Friday, November 22, 2013

Outside Connections and Follett Destiny

If I could wave a magic wand and improve Follett Destiny as a school library catalog, it would be to improve ways of linking and looking into it.

Here are a few ways to ameliorate the situation.

1)  Share a Destiny link -- the need to add the all-important 'site' information


Have you ever wanted to send a Destiny link to a title, resource list, or copy category to someone?  If so, you know you HAVE TO add:

&site=NUMBER

to the end of the link, where NUMBER is usually 100, 101, 102, 103, etc.

We host our own catalog, so that's all we have to do.  I just learned that if Follett hosts your catalog, you also have to add:

&context=BLAH

For example:  &context=saas18_8553630&site=100

You can see your particular site information by hovering over the link that gets you into your particular catalog.  For example, our Dover Secondary library is site 100, our Dover Primary library is site 101, our East Primary library is 102, and our East Secondary library is 103.  So that information is added to any link we send to anyone.


Update 12Apr14:  If Follett hosts your catalog and you need to find your CONTEXT number, look at the URL when you see all your catalogs displayed -- and it will be at the end of the URL:

2)  Get a Destiny link -- to a set of search results


If you want to send someone a "canned" ("tinned"?) search -- such that they can dynamically search the catalog by clicking on a link, you need to edit the URL.

For example, suppose I want to send someone a link that will do a keyword search on "economics".  I put "economics" in the Basic Search box and press Enter.  The URL that results is not reproducible -- you can't send it to someone and get the same results.  Instead you need to choose "Refine your search" and work with that URL.


When you get that URL, you need to change the word "present" to "handle":

Lastly, I have to add the site/context info, e.g., here is the final URL.

http://catalog.uwcsea.edu.sg/cataloging/servlet/handlebasicsearchform.do?keywordText=economics&siteTypeID=-2&searchType=keyword&siteID=&includeLibrary=true&includeMedia=false&mediaSiteID=&doNotSaveSearchHistory=false&awardGroupID=-1&site=103

The URL above will do a keyword search on "economics" for the East Second Library of UWCSEA and present the results.

Note:  You can also use DQL (Destiny Query Language) to do a more complicated search out of the Basic search box (because you can't access meaningful URLs based on an Advanced Search).

See the Destiny Help system for more information, e.g.,


3)  Goodreads -- how to click to check if you already have a Goodreads book in your Destiny catalog


First, find a book in Goodreads.  On the Title information page, look for "online stores" and "book links" at the bottom.  It's the "Book Links" bit that you (and your patrons) can customize to go to your school's Destiny catalog to check availability.



Angie Erickson and I presented a workshop on "Geeking out with Goodreads" in September at the Google Apps Summit here in Singapore -- and put "how to" information about integration with Follett Destiny up on a Google Site page here:

https://sites.google.com/site/geekingoutwithgoodreads/library-catalog-interfaces

4)  Book Cover Displays -- mirroring bits of your collection via Goodreads or LibraryThing or showing "Latest Arrivals" via Pinterest


Many people use Goodreads or LibraryThing to generate book display widgets for parts of their catalog.

Basically, you reproduce a Resource List or Copy Category (i.e., a list of books) in your catalog into Goodreads or LibraryThing or Pinterest -- and then put them on a shelf or board or tag them.

E.g., here is the 2013-2014 Red Dot books for Older Readers -- display out of Goodreads:


Update 12Apr14:  
If you "pin" books from within your Destiny catalog (adding the &site=xxx as per above), then when users click through on the board, they will be taken to the title in your catalog.

Pinterest, unlike Goodreads and LibraryThing, is a time-sensitive -- last in, first out -- list.  So it's perfect for showing things like "Latest Arrivals". (In Destiny Quest, users can see latest arrivals, but only 10 or so and you can't control what is on that list.   Via Pinterest, you can choose the books to advertise.

And here are some links to Pinterest boards that show our latest arrivals:

5)  LibraryThing for Libraries -- Book Display Widgets -- linking back to Destiny


LibraryThing for Libraries has a javascript Book Widget generator available via Bowker for about US$ 400 -- which allows you to create any number of book display widgets in four different styles that will let people click on a book cover and go directly to that item in your school catalog.

We're now using it to get beautiful displays of booklists on our Libguide pages, e.g., see our Economics: Introduction: Books & Physical Resources and our Mathematics: Introduction: Books & Physical Resources guides.

The widget can take a variety of inputs -- as the screenshot to the right shows.

If you want to have the book covers displayed link back to your own catalog -- you need to use the "LibraryThing.com User".  When you buy the widget generator, you automatically get a LibraryThing account to put books into.  The widget works off LibraryThing "Collections" -- so when you enter or import titles, put them in a Collection.

If you have a Destiny Resource List and want those titles imported into LibraryThing, you can run a "Title/Copy List" report out of Destiny -- which includes the ISBN of copies. When the report is displayed, select all and copy the whole text output.  Then in LibraryThing go to "Add Books" then "Import Books" -- and paste that text into the "Grab ISBN" box.  Identify what collection you want them imported into -- then import.

You can then create a widget based on that collection.

You can also dump your whole school catalog as MARC records out of Destiny - and LibraryThing will upload them in batch mode -- though you can't identify tags or collections upon import.

