how children don't learn how to work AS a group, they're just asked to work IN a group.  They need to learn what collaboration looks like.  He said we need to spend as much time analysing a problem as solving it.  We are answer rich, question poor.



Hamish asked us to write down on post-it notes two challenges and two opportunities that had come out of the conference.  We put them up on the whiteboard and then they were grouped into common themes.


Next he showed us "the squid".  We picked a topic and then came up with three questions, then switched into answer mode.  The idea is to switch from question mode to answer mode, not work through each thread separately.  Then we had to circle the two best questions and two best answers (we hadn't got far enough through so we circled "future answers" in the expectation that some good ones would have been generated if we had gone further!).



I found some more free tools and resources from NoTosh.

My final workshop was with Joanna Ludbrook - "Ka-boom! Working with Primary Classes, Creating Solid Foundations for Life-long Learning".  Here are my notes:

  • Good site for list of topics covered during library classes - https://www.crsd.org/page/552
  • A Google a Day challenge - http://www.agoogleaday.com/
  • Recommended books:
    • 'How to read a story' - Kate Messner
    • 'The children who loved books' - Peter Carnavas
    • 'Keys' - Sacha Cotter*  Joanna had a set of keys that she uses to prompt children to create their own stories with.  That sounds like fun so I'll be giving it a go at our school.
    • 'Chester & Gil' - Carol Faulkner*  Joanna asks children to define the qualities of Chester and Gil and it promotes good discussions.
    • 'The three bears (sort of)', and 'Little red riding hood, not quite'  - both by Yvonne Morrison. These books are great to encourage children to question what they read.
    • 'Mr Archimedes' Bath' - Pamela Allen.  Joanna uses this book alongside Aesop's fable 'The Crow and the Pitcher' to illustrate the scientific theory of displacement.
  • Make jars of physical things to represent a book.
  • Include volunteer hours and duties in your library reports
  • "What's-on-Wednesday" - shared at the unconference
*These two books were the only two I didn't have and are both out-of-print! I managed to pick up copies on Trademe.


I was able to catch up with Rachel Van Riel at the end of day to get her opinion about how adding reading for pleasure to the curriculum has impacted reading and libraries in England (for my NZEI scholarship).  We talked for an hour and a half - she is so generous with her time, and such a lovely, knowledgable lady to speak with.  I walked her back to her room, which was in the same boarding house as mine, however I still managed to get lost trying to back to my room!  Fortunately there were helpful librarians to point me in the right direction!

The day ended with the conference dinner.  The entertainment was great but hard to describe so here's a link to the conference Facebook page with photos and videos of the evening.

Here are the tweets from the day:


Thursday, 20 July 2017

#slanza17 - Monday

Sunday - Unconference
#slanza17 - Tuesday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

