Curated Reads – October Edition

Web – Reading

The amazing Jane Cowell wrote a great article about 15 Twitter Tips for Librarians that is great reading.  I’m planning to update my Twitter profile and rethink my header (maybe even my profile photo) and also think about what key issues I want to focus on for sharing and retweeting.  I strongly recommend you take a look at this article.  Twitter has been invaluable for me as an emerging professional to stay up to date.

Someone on Twitter (sorry I forget who!) pointed me to this interesting article on the history of Citation Styles with some concluding thoughts on how citation might change in the future, due to the lack of space restrictions and the ability to hyperlink.  It’s a bit of a long read and it does get a bit dry about two-thirds of the way through but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Since learning about Graphic Novels in ETL402, and completing an assignment on them, I’ve kept my feelers out for information on comics and graphic novels.  The Conversation recently published a piece on the top ten Australian literary graphic novels, and even after studying the genre and reading a pile of graphic novels, I confess I’ve only read one on the list (The Lie and How We Told It), and heard of one other author (Pat Grant, whose graphic novel Blue I’ve read and is available online).   Even though I’ve decided graphic novels really aren’t my genre, I will check out the two on the list that are available online.

I finally got around to reading the Neil Gaiman/Chris Riddell collaboration about libraries, only to discover it was just that Riddell had illustrated one of Gaiman’s past works, which was a bit disappointing.  Not that Gaiman doesn’t have great things to say but just that it was the thing I had read a dozen times before and not something new.

Also on my procrastination list was this article on parental screen time I’ve had open in my browser, waiting to be read, for at least six weeks.  I know I’m guilty of this at times although I will say that having 90% of notifications turned off makes my phone less distracting.  I do not get a ping or a badge or a pop up for email or Facebook or Twitter.  I do have notifications for certain apps that I find helpful, and I reevaluate this from time to time.  I also regularly make use of the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature which not only doesn’t let notifications come in, but when I go to unlock my phone it prompts me to verify that I’m not driving, reminding me that I was choosing not to use my phone at that moment.

I came across R. David Lankes after I enrolled in uni but before Uni started – through a series of his, available on Kanopy, related to the Atlas of New Librarianship.  I’ve just read the transcript of his speech A Manifesto for Global Librarianship which is also available in video form.  I cannot deny that listening to him explain his vision of librarianship before I had started any formal education in librarianship has changed the way I look at the profession.  Take 15 mins of your day to read his Manifesto, or read through the transcript!

Hard Words is a confronting look at the state of literacy instruction in America.  It’s not uncommon for classes to have 40% of students unable to read sufficiently.  Our statistics in Australia are better than that, but not good enough.  As I read, I realised, I did not learn anything at uni about teaching kids to read.  Not really.  And what there was did not contain phonics.  If I found out suddenly that I was teaching kindergarten for a year I honestly don’t know that I would be able to teach phonics well without the aid of a program.  I have heard of the dark side of phonics based instruction – students being tested by being asked to sound out imaginary words, dull, boring readers and the like, but phonics instruction does not have to be like that.  Definite food for thought.

Listening

Turbitt n Duck podcast Episode 20 interviewed Pamela McGowan who shared about her experiences with the iNeLI program, and taking risks by taking on challenging new positions in new locations.  Pamela shared the two videos above on the Sustainable Development Goals and Empathy.  Thanks! Turbitt n Duck is always worth listening to so subscribe to it in your favourite podcast player!  I also enjoyed their 1st Birthday Livestream on Facebook last week and took a trip down memory lane as I remembered where I had been when I listened and the things I had learned.  I also made a mental note to come back to the games episode as next session I’ll be taking a games-based learning subject.

Watching – Web and otherwise

My kids have recently gotten into some cooking shows on Netflix – Zumbo’s Just Desserts and Sugar Rush, and I introduced hubby to Worth It (BuzzFeed) where they test out the same different food at three different price points and decide which one is most worth it for it’s price.

This school holidays we’ve shared some classic 90s and early 00s movies with our kids (as age appropriate) – So I Married an Axe Murderer, Groundhog Day, Sister Act I and II, School of Rock.

