October 17

Who me? No, I’m just a worm!

Just a worm

Just a worm

Over the past 18 months, I’ve spoken at a few conferences. Last year, I was approached to do the keynote address at the University of Queensland Cyberschool Seminar. The organisers had heard the amazing Megan Townes speak about social media at a different conference, and she wasn’t able to do theirs, but recommended they contact me to see if I’d be interested. Just over a month ago, I delivered the keynote address at WATL’s annual conference, after being asked to fill in because their original speaker had to cancel. I’ve always made excuses for these …  along the lines of “oh, I wasn’t their first choice, they only asked me because they couldn’t find anyone better” … you know, imposter syndrome. And it’s been easy to get away with that, in my own head at least. Because I’m just a worm, right? A passionate worm, admittedly, and one who loves to share the story of her library and her ventures in social media, but a worm nonetheless.

Today, though, I lost the whole “oh, they couldn’t get anyone else” excuse. Because today, I spoke at the NSW Public Schools Libraries for Future Learners (#L4FL16) conference, and this was one I had to submit an EOI for.

Why was this a big deal? Because I hate speaking in public. Not like I hate Vegemite (which is in Amanda Palmer proportions, in case you’re wondering), but detest it with every fiber of my being. In the lead up to having to present something, I get stomach pains and nausea, so much so that at 6am before my keynote in Dubbo, I was seriously contemplating whether I needed to go to hospital because I decided this couldn’t JUST be nerves, I had to be getting really sick. When I’m actually presenting, it rarely gets better. My legs shake. My voice wavers, my face flushes, and I get increasingly tense as the time goes on. The slightest mis-step in my presentation throws me, and I mentally abuse myself for the rest of the session, and those three seconds are my takeaway – not the many comments of praise from participants afterwards. I remember the missed paragraph, the poorly described slide, the stumble over the statistics.

I could easily have not submitted the EOI for #L4FL16, and just gone along as a participant. There were some fantastic sessions on offer – many of which I couldn’t attend as I was running my own. But I’ve always said, to my students, and to my daughters, that it’s ok to do the scary thing. Whenever my students complain about having to do a speech task, I empathise with them, and tell them about my own experiences. Whenever my daughters start stressing out about needing to deliver a presentation at school, I remind them that I know exactly how they feel, and that I’ve survived every single speech I’ve had to deliver. And whenever I start to think that I need to go to hospital because I must be being consumed by some vicious new alien superbug, I remind myself that this is just your anxiety, Rodgers, and it’s not going to kill you, just keep breathing!


Will Kostakis, fellow WATL keynote and allround great guy.


Ngaire Booth, WATL friend find.


Presenting at WATL, featuring the coolest skirt ever.


So, today was a big deal for me. I presented, through nerves of jello. I got some great feedback – not only from the people who I knew in the room, but from strangers who weren’t compelled to say nice things to me, but who came out of their way to find me during our post-conference drinks, and chat with me about my presentation. Their thoughtful and inspired reactions made me realise that I do, in fact, do a great job – through my stress and my nerves, my passion for our library story comes through. I’m incredibly proud of that. I’m really grateful to the wonderful people who’ve given me the opportunity to share my story, and to those who have taken my story and ideas on board. There’s nothing quite like hearing from someone later on who has sat through one of your presentations, who lets you know how they’ve applied some of the stuff you have talked about. Or when someone gets inspired by something small in your presentation, and it turns into a fantastic collaboration of ideas.

Mostly, though, above all of that, I’m immensely thankful for my wonderful friends and family, who can tell when I’m about to do something scary, and who love and support me through all of that stress. To the people who mentor me, and who remind me that I’ll be fine. To the ones who listen to me hypothesise about what could go wrong, and dwell on how crappy I’m going to feel, and who just gently love me through all that. I’m reminded, at times like this, that I -have- anxiety, I -deal with- anxiety. It’s not who I am, it’s just a little part of me that is NOT going to win, or stop me from doing what I’m passionate about. It’s getting easier to come to terms with that, and to accept that yes, I am just a worm, but that doesn’t mean I’m insignificant. I’ve got awesome stories to share, and those stories matter.



Deb Hogg, longtime edufriend


Townesy – my rockstar.


Marianne Grasso – uni colleague, online sympathiser, and IRL friend

October 10

Mechanics, voodoo, and the library catalogue: reflections on information organisation

Running a library can be an overwhelming business. The depth and complexity of the task at hand is one that is not to be undertaken lightly, and a cornerstone of this library management task is the provision of a system by which library users can locate and access the resources that we work so hard to curate in our collections – the ubiquitous library catalogue.

I must admit, when I first took over the role at Evans High School almost three years ago, I took the catalogue for granted. It was there, running away quietly on its delightfully outdated DOS based system. I complained about its quirks, the blue screens of death that plagued it, and its unwillingness to allow me to use my lego mouse in order to navigate my way around it, but I didn’t really consider what was there, beyond just a database of the stuff we had. In 2015, we transitioned to Oliver as our library management system, and my interest in the library catalogue shifted gears, as I started to gain a more complete understanding of what it could do for our staff and students.

I still took the back end pretty much for granted though. We are a NSW DoE school. SCIS do our catalogue entries for us. I love them for that, and have had, on occasion, the need to contact them to query a specific entry, or to clarify why certain classifications have been assigned the way they have. The SCIS Wizards have always been amazingly helpful, and incredibly knowledgeable. And I just accepted the black magic they weave on our system, providing us with the spells to import the information we need, which just appeared like voodoo magic on the screen.

