Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December Monthly Report

By the numbers (and examples of note)
times I've moved: 2
new flatmates: 7 (+1 cat)
bus rides: 8
bike rides: 4
train rides: 0
ferry rides: 0
walks in a park: 13
walks after midnight:3
times I've made stir-fry:3
times I ate stir-fry leftovers:4
liters of milk: 4.5
loaves of bread: 2
movies (in the cinema): 2 (Harry Potter and The Disappearance of Alice Creed)
movies (on TV): 12 (The Last Emporer, Die Hard series, It's Complicated)
books read: 6 ("Under the Mountain", "See Ya, Simon", "Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules")
short stories read: 15 (Half a Grapefruit by Alice Munro, Best of Betty by Jincy Willett)
times I used the library computer: 7
times I used my flatmates computer: 9
interviews: 2 (for three positions)
job offers: 0
new bands I've seen playing live music: 8 (Heart Attack Alley)
swims in the Pacific Ocean: 2
swims in the Tasman Sea: 1
pick up soccer games: 1
blisters: 2
minutes spent calling home: 47
baking competitions entered: 1
place: 2
cookies/pieces of pie eaten at Christmas party: 8
invites to New Year's parties: 3
hours spen turning a pair of pants and a belt into a satchel: 6
minutes spent coutning angels on a pinhead, wondering what to do next: 378

*Note: beer total does not include New Year's Eve

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Velveteen Laptop

Strange how computers change our lives, or how much more we're affected by their absence. My computer has been in the shop for a while being repaired. It's taken a bit longer than usual to get it fixed, hence the radio silence. I stopped into the store today and noted that it's called Magnum Mac, way tougher than iStore, or whatever other wimpy names they go by. The service guy told me that they were running diagnostics, and couldn't tell me when the repair would be completed. The original issue, that when opening the laptop the backlight would periodically fail to come on, was something that fell into the cliche of repair issues - namely that they couldn't recreate the problem. The repair file noted that they are trying to 'fault' the computer, meaning that the technicians have not yet seen my backlight failure issues, rather than they are blaming my computer for all their problems. I'm not sure how much I believe in the 'aliveness' of things, or if karma extends to inanimate objects, but I certainly did as a kid. I would wonder if my toys were comfortable in the positions I left them in, or if He-man wanted to spend the afternoon in his bulky form or relax in his Adam of Eternia casual attire. I can remember putting Marble Madness in the NES, even though I hated it because the play control was sloppier than eating an open-faced reuben sandwich on a hot summer day, just so it would have something to talk about with the other catridges when I went to school. So now I can see how my anxiety has traveled with me to adulthood and Auckland, where I fret for my poor macbook, languishing for weeks in a flashy, mac-world chrome and white workshop somewhere, wondering why everyone keeps trying to find fault with it. Now I think I want it back not so much for the reassurance of my laptop's self esteem, but to distract myself from wondering about it. I just hope my bike doesn't get jealous.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A quiet little place in the city

I've been off the radar for a while taking care of some basic necessities like finding a new place to live. My stay with Marianne and Terry, wonderful in every way, was ending before the holidays. I had trouble thinking I could find another place so comfortable, convenient and affordable, but I did! It's perfect: fine, friendly young people, an excellent backyard for reading and drying clothes in the sun, a short walk to awesome pubs, cafes, downtown and the beach.

And there's a hammock!

On my street, Collingwood, I saw a flower getting some attention from a bee.

My new addy is

6/25 Collingwood St
Freeman's Bay
Auckland 1011
New Zealand

It's just a block and a half from Ponsonby Rd, and another block to my favorite burger joint, Murder Burger. Check out their website.
I like this picture they posted of Street Fighter II characters in the minimalism style, except that it really shafts Zangief of his best attribute.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 23 - Day Twenty - The Pres

Practicum Day 20
Site: City Center

Today I gave a presentation to the assembled Children's Librarians about Every Child Ready to Read. I dont' remember who said it, but I know of a quote disparaging the Eiffel Tower: "I like to go up in the Eiffel Tower because it's the only place in Paris where I don't have to see it". This is more or less how I felt about giving this presentation. The short version is that librarians have a connection with parents and caregivers who come to storytime. A specific part of ECRR are the six ideas that position a child to be successful when it comes to learning literacy in school. If librarians articulate these ideas, and how they happen during reading together with a child, parents can continue these practices at home. I also presented some ideas about the efficacy of the program, and whether or not it really fits with what libraries are and want to do.

I think a better point to make may have been something like "there are things we intuitively know and say about literacy. Here are some concrete phrases and ideas to support that." In general, I tend to agree with Mem Fox and what she had to say in her book Reading Magic, basically that reading expressively and frequently are the keys to helping children read. My thoughts are definitely influenced by a sense that being internally motivated to read is what determines reading success. This requires treating reading not as a skill in and of itself, but as a way one can experience a story or gain information. Is that compatible with ECRR? Of course, but the structure of the six elements gives the feeling of making reading and early literacy formulaic. For instance, the excitement of reading (called Print Motivation in ECRR) is just one of six elements but I think it has a more underlying quality than, say, learning letters.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When the day is done

After I'm done at the library, I usually do one of a few things downtown before heading home. I spend a lot of time in Albert Park, just across the street.

Sometimes I walk around and sight-see or people watch. This is a shot of the Sky Tower from its base, unless you're familiar with the tripods from John Christopher's The White Mountains trilogy. Did I ever tell you I had a dream about being in that story? I was part of a group of slaves in one of the cities, attempting a daring escape. We had to be absolutely silent, and we were, even though it was painful and hot and slow going. Fortunately, Inspector Gadget was among the slaves. His gadgets were invaluable in eluding the tripods. Nearing the hole in the dome over the city, freedom was so close we could think of nothing else but leaving this tortured existence when all of a sudden, every single one of Inspector Gadgets gadgets went off and we were caught and doomed to horrible fates.