Until I listened to the Turbitt n Duck podcast (above) I had never heard of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  But now I’m aware of them I don’t know why every librarian is not aware of them, and why it’s not part of our course.

Every Goal must be met for everyone
Every Goal must be met for everyone
The Leave No One Behind Promise. Every person has a fair opportunity in life no matter who or where they are. Reach the furthest behind first.
Reach the furthest behind first.

The last comment on this screenshot – Reach the furthest behind first – really got me thinking.  As an individual and even as a member of an organisation (ALIA, and my future employer) I am limited in my reach, globally.  When I think about who is furthest behind, globally, I cannot do much to help them.  But, when I look at my community – whichever community my future employer serves – I need to reach whoever is furthest behind, first.  In Australia that’s people in poverty, the homeless, Indigenous Australians, people with disabilities, the unemployed, the young, the old… That’s who I need to prioritise.

Pamela McGowan said she showed this video at her first staff meeting and made everyone cry. It really links in well with reaching the furthest behind in our community but it can be used anywhere.  This video illustrates how we really don’t know what anyone else is going through, and encourages us to always act with compassion and empathy.

Books

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig was written before Notes on a Nervous Planet, but I read it afterwards.  I do like Notes better than Reasons, maybe because depression and suicidality is not something I have regular battles with anymore, although anxiety is.   Maybe Notes is just a better book because it wasn’t the first?  I don’t know.  If you’re someone that’s ever struggled with mental illness, it’s still worth a read.

Legion: Skin Deep is the second Legion book by Brandon Sanderson.  My brother recommended the first Legion book to me and while it wasn’t available in our local library, it started my husband’s love of Brandon Sanderson and he now owns about a dozen of his books.  Both Legion and Legion: Skin Deep are novellas, rather than full length novels, and I think that’s the perfect length for these stories.  They feel like they are about the length of a full length TV episode (45ish mins) and it just seems perfect.  It’s hard to place the genre of these books but I would have to say that they are probably closest to magical realism, even though there is no magic in this book.

I bought Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman with birthday money, the same time I bought the first Rivers of London book.  With getting right into Rivers of London and Uni and other reading, I only started reading it fairly recently.  I have to say though, as hard as I try I have to confess I am not a Neil Gaiman fan.  I’ve read a bunch of his kids books, some graphic novels he’s written, one novel (American Gods in audiobook form, that I did enjoy), listened to a radio play of Anansi Boys (that was ok too), but I’m just not getting into Neverwhere.  And that’s ok.  No one author is going to suit everyone.  (Funnily enough, I have similar feelings about his wife, Amanda Palmer.  I like her lyrics and her writing but I’m really not into her style of music, as hard as I try to like it).

Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths

The Poet X

Home Crowd Advantage is not strictly a book.  Actually it’s not a book in any sense, it’s a short story published on Ben Aaronovitch’s website that fits into the series of books I’ve been reading this year (sometimes known as Rivers of London, sometimes known as the Peter Grant series).  It was an enjoyable little short story, but it doesn’t stand well alone if you’re not familiar with the series.

Other Reading

When I attended the ALIA Leadership and Innovation Forum I was made aware of, and grabbed a copy (also available online) of Indigenous Spaces in Library Places, a publication by the State Library of NSW around promoting Aboriginal Culture in libraries. I was really pleased to see a library that is reasonably local to me (local enough that I’ve been there numerous times) featured in the publication for its Aboriginal Knowledge Centre (p. 6).  As a not-yet-practicing librarian I’m not sure that I can do much with it, aside from promote it, and I struggle with what my role in promoting Indigenous resources and causes is as I am not an Indigenous person.

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Respected Professionals?

Teacher librarians are facing a public relations crisis.  We know from the House of Representatives report in 2011 that teacher librarians are either seen as “dragons in pearls” guarding the collection, or as poor-performing teachers placed in a role where they can “do the least harm”.  Schools around the world are shutting their libraries in favour of online media services.  The public wonders why we even have libraries in the days of Google.  Libraries in the US, UK and now Australia are losing government funding.  As teacher librarianship students we are told that we are training to be specialised professionals with valuable skills and knowledge to offer, but studies and actions show that teacher librarians are not highly valued.

