Sunday, November 28, 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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:
acltrain.pbworks.com. 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!
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
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.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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
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.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
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
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
site: City Center
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.
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
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