Cue ETL505, aka “My Semester of Horror.” I’ve struggled.  I’ve bemoaned ad nauseum – “why do I have to do a subject which teaches me how to do something that I’m actively discouraged from doing in my job as a TL? Why do you hate me so, CSU? Why???”

But then, I put on my big girl pants, reminded myself that I’m a responsible adult, and just got on with it. I worked my way through Ferber. No, wait – FRBR. The Functional Requirements of Bibliographic Records (IFLA, 1998) outline what you need in your catalogue entries in order for those entries to be useful. And, I have to say, it’s something I’d not considered. I just assumed that all that voodoo SCIS did made it work for me. Hider (2012) held my hand as I fell down the rabbit hole of resource description, and Manifold unpacked for me my ETL505 mantra – Metadata. Metadata. I repeat it because it’s a cool word to say, like a meditative “Om”.

So, the answer to my “why” questions? I mean, the one about “why I need to do this” – I’ve made peace with the fact that CSU doesn’t really hold a grudge against me. One of the goals of libraries is to provide users with access to information. That’s pretty straightforward, right? Students come in looking for a book to read, or some information about an assignment they are completing, and we help them find what they need. Ensuring that users are able to access the information they require is essential (Hider, 2012), and the systems we have in place to facilitate this information organisation are critical to maximising the benefits for users of our library service. It matters not how great our collection is, if people can’t find what they need!

I found the RDA Toolkit (American Library Association, 2010) to be a challenging experience. I found developing an understanding of the standards for SCIS subject headings (ESA, 2015) to be a challenging experience. I found WebDewey (2015) to be a challenging experience. (Sensing a theme here?) But what I also found in these experiences was a deeper understanding of the voodoo of cataloguing. I used the analogy recently to that of figuring out how a car works. Before I separated from my husband, he took care of all that stuff under the hood – I put in petrol, and turned the key. When I could no longer rely on his assistance, however, I had to figure it out for myself. I sorted out where the oil and coolant went, and why they were important. I had discussions with my mechanic about what that mysterious ticking noise was, and was even able to make some educated guesses about what might be wrong. And I gained a much better understanding on how things worked and why.

It’s been like that with this subject. Previously, I just relied on things to work in my library catalogue, and I called on the experts to sort it out when it didn’t. Now, with a greater understanding of the requirements of resource description, subject headings, and Dewey Decimal Classification, I can make my own educated guesses about where things belong, and how they should be described in order to provide effective access points for our students. I feel increasingly empowered to be a manager of our school library management system and catalogue, and to make modifications that suit the needs of our users, whilst still complying with the relevant SCIS guidelines. I’m becoming a more confident and enthusiastic voodoo mechanic practitioner. (And I should really stop mixing metaphors!)

So, where to from here? The future of information organisation in library services is only going to increase in complexity. When faced with searching for information, I must admit I rely on Google as my first port of call, rather than searching our library catalogue, and the preference of our students to just “google it” is a challenge we need to face as we move forward into an increasingly connected digital world. Ensuring that our systems for providing access to information are up to the task is a challenge, and requires a comprehensive understanding of the concepts and systems which underpin information description and organisation. I don’t think I’m there yet – I’m still very much an amateur enthusiast in the field of library voodoo mechanics – but I’m working on it!


American Library Association. (2010) RDA Toolkit: Resource description and access. http://www.rdatoolkit.org/

Dewey.org (2015) WebDewey DDC 23.  http://dewey.org/webdewey/

Education Services Australia (2011). Overview and principles of SCIS subject headings [online] Carlton: Education Services Australia. http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/Overview.pdf

Education Services Australia (2015). Guidelines to using SCIS subject headings. [online] Carlton: Education Services Australia. http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/SCISSHguidelines.pdf

Education Services Australia, (2015b). SCIS Standards for Cataloguing and Data Entry. [online] Carlton: Education Services Australia. http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/SCIS_standards.pdf

Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description. London: Facet.

International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA). (1998) IFLA Working Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Functional requirements for bibliographic records final report. München: K. G. Saur

Manifold, A. (2014) Libraries and metadata in a sea of information. [online] In Connections.Issue 89.  http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_89_2014/articles/libraries_and_metadata_in_a_sea_of_information.html

OCLC.org (2016) 300.  http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/oclc/webdewey/help/300.pdf

Schools Cataloguing Information Service (n.d.) SCIS Catalogue (OPAC), accessed September 2016 at: http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/

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September 13

I stand with you

It’s a Tuesday afternoon. I’m sitting in the library as a babble of voices filters over the counter. Broken English, hesitant and accented. Arabic, Cantonese, Samoan, and so many more languages that I can’t even begin to identify fill the air, as students, proud in their blazers and honoured to be serving their school, assist our Intensive English Centre parents in finding the teachers they want to talk to this afternoon. To see how their child is settling in to school. To discuss how they are coping in this strange new world of education in Australia. To contribute to the education of their child.

I’m so incredibly proud to work in a school with an IEC. The wealth of knowledge, of experience, of stories that surround me on any given day is just astounding, and I’m honoured and privileged to be a part of a team who support refugee and migrant students in their education, as they learn how to “do school” here, as well as learn how to function in another language.