In order to have the widget link back to your catalog, you have to tell LibraryThing how to search your catalog using a URL, e.g.,

ISBN search:
http://catalog.uwcsea.edu.sg/cataloging/servlet/handlenumbersearchform.do?searchOption=3&searchText=MAGICNUMBER&includeLibrary=true&includeMedia=false&siteTypeID=-2&siteID=&mediaSiteID=&doNotSaveSearchHistory=false&awardGroupID=-1&site=103

Title search:
http://catalog.uwcsea.edu.sg/cataloging/servlet/handlebasicsearchform.do?keywordText=KEYWORDS&siteTypeID=101&searchType=title&siteID=&includeLibrary=true&includeMedia=false&mediaSiteID=&doNotSaveSearchHistory=false&awardGroupID=-1&site=103

 Access-based URL:
http://catalog.uwcsea.edu.sg/cataloging/servlet/presenttitledetailform.do?siteTypeID=101&siteID=&includeLibrary=true&includeMedia=false&mediaSiteID=&bibID=ACCESSION&awardGroupID=-1&site=103


After you get these Global Configurations set up, creating the widget is straight-forward.

Here are the four styles available:

3D Carousel example:


Dynamic Grid example:


Carousel example:



Scrolling example:

NB: As it's javascript, it's not possible to embed these widgets into Google Sites nor in the Destiny HTML homepage.

 6)  Destiny Homepage -- call numbers and collections....


Last but not least, I think we all should be providing better clues about the structure of our catalogs on our Destiny homepages.   

When I get to somebody's catalog start page, I have no way of knowing how many books they have or how they've organized their collections.  So I'll look at Resource Lists and Visual Search lists, but if people haven't create any -- then it's a blind search box and I have to guess.

Ideally I'd like to create a map showing my library's layout and physical collections as well as digital resources -- and have that on my homepage.

Until I get around to to doing that, I list all the major call number prefixes on our Destiny Home Page.

Liberate your book cupboards and create a more true "bookstore" model in your school library?

We all enjoy the mental exercise of comparing libraries and bookstores as spaces where humans come to interact with books.

Libraries nobly address users' needs (the story goes), while bookstores focus on their wants -- and therefore provide a better browsing experience, being organized for optimum attention rather than intellectual access. 

Positing bookstores as the outside competition prompts us to examine and improve discoverability in our library environment -- to increase the likelihood people will find the books they want - or, more importantly, books they didn't even know they wanted.

First there's the basic environmental psychology of shopping, which Paco Underhill explained so well in his 1999 book, Why We Buy: the science of shopping -- what I think of as the "grocery store" approach. Put the most frequently purchased items at the back of the store, forcing people to walk through the space and be exposed to more merchandise.  Put the tempting last-minute purchases (the candy and gossip magazines) in the checkout aisle.  Make as much stuff face-front display as possible (who buys cereal by looking at the spine of the box?).

More commonly, talk of implementing bookstore models in libraries is associated with ditching Dewey (e.g., see this September 2012 article in School Library Journal) in favor of sections with real names on prominent signs ("Science Fiction", "Sports", "Travel", etc.), not decimal numbers.  Of course, we all ditch Dewey to some degree.  Everyone has an A-Z author-sorted "Fiction" section outside the 800s.  Many have a separate "Biography" section.  Every collection outside the run of the Dewey numbers can be claimed as a victory by the bookstore model.

The Magic of Multiple Copies


But there's one aspect of the bookstore model that most libraries don't or can't reproduce -- having multiple copies on the shelf and potentially more stock "out back" somewhere.

In our library this year, we have started to create "bookstore" sections.  Book covers facing out.  Rough grouping by author or genre.  Multiple copies behind the front book. And, most importantly, a paper place-holder sign showing you what book is normally shelved in the spot -- and a QR code to let you see how many copies are still available.

We started with the English Dept'.s resources, creating a Hot Reads for High School (over 250 titles so far) and a Middle School Reading Zone (over 170 titles so far).  Next the Math Dept. came up with a list of books to buy multiple copies, and the Economics Dept. wasn't far behind.  We've put those titles face-front at the beginning of the subject Dewey section in Nonfiction.

The best thing is - you can booktalk efficiently.  The selection is smaller and definitely selected - by virtue of the curriculum or a teacher or librarian. And there is an instant supply!

Because that's the usual frustration of a school librarian in front of a group of students - booktalking when only one copy is available.  What if you could booktalk a book and have 4, 6, 8, 12, 24, 144+ copies available?

The project started with our middle school's foray into Reading Workshop, with its focus on literature circles instead of whole-grade novel study, and our Grade 9 English teachers deciding they wanted to kick off the year with a wide reading initiative (inspired by Penny Kittle's Book Love) before having to hone in on IGCSE texts.

How could we quickly produce varied class libraries for 8+ English classrooms per grade level?  Where would these books come from?

Solution:  Take all the multiple copies previously purchased for whole-class novel study by the English Dept. and make them available to all students (when not required by a particular teacher).  Then choose some extra titles for purchase, whether in small or large sets, based on curriculum need or teacher/librarian choice.  Finally, for us, add in the multiple copies purchased as part of running of the annual Red Dot Awards (see history here).

Voila!  The library as massive class library.  With multiple copies of great books available on the shelf.  This is our "Best Books for Middle School" list, our "This is What Your Child Will Be Reading in English Class" list, our "What Your Teacher Recommends" list.  Parents love it, as do kids.  It's the quick pick-up zone.  The whole Fiction section still has a fantastic selection of books, but students don't have to negotiate it until they are motivated to do so.

