Saturday, 30 November 2013

Library Camp 2013

Yet again another amazing experience at Library Camp. This is the third national Library Camp that I have attended and each time I have come home full of enthusiasm and hope for the profession, re-energised and glad to be a librarian. Each time is different, with people coming up with a huge variety of subjects to discuss. This morning the first session started with two children's stories and we swapped suggestions for good stories to read aloud at story-times. We talked about using picture books to help older but less secure readers to enjoy and practice their reading skills. We also thought about the stories that help children with emotional literacy. It was a session that could have gone on for hours.

I was facilitating the next one, and I wanted to publicise that open access repositories are a source of available information and data that anyone can read and use. As it turned out the people who came to the session were well aware of repositories and it turned into an interesting and illuminating discussion about getting the information onto repositories in the first place and the problems associated with young researchers wanting to make their work open, but there eventually being and establishment barrier that prevents it happening.

Lunch was great, provided mainly by the un-delegates (well, if it and un-conference than we must be un-delegates!) This year, "Cake camp" was accompanied by "Snack camp" , with savory items. I took along some home baked Pizza. I think that the concept of pizza always tasting better the morning after must be totally true. I baked the Pizza last night and by the time I got to the snack table, it had all vanished! After lunch I attended a session about digitisation because I wanted to find out more about the process and how hard or easy it is. Once again we had an in-depth conversation not merely about the process, but the consequences of putting work and images on line, and the problems of machines trying to convert characters into text.

I then diverted slightly by going to the session about the future of Cilip, and managed to say a lot of stuff, which I thought was thought provoking and interesting but seemed to give the impression that I had a negative attitude. Maybe I should have kept quiet. One phrase stayed with me, from one of the other un-delegates: "Industry Standard", and I think that Cilip as a relatively young incarnation of two older old organisations, is still trying to work out the clear cut, modern, professional weight that it should have. Finally, I went to the last session to listen, and find out about what open source software there is that can deal with library stuff, and learnt about various programmes, software and devises. There is also a rather wonderful device called Library box, which is like a portable server which you can load up with all sorts of wonderful e-documents and take it around with you for other people to access, like WiFi.

I do have two regrets, once again there were clashes of sessions going on, especially at the same time as I was doing mine, and I missed some topics that I would have loved to have attended. The other was that this year's Library Camp was in the brand new shiney Library of Birmingham, and I was so intent on the sessions and networking that I didn't get a chance to have a good look around it, or take any photos. I am a big fan of Library Camp, and the Un-conference style, it really demonstrates the intelligence, enthusiasm and range of people who work in all sorts of library sectors. Can I book for Library Camp 2014 now?          

Thursday, 14 November 2013

A really enjoyable lecture

Perhaps it is rather narcissistical of me to title this blog as a really enjoyable lecture, because the lecture that I writing about is the one that I have just given to final year graduates at Loughborough University. This has been the third time that I have given the lecture, about what public library staff do to enhance literacy, it seems to have become my annual contribution to the academic life in Loughborough. So what made it so enjoyable this time? I think it was the group of students who were so interested and responsive. It also gave me a chance to remember all the things I found out and learnt by doing the PhD. I have also looked up some new bits of research, just to make sure that I am giving out up to date information. I found the following two articles:

Understanding oral reading fluency among adults with low literacy: Dominance analysis of contributing component skills
Daryl F. Mellard, Jason L. Anthony, and Kari L. Woods

Inside the Letterbox: How Literacy Transforms the Human Brain
Stanislas Dehaene, Ph.D.

The Mellard, Antony and Woods article gives a nice summary of the skills needed to become a fluent reader and the Dehaene article is a very good account of what the brain does when you learn to read.

So any of the nice students have traced this blog, here is the link that I told you about and another one as well. and thank-you, I had a lovely afternoon. 

So far at Eduwiki 2013

Here I am in Cardiff bay at this year's Eduwiki conference, meeting up with people I know and making some new friends and interesting contacts. Wikimedia UK (or at least the Wikipedia in Education part of it) have some long term goals, such as acquiring more student societies, and getting more HE teachers to use Wikipedia to teach academic writing skills. Martin Poulter made a quotable quote by saying that Wikipedia is "a chance to pop open the bonnet of knowledge". It is a way that you can see the workings of the knowledge process, and some of the speakers today have shown how that process happens.  For example,  Humphrey Southall uses Wikipedia for teaching geography to first year students by making  stub articles better on an English village better. Students are first given a strict set of criteria to choose an article to improve; a set of websites that can be used, for example on place names; government statistics and the Doomsday book. Interpreting that information can become a good  exercise in statistical comprehension. Students are encouraged to put their article up on-line for the Wikipedia community to comment and contribute, and this also gives the lecturer an unique opportunity to see the students working not only through their own creation but also how they deal with the Wikipedia community. 