What strikes me most, as I look around the room, is the expressions on the faces, of the students and their parents or carers. They are expressions of hope, and of joy, and of deep pride for the accomplishments of these amazing children, who’ve come across the sea, and joined the wonderful community that is Evans High School and IEC. They don’t see this parent teacher interview experience as a chore, but a deep and abiding privilege, an honour to be cherished. They acknowledge the power of education, and celebrate the role that we play in supporting their child, as they continue to live out their incredible life story.

So, as I sit here, finishing up for the day, and trying to finish off some paperwork, I flicked onto facebook. A post from Neil Gaiman appeared, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how irresistable I found that. But now I’m in tears. Silent, gut-wrenching tears, for the stories that are represented in this poem, and the understanding that so many of the wonderful people outside my window must recognise this heartbreak. Could see their own story echoed in these words. I sit here crying, and feeling helpless, and hearbroken at the unimaginable horror of it all. I remember when I first moved into my current house, in a bushfire area … we were evacuated a few days later, and the terror, the dread, the oh so difficult decision of what to take in case we lose everything? It still haunts me a bit. And we spent the evening at a friend’s place, surrounded by people we loved, and sharing a meal. We got to go home that afternoon, and sleep in our beds. Hold our loved ones. Look at our cherished possessions, and make plans for what we might take with us next time, just in case. This? What to take when you don’t know where you are going, and know that you most likely will never return? Unfathomable. Indescrible. Far too cruel for words.

So, I wanted to share it here, and to remind myself just thow lucky I am, to have the opportunities I take for granted every day. And how important it is that I don’t forget to use my voice, and my privilege, to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, and to support the right of those who suffer unimaginable hardship to seek a better life for themselves and their children. I stand with refugees. I hope you do too.

August 24

Book Week Day 3 – The Sound of Awesomeness

I love music, and I can rock out with the best of them – as long as the best of them are in my car with the radio turned up, or in my bathroom sharing my hairbrush microphone. That is to say, I harbour dreams of one day waking up with a prodigious ability to play or sing, but right now, I’m pretty much rocking the “loading songs onto my phone” skill as my singular musical talent.

Yes, I know book week is supposed to be about books. But I’m a rebel without a cause. I’m livin’ on the edge, man. I make up my own rules!!! (Sigh … yes, I’m really tired, I apologise. Back to the serious stuff.) For me, what it’s about more than anything, during Book Week and ANY week in Library Land, is the recognition of the power of stories. And in planning the Evans Festival of Stories, 2016 version, I had the opportunity to get some serious storytelling happening through music!

I met Dr Elliot Gann just over a year ago, as I wandered into the wrong room and didn’t realise until it was too late to escape unnoticed. He was at Educhange15, running some hands-on sessions on beatmaking, and the power of rap and music to connect and inspire students. By the end of this session that I really didn’t want to be in initially, I was sold. I’d made something that totally sounded like music – yes, me! Hairbrush singer, air guitarist, and steering-wheel drummer extraordinaire, made music! I had the best time, and I was thrilled to get the chance to chat to him over post-conference drinks. What impressed me most about my conversations with Elliot, and with his workshop, was that for him, music is about more than just making something that sounds great.  Music has power to heal, and to connect. Music is therapy and educational intervention. Music is a universal language, that transcends social and cultural backgrounds. Music speaks, powerful and compelling stories, and it gives a voice to those who have powerful and compelling stories to tell. And that, my friends, is something I wanted to be a part of Book Week 2016.

So, Elliot got in touch, telling me he was going to be back in Australia, and we organised for him to come along. A group of kids from our IEC signed up to his workshop, and he organised a couple of his friends to come along and make music with them. The rest, as they say, is history – a history that has implanted an earworm indelibly in my brain.


I didn’t get a whole lot of photos of the Today’s Future Sound workshop with our kids – mostly, it must be said, because I was flat out with our Write a Book in a Day workshop that was also running. But it was amazing. The guys were initially supposed to be at school for 2 hours. After the initial 2 periods, and a lunch time throng resembling a rock concert, and another hour at the end of the day, they eventually headed home, leaving in their wake many smiles, some new tunes, and an amazing rap son, written and recorded by a group of students who couldn’t speak English mere months ago.

I am so grateful to Elliot for the gift of music in our Festival of Stories. And I’m so thankful that, after some initial concerns about numbers, he assured me he’d come along anyway, and reduced the fee so that we could still provide this awesome experience to our students. He’s a genuine rock star, and I’m so proud to know him. We are going to continue to fill our library with music, and I’m looking at ways that we can get some of the fantastic equipment the guys used into our space. I’ve got no idea what to do with it, but I know that the kids will figure it out, and it’ll be music to our ears.

“We’re the science giants.
never would we lie ’cause we’ve got pride like lions,
why the violence,
I like the sounds of silence,
Whenever I’m round school
but not the sounds of sirens.
I’m down to try things,
and spread our mind wings,
found we like things
that let our minds think.”

Word!!! Seriously, how awesome is that? I couldn’t think of a better message to send – and it was composed by the awesome students of my school. That, my friends, is Book Week at Evans. Incredible opportunities, passionate story tellers, and enthusiastic students, who create stories that will capture your heart.


August 23

Book Week Day 2 – an action packed day with Alan Baxter!

I distinctly remember the first time I met Alan Baxter, although I daresay he doesn’t. I was at a PLANE conference, 4 years ago, and he presented a session on the importance of storytelling in learning – I posted about it here, the beginning of my fangirling author-stalking journey with him. (I say “with” him metaphorically – it’s pretty much been one-sided, and that’s ok, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mind. And it’s not nearly as restraining-order-worthy as I make it sound, I’m sure.)