I want to focus now on the logistics of our implementation.  Because there always are tricks that make things work, in any given situation.

Q:  How to you keep multiple copies on the shelf?

A:   Our shelves are deep enough to store a stack of books behind a simple metal bookend, bent to hold a front-facing book on display.  The excess are kept in a backroom, handy enough that library staff can go retrieve them to replenish the shelf stock or upon request.


Q:  What if all the "hot reads" are gone?  How do I know what is all out?

A:  There is still evidence left behind.  No titles out of sight, out of mind. We have made A5 (half of 8.5x11" sheets, for you Americans) printouts showing the cover plus a QR code and shortened URL -- which take you to the catalog, showing how many copies are still available.


QR codes are magic.  I've liked them from the beginning and have them sprinkled around my library, connecting the visible with the virtual.

I recommend you get ShortenMe in the Chrome Extension store.  With one click, you get an instant QR code and goo.gl URL.

NB: if you're using Follett Destiny, you always need to add your site number at the end of the URL before shortening it (e.g., blahblahblah&site=100).  Contact me if you use Destiny and don't know what I'm talking about.
The A5 paper signs go into re-usable stiff plastic "card cases". Sample at left.

Q:  How do people know if there are more copies out back?

A:  By scanning the QR code or typing in the Goo.gl shortened URL provided on every display stand -- both of which link into our catalog, e.g., click here to see availability of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.




As mentioned above, this model is being extended into subject departments in high school, creating pockets of the "bookstore experience" within the Dewey run.  Mathematics, Economics, History, and Drama are the first.

To the right are books on the Mathematics shelves in the Dewey section.

We have virtual walls, too, mirroring these bookstore sections -- thanks to a new HP large-format printer, which can make posters up to 1.x meters in size.  See examples in the slideshow below.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Looking back: the evolution of the Red Dot Book Awards & Readers Cup in Singapore

The Red Dot book awards (reddotawards.com) are one of those hybrid awards:  students vote on shortlists selected by adults (school librarians).  Eight books in four categories, one winner in each -- followed by a Readers Cup competition between international schools here in Singapore.

"But what's the mission statement?  Good literature or just promoting books from various countries?" someone asked as we gathered to sort through the longlists of the four categories this year.

My gut response was "good literature from various countries."

The awards website's "About" page says:
The Red Dot categories are roughly based on readers, rather than book formats or school divisions.  (NB: It is up to every librarian to determine which books are right for which classes in your school to read.)
  • Early Years (ages 3-7) -- formerly Picture Books
  • Younger Readers (ages 7-10) -- formerly Junior) -- (where Captain Underpants and Geronimo Stilton are the assumed reading level)
  • Older Readers (ages 10-14) -- formerly Middle) -- (where Inkheart and The Lightning Thief are the assumed reading level)
  • Mature Readers (ages 14-adult) -- (formerly Senior) --  (where Twilight and The Book Thief are the assumed reading level)
Shortlist titles are chosen by a committee of teacher-librarians from recent children's literature (first published in English within the past four years), with the goal of offering a range of books from around the world
The initiative is now entering its fifth year, just long enough for its origins to deserve review -- especially given our transient teaching population.
As one of its creators, it was interesting for me to go back through the minutes of meetings and  posts in the Google Group of our local network - ISLN (International Schools Library Network - Singapore) and remember how it developed.

First there was Barb Philip Reid, a NZ/Australian teacher-librarian at Tanglin Trust School, back in September 2008 wanting to get a Readers Cup going between all our schools, similar to the Readers Cup in Australia.   As research, she and I did a librarians-on-tour trip to Hong Kong in May 2009 to watch the finale of the annual Battle of the Books (based on a well-established American model) run by their international school library network, ALESS.

At the same time I had been wanting to get an annual international students-voting book award going in Singapore, inspired by the Panda Book Awards created by SLIC (School Librarians in China) and the Sakura Medal started by the international school librarians in Japan.  (The French international schools in Asia run a similar program: see here and here -- and there is now the Morning Calm Medal in South Korea.) 

Barb and I figured, why not combine the two ambitions and start an annual book award program, whose shortlists would become the source of the Readers Cup competition booklists.  Introduce the books in Oct/Nov, vote in March, and the three older categories (as shown) would compete in May.
  • Younger Readers - Year 3, 4 & 5 / Grade 2, 3 & 4
  • Older Readers - Year 5, 6, 7, & 8 / Grade 4, 5, 6 & 7
  • Mature Readers - Year 8+ / Grade 7+
Our booklists would then necessarily be "formative" ones, meaning only fairly recent literature, in contrast to the "summative" kind most "Battle of the Books" (Google it) use, mixing old and new titles.  Both have their place.  The "summative" approach guarantees kids don't miss great books from any era.  The "formative" ensures students and teachers are exposed to the best of the latest -- and encourages schools to buy multiple copies of new titles every year, potentially freshening up the book cupboards.

We got a committee together and in October 2009 it was announced the award would be called the "Red Dots" (as Singapore is proud of that epithet).   The shortlists followed in November, with 14 schools immediately signing up to participate, including a British school, an American school, a German school, a French school, a Canadian school, an Australian school, plus just plain Anglo-heritage/international ones.  And so it started, and has continued, with some variation in implementation.