There is a movie theater in the basement of the library. There isn't really a relationship to speak of; the library and movie theater just share the building. After work one day I went to see Exit Through The Gift Shop a documentary about...street art, but also a crazy guy who was extremely creative but in uncontrollable ways. It's hilarious. It was made by Banksy (pictured) who I figured wouldn't mind if I took pictures in the theater.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The present in pictures and the future in coffee

I got a book from the library about digital photography. See what you think of the progress:

TIP: use black and white.
SUBJECT: Marianne and Terry's kitchen

TIP: In situations that are flooded with light, such as landscapes during the day, use a low ISO setting. The ISO measures sensitivity to light. Use a high ISO for close ups and action shots.
SUBJECT: Comedy Central roast of Mike King.

TIP: The button on digital cameras often have a setting that, when pushed halfway down, will autofocus. If you autofocus and, still holding the button halfway down, move the camera around you can dictate where the focus will be.
SUBJECT: glass bead mosaic pathway

Some other photos. This one is of the White Lady, a late night burger stand in Newmarket.

One of many flat whites I've had.

I was reading a book about how to become a wizard called The Wizard's Apprentice by Herbie Brennan. He described how to become a wizard by honing the mind and yoking imagination. So it got me thinking about divination and tea leaves. What if you're a wizard and don't drink a lot of tea? And you prefer, say, cappuccino? The future I'm seeing in this cup is....I will buy some trendy skinny robes from American Magical Apparel?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 16 - Day Nineteen - Panmure Redux

Practicum Day 19
hours worked: 8
hours to date: 106

Back to Panmure on the south side of Auckland. Today marks the day when I have officially spent 100 hours exploring professional roles and work of librarians. Strangely, today was the day that was most reminiscent of work I did at Cleveland Heights. Engaged in some of the practical tasks, thinking like a customer, being available to help when needed, a mix of planning and execution, balancing the necessary with the exciting and elusive. In its own nerdy way (meaning ultra-precise in detail and application), reshelving books is instructive and interesting. Shelving books lets you know what patrons are checking out and what else is in the collection. With more context, you start to wonder about where books should go. Why is the Johnny Cash biography with the music books, rather than the biographies? Why are the bodies of work of photographers in photography, not biography? (In a nod to dewey, music biographies are 780.92, which may generate from 920 being the number for biography) These tasks have a bit of Mr. Miyagi's aura about it - learning through meditative repetition. One lesson I learned is to start shelving with the art books, which are thicker and so there are fewer of them per cart.

I was lucky to be included in storytime, yet again. This time the theme was clothes, and I got to read You Can't Go To School Naked! by Diane Billstrom. And why not? Because you would get sunburn, or frostbite, or slimed on by frogs at show and tell are all good reasons. The most compelling to me involved what would happen to you by the time you get to the bottom of the slide - getting fried! The afternoon rolled around very quickly, and with it came Akozone, the after school homework club. Trading reading for computer time works very well. Sometimes I find myself engaged with the reading, like today's book about tigers as an endangered species, but you can only take so many readings of Franny K. Stein. I find though, that once you get to know kids, and they know that you care about them, they will give you a chance to offer them something new. I was so happy to get to that point with a few kids on only the second time there. As evidence, I submit the girl who sat through a book of Marc Chagall's work (which I had shelved earlier in the day).

in the staff room

hot chocolates today: 0. Panmure does not have a hot chocolate machine, although they DO have a very nice balcony that just needs maybe a potted tree and a nice chair.

hot chocolates to date: 21

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Around Auckland 2

Yesterday was the monthiversary of being in Auckland. I've become quite acquainted with the place. I feel very confident getting lost now, figuring that I'll almost definitely find my way back form wherever I am. I can get from Epsom to Ponsonby easily, Grey Lynn to St. Helier's would be no sweat (just a long bike ride) via the waterfront and estuary causeway. In this spirit, I biked around after seeing Play Dads at Epsom branch last weekend and found all sorts of things. First stop was Royal Oak, an area whose business district is dominated by a huge roundabout. I got some Goody Gumdrops ice cream at Ollie's. It tasted like, and I mean this in a nice way, really sweet, delicious minty toothpaste.

Along Balmoral road I rode, taking breaks every now and then to stop into stores. I went into a toy store that advertised a huge Lego collection. There were all kinds of sets! Star Wars, Prince of Persia, other space and firehouse sets, just everything. And then I came across this advent calendar set. I don't know where to begin with what is confusing about it, but I would include the mom holding a huge smoking sausage and the flying robot rat over the tree.

I continued on my way west and got to the Pt. Chevalier. It's pronounced "chev-a-LEER", rather than "che-VAL-yey". There were a group of people playing music and doing capoeria (I don't even know the pronunciation for that) at the park near the water. It was fun to watch, this fight-dancing. It seemed in a really fun spirit to cartwheel and kick to the rapid drumbeats and high warbles of the long, bow-like sting instruments.

Anyway, I point out the pronunciation of the place because I kept thinking of this Marx Brothers piece while I was there. From Monkey Business.

The park had trails that led down to the water where people were having enjoying themselves in different ways. Talking, drinking, laying in the sunset, playing touch rugby, listening to music. Many were fishing, like these guys at the bottom of the steps made out of black basalt rocks.

After all this biking and fun I thought I'd cap it off with a tasty meal out. I decided to stop at Murder Burger (the one with the cat!). Good choice. The burger was huge but thin, so it didn't make me feel like I had a huge lump in my stomach afterward.

The sauce was a sort of horseradish mayonnaise. The burger was served with beets on it. The ginger beer was a fizzy, refreshing beverage for the meal and a tired cyclist. The other fabulous detail of the place was that the magazine selection included MAD magazine from January 1980, complete with Carter administration jokes!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 12 - Day Eighteen - Train Station

Practicum Day 18
site: City Center
hours worked: 3
hours to date: 98

Today I spent a few hours with Jayne Gutry, the training and professional development coordinator for Auckland City Libraries. She'll be joined by a few others now that the councils have merged, but for now she was able to show me the programs she has developed on a wiki: You should check it out. It's public access and Jayne is more than happy to answer questions. I like that she developed the wiki to reflect her professional view of training which is that 70% is learning on the job, 20% is learning from others, and 10% is formal training. This has given some structure to the why and how of training tools and content she has developed.

