Monthly Archives: January 2014

What makes amazing?

This week’s post…? Suffice to say that I cannot stop thinking about that Portfolio waiting to be put together, but what’s good is, it’s becoming a little less daunting!
I have this desire to see the school’s library transformed, become amazing – because of what the SWOT report will deliver, because of what my research (gulp) will prove…or because of recommendations made. Ultimately, because of this passion inside me, of knowing that libraries are meant for so much more – uplifting and serving the community in more ways than we can imagine!
Fittingly, I noticed a tweet this morning, where someone had posted a Vimeo presentation by R D Lankes on “The Bad, The Good, and The Great.” (Given, no less, from the chemo therapy room! Talk about amazing!) Viewing the presentation by this remarkable mind, I’m going “Yes, yes, yes!” I hear him say that libraries are of the community…it’s all about community! Community building.

I’m really hoping I can translate this into the school situation, so that I make sense. That’s my mission over the next few months, aside from tackling cataloging, classification, subject organisation, “user” (the term Lankes hates so much!) services, and the political economy of Information (ugh!).
I’m eating, breathing, sleeping, dreaming library services and librarianship right now; loaded with info, yet trying to find the words…

There’s a community right here, worse off for not having access to amazing! 10,000 books in a school library, don’t make amazing. It’s what 1 valid, relevant, item, 1 community contact, 1 link, 1 article can do for 1 person’s need – that makes ‘amazing’! 1 person becomes 2, and 2 become 20, and so on. And soon the community is amazing, because 1 library served, truly served, 1 person.

Lankes says: “Great libraries build communities”.
Dare I say a great library builds an amazing community?


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Filed under librarianship, Secondary School libraries, Student librarian

The shrieking shrew and other issues – a rant!

I’m burning with passion to write this post.  I visited the secondary school library yesterday, mainly to interview the librarian, or Learning Resource Centre Manager, which is the title that has been invested upon her. I came away alternately saddened, angry, and frustrated, that an opportunity to have a fully operational library has gone so horribly wrong.

Firstly, the school has no staff room.  In the ‘old days’ as they were referred to, staff met for a quick before-school meet in the library.  Now they meet for 15 mins on the first day of the week, in the hall.  A mid-week 15 min meet-up for primary and secondary teachers in their respective groups happens as well, but otherwise very little chance for teachers to make longer contact.   This to me seems like a group of teachers not fully connected, and not least with the library facility, since there is no encouragement at all to pop in and see what is on offer.  In fact, the senior management of the school declined to answer any questions I had regarding the library as they felt “unequipped to answer”, not knowing what happens in the library.  I could cry!

To add to this, the school operates outdated library management software, and only for the librarian!  No-one has had training on it, no-one is prepared to pay for training on it, which I believe, is hugely expensive and via Skype.  The only person that has access to the catalogue therefore, is the librarian, because the technology capacity of the school (in one of the richest countries in the world), is so dodgy, that it takes a full 5 mins just to open a WORD document!

The librarian is frustrated, having never been given a proper job description, neither recognised as librarian nor teacher.  No-one in management seems particularly interested in her job, nor her library.  She has a host of responsibilities, with only a few of them pertaining to managing the library.  She is doing spine labelling by hand! Typing little pieces of paper, cutting them out into squares, and attaching them with scotch tape. One of her tasks is to provide tea/coffee to surrounding class teachers, because with no staff room, and nowhere to gather, if you’re located next to the library why not pop in there for a chat and coffee?, even if there is another lesson going on!

Talking about lessons in the library…why, oh why, take a bunch of Year 7 boys into a library, shout like a shrew for them to “get a library book to read – quickly, and sit down.” They then proceed to have 40 WASTED mins pretending to read from a book, grabbed from anywhere on the shelves, in which they have zero or very little interest; they are sniggering, whispering, fidgeting, doodling, staring blankly – everything except READING!!! And when the period is over the shrieking shrew tells them to “put the books back where you found them!”.  Well, besides the fact that they don’t have a cooking clue where they took the book from, they also just want to get out of there as fast as possible and into the next class/break time.  The books land up anywhere – anatomy with fiction, insects with volcanoes, and fiction scattered anywhere in-between.

During this supposedly silent reading, the teacher shows no interest in what the students are reading, and proceeds to gossip with the librarian, enjoying a freshly-made cup of coffee!  I want to froth at the mouth when she shouts out “SHHHHHHH! [wholly unacceptable in this multi-cultural society] A library is supposed to be a quiet place!”

