IFLA WLIC – Part 2

This is part 2 of my conference experience at IFLA WLIC last August. For Part 1 click here.* Again, it’s a long one but I blame that on their being too many fantastic sessions!

In addition to school library related sessions, the second thread I followed was the IFLA Trend Report. The Report was released at the 2013 WLIC and consists of five high-level, societal trends affecting the information environment. Information professionals devoted last year to discussion of the Report. This year’s Trend Report sessions were focussed on receiving feedback from the discussions across the world and thinking about how librarians and library associations will move forward into action and adapt to a changing information environment.

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The Cultural Evening was great fun. It was held in a former sugar warehouse, very ‘industrial chic’. Highlights were trying oysters for the first time and attempting group dances that were directed by an animated Medieval chicken/creature/thing on the big screen!

IFLA by its nature brings together globally prominent, intelligent people and I felt quite privileged to hear their ideas, especially on the Trends. The President’s Session included a Trend Report component focusing on e-participation for strong information societies. Speakers addressed the Trends as a whole from the perspective of their sector, including digital and information literacy, publishing, parliaments, policy advocates, think tanks and the EU justice system. Interesting points raised included that libraries are well-positioned to build capacity in digital and information literacy (Trend 1), a hyper-connected society means more voices but also more ‘noise’ (Trend 4) and that there is a pressing need for data protection reforms to address the alarming possibilities of Big Data (Trend 3).

Another session I attended on the Trends was entitled ‘What’s next? Moving on from the IFLA Trend Report’ and was sponsored by the Management of Library Associations Section and FAIFE Committee. Each speaker addressed one Trend in order and I took eight pages of notes! David Souter (ICT Development Associates) highlighted the growing ‘dataification’ of government and business and asked, where does information power reside? Access to this data is an important issue as it depends on factors such as access to analytical resources, computer processing capabilities, etc. He saw the role of libraries in this area as institutions who can increase diversity in information and access. Pierre Dillenbourg (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) spoke about online education and quipped that it will ‘democratise, maybe; disrupt, yes’. He saw potential in using MOOCs for teacher training and for training purposes in businesses. He proposed several theories on what the future holds:  that small universities could disappear, universities will lose the monopoly on higher education, and the future for open access is not looking rosy. He saw the role of librarians as resource managers in online education. David Greene (Electronic Frontiers Foundation) asserted that data protection was a human rights issue and described the alarming realities of digital life such as direct surveillance and the mass collection of data. He proposed that librarians should be advocates for privacy and data protection and libraries themselves should provide secure internet connections and use user data responsibly. Anniette Esterhuysen (Association for Progressive Communications) gave a fascinating talk on hyper-connected societies. Individuals have a voice now, but is there more noise online and who gets heard? She saw librarians as the ‘worriers’ for the public interest, agents for inclusion, facilitators of access and as challengers of power structures. In short librarians she said, echoing Souter’s talk, are human rights advocates. Finally Loida Gracia-Febo (IFLA Governing Board) talked about librarians facilitating knowledge exchange through new technologies. She saw librarians adapting to this trend by becoming experts on new technologies, connecting people, helping creators and contributing to sustainable development.

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Rose garden in the massive park next to the conference centre.

The final Trend Report session I attended was held by the IFLA President-Elect, Donna Scheeder. There were a series of lightening talks from speakers representing the regions of the world and then we had round-table discussions. It was interesting to hear varying responses and priorities from the different regions such as infrastructure and internet access being a big issue in Asia and Oceania, Dutch libraries exploring reconciling the physical and digital, the USA pushing for policy change and in Africa, prioritising inclusive digital literacy, access, and IP ownership and indigenous knowledge. For the round table, the discussion was all about action. We discussed the need for library design and infrastructure to cater to an increasingly tech-saturated culture, e.g. having lots of plug sockets, sufficient bandwidth and also considering the environment and sustainability in design. Accountability was another theme:  we need to show the ‘value add’ that libraries provide, and not just in terms of money; senior managers need to release talented staff to do great and creative work; we need a clear, simple message and/or metrics for effective advocacy. Change was a buzzword on the table. Librarians need to change their mind-set and we need more variety of qualifications within libraries to address the changing information environment. We also need to understand our users’ needs and everyone agreed this entails getting out from behind the desk and talking to people! New definitions of ‘library’ were batted around including intermediary to knowledge and information, facilitator of learning and helping people understand their ability to build capacity. We then talked about what problems and opportunities faced IFLA, our national association and our local region. My main personal takeaway from this was that I need to embed myself in my school by getting out of the library and talking to teachers about what they need and how the library can help meet that need, e.g. information and digital literacy skills.

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Collége La Tourrette, Lyon – this was their quad area.

