Archive for May, 2009

Make time for youth

"Make time for youth" Youth Week 2009

"Make time for youth" Youth Week 2009

This week is Youth Week. The organisers are asking caregivers and parents to make time for their teens and older children and for teens and older children to do the same for adults in their life. ‘Youth’ are defined as 12-24 year olds. I don’t work in a library anymore so have limited opportunity to Make Time For Youth in my working environment. Instead I thought I’d make some time for youth and the people who work with them by asking them some questions and posting the results here.

Firstly I asked a couple of high-school based librarians how they see themselves and their role in the school. My favourite quote from their answers is “we can make their lives run more smoothly” which neatly encapsulates what they see as their main focus.

Fiona and Jayne see themselves as being more approachable than teachers as they’re not asking the students to do assessments and tests. However, there are times when they have to be more authoritarian – especially around computer usage. Their major focus is to provide a safe, student friendly environment and provide books and resources that students want to read or use. They feel that they have a greater appreciation of the total workload the students are facing as they see them for lots of reasons – not just for specific subjects e.g. ‘English’.

They deal with a range of requests from password resetting to photocopying to research requirements all on a one to one basis. The way that students are asking for information has changed over the years. The students are more aware of the process – they want not just the answer but also the why. Fiona and Jayne comment that computers and the Internet are very important to students. (No surprise that Google is a favourite!) This doesn’t mean that books are neglected. Students still like to read fiction books for pleasure and enjoy fact-based books like the Guinness Book of Records etc. These books need to be very visual with lots of pictures and attractively presented.

Their top tips for working with teens

Don’t expect to be able to get down to their level you are the adult at all times.

Embrace their potential and give them the ability to make choices in a safe environment.

– Treat them with respect and you can expect the same in return.

– Model good manners and be interested in what they are doing.

Thieir advice is also linked to important skills that they thought schools could teach students.

How to respect the environment, themselves and others

– How to make good choices

– Be life-long learners, question and think, have some fun along the way


The second person I talked to about Youth Week falls into the Youth age category and works in one of the libraries in Rodney District. I asked for his take on working in libraries.

Craig said “It’s great! I love feeling like the young hip librarian I used to see when I was their age. The lack of age really comes in useful when we need to dish out some discipline, kids usually give the other librarians the ‘you’re-old-why-should-I-listen-to-you look’ and I think they respect me more (I hope!) as I’m able to speak their language.” (I guess it’s difficult to disrespect someone if you’ve hung out with them at concerts!)

I asked whether his attitude to libraries had changed now that he was working in them. He said he used to have the view that librarians “just sat around all day reading books and, honestly, telling people to shush!” That’s now changed to respect for the amount of work that librarians do which library users don’t get to see. Craig had the same advice as Fiona and Jayne for interacting with Youth (as customers or colleagues) “Be friendly and treat them as you would an adult.

Finally I asked what he thought youth should know about libraries and he wrote this…

That librarians are no longer the spectacle wearing stereotype who demand silence and swathe themselves in layers of cardigans. We are friendly and intelligent, if a little eccentric, and always willing to lend a hand. There are even males in the profession nowadays, some even enjoy a good metal gig every once-in-a-while. Libraries are a great place to be, full of life and fun. They can still be a good place for you to get out of the rain, even if you don’t want to read.”


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A teaching student comes to the desk of my public library. She comes across as intelligent, capable, library friendly – she knows what she’s looking for and how to articulate it.

She’s looking for information on different types of pen through the ages as a backgrounder to a lesson plan. She’d like book references if possible, and they have to be useful to her and potentially useable with primary age children as well.

As is often the case, what we needed wasn’t there – there were no works to hand on the subject itself, the how it works books didn’t cover the full range of options and the titles on writing only had a limited amount of information on writing instruments.

I asked if she had looked on the web. She said she had but she hadn’t found anything useful. I suggested we start with a quick look at Wikipedia.

“Oh no,” she said “we’re not allowed to use it.”

I’d like to tell you that I felt a professional conflict, but I didn’t. This interaction wasn’t the first time I’d been asked by help for students whose instutions wanted them to stay away from Wikipedia, or google, or any number of modern bugbears. My response is tailored to the student’s age and need, but is generally the same: a touch of subversion for the better good.

