Bec in the library

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

Academia, Bec. Not friends. October 13, 2014

Filed under: ETL507 portfolio — becinthelibrary @ 9:53 pm
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As is my usual MO, I have left my ETL507 portfolio to the last minute. No excuses, just let life get in the way, let other things be my priority because frankly, they were more interesting.

Everything about academic writing does my head in completely. I am not good at critical thinking and suck at evaluation. Add this to the fact that my degree is by distance and this subject in particular is highly personalised and not at all interactive, well, this interpersonal learner is falling apart.

I’ve spent the last two days thinking of almost nothing else but what I will include in my portfolio – what has really truly made sense to me? If I pull away the veil of academia and the double speak I feel almost all readings are written in, what has touched me at the core, stopped me in my tracks with a ginormous lightbulb appearing above my head shouting, “YES!”?

Almost every. single. time. the answer has been: any time I have actually been in a library TALKING TO SOMEONE and putting what I learnt immediately into practice.

This is not unusual, people. I learnt this lesson the first time around at university when I did moderately well at the academic subjects but received 7/7 on every single teaching prac in each of the four years.

REAL LIFE! I got to step away from academia (bane of my life) and talk to REAL PEOPLE in REAL LIFE and that’s where I shine. Where my talents, skills and attitude are respected, valued and obvious. Where my word choice is backed up by positive body language. 

So, University Lectuerer, how about instead of these 3000 words I need to write, how about we just sit down and have a chat over coffee about what a sensational librarian I will make? About how I thrive off finding and using my PLN to help guide me in my lifelong learning? About how I’m OK with not knowing something and that I will find a real life person to help me solve the problems that will come my way as I move forward into my career?

Oh, no, that’s not how universities work?! SURPRISE!

OK, so I will play the game. Here is my middle ground:

So to me, it makes sense for my portfolio to be reflective of this hunger for real life connection as much possible. I want and need to find a way for this portfolio to be something that is ME and not some dry piece of academia that no one (including me) will ever use or see again. I know it won’t be the polished piece of writing that other students will produce but hopefully people will look at it and feel like they know ME, that they can hear my real voice and passion.

Wish me luck.


Edit – October 14th

I think it is pertinent to mention that I totally understand the need for concise, analytical, evaluative writing. It enables people to clearly understand the worth of a concept, idea, opinion or request. I also completely embrace the fact that being able to write in this manner effectively would help me greatly in my career. However, it doesn’t mean I have to like it or that I can’t complain about having to do it.

Thank goodness there are so many wonderful academic writers and lecturers out there providing outstanding content for learners such as myself.


Study visit: Melbourne Museum Discovery Centre (DC) August 6, 2014

Yet another Melbourne gem that lay hidden from my prying eyes during university and my first year of teaching!

The DC is an absolute treasure trove, full of exciting hands on learning based on and around the Museum’s main collection. My four year old and almost two year old were transfixed with all the choices on offer – animal skeletons, ancient coins, insects in amber that could be studied under the microscope and so much more!

Truthfully, so was I. The more I think about it, the more I want my own library to be very similar to the DC. I absolutely loved how interactive each of the mini exhibits were. Patrons could use all five senses to explore objects then within a handspan, they had a collection of books and a list of websites where they could find out more. All that was needed was an iPad at each exhibit so that patrons could search immediately and it would tick all the boxes for inquiry learning.

Couldn’t you just imagine pairs of kids side by side investigating an animal skull by rolling it around in their hands, using the microscope to examine it in minute detail. One of the kids would have a question so could just swipe the iPad on, head to a database (maybe PebbleGo or WorldBook Animals) and start searching for an answer using some keywords (that were helpfully posted within the exhibit). Oh, the possibilities give me goosebumps!

More about the Discovery Centre

The MVDC is run in conjunction with the Discovery Centre at the Immigration Museum.

The variety of information requests is incredible, from genealogy to random insect identification – the staff list this diversity as the highlight of their working day.

To aid in easy partnerships with other libraries such as State Library of Victoria, and to reduce cost, the DC use Voyager as their LMS.

Much of the artefacts in the DC are not catalogued in any way as they are not deemed of historical value.

The DC staff’s constant Tweeting and blogging provide additional promotion for existing patrons.

Will and Charlie examine the coin collection.

Will and Charlie examine the coin collection.

