Finding time to build influence

In the final post in her series on advocacy in libraries, Catherine Hainstock discusses the eternal question – how do we find time to build influence when we already feel time poor.

In my last post I explored some basic strategies teacher librarians can use to build influence; behaviours and practices that can open doors, rebuild and strengthen our place at the heart of the school. But building influence requires more than being likable, reliable, knowledgeable, and competent. We know that even wonderful TL’s and school libraries can be overlooked when it comes to school planning. Not only can we be overlooked – we often have to deal with people’s outdated perceptions of our role. But with so much to do, we feel we have no time to change perceptions or raise awareness. The harsh truth is that the worst thing we can do is wait for someone else to fight for us.  If we do nothing, there is an increasing risk of downsizing or closure. Let’s not kid ourselves, the change we want will only begin through our actions. We are, after all, leaders and owe it to our customers and profession to:

  • provide and maintain a vibrant, enchanting and relevant service and,
  • make sure everyone is aware of it and engaging with it and invested in it.

Building influence requires time, and our time is scarce.  The only way to make time is to re-examine what we already do and make some changes. In 2010, Lyn Hay and Ross Todd published  A School Libraries Futures Project: School Libraries 21C, a report on the status and future of school libraries in New South Wales. The report’s focus is evidence-based practice (EBP) as a tool for building influence (you can find out more about EBP here):

In my experience one of the things preventing library development …  is the difficulties that many school librarians have in thinking and acting strategically rather than operationally. (Discussion participant)

How much time do we spend on strategic thinking compared to operational activities? General management duties like shelving, covering, cataloguing, creating displays, purchasing, resourcing (need I go on) often fill up our days. While these jobs need to be done, arguably they are not a teacher librarian’s core work.

Time spent shelving or cataloguing doesn’t improve our influence or position us as leaders in the school but it keeps things running smoothly. (It’s like housework – it’s important but no one appreciates or notices the effort!)

As we start to look for time, we need to think laterally about other resources available to us. Perhaps the book club might enjoy creating displays or a group of parents or students could learn to shelve and cover books. People are often happy to help but we need to invite them into the library and give them the opportunity to participate.

It might not be as simple as that, but it’s a good place to start. By prioritising some duties over others we can begin to ‘create’ time. Steven Covey’s  Time Management Matrix from  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  is a wonderfully simple and effective tool. You can use the matrix to quickly identify low priority tasks and feel better about giving them less time. It also reinforces the idea that it’s essential to focus on planning and relationship-building if we want to be leaders. Lifehacker’s article Why You Shouldn’t Check Your Email First Thing in the Morning might provide another simple yet powerful solution to time management.

And what do we do with this hard won time? The NSW School Libraries Futures Project reports that:

Operational actions without the visioning, strategic thinking and long term planning were not seen as particularly effective. Strategic actions start with teacher librarians thinking through key actions which contribute to raising their profile in the school, being proactive within the school, and showing leadership, and being proactive in their leadership role, in order to facilitate change, library improvement and capacity building.

Simply put, use any time you can find to lay plans and build influence. Time can be a barrier, but there are ways to improve our situation if we’re willing to look for opportunities and change the way we operate. No matter what the obstacles, we must try to stay positive and be active in our advocacy efforts. We need to maintain our respected role at the heart of the school and work to build relationships with others as we chip away at the things that are holding us back.

Other posts in this series:

Image Credit: (ca. 1930), Arnold De Biere’s crystal clock and crystal bell act , State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection.

Can eReaders Encourage Reading?

A recent study from the Pew Research Center focussed on the growing popularity of eReaders. The Rise of e-reading confirmed a significant increase in users – 21% of adults had read an eBook in the past year. Their research also found that eBook readers read more books (both formats) and read more often.

These are the types of results that catch a Teacher Librarian’s attention. Could this also be true for students? Might eBook readers be a way to encourage reluctant readers to read more and/or read more often? This might be the case.