Learning on the job
This section has exercises, called BeWise, that will either introduce or remind staff members about library services, for instance, databases. There is almost no way to know how to use every database to its potential, but customers need to have some confidence that we know how to help them find accurate information. Learning how to use a database in order to answer a question does not really accomplish this, so giving staff a manageable way to stay on top of them really helps. The BeWise format is smart. The three sections are: What is it/what does it do?, How does it help customers? and a few exercises.
Also collected are the tutorials provided by database companies themselves. In another stroke of not-reinventing-the-wheel brilliance, handouts and exercises that are part of all staff training, such as with roving reference, are compiled here so there's no need to worry about keeping your own copy.

But I think my favorite part of this section is the professional knowledge blog which gets its content from the evaluations of workshops attended by staff. So instead of going to a conference and saying, "I learned a lot of x,y and z" to managers, the blog keeps a record and opens it to any staff who care to know.

Learning from others
The working groups have a wealth of information that seems to covers more orientation or beginning training rather than ongoing professional development. But this is still important. I really liked the reference interview video challenge. Staff were challenged to create a video to illustrate the principles of conducting a good reference interview. Given two hours to write the script at storyboard, a number of departments entered a submission that was judged critically on set criteria, and also popularly. I'd vote for the popular winner too, Reference This!

Learning formally
The library association here, LIANZA, has a professional registration program based on core competencies that they call the 'Body of Knowledge'. Training done here in Auckland is related to the points in the BOK to help with this process. Staff can also participate in the Study Support Scheme which covers a 50% tuition reimbursement upon successful completion of coursework and up to 1 hour per week for study leave.

In general though, staff members receive training in this mode through workshops either created or organized by the training coordinator on topics like customer service, reader's advisory and web 2.0 skills.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 1
hot chocolates to date: 21

November 11 - Day Seventeen - Libraries, libraries everywhere

Practicum day 17
sites: St. Helier's, Remuera, Manukau research library, Clendon, Botany, Tupu
hours worked: 8
hours to date: 95

A brisk walk down to the Britomart station was the first leg of a long tour of libraries today. Lin and I talked a while about St. Helier's, the first stop as we waited for the bus. Lin was very familiar with that branch since she used to be the manager there. Under her care, the branch was absolutely transformed into a vibrant place with many programs offered and communities ties developed with local groups and artists.

The energy and enthusiasm of the branch is palpable as soon as you walk in. This is entirely due to the omnipresence of Xena, the library cat. And the wonderful staff, who are more than friendly, they are cheerful (although Lin's homecoming might have had a lot to do with this) and busy creating interesting displays for books and programs. The branch advertises itself very well. Children and parents were piling in a full half hour before storytime with the very purply Ms. Chris began. In storytime, we read books about animals and did the Wobbly Woo along with a jam packed corner of kids. Straight from storytime I went to book discussion attended by a dozen distinguished ladies who have some very discriminating tastes in books. St. Helier's seems to see patrons from 'nought to ninety' as they say. This branch has a higher than average circulation, due to the collection management and the staff who have a wonderful book-focused interaction with a receptive community.

We met Juliana at St. Helier's so that she and I could continue on. Remuera was the next, brief, stop. The branch is a Carnegie Library, built in that stately, timbered, high ceiling style. The boxy rooms give a sense of order and sensibility to the library. We arrived just after storytime finished, but we saw the evidence of how well it was enjoyed by the number of books that were being read afterwards by children and parents.

And that was it for Auckland City libraries today. Off to southern reaches - Manukau Libraries. We met up with Jolene at the Research Library which is largely devoted to genealogy and local history, and some administrative functions. We didn't stay long, but instead were soon off to three unique and inspiring branches.

The Te Matariki Clendon branch shares a council-owned building with a rec center. This benefits both with cross use visits. Yes, there are some behavior issues, but what's interesting is the library has chosen to approach this with the view of being a 'community living room' as opposed to being cold and authoritarian about use. The staff, who practice roving reference and have no desk to stop at, encourage a behavior model that is a compromise between the way libraries traditionally ask people to use the space, for instance to sit relatively quietly with materials, and notions that the community members, many of them Maori and pacific islanders, have about feeling comfortable in their living room. I didn't get all the nuances of this, but one way this happens is through the separation of popular topics of materials - cooking, repair, and gardening - from the rest of the dewey shelving. They also have a large collection of Maori and pacific island language books, which is a huge help to literacy in the Tongan and Samoan communities, especially because books published in these languages are so rare. The teen room is also a dark, video-focused space, which any reasonable teenager's room might look like (the picture is from their website).

The Botany branch is another innovation. It's located in a shopping mall. The branch is staffed with people who are almost totally focused on customer service and everything from look and feel to shelving to programs to partnerships (see the adjoining cafe) is retail focused. The don't charge fees, but they are all about being a cool hang out spot. They show movies for teens, as long as they aren't movies available in the mall's movie theater. Our visit was around after school hours when teens from the high school across the street came dominated the social and study spaces in the branch. We didn't know whether the mall or the library made the first overture in this deal, but it seems like the mall considered the library to be such an asset that it gave the library an extraordinary deal on rent. I wouldn't be surprised if libraries use this method of placement to enhance retail spaces and to stay in front of customer's minds and attention. You can (sort of) see in the picture how the shelves are labeled with understandable topics, but are still in dewey order.

Last but not least we stopped at Jolene's one time home branch, the Tupu Youth Library. This one is entirely dedicated to children and teen services, and after school the place literally buzzes with projects, clubs and video and children and staff. The close by elementary schools provide the library with kids who come to do homework, or if they have no homework they work on projects that the staff have developed such as daily journaling or investigating Christmas Around the World. This is a little different from Akozone in that it is not teacher based or Ministry of Education funded. So why would the kids leave school to do work at the library. For one thing, the staff is incredible, really caring about forming relationships with the children. For another, doing work gets you points, and points gets you invited to nights where the hardwired video game consoles and tvs are all yours. The library also offers several clubs that kids can belong to like Boys Club (learning about manners), KEWL Club, S.K.I.P. Krew (Saturday Kids, Impossible Projects) and the Books to Movies club. There is a large-ish collection of children's and teen materials, and even a few adult books, but really the focus of this branch is on children and the community. A very active, amazing, inspiring place.
in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 0. On the go all day!
hot chocolates to date: 20

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 10 - Day Sixteen - Akozone

Practicum day 16
site: Panmure community library
hours worked: 4
hours to date: 87