Thus, I explained that her institution was right, and that she oughtn’t use Wikipedia as a final reference, but that we might use it as a secondary source, and go better armed from there. As I had anticipated, the site had an excellent page on pens giving us not only the full list of pen types (including reed pens, new knowledge for me) but an exhaustive coverage of the subject. I finished the interaction by strategising with her how to proceed with her online research using terms and links garnered from the source.

Educational institutions with an aversion to wikipedia/google/etc. is not a new thing. Schools lock these sites out of their inhouse computer systems, but I had felt that culture had become less entrenched over the last few years.

I recent post to one of the listservs I read showed that the issue is still bubbling away under the surface. The author, a school librarian, cited a recent incident in which a parent doing some background research for her child on Newberry Award winner Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh on Wikipeda found “pornography”. The article was cited as justification for the kinds of hands-off policies educational institutions have towards internet sources. (Why the article wasn’t about how children can only learn by doing their own homework I can’t tell you).

This is a hard one to respond to. Pornography, particularly when notionally directed at children, is a hot button. As the earlier interaction was still on my mind I decided to investigate further. Fortunately, with Wikipedia, this is eminently possible.

Wikipedia holds a revision history for the Mrs Frisby page, as it does for all the pages it contains. It tells us that at 1.36 PM on May 19th this year, an unknown user from IP (ie someone locateable if a true offence is being committed) altered the page to include some obscene material.

I say obscene rather than pornographic, because the half-paragraph of text while offensive is clearly not written to arouse. I would estimate the writer’s age to be between maybe 10 and 14, probably male. Read the text yourself if you’re interested.

While I can understand that an adult reading this would be offended, it occurs to me that this random mishmash of meaningless acts is exactly the approximation of adult concerns children invent for themselves on the winding path from complete innocence to full agency. Try reading a Goosebumps sometime. Aimed at primary age children, and absolutely shocking to an adult.

An hour and three minutes later, SilentAria, a Wikipedia editor of what seems to be good, longstanding reputation reverts the page to its last good revision. He or she sends the anonymous vandal a politely worded message explaining the philosphy of Wikipedia, encouraging their positive contribution and warning of their banning should they continue. The vandal has not posted since.

Now, I’m not saying we should expose our young people to this kind of content. What I am saying is that this content was there for one hour, a blip in the evolution of a page that has existed since October 2004. I’m reminded of the comparision of the risks of flying in an airplane versus crossing the street – in this case, the television that’s on in the home every night  is far more likely to bring potentially upsetting content to children than this hour’s worth of transient and well-hidden filth.

A concept I intend to explore more fully at a later time is that of information literacy education needing in the modern information culture to go beyond a set of procedural rules – and believe me, “no wikipedia” is one of the most blunt, basic procedural rules an institution could put in place in this context – and change our approach into on vastly more dynamic.

Let’s not ask “is this source reputable”; let us learn to ask “is this source reputable today.

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Apologies dear readers, my modem fell down last night and couldn’t get up.

I will have something with you over the course of the day.

In the meantime, please enjoy a song.

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Several librarian blogs have recently mentioned the very interesting and useful research report by Char Booth entitled “Informing Innovation: tracking student interest in emerging library technologies at Ohio University” which is available free to download in PDF format. Like many libraries, Ohio University libraries have experimented with many Web 2.0 applications in order to stay relevant to students. But the question remained “if we build this, will the students care?” So Ohio University libraries have begun to veer away from the “technolust” towards a “culture of assessment”. The report presents findings of an environmental scan to investigate what motivated student interest in emerging library technologies. Essentially the findings indicate that libraries should not focus too much on Web 2.0 technologies as a means rather than the means to an end and that students still need some “library awareness” to make full use of any medium which pushes information. Some of the technologies may not be needed or effective. Naturally, then, libraries should survey their users to find out what may or may not be useful before adopting a new technology for the sake of keeping up with the trends.