Right now, I don’t know that I can argue differently.  In my post-graduate studies I am confronted with twaddle. For those not familiar with Charlotte Mason, books that are twaddle are ones that are dumbed-down (amongst other things).  I feel that I am not getting what I am paying for.  Or, really, what the government is currently loaning me money to pay for.

I am sick of my recommended readings in course content being filled with slideshows of 20+ slides that contain roughly 200-500 words with some pretty images and no real content.  I’m sick of videos of trailers for picture books, opinion pieces by book bloggers and videos that were obviously produced for high school or early college assignments.  I’m sick of out of date readings that refer to “up and coming” innovations like the Nook.  I’m sick of opinion pieces that are all fluff and no substance.

If we don’t have an evidence base for our practice, then how can we call ourselves a profession?  Article after article I read suggests that while we can show correlation between having a teacher librarian (or school librarian or other local variant) and improved academic performance on standardised testing, we don’t have a solid base of evidence for *what* a teacher librarian does that improves outcomes.

And why aren’t we engaging with controversial issues?  Maybe we will cover some of this when I get to cataloging next year, but I’ve read more on the controversial nature of cataloging that I imagine we will ever read in our course.  Why aren’t we looking at alternate career paths, the things that our library degree can train us for even when the job title doesn’t mention “library”? Why aren’t we examining the colonisation mentality that pervades libraries, and how we can knock down the institutional barriers to engaging meaningfully with indigenous people and respecting their knowledge, right to self-determination and a voice on their own matters?  Why aren’t we discussing that libraries aren’t neutral, that they aren’t a “safe space” for everyone?  Why am I learning far more from my own pursuit of professional development and knowledge than I am from a post-graduate degree?

What I’ve Been Reading

Books

I started reading The Right Girl by Ellie O’Neill. If you asked me to define it in a few words I would say dystopian romance. It is definitely “chick lit” but with a dystopian edge. A kind of modernised, chick lit version of 1984. The concept was fascinating but I found the pacing quite slow (maybe it’s just me) and I did something I’ve never done before – I read the first half a dozen chapters then skipped to the end and read the last few chapters.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman, graphic novel edition by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.

Cicada by Shaun Tan. The Guardian did a great write-up about this book, including information about how the illustrations were created.
The Truth Is A Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman – a cross between an illustrated novel and a graphic novel.  Fantastical and thought provoking.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – a graphic novel or “tragicomic” that is Bechdel’s personal memoir about her relationship with her late father.  I’m about a quarter of the way through so far and enjoying it.

Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults – I bought this to read for my ETL402 assignment and am really enjoying learning about graphic novels, as I’ve only just recently read my first graphic novel (as I posted about here).

 

Book-Web Crossover

Last week I read about Victorian libraries staying open late as an alternative to lonely people playing poker machines.  This week, as I was reading Questioning Library Neutrality, I came across some information that made me think of this initiative.  Public libraries were established in North America, in good part because the ruling class wanted to discourage the working class from idleness and drinking in “public houses” aka pubs (Iverson, 2008).  I do think that opening libraries late could be an effective strategy to prevent lonely people from gambling their savings away, but in light of the historical information I’ve read, I wonder how this will be viewed in the future.

Web

Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro talk about the artificial boundaries created by genre. This article is a few years old now (2015) but it’s quite interesting and really relevant to our studies with regards to genres in ETL402. It particularly looks into what is considered fantasy and what is not.

In reference to this article, and the artificial boundaries that genre creates, I think there are some links between this and Tim Minchin’s song, The Fence.  In particular this part of the chorus:

We divide the world to stop us feeling frightened
Into wrong and into right and
Into black and into white and
Into real men and fairies
Into parrots and canaries
Yeah we want the world binary, binary

For the Love of Libraries – a response to the recent Forbes article saying libraries should be replaced with Amazon stores.

Adults (aka millennials) are reading YA books, a trend that is identified as starting with the Harry Potter series. It’s an interesting read although I dispute their categorisation of Goosebumps and Babysitters Club being YA books! These are read by primary school aged children, not teens and young adults!

This is a lovely how to guide for using picture books for older readers in your classroom – this is a year seven class. It’s a really valuable read and I’m envious of her extensive classroom library.

