Thursday, November 11, 2010

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

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