Will is mightily impressed with the old coins.

Will is mightily impressed with the old coins.

Will loved helping colour the replica Aztec calendar.

Will loved helping colour the replica Aztec calendar.

MVDC - more coins!

Will was fascinated by the 'station' where he could view the preserved insects under the microscope.

Will was fascinated by the ‘station’ where he could view the preserved insects under the microscope.

Will couldn't get enough of this artefact station.

Will couldn’t get enough of this artefact station.

This small book collection is  provided by the Museum to complement the artefact collection but is rarely used.

This small book collection is provided by the Museum to complement the artefact collection but is rarely used.

This is an example of what a typical artefact station looks like.

This is an example of what a typical artefact station looks like.

Patrons can use the internet and the MV website to find out more.

Patrons can use the internet and the MV website to find out more.


Professional placement report: My experience May 20, 2014

Filed under: Teaching — becinthelibrary @ 10:12 pm
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Part C

Discuss the activities you were involved in while on placement and reflect upon what you have learnt and gained from these experiences.

I taught lessons for students from Pre-K3 (three years old) to Grade 5 using both a co-teaching model as well as the traditional teaching mode of librarian in charge. I most enjoyed the co-teaching lessons with either my mentor librarian or the class teacher as I felt we played off each other very well and provided the students with a visual, visceral reminder that teachers can learn and work together to provide interesting learning. It was interesting to see the difference between the teachers who viewed the library lesson as a ‘free period’ and those who valued the role of the library as a place where the teacher could be involved too.

I loved being welcomed into classes as the resident ‘expert’ on research and information literacy when acting as ‘push in’ librarian. The feeling of empowerment and excitement that I saw on students’ faces, as well as the teachers’, made me even more intent on advocating for the role of both flexible and scheduled library lessons – the library can come to you! Being in classrooms helping teachers showed me very clearly how little they know about effective research. Very few teachers even understood how databases work, despite having professional development on it at the beginning of the school year. That clearly shows me that constantly providing opportunities to model information literacy fluency to students and teachers is critical.

The amount of meetings the TLs go to over the course of a week was staggering – over nine hours worth! However, I learnt that if you want your library to be used and your skills, expertise and programme to be valued, you have to put in the face time with teachers at their planning meetings.

For someone who is not the least bit detail orientated, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed my sojourn into weeding. It was a huge task that involved all members of the library staff as there had not been a proper weeding in more than five years. I relished studying the stats provided by Follett, finding the out of date and tatty books, whipping the unloved and unborrowed off the shelves and deleting them from the system. All of us in the library had a bit of a giggle when some teachers came in and got excited about ‘all the new books’! It is very clear to me now how important it is to regularly spot weed or at least once a year so that it does not become a behemoth to be tackled during my personal holidays.

One of the more glamorous and exciting activities I participated in was helping with next year’s resource ordering. Both TLs had already filled the bulk of their Follett carts but I was still able to add any titles I felt could complement the collection based on my experience as a teacher, an Australian, a mother to two young children and as a trainee TL. Physically going through the process of purchasing from Follett was a very valuable learning experience which I blogged about in detail so I can refer to it when I finally get my hands on a library of my own.


Professional placement report: Meeting the needs of users

Part B

How effectively do you feel the library meets the needs of its users?

The extremely high circulation rate of the ES library – over 100,000 – each school year clearly shows how well this library is functioning. There is barely a moment in any given school day when the library is not filled with classes, groups of parents, students bearing library passes or various volunteers reshelving or repairing books. At every break time the library is swarming with children devouring literature or exploring one of the many databases available on the catalogue.

However, this thriving hub of the school was not always this way. The two current TLs, with direction and input from the wider school community, have taken great strides in creating a positive, welcoming atmosphere where the collection is easy to access and patrons are ‘met where they are’ in their library services use. I believe this has been achieved through ongoing, dynamic and flexible collection development and management, the rearrangement of the physical areas of the library and the frequent employment of the co-teaching model of library instruction.

Collection development and management

As this library acts as a public library as well – English language texts are not very easily accessible or affordable in Beijing – it is essential that parents have open access to the collection. Families are now entitled to borrow up to 10 titles at a time, additional to their children’s borrowing limits.