On Monday, we started with a lovely powhiri and welcome in the chapel.  The first keynote speaker was the amazingly awesome Rachel Van Riel.  Other tweeters did a great job of taking photos of slides and recording key points from her session, so do have a look at the tweets from the day (below).  Also, she did a session in the afternoon, "Putting Readers First - A New Approach to Book Promotion", that I couldn't go to because I had to do my own session at that time (sigh!), so it's good to see the tweets from that too.  Here are my notes from Rachel's keynote:
  • It can be hard to find stimulus in libraries, even though they are filled with riches.
  • If you say that others have to understand our system then this is not friendly, it's functional.  Retail is friendly.
  • We shouldn't be saying "it's always been like that" we should be reviewing and changing space.
  • We need to check what the message is on the outside of the library when the door's shut
  • There is too much clutter, too many notices.
  • We need to organise the books as invisibly as we can - the organisational system is for us not our students.
  • Students need to be able to see into the library, so there's something to go in for.
  • Putting a cloth on a table feminises it.
  • Books are better in the middle of the library not around the edge.
  • The clearer the better, don't clutter.
  • Watch where people go, where they spend their time in the library.
  • Don't put all the tables together, integrate them with shelves - it breaks up the noise.
  • If your shelves make corridors Rachel calls these "corridors of faith".  You have to have a reason to go down them.  Instead use a discovery layout to entice children into areas.
  • Your eyes go first and your feet follow.
  • Don't go with a multi-coloured scheme.  Plan for a colour scheme - a designed environment has a different feel to it.
  • Teachers shouldn't be teaching the same kind of lesson as in classrooms - it should be a different learning experience.
  • Seating and books should be close together.
  • Vary the heights of seating.
  • Always have books in the eyeline.
  • The "sale" is not made at the desk - can you make it smaller?
  • Only one in five patrons goes to the desk for help - it requires a certain level of confidence and commitment. 
  • How do you provide a service to those who don't come to the desk?  You need to come to them.  The librarian should be out on the floor.
  • Choice is difficult so offer a lot of smaller choices that are varied and changing.
  • Metal shelving is unattractive!  We are not a warehouse anymore.
  • Not having face-out books makes choosing difficult.
  • Drop the props from book displays.
  • Don't let posters overwhelm books below.
  • Mix different kinds of books to open up reading choices.
  • Let the covers of the books shine.
  • Change libraries from control and process.


Her book is well worth a read

The next session I went to was "Coding Stories and More in the Library and Beyond - Scratch Junior" by Felicity McKay.






We did the above activity using Scratch Junior.  It was quite intuitive and a lot of fun.  I've had Scratch Junior on my iPad for a while but have never made the time to explore.  I'm going to introduce this app to our school's Digital Leaders next week, and see if they can make something book-ish.

The next session was Anne-Marie Hartley's "Library Advocacy: What I Learnt from a Turtle".  I actually went to primary school with Anne-Marie, but have only recently reconnected with her.  I liked the way she talked about the fact that a turtle makes progress only when he sticks out his neck.  A message to us all to be brave!  Here's some more notes on what she said:

  • It is important to connect with teachers, students and parents - they can be your advocates.
  • She is available after parent/teacher conferences to talk to parents on how to support literacy
  • Encourage students to write to authors (I think they could tweet too!)
  • Actively solicit feedback from parents about the library.
  • In her book club (which is large), a different student is nominated each week to introduce a book, show book/film trailers about it, give author info and activities related to it.  This is very popular.

My own session on "Reading for Pleasure - Ideas from the UK" was at 2pm.  I shared the slides here.  I was nervous, as expected, and my laptop crashed four times just before the session but everything went reasonably smoothly after that and I was happy to have it done and dusted so I could enjoy the rest of the conference without worrying about it.

Next up, Rosemary Tisdall and Jo Buchan were presenting a session called "Creating a School where all Staff are Readers".  We did a quick game where we had to guess the children's book title from synonyms of it (e.g. instead of "Hunger Games" you have "Famine Amusement").  I think that would be a fun book club activity.  Jo shared some slides - I was gratified to see that I was not the only person talking about Professor Teresa Cremin's work.  She also shared research showing, among other things, that only 22-24% of NZ students get the opportunity to talk about the things they read in class.  Then Rosemary showed us her wonderful selection of books and made us all want to read them!  I've added some to my wishlist.  One other note I have from this session is to look into this site, which involves using visual strategies to address literacy development.





 The SLANZA awards followed and Kids' Lit Quiz guru, and fellow Hamiltonian, Julie Huggins was one of the worthy recipients honoured.



After dinner was the Quiz night, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fortunately I found myself in a team with librarians who knew a lot more about the classics than I do!  There were some great categories e.g. literary couples, literary history, literary geography.  We came second equal and I picked up a book to take home for the library.  Thanks team!

