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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

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