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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 (schools.natlib.govt.nz)to 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 - www.uiangapatai.co.nz - 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

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