Thursday, June 28, 2012

The librarian jigsaw puzzle effect

We were fortunate to have three fantastic student librarians this year and they made us this very special goodbye card. It spells out librarians and is like a jigsaw puzzle. We can all take our piece and if we're ever together again it will fit back together. Thank you Ton Aor, Nicki and Nano!

Unless I get all nostalgic tomorrow this is most likely my last blog post here at Harrow International School Bangkok.

Thailand is an amazing country and I've loved being here.

We have a saying in New Zealand and it goes like this:

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world?
The people, the people, the people!
(Maori proverb)

And that's how I feel. Thailand has been wonderful and it's all because of you.
Best wishes to students, staff and everyone in the Harrow family.
May you always have everything you could wish for and more.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The new revolution is here

Sometimes it's hard not to be tempted by all the interesting things you can find on the internet.
And it can be a lot of fun playing with them, but it can also seem like a big time wasting vortex.
One minute you're innocently looking at some kind of avatar maker, next thing you know twenty minutes have gone by. Is it any better than other (sitting down) things you could do, like watching movies, tv or even reading?
The librarian part of me wants to say that reading a book is the best possible thing you could be doing - and it is if that's the skill you want to practice.
When you're reading, you have to actively concentrate, use your imagination constantly, read between the lines to get the underlying meaning and analyse the text to a level which you may not even know you're doing. You also have the tactile things - holding a physical book, turning the pages, knowing where to look - skills which are second nature after years of doing them. Watch a small child with books and you'll really appreciate how much care you unknowingly put into the act of reading.

But, equally - when you're making an avatar or something creative on the internet, you have to concentrate, use your imagination and think about what you want to convey - within the limits of the site or whatever you're using. Unless you are a hacker or programmer. You've got to type, or use a mouse, or a track pad or touch screen, so you're still using your body.

And, more importantly, if you're looking (even passively) at websites, like it or not, you still have to read. Most websites have at least some words. Even though their language can be a little bit strange and may involve highly abbreviated and hybridised English, it's still reading.
This language seems to have started spilling over into real life - but needs to be used with care.
There seems to be an age when using internet language stops being adorable and starts being slightly out of place. Whatevs, LOL, hilare... they all sound a bit bizarre coming out of my mouth. But it could be just that I'm failing to adapt to the coming linguistic revolution.

Maybe looking at Lolcats or Icanhazcheezburger now is a little bit like how people thought about reading Enid Blyton books in the past. Lots of adults will tell you how their parents, teachers, librarians and plenty of other people were horrified with the prospect of them reading such junky books. In time we might have sort of 'internet classics' - websites and programmes that everyone will want to at least know about.

And what about the books? Will they still exist? Yes, of course. Well, at least I hope so.
I haven't read a lot of great fiction that is solely available as a webpage. And certainly nothing I'd call literature. Not to say that it isn't around.

See, here's my secret - I just can't bring myself to read on a Kindle or Ipad. Yeah, I know all the arguments. The convenience! The portability! But it's still not a physical book in the sense that I'm used to. And for some reason I just don't get it. I love that those things exist, and using them for other stuff (internet/dictionaries/YouTube...) but for some reason, they haven't found their way into my heart. Yet.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kings and Queens of England

Today Early Years will be celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's 60th Jubilee.
They're doing all kinds of fun things like making crowns and multi-layered English flag coloured jellies.
Later on there will be a garden party complete with cupcakes.

This video popped up when I was looking for some kind of fun King or Queen related song.
It's more useful for Prep and Secondary students than it is for Early Years, but it is kind of catchy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Magic 8 Ball cataloguing technique

When I was cataloguing books earlier I started thinking - where was the perfect place to put this book?
It needs to be somewhere that the book will be used, but it also needs to be the place where it should be if a teacher or student looking for that subject happened to browse the shelves. And it happened to fit into two (or possibly three) Dewey Decimal numbers. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide. Sometimes, cataloguing is an art.

