For My Mother

For Margaret Davy

21st August 1931 – 2nd November 2012

Without Your Song

Your glorious voice that threaded through my childhood is silenced forever.
But I can still hear you in my head
singing those old songs,
which I will never forget.

When you sang somewhere new your voice soared above all others.
People would turn to look,
shivers running down spines
at the sweet beauty of your gift.

Memories of childhood flicker like a filmstrip through my mind:
Soapy Joe, crisp new dresses,
shrimping nets and rockpool days,
floating on crystal notes.

Holding your hand in the last days and listening to your breathing,
I thought about happy times,
how you had loved us all,
and smiled through grateful tears.

The last thing you said to me was “I love you, don’t be sad”.
Well I am sad, but also joyful
to think how fortunate I have been
with you as my mother.

Also see Tribute to my Dad

Loving LibGuides!

Well, I haven’t posted for a while again. The challenge of working  every day when suffering from a debilitating illness means that some things simply don’t get done! And writing personal blog posts is one of them.

Despite my illness, I am still trying to drive the development of our Library Services forward. Since last summer, I have been working at our Junior School, upgrading and improving the Library there. It has been fantastic to get such positive feedback from the staff.

At our Senior School, the newish Library continues to be an inspiring place to work every day. It has been so frustrating trying to cope with a weak voice as this has meant that a lot of the exciting aspects of being a school librarian have been out of the question. Slowly, however, I have been dipping my toe in the teaching side again.

What I am able to do is connect with the school community using web-based tools – Twitter, Facebook and the developing library website, Library Online. This site was beginning to get almost too big and I started to think about how I actually want to continue its development. I have decided that I want to use it as a hub for all of the other services that our Library Service subscribes to, such as SlideShare, Prezi, Vodpod, and so on.

I had read about other librarians’ use of LibGuides to create pathfinders or research guides for their communities. Well respected school librarians like Buffy Hamilton and Joyce Valenza had blogged about LibGuides and I had read about college and university librarians using this service too. To continue the development of web-based virtual library services, I needed something that would enable me to make and edit pages quickly, that would blend into the existing website and that would be stable long term.

For a while, I have used Netvibes both personally and for the library and I find this very useful. But I wanted a service that would do more. Bear in mind that we do not have a VLE in this school.


Research Guides on LibGuides

Our Research Guides on LibGuides


So, I have now been using LibGuides since before Christmas and what do I like about it the most?

  1. The ability to create guides based on existing ones. You can make template guides and re-use these for consistency. Also, you can search through guides made by other librarians and, with permission, re-use these to save time – there are 1000s of fantastic ready made guides available.
  2. You can also re-use boxes across guides. This saves so much time when building new guides and you can re-use your own content.
  3. You can include downloadable documents so that students can access worksheets and powerpoints from home. Or you can embed files using widgets and html so that videos or presentations will run directly on the guide.
  4. Springshare will customise your guide to look similar to your existing web page if you wish. Then you have the ability to further customise your content.
  5. You can easily make widgets to embed links to your guides in your library or school website so that students can find them quickly. This is beginning to drive the hit rate on Library Online upwards as students now check there first to see if a new guide has been made.
  6. So far, the teachers who have got on board are really pleased with the research guides I have made and I have also had really favourable comments from many students. It is showing the role of librarian in a different light to some students and also the staff!
  7. I like the way that I can easily see the number of hits each guide has had and also see other statistics of the use of the guides.

I think this post is now long enough, so I will sign off now, but come back to this subject again soon as my knowledge and use of LibGuides develops.

Finding my voice

Well, I toyed with calling this post “Dumb and Dumber”, but decided against it! Some of you may know that I have been struggling with my health for some time. I was off work last year for some months and am now managing to get in every day, which is great. However, my illness has resulted in me losing my voice for about the last eighteen months. I can only speak in a breathy whisper and cannot project my voice at all. This is very difficult for a school librarian. No, we don’t merely sit behind a desk stamping out the occasional book! In my school, I was just beginning to develop some classes teaching research skills and supporting reading development work before I was absent. This has been extremely difficult to pick nup again in my present circumstances.