Students found that the Wikipedia editor comments were much more outspoken to those of their tutors, and they discovered how to deal with the stress of working in public.Humphrey wondered about the general benefits for Wikipedia and said that at least for the common reader there is now a standard set of good articles, but asked the question: is it good for the Wikipedia community? because it did cause a lot of work for some editors. Wikipedia editing is also being taught to students in France and Australia.  

Jean Frederic Berthelot spoke about working with PhD students in Lille as part of a wider post graduate programme with other French universities. All their PhD students need to do certain number of seminars and courses, and learning the use and editing or Wikipedia is one of them. The students create an account and add a banner to their userpage explaining that they are part of this course. The course teachers comment about the students' work via Google docs to keep them private and give students a skype call halfway through the course to encourage its completion. So far the outcome of the course has been lots of edits, but it seems not to have retained any of them as editors.

These examples make me think that Wikipedia has become such a ubiquitous and everyday resource that students need to understand not only how to search  the articles, but to know how to edit and write an article.  Perhaps the aim of the exercise should not be to get more Wikipedia Editors, or to improve and increase article, because those are short term goals. Training students to correctly edit Wikipedia gives them the discrimination to be informed users of the encyclopedia able to appreciate the research that goes with a good article and the ability to realise when an article is not good. It is just like learning how to write a report, or an essay, or presentation. you may learn how to write an essay at school or university, but not need to write one ever again once, but you will have learn how to structure a narrative which is a transferable skill. Similarly, students may not write a Wikipedia article again, but will know how to write a concise, unbiased summary a valuable skill  in many situations.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

CMLs as an Educational Resource

This post explains another of my PhD Theories. I named it the theory of Resource, or Specialist Resource and it goes like this: "The highly specialist nature of its collections makes a CML a reliable source of literature and information." Well, obvious really. I expressed it slightly better in a previous wording of the theory "A children's mobile library is a source of expertise that is drawn upon by children's educators and carers to enhance their own skills and knowledge". Basically, a CML is an educational resource. I sorted the types of resource into three piles, Goods- the stock items of the CML, Human Resource- the CML operators and the Educational Environment- the general atmosphere found in a CML. Today I will deal with the goods, the physical items that individuals can borrow.

Firstly, the sort of things that I found inside CMLs were children's books, audio books on CDs, video tapes of children's films, book packs that included toys, and books for adults about childcare and teaching children. The items were chosen in different ways in the various library authorities, commonly by a middle manager or stock control team who may or may not consult the CML operators about which titles or genre to choose. I have already said a lot about that in my post on best practice. It may not surprise you that vehicles where the operators could influence what was on board had the most appropriate stock for their customers. Overall I found a wide variety of of book genre, style, subject and ability level, from board books to history books or  graphic novels to poetry, which meant that a child could find something relevant to their ability and personal taste.

I was surprised by the number of times that children told me that the thing that they likes best about the CML they visited, was the books. They said that they could find "the books that I like", which could be the latest range of Flower Fairy novels or books about trains. Meeting the diversity of children's needs is a way of getting them motivated to read, and offering them a large quantity to chose from means that they do not get bored with the selection. Interest increases motivation. I also found it really surprising that a CML can be the means of a vital supply of books to avid readers, children so highly motivated and skilled at reading that neither schools not parents can financially keep up with the high level of book consumption. CMLs are a godsend to the voracious reader. The more children read, the greater is their skill increased. The wide variety of books on a CML therefore contributes to reading motivation and therefore to better literacy.

Some of the children also explained to me that the books helped them "know more about things". The children were learning to become self motivated learners, they were gaining the competency of teaching themselves about stuff in which they were really interested. It is not easy to gather that particular skill in an environment that offers a limited learning opportunity, a classroom where the needs of an entire class must be considered in a lesson plan. It wasn't only the children who learnt things from the books; adults borrowed the children's books as well, to refresh their memory about certain facts before teaching a topic, or used the childcare books to help them deal with certain situations, like helping a child through bereavement. Adults also borrowed books to use as classroom resources, or as a guide to a craft activity to do together with the children.It is actually quite important that children see adults taking an interest in books because it demonstrates to a child that books are valued, valid and fun.

