="Title" content="Issues and challenges of a small library">

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Looking back to take the next step forward

Day One the Fiction section in the background

Day One across the room towards the entry

The entry after the tidy up

The Fiction section after a tidy and a cull

Sometimes you need to take a backwards glance to see how far you have come.

Notice there are no desks in the library....there is no room. Any structured teaching I do in the classrooms and take any resources I need with me. When in the library, the younger children sit on the floor. The staff room is right next door so if I need to I can use the staff room tables for the students. So far it is working OK.
I have made the library more available to the students by being open before and after school on the days I am on site and also open for one lunch break. I am finding that some parents are dropping in with children before school now and helping them to choose books for home reading and for some assignment work.
In some schools such extended opening times can tie the teacher-librarian down and not leave them with enough time to access staff, but as the staff room opens out into the library and most staff pass through the library on their way to their classes this has not been an issue and has helped to make the library and the teacher-librarian more accessible for everyone.

Publishers catalogues

I had two publishers catalogues land on my desk this week which partly solved the culling dilemmas of last week. The Penguin catalogue has some reprints of the books which I culled, and also lamented that the collection did not contain. There are titles by Christobel Mattingly, Catherine Jinks, Ursula Dubosarsky, Max Dann, Libby Hathorn, Patricia Wrightson, Thurley Fowler and David McRobbie. It was almost like a meeting with old friends. There was also a catalogue from Peggi Williams Bookshop which is not one I have dealt with in the past and they had author specials on Mem Fox, Pamela  Allen, Tony Ross and Eric Carle. Now I just have to figure out a way to get these into the library!
P.S. I haven’t seen anything on Colin Thompson (another of my favourites) and there is only one of his books in the library.

Cataloguing backlog

The pile of cataloguing backlog jammed in behind my desk

This is the boxed resources still awaiting cataloguing. Some of these are new and others are left overs from the whole library cataloguing. These are mostly the teacher reference that still needed a decision about whether they would stay or be disposed of and some of them need some boxing and presentation to make them usable for the staff. These are the tricky and time consuming items, some of which will require hand cataloguing as they will not be on SCIS. I already have a box from last week that did not have ISBNs found on SCIS. I will admit I have not had a lot to do with SCIS as I mainly left this to my aide at my previous school to handle. (This was a much larger school and I had more time allocated and I had a much more diverse role to play). I downloaded the SCIS manual and found it very user friendly and after reading it I think finding the resources with no ISBNs will not be a problem. My current aide is not really confident with doing this, so once I have worked it out I will teach her as she is quite willing to learn more about how this is done. Having the manual handy for her will also help I think.

All ready for covering

The books ready for covering.

While not of great literary merit these books are ready for the last stage of the processing. In the past all books have been covered in contact, including the hard cover books. My aide seems to be happy to do this and I do not see it as an issue of crucial importance, but contact is more expensive and more difficult to use. I do not like to cover with it and make more of a mess than a presentable product when using it. I am going with the flow on this one and sticking with the past processing methods, but I will not be covering books.

Reinforcing the paperbacks

Equipment to secure the bindings of paperbacks.

The paperbacks that were purchased late last year could not have the processing completed because the library ran out of funds to purchase plastic. I have found that taking the time to staple paperback prolongs their life, but it can only be done on those books that have a deep enough gutter. It is important when using the heavy duty stapler that the right sized staples are used as using incorrect staples ruins the stapler by jamming it and causes the books to have curled and mangled staples in them. You also need to have a pair of pliers on hand to remove any staples that misfeed or are too close to the edges. The staples then need to be hit with a small hammer to knock them in fully and usually the spine needs some contact or clear book tape as well. If the book is being covered completely in contact this step is not necessary. (the covering of the staples, not the bashing in, that is ). It is a bit noisy, and does not take that long if the books are graded by the width of the spine beforehand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Why I could not cull C. S. Lewis

In my cull I could not cull the Narnia books, although they fitted the criteria, of age and tattiness. I hope I will be able to replace these later in the year with reprints. I kept the Narnia series because of the film's recent release, but still pondered over whether the children would read the series. I found this review of the book series and film in the New York Review of Books which I think sums it up rather well and cautions that the parallels drawn by some of the life of Aslan and the life of Christ were not intentioned by the author. I think sometimes we try to read too much into fiction and forget to enjoy the fantasy.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Job not finished yet

I was having a feeling of not accomplishing very much in the time that I have been in the library this year, because I have only just got to having the stuff off the floor and I still have the Teachers Reference section to go through and put into proper order. There is a mountain of catalguing sitting in boxes and the reading collection to catalogue as well. Then I had a little reality check. I have only been in the library the equivalent of 6 working days! So I had to think about the things I have done and start to prioritise the things still to be done. My estimate is that it will be the end of next year before the cataloguing backlog is complete and I can say that things will be in order. That is unless some other tasks come my way that interrupt the ongoing catalguing of the resources.
I will think about the priority of things to still do and itemise them in a future post.
Until then, rethink the achievements to keep a positive outlook.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Reference dilemmas