In 2012, SMU conducted a study with middle years students who struggled with reading. They found that eReaders motivated students to read, but there were marked gender differences. While both studies were conducted in America, they are valuable reading for Teachers and Teacher Librarians making pedagogical and acquisition decisions as  Australian schools introduce 1:1 iPad and BYOD programs.

Bookish

Bookish website

Bookish is a new book recommendation and e-commerce site competing with the likes of GoodreadsLibrary thing and Amazon. Although some question the effectiveness of these sites, Bookish promises a different experience based on the resources and expertise available to publishers driving the project.

Bookish is a collaboration between a group of major publishers  claiming their recommendations engine, with input from real editors, is the best yet. With publishing heavyweights like Penguin, Random House and Scholastic on board, the site has already collected an impressive list of contributors, 400 000 author profiles and 1.2 million books in their catalogue.

At this stage, Bookish is leaving the social aspect of recommendations to established sites like Goodreads although they do link to Facebook. Their focus is editorial content – delivering magazine style essays, articles, news and reviews written by authors and professional editors.

Bookish represents an interesting commercial model for publishers to position themselves as an alternative to community based book recommendation sites. Whether Bookish stays impartial, only time will tell.

Talking Reading

With a recent study indicating that approximately 44% of Australian adults have a literacy level below the minimum required for everyday life, promoting reading and literacy has never been more important. The Talking Reading project on ABC Pool is a wonderful resource for anyone with an interest in developing literacy skills and promoting reading.

The project brings together interviews with literacy experts, librarians and authors. The episodes were recorded during the National Year of Reading and are hosted by Tony Wilson, Paula Kelly and Sally Rippin. One episode features the fabulous Miffy Farquharson, who talks about her love of reading and reveals that she has read close to 15,000 books!

Other episodes explore young adult literacy technology (featuring our own Kelly Gardiner), apps for literacy (with Dan Donahoo) and author profiles with authors such as Leigh Hobbs, Cath Crowley and Alison Lester.

You can view all of the episodes and find out more about the project at the Talking Reading site. It’s an excellent resource full of ideas about promoting this critical skill and fostering a love of books in young people.

Infinity Ring: Read the books and play the games


Today our guest post comes from Joy Burlak, Education Resource Centre Manager at Sunbury Downs College. Joy explains how the Infinity Ring series of books and games is taking her school library by storm.

A poster came across my desk from Scholastic, promoting ‘Infinity Ring’ “Fix the past. Save the future. Read the book. Follow the guide. Play the game. www.infinityring.com ” 

Such intrigue! I could not let that go without further investigation. The poster had piqued my interest in the exact way we try to entice students – we want to stimulate their curiosity. I was curious.

I went onto the Scholastic website and read about the ‘New Multi-Platform Time Travel Adventure Series Infinity Ring.’ The concept is simple. There are 7 books in the series. Each book comes with a guide which allows access to a new adventure in the online interactive game ‘Infinity Ring.’ I was hooked. Then I saw the promotional video.

The pace and drama of that video was enough. I showed it to some of my students and they too were hooked.

All I had to do now was organise for the IT department to unblock the game, and then we had to allow permissions for Unity web player to run across the network.

In the meantime students were reading up a storm, making sure they had finished the book before the game became available. The day finally arrived and the first student started playing. Soon enough we had an audience to be proud of. Those who had borrowed the book (I bought 3 copies) ran off to get their copy so they could sit and read and then get onto the game. That first day created 6 reservations for the book.

The first book is called ‘A mutiny in time’ by James Dashner. It introduces our heroes and the premise of the series and then takes the reader on a wild adventure back in time to Christopher Columbus in 1492. The adventure continues with the first game when students are taken back to1792 and the French Revolution. There are 7 books in the series, to be published over the next 18 months. James Dashner wrote the first book and will conclude the series, however the books in between will be written by other authors. This allows for a shorter publishing run and ensures interest remains at fever pitch.