Each school can do what they want with the lists.  Buy them all or only a selection.  Participate in voting or not.  Participate in the Readers Cup or not.  Give your students different criteria for choosing one book to vote for in each category.  (Your personal favorite? The one you would recommend to friends the most?)  We only say students should probably have read at least two books in a category in order to make a choice.  We do expect just one vote per student per category.  Results are tallied by category and school, and then for all the schools, giving us overall winners.

An International Approach (in Singapore)

 

But back to the question, how do we choose titles?   What assumptions has the committee been working on over the past five years?

Barb and I did a presentation at the 2010 IASL (International Association of School Librarians) in Brisbane, Australia, on "Creating Internationally Literate Readers" (see the workshop website and our conference paper), which recounted the Red Dot story and summarized the challenges we face in choosing books suitable for and accessible to the wide range of students in our various international schools.

We brought up the danger of the single story (a la Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk) and the need for books to serve as both mirrors and windows of culture for children, especially given the predominance of "third culture" kids in our schools.  We showed examples of books that bridge cultures well - and others that are problematic.  For example, the question always has to be asked, is this book too American? too British? too Australian? too Canadian? too Singaporean? etc.

There are so many factors, but these are the major ones considered for the Red Dot books:
  •  Publication date:  published in English within the past four years.  That seems to increase the chance that books are available in paperback.  It also allows enough time for us to take advantage of other/national book awards which may be limited to just the past year - we can choose from their backlists.
  • Cost and ease of access:  If a book is perfect, but not available through our regular book-buying channels, or only available in hardcover, we hesitate to choose it.  Likewise, if a book is available as an ebook as well as print, that would give it extra points.  Everyone runs their Red Dot program differently, but we assume multiple copies will be purchased.
  • Genres:  with only eight titles per category, variety is desirable, but there is no formula.  One non-fiction? One poetry or verse novel? One graphic novel? One fantasy? One historical fiction?   One book in translation?  One book featuring global concerns, like child labor or refugees or war? There has been talk of starting a separate category for graphic novels.  Maybe next year?
  • Reading Level vs. Reader Maturity Level:  This is the hardest thing to gauge.  Where to place a book.  Sometimes we get it wrong.  There is an assumed one year overlap (at least for the Readers Cup) between Younger and Older Readers, and Older and Mature Readers.  And schools have different comfort levels with language and content.  All we can say is, each librarian is responsible for reading and placing the books in their school.  There is no requirement that each school stock each book.  Students don't have to read all the books in order to vote.
  • Country of origin or country of flavor:  We like to include a book or two in each category that reflects the region.  Having said that, we try not to privilege country of origin over quality.   If there's a good one from Singapore, that's great (especially if the author likes to do school visits), but if not, we would be happy with a good one from, or set in, another Asian country.  Also, no one country of origin should dominate a list.  When in doubt, think international.
  • Literary vs. Popular:  This is the tension in the modified children's choice style of book awards.  They don't pick the longlist or shortlist - they only get to vote.  So are we choosing books we want them to read?  Or books they would choose to read on their own?  Should we choose a book if we already have a sense that it's going to a big hit?  Or avoid the easy choice and try to put another one in their path, a lesser known one that could have just as much appeal?  (Some of our past choices might look like we went for a bestseller, but if you check the dates, we chose them before their massive popularity - e.g., "The Hunger Games".)

    The bottom line is, we are buying multiple copies of these books.  They might not have to be texts worth teaching in depth, but if the extra copies are going to be used (after the Red Dot cycle is over) for literature circles or to enhance class libraries, then we want both quality and appeal.  I know I want books my students can possibly make at least two connections with (using the Keene & Zimmerman / Harvey & Goudvis strategies):
    • Text-to-Self -- emotional or personal connections -- think empathy...
    • Text-to-World -- social or political or historical connections -- relevant issues or introduction to other cultures...
    • Text-to-Text -- literary/literacy or intellectual connections -- perhaps an author, series, or genre that will keep kids reading...

Balance is Everything

This means within the list, across the categories, and across the years.  For all the factors above.

I found some old photos of our Red Dot committee shortlist meeting from September 2010.   Here we are:  drinks, nibbles, laptops (note the person being skyped in), smartphones, and books.  I recall it was a marathon session.

And here's the whiteboard where the balance of the lists was incessantly being assessed.
This year we've split into two groups to do the selection:  Early/Younger and Older/Mature.  Time is ticking and we should be finishing our lists within the next two weeks.  There are books to be bought.  And a new website to get up and running.  Watch reddotawards.com for updates......

Monday, October 14, 2013

Title talk: Librarian + What? Teacher? Facilitator? Curriculum Leader?

The last time our school posted a library job, it asked for a Teacher-Librarian (TL).*

This time it says we need a Library Facilitator.  (Apply by October 23!)  Primary or secondary.  (While I'm in secondary now, I'm flexible.)

Jane & Louise Wilson "Oddments room"
Where did the teaching go?  It's still in there, but shifted - from direct to indirect - while retaining learning as the priority.  Read the job responsibilities:

  • Work collaboratively with library staff across the campus and college.
  • Work collaboratively with the curriculum leaders and department heads to develop resources and promote inquiry-based learning and all forms of literacy.
  • Work collaboratively with all members of the community (whether students, parents, or staff) to support teaching and learning.
  • Manage the library as a learning environment and public space, including patron services and library staff.
  • Manage and develop learning resources, physical and digital, both for the library and classrooms/departments.
  • Lead the development and promotion of the library as a centre dedicated to the spread of ideas, information, and learning.
  • Other responsibilities as determined by the Head of Libraries and Head of Campus.

