looking at buildings, busses, boxes and burros
and asking the question what makes a library a library?
looking at buildings, busses, boxes and burros
and asking the question what makes a library a library?
A long, long (ish) time ago I was a student librarian in the School of Education at the Cape Technikon (now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology). It was during the second year of my studies that one of my favourite lecturers (Dr Liz van Aswegen) showed my class a video called The Mind’s Treasure Chest
Released in 1991, THE MIND’S TREASURE CHEST is a feature length educational comedy that teaches students to think for themselves. This film is a marriage between a Hollywood movie and an educational video. It’s about libraries, research, and information. It’s about history and hypothesizing. It’s about thinking for yourself.
Distributed in five countries, it won a multitude of awards, including Best Film for Grades 7 – 12 at the National Educational Film and Video Festival.
For Kennedy buffs, the film features a number of sequences that dramatize the history of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Parts of it are a bit dated, for example I do not think that many (or any) school libraries still use microfiche readers; catalogues are computerised and the internet is now available on broadband rather than a limited dial up service.
You may be able to show it to your students as part of their library induction or get them to spot the ways that school library usage has changed (and indeed, remained the same) but if not it is still an entertaining and educational film for Librarians to watch and reminisce on how things used to be done.
For this coming school year I am thinking about showing the new year 7s how to make use of the library using the analogy of computer hacking. I am also playing around with the idea of Knowledge-Fu and making the Library a Dojo of Learning – I will post something about that one soon.
Anyway on to hacking the library, these are just thoughts that have been coalescing, and if I can get it to work to my satisfaction I will post a complete program.
The advantage of libraries over computers is that a library will not be able to accidnetally destroy the world with global thermonuclear war if you hack it.
I will start with teaching them how to use the library and will begin with the Librarian as the (speech activated) graphical user interface (GUI).
Communication is vital to being able to use the library effectively and efficiently.
I want them to never be afraid to approach the GUI when they need assistance or even just to be polite, and will coach them to say something along the lines of:
“Hello” or “Good morning/afternoon Mr Imrie/Sir/Librarian”
I will then greet them turn.
I am very aware that I am tall and can appear stern or imposing if I accidentally loom at someone, particularly small students, so I want them to get used to my presence and make sure they know that this works:
C:/Good morning Librarian
Librarian:/Good morning small student
C:/Librarian can you please find me a book on origami
Librarian:/I have found three books on origami for you
Once they are used to the idea of coming to me for assistance I will teach them that information is stored in different places in the library.
Reference Works and Magazines are Read Only Memory (ROM) – only accessible within the Library
Everything else (Fiction & Non-fiction) is Random Access Memory (RAM) – random because at times it will not be available as it is being read by another user. Using the Librarian as the interface to the library makes it easy for the student user to know what is available at any given time.
The Library & Librarian is a combined tool that the student user uses to gain information or entertainment in the shortest space of time.
There are times when the Librarian is not available either due to upgrading, picking up a virus or busy helping another user and then the student user is stuck; as while it is possible to find information without knowing exactly how the Library works it can take a long time and often student users do not have the patience to find exactly what they need.
Showing student users how to hack the system without resorting to the User Interface is best begun in the Fiction section.
It is important to teach them the importance of knowing what they are looking for – Fiction makes it easier to do this as (in my fiction collection at least) the main collection is not divided into genres, only the reluctant reader collection is filed separately. So if they are looking for a specific book by an author they can find out pretty quickly if it is on the shelf or not.
If the book is not on the shelf I tell them that they have two options, they can either ask me if the library has a copy of the sought-after text or they can use the catalogue.
After student users have grasped how to search for Fiction titles and use the catalogue I will then turn my attention to Non-fiction.
This will begin by introducing them to the Dewey Decimal Classification System.
I have already developed lessons on introducing Dewey and will start with The Quest for the Missing Duck and then discuss the massive DDC numbers and subject headings on the wall as a way to navigate around the library.
I also have the Dewey Decimal Card Game but will save that for an in-depth session on the DDC System.
As an added attempt to get the basic idea fixed in their heads I will run a Dewey Bookmark making lesson with Dewey numbers corresponding to the subjects they take as well as the main subject headings.
