Bec in the library

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges

Fierce Literary Females – Bec’s Top 20 October 29, 2017

Filed under: Book Lists — becinthelibrary @ 9:30 pm
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As part of Women’s Health Month at my school, I was asked to compile a list of books about women, for women, by women.
I created a bunch of book lists shareable by QR codes and wheeled in a trolley of great books along with my trust Destiny phone app. Whilst we all ate, drank, laughed and celebrated women, I also nerded out on pushing beloved titles into people’s hands. I managed a few “sales” so I was happy 🙂

People often ask me what and who I love in the literary world. My favourite female of all time is, and most likely, always will be, the mighty, MIGHTY Hermione.
She is all I aspired to be as a kid (despite not reading the series until I was in my late teens) and who I hope I am raising in my own mighty girl.

If you need some inspiration for fabulous females, check out my very favourite phenomenal authors and characters across a variety of genres.

These books are in no particular order of favouritism because that would be unfair – I love them all for such different reasons. The only thing they have in common is fierce female characters who have inspired and moved me profoundly.

Of course I will have missed SO MANY so go ahead and comment on this post to remind me of the fabulous women I have left off!

Ask me about any of them, PLEASE, I relish the chance to talk about them.

  1. Room by Emma Donoghue
  2. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
  3. The Red Tent by Anita Diament
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  5. Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  6. Matilda by Road Dahl
  7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B White
  8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  9. Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
  10. A Rose for the Anzac Boys by Jackie French
  11. People of the Book by Geraldine Brookes
  12. Anything by Marian Keyes (I simply cannot choose one. They are all brilliant.)
  13. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  14. The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan
  15. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  16. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (first one is the best though…)
  17. Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors
  18. Saving the World by Isabella Allende
  19. Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  20. Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Research source continuum – lite November 17, 2016

Filed under: Teaching — becinthelibrary @ 1:37 pm

Not all information, or information sources, are created equal!

Schools can adopt proven and reliable evaluation tools like Kathy Shrock’s 5 W’s and research process frameworks like the Big 6 to scaffold information literacy skill building. However, understanding that the *sources* we use within the context of these frameworks and tools require different levels of critical thinking and research skills is very important.

This image show how sources progress from the most closely monitored, vetted and easy to use (in terms of research skills and critical literacy) sources to the least:

research graph.jpg


Good quality non-fiction books almost always include text features such as an index, contents page, glossary and captions that explicitly and easily introduce key research skills.


Databases package well edited and researched information attractively into an interactive online experience. They are a safe, structured source to practice transferring the basic research skills (key words, skim and scan, etc) learned through book based inquiry into the online world.


Using their expertise at website evaluation, the teacher librarian curates a list (pathfinder) of websites based on a unit of inquiry that are kid-safe, ad free, current, accurate and written by experts in their field. It is a gentle introduction to internet use that begins to use higher level research skills.

Kid-safe search engines

Whilst usually highly regulated and filtered, to get accurate results using a kid-safe search engine, students will need to start using higher level research and website evaluation skills like those outlined in the 5 Ws. These skills take a thoughtful, concerted, long term effort to teach, consolidate and hone.

General search engines

The most common results interface of a general search engine is 100% unfiltered and littered with advertisements. This is the source where critical literacy skills are needed the most and yet it is the place the vast majority of our students (and teachers) start.


Tell me what to read!

Filed under: Teaching — becinthelibrary @ 1:28 pm

As yet another way of getting student voice into the library, I have been teaching kids about how to make recommendations for one another.

They certainly do it informally, through general excitement over books when reading together and browsing through the reshelving trolley, but it was the times that they aren’t with their friends that I was looking to tap into.

I was inspired by a tweet from the legendary Taryn Bergheis about shelf marker recommendations and decided to strike while the iron was hot.

Grade 2-6 wrote their recommends to include call number and a blurb; Grade 1 and Kindergarten just stuck on removable stickers.

The look of wonder and pride on the kids’ faces when “their” book gets borrowed is just priceless.