 The issue is our librarian-student ratio.

With only two teacher-librarians, one in the primary library and one in the secondary library, and 2,600 students total, the ratio is challenging (to be euphemistic).  We  have roughly 1,000 students in primary and 1,300 students this year in middle/high school (secondary) - and will be adding another 300 students in secondary next year, for a maximum of 2,600 on this new campus.  (And we have a mirror campus across town with 2,900 students, K-12.)

How can one person "teach" 1,000 students?  They can't.  At least not regularly.  Instead they must focus on developing teachers' capacity (as a coach, modeling lessons and acting as a consultant) and learning resources (from pathfinders via Libguides to videos, podcasts, slide presentations), not to mention running a facility that is a learning space by default (the environment as the 3rd teacher), hosting events and initiatives.   Our libraries are in prominent well-trodden paths.  There's no danger of students not coming into them.  Two major pillars of support are the stalwart library staff and the motivated and multi-talented parent body.  Both are critical to maintaining library sanity.

Did I mention that, at this campus, the library is also responsible for the processing and management of all teaching resources?  This includes textbooks for secondary (where we have them) and reading/writing workshop resources for middle and primary (i.e., literature circles and class libraries).  In addition, the secondary library works closely with departments to ensure multiple copies of great books for each age and subject are available (imagine "Hot Reads for High School" across disciplines).

In this situation, we decided that the librarian half is more important than the teacher half in recruiting a new person.  Hence the word "facilitator" over "teacher".  We played with several others.  Coach? Curriculum Liaison? Curriculum Developer?  Curriculum Leader?

We have great teachers.  And we have a great number of resources, digital and physical.  What we need is someone dedicated to connecting the two efficiently.  Perhaps we are just looking for a TL committed to the Flipped Classroom -- who is also excited by metadata.  Because that's what the librarian end should be focusing on -- ensuring easy, intellectual access to everything (the curriculum++) from anywhere.  And this must be accomplished while living in the center of the library, where the students live each day.   It's a front-of-office job with back-of-office responsibilities.

So consider applying.  Whether you agree with our label or not.  What's important is that you appreciate our situation and feel you could not only cope, but add value.

Head of Library role is another interesting definition to consider.  This is how I describe it at the moment.

  • Develop staffing plans and co-ordinate staff recruitment and deployment
  • Co-ordinate the budget process
  • Represent the library team in a variety of settings
  • Facilitate communication between libraries across the campus and college
  • Develop a strategic plan and co-ordinate goal-setting for the libraries
  • Co-ordinate staff professional development
  • Manage facility planning and development
  • Develop library policies and procedures
  • Liaise with heads of departments & grades about policy and procedures relating to the management of learning resources (e.g., textbooks and class libraries)
  • Oversee the provision of information services

Comments welcome.... as well as sympathy.

Update Oct 15:

I forgot to mention two other very very very important positions that complement the library ones.

The primary school has two digital literacy coaches as well as one literacy coach (in charge of the reading/writing workshop learning).  There are also two digital literacy coaches in secondary.

So five other people in the school are supporting other literacies (digital, traditional, etc.) that in a smaller school would probably fall within the teacher-librarian's remit.  Which helps a lot.

I always draw the relationship like this:


Also note the head of library responsibilities listed above are additional to a basic role.  I have to do that as Head of Library on top of being the secondary school teacher-librarian (or library facilitator).

Update Oct 17:

Several questions keep coming up.

1)  Is this a teaching position, with a teacher's contract and benefits?  Yes.

2)  Is there library support staff?  Yes.  Lovely, hard-working staff.  And we have just been given approval to advertise for a local-hire, administrative librarian for our campus (the other campus already has one - giving them three fully-qualified librarians, including the TLs).

3)  What about the online portfolio that must be submitted?
In addition to the usual requirement for applicants to submit a resume and letter of application, candidates for this position should also submit an online portfolio showing evidence of implementation/innovation in these six overlapping areas of the library:  patrons; resources; teaching & learning; events & initiatives; the library environment as "the 3rd teacher"; library staff/team.
Our campus is moving towards teacher portfolios instead of appraisals, so this seemed a good way to have new staff start off -- by showing us things you've done that you're proud of and that have made a difference to the learning in the institutions you've worked in.  Feel free to interpret the six areas as you will and to fashion a portfolio that suits you.  Just give us something to click.


* For the record, I have always been irritated by the American term, "Library Media Specialist".  Years before I became one, I imagined such a person in charge of just CDs and DVDs (ok, it was many years ago).....

Monday, August 26, 2013

A look at staffing in international school libraries

I've been asked to project what our library staffing needs will be post-set-up phase (as we are in Year 3 of a brand-new school with one more year of expansion).

Please fill out the form below if you are a fully-established middle or high school library in an international school.  Don't forget to hit the Submit button at the bottom.

Many thanks.... I've made it so everyone can see the results right after you complete the form.

UPDATED Sep 6: Here is a direct link to the spreadsheet of results.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Making and Tinkering to Learn

If you want to have a good read about the history and future of the "making" movement in education and tinkering as "a mindset for learning," I highly recommend the book "Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom -- by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager.

Go to their website for an overview of the chapters, with links to extended resources for each.


The best thing it did was to send me back to read/re-read Seymour Papert, the grandfather of the movement.  (I didn't realize the roots of his projects were in Maine.)