This year, I was looking for some different book week events and activities. I really wanted to focus on ways that we could engage some of the students who might not normally sign up for that “nerdy library stuff you’re always bangin on about” (Year 9 boy, 2016. Snort.)

So, with the above commentator in mind, I thought about authors I stalked in my everyday non-library life. I contemplated who might impress him and his mates, who considered the library to be a great place to hang out in (#winning!!!) but who had never signed up for any of the activities we run (#boo). And, Alan Baxter sprang to mind.

Alan-BaxterHis website describes him as
an award-winning author of dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi and an international master of kung fu. He runs the Illawarra Kung Fu Academy and writes novels, novellas and short stories full of magic, monsters and, quite often, martial arts. He rides a motorcycle and loves his dog.

I mean, how much more bad-arse can you get, right? Look, he even has tattoos!! To be honest, part of the appeal of inviting Alan along was that I knew that his profile would appeal to my Year 9 male critic, I’m not going to deny it. But there’s more to it than that. I love Alan’s books. He writes fight scenes that make me want to go back to karate, no matter how much I would get my head kicked in because of my lack of peripheral vision. There’s a passage in the first book of the Alex Caine series, Bound, that made me salivate – the passion and respect with which he describes a significant book is one of the most stunning passages I’ve read in a while, and I kept rereading it over and over before I could eventually move on. And his respect for the power of stories just resonates to the core of my being.

I will say this, though. Alan doesn’t write for kids. He’s not even a YA author. He writes pretty dark, serious stuff. So much so that, when I bought the Alex Caine books for the library, it led to a conversation about age appropriateness which led us to implementing a Senior Fiction borrowing category for those books that might be a little more mature in theme, language and content for some of our younger students. So, why the choice to invite him along to talk to our kids?

Because, Neil Gaiman said so. And, whilst I’m a strong independent woman, I do what Neil says. Ok, not really (not all the time). But I do love what Neil says about censorship and allowing children to read what they want to. Librarians often deal with the murky issue of age appropriateness and censorship – a common question on a teacher librarian mailing list I’m a part of is “what age would X book be appropriate for?” I don’t fundamentally disagree with this question, but I’m also not going to limit the exposure my students get to authors who just write “books for teenagers”.

So, I flicked Alan a message. I had this idea that perhaps a “write the fight” workshop might be cool. Turns out, it’s such a great idea that he totally already does it, but takes that rhyme one step further, so on Day 2 of Book Week 2016, he turned up to teach some kids to “Write the fight right!”


He rocked. The kids responded really well to him. After the workshop, during which he gave some fabulous advice about moving the action forward, and reiterated Maria’s advice from the day before about the importance of research (which made my librarian’s heart insanely happy!!), he spoke to a group of high school and IEC students. And he pretty much said “ask me stuff.” So they did. What followed was almost an hour of kids grilling him about his work, and the kinds of stuff he likes to read. About how he keeps a character alive in his head. And about how he plans out his stories. I was so impressed with them, particularly with the IEC students, who’ve been in the country and speaking English for only months, but who framed some thoughtful, interesting questions. And I was so impressed with Alan, who took the time to thoughtfully respond to all questions, and who made everyone who interacted with him feel like their ideas mattered.

When I see suggested authors for school visits, Alan’s name isn’t on that 14115583_10154478127491983_9101801540591420055_olist. He commands the stage at events like Supernova, and has won numerous awards, but isn’t usually the first port of call for high schools. Can I suggest though, that if you are looking for someone to work with some students on creative writing, or to talk to some kids about why stories matter? Check him out. Or check out some other authors that may not necessarily be on the list of best selling YA authors, but whose books you’ve read, and loved. Our students are diverse, and their interests are diverse. They need to see that diversity represented in the literature they read, whether it’s diversity in character, or setting, or genre. If nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to extend your author stalking – ahem, expose students to some stories that they might not normally consider. And you never know where that’s going to take them.

August 22

Book Week Day 1: Werewolves and mermaids and dragons, oh my!

Book Week 2016 was EPIC – so much so that I’m breaking it up into multiple posts. This first one will deal with the awesomeness of our first guest, and the sensational sessions they ran with the Evans rockstar students. I’ll post a others with some reflection on out other activities, and how I feel about book week in general, so keep an eye out for that – coming as soon as I recover from the conference I’m currently on, and the uni study visit I’m probably going to be on by the time I get around to posting any/all of these posts. Week 6 and 7? Completely nuts in Library Land!

So, Day 1 of book week 2016 saw me getting to meet one of my favourite instagram author stalking victims … ahem, subjects. I stumbled across Maria Lewis via a link on someone else’s profile. Her hair initially caught my eye, but then I saw her posts about the upcoming publication of her first novel, Who’s Afraid? and I loved the way she talked about her work. I loved it more once I read it (which, I have to say, took me a while – both my copy and our library ones were always in someone else’s hands!!) And, I loved her work on The Feed on SBS (check out this video on Armoured boobs and ingrained sexism in fantasy – epic!) I contacted Maria via Facebook, and she was super-excited to come along and share in our book week celebrations with us. She’d just gotten home from a book tour of the UK a couple of days before coming to visit us – now, that’s commitment!

