Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Schools and phone booth libraries

Today I got a link from my friend Edwina to a BBC article on a re-cycled phone booth in England, being used for an informal library. You put in any books you don't want any more and pick up something that interests you.

Sounds like what they have planned for Victorian state schools - those that are still lucky enough to have libraries at all. There was this article in the Age the other day which mentioned some school in Coburg (in Melbourne) that has scrapped its library altogether, though the Principal sneered that they had kept a few novels, for those kids who still wanted to read something that wasn't on-line. He declared that "the whole school is a library!" Translation: "Why spend money having a place for kids to go and read BOOKS, why pay for a teacher, for heavens' sake, to stamp books all day? They're all using the Internet now, aren't they?" Of course, the academic Kew High, which produces the best results, has refurbished its library and staffed it adequately. But who's interested in that?

A few days ago, my school's library staff had to go and see the so-called architects who are designing the new school. The place they had designed was half the size of my current library - just mine, mind you! It's a Commonwealth library, built in the days when the government hadn't started privatising everything. The new school will have four times the students, assuming we don't lose any.

But the architect lady told us we should be grateful to have a library at all. Seems that someone in the government is all for the idea of school without libraries - like the one in Coburg. And this half-sized monstrosity was supposed to be hosting the IT technicians, in an office that would jut into the main body of the library and make yet another blind spot. There was space for four bays of books - fewer than half of those in my library - and those were to be placed in front of a student lounge area - again a blind spot. No AV room, no library office "because everyone else has to make do with a staffroom, why not you?". They didn't even know we NEEDED a room to produce and process the library's AV resources. Andrew had to explain the difference between teacher-librarians, who have the responsibilities of other teachers plus library responsibilities and no time to leave the library to write reports, for example, and nowhere private to do their report-writing, because if you're in the library, you're on duty. We had to explain about what the AV person does and about valuable equipment.

They told us, with great pride, about their exciting new way of making the place big enough for parent-teacher interviews and information nights: just open the accordion doors on to a breezeway between buildings! How fabulously up-to-date, why didn't we think of exposing everyone to heat or cold?

No toilets, of course; said parents would have to find their way through the school buildings to the staff toilets.

There will be special areas between classrooms with class sets - nobody, presumably, responsible for these.

They said the new library would have no computers because it was the government's policy to have laptops used.

When I asked what the kids would use when they came to do homework at lunchtime or after school, there was no answer. Grudgingly, they agreed to put our computers on the tables.

No air conditioning for the school at all.

Don't get rid of the library, just work hard to make it irrelevant. Nice idea.

And this is the Labor government. What would the other side do, I wonder?

Hell, why bother to have a new school at all if it's going to be worse than the old one?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More reflection - and the Writers' Club

Today we had a writers' club meeting - we alternate. Next week Book Club. It overlaps anyway, though the Year 7 girls didn't turn up today. I did get Ebru, who brought her manuscript - several handwritten pages in an exercise book. She told me about it, but I suggested she come to the library at lunchtime tomorrow and start typing.

Willis began typing his entry for "Write Away Victoria". It was well-written, but unfinished and he's not quite sure where he is going with it. I told him about my method of writing the end, if known, and going backwards. On computer, it's fine.

Thando and Paige brought their re-written stories, which I think are just about ready to send, give or take a little fixing up of punctuation. Thando's first attempt was not crash hot, but the new story is very good, much better, and I told her so. Paige's story was a sweet, gentle piece, a lot like the author.

Ryan was working on his martial arts fantasy with the help of a friend - he's written a lot since last time. Dylan was working on his novel. Selena was reading a bit of it.

I need to find someone from outside the school to do a proper writers' workshop - if I can't do a writers' festival, perhaps I can at least see if someone will give us the money for a workshop. I mean, I write, but in the end all I can do is facilitate what they're already doing.

Still - this thing is working better than I had dared to hope.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Reflective blog - um, whatever! Book Club! Sunshine College West Campus Library

I've tried this before. It never worked. But this year, apart from the usual suspects, we have a strongly-bookloving bunch of Year 7 girls. They consider it cool to hang out in the library and talk to the library teacher about books and reading. One of them even agreed with me that Twilight wasn't particularly scary as vampire books went and asked for Dracula. I couldn't give it to her right away, because it was already out. Her friend had it! :-)

So as they were coming anyway, I revived the Book Club idea. I have around ten enthusiastic young readers who turn up on Wednesday to do book things. Mostly, so far, it's been browsing through new books and choosing from book displays, but this week we actually sat around and talked about books they - and I - had read and I let them know that Edwina Harvey, author of The Whale's Tale, was coming to town and would be speaking to them. Young Willis, who has already written me a superb essay for English - a Year 8 kid! - had read it and spoke enthusiastically about the book. Selena, his classmate, borrowed it. Willis was borrrowing the four-novel volume of Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy and I told the others about that. I promised Willis I would buy Volumes 5 and 6 if he wanted me to, though I personally hate the fifth novel and the sixth is by the author of Artemis Fowl (they had heard of him!).Thando of 8B wanted to tell the others about a fabulous book she had read called Ten Things I Hate About Me (someone else borrowed that on her recommendation). Her friend Paige wanted to know about Jane Eyre, which she had picked up from the display area. I felt able to explain the concept of Gothic romance - the young woman who goes as a governess (live-in schoolteacher, I explained)to a country home and falls in love with the boss, who has a Deep Dark Secret. I told them I had bought it because I wanted somewhere for Twilight readers to go when they had finished the series. Paige borrowed it. When I saw her yesterday she was quite enthusiastic so far.

I considered it a huge achievement last year when I got Jacinta to read and enjoy two books after she had refused to read even one, and it was - but we do have to look after the good readers too. They're the ones who actually turn up in the library, willingly.

Current plans are to take them to Teen Booktalkers next term, if I can get permission.