I also refreshed my acquaintance with the writings of Mitchel Resnick (head of the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten group) re the cycle of imagine, create, play, share, reflect, imagine.  And a biography of Nikola Tesla is on my "to read" list.

A few notes/quotes from the book:
Stager's hypothesis:  "A good prompt is worth a thousand words." -- where 'good' means it has (a) brevity (e.g., can fit on a post-it note), (b) ambiguity (let the learner be free to satisfy the prompt in their own voice), and (c) has immunity to assessment. (60-61)
Learners can exceed expectations with the following four variables in place:
-- a good prompt, motivating challenge, or thoughtful question
-- appropriate materials
-- sufficient time
-- a supportive culture, including a range of expertise (60)
"Great teachers know that their highest calling is to make memories." (67)
"Constructivism is a theory of learning that doesn't mandate a specified method of teaching.... Constructionism is a theory of teaching.  We believe that constructionism is the best way to implement constructivist learning." (71)
Advice: skip the pre-load, don't overteach planning, encourage continuous improvement, allow reflection. (77)
Assessment interrupts the learning process.  Even asking a kid what they're doing is disruptive. (81)
"Writing, filmmaking, and presenting information are the low-hanging fruit of creative expression in the digital age." (84)
"The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge." -- Seymour Papert (157)
 Educators need to be reminded that it is possible to learn without being taught. (202)


Reading the book, I remembered my father's workshop down cellar in the house in Maine where I grew up.  We loved to make things with him.  My biggest project was a bookcase that would double as my bed's headboard.  Mainly we marveled at how he could fix things.  He was definitely a tinkerer.

A few years ago it was time to clear the workshop out.  After all, he'd been dead for some twenty years and no one was using it.  But I took some last photos.

IMG_4571 
Full Flickr set here 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Reporting back: On being with 26,000 other librarians for five days

I started this year's ALA* (#ALA2013) experience with two very practical all-day pre-conference workshops.
  • Library Makerspaces: The Field Trip -- at the Chicago Public Library, which focused on the spaces being created to allow  kids to experience hands-on tinkering, especially with flexible, inexpensive digital/electronic components.  Various people presented, on various aspects. All-day interesting.  Separate blog post coming. 
  • RDA: Back to the Basics -- which explained, in illuminating detail, the benefits to libraries of the new metadata Resource Description and Access standard and how to gradually implement it via existing MARC data records.  Welcome, worthwhile. Separate blog post coming.
 The conference itself involved shorter sessions.  Highlights included:
  • Friction: Teaching Slow Thinking and Intentionality in Online Research -- a presentation by Debbie Abilock (NoodleTools) and Tasha Bergson-Michelson again (see above).  See presentation slides here.  Not only was I thrilled to finally meet Debbie in person, having known and interacted with her online for years, but this was one of the few sessions which managed to involve the audience effectively.  If you go to http://bit.ly/FrictionALA, you can get links to the ten Google Docs used to record the small group discussions. 

    I liked the idea of focusing on "friction points" in the research process -- where students could or should be prompted to use System Two thinking (as in Daniel Kahneman's book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow" - one of my favorites).  More on on this in another blog post.
  • Studying Ourselves: Libraries and the User Experience -- a panel presentation by a professor and two university librarians, each of whom had studied the library environment -- and students' use of the library -- using sociological and/or anthropological research methods.  The sociology professor, Andrew Abbott, was particularly fascinating.  Again, more in another blog post.
  • LibrarARy Orientation: Augmented Reality in the Library:  Reality -- a quick session by the University of Houston librarians on how they are using Aurasma, a free augmented reality app, to enhance their library orientation sessions.  Click here for their Prezi presentation.  I had already played with Aurasma and found it interesting to see how they were using it.  More on this later.
  • Bleak New World: YA Authors Decode Dystopia -- a panel discussion by four top-notch dystopia authors, from old to young: Lois Lowry ("The Giver"), Cory Doctorow ("Little Brother"), Patrick Ness ("The Knife of Never Letting Go"), and Veronica Roth ("Insurgent").  As Ness said, the best YA books promote the question, "what would you do if....?" And another of them said, dystopia is not a story, but a way to tell a story.
  • Jaron Lanier: Who Owns the Future? -- An auditorium presentation by a major player in the making of today's digital world, unafraid to criticize it with compelling economic arguments in his new book.  Also thoroughly charming. I'm a long-time follower of his thinking, so I felt like it was a fireside chat with an old friend, bringing up scary topics (too true, big data is a big danger), but also reassuring that we can change history by raising awareness at critical moments. (What a lovable hippie....).  Google him for all kinds of resources, starting with his homepage.
  •  Ping Fu: Bend Not Break -- An auditorium presentation by a woman who grew up in the worst of China's Cultural Revolution and today is a cutting edge American entrepreneur in the 3D digital "maker" space, thanks to her company, Geomagic.  Her story is fascinating - as she started out doing comparative literature in China, while computer science was her ticket to success in the States.  In the photo below, note her her shoes and scarf are both 3D-printed objects. 

    For more info re her book, see her website: bendnotbreak.com -- though she has come under a lot of scrutiny for some of her depictions of the Cultural Revolution.  Has she exaggerated or mis-remembered?  Google it yourself, if you're interested in the controversy.  I still enjoyed listening to a rags-to-riches-via-technology American immigrant woman on stage -- and hope some of my students will read her autobiography.