Maria spent an hour with a group of fantastic students – some of whom want to write, and some who’ve just adopted my habit of author stalking (I’m so proud). What impressed me was her emphasis on research – she spoke about how she used google maps and various other web tools to create a realistic background to her paranormal fiction, and outlined the process she used to created her were-world. They then worked on looking at researching their own paranormal/fantasy character and story, and it was a fantastic session of brainstorming and sharing.


Following this, she spoke to a couple of high school classes, as well as 2 classes from our Intensive English Centre. The inspiration continued, and I was particularly impressed when she talked about why she wrote her novel – she was sick of seeing thin, 14 year old red head girls saving the world, and wanted to see someone more like her on the pages of a book. I love that so much – the idea that representation matters. The acknowledgement of the importance of difference in our stories.

Lunch time saw Maria sharing tattoos (of the temporary kind of course!), signing multiple autographs, and basically developing her own army of fangirls and guys. There were some starry-eyed school kids in her wake as she left that afternoon.



I’m so grateful for the time she gave us, and I know that the students at Evans are looking forward to having her back as much as I am. I’d totally recommend reading Who’s Afraid?, and if you have the opportunity to get Maria to come and hang out at your school, you absolutely should. She’s awesome, and a much-loved addition to the Evans’ Author Rockstar Crew.

August 9

Book Week; or, why stories matter.

Book Week is one of my favourite times of the year in Library Land. My first year in the library, we didn’t do much at all, apart from posters and a display of my favourite CBCA shortlisted books. Last year, though, I hit my stride. We had a slam poet and a cartoonist in to do workshops and talks to students, and we had our first annual Great Evans Read-In.

bookweek1This year, the Evans Festival of Stories, as it’s becoming known, is looking even bigger. Because I’m working on a limited budget, and I want to create some different opportunities for our students, I’ve been a bit liberal with my interpretation of this year’s theme, “Australia, Story Country.” We have a British expat author coming, who writes dark speculative fiction and does martial arts. We have a purple haired, studded jacket wearing author, who plans on marrying Idris Elba, and whose first novel deals with Maori culture, werewolves, and PMS. We have a yank coming out to run a beat making workshop with some of our music obsessed kids. We have groups of kids lined up to write a book in a day. And, we have plans for an even bigger Great Evans Read-In this year, with more people reading, more costumes, and hopefully more cupcakes.

So, where does the limited budget come in? That’s a great question. I’ve had some fantastic support from our authors and workshop facilitators, who have helped out by giving me a really great deal on their appearance fees – still valuing their time and expertise, but also recognising our budgetary constraints. We’ve had numerous offers of support from our school community to help out with catering – which is a huge deal, when I have a literary lunch/morning tea on 4 days in the week! Students are being charged a minimal amount for attendance at author events, and any costs that aren’t covered by that will come out of my library budget – this will allow students who may not have the funds to attend, the opportunity to get to be a part of our celebration of stories. With some careful planning, and incredible support by our school community, the whole shebang should come in at under $1,000.

Why am I going to so much trouble for Book Week in a high school though? A friend asked me a few weeks ago this exact question, followed up by “but isn’t book week just for primary school kids?” My answer is twofold. Firstly, you’re NEVER too old to celebrate the power of stories. I’m an unapologetic story junkie, and a self-confessed author stalking fangirl. I truly believe that stories are essential – food, water, oxygen, these things keep us alive, but stories give us something to live for. Whether it’s a fantastical story about a magical school, or a harrowing tale of teenage love surrounded by the spectre of cancer, stories create worlds for our imaginations to live. They allow us to think, and dream, and feel. And, most importantly, they allow us to consider the importance of our own stories:  in a world filled with tales of wonder, our chapter, our volume, our verse, matters. Our story matters. And that’s the most powerful gift my library can give to our students, I believe.

Secondly, I teach in a school with an Intensive English Centre. There’s such diversity of experiences in our IEC students, both in their lives, and in their experiences in schooling. I want them to know that their stories are important, and I want them to be able to experience the excitement, the wonder of the book week experience that those who have traveled through primary school in Australia take for granted as part of their cultural experiences.


And finally (I know I said twofold, and this is a third point – I take liberty with numbers when it suits me!) Book Week gives me the opportunity to get my fangirl cosplay on. Last year saw me come to school as Wonder Woman, Dorothy, Doctor Who (Four, in case you’re wondering), Hermione Granger, and the Mad Hatter. This year’s list is still being worked on as we speak, but will include Harry Potter complete with invisibility cloak – I’m going to be away from school on the Friday, sadly. So, what are your plans for book week? And, more importantly, do you have any costume suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them!



August 8

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life …

My life has changed dramatically in the past few years.  I’m 75% of the way through my Masters in Education, Teacher Librarianship. I’m 2.5 years into working in the coolest school library known to humankind. I’m negotiating shared custody of my wonderful children, and getting to know myself a bit better. And I am, in many ways, a very different person to the one who started this blog, way back in June 2011. Today, as I’ve been exporting my blog posts from my uni sanctioned blogsite to this one, I’ve been scrolling back through some old posts, and recognising a common theme. I’m constantly apologising for not posting more regularly, or trying to give myself permission to embrace the fact that “done is better than perfect.” It’s an ongoing struggle for me, and one that I think I’m resigning myself to the fact that I will never fully conquer.