The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Books of 2018 is an amazing list of children’s books that just don’t quite fit the normal conventions of literature. Would be great if you’re investigating postmodern children’s books.

HT to Tehani who posted this on Facebook, the Best series books for Tweens, although as always discretion should be used as to suitability. I would definitely put Rick Riordan’s series and Mortal Instruments for 12+, and Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Hunger Games older again!

Teachers take on the department as a new report comes out suggesting that phonics instruction is the best way to teach reading. They say that exclusive focus on phonics ignores reading for meaning and should be combined with a whole language approach.
NSW Government commits millions of dollars to a program to encourage teachers, boost morale and improve outcomes. The pilot program in 2014 was well received and hopes to improve retention rates as well as student performance.

A funny comic from XKCD about the peer review process. Make sure you hover your cursor over the image for the alt text which is also funny.

An article from a few years ago (2013) about some research conducted in Canada regarding why members of their community weren’t using the library. For people who advocate the library as an equitable resource for everyone, the answers might be surprising.

This post discusses the challenges when archiving born-digital objects when the file formats are no longer supported.

Alissa McCulloch is a self-proclaimed cataloging evangelist.  In truth, everything I know about cataloging was either taught to me by Alissa, by discussions Alissa chaired or at least participated in, or books she’s recommended.  So when she writes about cataloging, I listen.  I’ve been involved in a lot of reading about cataloguing and why Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are, in short, broken.  This week, she blogged through her own trauma of the cataloging headings for “self-harm” listing “parasuicide” as the preferred option.  LCSH are visible to EVERYONE searching for this, and it is a term that is overly medicalised, I’m reliably informed is traumatic to those who have practiced self-harm, likely to be traumatic for caregivers of those who self-harm.

On a related topic, I also read about how young adult fiction helps teenagers understand their own mental health and the mental health of those around them, highlighting the need for literature that tackles tough issues.

There was also an article about how explicitly teaching students how to read graphic novels engaged the class in deep thinking and excited previously reluctant students.

One of my fellow students, pointed me towards this article on graphic novels. It’s an interesting read although I don’t know that I can use it for my assignment as it is largely focused on literacy, which is not the scope of this assignment, however it’s pointed me in the direction of some other interesting articles that I can possibly use (which is called bibliographic branching).

The Great Australian Silence reflects on the fifty years since historians were challenged by WEH Stanner about their collective forgetfulness about the history of the Aboriginal people, both before and after colonisation.

LBCD? What is it? examines Library Based Community Development which is an adaptation of the social work theory of Asset Based Community Development, a new an innovative way to look at how libraries can serve their communities.

Storgykids posted an interview with Chris Riddell, UK Children’s Laureate from 2015-2017.  Riddell is an award winning author and illustrator and his thoughts are fascinating.

2018 Australian Children’s Laureate Morris Glietzman has spoken about the power of stories.

Podcasts

History Lab, by the same team that bring us GLAMCity. They’ve just finished up series one but it’s a fascinating listen if you have the time.
On Tamson’s recommendation I’ve started listening to the ABC’s new History Listen podcast. I will warn you, though, that the “Sister Kate” episode is quite distressing.
I’ve also recently finished listening to the Unravel True Crime podcast.
And, of course, Turbitt & Duck, which is now on hiatus.

References

Iverson, S. (2008) Librarianship and Resistance. In Lewis, A. (Ed) Questioning library neutrality: Essays from Progressive Librarian. Duluth, Minnesota: Library Juice Press.

If I Could Turn Back Time

AKA What I want to do differently in Session 2.

I did reasonably well, finishing with a Distinction in both subjects.  But I don’t feel like I did a good job of balance.  I think I did pretty well with juggling family life and uni, but I don’t feel like I did a good job of looking after myself while juggling family life and uni.  I feel like I’m out of sync with myself.  I am bored out of my brain on uni break – which started early for me as I completed my course work and handed my assignments in early.

Exercise

I really let my exercise habits slide to the point when it’s all to hard, I’ve lost so much fitness, and I don’t even want to do those things anymore.  It’s ok to change interests – I don’t have to be a runner forever – but I can’t just become sedentary.  It’s not good for my mental health.  Exercise also helps your brain work better for studying and the like.  So I need to prioritise exercise, even if all I can manage that day is a walk around the block.  But I also have to make sure that a walk around the block doesn’t become the norm for my level of exertion.