The water in the estuary near Mission Bay bobbed with a regular bump as Julianna and I took the train across the causeway to one of the southern-most community libraries in the Auckland City region, Panmure. It's a very different neighborhood than ones I'd seen up to now. A bit rougher in construction of houses and markets, a highly visible religious element and the residents are predominantly of Maori and pacific island ethnicity. Some time ago, the use of the libraries in this area was steadily declining, especially use by children. A nearby branch, Glen Innes (IN-ESS, scottish) began an after school homework program that became known as Akozone. Now, there are five branches that offer the program. Ako is a Maori concept that can be translated roughly as "learning". It's partially funded by the Ministry of Education to provide refreshments and education to the kids who show up. At Panmure, the carrots and apples have to last for the average sixty kids who show up each afternoon. There is one security guard to help the three staff members who help the kids by listening as the kids read to them. For every twenty minutes or so, a child gets a stamp good for free time on the computers. They read fun stuff, Batman and Iron Man comics and easy readers, but this reading out loud gives them a lot of confidence and computer time is a good incentive. There are also structured educational programs that they staff develop, such as activity sheets that explore popular topics such as Greek mythology. In turn, the kids create artwork around the topics that is displayed on the walls. This usually all takes places in the first hour of the two hour program.

It was comforting to me that some of the things I love doing with kids in America are the same things I got to do in Akozone. Listen to boys be smart, or posture or silly and arm wrestle with them. Listen to girls be smart, play Connect 4, and look at magazines with them. They liked that I was from America. I liked that they knew hakas. And like all kids, they have to have expectations for their behavior because it can get out of hand. They are learning about hormones in school, which they blame for all their crazy antics. The staff are understanding, but quick to draw the line between goofy and disrespectful.

On the way home, Julianna and I discussed the idea of tween collections that are currently being trialled at a few branches. There are great reasons for having the collection: there are distinct developmental difference between children, tweens and teens, the literature for them is already in the collection, but not separated, and tweens are in a stage of self-discovery and self-direction but not independence, so they really appreciate things that are just for them. The branches with tween collections report an increase in circulation and, more importantly, parents and kids who say that they can find what they are looking for more easily. I think the tween reader phase is worth a lot of consideration because there is a lot of evidence to show that once kids are independently mobile, around the time they become teens, library use falls off. Being more visible and accommodating to tweens may encourage them to continue to find the library relevant as they grow into teenagers.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 1
hot chocolates to date: 20

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November 9th - Day Fifteen

Practicum Day 14

site: City center, Parnell branch

hours today: 3

hours to date: 83

Today was, yet again, a wonderful storytime. This time was all about birds. I'm not really a bird man (legal or otherwise) but I have marvelled at the birds here in New Zealand. I think that I'm so used to pidgeons and sparrows that birds seeing colorful birds around town like the pukeko (left) or tui (above) are really exciting. New Zealand has no indigenous mammals, except some bats who got really lost, and it seems like in their absence birds had a chance to flourish. Of course there is the cute li'l kiwi and the ominous moa, too, both examples of flightless birds. Watch out for that ominous moa, tourists!

Anyway, so storytime was about birds and the weirdest flightless bird of all was the storytime bird who came to read stories like Time for Bed Little Kiwi, a fun lift-the-flap that searches all of Little Kiwi's hiding spots only to find them taken up by other native birds. It was fun to put in out right and left wings when we did the hokey-pokey.

Afterwards, I rode around to the Parnell community library just to explore a little bit. It's a very cozy branch in a heritage building with endows it with stately architecture but restricts the space it occupies. This building is very close to downtown and the museum (where I saw the moa!) and is heavily trafficked. I met with Jan and Lynn, two of the librarians. They gave me some feedback about the effects of the merger for a small branch. Apart from the nearly ubiquitous increase in circulation, holds and returns, there is also a sharp increase in new registrations for library cards. Jan told me that the people signing up seem to be those who work in the Parnell area, but live elsewhere. With the merger, they don't have to choose between waiting until the weekend to use the library or pay fees, now it's more convenient for them to stop by at lunch or after work. An interesting benefit of the merger.

in the staff room

hot chocolates today: 1 storytime prep chocolate

hot chocolates to date: 19

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November 6th Day Fourteen - Play Dads

Practicum day 14

Site: Epsom community library

practicum hours worked: 1

practicum hours to date: 80

Play Dads is a special storytime aimed at dads and male caregivers offered every fortnight. The content is modeled from Wriggle & Rhyme (the motion and music early literacy program). The session that I attended (and yes, hokey-pokeyed at) was presented by two male librarians at the same time! I think this is special because it gives a strong sense of male participation in early childhood development, and it heightens the feeling of a group rather than a presenter and audience. The songs, fingerplays and props used are all simple and familair but the attendance, typically 20-25 is all adult males with babies aged from 0-2. It was simply a very special and in some ways ingenious effort to target dads.

in the staff room

hot chocolates today: 0 (I had one but it was Milo, a mix I made that didn't taste as great as the regular hot chocolate so I'm not counting it)

hot chocolates to date: 18

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 5th - Day Thirteen - Community Library Tour

Practicum Day 13
site: Birkenhead, Leys, Onehunga, Mt Roskill community libraries
hours worked: 7
hours to date: 79

If it's snowing where you are reading this, then you may want to skip the next paragraph

The Auckland Libraries will be starting summer reading very soon! The title of the program is Hot Summer, Cool Books which will build on the theme of kiwiana (all things New Zealand Aotearoa). The idea is to get kids enjoying reading and to use staff time to engage children in discussion rather than metrics. There are no registrations or check-ins, but there are three tic-tac-toe boards that have activities on them that can be stamped when completed. For instance, there are boxes for "I read a..." and "I read to..." and "I drew a picture...". The cards are directed to younger children, older children, and parents. Each completed card can be submitted for a drawing to win tickets to a place to have a fun experience, like the zoo. Each time a stamp is issued, a sticker is also given that can be put anywhere on the child's rainbow-adorned reading certificate.