On my final day I visited two libraries and several museums. I went on a tour of a local secondary school library at Collége La Tourrette. The school opened a year ago after an extensive refurbishment of the historic building. The library was spread across four rooms, which prompted a lot of questions about security of stock and staffing. The rooms were a mix of classrooms, IT rooms and the main library proper. I was interested in their set of tablets since we were looking into e-readers at my school at the time. The system they use is students have an ID which corresponds to a barcode on each tablet, but they cannot be taken out of school. I also visited the Bibliothéque Part Dieu, the main public library in the city. It was a busy place on a Saturday morning and I enjoyed their exhibition of ‘Trésors!’, showcasing treasures of the Lyon Municipal Library. I also got to visit the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation.

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French Harry Potter books at Collége La Tourrette library.

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Tablet storage trolley at Collége La Tourrette library.

I found this conference experience incredibly rewarding and want to thank the John Campbell Trust again for supporting my attendance.

*An adapted (and shorter!) version of these two posts appeared in CILIP Update October 2014.

IFLA WLIC – Part 1

Last August I attended the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Lyon, France. My sincere thanks to the John Campbell Trust for awarding me their conference grant which enabled my attendance. It was by far the largest conference I’ve attended with some 4,000 delegates from all around the globe. Indeed the international perspective offered by IFLA was one of the most valuable benefits I gained. It was often difficult to choose from amongst a packed and very interesting programme, but the two main tracks I followed were sessions on school libraries (sector I was working in at the time) and the IFLA Trend Report. This post will cover the school library related sessions – apologies for the length!

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Huge exhibition hall for poster sessions.

I attended the School Library Section standing committee meeting (chair, Barbara Schultz Jones, University of North Texas) which was a great opportunity to meet school librarians from around the world and hear about the activities of the Section. They are working on a set of international guidelines for school libraries with UNESCO (more on this later) and want to work on broadening access to their publication Global Perspectives on School Libraries (DeGruyter Saur, 2011) which is currently only available in print at steep academic prices. This sounds like an absolutely fascinating book but lack of digital access and the high price point is a barrier for many (including me!).

Another session I attended was entitled ‘Libraries creating content for/with children and young adults’ and was co-sponsored by the Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section and Literacy and Reading Section. The most fascinating paper was delivered by Michael Kevane (Santa Clara University) on creating picture books in Burkina Faso. Over the course of the presentation, my impressions went from negative to completely enthralled! He started by describing the lack of books, especially African books, in rural Burkina Faso and how his charity Friends of African Village Libraries wanted to provide books. I thought this was a narrow approach – why do libraries only have to be about books? The group began producing simple photo books using volunteers on the ground who took pictures and wrote about local people’s stories and issues in French, the language of education. These books quickly became the most popular items in the libraries. Kevane described how the books improved literacy by introducing specialised language (e.g. stories about trucks or gardening) and were actually incredibly practical and educational, for example one book was about a man building a latrine. They are now holding training sessions for local authors and illustrators and have established a multimedia centre. This brilliant project is supporting literacy and sustainable development and serves as a useful model for others.

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Michael Kevane’s Burkina Faso picture book presentation

I also attended a School Libraries Section session reviewing their IFLA/UNESCO School Library Guidelines, which are currently being drafted. Each round table had a chapter to read and review. I was on the Evaluation and Advocacy chapter table. During the lively discussion, participants remarked that whilst we felt we were being highly critical of the existing draft, this was actually a very helpful process for the authors as it provided feedback and perspectives from an international audience and saved them a lot of work. This session demonstrated the unique value and impact of IFLA. I was asking another school librarian based in Dubai why we needed another set of guidelines as I knew several that already existed in the UK, clearly this was duplicating effort, right? He said, yes, but in developing areas they may not have a strong national association or any guidance at all, so the publication of the IFLA/UNESCO guidelines addressing school libraries internationally would be an invaluable resource for these places, and only IFLA with its international membership could produce such a document.

One final school library session to highlight was ‘School Libraries on the Agenda: Advocacy Initiatives from Around the World’. Three interesting points from this session:  first Mette Hendriksen Aas (Fagforbundet) who talked about how a trade union is advocating for school libraries in Norway because they help produce educated, literate citizens. Second, we heard of some victories in South Africa from Genevieve Hart (University of the Western Cape). Two organisations there, the National Council for Library and Information Services and an NGO, Equal Education, have successfully lobbied the government over the past few years to take action for school libraries on a platform of equal access to information. This has resulted in the Education Department publishing school library guidelines and a 10-year plan. Third, Ross Todd (Rutgers University) sounded a novel clarion call proposing that school libraries should base their advocacy on evidence and social justice.