Also, without a strong voice, I have felt unable to speak in other ways. I have neglected this blog and have not written much or communicated with many of my friends – I cannot really use the phone either! As you can imagine, this is very frustrating and annoying – particularly for someone like me who loves to talk.

It has been difficult to watch classes coming in to the Library and know that I cannot engage with the students in the way I would like. In my first couple of years, I was beginning to develop some nice teaching materials and plans to use with them. So, I got to thinking about how I could at least try to do some of the teaching again, whilst being careful not to strain my voice until the therapy I am having starts to have an effect.

One thing that was very successful with our students was using a wiki to engage them in writing about their reading development. I decided that I would try to introduce this to our Year 7 and 8 students. I had made a PowerPoint a couple of years ago and wondered if I could manage to use this to present to the classes. Then, I had a brainwave – why not record my commentary and play it back to each class? That way, I would only have to do this once and I would be able to re-use it as many times as I liked. Also, I would be able to do the recording at home in peace and quiet and take my time over it.

I know there is a function on PowerPoint itself to record a commentary, but I like to do things a bit differently. One of the ideas I have had throughout this new job is that I try to model examples of Web2.0 tools in my own teaching so that our staff and students can see them being used in practical situations. I have already used VoiceThread to do online presentations and I thought that our students would quite like it, so I used it to record my comments on each slide. In the lesson, I showed the class where I had the VoiceThread embedded in the Library Online website, then I ran it as a presentation. Our students are generally great and they showed such patience in listening to my strange voice. And they were allowed to giggle a bit!

Anyway, here it is:

Introduction to the wiki on VoiceThread (I can’t seem to embed it at the moment, for some reason!)

Living and learning with an iPad #2 First week

My iPad arrived on Monday 16th May at around 10.00 a.m. As I am not working mornings at the moment, I couldn’t resist opening the box and having a look. Having never owned anything by Apple before, my first impression was about how lovely even the packaging is – how sad is that!

I am only used to PCs and laptops, so even working out what to do with the iPad was odd at first. But it was very easy to see how to switch on, link to my laptop and get started. I played around with it for a while, then decided to read an iBook called  “The iPad 2 Starter Guide, by the Macworld Editors (available free from the iBook Store). It helps me to read something when I have already had a go at working things out for myself. I am now a dab hand at flicking, pinching and scrolling!

The pre-installed apps are things like a basic Calendar, Contacts, Notes and Maps and I quickly worked out how to get Mail to link to my Gmail. My husband is very non-techy, but he was fascinated by how the Maps worked. As I have only got the wireless version and not the 3G, he won’t be able to use it for navigation though.

By synching with my laptop, I have copied across all of my photos and music and have also worked out how to get compatible ePUB versions of e-books across to the iPad too. There are also lots of free e-books available through iTunes or iBooks too.

Using Twitter and other networks, I asked friends and colleagues to tell me their favourite apps and I have installed a range of free ones so far. I also got a lot more today from a neat booklet which came free with the Sunday Telegraph! When I have more knowledge, I will see if I want to buy more, particularly some to go in the Productivity folder. Now that I have had the iPad for a week, I have done the typical librarian stuff and started to organise my apps into folders as I don’t want to have to scroll through loads of home screens to find them. Some of them may end up being moved into better folders later on.

I will list what I have downloaded here for now:


  1. Culture: Intelligent Life from the Economist, Musee du Louvre
  2. Fashion: Elle, Marie Claire
  3. Food: Epicurious, Good Food
  4. News: BBC News, CNN, Daily Telegraph, FeeddlerRSS, Flipboard, Pulse News, Sky News, Zite
  5. Photography: ExploreFlickr, Guardian Eyewitness, Instagram, PS Express
  6. Productivity: Dragon Dictation, Prezi Viewer
  7. Property: Primelocation, Rightmove
  8. Reference: Dictionary, Discover, IMDb, Wikipanion
  9. Social Media: Facebook (not an app, just a link to the site), Hootsuite, MyPad, Taptu, Twitter, Tweetdeck
  10. Sport: iCricket, iRugby, PremRugby, Sky Sports News
  11. Travel: Best Western to Go!, Google Earth, RoughGuides World Lens, TripAdvisor
  12. TV: 4oD Catch Up, BBC iPlayer
  13. Utilities: iPF (Apple iPad Forums), Night Stand, Scan, Weather+, Wi-Fi Finder

Not in folders

  1. Diigo
  2. Dropbox
  3. Evernote
  4. Google Search
  5. iBooks
  6. Shazam
  7. TED
  8. Plus web pages I visit a lot saved on the home page (dare I admit my addiction to….. no!)