With the prototype documents in hand Julianna, Lin and I spent the day visiting several branches. We started at Birkenhead, part of the North Shore libraries. This was the first branch I had visited, and it happens to be in another council (but now part of the new large regional system). Not quite a year old, the award winning architecture presented a very bright, airy and natural feeling using interior light colored wood and brick. The ceiling was visible from the first floor because the second floor was only partially built out. From the second floor you could see beautiful views of the city through a strip of perfectly placed windows set among cutout work that resembled tree branches.
There was also ample space alloted for the Citizen's Advice Bureau, a NON-governmental service that is "somewhere people could go to learn about their rights and obligations and also how to use this information to good effect to get the best outcomes. " The trained volunteer staff helps anyone with tenancy, employment, money, or legal issues that arise. For free. I think this sort of community focused, information based service would be successful in any American library. (The CAB is another area tended to by the Community Outreach team at City center). In addition to this, the library provides space for Plunket services, which is the largest community resource for children's health and well-being under the age of 5. It provides health information and reference similar to the CAB for legal issues. It seems such a perfect match to offer these types of services in a public library.

Our next stop was to the oldest library in continuous operation in Auckland. The Leys Institute was built in 1905 as a place of learning and discussion, and it was also the site of the first children's library in Australasia! The building has some very old parts to it inlcuding a wall in the basement where every visiting author has signed. It's very full. The architecture of the building has so much character and the community uses the location heavily. The storytimes are crowded to capacity and among the discussions there are strategies to handle attendance that exceeds the health and safety requirements for the rooms.

children's room at Ley's Institute
Further down the road we came to Onehunga which has extraordinarily high borrowing rates, exceeding the rest of the branches in a recent adult reading program by some 400 entires. The users of the branch are also interested in community events and especially local history. The library offers a storytime, entirely in Chinese, every fortnight. Another special feature is the way the library shares space with the Onehunga community center, which offers art, fitness and sports classes. All of these things makes the library very well attended.

Finally we came to Mt. Roskill which is the largest of the community libraries. They have a high teen patron attendance and have started a number of successful programs to engage them. The most successful teen programs seem to be ones where teens are presenting to themselves. For instance, a recent program had a teen who was a successful cartoonist present a program about drawing cartoons to her peers. Having teens present to peers seems like a model worth exploring because often popular topics have more to do with friendships than the topics themselves. Another observation of note is that the Chinese collection and Maori collection are both as beefed up as the teen collection at this branch. However, similar to City Center, the Chinese collection circulates much more frequently and the Maori collection tends to be underused.

in the staff room:
hot chocolates today: 1
hot chocolates to date: 18

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 4th - Day Twelve

Practicum Day 12
site: City Center
hours worked: 5
hours to date: 72

The Freeman's Bay school arranged for a field trip of 130 kids to come to the library today. There is a rule that there must be at least one adult for every ten children and I think that it probably helps with keeping everything safe and on time as much as anything else. Ben, Daniel and I, under Erika's leadership, planned for 8,9, and 10 year-olds to learn about the library in a rotation of four activities: taking a tour, exploring non-fiction with a worksheet guide, hearing a story and searching the library for objects shown in a handout called the Discovery Tour. It went well! I enjoyed showing the kids some rare books in the Shades of Grey exhibit and they were quite interested in the non-fiction. I read the story Wait! No Paint! which introduces the idea of an illustrator to three hapless and desperate pigs.

In the afternoon, the Community Outreach team had a staff meeting. Among the topics we discussed was roving reference and the plan to reach out to customers where they happen to be on the floor in addition to staffing a desk where they might find us. I think this trend of opening library service to customers more precisely when and how they need it will probably continue as it is one of the main ways that libraries can be of a clear benefit in a time when it's so easy to search google on your blackberry, or to just be satisfied with what you find and potentially miss out on the plenty in the library.
in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 2
hot chocolates to date: 17
there was a surprise at lunchtime. The Indian festival of lights, Diwali, is wrapping up and several staff members arranged for a potluck lunch feast of delicious Indian food. My favorite was the extra spicy biryani and the smoked fish rice.

November 3rd - Day Eleven

Practicum Day 11
site: City Center

hours worked: 4
hours to date: 67

The City center gets a large number of school visitors every year as they are the largest of the 17 in Auckland, have the largest collections and the most special collections, including the rare books in the Sir George Grey room. Sir George Grey gave the founding donation of early Maori and English documents that are second only to what is collected at the national library in Wellington. This was just part of what I learned in preparation for the school visit of 130 students that are coming to the library tomorrow. I was priviledged to be included on a crack team of school visit specialists (Daniel, Erika and Ben) who would handle the throng. We met to discuss strategy today and came up with a variety of experiences that would encourage eight to ten year-olds to have a positive library experience, and hopefully return often. More on this tomorrow.

Because the fee for borrowing books from other councils was eliminated with the merger that took place on Monday, the number of holds placed has skyrocketed. The number of books returned and just the sheer number of visitors has also increased dramatically this week. It seems as though patrons are responding very positively to the change. Allison Dobbie, head of the now 55 branch system gave an initial positive report in this article. Of course, in order to make these things work, someone has to actually find all of the books and shelve all of the books that are being returned. So to deal with the increase, many staff members from different departments in the City Center came down to circulation to help with checking books in, shelving them and finding books to fill holds. It didn't take anyone more time than they had to spare, usually a hour or half-hour, and I think this pitching in really made a difference for everyone.

Lastly today I met with Gerard (Learning Services guru) about the "Book a Librarian" program that I've been mentioning. I really like this service because it is an example of providing professional expertise in a customizable format that really serves patrons when and how the want they are looking for help. Basically the program allows patrons to make a 30 minute appointment with a librarian to get one-on-one help with whatever they might need. Book a Librarian exists to "teach a man to fish", complimenting the "giving a man a fish" service that most patrons need and recieve day to day. Topics predominantly reflect the public computer class topics such as learning software, signing up for email, writing a resume, or navigating trademe (which is like craigslist). Sometimes a patron will want to learn how to do online searching or how to use a particular database. These more in depth questions are perfect for the service. Really in depth research, like geneaology or microfilm scanning, are refered up to the Auckland Research Centre.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: just 1
hot chocolates to date: 15

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 2nd - Day Ten - I Love to Dance!

