Thursday, 29 July 2010

What’s in a name?

Image by Jo Peattie

Looking at job vacancies in the education sector it seems that a rough generalisation can be made about nomenclature as follows:

Schools tend to favour library

Sixth form colleges and further education favour Learning Resources Centre

Universities favour Library and Information Services, with the occasional Information Commons.

I have also seen Learning Information Centre (LIC) at a Community College and Library and Learning Spaces, where different zones cater for silent study, group study and phone use.

I am wondering why, as knowledge migrated from print to digital, the word/image of library no longer appeared fit for purpose? I guess many feel that library equates too strongly to books and as such appears outdated and not reflective of the current service provision. The word library does after all come from the Latin liber, meaning the thin rind between the solid wood and the bark of certain trees which was used for writing on, before the invention of paper. But why did the word library fail to evolve?

Susan Beatty and Peggy White in the Journal of eLiteracy (Vol 2, 2005) believe that Information Commons offer innovative space and services to facilitate student learning and by doing so can show an increased relevance to organisational goals.

If one was cynical this could suggest a need to rebrand, market and justify expenditure on the part of the organisation. The need to be inclusive and student centred is imperative and it is certainly easier to rename in a way that appeals to today’s students than try to battle with negative user perceptions. Sheffield University describes its Information Commons with the tag line “more than a library, more than a study space, more than an IT centre.” This succinctly explains the function to include books and space and computers.

Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones because I have such wonderful memories of using a library as a child and adolescent, both public and school libraries. I’m wondering if calling it something other than library is an attempt to combat “library anxiety,” the phenomenon studied by Mellon in 1986, which found that many students believed that other students were more competent at using the library and so suffered from feelings of inferiority.

Whatever the reasoning, and terminology always has meaning behind it, the important thing is that supporting students remains at the heart of good responsive educational libraries.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Sentenced to read : literature versus prison

Image by elycefeliz

For me the belief that technology should be fully integrated into education is not at odds with my belief in the power of books and stories. Having said this I continually feel under pressure to argue the case for the medium of the dead tree so I was delighted to find this article in The Guardian about the transformative power of literature and reading groups .

Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) is an American programme which began in Massachusetts in 1991 advocating reading groups as an alternative to custodial sentences. Based on the Socratic dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living the programme has shown considerably decreased recidivism rates from 45% to less than 20%.

Findings from the programme on how literature transforms people:
  • By allowing people to investigate and explore aspects of themselves
  • By encouraging the listening to and appreciation of other perspectives
  • By increasing the individual's ability to communicate ideas and feelings
  • By facilitating dialogue where all contributions are equally valid
  • By the realisation that situations and feelings that are being experienced have been encountered by others
"I believe that stories can save us from the chaos of our lives, perhaps from
death itself. When we experience the unfolding of a good story, we experience
the unfolding of our own selves. We journey through language and discover our identity reflected there as if in a mirror. I am convinced that through these discussions we have all learned to carry stories and characters around with
us as we create that mythic place that brings us together. We have learned
in the process that our lives are stories that we can create and shape. "
Robert P Waxler

Powerful stuff that could be transferred to schools. We need to collect evidence about how engaging with carefully selected texts through reading groups can help children experiencing problems.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Wow Factor - Architects see Libraries as Cultural Hubs

Photo showing new build possibilities by advertisingelyse

Whilst planning a visit to the Royal Academy of Arts' 2010 Summer exhibition I stumbled across one of their podcasts by the architect Morten Schmidt about what modern libraries mean to him. Having worked on several new build library projects with the Danish firm Schmidt, Hammer, Lassen he really seems to have a clear vision of libraries promoting learning and knowledge. This is really positive and positions libraries firmly in their local communities. He talks about libraries as places to be inspired and surprised - something that library lovers have known all along! Also about the transition from collection to connection, a change that must be combined with the core values of democracy, comtemplation and free access to knowledge.

This video shows the inspirational new library designed for the University of Aberdeen.

The event was one of three on the theme of library architecture, at the Royal Academy, the other two being:

Designing the Inner World: Amsterdam Public Library (see more wonderful photos) and Public Library Enric Miralles, Spain.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Acts of reading

Image from Penningtron on Flickr

After reading the chapter "Reading in a Digital Age" by Anouk Lang from this book I've been thinking about reading groups and book talk in the online context. At the school where I work I've taken part in many face-to-face book groups from Year 7s to sixth formers but have not tried anything online yet. There were interesting points made about the need to carefully structure the discussion about a book so that the solitary activity of posting comments on an online discussion board became an interactive process allowing for discussion, arguement and dialogue. So, whilst there might be considerable benefits to an online learning medium for those less confident at speaking in a group, there is still a central need for a facilitator to mediate the learning process required to make appropriate and collaborative book talk.

It seems to me that if the internet is indeed rewiring our brains, and making slow reading more difficult for us, then perhaps mediated online book discussions could go some way to redressing the balance and making the internet a place where we can also go to ponder and consider an idea for long enough to actually understand better and comprehend more deeply.

First post

Prompted by the University of Cambridge Libraries "23 Things" (not that I work at the University any longer, but I have been keeping an eye on what they've been doing) I've set up this blog as a motivational tool. I'm aiming to submit my chartership application to CILIP by the end of 2010 and this should be a useful way of keeping track of Professional Develolpment activities and all things educational.