I will show them how to access the reference books as well and explain why they are for library use only.
When students appear to have a firm grasp of searching the shelves using author names and Dewey subject numbers I will return to the catalogue and talk to them about keyword searching to help them find subject specific information in the non-fiction section and genres in fiction.
Bibliographies are important, they show what sources have been used to put an assignment together!
This is what I tell my students when they come in to the library for lessons when I introduce them to The Harvard Method of Bibliographic citation, you know the one:
[Author Surname], [Initial]. [Year of publication]. [Title of book]. [City]: [Publisher], pp.[Pages used]
The World Wide Web has made research easier and harder, easier because you can access so much more information (through school site subscriptions or everything that you can get through your public library service).
I had no idea how many sources could be referenced until I started researching what i needed to know to impart to my students.
Fortunately there are a plethora of online tools that one can use. My current personal favourite is www.citethisforme.com a website that you can use on any computer that has an internet connection.
The site allows you to scan a books ISBN, and using WorldCat will find and create a bibliography for you in the style that you prefer. You can create a free account to store your bibliographies online or you can use it casually which allows you to keep your bibliography for up to seven days.
A second tool that I discovered today is called RefMe,
it has a web-based component as well as a smartphone app that connects to a free online account. You can scan an ISBN with your smartphone and it will store the record and you can access it through your account. It is not as powerful as Cite This For Me and could not locate the information for several books that I tried scanning but it allows you to add the information manually and does have potential for further development. As with Cite this for Me it also offers bibliography creation for a variety of sources.
There is a new dictionary coming out at some point in 2015, many people may not think that this news is particularly earth-shattering as dictionaries are printed and published all over the world. The thing that makes this one special is that it is aimed squarely at people with dyslexia.
Known as the Maple Mayes Dictionary after the school where the idea has been in development for quite some time.
Father and son duo Dr Neville and Dr Daryl Brown have dedicated their lives to developing new methods that can help children to overcome dyslexia – a pursuit that led them to open specialist Staffordshire-based teaching and research centre, Maple Hayes Dyslexia School, in 1982.
Now, after almost 25 years analysing the way dyslexics learn, the Browns have decided to rewrite the dictionary after identifying that its layout, which is biased towards phonetic language, proves to be a huge stumbling block for youngsters with dyslexia. The traditional dictionary – as its name indicates – was originally a tool primarily to promote the correct pronunciation of words.
This is fantastic news; I work with a number of dyslexic students and am excited at the thought of being able to offer a new resource to help them learn.
I found out about the dictionary while reading an article on the NPR website about dyslexic fonts and their development.
The Dyslexie font has been around for quite some time, but reading about it and how it works has given me a new appreciation for the amount of work that has gone into its development, I was also not properly aware of how it worked, apart from the font being weighted – but that is only a part of how it makes words easier to read.
How the font works:
Telling students that finding information in a book can be faster than using the internet is fun!
I told a class of year nines this morning and I could see the naked disbelief in their faces. The moment the words left my mouth a sea of hands shot up and a clamour of voices stridently disagreeing with me filled the library.
They shouted that the internet was faster, easier and had more accurate sources. I managed to quieten them down and then one lad stood up and said that he would show me that using the internet was faster. I asked him how he would accomplish this and he challenged me to a race.
He said that he would use the internet and I would use the books in the library. The rest of the class cheered loudly at this.
I was rather surprised, as I had been planning on running a books versus the internet lesson in October so I agreed. I suggested that we both stand in the centre of the library and said that the first person to take the information they found to their form tutor who was also in the library would win. I also gave him the choice of subject.
He said one word: “Football!”
He ran to the closest available computer while I walked over to World Book Encyclopedia, took Volume 7 (F) off the shelf and looked up Football. World Book is an American publication, so the information contained therein was about American Football, but it did reference Soccer (Association football). So I grabbed Volume 18 (So-Sz) found the entry on Soccer and took it to the teacher.
By the time my worthy opponent had started shouting that the computer was too slow, so I called him back to the rest of the class who started accusing me of cheating. I disagreed with them but that only made their fury greater, they told me that it was not fair and that I knew where all the information books in the library were and could just walk to them and find the information I wanted.