The graphics are amazing and the plot is complex enough to challenge Year 8 students. I would suggest Year 9’s may even learn something. The website comes complete with Teachers’ Notes and free Common Core whiteboard activities. Circulating whilst students play the game provides an excellent opportunity to challenge their curiosity. A comment was made about crossing to the other side of the river, so my natural question was “What is the name of the river that runs through Paris?” The name d’Artagnan came up, so again the questioning continued – is he a fictional character or is there an historic link? The answers had to be provided the following day, before the game could continue.

We have decided to have 1 day each week as ‘Infinity Ring’ day. Students will be either playing the game (after reading the book) or actually reading the book. The best of both worlds!

Thanks to Joy for telling us about the passion of her students for this new series of novels. We’re off to read the first novel and start playing!

 

Children’s literacy lab

Helen Boelens has passed on information about the Children’s literacy lab.

Screen shot 2010-10-27 at 7.24.25 PM

She explains

It is an interesting programme which is trying to investigate how children actually use digital books.  It is hoped that the research will help school librarians and teachers to adjust to the way in which pupils use E-books.

With lots of resources, information, tips and news, this is an interesting site to peruse.

Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians

School library guru Dr Joyce Valenza has written an inspiring post entitled A Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians. Covering our responsibilities to students regarding:

  • reading
  • information landscape
  • communication and publishing and storytelling
  • collection development
  • facilities, your physical space
  • access, equity, advocacy
  • audience and collaboration
  • copyright, copyleft and information ethics
  • new technology tools
  • professional development and professionalism
  • teaching and learning and reference
  • into the future (acknowledging the best of the past)

this is a must read, must react, must reflect post. Thanks to Helen Boelens for directing me to this post.

MeeGenius

The MeeGenius library enables users to read children’s books, personalise and share them for free.

MeeGenius

A range of classic children’s books are available including versions of:

  • Peter Pan
  • Jemima Puddleduck
  • The Princess and the Pea
  • The Lion and the Mouse
  • Field Mouse and Town Mouse
  • Jack and the Beanstalk

The stories have been recorded and are read aloud. As the story progresses, words are highlighted for readers to follow and learn. This makes the MeeGenius library perfect for young children learning to read and young language learners. Users can personalise stories for specific audiences, however if users wish to save these stories for use later on, they must register and login. Some stories appear to be abridged, others are not.

A MeeGenius app is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch as well (A$2.49).

Thanks to Kelly Tenkely from i Learn technology for the heads up on this great tool!

Promoting reading using Glogster

This is a terrific example of using Glogster edu (see earlier Bright Ideas post) to promote reading. Anita Beaman has devloped this glog to further promote interest in a popular genre of books.

Glogs can be linked online for the full multimedia experience as well as printed out and laminated for display in the library or classrooms. This could be a good thing for librarystaff to create, or to encourage students to make either as library monitors or for creative response to text.

People still read, but now it’s social

When Apple’s Steve Jobs said in 2008 that “people don’t read anymore” there was an outcry from a range of people across the world. Jobs, was of course, decrying the Kindle eReader as a stand alone device and it would be interesting to know how many people who have purchased the iPad have done so primarily looking for an eReader.

A recent article in the New York Times, Yes, People Still Read, but Now It’s Social takes a look at the phenomenon of social reading thanks to a number of eReaders enabling users to highlight and share passages in eBooks as well as being able to share thoughts and ideas via email, Twitter and blogs. Article author Steven Johnson says

Yes, we are reading slightly fewer long-form narratives and arguments than we did 50 years ago, though the Kindle and the iPad may well change that. Those are costs, to be sure. But what of the other side of the ledger? We are reading more text, writing far more often, than we were in the heyday of television.

And the speed with which we can follow the trail of an idea, or discover new perspectives on a problem, has increased by several orders of magnitude. We are marginally less focused, and exponentially more connected. That’s a bargain all of us should be happy to make.

The changes in the way we read are occurring rapidly. I’d like to know how many people across the globe who have purchased an iPad as a portable device rather than an eReader have downloaded (at least the free) books from the iBooks app. Will they read them? Perhaps. Would they have ever read them without such a device? I think not. The article is a brief one and well worth a read.