It’s magic! New flexible collaboration spaces. November 1, 2016

Filed under: Teaching — becinthelibrary @ 1:03 pm

With the new layout of the library, collaboration and explicit instruction spaces were sacrificed. This made my insides shrivel so I knew there had to be a solution to having them back but in a way that doesn’t impact the new layout.


  1. “Pop up” tables!!

The table tops slide under the shelves – made to fit perfectly – then are pulled out and laid atop the (big, ugly, not child friendly – grrr) chairs. DONE! A collaborative working space for 3 kids 🙂

[please excuse my terribly messy shelves…blush]


2. Moveable shelves

At first, a browsing area for reference and chapter books, the next minute a whole class teaching space! Thank you very much wheeled shelves 🙂


So stoked with how they turned out – gorgeous and actually working really well in actuality.


Fresh and hot like a chilli pepper! October 17, 2016

Filed under: Teaching — becinthelibrary @ 12:55 pm

Picture book area img_9112 img_9113 img_9114 img_9115 img_9116

Yet again, I have moved things around in my darling little library.

It was a much needed change after much teeth gnashing and hand wringing. My library was in “zones” like 21stC libraries “should be” but it just wasn’t working AT ALL.

The space wasn’t working for the kids I have and the ways in which the building as a whole is used. So, I had to make the space fit the users, not what I thought it SHOULD be like.

Added to this a big influx of books through donations, Scholastic and even (GASP!) some internal funding, and we had just run out of space in the current configuration.

So, here are some images of my new (and improved?) space.

It’s nowhere near done and certainly not perfect but as an ever evolving space, I feel like it is getting there!

Feedback is welcome and encouraged!


Research source continuum September 26, 2016

Filed under: Teaching — becinthelibrary @ 3:50 pm

Every so often, I cobble together something awesome.

Seems like I managed that today!

I had a scheduled meeting with my new principal to see if we were on the same page as to what constituted outstanding, best practice school library services *for our context*.

Thankfully, we both realised we were on the same page!

One of the biggest issues we discussed was resourcing and the teaching of research skills – how the ATLs fit across our POI and how can we can best use our very limited funds to resource this.

My principal posited the idea that perhaps we just focus on building the fiction collection and leave the NF section until next year. I respectfully disagreed and then outlined my reason – the research source continuum*.

There are levels of information validity. Not all sources are created equally!
For young learners and researchers, knowing this is absolutely crucial. It is imperative to gaining accurate information quickly.

As educators, we can use marvelous evaluation tools like Kathy Shrock’s 5 W’s and use brilliant research process frameworks like the Big 6.

They are wonderful school-wide nitty gritty tools we can use.

However, there needs to be a slightly bigger picture understanding of the *sources* we use within the context of these frameworks and tools.

In order to be proficient, efficient researchers, teachers and students need to understand that different types of sources require different levels of critical thinking and research skills.

Some sources are easy to navigate no matter what experience you have with research or critical thinking. Others, however, require extremely high level, independent critical thinking and complex, well honed research skills.

Therefore, it makes sense to show the school community that there is a continuum of sources that explicitly shows the sliding scale of critical literacy and research skills.

It goes like this, from most closely monitored, vetted and easy to use (in terms of research skills and critical literacy) sources to least:

Books – databases – pathfinders – kid safe search engines – general search engines.

(Now, before anyone gets carried away with “but what about XY and Z exception?”, let me say that OF COURSE there are exceptions. Just like every tool, continuum, framework or any other educational anything. Nothing is one size fits all! But in general, this continuum makes sense for almost all educational contexts.)

Let’s unpack this.


Books are tactile, relatively simple to navigate and easier to police than electronic devices. (Ohhh, I feel hairs and hackles go up on some necks with that statement. Let me pre-empt arguments that I am a Luddite. I love tech. I am obsessed with it. I simply adore how excellent educators are using the SMAR model to revolutionise education.
However, as a teacher librarian of “digital natives” I can tell you that they actually need a HUGE amount of help to use the online world effectively. This is evident nowhere more than when researching! So stick with me here!)