At this point I gave a silent thank you to whoever was listening and then agreed with the students.
The point of the exercise I told them, was not to show off what I can do in the library, but rather to show them what they can learn to do. The point of library lessons for year nine is to continue helping them learn how to find relevant and reliable information for the work they are doing, both in print and online.
I think that the lesson went well, the class was quieter by the end of the lesson than it has ever been before. They thought about what I was offering them over the course of the year ahead.
The next lessons will focus on finding information online.
A zine (an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine) is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier.
In December I adapted a powerpoint presentation that I originally created to introduce students to the Dewey Decimal System into a general introduction to the Library. I did this as the original incarnation of the presentation was over-complicated and not very user-friendly.
I preferred the library introduction as it was simpler, shorter and had a better flow but I have found that students don’t learn from powerpoint presentations alone so I adapted it further.
Into a zine:
I printed the A4 pages individually, then using a photocopier I copied them as an A5 booklet.
If youa re interested in creating a copy of the zine for use in your own school or library then you may download the pages here:
For the past few months I have been tinkering with ways of teaching the Dewey Decimal Classification System to my students in a manner that does not make their eyes glaze over.
I am a bit of a stereotype as a Librarian inasmuch I love Dewey and what it does, but will admit that to the casual user it can seem a bit complicated andconfusing in places.
To that end I have designed a card game that can be used from Year 7 and up.
It is currently called the Dewey Decimal Classification Card Game but that lacks a certain je ne sans quoi, so if anyone comes up with a blinder of a game name please let me know!
I made test prints to see what they would look like and decided that the cards were a bit too stubby, so I lengthened them slightly as can be seen in this comparison between a first and second generation card.
These are the first eight cards I made, four from the Picture Deck and four from the Dewey Deck.
There are two decks, a Picture Deck and a Dewey Deck, with 32 cards in each.
Each card is unique and has been created with posed Lego minifigures. I am currently creating supplementary cards which I will make available as soon as I am able.
The game rules are as follows:
Each game set should have two decks, a Dewey Deck and a Picture Deck consisting of 32 cards each.
There should also be game rules, please note that players are welcome to adapt the game to the players.
Players encountering the Dewey Decimal Classification System for the first time can play the game using the main classes at the top of each card and at the end of the game get an extra point if they match up the Picture Card with the correct Dewey Card.
Advanced gamers and Librarians can play using the subject specific Dewey Numbers at the bottom of each card
Shuffle the decks but keep them separate
The aim of the game is to have no cards from either deck by the end of the game
Deal out both decks to people playing the game
The Picture Decks must remain face down in front of the players
All players must hold their Dewey cards
The person on the left of the dealer flips their first Picture Card (face up)
If the player to the left of the player that flipped the Picture Card cannot match it with a corresponding Dewey Card they must pick up the card and place it in the middle of their Picture Cards
If the player can match the Picture card with a Dewey Card then the two cards are placed face up next to each other in the middle of the player circle
This continues until a player runs out of Picture Cards
When this happens the Player with no Picture Cards must put down a Dewey Card and gameplay starts to go anti-clockwise
At this point players must swap their Picture Decks for their Dewey Decks
If the person to the right of that player cannot match a Picture Card to a Dewey Card then they must pick up the card
If a player runs out of Dewey Cards then the game reverts to the clockwise direction using Picture Cards
Gameplay can continue until all the cards are used or until a player runs out of both types of cards
This uses only the picture cards
Deal random cards from the Picture Deck to students and ask them to find a relevant book that will match up with the card
The winner is the student that finds the most books
Place both decks of cards face down on a table
Flip one Picture Card and one Dewey Card
If you can match the Picture Card and the Dewey Card put them together, if not flip them face down again and try to match another two
Or click here
Please note: the game is still in active development and as such the rules and cards may change with little to no warning. The game is stable enough to play.
The game is free to download, use and share but please credit Teen Librarian as the originating source if sharing with colleagues.
If you would like to offer comments, criticisms and suggestions on how the game can be improved, please leave them in the comments field below.