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: a truly international school October 12, 2014

Seriously people, you don’t get better than this.

You want to know what a highly functional, beautifully laid out, extremely useful library looks like? Visit this school.

The collection houses almost 100,000 (yes, really) resources in a variety of satellite libraries around the school (ECC, EAL/ESOL, counselling, parenting, guided reading, professional reading) as well as the usual sections in-library (NF, graphic novel, fiction, Chinese, other foreign languages reflective of the student body, magazines, early chapter books, Super Series, New Books, big books, AV and more!)

The library is always packed at break times and the parent body is extremely active, with “Friends of the Library” organising multiple highly successful events through the year, including a Pyjama Party, an international schools book club through Scholastic and lots of mother tongue reading sessions.

I challenge anyone to walk into this library and NOT want to pick up the nearest book and snuggle in for the duration 🙂


And this is a big one for an aspiring TL with 7/8 TL courses behind me and an indignant fire in my belly – the TL doesn’t actually do a whole lot of TLing. My word he runs a magnificent library programme in terms of borrowing, reader development and event management but take a look at the school’s teaching of information literacy and you will find a ginormous gaping black hole.


This is a question I have asked repeatedly with no satisfactory answer.

My thoughts are:

At the most simplistic level, the maths just doesn’t add up – the TL cannot see every class over the course of a week. There are more classes than there are periods to teach them so it’s a clear logistic issue. (There are a million solutions to this but at this point in time, most of them are not being used. The most obvious one – teaching on request – is used at least once during an inquiry unit and consistently at the beginning of each school year.)

Perhaps the TL has given up trying after years of unsuccessful advocacy for a useable IL scope and sequence as well as an additional TL. There is only so many times you can ask and be told no before you just stop asking.

It’s easier to focus on one thing and do it well rather than trying to be all things to all people. The collection management facet of TLship is extremely successful at this school because that is what is focused on.




Study visit: Regional private secondary school July 27, 2014

Ohhhh, big kids, scary!

I have always found secondary kids really quite intimidating. It’s why I teach elementary kids! However, after spending a couple of hours in this lovely library in regional Victoria, PERHAPS I could see myself branching out towards older students.

The introduction of a small Japanese language collection is beneficial for the students participating in the programs run between the Grammar and it’s sister school in Japan.

The library’s strategic plan, approved by the school’s Executive, has made it possible for the staff to have a strong sense of autonomy over all areas of the collection.

One of the biggest things that struck me when spending time with the staff at the library was their willingness to learn and give of themselves to the students. As an example, ongoing professional development and the willingness for self-initiated learning for, and by, the staff, has meant that the recent introduction of the LMS Infiniti has been relatively painless.

Additionally, the senior librarian’s hard work at creating an incredible library intranet, in line with the library’s five year, Executive approved, strategic plan, should help achieve the vision of a dynamic online learning environment commensurate with the realities of the digital world.

Occasionally the library receives a grant from the parent body for special, extra curricular events and services such as artists in residence which helps make the library programme more diverse and interesting.

Observation and circulation data reveal that displays of student work and new or highlighted literature are highly successful in promoting reader development and advocacy.

The banks of computers are conveniently positioned near to the non-fiction section as well as the collaborative work spaces.

Part of the NF section.

Part of the NF section.

Information literacy signage

Information literacy signage

Fiction section - love the outward facing titles at the end of each row.

Fiction section – love the outward facing titles at the end of each row.

Word cloud decal helps remind students of the library's purpose.

Word cloud decal helps remind students of the library’s purpose.

A beautiful entryway to the library.

A beautiful entryway to the library.

This lovely display cabinet is one of the many ways the library helps celebrate the culture of their Japanese sister school.

This lovely display cabinet is one of the many ways the library helps celebrate the culture of their Japanese sister school.

This student made invention was a place winner in a state-wide competition, now proudly on display in the middle of the library. Some signage would be helpful.

This student made invention was a place winner in a state-wide competition, now proudly on display in the middle of the library. Some signage would be helpful.

Students can relax here with a variety of magazines and journals.

Students can relax here with a variety of magazines and journals.

The main circulation desk.

The main circulation desk.

The main computer bank.

The main computer bank.

More magazines for student and teacher borrowing.

More magazines for student and teacher borrowing.

Students in the local, regional and state news!

Students in the local, regional and state news!

Displays of current state reading challenges are on dotted around the library. This gorgeous one is in the main entranceway.

Displays of current state reading challenges are on dotted around the library. This gorgeous one is in the main entranceway.