Books go through a fierce editing process before publication. If you are buying from renowned publishers with a long reputation for creating quality materials, you can be assured they are carefully crafted by educationalists who understand how kids best learn. They are written by experts in the field and, usually, are explicit about the biases they carry. They have appealing layouts and often have text that is levelled so that teachers can provide books at a level students can best understand. Most importantly, good quality non-fiction books almost always include text features such as an index, contents page, glossary and captions that explicitly and easily introduce key research skills.


So, in light of my “policing” statement above, let’s move on to the next level on the continuum – databases.

These are a thing of beauty. Basically all the best info found in books,  packaged attractively, often intuitively, into an all singing, all dancing, interactive online experience. It’s books come to life.

No ads, no pop-ups, no random clicking. Targeted, vetted, accurate information created by educators for students. They are a teacher librarian’s dream. Databases can range from the most basic aimed at young and/or EAL learners (PebbleGo, BrainPop Jnr, etc) through to content for upper primary/elementary grades and middle school (Encyclopedia Britannica, BrainPop, World Book, etc) right up to university level academia.

Once students have the basic research skills of key words and had practice using those key words and other skills in books, using a database is a breeze!


Basically a list of websites that is created by the teacher librarian, based on the current unit of inquiry/project. The TL has spent hours combing the internet, using their expertise at website evaluation, to curate a list of sites that are kid-safe, ad free, current, accurate and written by experts in their field. Teachers and parents can hand over this list of sites to their students knowing that the content will be safe and on-topic. No need for random Bing/Google/Baidu searches!

Kid-safe search engines

The existence of kid-safe search engines come as quite a revelation to many teachers and parents. Yet, they have been around forever and continue to be a massive helpful source of information for student researchers.

Students can plug their carefully chosen key words into the search engine and know that the content that flashes up will be relevant and moderately to well filtered for ads and harmful content.

Students will need to start using higher level research and website evaluation skills like those outlined in the 5 Ws. They are starting to have to weed out the good from the very good. This is a HUGE skill. It is MASSIVE. It is a years worth of instruction big.You don’t get these skills in one lesson or one set of lessons. This is school wide, years long, scope and sequence-spiral curriculum stuff.

General search engines

This is the highest level of sources on the continuum – the source where critical literacy skills are needed the most – and yet it is the place 90% (or more?!!?) of our students start.

The wide open world of Google/Baidu/Bing/Yahoo, where the most common interface is 100% completely unfiltered for anything. This is scary stuff people.


Most of the time our students are so ill equipped for this task and yet we set them loose in the information wilderness with no weapons for taming the beasts within!


Let’s take a moment to digest my continuum idea and see how it fits in with your idea of how your school, your teachers, your students, YOU, view the sources we use to find information.

Does this make sense for your context? Why, why not?

What do you think needs to be different?

Let’s start this conversation and see where it takes us!


*Now, I believe that I have created/coined this continuum.  However, it is also highly likely that after combining 18 months on the job, studying for a Masters degree in Teacher Librarianship and incessant reading of job related literature, I have unwittingly borrowed the concept from somewhere.

If anyone ever reads this and would like to point out that I have indeed stolen this from someone, I will OF COURSE, give full credit to the original author/thinker.


Just how flexible am I? March 6, 2016

Filed under: Teaching — becinthelibrary @ 8:32 pm

Now that the basics are becoming solid in my little library, I’m feeling a strong need to move towards flexible scheduling.

Of course, I know the benefits of flexible scheduling over fixed but how it would look in a library like mine is still something I am struggling with.

To help me understand where to start, I went searching on AASL – the experts! Their position statement was extremely helpful in summarising the educational need for flexible scheduling but they still make the assumption that, a) students implicitly understand the purpose of a library and, b) there is more than one member of staff…

I have questions about what this position statement looks like in my context! Thankfully, I’ve managed to cognitively coach myself through the majority of the statement so I can answer most of my questions. Still a few lingering ones.

I will delve into my local PLN for those as I have a fellow TL who used flexible scheduling in her last PYP school (but not in her current one, much to her chagrin.)

“The integrated library program philosophy requires an open schedule that includes flexible and equitable access to physical and virtual collections for staff and students.”

Great, but as a completely solo teacher librarian, when do I do anything other than teach? Displays, cataloguing, reshelving, planning, ANYTHING? Do I make an assumption that things just come out in the wash and that over the course of a couple of weeks, I will have time to do all things?