Materials are selected via patron input. Additional to curriculum based ordering, the TLs always have a running Follett cart, where titles are immediately added at the point of inquiry by a library patron, whether it is an adult or student. The continually growing mother tongue collection reflects the value the school places on literacy learning (for academics and pleasure) in multiple languages.

Physical spaces

Over the past two years, additional instructional and recreational spaces have been incorporated into the library in order to make the atmosphere more conducive to teaching, learning and leisure for all members of the school community. One major, positive change has been the introduction of an Early Years teaching space with low shelving, dramatic play materials, and smart board and data projector. It is likely that the regular use of this space by classroom teachers and the TL has helped raise the circulation rates of the Early Years targeted resources. The incorporation of more non-fiction resources into the EY teaching space could help raise awareness of this facet of the wider collection.


In the recent past, teacher surveys on library usage and the role of the TL were conducted. The main take away from the results was the emphasis teachers wanted placed on increasing student research skills. The TLs felt that teachers also needed instruction in this area so both women have worked diligently on adopting the co-teaching model with the classroom teachers in the area of research skills. Uptake on this initiative is growing as individual teachers see the immense benefit that can come from learning from experts in the research process!

Due in large part to the constant ‘sell’ of library services from both TLs  – weekly scheduled library lessons, attendance at Grade level planning meetings, proactive communication about services and new resources, total flexibility in re-scheduling or adding library times, and library based Teacher Teaching Teacher professional development sessions – teachers are increasingly using the library as a scheduled and impromptu teaching and learning space.


Professional placement report: Overview of the library

Filed under: Teaching — becinthelibrary @ 10:05 pm
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Part A – Overview the library or information agency

This placement was undertaken at a Pre-K3 – Grade 12 international school in Beijing, China.


The School has a diverse, multi-lingual population of almost 2000 students, catering for families from over 50 countries, speaking over 60 languages. English is the medium of instruction but the mother tongue of few. Most of the clientele are Asian in culture, if not in passport nationality. The Elementary Library services about 800 students aged three to 12, with parents also being regular and vocal users of the library. The Library is a meeting place for the wider School community, as well as students and teachers, as evidenced by the noise level and constant stream of people in the library at any given time.

The community as a whole is extremely well educated and the parent body hold education in high regard. Reading widely is valued and expected by teachers and parents alike. As a result, most students, even ESOL ones, are voracious readers with strong opinions. Middle and high school students often use the Elementary library, especially those with special learning needs or English as an additional language.


The Library Media Centre has two full time teacher librarians (TLs), two full time Technology Integrators (TIs), one full time library assistant (LA), one full time library technician (LT) and two part time LAs.

The TLs take responsibility for half of the ES each – one teaches Pre-K3 through Grade 2 (Lower Elementary School, LES), the other teaches Grades 3-5 (Upper Elementary School, UES). The LES TL has a teaching workload of 19 classes and five grade level meetings, the UES TL 21 classes and three grade level meetings.

The TIs, split across the School in the same manner as the TLs, tend to view themselves as their own department and are housed in an office above the library. That physical delineation makes it pretty clear to the rest of the staff that the roles of the TIs and TLs are separate, even though the four teachers make every effort to work collaboratively to deliver a great information literacy programme.

The LAs take responsibility for all areas of circulation: borrowing, checkouts, reshelving, and general resource maintenance. They also execute the TLs ideas for displays in and outside the library because one of the LAs is a graphic designer by trade.

The LT works primarily in the TRC and therefore technically comes under the jurisdiction of the ES Curriculum Leader rather than the TLs. This has caused some friction and mismanagement. The TLs believe that this situation could be resolved if they became the line manager for the LT in the new school year.

Additional to the paid staff, there is also a rotating roster of over 20 parent volunteers who reshelve and repair books. Their help is especially invaluable with the Mother Tongue section of the collection.


The library’s collection is divided into two sub-collections – the Elementary School (ES) library and the Teacher Resource Centre (TRC). Both are catalogued independently of each other using Destiny (Follett). Each sub-collection holds approximately 24,000 titles.

The TRC consists of guided reading sets, professional resources across all curriculum areas, and Big Books. The ES collection, both online and in print, is diverse and large, reflecting the multilingual, wide user range. The TLs use a wide variety of professional collection devices such as magazines like Book List, worldwide awards and Follett suggested lists to build the collection. Due to Chinese government regulation, developing the collection is subject to many challenges. This is especially evident with online content such as eBooks and digital magazine subscriptions.