The reference section. The top set of World Book Encyclopedias is 1988. The bottom set is even older. The budget will definately not go to a new set of encyclopedias, and for the money I am sure a digital encyclopedia has to be better for our use. I have been directing the students with internet access at home to Wikipedia and although it has its detractors it is better than what we have on our shelves. I would like to see our Education providor engage in a bulk deal to have all schools with a digital encyclopedia at a discounted price. When we have computers in the library I will provide a link to the Shire Council Library websites and use their online databases to support our research needs.
It was interesting that on the oz-tl list this message came through last week -

SUBJECT: [OZ_TLNET] 1991 Encyclopedia - Free.
We have a set of World Book Encyclopedia Free missing Volume 1, if anyone has a use for it. (name and location withheld)

This in fact would be more current that the one we need to keep.

I love this. The engraving into the timber bookcase says 'I hate library'. At least this person stayed long enough to leave a mark. (Click on the picture to see it in a new window and the etching is much clearer).
The Teachers Reference is still a work in progress. The challenge for the day was to get everything off the floor. This was accomplished, but the shelves still need a tidy up and some signage. Some of the resources need repackaging and labelling, and I need to buy some bags and things to put those things into.

The Cull and in order

This is the result of the Junior Fction cull.

This is the Junior Fiction and Fiction sections, all culled and in order.

This is the Administration building. The library is the section at the far end of this buidling.  Posted by Picasa

Culling in progress

17 February, 2006

What do I think about culling?
I spent another day getting resources in order. The target this day was the fiction section. Many resources were still out of order and crammed into shelves as a result of the move. As I was reshelving, cleaning and putting into order I culled the books that were no longer serviceable. This is quite a mundane task as it is easy to dispose of a book that is tatty and mouldy, the questions that came to mind as I was culling and I could see what was on the floor as a result of the cull, was ‘Was I culling because of age and was I keeping some books, equally as old because they were books I enjoyed reading?’ I found I kept some Joan Phipson and Ivan Southall, and I kept all the Susan Cooper books. I was disappointed to see no Cynthia Voight and Tamora Pearce in the collection though. These are books I read and enjoyed and re-read as I did my teacher-librarianship training, and subsequently recommended to young readers. I have not seen reprinted editions of these titles. Do I keep them because I enjoyed them, even though they are still not being borrowed by the students? Do I ditch my culling criteria because the books were enjoyable to me? Will these books hold the interest of todays 11,12 and 13 year olds? Even though the new books look nice on the shelves I think we run the risk of collecting resources with a certain sameness when we present students with series such as Aussie Nibbles, Aussie Bites and the like. While I am not against this type of resource for the library, I think they lack a bit of diversity and they seem to be so carefully moderated as to produce certain sameness.

When GST was introduced the Australian Government made a special grant to schools over a 3 year period to encourage the purchase of Australian literature and publications. In many schools the administrators cut the library budget by the same amount thus restricting the type of books that school libraries could purchase. The purchases had to be Australian authors and Australian publications, and we had a little sticker to place on the book to prove it! This has created less diversity in school library collections and the availability of overseas award winners (Caldecott and Newbury for example) has been less available and become less publicised by book sellers. In fact to get these resources is now by special request to the book sellers to get them for you.
In the culling process I was still not able to resolve my own questions as I pulled books from the shelves and created a pile on the library floor.

The result of culling the Fiction Section – now to dispose of them!

I did come to the conclusion at the end of the day that the collection is also a reflection of the interests of the person who manages it, no matter how unbiased they try to be. The gaps that I see in the collection are in some ways a reflection of my own interests, and the things I would like to see children reading and enjoying.

So what gaps have I seen so far and if I had access to the right funding where should the purchasing focus be for this library?
Books for
There is not one Graeme Base book in the library!

The Junior Fiction needs
Reprints of some old favourites – Eric Carle, Lynley Dodd, Pamela Allen (although there are a few titles by her in the library), Anthony Browne, John Burningham (we have 3 titles), Mem Fox (we do not have Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge! And a few others I could mention), Chris Van Allsburg, Patricia Mullins, Margaret Wild, and anything with Julie Vivas illustrations and I would love to have ‘Going on a Bear Hunt!’

At this stage still awaiting pennies from heaven to bring this collection to one that represents the best literature we can present to our students.

