Rebuilt school missing library

A disturbing article appeared in yesterday’s Herald Sun newspaper stating that one primary school destroyed in the Black Saturday fires will need to seek community support to rebuild its once wonderful library:

A SCHOOL destroyed in the Black Saturday fires has been forced to ask for community help to rebuild its library.

Marysville Primary principal Peri Dix has told a local Masonic lodge that a library was not part of the State Government’s plan to rebuild the devastated school.

“Our school once housed a wonderful library, books which provided hours of learning and pleasure to our students,” Ms Dix wrote to the lodge.

“While the (Education Department) rebuild classrooms and office space, rooms such as library and art are outside their budget.”

Ms Dix said the school would welcome support such as shelving for books.

Freemasons Victoria grand secretary Barry Reaper said yesterday his organisation would help Marysville PS with books and library equipment.

“We can understand that the Government will be doing all they can to reconstruct the facility, but we believe a library is an essential part of it,” he said.

Freemasons have raised more than $1 million for bushfire victims, with about $985,000 already distributed.

Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said while community donations were welcome, it was the Government’s responsibility to replace what was lost by schools.

An Education Department spokesman insisted library facilities would be rebuilt.

The Government will spend almost $20 million on projects including Marysville and two other destroyed primary schools – Middle Kinglake and Strathewen.

Bright Ideas is seeking comments from relevant people in relation to this story.

Kids in a class of their own

This article appeared in this week’s Sunday Herald Sun. It’s great news about one school, which was recently affected by the devasting bushfires.

Kids in a class of their own   by Stephen Drill

SOME are still living in caravans on their burnt out bush blocks, but the children at Kinglake West Primary School have something to celebrate after moving into a new school.

The seven classrooms, shared multi-purpose spaces, library, hall and administration buildings have made going to school exciting for the 120 students.

The lights turn off if no-one is in the room for more than 15 minutes and the windows open and close automatically depending on the outside temperature.

And in the toilets, warm water flows from the taps.

Grade 2 student Hannah Creed, 8, whose family lost their house in the fires, said she liked the new school because it was warm.

“It’s warmer inside here than outside. We are living in a caravan on our block where our house used to be,” she said.

The new school was being built before the fires and was scheduled to be finished last November.

The Country Fire Authority saved the partially built school on Black Saturday, but the fires caused further delays.

Principal Mark Portman said the new buildings had made students excited to come to school after a difficult six months.

“The opening of the new school is almost like a re-birth,” he said.

“We have new facilities and we are really looking forward to moving ahead.”

Keen to learn: Principal Mark Portman with students at the new Kinglake West Primary School. Picture: Rob Leeson.
Keen to learn: Principal Mark Portman with students at the new Kinglake West Primary School. Picture: Rob Leeson.

Angela Harridge – Plenty Valley Christian College’s angel in disguise

Recently the Diamond Valley Leader newspaper featured the wonderful community work of one SLAV member. The aptly named Angela Harridge, teacher librarian at Plenty Valley Christian College has come up with a unique and thoughtful way to support her school’s fire affected families:

 Librarian’s quilts offer lots of hugs

 “There’s a real mixture; there will be an individual quilt for every child,” Ms Harridge said.

 Nothing beats a hug when you’re feeling down.

 That thought inspired Plenty Valley Christian College teacher librarian Angela Harridge to create ‘snuggle quilts’ for families who lost homes in the bushfires.

 A keen seamstress, Ms Harridge sent out an email asking people to donate any left-over quilt blocks so she could create some quilts for the school’s 12 fire-affected families.

 She said the response was overwhelming, with donations coming from as far away as Rhode Island in the United States.

 “A community of people have developed, and things have exploded around it,” she said.

 “Everyone wanted to help in some way.”

 Ms Harridge is now hoping to make more quilts for other bushfire victims.

 She said her “snuggle quilts” were a little smaller than regular quilts, and were aimed at younger children.

 “You can wrap yourself up in one,” she said.

 “They’re a size you can sit on the couch and snuggle under.”

 The quilts will all feature unique designs, with bright colours for girls and darker tones for boys.

(Diamond Valley Leader 1/4/09)

Angela’s has her own blog  detailing the progress of the snuggle quilts, as well as the kind donations from people all over the world.

Snuggle quilts homepage
Snuggle quilts homepage

Angela’s blog profile reads: Mother, Teacher Librarian, reader, lifelong learner and lover of all things fabric and quilting! My mission in life is to hold my family close to my heart, never stop learning and to finish some of the quilts that are running around in my head!