The separation of the two library collections makes navigation of the library catalogues much easier for users in multiple ways. Primarily, it is easier for students to navigate the catalogue if there is only resources that are applicable to them. Secondly,  as the TRC is accessed by, and solely intended for, teachers, teaching assistants and administrators, it makes sense for it to be a separate collection. Lastly, the separation of the collections allows for a very clear workload allocation for the Library Technician – she is solely responsible for the TRC.

The ES collection is very heavily weighted towards North American literature for several reasons. One, there has always and only ever been North American TLs employed who have therefore naturally relied upon their cultural bias when ordering resources. Secondly, the highest nationality of students is North American so building a collection around them seems logical. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, Follett is based in the US and their outstanding ordering and cataloguing services make adding to the library’s collection an almost seamless process.

Use of technology

Whilst the bulk of classroom technology instruction is the responsibility of the two Technology Integrators, the library has much exciting technology at its disposal. There are data projectors, smart boards and document cameras at each teaching station in the library, all used in some way every lesson. The School pays thousands of dollars a year to have their internet routed through Hong Kong so that the community can have full access to the online world, without being hampered by the government’s ‘Great Firewall of China’. While this may seem odd to educators in Australia, the relief a teacher can feel knowing that they can access anything they want online is actually extremely important.

Having said that, there are still areas of technology for which the School has not found a workaround. For example, around 80% of downloadable ebooks are blocked. The School is trialling Overdrive with mixed results.

Students are explicitly taught to use the OPAC, with the UES students utilising Follett’s Destiny Quest regularly to interact with one another as well for the more traditional book searching role. All students from Kindergarten are exposed to, or regularly use, a variety of databases on either the bank of eight library OPACs or their personal laptops (the School is 1:1 laptops from Grade 2). All students in the ES use the trolley of 25 iPads in their library lessons at least once every three weeks.

Despite this incredible exposure to the latest and greatest educational technology, students and teachers still need a tremendous amount of support in using it effectively. This is especially true in the case of using the OPAC. Part of this issue comes from the lack of intuitiveness on behalf of the catalogue itself. There is no “did you mean…” guides like in some of the student friendly search engines.


We’re multi-modal: Thanks Mr Piven! May 8, 2014

One of my recent success stories with my group of EC4 students was an activity based on the fabulous series of books by Hanoch Piven.

We read “My dog is as smelly as dirty socks” and then used collections of household junk to create our own faces on cardboard rectangles.

The idea for the activity came from a similar literature based activity the EC4 art teacher taught the group two weeks prior. Some of the students made connections between the two activities which was a wonderful nod to teacher collaboration and team planning!


ISB Faces I Make 034 ISB Faces I Make 035 ISB Faces I Make 036 ISB Faces I Make 037 ISB Faces I Make 039 ISB Faces I Make 041 ISB Faces I Make 043 ISB Faces I Make 044


The other FaceTime: being visible as a TL September 18, 2013

ETL 501 topic 7 – Information services to staff and students

Teachers in a school have a range of information needs which can be met by the teacher librarian. These needs include:

  • information on curriculum planning;
  • information on a specific subject area (to keep up to date);
  • information on current developments in teaching;
  • information on the use of ICT in the curriculum;
  • information on information literacy;
  • information on relevant print and electronic resources for learning and teaching in their subject area; and
  • information on what the teacher librarian can do for them.

Three key factors a TL needs to take into account before offering information services in a primary school:

  1. What information does the teacher/grade level already have at their disposal for their teaching and professional/personal learning?
  • check their planners
  • check existing resource lists
  • find out how the Tech Integrator’s role is/should be different from the role of the TL
  • find out from grade level leaders and PYP coordinator/principal about Personal Learning Network (PLN) groups and current readings/tasks/projects

2. What are the expected communication norms or Essential Agreements for teacher collaboration?

  • are specialists included in planning meetings?
  • is email the best way to communicate or individual face to face meetings better?
  • how much information/email is too much?

3. What level of classroom teaching involvement does the Educational Admin team expect of the TL and how can that level be scaled up/down?



loving the learning

continuing tales of a teacher librarian

PE to TL - The Journey Begins!

Reflections and thoughts on ETL401.


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