This struck a chord as I have found myself wondering at times whether libraries should be quite so keen in adopting Web 2.0 applications for their users. Some experimentation is fine but often I wonder how useful they are to library users. The generalisations which apply to different generations are just that – generalisations. Not all members of the Y generation are into blogs and instant messaging, for example. This was brought home to me when a friend of my teenage daughter asked me last year what a blog was. She’d never heard of one. I then reflected on the applications my daughter and her friends use. They occasionally use instant messaging and social networking sites and visit Youtube, but they don’t read blogs or Twitter or use RSS aggregators, for example. They may not be typical of her generation but it’s still important to remember not to lump everyone in the same category. Then there are the more mature library users. What do they use or find useful? Libraries surveying their own users is therefore very important.

Char Booth’s excellent and highly relevant report includes a survey template which libraries can use to do a similar environmental scan. Very handy!

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I don’t know if this will be helpful for anyone, but today I’m going to tell you the story of how our virtual reference service evolved.

I say evolved because it has been an evolutionary rather than revolutionary process.  Slow with gradual changes and some extinction.

Back in 2002 I led a project to investigate some virtual reference projects.  I’m not sure now if this was a project to keep me out of trouble (having a reputation as a shover and a maker round here) but it did serve as the taster to our virtual reference dining experience.

Over the period of the project we looked at several commercial virtual help products from a variety of vendors.  One in particular stood out and that was the one we recommended but it was (as you might imagine) the most expensive.  So we didn’t get it and the whole idea of virtual reference languished for a few years.

Then I decided to look at some of the free instant messaging tools available.  I signed us up to a bunch and then used Trillian (loaded onto the desktop) to monitor them.  It proved annoying for some staff to have to staff both reference “desks” at the same time, as the free Trillian product only allowed a single sign on rather than multiple users for monitoring the IM accounts.  This may have changed since of course.

Trillian did the job, but buy in by the staff was not happening, so we tried Meebo & Pluggoo.  These worked better but we still had issues over the single sign on and rostering still was a sore point.  We missed several queries because folks forgot to log on or the customer did not supply an email for us to get back to them.

Recently we moved to an open source product called Library H3lp.  This product was developed for librarians by librarians and has proved to be cost effective for our small user base.  It allows for multiple logins and does a whole lot of other Good Things.  Our experience with it has been positive, and we have a growing number of queries using this service.

How does it compare with our f2f service?

In terms of numbers, we have far more f2f , phone or email queries than we do on Library H3lp. We hope to have an increase in queries as we promote the service, especially now we have links on the catalogue to the “live help”.  We haven’t been overwhelmed at any time so far!  It will be interesting to see how evening shifts manage if there is a dramatic increase in queries after 4.30pm.

We have asked staff to log on when they are sitting and working at their desks rather than having a specific rostering process.  This has worked reasonably well though we have had a few hiccups during lunch breaks and evenings.  There are a group of stalwarts who are constantly there, and a few others who pop in and out over the period of the day.

I don’t know if our experience of introducing such a service is typical.  We’ve been a little “hampered” by a lack of digital strategy throughout the institution directing us, but this is changing.  I hope this will make it easier to introduce further web 2.0 services in the future.

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Recently LIANZA released two documents for consultation, Enhancing LIANZA Governance Structure and Changing Institutional Members fee bands and rates, these two documents could have a dramatic impact on the library profession. The first will have an impact on how we as a profession communicate, lobby and organise, the second will have an impact on the funding streams.

It is important to give feedback to the council on this restructuring. LIANZA head office put out the following statement on submissions.

“We will be running a survey from the Monday 8th June to Tuesday 6th July using Survey Monkey and you will be sent the link to this survey on the 8th June.

In the meantime your region will be holding meetings for the purpose of discussing these proposals and your Regional Councillor will be able to field questions about the proposals. So keep an eye out for the notices about the dates of meetings in your area.

Once you have read the papers we would encourage you to attend your regional meeting for discussion and clarification of the proposals. We would appreciate any formal feedback you have on the proposals to be expressed using the survey to enable us to manage and analyse the responses.

Kind regards

Alli Smith
Executive Director
Library & Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
04 473 5834”

The Ikaroa committee, of which I am chair, will be holding meetings led by Heather Lamond our Council representative. You can send feedback directly to her or attend the meetings.