I’ve been feeling a bit blah about uni at the moment. This semester’s subjects, and my final 2, are both quite challenging – one academically, the other in terms of time commitments. I had been struggling with the fact that I have just been passing my subjects, and trying to be ok with it, when a wise woman and dear mentor sent me a message telling me that I was HD’ing life, and to give myself a break. It’s good advice, and probably something I would say to those in my position, because, you know, us welfare types are way better at the giving of the good advice than the applying it to ourselves. So, thanks Kay, you’re a rockstar, and I’m glad to have you in my corner.

I’m hoping to be blogging a bit more here, but I’m not making any promises, apart from to myself … it’s ok to just post some interesting links, Tamara. It’s ok to just share a paragraph and a picture. And, go back and see if that app posting thing still works, because that rocked, and it’ll help you be able to post on the go. So, maybe this isn’t really a new dawn/day/life, but I’ll still lay claim to Michael Buble’s other line … “I’m feeling good.” I love my job. I love my school. I love my family, my friends, and my life. And I’m learning to love myself a bit more too. That’s really something to feel good about, right?

So, if you’re reading this, say hi, and tell me, what are you feeling good about today?




July 22

Model Collection Policy Reflections

ETL503 Final reflections

I’ve been extremely fortunate over the past 2.5 years to have the opportunity to be working in a NSWDEC high school library, which was in dire need of some love and attention, particularly in relation to the much neglected collection. I almost wish I had completed this subject earlier in my Masters program, so that I could have benefited from the wisdom I’ve discovered from ETL503 during the process of making difficult decisions about the library collection!

I apprecieated the opportunity to develop my skills around crafting a collection to meet specific curriculum requirements in the first assignment (Rodgers, 2016). This final assignment provided the opportunity to engage in the meaningful and relevant process of proposing a Collection Development Policy. This has had significant impacts on my professional practice, both in regards to the policies we are developing to support the future direction of the library, and on the shape and scope of our library collection.

As my understanding of Resource Management has developed throughout this subject, I have been struck by how drastic a state our library collection was in before I started working there. I have also been impressed by how well many of the decisions my library assistant and I have made over the past years, have fit within the suggestions for best practice for a library collection. One of our main goals when we first began culling and renewing the collection was to decrease the amount of material on each shelf, as they were almost 100% filled. After our extensive process of resource evaluation and rejuvenation, our shelving is now at approximately 75-80% capacity, containing resources which are in excellent condition, and are relevant and engaging.

It is from this perspective that I approached this subject – as someone who had recently gone through a major collection overhaul, and was now looking for ways to ensure that the person who follows me will inherit a collection in much better shape, and with much more relevance to the school community than the one that fell in my lap. Establishing a clear set of selection criteria, then, has been of enormous benefit to both our library, and my professional practice. Ditto to the impact of our new Collection Development Policy. I have to agree with the Australian Library and Information Association Schools’ assertion that such a policy is essential, as it explains the reason such a collection exists within schools (ALIA, 2007). Given the fractured history of the library at my school, it is gratifying to now have documentation with clearly highlights the benefits of a well-resourced library for our school community.

I have also come to realize how important the multiple levels of analysis in regards to collection management are, as outlined by Hughes-Hassell (2005). Having an in-depth knowledge of my resources, a clear understanding of my students, strong collaborative partnerships with other teaching staff, and a sound understanding of the teaching and learning programs of the school, allows me to have a strong sense of purpose as I continue to build a library that meets the multiple varied needs of our school community.

I love books. I doubt this is an uncommon feature for any Teacher Librarian. But, as someone with a passion for books and the stories they provide, I have always found disposing of books from my own collection an extremely difficult task. This, then, has been one of my main challenges with the collection development process, and one of the key takeaway messages for me – understanding that in the collection development process, what you remove is as significant as what you add (Olin, 2012).

Finally, in recent weeks the importance of having a responsive and flexible collection has been driven home to me. Having spent significant time and energy establishing a Senior Study collection, in consultation with staff and students, and ensuring that all current Stage 6 courses are sufficiently resourced for our seniors, the recent announcement of new HSC syllabuses reminded me that our work is never done! Tomorrow, next month, next year … whilst many changes in education and school libraries may be predictable, and able to be planned for through analysis of such work as the Horizon Report, there are a great many potentialities that are out of our control. It is because of this uncertainty that it’s so important for the Teacher Librarian to be responsive to the ever-changing climate of their school community, and plan accordingly to ensure that the Library remains the beating heart of the school.




ALIA Schools, and Victorian Catholic Teacher Librarians, (2007). A manual for developing policies and procedures in Australian school library resource centres. 1st ed. [ebook] Melbourne: ALIA Schools and VCTL. Available at: https://www.alia.org.au/sites/default/files/documents/events/policies.procedures.pdf


Hughes-Hassell, S. & Mancall, J.  (2005).  Collection management for youth : responding to the needs of learners.  Chicago :  American Library Association


Olin, J. (2012). Letters to a young librarian: weeding is where it’s at: deacquisitioning in a small, academic library. Available at: http://letterstoayounglibrarian.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/weeding-is-where-its-at.html


NMC (2015). Horizon Report: Library Edition. Available at: http://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2015-library-edition/



Rodgers, T (2016). Resourcing the curriculum: priorities and issues. Available at: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2016/04/26/resourcing-the-curriculum-priorities-and-issues/

April 26

Resourcing the Curriculum – Annotated resource list

Annotated Resource List – Assignment 1, Resourcing the Curriculum

Britannica Online (2016). “Native American” Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://school.eb.com.au/levels/high/article/117303

THis resource is available through subscription to Britannica Online, and was selected after conducting a search on the database. Providing age and stage appropriate texts for students is one of the key requirements of the school’s Reading2Learn program. One of the core benefits of this resource is the opportunity to adjust the reading level of the text, depending on the skills and abilities of the class, whilst still ensuring that the information is stage appropriate. This is particularly useful for those classes that have a higher proportion of LBOTE students, as the lower reading level texts can be used to support students’ initial understanding of and engagement with the material, and then the higher reading level texts can be used to model more complex writing and text types.

Curriculum Support (n.d.). “Campfire -Stories”. http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/secondary/languages/languages/aboriginal/campfire/stories/index.htm Accessed 10 April 2016.

Campfire Stories in an interactive website, which presents a series of interviews from Aboriginal elders and community members, organised by local area. This resource was located via search on Curriculum Support. The website is simple to operate, and provides a number of first person accounts of indigenous experiences.One of the key benefits of this resource is its accessibility – both in terms of its availability to students, and the ease of understanding of the material. Given that it is a freely available site, there is no cost for use, which makes it an attractive option.

As a teaching resource, it has enormous benefits, as it is linked to specific syllabus outcomes, and provides a range of teaching notes and suggestions for activities, and relevant links to quality teaching elements. The resource has academic and cultural integrity, and is an appropriate medium to present first-person interviews, so that students are able to hear indigenous experiences from those who have experienced them. This provides students with greater opportunities to develop their understanding of individual experiences, which is an essential element of the Depth Study.


Kohen, J.L. (2009). Daruganora: Darug country – the place and the people. Revised Edition. Two volumes. Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation, Blacktown.

This resource was initially located via a search on SCIS for the keyword “Darug”, after a request by the teacher for resources which provided specific information relating to the Aboriginal land on which Evans High School is situated. The text located on SCIS was a 2006 edition (SCIS number 1324880), but further research located a revised edition of the text, which has updated primary sources and maps.

The key benefits of this resource against Hughes-Hassell and Mancall’s selection criteria (2005) are its authority, and the comparison with other works. The author is well respected in the local indigenous community, and the resource demonstrated a strong understanding of local indigenous history. Whilst there are numerous texts available which present useful information about Indigenous Australian history, there is little available which examines the history of the land and people with a focus on distinct Aboriginal regions. Whilst the presentation of the information may be relatively unengaging for students, it provides a depth and breadth of local indigenous history that would be of outstanding benefit as a teaching resource.

Laguna Bay (2011). Family anthology. Oxford University Press, Melbourne Australia.

Family anthology is part of the Yarning Strong series, which presents aboriginal stories and culture in engaging and informative ways. Texts in this series are used regularly at Evans High School library, and as such is included in this resources list through personal recommendation.

The physical and aesthetic quality of the text warrants its inclusion in the collection, as it presents both the fiction and non-fiction text elements in a vibrant, engaging fashion, which are appealing to a teenage audience. The other key criteria that sets this text apart is its appropriateness for learners. The content is accurate and informative, and presented in a variety of text types, in language that would be accessible for students from diverse language backgrounds. Other texts in this series would also help support the Indigenous cultures program, particularly in regards to the development of a sense of empathy for indigenous experiences, both as a society and as individuals.

NSW Board of Studies (2016). “Teaching heritage: Indigenous timeline.” http://www.teachingheritage.nsw.edu.au/section03/timeindig.php Accessed 10 April 2016.

The Indigenous Timeline resource from the Board of Studies site was sourced via recommendation from a colleague, as a site which they have found useful in presenting an outline of major points of contact between Indigenous society and British colonisers. The accessibility of this text, as a freely available website published by a reputable source, is a key criteria for its inclusion in the collection. The accuracy of the information presented is another feature which recommends it.

An element of the Indigenous timeline for teachers to be aware of is the cultural bias of the information presented. Whilst it presents a chronological background of Indigenous history, this is largely focused around Indigenous interactions with colonising and white cultures. This is a feature worth discussing with students, and allows for an examination of the nature of cultural bias in historical representations.

Pascoe, B (2012). The little red yellow black book : an introduction to indigenous Australia. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra.

The little yellow red black book: an introduction to indigenous Australia was included in this collection after reading a number of reviews, including those featured on IndigenousX (n.d.) and Goodreads (n.d.) It’s clear writing style makes it accessible to a wide range of readers, and ensures that it will be a valuable resource for both native English speakers, and the wide range of LBOTE students that are students of Evans High School. Its brevity (at only 140 total) also makes it an accessible text, as it is presents a breadth of information, without significant depth. There are a range of additional resources and research pathways provided within the text for readers to further explore issues as needed, which makes text an excellent entrypoint into many Indigenous issues.

The key features of this resource that warrant its inclusion in this list relate to the comprehensive and culturally sensitive way that it presents an inclusive view of Aboriginal history, over 60,000 years. It effectively weaves a historical overview with personal experience, and provides a clear overview of a range of cultural protocols and ethical issues for non-Indigenous people.

Perkins, R, and Dale, D. (2008) First Australians. http://aso.gov.au/titles/series/first-australians/ Accessed 6 April 2016

This resource was discovered as a recommendation from a colleague on a HSIE facebook teachers’ discussion group, and has been added to the Stage 4 program as an essential teaching resource for the unit of work. Whilst all episodes are useful for the teaching of Indigenous History, the first three episodes are particularly relevant for the syllabus elements relating to early British contact with Aboriginals. The documentary is well presented, and provides an engaging and authentic indigenous voice to segments of Australian history which have been traditionally told from a white-centric point of view. As such, this resource is particularly strong in the selection criteria of accuracy, treatment and authority.