IMG_4552.JPG
Glenbrook, Knapsack Reserve.  Photo taken by me.

Mood

I seem to have some fluctuations of mood that are cyclical but I haven’t kept a close track of them to be able to predict them. If I can predict when my mood is likely to be low, I can plan quieter days for that time, and more exercise and sunshine in the lead up, to try to head it off. To that effect, I have downloaded a mood tracking app so that I can see if there are any patterns emerging. The cool thing about the app I’m using (Daylio) is that I can also input the activities I’ve been doing, so I can correlate if lower moods are connected to periods of inactivity. I already know that my mood is adversely impacted by a lack of sunshine, and can suffer from something resembling Seasonal Affective Disorder by the end of winter. I am not a doctor, and I don’t think the severity of my symptoms (or lack thereof) is enough to warrant a SAD diagnosis, but I know from looking at my mental health history over the last two and a bit decades, that I tend to feel lethargic and depressed around August most years. And I know exercise has an impact on my moods, but I’m not sure about other things. So I’m tracking.

Rest and Recreation

Before Uni started I was determined to take a “day off” once a fortnight to pursue hobbies, go on longer hikes, get some rest… I took a day off ONCE all session. Yes it meant that I finished early, but by the end of it I was OVER it (and it shows in my final assignment submission). Even though taking time off will drag the work out a little longer, I know that research proves that regular rest and recreation (both in short breaks each day and day long breaks every week or two, and longer breaks a few times a year) breaks help you work better for longer. So I’m hoping it will pay off.

Distraction

While not officially, clinically diagnosed, I identify as an adult with ADHD. (My psychologist, my GP, my mother and my husband all agree with this diagnosis. My GP says the only point in seeking an official diagnosis at this point was if I needed medication.) One of the ways this manifests in me is that I want to do ALL THE THINGS. I want to read every great sounding book I hear about. So I reserve it from the library. The my reserves all come in at once and I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of reading all these books before they are due back so I get paralysed and the joy of reading them isn’t there anymore. Or I get bored, commit to a whole pile of things, get overwhelmed because I’ve committed to too much, then I get bored so I take on a pile of projects but take on too much and get overwhelmed and… the cycle continues. So, this week I have unsubscribed from nearly every mass mail out email that I can. I’ve reviewed my Facebook likes (pages, celebrities, books, movies etc) and cut it down by 40% from 700 to 450, and unfollowed a pile of pages I still chose to “like”. I’ve unfollowed people on Facebook and/or changed them to acquaintances. I will sit down today and review my Twitter feed also. The less I am bombarded with, the fewer “cool things” I can be tempted to do, read, cook, get involved with, and the lower the chance of getting overwhelmed.

Expectations

In session one, I would set myself goals of getting a certain module, or sub-module completed that day. The trouble is, the length of the modules, and the time taken to complete them was entirely unpredictable. Sometimes I could knock over an entire module in an hour or two. Sometimes completing a single reading for a module would take an hour. So, in the coming session, I am going to set myself a time goal each day, rather than a “complete this” goal. So an hour, or two, or three on this assignment, or this subject or whatever. Rather than aiming for a module complete and realising it’s waaaaay longer than the three before it, and it’s going to mean breaking my plans for the evening so I can GET IT DONE. That’s not healthy, long term.

Also, I do still want to get ahead. I have five children, three with disabilities. Life can be unpredictable at times. Emergencies happen. I want to have some “wiggle room” so that I can take a few days or a week off, and not have to be anxious because I am behind on my work. I *should* be able to achieve this if I can get started on the course work when the subject outlines are released two weeks before session starts. The release of the module content doesn’t always happen straight away so I will have to play that one by ear. The first two weeks of this session coincide with the school holidays so it will be challenging to stay on top of work during that period but I will do my best.

Perfect?

I cannot expect perfection. I know that some fortnights will be crazy and I won’t get my day off. I know someone will get sick. We might have a wet week with no sunshine. Life will not go to plan. But I will do my best. That’s all I can expect.

