The library atmosphere back home

Coming home to the UK for Christmas, I was quite looking forward to going to the local public library for a visit – a nice chance to pick up some holiday reading, find out about the latest upcoming authors, and generally see how the place is going.  This has become a bit of a habit – this is the third year running that, working abroad, I’ve come home for Christmas and popped in to Farnham library.  Each time I do feel that it has given me a sensation of how public libraries are doing in England.

This time, I was very pleased to see that they’ve redesigned their teen area – and that it now looks very attractive, is out-of-the-way so it’s easy to settle down there without being seen (crucial for any self-respecting teen), and not so overdesigned that it will look out of date in 12 weeks time.  That, and the general aspect of the rest of the library, meant that it was on the whole looking great.  On the downside, there were less staff, no more computers, and a catalogue that wasn’t working.  (Yes, if I was working there, I would through my hands up at someone judging a whole library on the basis of one temporarily-broken computer, but back on this side of the fence it’s hard to resist the temptation).

However, the real difference was when I started to look around the books in the teen fiction.  It’s a great opportunity for me to try new authors I’ve never seen before, and authors I’ve been meaning to try but haven’t, and then buy them for my school library back in Bangkok.  Not to mention the fact that I really enjoy reading teen fiction!  However, this time round there were few unfamiliar authors jumping out at me, which suggests that there’s been much less stock bought in the last year.  I also found it very hard to find the first volume of any series, which suggests that there are a lot of constraints over when they can buy duplicates.

On the whole it’s a positive picture – imagine coming back this year to find the library closed, as has happened elsewhere in the country! – but there is a definite grey cloud, and if that presents itself in a busy, large-ish library like Farnham, it must be very stormy indeed elsewhere.   If anything, the fact that there is so much effort to keep the image of the library clean and bright, behind which there are less staff and less new new books, fills me with even more foreboding…

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US Study Trip Meeting 9 – Michelle Luhtala, New Canaan High School Library Media Center

US Study Trip Meeting 9 – 2/11/11, 10am

Michelle Luhtala, Library Chair at New Canaan High School Library Media Center (9-12)

Unfortunately Michelle’s school was closed due to recent storms (seriously, both of our schools closed for weather reasons at the same time, how unlikely is that?)  This meant I didn’t get to see her library, but we met for lunch and talked through libraries there instead.

Reasons for meeting

  • Winner of the 2010 National School Library Media Program award
  • Runs an online learning community for librarians at
  • Forward thinking in using technology to teach information literacy


  • Using easybib to generate citations versus teaching principle of creating references
  • Benefits and advantages of Overdrive – Michelle didn’t like being tied in content wise.  They have some nf ebooks, but none downloadable
  • Different types of datatbases and research tools, and how to promote these through Destiny
  • “We want kids thinking like open source software designers.  We want them thinking “how can we make this better for everybody?” “
  • Importance of getting students to use similar skills in different contxts
  • Parent volunteers – she was the only person to have anything positive to say about them

Josie to take away

  • Spend more time looking at, and Michelle’s school library site
  • Think about teaching productivity, free range media,  digital citizenship – do these interface with research skills?
  • Try to produce links – came out looking great
  • Come up with a mini-lesson on using URL to evaluate how useful a website is likely to be
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US Study Trip – AASL Conference Day 3

US Study Trip – AASL Conference Day 3

I got a lot out of the AASL coference, but by this point my mind was getting to maximum occupancy, and I found it hard to get as much out of each of the individual sessions.  I have no idea if this comes down to the quality of my brain, or the quality of the sessions!  However, it continued to be great to meet and talk with different librarians.

Pre-session – eBooks and Audiobooks from Overdrive/Listening Library

This was mostly salesmanship from Overdrive.  Whilst I already knew most of what they said, it was really reassuring to attend this session and suss out the competition in the trade show – I still think that Overdrive is definitely the right decision for our school (which is a great thing to be reassured about, as it initially felt like a leap of faith).

Taken away

  • Get in touch with Mesquite school to find out about what marketing they did
  • Chase Destiny up again – when will they integrate with Overdrive?
  • Email Claudia info on Thai copyright law, so that they can get us the licit Gutenberg ebooks
  • Check YALSA outstanding audio list for suggestions
  • Download Overdrive dashboard at school for better stats

Session 1 – Inquiry, interaction and knowledge; the student library website

I didn’t like the presenters’ style so much on this one – they kept rambling off into weird and seemingly irrelevant stories – but I did learn a lot from the content.  Unfortunately, giving my school’s understandable concern with things in Thailand like the Computer Security Act, we are very limited in how we allow students to comment publicly online.  However, I really liked the ideas in this session for how to raise a library website to the next level, and the sorts of information and presentation styles that work well.  And there were specific things that we can implement at Shrewsbury – for example embedding polls in the blog.

Taken away

Session 2 – Turing the page; purposeful programming for your patrons

I was really energised by the passion of the two presenters in this session – you could tell they really cared about their library and their students.  A lot of the angle of this session wasn’t really relevant to my library – it was all about doing things on tight budgets, and applying for grants – neither of these are things I have to think about at Shrewsbury, which has been a nice change in my career.   However, there were some interesting ideas to take away.

Taken away

  • Remember the importance of “surprise and delight”
  • Consider doing one-off book groups on a particular topic, or maybe even a history book group on fiction in a certain era –eg Roman mysteries?
  • Go into registration to promote something more often
  • Think about starting a Thai language book group youtime
  • Gaming – something to think about long term
  • Do a Book Tasting some time – sample of different drinks, along with books, drinks unlabelled, students have to match drink to book
  • “Collaboration is the best advertisement”

Session 3 – A road map to becoming your school’s technology leader

I’d been really looking forward to this session, and was slightly disappointed – it seemed to be aimed at people at a much lower technological level than me, so it was harder to get something out of it.  Again, there wasn’t much of an interactive element, which made it harder to continue concentrating.

Taken away

  • “It’s not enough to be tech savvy, librarians need to be tech leaders”
  • Focus on specific attainable steps, and keep adding something – eg. learn new things with Dreamweaver this term, 1 new/improved tech in a class visit each half term
  • Learn new technologies throroughly, in order to be confident when using with a class
  • Think about asking one of the US librarians I’ve met to be an online mentor for me to keep me going
  • Start contributing to INSET .  See if there is a school technology committee I can get in on

Session 4 – General closing session with Dr Mimi Ito

I found Dr Mimi to be a very informed and informative speaker.  I’d watched her short DVD the night before, and it was really interesting to get her angle on how we can/should be embedding new technologies and collaboration into student learning.  I found her lecture far more instructive than Nicholas Carr’s talk at the start of the conference.

In closing…

I found attending AASL a really valuable experience, but also very demanding in terms of the energy it needed, and being so proactive about talking to strangers.  I’m really looking forward to getting back to my library, and working with my team.  There are some new things I’ve learnt that I want to do at my school this minute, and others that will be things to think about over the course of this year.  Given the distance, I’m unlikely to ever attend AASL again, but I hope to stay in touch with some of the contacts that I’ve made here, and keep sharing information and ideas.  Maybe a few might come and visit Thailand sometime!

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