Professional placement report: Meeting the needs of users May 20, 2014

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.


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


Finding my way: a reflection on pathfinder creation October 5, 2013

This is Part B of my final assignment for ETL501: The Information Environment, critically analysing the process of creating a pathfinder.


This pathfinder was created to assist Grade 4 students inquire into how environmental changes are connected to human consumption. Whilst students will choose their own personal inquiries into this central idea, expected broad topics under this umbrella, which are covered by this pathfinder, include global warming, climate change, waste management and conservation.

This unit is one of six taught throughout the year, however the only one under the transdisciplinary theme of “Sharing the Planet”. It has a strong social studies component but there are also science and literacy links. The key concepts are connection and responsibility with related concepts of consumption and sustainability. The learning outcomes the students will be working towards when using the pathfinder are:

  •  LAA.CT.4.7 comprehend, respond to and analyze literary non-literary texts.
  •  HUM.GU.4.3 Learners will gather, evaluate and use information.

Throughout the pathfinder creation process, I took myself through the steps I would expect of a student when searching for resources. Based on Kuiper, Volman & Terwel’s (2008) and Valenza’s (2004) observations of effective student searching, as well as the readings from Module 6 (CSU, 2013), I planned my search using a concept map consisting of key words from the unit vocabulary list and a list of questions taken from the unit planner.

Keeping Herring’s (2011) website criteria in mind, I used the librarian created, student-specific search engines, KidsClick and ipl2. I knew it was highly likely I was going to find sites that were technically and educationally sound as well as reliable in terms of authorship and content.

I was absolutely shocked by how high the sites I had chosen had come out on readability tests, there was not a single site that came out lower than Grade 5, even those targeted to K-3! These results certainly rammed home Kuiper, Volman & Terwel’s (2008) assertions about how important it is to scaffold internet use for elementary aged children.

As information about the environment can change rapidly, using the school’s OPAC proved extremely helpful, enabling me to find the most recently acquired resources. A basic search on Google and Bing led me to a Follett comparison tool for texts by the various publishing houses. This clarified the reading and interest age of the resources I had chosen, leading to the discarding and replacement of several choices.

Understanding how to create a pathfinder that would enhance my students’ use of information literacy skills was challenging. Based on my knowledge of how my school’s students are taught interactively through the online world of blogs (heavily embedding files and links), I was creating online curriculum instead of a pathfinder embedded with ILS. The difference between giving instructions and directions baffled me for some time and I was mired in indecision and frustration about how I could make my pathfinder’s emphasis on ILS simple yet effective. This was especially important as our students have had very little explicit instruction in, or practice with, ILS.

Discussing my problem with the school’s two Technology Integrators and re-reading Abilock’s (2004) and Eisenberg’s (2003) ILS work helped guide me in a new direction. I decided adding one or two key skills as dot points to each resource could help students learn and assimilate ILS into their research toolkit in small increments.

The biggest lesson constructing this pathfinder has taught me is that effective research relies on extremely high quality ILS instruction. There is no point making a pathfinder full of pertinent resources if the students don’t know how to use those resources to their fullest extent. The information universe is massive yet very few teachers and students have the time or understanding of how to harness it effectively (Valenza, 2004). Being aware of such concepts as the hidden web, search engines more powerful and specific than Google, and the different kind of reading skills needed to access the right kind of information at the point of need, is absolutely integral to effective access to accurate, current, reliable information (CSU, 2013; Kuiper, Volman & Terwel, 2008; Valenza, 2004). I can now see how pathfinders can help TLs to explicitly and patiently give teachers and students the help they need to understand these concepts.


A clever TL could utilise the hard work of others in order to cut down the time it takes to create pathfinders. This could be done by using the existing unit planners and OPAC Resource Lists as a base for pathfinders. The school’s two Library Technicians (who already routinely create Resource Lists) could be taught how to make pathfinders. Additionally, as part of the reflection process, each grade level could complete a skeleton pathfinder of the most useful resources used during that unit. In the case of the latter strategies, it would be prudent for the TL to edit and flesh out the pathfinder with appropriate annotations and citations. The final step of publishing them on the Grade Level blog home page as well as the Library website would help ensure the pathfinders are used again.


Pathfinders can be a simple and powerful way to provide students with both relevant information and important ILS. I have learnt that regularly creating and updating pathfinders that are used in conjunction with explicit, in person, and frequent ILS instruction by the school TL can contribute to highly effective student research.




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?



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