Practicum Day 10
hours worked: 8
hours to date: 63

Storytime! If ever there was a tonic for anxiety, bad moods, mumps or ailment of any kind, it's storytime. I was really happy that Lin gave me an opportunity to get back in the saddle. I love more than anything for a bit of absurdity and nonsense to follow me into storytime, and so my pajama pants and towel cape became the perfect get up for engaging the twenty or so parents and children that came today. We opened with Haere Mai (Welcome Everyone) and then read stories about dancing. We read I Love to Dance by Anna Walker and Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig.

And then we danced to The Salteen's I'm So Happy! from the new Yo Gabba Gabba CD Party In My Tummy. What a great time!

In the afternoon, I went met with Yan, the Chinese Services Specialist Librarian. She has a unique role in the library in that she does the selection for Chinese language materials (there is a centralized selection and acquisition team that acts for the whole system). An important point that I misunderstood earlier is just how much of the circulation is due to Chinese materials. A full 10% of the issues at City Center, and 25% of the ground floor fiction is from this collection. Jan is also responsible for going through donations for possible inclusion in the collection, and the assessment and deselection work. I think a significant point is that many of the day to day tasks of working with a collection that can be taken for granted - filling holds, for instance - require this specialized foreign language knowledge in order to provide the same level of access to Chinese-speaking customers as the library does for English speakers. A lot of time is needed to put magazines in order so that the collection is up to date, attractive and browseable. The library is able to serve so many more customers by attending to this by having a Chinese Services librarian on staff.

It's interesting to contrast this with Daniel's role as the Maori Services librarian. He focuses on planning and doing outreach and does not spend a comparable amount of time to Yan on Maori collections. This is not a difference in services, however, it is yet another example of meeting the patrons where they are. The library sees many Chinese visitors while the library serves Maori communities by visiting them. These are both different yet again from Children's services. The trend is for families with very young children, up to 4 or 5, to live in the Central Business District and then move out to the suburbs. The City Center branch focuses its Children's services on the very young and it is the community branches that serve school age children and teens.

Another part of my productive day was to give a short presentation to the Information Services team about roving reference. The team is moving to a model of customer service that includes finding patrons where they are in the library, in addition to serving them at a desk. It was nice to be able to contribute a few notes about my experience with a model that I think would work very well here for two reasons: 1) the team has a great customer service mindset already and 2) the floor is relatively large and it is not possible to see everyone who isn't already finding what they need. Afterwards the invited me to join the for small congratulations to one of their colleagues which is why...

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 3!
hot chocolates to date: 14

Sunday, October 31, 2010

November 1st - Day Nine - The New Order

Practicum hours
Site: Auckland Library (not Auckland City Library)
hours worked: 4
hours to date: 55

Remember this?

Now it's this:

Today was the first day of the Auckland Council, formed from eight previously linked but autonomous regions. As such, all city functions are merged across this new 180 km (110 mi) long city of 1.4 million people. Auckland City Libraries, which were the 17 branches that served the Auckland City region are now part of the 55 branch Auckland Libraries. Cool!

The morning started with a short ceremony. Daniel, the Maori Services librarian opened with a short Maori address and led the group in a song. Here are the words:

Te aroha
Te whakapono
Me te rangimarie
Tatou, tatou e

In English, it reads:

The 'love'
The 'faith'
and the 'peace'
for everyone

Daniel told me that this is a common song used on many occasions. Then Geoff Chamberlain, formerly head of Northshore libraries now director of the group of 17 branches that are in the Auckland City region, gave us a quick reminder about where the library had been, where it's going and how excited he is to be a part of it with us.

What he talked about was really how this is not a new things for the library. In fact, the merger had been some ten years in the making. In order to serve patrons better, the libraries had developed a program called Libraries in the Greater Auckland Region (eLGAR). This program was about two key components of libraries: collections and customer service. The libraries had developed a catalog that combined collection records so that materials could be found in any region, although up until today there was a fee to borrow materials from other regions. The customer service aspect standardized service at all the libraries. So in this sense, libraries were well prepared for combined regional services, and not dreading it at all. In fact, everyone I met and talked with before today kept a very positive, sometimes eager, outlook on the change. Being in the business of information, the library kept employees informed so everyone knew how their roles would change and Allison Dobbie (library director of the entire Auckland Council) was always open about what changes were being made. There's no way to predict some things, such as how many holds or returns there will be, but everyone seems ready to go with it.

After the ceremony, it was business as usual. I observed (and hokey-pokeyed with) Erika in Wriggle & Rhyme. Today's concepts included training eye movement and including a variety of sensations in naming body parts. Then I prepared for storytime by using the online catalog and the Novelist database. Very excited for tomorrow! I also prepared for several meetings tomorrow including time with Jan, Chinese services specialist.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today:1 (short day)
hot chocolates to date: 11

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I'm in business! I was walking around Upper Queen street trying to figure out where to top up (refill) my bus pass card with more credit because someone had mentioned that a particular chain of convenience stores would have that capability. Not finding one quickly, I got distracted and entered an interesting looking secondhand store. And just inside the door were the bikes! All the bikes I've seen in the paper and in stores like Pennyfarthing and T. Whites have been crazy expensive, from $400 up to $5000. Not kidding. Even the rustiest clunkers on trademe, a kiwi version of craigslist cost $150 at least. Forget that. I got really lucky and scooped up a winner for $65 bucks. It's a Merida Albontech 870, apparently a real old model.

It needed a little work so I got some guides (from the library) and set to work yesterday. I cleaned some of the rust, adjusted front and rear brakes and got the front gear shift to work by adjusting the front deraileuueur. The rear tire had a slow leak, so I managed to get that apart and fixed the teeny hole by just covering it with some silicone. I'll probably need to get a proper patch on it, but it seems to be holding for now. Marianne generously let me borrow a gel seat cover which will really save my butt. I bought a bike lock and a light which together cost as much as the bike itself, but at least I'm road ready now. I asked the folks at the bike shop about Critical Mass, but they thought I was some kind of weird missionary. The Auckland CM website is vague and uninformative, totally in line with the "spontaneous" and "leaderless" rides that take place on the last Friday of every month. I can't wait to hang out with the fixies around here.