Culling is hot, dirty, sweaty work especially in 32 degrees and about 80% humidity - no breeze except that of the fans whizzing at top speed, and it uncovers the dust and grime of years of being hidden, including the cockroaches, hornets nets and at times mice nests, if you decide to move some bookcases while you are at it. Schools in our sector do not air conditioning as part of their fit out, it is up to each individual school to budget and install air conditioning as it sees fit and can afford it. The buildings are designed to make maximum advantage of the winter, which is when they are quite pleasant. Pity we only have about 2 weeks of cool weather for our winter here. At this stage, with the budget as it is, the only air conditioning provided will be when I blitz from one side of the room to the other. So what will it be on completion of the day - a swim or something cold? Both after this boiler and probably simultaneously!

So the next job is to dispose of all the books I culled. That is to remove them from the database, and to recycle them I will need to remove the covers and over stamp the school stamp with one that reads something like ‘No longer required for library use.’ We are required to dispose of such books completely – that is we cannot give them to someone or sell them at a fete etc. I think they could be sent overseas, but really if they are not suitable for our students are they suitable for other students on another continent? And it incurs a cost to us that we cannot afford. That is a question to ponder on another culling day!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Planning and teaching

Planning and teaching
12 February, 2006
With only 6 classes the planning is not too huge, but it does not happen in school time. I am teaching on one day and I see all classes in that day. On the second day I am on site I have admin time allocated, but so far I have spent it on just putting things into order.
The planning is going OK with some classes, but most are open to suggestion and will go with whatever is suggested. I think from the teachers’ point of view it is not knowing what to expect or how I operate is part of the problem. I have been asked if the children will need a ‘library book’. Apparently all ‘library lessons’ occurred in a book and the students wrote down notes about how to use a library in that. I do not operate that way and like to make the library sessions as integrated as possible with the classroom teachers program. So I have been asking teachers what they have been doing in their classroom and what the focus of the term is. Mostly it is the Commonwealth Games as they begin in about 30 days time.
So far I have done a lesson on library orientation and where things are located and the importance of organising information, even that which is placed on shelves.
The second lesson, broadly speaking across the classes (except Preschool and year 1) was about Mind mapping and organising information into logical sequences and groupings. The year 6/7 class progressing onto how to structure an internet search. That was a bit different as we did not even have a computer to have a look at; but the children were experienced enough with Google and search engines to work with me to structure Boolean searches using +, ()and “.  
I have written up unit plans for the term and have coached a couple of teachers on how to use outcome statements and structure assessment tasks to reflect the outcome statement. So far it is going well. (Unfortunately I have drawn them up using tables and Blogger does not accept tables as part of its format, so I will have to figure out another way to show these).
I am considering building a website of my own to store a lot of this information, so when I do that I can link to my lesson plans from here). A job pending!
The important part though is that the teaching in the library is meaningful to the students and is integrated into their class activities. Learning in context!

Fixing some problems

Fixing some problems
12 February, 2006
The district technician was arriving at school as I was walking in during the week. He was about to install a new admin server. He remembered me from a past school and then I was able to run some of the problems I was having past him. He was very supportive and we were able to come up with the solution of putting the Alice PC on the admin network so it is then backed up to the tape drive. In the process the PC will be rebuilt to Window XP Pro (Much better) and I will have a secure logon and will have network drive to store info on. My library aid also needed a logon to do her Bookclub so that was arranged for her too. It will cause a problem for the staff as they will not be able to logon to use the PC at their will as before, but I will cross that hurdle next. It is something they will have to learn as the school networks and a curriculum server is put in place. Later the Alice database will move to the Curriculum server; the position now is just temporary. NAV will be installed and will run updates, so things are much better than they were last week. I was also able to get a printer. A laser printer was sitting in the office that they did not want to use. It was new and did not have a jet direct card (to allow network sharing), but it is better than the bubble jet I was using.

Getting things in order
I am still getting the books in order on the shelves. As I was waiting for the systech to build the PC I attached the Junior Fiction and put things in order. It was going to gave me a chance to see what was in the collection and I did a small cull of about 30 books while I was there.
The main criteria for a books removal were if it was:
  • older than me (or looked like it was)

  • came in the school development grants of 1978

  • was mouldy

  • was torn

  • had print that needed a magnifying glass to see read it

There was a fair proportion of Dr Seuss books in the cull, but I left a couple on the shelves just to prove I was not anti Dr Seuss. Some of the Ezra Jack Keats books came close to the cull criteria, but they stayed because I like them – for now unless I can get some reprints)
Overall though the Junior Fiction collection in not too bad. There is enough for the classes we are catering for. The books look like they have been sourced from Australian Standing Orders and are mainly publications that Scholastic deal with. Improvements could be to add some diversity by purchasing from another supplier as well.

I made some new signs so the students knew where Junior Fiction, Fiction and Non Fiction were.