A fabulous example of Angela's work
A fabulous example of Angela’s work made in conjunction with the Clifton Quilters in England

After reading this article, Bright Ideas contacted Angela, who although flat out with the quilting, has provided readers with some more information about her project. She begins with the initial post on her blog:

Monday, March 2, 2009

The initial request

On Saturday, February 7th, 2009 Victoria was stunned. A firestorm unlike anything we had ever experienced ripped through the Kinglake Ranges, taking lives, homes and our beloved forest with it.

The wider Kinglake area is the main ‘feeder’ area for my school – Plenty Valley Christian College. Many of our families lost everything. Most of us know someone/many who lost their homes, and lives. Needles to say, the College community went into shock, but banded together to support each other, and those in the wider community. As a staff, our main purpose was (and still is) to provide our children with the stable environment they need – for some, school is the ONLY thing in their life that hasn’t changed.

Like many, I felt a great heaviness, as I wanted to do more, but wasn’t sure just how I could help. Until I thought of quilts. A quilt is a gift of love – and love is a powerful healer. With this in mind, I decided to make a ‘snuggle’ quilt for each of the children from school who lost everything. But to achieve this I needed help.

My idea was to make quilt blocks – 9 of these would be put together into quilts large enough to ‘snuggle’ into. The task was a little daunting, but I knew it could be done – so I set about ‘spreading the word’. I emailed the College staff, an online Teacher Librarian quilters list I belong to, and my quilting gals. I let the College community know via our weekly newsletter, and the wider world via Twitter.

The brief:

  • 12″ quilt blocks (+ 1/4″ seam allowances).
  • Pure cotton fabric.
  • Any colour – there are boys and girls from Prep to Year 12.
  • Donations of $ or fabric or batting to complete the quilts.
  • Quilters willing to put the quilt tops together.
  • Quilters willing to do the quilting.

It doesn’t matter how many blocks are made – as well as our children there are many more who need a ‘snuggle’.

The response has blown me away. It appears there are MANY more who feel like I do. Emails have been coming in from around Melbourne, interstate and overseas. Individuals and small groups from within the College community to as far afield as Bristol and Rhode Island are stitching. How amazing is that???

This blog is the story of the journey.

A xo

 Angela explains how she has managed the project:

When I began the ‘journey’ I let my Twitter followers know, and sent the email to our staff, the girls I quilt with and quilting friends, put it in the College newsletter, and sent it to my ‘oztl_quilts’ cohort.  A few years ago ACT-based Barb Braxton twigged that there were a few oztl_netters who were also quilters, and she started up our oztl_quilts list.  We share ideas, offer ‘pearls of wisdom’ and even discuss things like Book Week in relation to quilts (we could make for our libraries).  We’re a small bunch, but we’re … well … quilting TLs – and disseminating information is our job! 

I guess I should have expected what would happened after sharing the email with those gals … they disseminated it … widely!  Those who had the time quilted, and those who weren’t able to, spread the news or sent fabric.  Quilts and fabric have come in from around Australia. When Jan Radford was in England she met Heather Southall (Librarian at the Red Maids’ School in Bristol) who is a member of the Clifton Quilters … and it’s this group that has sent so MANY quilts and quilt tops over.  Quilts have also arrived from Rhode Island, but I haven’t been able to work out exactly how they found out about it … they’re both teachers, so I ‘assume’ that’s the network through which the information travelled.

The whole thing has really reinforced, for me, the ‘power’ of social networking, the strength of the TL network … and how much people care.

As well as quilts, Barb has been, yet again, involved in her Teddy Bear drive for the children affected.  It seems like every time there is a child in need, Barb is there with teddies.

What a dedicated and wonderful person Angela is to make such a difference to the students and families at Plenty Valley Christian College. Thanks also to Barb Braxton for her Teddy Drive. What comforts you ladies have brought to those in need! And what wonderful ways to use the networks you are members of to help others less fortunate than ourselves.

Bushfire update

A Bushfire Affected Communities wiki  has now been established by the ALIA Disaster Recovery Project.

On the wiki (amongst other things) is the offer to residents who have lost books are directed to use Library Thing to create their own catalogue of lost reading materials and submit this so that a targeted replacement program can occur.