Well, OK, relatively quiet, I’ll concede, but not in the way she defines it! Those kids will never willingly set foot in a library, guaranteed!  And when they get to college, their remote memories of secondary school’s ‘forced’ reading will come flooding back and they will sidestep the flippin’ library and resort to Google! No wonder Google is doing so well… we the librarians, teachers, parents, educators, professionals, have failed to make the library a ‘want-to-go-to’ place, especially in a school.

The budget is supposedly sufficient – for what?  There is no mention-worthy technology present.  Twelve computers that are dreadfully slow, a scanner linked to one computer, and one printer that works.  No e-resources subscribed to (not even Encyclopaedia Britannica), no electronic catalogue, few current print resources, dodgy furniture, no mention of the library on the school’s website….I could rant on and on!

So, I have to do the SWOT analysis.  Yes, it’s easy to identify problems, potential, threats, (few strengths at this moment in time) – but inside I’m so sad.  Sad that yet another year will go by and those learners will have no support, no idea of how to approach a library for learning, no clue how to find resources, no clue how to make full use of information and teachers that are forcing their multi-cultural class to pick up a book and READ! I cannot see that strategy work….you have to make them WANT to read.

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Filed under Secondary School libraries

Batho Pele (Sotho, for ‘people first’)

Batho Pele was a South African government initiative, started in 1997, to transform public services. It would seem it was to transform them from adeptness to corruption, waste and inefficiency.
However, that is not why I’m stressing the term today…it’s because it fits as a label (mentioned in my Study Guide for AIS3703, by Dr JA Fourie) for my personal image of a professional librarian. Truly someone who is there for the people, regardless of race, culture or social standing!
So why this elitism that exists in the profession? Why do you even find the term ‘celebrity librarian’? I may well understand, one day.
But for now, reading about the attributes of professional service, it’s heartwarming to see that I’ve at least got the foundation rightly formed – a desire for true altruistic service orientation! Yes, expert knowledge, strong ethics, accountability to the community, knowledge of their needs and interests, professional autonomy – all important in the right measure – but all worthless without a heart for selfless service. People first! Batho pele!

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Positive encounters

The friendly librarian welcomed contact again, and off I went to pay her a visit to explain what the practical portfolio involves and how it may impact her library, should she give me the go ahead to use her library as focus. I wanted her to think about it for a couple of days, but straight away she was excited!
“Come,” says she, ” we’ll pop in on Bob and I’ll introduce you to him”.
” Who’s Bob?”
“Ah, he’s head of Secondary”, she replies.
It was cold outside, kids just arriving for school, busy atmosphere all round. We step into a smaller building – main reception and offices. We are shown into an office. He is really friendly, listens to my hurried responses to his questions, politely offers support from academic-minded staff members if I need it, and then asks me to send him my CV so they know who’s on campus. “Right,” says I, “as soon as I’ve emailed the Principal. Would you like me to cc you?”.
“Oh, sure,” he goes, “please do.”

We walk out and she says, “Now for Bob.”
Shocked, I ask, “But who was that?”
“Oh, that was the Principal, Jack.”

My head spun! I wanted to run back and apologise! Didn’t I hear his name? Didn’t I see a sign? Oh, Sandra, you are dumb! I just asked the man if I could cc him, for crying out ‘loud!

“Don’t worry,” says the librarian, “he’ll just think you were referring to the head of secondary! It is the secondary library after all, that you’ll be dealing with.” Phew! Ok, but that did not make me feel good as we stepped into Bob’s office…and now came an intro…”Bob, this is Sandy”. LOL. I’m convinced there had been no introduction to the Principal!

All in all, everyone was welcoming and positively looking forward to seeing the results of my Practical Portfolio research project! Everyone except moi!


The next post is a pic I took on the day.

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Filed under The joys of learning at 50+

Take the bull by the horns…

…is what I always tell my offspring. Now it’s time to tell myself! Oooh boy, just got instructions for the practical portfolio research task for final year. I feel like I need to analyse, research and revamp an entire library single-handedly. Where does one begin? Ah, yes…take the bull, etc etc.
*runs to computer to email a possible contact for use of her school library as subject*
Email sent, will she respond or did I burn that bridge?

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