Some of these seem to work better than others, so they may have been removed before I post next time! My next post will probably take the form of looking at individual apps – particularly the ones I am using the most so far.

Living and learning with an iPad #1 Why, why why?

iPad 2

iPad 2

I must admit that I have a weakness for sexy gadgets and have been saving up for an iPad or iPhone for ages! In the end, I decided to go with the iPad rather than an iPhone as I don’t really use mobile phones that much – is it a bit embarrassing to admit that? For some reason, I have a bit of a reputation as a geek in this school and yet I don’t use phones very often!

Anyway, I thought it might be an interesting idea to blog about how I learn to use the iPad right from the beginning. I have bought it because:

a) As I said, I have a weakness for gadgets. I already own a Sony Reader, but have managed to stop myself from getting a Kindle as well.

b) Quite a few of my more “techy” friends have got iPads and have been raving about them. One friend had shown me around her iPad and I was hooked!

c) I wanted something more portable than my large and heavy laptop to take on trips and maybe to work. I thought I might use it to access the web and to organise myself better. Some of the apps available for iPad also looked very intriguing and I wanted to find out more about them.

d) I also thought that I would like to try out the device with a view to thinking about how it might be used in a teaching and learning environment like the library. I want to keep this newly developed library at the forefront of exciting ways of teaching and learning if I can. So a lot of questions have been buzzing around my head about e-readers and other gadgets.

My iPad arrived two days ago and so my next post will be about how I am beginning to find my way around it and then I will follow with further posts about possible uses in the school library.

Please share your own thoughts in the comments of this blog as I would be really interested to see what you think.

CILIP and school libraries

I was glad to see this page on the CILIP website clearly showing their work in relation to school libraries. They have also recently issued a statement “School Libraries – A Right” on the role and value of school libraries. They say “It sets out the core entitlements that every child, school’s teaching team and wider school community should expect to receive. It provides the case for a properly resourced, professionally staffed school library.”

CILIP Statement on School Libraries

CILIP Statement on School Libraries

No, libraries are not dead yet!

In the last few days, as I have continued to read the massive outpouring of writing supporting libraries, I have come across one or two pieces that have disturbed me somewhat. Sounding the death-knell for libraries as we know them is of course disturbing for a librarian! However, maybe it is necessary to read pieces like these occasionally so that people like me can re-assess our opinions. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have a passionate belief in the power of libraries and librarians to make a difference. So, to be honest, some aspects of what I have read have made me very annoyed, but I will try to answer some of the points in a measured way, with an emphasis on school libraries.

What is a library?

What these pieces seem to have in common for me is a fundamental misunderstanding of what a library is. In my view, a library is not simply a warehouse or museum for books. It is not even a store-room for a range of resources – books, magazines, DVDs, electronic databases, e-books and so on. Neither is it just a place where people visit to borrow resources or to sit and read or study. A library is much more than this. From my point of view as a school librarian, a library for me is a place where reading for pleasure is encouraged and developed, where the school community is supported with information literacy and where developing technologies are seamlessly blended into the learning and teaching experience. There are other roles – for example, often libraries fulfil a pastoral need for many students. Libraries can be virtual places too – many school libraries have extensive websites offering 24/7 access to resources, teaching materials and professional support – enabling us to reach out into our communities beyond the physical space.

E-book development

The other thread in this “death of libraries” meme comes from the growth in e-book development and Amazon’s announcement of a massive increase in e-book purchasing. Well, of course, they sold shedloads of their Kindle e-book readers at Christmas and so people need something to read on their shiny new toys! It would be interesting to know how many of these end up at the back of cupboards a few months into 2011. But that is an aside. Again, predictions in technology development are extremely risky and we don’t really know how quickly e-books will take over the world, if they actually do. Certainly, there are massive issues for libraries unless we can get agreements from publishers and other organisations to put affordable lending models in place for school and public libraries.