End of Session Wrap Up

I can say, without a doubt, that this course was not quite what I expected.  Of course, things are never as they seem, and I learned that there’s a lot more to the role of teacher-librarian than I understood from the outset of this course.

I’ve struggled with a lot of things during my first session of study. I’ve struggled to find the right balance of study and exercise, as that’s one thing that’s really “taken a hit” over the session.  I’ve struggled with poorly resourced course materials – where our “academic” references were videos made by overseas library students, or are slideshows for what was most likely a riveting keynote delivered by Well-Regarded Speaker, but the slides are next to meaningless without the content of the speech.

I’ve struggled with the inconsistency between our subject coordinators – we have had the bad luck of losing our coordinator mid session, and replaced with another and the other subject had our coordinator take five weeks of sick leave in the middle of the session, and the replacements had different ideas about things, including students being marked down for following the assignment as set out in the subject outline!  There’s also been subject coordinators go AWOL from the forum, one for nearly two weeks in the lead up to assignment due date.

 I grappled with, and continue to grapple with the inherent privilege that seeps through every pore of the guided inquiry process, a particular pet-topic of my subject coordinator.  I struggle with the disparity between how the uni speaks about our role, and how teacher-librarians are seen by school executives.  My thoughts are not merely based on the anecdotal, but lived experience and research, which I’m not going to reference here.

I’ve surprised myself by realising that I am a critical thinker, as I know I can sometimes get caught up in the hype and take things at face value. I’ve been helped along this road by an incredible professional support network, mostly found on Twitter, and supported by getting involved in events and (potentially) volunteer roles within relevant organisations.

Recently, I’ve come to realise why I have had an enormous amount of trouble finding Australian teacher-librarians and librarians to follow on social media, read blogs of and so on.  Many organisations actively discourage or do not permit their employees to be active on social media in this way.  I understand privacy concerns and the like, but by not allowing professionals to share in this manner, we are not allowing them to grow and develop their own skills, which has to be done on their own time anyway.

During my break between sessions (which has now started for me, as all I have left of this session is a webinar and evaluation forms to fill in) I will be pursing some hobbies that have been neglected (including reading, bushwalking, theological study and cycling), continuing professional development through reading on critical librarianship and the history of some famous librarians, and some projects in the broader GLAMR field.  I will post about those GLAMR readings and projects from time to time.

I am writing this post well in advance of it going live on my blog.  I certainly don’t want my critical comments regarding the uni to impact on my marks and I don’t want to impact anyone else’s evaluation of our subjects.

Plastic Bag Ban Unit of Work

For one of my uni subjects I had to create a unit of work and so I created a Plastic Bag Ban Unit which I am now offering to the world.  Click on the link to download the pdf.

This unit of work has been prepared for Stage 2, in Design and Technology. The content focus is researching the suitability of materials as they design a replacement for a plastic shopping bag and evaluate the design. Students will complete a workbook (not included) as evidence of learning as well as a final piece of work to present.  Lessons take place with a combination of whole class instruction, small group work and independent work.

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Screenshot taken from http://www.abc.net.au/btn/story/s4704469.htm

Stigma? What stigma?

I’ve posted recently about issues within the cataloging system, specifically as they relate to sexuality (well anything that is non-reproductive sex), so I thought I would investigate.

Today, while I was at a local library, I searched the catalogue for “homosexuality” (because I’m not the sort of person who know where everything is) and the call number “306.766” kept coming up, apart from a few titles that dealt with specific arenas, such as “A history of gay cinema”. So I had a look at the 306.7 area, to get a feel for what other sort of titles those books were shelved with.

As you can see, the books about homosexuality are shelved with books on extra-marital affairs, dating over 60, marriage and a history of sex. So, from this quick shelf-glance, it seems nothing is the matter.

And I think that’s part of the problem. Unless you’re a very big library, or an academic Library, you may not carry books on paedophila, child abuse or sex crimes to shelve nearby.  The average librarian may not realise that this classification is even a problem.  And if we don’t know that there is a problem we can’t do anything about it.

If you want to read more, I did a little bit of investigating…

Continue reading “Stigma? What stigma?”