There is a diagram to add here, but it is on my old laptop which will need finding and leaving for a while as it installs updates, so I will add it some other time.

So, CMLs are a source of a broad range of children's books which can be tapped into by children, teachers, carers, parents, grandparents to learn about the things that interest them. This increases their learning, no matter what age they are. Adults can pass on their learning to children and be role-models for the power of learning though reading.

Library on wheels brings joy in Vietnam - Passport -

For some reason I have found this link to an article tucked away in my blog drafts. I was actually looking for something else, a rather more profound half written post about one aspect of my thesis. I think I gathered it (this article) and did not post it because it was not about a vehicle, or mode of transport. I have re-read it, and I think that it is worth sharing because it  shows the variety of ways that books can be taken around to children for them to borrow. I think that the title of the article is misleading, the picture of the box does not show any wheels, and if there are any, then I think I would call them castors!.

Library on wheels brings joy in Vietnam - Passport -

It is also an example of children to be able to read books in their own language

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

These remind me of my UK Children's Mobile Library experiences

I apologise for the predominance of adverts in the Sylva Herald and the request to subscribe, but I felt that the link to the article is worthwhile. The Reading Rover that is featured, reminded me of some of the CMLs that I visited when I was doing the PhD, going to some outlying places, traveler camps, special schools, children's secure units, all places where it is hard for children to find books, Internet and information.

When I read the title, though,I thought that by Bogarts they meant the mythical creature, but that is spelled with two g's. 

The photograph of the children sitting on the floor in this CML reminds me of my time aboard the Reading Rocket. Although we had some seating at the back of the vehicle, when you had a class of thirty five year olds, or a batch of toddlers and their mums, it was the adults that sat on the seats, and the children spilled out all over the floor. 

I used to sit on the floor too, to read the stories, because I wanted to be on the same level as the children. It was easier for them to see the pictures in the books if I was at their height. If you read my previous post, you would realise that I am, in fact, closer to their height. I am a little concerned that the west (eg, Europe) is imposing their culture onto Thai children, but then I thought How magical it would be if a mobile library full of Thai fairy stories and books came around the UK, and I realised that reading Brothers Grimm tales would be just as exotic to Thai children as a Thai CML would be to ours. 

I am similarly concerned about the cultural ethics of this CML project, asking for donations of books in English. I really think that children's books should be published in a child's native language and traditional tales. This would boost literacy, bolster cultures and promote a local publishing industry.

Once again there is a "However ..." because in the day job I have come across many African academic web sites, and the main language appears to be English, I suppose because it is a common language between different African dialects. English is also a global academic language, so maybe it is good for Children to be learning English. On the other hand, it is just as vital that children are well educated in their native tongue. Why am I so concerned about this? Because I was brought up as an English speaking Welsh woman, and although I have the vaguest smattering of Welsh I cannot go back to my own country for a job because I am not bi-lingual.   

Only little, but doing a lot

Well that title could apply to me, those who have never seen me don't know that I am only 5 foot tall, but that was the height when I last measured myself. I am way past the age of having grown anymore, so yes, I am little, and I do do a lot, working, writing, painting, gardening, bogging (sometimes!). However, the title does not apply to me, but to this lovely little bookmobile from Batram Trail in Georgia,, USA.

I would like to have one of these to drive around, telling and reading stories and inspiring children to love books.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

What have I been doing for so long?

Well, it really seems like I abandoned this blog, because it has been such a long time since I posted anything on here. I have in fact been so very busy, having a proper job instead of the lovely life of being a PhD student. I am working data and databases and open access at the moment, but I have not lost sight of children's mobile libraries and librarianship. I did, however, loose my feed reader when Google reader disappeared, but I have found a substitute.

Here is a link to a Chinese Children's Mobile Library, to celebrate my comeback.

I particularly like the water cooler.

There are some very astute people in Oman. A children's mobile library is being set up there, because they know of the importance of children being able to select books themselves, from a wide selection.

In this link, we find out that the lowest loss of library books in Kent are from their children's mobile libraries

I am very pleased with the attitude of the library spokes person. When I was on the Reading Rocket, we were of the opinion that if books went missing, it meant that some children were getting books who would not otherwise have had any. In my mind it was a case of setting books free. As it happened, we had very little stock permanently disappear, books would suddenly be returned after having had an adventure for a year or more. The most extreme example that I remember was a father of four bringing back two large black bin liners full of out library books. I think some had been out for nearly two years. He must have found the children's stash!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Best practices in Children's Mobile Libraries: Stock procurement

Someone has to make the decision of what to put into a children's mobile library and as can be expected, it varies according to the authority. In some library authorities the operators advised a library purchasing team about which books or items were popular and went well in their vehicles. Some purchasing teams were made up of children's librarians, but in others they were not. In some authorities, the operators had no say at all, library stock being centrally purchased from a Library wholesaler. It is perhaps no surprise to discover that the services where operators were able to advise the acquisitions teams about which books their customers liked were more successful at inspiring children to read. 

The number of requests for specific books, or even books of a certain genre, was much greater in the vehicles where the books were centrally purchased by staff who had no contact with the vehicles, staff from the vehicles, or even other children's libraries. I was on one vehicle that had no dinosaur books, which really disappointed one little boy. I also visited a CML which had no horse books, and that really disappointed a young girl. On the other hand, I found two different CMLs where the operators had a lot of say in which books to stock and they were really enthusiastic about the books, getting books off the shelf to show me, saying things like "have you seen this one?" "this one is new, I really like it", " this is great book, and the kids love it". It is that sort of enthusiasm which inspires children. I also found two vehicles on which children told me they preferred to their nearest static libraries because the CMLs had more "books that they like". There was also the vehicle that visited a tiny rural village school. The teachers were so grateful for the service, because their children were "voracious readers" and the village was so isolated it was not easy to get to another library, and as one of the children said to me, it would have been really expensive to buy all the books she read. Those children revelled in the variety of books that the CML stocked.

Unfortunately, not even children's librarians get it right. There was one CML which I visited where the books were purchased by the children's team, who no doubt were guided by general trends and new exciting authors. The operators outlined three problems with their stock, and they felt that the children's librarians were not listening to their suggestions. One problem was that there was not enough non-fiction in stock, only a tiny shelf-full. The librarians apparently were of the opinion that reading fiction develops empathy and understanding, which is no doubt a good way to introduce children to feelings and a safe way of handling them. However, they forgot that libraries are store houses of knowledge as well as stories, and sometimes it is the knowledge that inspires children to read, or helps them learn out of the classroom. The second problem was sometimes new books would turn up, which were "trendy", but the customers of that vehicle ignored them. That new series was just not to their taste. It shows that local populations have their own opinions and a book which does really well in one community may not in another. The third problem was that librarians who come onto the vehicles to read stories from a "storybook collection" frequently chose really inspiring books, that simply were not available for loan, so children who wanted to read the book they had just heard, which happens frequently, could not borrow the book.

Now, why is all this important? I feel that I have been rambling a bit with this blog, and it is a little while since I have been thinking in the terms of logical arguments. The point is that to motivate and inspire children's reading, to give them the reason to read, you must offer them things that they will want to read, however puerile, however trashy, or even however highbrow. Books about films, or television characters, or comics, or graphic novels, or about ballet or boxing, are all a way of getting children hooked on the printed word, and gives them practise and motivation to start understanding those symbols we use to convey messages. CML operators spend a lot of time talking to children about books and their likes and dislikes, and therefore know what their particular customers want. Operators who like the stock themselves, and who have had a hand in choosing it, are more likely to know which book is just right for customer "X", and which books will be borrowed, and will have the enthusiasm to "sell" a book, or an author to a child. therefore operators recommendations for stock should be heard and implemented.

Choice and variety is also important, which sounds like a contradiction to getting the right books for the right child. I can only explain the phenomena of a large selection of the right books for one community with the memory of one boy I met, taking ages browsing at the shelves standing, looking, perplexed, being hurried by the teaching staff, sighing longingly, "There so much to choose from". His problem was not that he couldn't find anything he liked, he had found everything he liked.  

Friday, 11 January 2013

What to put in an ideal JoRD service « JoRD

What to put in an ideal JoRD service « JoRD

This is this week's work blog, I will be resuming normal service on this one soon, and will redevelop the blog so that I attach some of my work.