Palmerston North
Thursday 4th June @ 6.00pm
Massey University Staffroom (Level 3) – light refreshments

Wednesday 17th June @ 6.30pm for Fish and Chip tea, followed by discussion
Hawera LibraryPlus

EastIn SIG
Wednesday 10th June @ 6.00pm
Hastings Central Library – light refreshments

Hikuwai Regions meetings:

Barbara Garriock (President Elect) will be facilitating.

Meetings will focus on the governance proposal’s discussion questions:

* Do you think the proposed governance structure would allow for your views and interests to be represented within the wider organisation of LIANZA?

* What benefits of the proposal do you think would achieve a more effective and responsive LIANZA structure?

* What would you change about the proposal that would result in a more effective and responsive LIANZA structure?

* How can we shape our organisation to ensure that young people get involved in LIANZA?

* Do you think that this proposal will provide LIANZA members with leadership development opportunities

Meeting time is 5.30 pm for a 5.45 pm start.

Cost: No Charge

Venues generously provided by the institutions.

Nibbles and drink provided by Hikuwai.

Thursday 4th June

Manukau Institute of Technology Library

Map: http://library.manukau.ac.nz/images/MITLibraryDirections2.jpg

RSVP to Warren.Curran@manukau.ac.nz by Friday 29th May

Tuesday 9th June

University of Auckland

Kate Edgar Information Commons

Map: http://library.manukau.ac.nz/images/uofa_kateedgar.gif

RSVP to Warren.Curran@manukau.ac.nz by Wednesday 3rd June

Thursday 11th June

AUT University, Akoranga Campus

Board Room (AG127) by campus Main Entry

Map: http://library.manukau.ac.nz/images/aut_akoranga.gif

RSVP to Warren.Curran@manukau.ac.nz by Friday 5th June

The Whangarei meeting is still being organised.

The Wellington Meeting:

Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui (Wellington) region would like to invite members to discuss the recently announced LIANZA proposals on enhancing the Association’s governance structure, and the changing of institutional member fee bands and rates.

Regional Councillor Paddy Plunket will facilitate an informal brown bag lunch meeting, talking to the proposals and seeking your feedback.

What: Consultation on the LIANZA proposals

When: Tuesday 26th May, 12.15 – 1.15pm

Where: Reserve Bank Building, Level 10, 2 The Terrace, Wellington

RSVP: Please RSVP to laurinda.thomas@morst.govt.nz, by 5pm Monday 25th May.

Waikato/Bay of Plenty:

Wednesday 27th May  2009- 5.30pm-7.00pm at The Furnace , Victoria St, Hamilton and Waihi Hotel on Friday 5th June 6pm.  – Cocktails for Library Lovers -Working in a library? This is chance to meet other library workers from the area and enjoy a drink together. Please feel free to pop along and join us. The committee will look forward to meeting you.

For those interested there will be an opportunity to discuss and /or offer feedback on the LIANZA governance proposals (via committee members and our councillor).

Aoraki Meeting:

LIANZA is currently consulting with members about how it will be governed in the future and on changes to the existing fee structure for Institutional members.

A meeting will be held for members in the Aoraki region on the 4th of June, 6.pm. The location will be CPIT room L202 (across the airbridge in the Atrium, above the library).

Outgoing LIANZA Regional Councillor Fiona Macdonald will be there to talk us through the proposal and to answer any questions you may have.


I don’t propose to discuss the second document much, as whilst I recognise that the funding from Institutional memberships is an important revenue stream for LIANZA, I don’t feel I am in the right position to comment. All I will say is from my brief perusal it seems a fair way to structure fees.

The proposed Governance structure is as follows:

“Key Features of the Proposal

• Formal adoption of the draft purpose statement as the Association’s Objectives

• Regions and SIGS remain at the heart of the LIANZA community, with personal members continuing to belong to a Region

• The size of the National Council is reduced from 13 to 8 Councillors

• Vice President is elected as President Elect and automatically assumes the presidency in the second year

• Three National Councillors are elected by the full membership

• Establishment of an advisory forum to National Council, comprising chairs and convenors of SIGs, regions, committees, taskforces, working groups and the Registration Board

Proposed LIANZA Purpose Statement

LIANZA works for library and information professionals in New Zealand Aotearoa by building communities, providing professional development services and representing their professional interests.