  •  Beyond Genre: Exploring the Perception, Uses, and Misuses of Genres by Readers, Writers, etc. -- a panel discussion by three popular writers (for adults, not teens or children) -- crime novelist Laura Lippman (wife of David Simon, if that name means anything to you fans of "The Wire"),  Margaret Dilloway, and Naomi Novik, fantasy writer and analyst of fandom fiction.  All new-to-me authors.  The comments that stuck with me include:   "Never forget, literature can be done within genre; the author is potentially limited, not the form."  Also a reminder of the benefit of genre lists, i.e., booklists that help young people in a library looking for the next thing to read.  NB:  Since the session the organizers have posted a long list of resources related to genres -- it's well worth a look:  Beyond Genre: Research and Trends PDF.
Next year ALA is in Las Vegas, a place I would normally not go near.  Now it sounds quite attractive.

*ALA - the American Library Association's annual conference, held at the end of June (convenient for those of us on the northern hemisphere school calendar - and for me regularly winging my way from Singapore to Maine - so any US city is "on the way".... this year it was Chicago...).  A conference that attracts 26,000 librarians/attendees.  Yes, think mega-library.  Below is a photo which gives an idea of the expanse of the exhibition space -- which I navigated, iPhone in hand, snapping books and ideas to pursue later.

All photos taken by me.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The digital sensitivity of a library collection

"How many books are there in the library and what are the annual circulation statistics?" says the secondary school administrator.

My first response is, what do you think that measures?
Books and Books
Okay, it's budget allocation time, so the underlying issue is financial competition with other development goals.  It's a request to justify the collection we're building as a new secondary school, finishing our second year of operation.

But let's start with the devil in the detail of our circulation statistics.
  • Browsing vs. Check-out:  A lot of books are taken off the shelf, but don't get taken out.  They're read  in the library, then left on tables.  Every day we have to go around and pick them up.  The most popular browsing material seems to be self-help and well-being books (yes, this includes sex-ed), art and photography books, poetry, graphic format (think: cartoons, comics and manga), middle-school novels (because: teachers regularly bring their classes in for free-choice, silent sustained reading), and Chinese-language books (reasons: various). 

    The fact that we're open until 9:30pm four nights a week for boarding house study time increases students' browsing potential within the library -- without having to check books out.

  • In-library-use-only Displays: Large numbers of curriculum-related books are kept on display tables while a grade has a particular focus - and students are asked NOT to take them out, for mass maximum access.  Students' ability to scan-to-PDF pages or chapters from books makes in-library-use-only more manageable.  Recent displays have supported units on peace and conflict resolution, human rights and up-standers/heroes, the Vietnam war, religions of the world, genetics, South Africa, etc.
  • Library resources are intertwined with those of the English Dept. -- so our circulation statistics should be considered jointly.
    • Some English teachers use the school library for their class library, checking out a box of books for in-class circulation over a long period.
    • Multiple copies of titles bought by the English Dept. are available on library shelves for general loan -- when not needed by a particular teacher -- rather than letting them languish in departmental book cupboards.
    • The library buys multiple copies of recently-published titles as part of the annual Red Dot Book Awards, and those books are automatically shifted to the English Dept. (both in the catalog and on the shelves) each June.
  • In such a new library, large numbers of new items are constantly being added.  Many resources haven't had much chance to be discovered and taken out.
Each school will have its own context that weakens the power of plain circulation statistics.

What is the ideal number of books in a secondary school library?  In different countries at different times, school library associations, whether national or regional, have cited research and quoted numbers.  12? 16? 20? 36? books per student?  I know schools that swear by each of those. 

But what are we counting?  Just physical books?

Avian books 34

Our collection size and substance is definitely affected by students' access to digital resources, due to our 1:1 Macbook program for grades 6-12.

To start with, we have no need for a separate reference section -- as databases provide that so well.

What doesn't the internet deliver as well as physical volumes in a school library?
  • Large-format art and design books -- ones you can spread out on a table and see many images at once.  Big beautiful books to browse.
  • Graphic novels and sophisticated picture books.  Same idea.  Big visuals.
  • Poetry.  Yes, you can find poems on websites, but due to copyright you can't find whole collections of one poet.  And so many poetry books are physical works of art in themselves.
  • Playscripts.  Again, a collection not accessed every day by everyone, but a godsend to someone interested in drama.
  • Special collections in one physical location, available for browsing -- Singapore books, self-help and well-being books, third-culture kids and global nomad books, "vintage" books (books published prior to 1950, culled from piles of donations, are a fascination to our students).  World languages (mother-tongue) collections come under this category, too.
  • Books the average person isn't going to buy for their home library.  For example, The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Letters of Vincent Van Gogh.  Price: Expensive. Who is reading this, you ask?  Not just the art teachers.  Yes, they're assigning it -- because they're thrilled to have it available. 
  • Narrative and visual non-fiction -- about science, math, history, etc.  Biographies fall in this category. 
  • Experience with non-fiction book layout standards -- e.g., how to use a table of contents, index, appendices, etc.   I find middle school teachers are particularly concerned with giving their students access to and experience with non-fiction books precisely because the internet doesn't easily allow them to absorb the conventions of research texts. I'd prefer to let databases provide (up-to-date) access to basic science, humanities, and geography information, but the teachers are still requesting a physical collection.
  • Fiction.  We're still delivering fiction via physical books for the time being.  While ebooks are growing in popularity and availability, the software to be able to lend ebooks (e.g., Overdrive) isn't cheap or doesn't have a good enough interface yet (e.g., Destiny), plus the whole DRM (digital rights management) situation isn't easy.  Several international school libraries have bought the ebook lending software only to find the books their students want to read aren't available as ebooks (legally) outside the US or UK.  