The “death of libraries” commentators quite often seem to assume that our students can afford to buy all of the books they want – whether electronic or paper. E-books are not free unless they are out of copyright, downloaded illegally or made available as an enticement to make more purchases. Nor is everything yet available as an e-book – although that may come. Many books may not be suitable for digital conversion and the vast array of archival materials may never be fully digitised. Nor do all students have devices for reading e-books – most do have mobile phones of course, but there will always be some students who do not. Many students I speak to every day are not enticed by e-books and prefer printed books – this may change, of course, but there are still significant numbers of young people who are not keen on some kinds of technology.

The joys of browsing

What libraries offer, which bookshops and online retailers do not, is the concept of risk-free browsing and serendipity together with expert advice. In my school, many students can afford to buy every book that they want. But the library enables them to find books that they didn’t know existed and take a “risk” with reading something different with no financial penalty! If they don’t like the book, they can bring it back with no loss. They can share good reads with each other in class, during book groups, using our reading development wiki or with informal chat. The librarian can build a relationship with students to make a personalised suggestion for their next read, far better than the recommendations of online retailers. The same goes for information-seeking. Very few students or teachers know the exact resource that will help to answer their needs – the library exists to help support the curriculum and extra-curricular interests using the guidance of the librarian.

Future directions

Yes, we can and should discuss the future direction of libraries. Nothing should be set in stone. We should be looking at a space for a range of activities: a place for study, for quiet reading, for exciting teaching and learning, for creativity and imagination. We need to talk about what that space could look like. In my own school, we tried to make a new library that would fit the needs of our school community, marrying a traditional feel on the one hand and also building in features for our future needs (although those are notoriously difficult to predict). That is why our library has the words “Think, Ask, Read, Imagine, Create” on all of our publications and displays. Many school libraries around the world are being developed with these ideas of imagination and creativity being at the forefront – the library as a place for making things, broadcasting, and even performance!

The Librarian is the Library

The biggest issue that I have with so many of these “Libraries RIP” pieces is how often librarians are ignored or only added in as an afterthought. The librarian is the person who makes the space a library, rather than a collection of resources housed in a room. A good librarian makes the service personal in the school – we get to know our community and create that personal interaction that is vital in such a busy world. It seems to me that if a headteacher can write a post about libraries and not once mention the librarian, what does that say about the status of the librarian in that school? Why are the talents of a professionally qualified person not being showcased or even used properly? Does the headteacher actually understand what the librarian does?

In my own school, we were clear that the development of the new library was only the start of my job. Once it was open, even though we had the furniture, resources and ICT equipment, my work was then really beginning! My job is now to work with the school community to put the library at the heart of teaching and learning so that our students achieve their potential and are prepared for their future studies in Higher Education or for the working world. To achieve this, I go back to the main functions of my role, as I and my Headmaster see them:

  • The development of reading for pleasure – helping our students to enjoy their reading journeys, with books, magazines, graphic novels, online resources.
  • Helping our students to improve their information literacy skills – working collaboratively with teaching staff to support students’ research skills and help them handle a range of media effectively. Preparing them for HE means a lot more than being able to use Wikipedia!
  • Supporting my school with the use of developing technologies – by showcasing innovative use of hardware such as flip video cameras, IWBs, mobile phones or Web2.0 sites such as Animoto, VoiceThread, wikis and blogs in teaching and learning.

No, libraries are not dead yet! And in my heart, I believe they never will be!

This piece has now got rather too long for a blog post! I will stop now and open this to comments – what do you see as the future for libraries and school libraries in particular? What is your imaginative thinking? How do you see librarians developing our role?

These are some of the articles that set me thinking:

School Libraries RIP? The debate begins…, by Mark S Steed

A great reply to this one from Nicola McNee:

“School Libraries RIP? – an open reply to An Independent Head, by Nicola McNee

Some Simple Thoughts About Libraries, by Joe Craig

Edit: I have since come across these two articles as well:

2010 Summary: libraries are still screwed, by Eric Hellman

2010: the year of the cloud, by Doug Johnson

I found these last two via the wonderful Skerricks blog: