Guest Post: Santhoshi Chander, “A Love Letter to Parkes”

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I was trying to find the words to look back on an eventful season with Parkes Shire Libraries, culminating in this year’s Australian national award for innovation in library youth services. I could have talked about how the country stereotypes have yielded to reveal a town of tough and funny and mad and passionate people. I could have recounted how all the amazing things we’ve done were really about a community that was ready for change, and a bunch of smart librarians who recognised that fact, and who drafted in an outsider to provoke and support and sustain that change.

Instead, I wanted the last word to come from someone else. One of our local writers, but one who – like me – came to Parkes a stranger and a foreigner. 

Santhoshi Chander of the town writers’ group Author-rised kindly allowed me to share her thoughts about the experience of finding a new home out in the Aussie regions. “Ex-city-slicker” San divides her time between Sydney and Parkes.

A Country Fling, or
A Love Letter to Parkes

It seemed from the beginning the stakes were against us. I’m not claiming our story has Romeo and Juliet status. But in our own way, we started as star crossed lovers.

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Adventures on the Front Lines of Modern Librarianship – Guest Post from Adrienne Hannan of Wellington City Libraries

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Over the past couple of years I’ve run a number of projects testing the limits of the 21st century library – from online interactive storytelling to retail partnerships, live roleplay, and play-based learning for all ages.

With many community libraries in crisis, facing cuts and ignorance about their vital role in public life, the aim of these projects was to swiftly and dramatically push the boundaries of contemporary librarianship, setting precedents that could be exploited and developed after the first flowering.

One of my favourite places to visit during these adventures has been Wellington, New Zealand. Aotearoa’s capital city is small but lively. Its library ranks include the formidable Adrienne Hannan.

NZ Army reservist Adrienne invented the notion of the “Strategic Librarian” – a doctrine which sidesteps old-school leadership thinking to encourage innovation and accomplishment at all levels of a library organisation. Such an attitude is sorely needed if Australasian libraries, sometimes worryingly centralised, are going to avoid the fate of their kin in the UK.

In this guest post, Adrienne discusses some of Wellington City Libraries’ recent adventures on the front line of modern librarianship.

Getting back to human basics with our school holiday activities

At Wellington City Libraries we are intent on bringing stories alive for children and creating interactive experiences with them, so have embarked on a different way of running our school holiday activities recently.

We recognise that books, long seen as the bread and butter of libraries, are just a conduit to literacy, and children may require some kind of stimulating experience with the book to give it memorable context.

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Guest Post: Walking Through Walls – Library Spaces Everywhere

Following guest posts from Marta Cabral on treating children’s art with respect, Adrienne Hannan on what librarians can learn from military strategy, and Hamish Lindop on the best way to reach out to our customers, we’re joined this week by Auckland Libraries’ Baruk – aka @feddabonn on Twitter – an outspoken, audacious, and innovative librarian who co-designed and delivered our interactive teen space (featuring real live teens!) at the recent Auckland Libraries hui New Rules of Engagement. Here’s Baruk on ‘Walking Through Walls’:

We usually think of libraries as being confined to specific spaces that people come to. Even the more liberal expressions I have heard, “parks with walls” still focuses on a particular geographic space…with walls. And one wonders – does this attitude wall us in psychologically as well?

I’m an Aucklander and a librarian: although I grew up in a remote corner of north eastern India, I work in New Zealand’s largest city, in the biggest public library system in the southern hemisphere. A decade into the 21st century, the majority of the human race lives in an urban environment – but at the same time, the concept of the city is being re-imagined. This breakdown is a rich source of inspiration for librarians; here are three examples.

Frieze magazine recently published a piece on the methods of urban warfare used by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). It’s a philosophical change as much as a tactical one, based on a drastic re-conceptualisation of space. If a soldier sees an urban space as consisting of streets and houses, each doorway and window becomes a threat that could hold a sniper or be booby trapped. The IDF therefore ‘walks through walls’, using explosives to blow apart roofs and walls that stand in the way of the direction they wish to go.

“We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through and the door as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps.” – Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi

What’s good for war is also good for play: the increasingly popular sport of parkour does something similar, in its refusal to stick to prescribed paths laid down by urban planners. Parkour players – “traceurs” – make a game of moving vertically, climbing walls and jumping roofs to move between spaces. While at first glance it looks like it requires more athleticism and gymnastic ability than most of us have, it is more about one’s attitude to space, and really another way of tracing desire lines in the urban landscape. (See more on desire lines and libraries from Books and Adventures guest Jess Begley).

If we lack the acrobatic skill to move through the urban space as a traceur would, there are other options. Read more

Guest Post: Adrienne Hannan, “The Strategic Librarian” – Part II

Following last week’s guest post on what librarians can learn from the 21st century military, children’s librarian and New Zealand Defence Force reservist Adrienne Hannan, of Wellington City Libraries, sets out the ‘ten commandments of manoeuvre warfare for librarians.’

Manouevre warfare in libraries

Adrienne was a guest speaker at the Auckland Libraries conference ‘New Rules of Engagement‘ – now she offers 10 ways librarians can learn from the military’s can-do attitude and take our operations to a new level of efficiency, effectiveness, and panache.

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Guest Post: Adrienne Hannan, “The Strategic Librarian” – Part 1

On the eve of the Auckland Libraries children’s and youth librarian conference New Rules of Engagement: A Hui of Awesome Awesomeness, I’m joined by one of our guest speakers, Adrienne Hannan. She’ll be showing Australian and Kiwi librarians how to run a thrilling educational Nerf gun activity.

Adrienne is children’s and youth coordinator at Wellington City Libraries in the Kiwi capital…but she also has a rather intriguing double life which I’ll let her explain as she takes us into the world of The Strategic Librarian

New Zealand soldiers

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Guest Post: Marta Cabral, Teachers College, New York: Being in Wonder

This week I’m joined by an exceptional arts educator, Marta Cabral of Teachers College at New York’s Columbia University. Marta supports young children in creating art which is then exhibited in a gallery space, allowing her students to experience the roles of artist, curator, and exhibition guide. Her passion for student-directed learning and supporting the artistic expression of even the very youngest children is exceptional.

Here’s Marta on “Being in Wonder (Wonderings and Wanderings of an Early Childhood Studio Teacher)”:

Marta Cabral at MoMa NYC
Marta Cabral at MoMa NYC

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Dark Night: Bromance Coda – Carol Borden on Superman and Masculinity

As a coda to my series  for Auckland Libraries’ Dark Night, I’m reposting a great essay on the Man of Steel from Carol Borden, editor of Canada’s great online arts journal The Cultural Gutter.

As Man of Steel hits our screens and offers us a pretty brutal take on the boy from Krypton, Carol finds new and exciting ways to affectionately explore gender identity in…“Loving the Alien”.

Read Loving the Alien: Superman and Masculinity at Carol’s website, Monstrous Industry.

I believe in Space…and Desire: Jessica Begley on library design

A guest post by urban planner turned librarian Jessica Begley. What can libraries do to help users make the most of their spaces?

Like the Pixies, I believe in Space.

I have been fascinated by how and why people use space, and how subtle design can influence behaviour, for as long as I can remember.

As a teen, I merged this interest in social geography with psychology and came up with a degree in Urban Planning and Design.  I was going to change the world. Improve open spaces. Create spaces people felt happy in.  The reality I found was far from my planned dream. Rows of brickwork, overshadowing, trellis screens, and complaints all dominated my day.  Not even I liked the spaces I was approving.  Approving, not designing.

Fast-forward fifteen years.  I am still an urban planner, but only in my mind.  I have been trained to look at spaces, movement of people, land use, all in a certain way.  I can no longer look at a space like an ordinary person. Taking my kids to the shops, the park, the library, I analyse the flow of movement through space.  When I see conflicting uses, I see a design-based solution. When I see desire lines – the unplanned paths naturally taken by people in any setting – I read them.

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Guest post: Steve Saville on comics and creativity, part 2

In the second part of his guest post for Books and Adventures, Steve Saville of Alfriston College in Auckland, New Zealand, discusses the lessons to be learned from his pioneering comics in the classroom workshops.

Most educators currently involved in secondary schools in New Zealand would agree that creativity is a good thing and that it needs to be encouraged; that we need to nurture and encourage the creative young people who will solve the problems posed by our ever changing world.

We can all look to our own school environments and proudly detail how creativity is nurtured, encouraged, and celebrated in our schools. We provide ample opportunities for writing, artistic expression, the creative use of digital technologies, dance, and drama. Our schools have bands, singers, sculptors. We offer classes in creative writing and philosophy. It can be argued that we have countless opportunities for young people to express and develop their creative skills.

We can also think of numerous teachers that we would classify as creative in their approaches, talented educators who find new and exciting ways to get their learners thinking. Teachers who challenge thinking by making learners ask questions and by asking learners to seek the relevance and authenticity of material studied.

All of this is totally correct – but is it enough?

It may be creative to enable a learner to write a story, to perform in a play or to design a web page but who chose the play and who decided the topic and who wrote the brief?

There is a difference between asking a learner to produce a creative response to something on a particular day, as part of a particular programme of work, and allowing an individual to be creative.

More profoundly, how can creativity flourish in schools, which are essentially non-creative environments?

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Guest post: Steve Saville of Alfriston College, Auckland, on comics in the classroom

Today, we’re joined by Steve Saville, deputy principal at Alfriston College in South Auckland. For four years, Steve has championed the use of comics in the classroom through a series of innovative workshops which have allowed students to develop and publish their own high quality comic books. In the first of a two-part guest post, Steve tells the story of Alfriston’s unique comic book education project.

See more on comics in the classroom via the “comicsedu” tag on this site.

Like most teachers, I can think of numerous times that I have attempted to encourage or develop creativity with students, both in and out of the classroom. Like most teachers, my in-class efforts have fallen firmly in the realm of teacher-directed, and therefore dictated, creativity.

Comic book learning in action at Alfriston College
Comic book learning in action at Auckland’s Alfriston College

More recently, I’ve spent a few years encouraging learners to genuinely take control of the creative process, exploring creativity through the medium of comics. The aim has been to produce original comics that are of a publishable and professional standard. I have done this within a single school environment, Alfriston College. A potted history of our programme follows.

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