The social justice note was a thread throughout the conference actually. For example the Burkina Faso picture book project mentioned above, and also in a project in Cambodia called Open Development Cambodia. There was a need for a central portal to access information, data and news in the public domain because development was being stymied by this information vacuum. ODC focuses on economics, environmental and social development and they employ a team of Cambodians to facilitate open access to information and transparency in the public and private sectors in the country. Clearly libraries across all sectors have a role to play in issues of social justice such as providing open access to information.

Next week I will look at the IFLA Trend Report sessions in part 2 of my conference round up.

Things I Learned in a School Library

I worked in a secondary school library for just over one year, not very long in the scheme of things, but that experience taught me a lot and also helped me into my current job. Apologies for quite a long post but I thought I would share some of the things I learned.

Customer service

  • I gained so much customer service experience and improved my skills as a result of working in a school library. Verbal communication was a daily challenge. Explaining library procedures to 12 year olds required real care so that they could take in the information. Instructions needed to be as concise and clear as possible, if-then statements worked, and always say please and thank you!
  • Which brings me to the improvement in my manners because treating people how you want to to be treated is essential when working with young people both to model good behaviour and maintain credibility. If I had to tell a student off, I then tried to be extra nice to them to show that even though their behaviour/attitude was out of line, I still respected them as a person and wanted to help them as best I could. It’s unrealistic to expect to be respected if you’re disrespectful yourself.
  • Consistency is another important aspect of customer service, especially in a school library. Consequences for overdue/lost books had to be applied consistently and information given had to toe the line as well.
  • Creative thinking was another aspect of customer service I developed because I spent a lot of time helping reluctant readers find books. This involved asking questions, figuring out what they were interested in outside school, making comparisons to pop culture, connecting improving reading and literacy with a life goal (like passing your driving theory test)…you name it, it was worth a try. Those experiences forced me think creatively and develop my interpersonal skills.

Teaching and instruction

  • Observing many teachers teach every day, something was bound to rub off. Through my school library experience, I learned a lot about teaching, learning styles, different instructional approaches and special educational needs, as well as Ofsted, school governance, assessment and national curriculums. I did also gain some experience in instruction and delivering material myself, which was one of the main goals I had set for myself for that year. I delivered training on the Accelerated Reader scheme to students and staff, both formally in training sessions and informally across the library counter.

Behaviour management

  • This was a major aspect of the job as I was working with students most of the day in lessons and supervising them in the library outside lesson time. I had very little experience of behaviour management previously, so I was learning on the job. One advantage was that since I worked with so many different teachers, I could observe what they did that worked (or didn’t) and then try to implement that myself. I had to be very proactive about improving this skill as the behaviour was quite poor. This meant asking advice from others on how I could have dealt with a situation better and blagging my way onto a behaviour management training day put on for the teachers. I also had to learn to shout and sound angrier than I was, neither of which I ever got very good at.
  • The key thing I learned was that you had to be consistent all the time, because if you let a student off once or ignore something, you then undermine the whole system. However this was extremely difficult as it takes so much energy and of course everyone across the school had to be on board.
  • Positive redirection was another important concept. For example if a student was off task, instead of saying, “Stop doing that. You’re not doing what I asked. Why aren’t you doing xyz?”, you would get them to think and redirect themselves back on task by saying something like, “So what are you going doing to do next?” Smiling and looking really expectant helped too. Basically the idea was to focus on the positive rather than emphasising negative behaviour which only reinforces that this is what gets attention.

Solo working

  • Though I supported lessons and teachers all the time, it was really a solo job. There was no head librarian, it was just me. This taught me about taking initiative, seeking advice and feedback, and time management. I also got involved with support networks such as SLN who were a vital lifeline when I needed support from other school library folks.

Subject knowledge

  • The library collection focused on titles that were on the Accelerated Reader scheme that would be of interest to our users. Unsurprisingly, most of the stock was young adult fiction. I was familiar with many of the books such as Harry Potter, Eragon and Twilight, but I sure did learn a lot about this subject area and the many wonderful authors who are also great library advocates – Alan Gibbons, Cathy Cassidy, Neil Gaiman, Tom Palmer, to name a few! I wish I could have read more of them (The Book Thief is still on my list). Whenever I go in a bookstore now, I enjoy having a quick browse of the teen section to see what’s new.

So there’s a year distilled into five points. I hope it was informative. If you are interested in school librarianship, here are some more resources to check out:

Heart of the School blog – A blog by school librarian Caroline Roche.

Barbara Band blog – Blog by school librarian and current CILIP President, Barbara Band.

CILIP School Libraries Group – useful if you’re a CILIP member.

SLA (School Libraries Association) – supports anyone involved with school libraries not just professional librarians.

Library A to Z

This week a great library advocacy campaign, the Library A to Z, is launching. As a backer of the project, I also wanted to do my bit by promoting it on my blog. The Libray A to Z is a simple concept really. They’ve created “a visual A to Z celebrating the wide range of services, resources and facilities that make libraries so fantastic.” This week a whole mess of important people and the media will be receiving the Library A to Z packs. Check out the website for more information and to access the materials which are available to share under a Creative Commons license. I’ve also got some spare postcards if you’d like one!

A is for access; advice; answers; archives; art; audio books…

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project www.libraryatoz.org by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project http://www.libraryatoz.org by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

Here are a few reasons (if you need any more) why I think libraries are fantastic, from my perspective as user and library staff.

  • ‘Third space’ – Working in a school library, I saw this aspect of libraries very clearly. The third space is somewhere that is not home or school where young people can go. The library while not exactly heaving after school still met a real need for students who needed somewhere to stay for various reasons and provided a safe and conducive place to do homework. Student groups would also use the meeting room space.
  • Literacy, especially digital literacy – No one would deny that libraries have a positive impact on literacy. Nowadays we talk about ‘digital literacy’ which includes online searching, digital know-how, and helping meet people’s information needs in today’s information society. It also covers issues such as authority/credibility and plagiarism. I’ve read about digital literacy in the news recently and in my studies. Research is showing that people struggle with digital literacy, yet it is highly desirable by employers. From first hand experience I can also attest that literacy is a huge focus in education now! The work that school (and other) librarians do in this area is brilliant, unmistakably needed and should be championed and expanded by leaders.
  • Facilitate and support knowledge and learning – This aspect of libraries has been so evident in my work in a conservatoire library. It is truly a living, breathing thing. Students come all the time to borrow sheet music to study and perform, books to support their learning in modules, CDs to inspire their creativity and to use the study spaces. We support many performances around the College by providing orchestral and choral sets, and even jazz vinyl for a guest DJ.
  • Place to save money! I love buying books, but it is nice to save some money by using my local library!
  • Place to discover new stories, authors, local news and events – My local library, as the local information hub, is a great place to browse new books and also learn about what’s going on locally.

But that’s enough from me, check out the Library A to Z, which puts this all together in a much more interesting and graphic way!

#LibraryAtoZ

My Annual Report

My husband was telling me a few months ago how a new requirement of his company’s parent company was to submit monthly progress reports. It’s a bit of extra work we said, but what a great way to track progress you’ve made, keep managers up to date with what you’re doing (and advocate for your work), and it would be valuable professionally to keep a record of what’s worked, what hasn’t and what you’ve learned. I thought “I wish I’d done this every month when starting my job last September”.

A few months later all the school librarians on the Yahoo School Library Network list-serve starting discussing putting together their annual reports, what people were including and sharing examples. I thought that even though I haven’t done monthly reports at least I can do an end of year report, and it seems to be normal practice amongst school librarians. Whether anyone will read it, who knows, but at least the record will be there!

So I set about putting together my report, and running various statistical reports on Alice, my library management system. It’s a pretty clunky piece of software so most of the reports I ran just to see what would come out the other end. I got some useful stats though and was pleasantly surprised to see that our total book loans were at nearly 12,000!

Vintage student report card. Phil Jern Flicker CC.

Vintage student report card. Source: Phil Jern, ‘report card 1944’, Flickr CC license.

In the report I included stats on borrowing by month, gender and Year group, and also some more topical sections. These covered highlights from Accelerated Reader (we had five ‘millionaire’ readers!), resources (adding of new book stock and regular uptake of the school laptops) and some issues we’ve had with usage of the library for events. In this document I was able to advocate for what the library and library staff contribute to teaching and learning in school by means of statistics and summarising our achievements. I was also able to highlight some issues we’ve faced, some of which had already been raised. I was proud of this bit of work and duly sent it to all members of the school Senior Leadership Team.

It got acknowledged by several members of SLT and all remarked on how useful it was and also that it was a good piece of evidence to show progress in our Ofsted ‘areas for improvement’ or AFIs. The stats on borrowing by gender were apparently surprising (boys borrowed more than girls). It was talked about at the SLT weekend away and they are considering whether it would be useful for me to do one every term. It also apparently spawned a photo op and news article featuring our AR millionaires in a local weekly newspaper.

So a piece of work I undertook solely on my own initiative which I thought might end up being most useful to only me, turned out to be quite handy in addressing school-wide issues such as Ofsted AFIs, giving a picture of reading and literacy across the school and it was actually read by possibly eleven people…well ten, excluding my husband 🙂