    Our students spend a lot of time in front of a screen and when we have tried to deliver English-class texts digitally (e.g., for works out of copyright and readily available in epub format), there has been push-back. The school's standard-issue laptop isn't the ideal ebook device.  I am also not convinced that the library should invest in mobile ereaders to lend out.

    Discoverability -- seeing what's available to borrow -- is also much harder with a digital loan collection.  It's not like sweeping your eyes over a bookshelf.  (I find Overdrive very frustrating on the browsing-for-titles front.)  
Making the virtual visible is one of my library mantras.  Not just making the library's digital presence visually evident, but also creating a physical space that provides a sense of the world's knowledge -- organized in some fashion.  The environment is the "third" teacher --  therefore the library, as a physical space, should be a powerful influence upon learning.

What I think the library space needs to do better is to connect the user with the online resources that complement and expand the physical resources on the shelf.  To let digital nuggets convince you to read a whole book; it could be a video of the author speaking or an animated illustration of a book's argument or just a great article related to the book, freely available online.
The book

I never answered the question of how many books is enough.  This comes back to the question of what we want to measure in the library - and how it can be measured.  I'll save my proposed dashboard for a separate post. 

Images via Flickr:   
Books and Books by Kara Allyson 
Avian books 34 by Mal Booth 
The book by giopuo

Monday, January 14, 2013

Carol Kuhlthau meets Tim Brown: Guided Inquiry {Design} Thinking

Two books have been guiding my thinking about research & inquiry cycles for the past couple of years.
a)  Change by Design -- by Tim Brown, of IDEO "design thinking" fame.  His framework is not explicitly educational, though IDEO have published a toolkit of design thinking for educators.


b)  Guided Inquiry Design: a framework for Inquiry in your School -- by Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari.  Kuhlthau is the grand dame of teacher-librarianship and the one who first recognized the emotional element involved in the ISP (Information Search Process) back in 1991.

For me, the most important feature they share is the recognition of that emotional element in research.  We all get discouraged - or should.  If you don't experience any dip in confidence, then it means you're not really pushing yourself in terms of researching.   Tim's sketch illustrates Carol's original insight very well.
Tim's design process is an incredibly simple iterative cycle between Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation (below is my sketch) -- but I think it works just as well in terms of research.

Carol's latest framework is more expansive, incorporating 8 "verb" steps (mirroring her older ISP "noun" stages - shown in parentheses) :
  • Open (Initiation)
    • Invitation to inquiry
    • Open minds
    • Stimulate curiosity
  • Immerse (Selection)
    • Build background knowledge
    • Connect to content
    • Discover interesting ideas
  • Explore (Exploration)
    • Explore interesting ideas
    • Look around
    • Dip in
  • Identify (Formulation)
    • Pause and ponder
    • Identify inquiry questions
    • Decide direction
  • Gather (Collection)
    • Gather important information
    • Go broad
    • Go deep
  • Create (Presentation)
    • Reflect on learning
    • Go beyond facts to make meaning
    • Create to communicate
  • Share (Presentation)
    • Learn from each other
    • Sharing learning
    • Tell your story
  • Evaluate (Assessment)
    • Evaluate achievement of learning goals
    • Reflect on content
    • Reflect on process

Carol's book offers plenty of practical suggestions for implementing inquiry in schools, e.g., she stresses the need for an Inquiry Journal (a workspace for individual composing and reflection) as well as Inquiry Charts (attempts to visualize ideas, connections, questions, etc.) and an Inquiry Log (a record of sources consulted), but one of the most important points she makes is the crucial distinction between the Explore and the Gather stages.

The Explore stage is about browsing, scanning, and skimming.  "Dipping in" means you need to relax, read, and reflect.  Sources should just be tracked in the Inquiry Log at this point.

The Gather stage is about detailed note-taking, comprehensive searching, and "going deep".  This is also the stage when you need to thinking about citing, quoting, and paraphrasing. Too often students think they have to take detailed notes on a source the first time they encounter it - before they have decided on an inquiry focus.

Again, Tim has a simple distinction which I think epitomizes the difference.

Here I have added just two extra descriptions:  Finding Out vs. Sorting Out (a la Kath Murdoch)
When talking to students, I now like to have them clarify which mode they think they are currently in.  And the emotional dip of uncertainty is often a sign that's time for the shift.  What a metacognitive skill -- to know how much first stage searching is enough to work with -- to have enough choices.

This is Carol's Identify stage -- which is about focusing and establishing a meaningful inquiry question -- when the thinking shifts from divergent (broad) to convergent (deep).

Tim Brown insists all ideas (i.e., research questions) must be analyzed in light of three criteria:  Desirability (personal interest/passion), Viability (for Tim this means "makes business sense," but in the educational realm it translates to "fits the assignment or criteria" and satisfies the big "so what?"), and Feasibility (the time and resources to actually complete the project).
Similarly, Carol asks students to consider their question in terms of the assigned task, their own interest, the time available, and the information and resources available.

I think Tim's four basic illustrations concisely convey the key stages of research better than Carol's more elaborate theory.  I still want her book on my shelf, but, until I can get more teachers to read and absorb it, I'll be using Tim's ideas and images in conversation.

Apture