Aid time is a bit limited, although my aid gives as much as she is able to in any spare time she has. Both of us are not sure what time is allocated to the library just yet as classes are still having first allocations. It will probably be about 2 hours per week. She was able to get to the Non Fiction during the week and put that into order.
That only leaves the stuff still on the floor in the Teachers Reference area to deal with. I think a bit of a cull is going to happen there too. The Fiction section still needs a tidy up and a small cull as I go. I think I will apply a similar criteria there too for now.

What’s the budget?
I decided to be proactive here and draw up a budget proposal for my principal. So far the subject of money had not been discussed although I was aware that a focus for the year was to establish a curriculum network and server.
Indications were that the previous budget was $2000 so I went from there to come up with this outline:
Proposed Budget 2006

Book purchases
Australian Standing Orders
Picture Books $845 (all prices incl. GST)
Fiction $525
Shortlisted books $250
Aussie Bites/Nibbles (or similar) $300
Processing materials
(Plastic, contact, booktape, repair materials, spinelabels) $600
Resources to support
HPE (All student/class materials)
(Art and HPE are the areas of the greatest need at present)
Teacher Reference/Class Programs (i.e. Newspapers in Education)
Support Fee $289.30
Additional licenses TBA

Individual staff members look after Key Learning Areas (KLAs), although no one really wanted to look after SOSE. I am not use if they purchased resources to support students or bought mainly teacher reference. I offered to look after SOSE if no one else wanted to do it. I also left those areas blank for the principal to fill in and we can find out if these areas are budgeted for students in the allocation.

Where else to get funding from?
The library, administration and remodeled computer lab/classroom need air-conditioning. I am having a go at applying to the Gaming Fund to see if we can get assistance here. If we can demonstrate that these areas are also in use by the community we will have a chance. I am considering going for some resources as well, but don’t know whether that will jeopardize our chances of success. In any case if it is successful it will free up some of our funds for resources too.

Safeguarding the Database

Safeguarding the Database
4 February, 2006
The library database is managed using Alice and is on a standalone computer. Although I can access the network through the router to gain internet access, there is no server for the curriculum side of the school. The Operating System is Windows 98 (Yuk…you have performed an illegal operation and will be shut down. I don’t need to see that error message again.) There is no CD Rom burner in the PC, and I was told the backups were done to a USB stick, although I have not been able to locate the USB stick so far. Probably lost in the shift! There was only one logon and the Cancel button was used to gain access to the PC. So effectively there was no backup and the data was in jeopardy with no restrictions to the users or the information they had access to.
Some staff use the PC when I am not at the school to access emails and do their searches etc. Aside from the PCs in a classroom which has a small computer lab there is not much else for the staff to use for this.
So things were humming along and I was trying to make sure all the user data was correct as I had found a few problems when the children started to borrow. There are real problems with one class group and Alice will not print them as a class group. Alice is such a clunky database as you can’t search it to see if information exists in the groupings you are asking it to print out in. So I eventually deleted the class of users and reentered them. Then it worked. It turned out this took less time than what I had already spent trying to fix it in the first place.
Then I had another little heart start when I realised that I had not seen any antivirus updates occur. On searching the computer I noticed there was no such thing installed. Norton’s Antivirus (NAV) is used in schools and it is a standard for all to use.
To resolve the backup problem I mapped a drive to one of the PCs in the computer room. I was having a few problems setting security permissions when on a reboot I noticed that they were running XP Home edition. Eventually I managed to get a copy of the database to the computer, but the students know and use the admin password on all the PCs. So be to extra sure I put two copies on in different locations. The computer lab computers also had no NAV installed.
I left that day feeling a little better because there was a backup, but still with mixed feelings about the virus issue.

This is the Reading Collection and the Teachers Reference....sort of. The stuff on the floor is the Teacher Reference. Posted by Picasa

The theme song played on parade for library anouncements is 'Mission Impossible'. It seems a bit like that.  Posted by Picasa

The view as I arrived on the first day. Posted by Picasa

My New Library

My New Library
31 January, 2006.
I have returned to work after 2 years of full time study. There was a few dramas in placing me – not on my part, I had a contract position all teed up, but eventually a position was found at a small school quite handy to home. There are only 140 students and 6 teaching staff. I am working 2 days a week, and that’s all I want.
The library went through a move during the holidays and things were in the room but not in the right order. It took me 2 days to put some order into it, before I touched the database. There are a few problems there, but I will just have to work with what I have got, because I haven’t got time to start from scratch. Databases are interesting things – fun to work with, but you can make a real mess if you set it up wrong or go making radical changes without thinking things through. And sometimes you do not know the implications until you have done it.
Anyhow aside from all that it is pretty good and the kids begin borrowing tomorrow – database ready or not. I think it will be Ok, I will just tweak it as I go…I hope!
The photos I have taken are of the library as I found it when I arrived at school on the first day. I will post more as it evolves and things are working better.