LIANZA works with library and information organisations to support the delivery of library and information services that are vital to the economic, cultural and social wellbeing of New Zealand Aotearoa.

And proposes these questions.

• Do you think the proposed governance structure would allow for your views and interests to be represented within the wider organisation of LIANZA?

• What benefits of the proposal do you think would achieve a more effective and responsive LIANZA structure?

• What would you change about the proposal that would result in a more effective and responsive LIANZA structure?

• How can we shape our organisation to ensure that young people get involved in LIANZA?

• Do you think that this proposal will provide LIANZA members with leadership development opportunities?”*

*From the document.

My thoughts.

I can see some definite advantages and disadvantages. While I can see that a smaller, more streamlined council should be able to work in a more cost effective and efficient manner, I am concerned that by moving from regional based councillors to national based councillors, the council will become dominated by a region or city. I also worry this will only create greater communication problems than already exist.

An inevitable consequence, as I see it, will be a greater impact on the regional committee’s in their role. This may not be a bad thing but will the committees be ready to take on that role?  Will there be sufficent support for the committees? From this and only briefly mentioned in the document is the nature of the regions. If regions must take on a stronger role in facilitating CPD and governance issues, are the current regions the right size?  If they become smaller regions will there be enough librarians to take on the leadership roles required?

There is a lot to discuss and only a relatively short time to make our voices heard.

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I was at an event on the weekend when I was surprised by this sign.

Slide from Auckland Writers Readers Festival

Slide from Auckland Writers Readers Festival

I thought that cellphones had been around for so long that we all knew the social conventions for turning them off or at least turning them to silent in a public lecture.* I had a bit of a laugh when one of the presenters apologised for having her phone with her on the stage. Her watch was at the shop being repaired so she was using her phone as a timepiece. I use mine as a watch too and I’ve seen other people use their phones as torches.

All of these thoughts went through my head as I took notes – using my cellphone. As I tapped away I wondered what other people thought. Would they think I was texting? Was my habit of putting the phone down after every note reinforcing that? It can’t have looked that dodgy because none of the volunteers asked me to stop. I was a little disappointed by this as I’d psyched myself up for outraged defence. “I’m not texting I’m taking NOTES!”

Honestly, using my cellphone was so much easier than carrying around a notebook and pens. I’ve also started taking my laptop to meetings so I can type my notes up directly rather than trying to decipher my handwriting later. This seems like a logical and sensible timesaving decision. Maybe it’s just local government but this is behaviour outside the box. And yes, I’m deliberately referencing last year’s LIANZA Conference.

I was on the live-blogging team at Conference 2008. It was my first experience of lugging around a laptop and having access to the internet during a session. I found it challenging and an excellent way to take notes. I’m a reflective thinker so I like having good notes to go back to. Some of the comments I heard later surprised me. The one that sticks in my head is that it was appalling that ‘someone’ checked their email during a session. The comment wasn’t about how atrocious it was that the ‘someone’ felt obliged to check in but that they were disrespecting the presenter. The implication was that if the person was taking notes using a pen and paper they wouldn’t be doing anything other than taking notes and paying attention. False. I’ve planned a whole new library programme with pad and pen in a lecture from conceptual idea to implementation when I’ve been bored. (Not a LIANZA session I hasten to add.) Why this assumption that using technology is any different?

Admittedly the back chat channel can become distracting. There’s a greater potential for secret conversations via relatively silent technological means – the buzzing alternative to passing notes in class. But…isn’t that my problem to solve? I’m the learner.

I have to admit that I don’t get it. So what if I’m checking my emails or surfing the internet when I’m at a lecture? So what if I twitter during a presentation? Don’t I have to take responsibility for my own learning?

I’d be really interested to hear your opinion on using laptops, pdas etc in a learning situation.  Do you think they help or hinder?

* There were still a few phones that burbled away cheerfully as their owners made a mad scramble though their pockets, bags and coats trying to locate the dammed thing and turn it off.

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