Here are the tweets from the day:


#slanza17 - Unconference

Reading for Pleasure Presentation
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Tuesday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

Yesterday was the last day of the School Library Association of New Zealand (SLANZA) 2017 conference.  As usual I had a fantastic time, met old friends and made new ones, and came away with a list of amazing ideas to try in my library.  I'm going to recap the highlights of the conference so I can make an attempt at working out my priorities for next term - one of the drawbacks of being around so many inspiring people is the quantity of ideas far outweighs the time available to implement them!

For a lot of us the conference began on Sunday, when there was an option to attend an unconference in the evening.  I arrived at the venue, King's College, late on Sunday afternoon, as the traffic on the way up from Hamilton had been very heavy all the way.  Note to self - don't forget that Sunday afternoons are when Aucklanders return from wherever they have been for the weekend!  

For the first time, I was staying onsite, in a boarding house.

King's College


A helpful way to remember your room!

The unconference started at 7.30pm.  For many the format was new, but luckily I've been to a few educamps so I knew what I was in for.  Well, mostly!  There was an interesting exercise where we were shown a few polarising statements and we had to stand in certain places of the room depending on how we felt about them.  Then a few passionate people from either side of the spectrum were invited up to share their viewpoints.  There was a statement about whether we need labels on books, and another on whether we need non-fiction collections for research anymore.  I do feel this could have gone terribly wrong!  Controversial icebreakers can create divisions and we had only just arrived.  Fortunately everyone was well-behaved.  

We also had a smackdown, where participants share their favourite tips and ideas.  Here's a link to the slides.  I think different things will have appealed to different people depending on their circumstances, here are the ideas I was particularly interested in:

  • 60-second bookshelf.  Mandy Ditzel from Garin College promotes new books or happenings at the library at her weekly assembly.  I do a very quick promo of books at our short, morning tea staff meetings.  I'm wondering whether I could pop into some of our team assemblies and do some quick book promos for our students there.  That way I could tailor the books to the right age level.  I might try and get to a different one each Monday - it doesn't help that they're all on the same day and start at the same time!
  • Sarah Toh from ACG Parnell College talked about her interactive space.  She has a new activity every three weeks and does things like origami, chess and blackout poetry.  We have regular chess players in our library so I was interested when she said that they do interactive chess - where each player has three turns and then a new player takes over.  I was also reminded that I should make our chess books prominent at lunchtimes.
  • Robin Achmad at Green Bay High School talked about creating a popular series clearfile with a list of the titles in order, and cover images.  I think a blurb about the series would be good too.  
  • I have our book club kids make their own Kahoots about books but it was suggested that a library orientation Kahoot works well.  Then I wondered whether I could incorporate one into one of my library skills sessions.
  • Joanna Ludbrook from Houghton Valley School does "What's-on-Wednesday" which is an event around books - like guests, Youtube videos, quizzes etc.  Student librarians help organise it.

We also had a couple of group discussions from topics people had suggested on a Padlet.  The first one I went to was on suitable books for primary kids.  Censorship has been quite a hot topic on the library listserv this year but for younger kids we do have to make book selection decisions based on their age, and there are no clear guidelines.  Among other things we discussed the fact that sex education does not start until Year 9. 

The second group I went to talked about good display ideas.  A simple one I liked was to use a fishing rod and say "Get hooked on a book".

Here are the tweets from the day:


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

#slanza17 - Reading for Pleasure Presentation

#slanza17 - Unconference
#slanza17 - Monday
#slanza17 - Tuesday
#slanza17 - Wednesday

I am just starting the last day of the SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand) 2017 Conference.  I will be writing up more about the conference later, but I promised to share my slides so I'm doing that now.

I had way more slides than I could actually use during the presentation, but instead of deleting them I shifted them to the end as 'bonus' slides to be looked at later! 



I warn you, just visiting all the websites I've linked to could drag you down a rabbit hole you won't leave for weeks - but it will be fun!  I talked a bit about the "Teachers as Readers" project that I am facilitating at my school.  Watch out for a blog post about that shortly too.  

I'm happy to answer any questions that may arise, just email me - msimmsnz@gmail.com.