I went for a long bike ride last night to celebrate my new found transportation capability. Along with a satisfying workout and the thrill of being back on a bike, I got a keener sense of the geography of Auckland. Possibly due to its volcanic history, there are places of incredible steep inclines and declines surrounded by long, gradual slopes. Nowhere is Auckland flat. On my ride, I came across a burger and coffee joint that you could sit at or drive through. Here's a slightly Nighthawks-esque scene from the place.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Around Auckland

A few photos and curios from around town:

From the cemetery near Grafton and Symonds street. Original cemetery for the Scottish settlers.

Pretty dresses at a shop called Anne Stanton (I think)

Fun at the Maungawhau playground. These super fun wire swings are called Flying Foxes.

This restaurant, which serves great thai, is called Otto Woo*. You can see here what the * refers to.

Full moon rise over eastern Auckland

Enough LOL cats. Time for us to be honest about what kitties have on their minds.

Mosaic near the library. For reference, the US amended the constitution allowing the same in 1917.

This would be a very different book on American shelves.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

October 28th - Day Eight - On the Road

Practicum Day 8

Site: Mobile Library
hours worked: 8
hours to date: 51

The mighty engine strained against the weight of a modified cargo truck full of large print, western and romance novels as Sid lurched the mobile library out of the driveway early last Thursday (B) morning. I was seated in the library function chair that faces the inside of the bus, observing the stacks of books and magazines that obediently stayed put while Sid drove up and down the hills of eastern Auckland. Thursday (B) is a busy day on the mobile with eight stops to make. The morning stops were to relatively quiet neighborhood locations that afforded Sid time to show me the collection and some of the functions on the computer. The mobile library has the capacity to do everything a desk at City Center branch might do. It has a computer equipped with cellular internet so the circulation and hold functions are integrated without delay. This proves to be useful since the mobile has a biweekly (I began to enjoy the term 'fortnightly') schedule and many patrons make lists of requests.

The mobile library has special parking spots designated with the day and time of the stop.

The mobile library is yet another example of responding to community needs. Sid drives four days a week and sees an averages of 33 people per day over 8-10 stops. I found that he knew, before they even got on the bus, who would be coming and whether they would be late or early at the stop. He knew the patrons so well that he set aside books and authors he knew certain patrons would really enjoy. The patrons eagerly came onto the mobile to greet Sid and chat with him about their news, while Sid asked about theirs and passed greeting onto anyone who wasn't able to make it this week. Senior citizens in Auckland can get a Gold Pass for unlimited free use of the buses and trains which many use to come to the library. Even so, I have to think that Sid's customer service has a lot to do with how the use of the mobile library by senior citizens has increased in the last 18 months. Outreach to children is in progress. Stopping near schools hasn't been as successful as hoped. No teens at all use the bus.

You can see a little bit of the bulletin board with notices of interest.

The mobile also collects returns which are processed as would happen in the library. Since the entire fiction collection is floating, anything returned to the mobile library stays on the bus. This is okay since the readership is fairly consistent. Large print, magazines, romance and westerns dominate the mobile collection. In regard to magazines, it seems better to have more subscriptions to weekly or fortnightly magazines than even the monthly titles since this improves selection for popular topics. Doreen also helps with this service by selecting materials based on Sid's feedback. She makes visits to some of the rest homes and retirement communities that are on the route so that they know what kinds of services are available when Sid stops there.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 1 (I was thirsty when we got back at end of the day)
hot chocolates to date: 10

October 27 - Day Seven - Te Puna (the pool)

Practicum Day 7

site: City Centre branch, information services
hours worked: 8
hours to date: 43

If you need help fixing your chainsaw, I know exactly where you need to look. Carol is a senior reference library and keeper of the car, boat and small engine manuals (among many other topics of course). Since these books are among the most used and are relatively expensive to buy, there is an extensive reference only (non circulating) collection. There are two interesting aspects to a collection like this. One is that since the call numbers are almost all the same, they are not helpful for quickly finding a particular book. So Carol invented a new cataloging system just for these books based on subject first (car, truck, motorcycle...) then make, then year. This system was begun a long time ago and now the challenge is to make these books findable to librarians who are using the online catalog or the Millenium catalog software (since they don't have call numbers). Dealing with this takes staff time, which is always valuable. I toured this collection with Fran, the new leader of Information Services. She has a keen eye for making sure that the collections and services are offered in a way that really makes sense, and she has a keen ear for understanding how staff feels about the work they are doing. Fran pointed out that as cars become more technical and fewer people can easily do work on them a collection manuals, so popular now, may face some changes in the future. If I am learning any lesson in all this library work, it's to not hold on too tightly to anything except a few core ideas about free access and customer service. Everything will change sooner or later, and better to understand and anticipate than react and miss out.

The rest of the morning was spent with Teresa and C.J. who detailed interloans - wow there is a lot to know about here. Basically Auckland City Library is part of a national network (known as Te Puna, meaning pool of knowledge or resources) that sends and receives material, including books, audio visual and magazine and journal articles. What's interesting is that not only does the library support other library's customers, it also has a relationship with the local government to do research, and it also generates revenue by providing research to corporations! They call this Information Supply Service, and it costs $40/hr. Corporations pay an annual fee plus the charge for each request. There is an additional charge for an urgent request. Corporations pay for this service for three reasons: 1 - Access to many many resources that are only needed infrequently, and therefore not worth purchasing themselves (such as building standards). 2 - The expertise of librarians in using and navigating those resources. 3 - The privacy ensured by the library. Companies who want to bid on a project need to know, for instance, specifications of building a office tower in Australia. But they might not want their competitors to know they are thinking about making a bid. The library's dedication to privacy is important to them.

The interloans team processes requests made by Auckland residents and fulfils requests made by patrons of other libraries. It's interesting to me whether libraries consider interloan to be a core part of access or not. Some libraries have truncated or eliminated their service because it is too expensive while others have decided that it is an important part of free access to information. I think the decision comes down to funding, but the collection development policy of the library is clearly a factor. Here is Auckland Library's CD policy. For individuals, the library does not pass on the cost of interloan to the customers. It does charge $15 NZ (~$11 US) per request. Since they use a courier service, and the last pickup is at the end of the day, materials arrive at their destination the next morning! Auckland City Libraries send out about three times as many materials as they do requests, so perhaps the service is paying for itself (I don't have an idea about what other libraries charge). It also seems like the interloan team operates in a similar way to other librarians with a specialized focus in that their experience allows them to be familiar with the collections of many public and academic libraries, and often making the right request to the right location increases efficiency.