“Classes must be flexibly scheduled into the library on an as needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology with the guidance of the teacher who is the subject specialist, and the librarian who is the information process specialist. The resulting lesson plans recognize that the length of the learning experience is dependent on learning needs rather than a fixed library time.”

I totally agree but what do you do with the teachers who just won’t come? Don’t you just always end up with the same open minded collegial teachers who are keen to collaborate on everything all the time? Do I just force myself on everyone?! You know I’d do it, and willingly!

“Students and teachers must be able to come to the library throughout the day to use information sources, read for pleasure, and collaborate with other students and teachers.”

Thankfully, this is something they all do anyway as everyone loves the space and it is literally in the middle of the building – every single person in the building MUST walk THROUGH the library in order to get anywhere else.

“Collaboration with classroom teachers to design, implement and evaluate inquiry lessons cultivates high level learning experiences for students and is the catalyst that makes the integrated library program work. The teacher brings to the planning process knowledge of subject content and the student needs. The school librarian contributes a broad knowledge of resources and technology, an understanding of modern teaching methods, and a wide range of strategies that may be employed to help students learn inquiry skills. Together they are able to provide differentiated and adaptable experiences for students of all abilities and interests to meet the requirements of the curriculum.”

Fabulous! Isn’t that teacher librarian utopia? But what does it actually look like in reality? Who suggests what lessons and how far in advance? Am I just another warm body in the classroom to help adhoc or is it true co-teaching?

“The responsibility for flexibly scheduled library programs must be shared by the entire school community…”

Let me just get on that, work them all around to my POV 🙂

“The PRINCIPAL [or in my case, PYP coordinator, I think] creates the appropriate climate within the school by understanding and advocating the benefits of flexible scheduling to the faculty, by monitoring scheduling, by maintaining appropriate staffing levels, funding, and joint planning time for classroom teachers and school librarians.”

Made progress here with inclusion into UOI planning meetings this cycle.

“The TEACHER and the SCHOOL LIBRARIAN work collaboratively to provide differentiated and adaptable experiences for students of all abilities. The collaborative lessons meet curricular requirements through relevant and engaging learning experiences that promote positive instructional use of time. “

To me, this feels like I go in and support what they are doing by bringing physical and digital resources/ideas into the lessons with me.

How do they get time for being read to? So far, the biggest change I have made in my school is the reliability of every child being read aloud to at least once a week. This was just never done before I arrived and rarely happens outside their allocated library time with me, especially for the older students. Given that 99% of the kids speak little to no English, having access to English through read alouds is absolutely crucial. Beyond crucial!!

How do I effectively “push in” my skills and expertise and passion without giving up that vital element of my program? I have a seed of an idea starting in my head – a mobile library with book talks and read alouds. That’s another blog post for another time.

“The LIBRARY SUPPORT STAFF works to maintain the daily operation of the library to allow the professional school librarian and teaching staff the time and flexibility to collaborate together to provide students with excellent educational experiences for learning.”

To do this, I need library support staff. Wish me luck in securing even a part time one.

“The PARENTS advocate for a library program that provides their child with access 24/7. They promote the use of flexible scheduling so their students are able to come to the library throughout the day to use information sources, read for pleasure, and collaborate with the school librarian, other students, and teachers.”

I have the BEST group of parents I have ever had the pleasure of working with. They are so on board. If only they actually spoke English (or me Mandarin, more to the point!)

“The STUDENTS stress the need for anytime access to their school library to assist them in completing their academic pursuits and exploring their personal interests.”

This very last, yet imperative point, depends so deeply on an excellent collection that they know how to access without me. With no technology (not even an OPAC) or staff in the library during the times I am not there (50% of each school day), how is this possible?

I know how much work I have to do, but I’m committed.

Greatness WILL happen.

Even if I am, in the immortal words of my principal, “a complete and total pain in the ass”.

(Thankfully followed by “but you have your heart in the right place so I always forgive you.”)


loving the learning

continuing tales of a teacher librarian

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Reflections and thoughts on ETL401.


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