The documentary episodes are extremely successful in presenting Indigenous history in a culturally relevant way. They employ oral storytelling traditions, which are an important part of indigenous history, should be incorporated in an understanding of Indigenous culture (NSW Board of Studies, n.d.) There are a wide range of authentic primary and secondary historical sources used throughout the documentary, which reinforces the value of this resource as part of a strong teaching and learning program for the HSIE Indigenous Society Depth Study.

Smith, K (2010) Nari nawi : Aboriginal odysseys. Rosenberg Publishing, Dural NSW.

Nari nawi was sourced via a search on Trove, focussing on early contact Indigenous experiences. This resource was produced to accompany the Nari Nawi : Aboriginal odysseys exhibition held at the State Library of NSW, and there are a number of resources available to support the printed text. These include a gallery of the rare images featured in the State Library collection (ABC, 2010) and the Indigenous voices collection at the State Library (outlined in Thorpe and Byrne, 2014).

This resource is particularly useful in assisting students with an understanding of one of the core components of the depth study, which requires students to describe and assess the life of ONE Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individual in contact with the British colonisers” (NSW BOSTES, 2016a). Nari nawi presents a variety of primary and secondary sources relating to the experiences of an individual Aboriginal person in the years soon after colonisation, and provides a distinctly Indigenous representation of a period of history that is typically portrayed from the perspective of the colonisers. As such, the treatment of the historical period, and the appropriateness of the material for an Indigenous Cultures unit, make this a worthwhile addition to the collection.

Wheatley, N. (2008) My place. Walker Books, Newtown.

ABC (2009) My place: Episode 23 1778 Waruwi

ABC (2010) My place. http://www.abc.net.au/abc3/myplace/

The picture book, My place, by Nadia Wheatley, creates an engaging fictional narrative about the history of a single house/tree, which features as part of the oral history of the children living in this place in ten year gaps, leading back to the year of colonisation. When used by itself as a resource, the map and key features of the text allow for an engaging illustration of the changing nature of a community’s relationship with the land on which they live. The text accurately represents immigration patterns and historical events through the lives of the child narrators, and this provides opportunities to examine the ways in which fictional and factual texts differ.

The award winning TV series based on My place, produced by the ABC, and in particular Episode 23, would also be a useful resource to support teaching and learning in this unit. This episode represents the experiences of an Aboriginal girl during the year of colonisation, in which she encounters unfamiliar animals and situations. The skillful filming and characterisation of these encounters allows for the development of a strong sense of empathy, and creates an engaging portrayal of a potential scenario involving an Indigenous individual with colonisers, supporting one of the key requirements of the syllabus for this Depth study. The website which supports the TV series provides students with additional opportunities to engage and interact with the content and concepts of the show.

These three resources were included as a result of a scootle search, combined with personal recommendation. Whilst they are fictional in nature, I believe that they are worthy inclusions in a resource list supporting an Indigenous cultures unit because of their potential benefits for students in developing a sense of empathy for the experiences of Indigenous people of a similar age to them, and for the opportunity to develop a stronger understanding of the role of storytelling and the oral tradition in a modern context.


ABC Radio National (2010) Nari nawi : Aboriginal odysseys. Radio National: Awaye!


Evans High School (2015a) HSIE Scope and Sequence document. Evans High School HSIE Faculty, Blacktown

Evans High School (2015b) HSIE Indigenous cultures program. Evans High School HSIE Faculty, Blacktown

Evans High School (2016a) Annual School Report 2015. Retrieved from http://www.evans-h.schools.nsw.edu.au/our-school/annual-school-report

Evans High School (2016b) Library management plan. Evans High School Library, Blacktown.

Goodreads (n.d.) The little yellow red black book: an introduction to Indigenous Australia. Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7764388-the-little-red-yellow-black-book?from_new_nav=true&ac=1&from_search=true

Hughes-Hassell,S. & Mancall, J.C. (2005). Selecting Resources for Learning. In Collection management for youth: Responding to the needs of learnersi (pp.33-51) Chicago: American Library Association.

NSW BOSTES. (2016a). History K–10 : Stage 4 : Depth Study 6: Expanding Contacts. Syllabus.bostes.nsw.edu.au. Retrieved 25 April 2016, from http://syllabus.bostes.nsw.edu.au/hsie/history-k10/content/1044/

NSW, BOSTES. (2016b). History K–10 : Learning across the curriculum. Syllabus.bostes.nsw.edu.au. Retrieved 25 April 2016, from http://syllabus.bostes.nsw.edu.au/hsie/history-k10/learning-across-the-curriculum/

NSW Board of Studies (n.d.) Teaching heritage: Oral history. http://www.teachingheritage.nsw.edu.au/section04/

Pridham, K. (n.d.) The Little Red Yellow Black Book. IndigenousX: Showcasing & Celebrating Indigenous Diversity. http://indigenousx.com.au/indigenousx-review-lrybb/#.Vx6gzHF97nA

Thorpe, K, and Byrne, A (2014).” Indigenous voices in the State Library of NSW” Library History Forum, SLNSW, 18-­­19 November 2014. Retrieved from http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/alhf2014_kirstenthorpe_alexbyrne.pdf