Another important service is keeping the public informed about governmental issues. Laws, standards, and notices are kept and organized by Jo with whom I met this afternoon. She arranges displays for items of public interest such as standards for things like building a deck on your house. She also organizes updating local and national statutes, the text of bills and acts from national government and helps look after the law resources. I could really get a sense from her about the importance of organizing truly vast quantities of information. Librarians are so necessary as this process is in no way automatic and takes a careful and trained professional to make finding relevant information in a timely way at all possible.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 2
hot chocolates to date: 9

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October 26th - Day Six - Learning Services

Practicum Day 6
site: City centre branch, Learning Services
hours worked: 6
hours to date: 35

Today I met the Learning Services and Information Services team. Gerard is the reference librarian who leads a team of six others in providing specialized learning services including computer and internet classes, and the Book A Librarian program. He was great at introducing me to the responsibilities of the team, which overlaps with information services to a high degree. Overseeing collection development and maintenance of the adult non-fiction takes up the majority of time, the balance spent in providing reference and computer help.

The tasks that are specific to the Learning Services team revolve around teaching computer skills in classes attended by the public and leading internal training sessions. They also develop materials or classes for special promotion weeks. If a large enough group in the community was interested in a training, responsibility would fall to this team.

There are twelve classes offered each month. These are general interest or skills like computer basics, job searching, Microsoft products, using the online catalog and online searching. There are other specialized classes offered less frequently. I got to observe Rob conduct the job searching class. His insight is that patrons prefer learning everything in one session and that they are not so in need of instruction as guided practice. Patrons can take home handouts with the websites highlighted in the class for further exploration.

In the afternoon, I was invited to an Information Services staff meeting. Information services is responsible for many of the same aspects of the library as Learning Services, mostly adult reference, but Info Services maintains the more specialized areas such as music, law and business. At the meeting we discussed common library issues but one of particular interest was signage. There is a need to inform patrons of reminders, such as to keep an eye on belongings, but there are good ways and better ways. For instance, "Keep an eye on your belongings" might sounds better than "You are on closed circuit TV". However, both of these are lost on you if you happen to be a foreign traveller in an international city like Auckland and don't speak English.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 2
hot chocolates to date: 7

Monday, October 25, 2010

October 22nd - Day Five - The National Library

Practicum Day 5
site: National Library, Auckland location; city centre branch
hours worked: 5
hours to date: 29

New Zealand's national library exists to preserve the printed documents produced by the people of New Zealand and the surrounding areas, roughly similar to the Library of Congress. The Auckland location that I had the pleasure of touring exists completely to support the educational system of the country. There is an amazing amount of information, innovation, networking, and technology going on there. Imagine! A nationally funded library devoted to services to schools, educators, school libraries and librarians! Definitely check out their expansive website here.

I'll describe the National Library in three parts: the building, its use and the collection, the website, which they prefer to see as an online content delivery service, and the Any Questions online homework help service.

The National Library in Auckland is located on a busy street just on the edge of the Central Business District. Traffic stopped at the red light just outside gets a glimpse of the busy building that completed its renovation just a few months ago. Looking in "The Window", they see visiting classes of children and groups of teachers meeting for various professional development opportunities like software training or writing workshops presented by prominent New Zealand writers. While I was there, it was casually pointed out to me that Brian Falkner was speaking (think Eoin Colfer or Margaret Peterson Haddix). The current ground floor exhibition has interactive touch screen displays that navigate through digitized photos of Auckland local history from the National Digital Heritage Archive. I found this to be an awesome and forward thinking use of technology to bring library collections and services to the general public. The Service to Schools program, in addition to the workshops, has developed the Learning Studio. From the brochure: "a place for educators to collaborate on ways to use the rich resources of the National Library's collections. Teachers and school library staff can search browse and create their own resources using a range of technologies." The School Library Association of New Zealand holds meetings here. The National Library prepares for the future of libraries by weaving together professional development, utilizing typically museum oriented technology to explore library materials, and a broad public exposure. I was also entranced (really) by the collection. In line with the services to school, the materials were focused on children which means an enormous non-fiction collection and (my favorite) a large collection of picture books with multiple copies of everything. Loan periods for books are for a school term, so the multiple copies policy supports lending for long periods. I got to see a typical request filled. A teacher had requested books on wind, kites and flying. A librarian went around finding age-appropriate books on these subjects, packed them in a box and got them ready to ship to the teacher.

The National Library considers their online presence ( be more than a website, instead they call it an online content delivery service. There concept of a digital library or digital branch promises a lot more now that ways to interact online are becoming easier and websites can be more responsive to users. They develop online resource units based on hot topics to compliment the books that are going out, they maintain forums for teachers to discuss issues with others in their area, they provide online professional development and address four goals: Developing Libraries, Creating Readers, Supporting Maori Learning and understanding 21st Century Learning and Literacy. This last section focuses on positioning school libraries to handle the changes in way education is headed. Their idea is that "knowing" and "literacy" in the future will be based on inquiry and critical thinking, and so they provide resources to help school librarians understand this and use the library to support it. Take a look at this page on School Library futures. Technology and its use in the classroom is another exciting issue addressed. That page explains how educators can think about the trends in emerging technology (reality simulation, crowd computing, wirelessness) and use them to re-imagine teaching. It's all kind of unbelievable and completely exciting in some ways.

Lastly, the Any Questions? and the te reo (Maori language) service - - are managed out of the National Library. They get funding from the Ministry of Education (reviewed annually) to provide real time homework help to the entire nation's worth of school students, geared for primary and secondary students but university students would probably be helped as well. The service doesn't just do homework or find answers for students. It uses the live connection to teach some information literacy and research skills. The compliment website Many Answers stores websites for topics that are frequent requests. The service operates Monday through Friday 1-6pm all year long and sees eight to ten thousand visitors annually. There are about 130-150 operators nationwide that log in on a schedule, most for 1-2 hours a week. If you would like a bookmark about the service, they gave me plenty to take home with me.

After this eye opening visit, I came back to the city centre library to work a while in the afternoon which ended, as most do, with a hot chocolate.

in the staff room
hot chocolates today: 1
hot chocolates to date: 5