If people would like to donate books or goods then please send them to:
City of Whittlesea
Civic Centre, East Wing
Ferres Boulevard,
South Morang VIC 2752
Attention: Bushfire Donations

Also, a big thank you to everyone who has helped in their own way. This includes Victorians and people from interstate and overseas. It is heartening to see so many people work together during such a difficult time.

Bushfire update

From the ALIA blog comes the following news:

Australian library industry appoints central Disaster Recovery Support position

At a meeting in Melbourne on Friday 20th February 2009 library professionals and supporters agreed to fund and appoint a disaster recovery support role to coordinate their efforts. The meeting was organised by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and held at the State Library of Victoria. It  focused on immediate actions to assist bushfire-affected communities, as well as in the medium to longer term. 

Representatives were present from public libraries in the bushfire region, the Public Libraries Victoria Network, the State Library of Victoria, school libraries and school library associations, the Victorian Government, and the book industry.

It was agreed to call on all Australian libraries and library organisations to support and contribute to funding the position of ALIA Disaster Recovery Project Manager.  Many people in libraries and the book industry wish to provide relevant support for bushfire victims, and coordination of this swell of support from the national library association was seen as the most effective response we could make.

There was a hope expressed that lessons learned from the new position, which will focus on Victorian bushfire relief, will help libraries manage similar responses in the future and to create a model for future crisis management.

“Library staff are generous, but we are also practical, and want to make sure that donations and support from our industry are coordinated and distributed at the right time and to meet real needs.  We also want to work with the book industry to get a more coordinated effort going.”  – Derek Whitehead, ALIA President.

“The library industry has always been a supportive and collaborative one – especially in times of hardship.   This ALIA position will enable our industry and profession to develop models for future coordinated support when a disaster strikes.  We have already offered support from Public Libraries Victoria Network and many public library services.” – John Murrell, PLVN President.

Jane Grace, currently Outreach Manager for Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service, will take up the acting position of ALIA Disaster Recovery Project Manager immediately to ensure appropriate support is provided to bushfire families and the wider communities.  Ms Grace will also be working with Queensland colleagues on needs and requirements for flood affected areas.

 “I am very pleased to be able to take up this interim position to co-ordinate immediate support and future models and information tools to assist communities get back on track.  People are often well-meaning, but getting the needs and requirements right for the people on the ground is our aim.  Libraries really are providing an amazing service in these difficult times and making a difference in people’s lives.”  – Jane Grace, Acting ALIA Disaster Recovery Project Manager.

Calls for applicants for the ongoing position of ALIA Disaster Recovery Project Manager will be conducted in the coming weeks with more information available at

We would like to thank everyone in the library community who have been in contact with PLVN, SLV and ALIA and the library and book trade organisations offering support.  Please keep checking the ALIA website for further information in the coming days and weeks.

Libraries are at the very heart of our communities. By working together with local people and organisations, we can make a significant contribution to rebuilding those communities and the lives of those affected.

Australian Library and Information Association:  Derek Whitehead, President, 03 9214 8333 

Public Libraries Victoria Network: John Murrell, President, 03 5622 2849 or 0409 016 701  

Other contacts: Sue Hutley, ALIA Executive Director, 02 6215 8215 or 0412 764 922 

Victorian bushfires – you can help

Many of our colleagues and school communities have been affected by the disastrous bushfires that have swept large areas of our state of Victoria in the last few days. It has been declared Australia’s worst natural disaster and at least three schools have been burnt down. Many people have lost their lives, some of them children. Our thoughts are with you all.

What can we do to help? Australian and international readers are able to assist by making donations to the Red Cross (secure site).  Australian readers can also consider shopping at Coles supermarkets  this Friday 13th February as all profits from its 750 stores will be donated to the Victorian Government’s Bushfire Appeal in partnership with the Red Cross. Victorians who are willing to help in other ways can read the ‘Offer help’  page from the ABC.

On behalf of the School Library Association of Victoria, a heartfelt thank you to all of the volunteers who have been so brave and worked so hard to fight the fires and to assist the people affected by them; among them are the CFA, SES, Red Cross,Salvation Army and the pilots of the planes and helicopters that have carried out vital water bombing and the people who are assisting those left homeless and bereaved.

The School Library Association of Victoria is a  collegial and sharing network and we hope that this strength of community will enable us to provide support wherever we can.

If you and/or your school do manage to help in some way, please add a comment to let us know. Thank you.