Have you ever watched The Big Bang Theory? There's an episode where Sheldon decides that he will make decisions solely with a pair of dice. The dice tell him what items to choose from a menu (even though they are really weird and don't go together at all!), what kind of clothes to buy and even whether he can go to the toilet ... or not.

Depending on your point of view, this kind of decision making is pure genius, super crazy or maybe somewhere in the middle.

Watching this episode made me think of my friend's Magic 8 Ball. It was this round plastic toy which could supposedly tell you the best thing to do in any situation. You were supposed to ask a question, shake it, and then look at the little plastic window to get your reply. The answers were usually corny, things like "Signs point to yes" and "Decidedly so". Who says stuff like that? Oh yeah, Magic 8 Ball...
Everyone wanted a Magic 8 Ball - you couldn't buy them easily, only if you went overseas.
So of course, we all had to have turns using it.

Now they've made an online version. (There are lots to choose from if you'd prefer another one!)
You'll never have to think too hard about a decision again.

So, maybe I'll ask the Magic 8 Ball where to put my book. That could work, right?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Old is new again

Vintage and retro seems to have taken off on a whole new level lately. Anything old is charming.
Which is perfectly reasonable. Heaps of that stuff is awesome.

Do you remember library catalogue cards? Probably not, if you're one of our students.
But if you're older than 25, chances are you've come across them sometime in your life.

For those of you who are asking - "What is a library catalogue card?"
It used to be the way you found a book in a library. Yes, before computers.
There would be drawers full of cards, arranged in order. It took a lot more time than searching on a computer because sometimes the way that you thought of a book was not the way that the librarian thought of the book. So it would be classified by a random word that meant nothing to you. These days, that can still happen - but the computer will help by suggesting similar subjects or titles so it's so much easier. And if you spell a word wrong then hopefully the computer can correct it for you.

Now that most libraries have computerised library catalogues, the dusty old card cabinets have been replaced with shiny new computers.
People have done all kinds of interesting things with old library catalogue cards, like making books and jewellery, and using the actual card storage boxes as wine cabinets and all kinds of other things.

But the coolest library catalogue card related thing I've seen lately has to be the library catalogue card generator. You simply go online, write a bunch of things and it comes out looking... like a library catalogue card.

Make one. You know you want to.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

“Know where to find the information and how to use it - That's the secret of success”

Today, one of our year 4 students asked me a very good question. "What's the point of doing this? Is this really library work?"

They were practicing taking notes. One of the things that a researcher might find themselves needing to do.

So what was my answer?
"Yes, great question! If you were doing some research on something, you'd make notes right? And where can you find information?"
His answer?
"Oh, ok, the library."
Sometimes younger students don't make the connection with the library and finding (and processing) information. When they are older, the ability to come to the library, find information and take notes will be very useful. Yes, there are photocopiers and printers. But still, they'll need to know how to highlight and choose appropriate facts for whatever they're studying.

Even if students don't actually come in to the physical library and stay at home instead to use online resources, the ability to strip out and digest knowledge will stand them in good stead.
Many libraries have now developed extensive online collections - especially universities.
This means potentially less students in the physical library, so they really will need to know how to do things for themselves. (Although luckily, in most of these libraries, an online librarian is only a chat window away). When today's students find themselves in the workforce, they will discover that having good research skills will give them the competitve edge.

Having worked with university students and new graduates, it's clear that many of them have not acquired sufficient information skills, and may not do so until they find themselves in the workforce and are mentored by competent researchers.
So here's hoping that some of the information finding skills we're sharing here in the library, and in the school as a whole, are enabling a whole future generation of Harrow kids to arrive at the university library (and the world) with a distinct information finding advantage.

p.s. Wondering where the title quote comes from? Hint: it's someone who was very successful.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What's in a name?

Last week there was suddenly a run of small children asking me for books with their names in them. Books where one of the characters has the same name that they do, or better still, books which have their name in the title. Finding books for children named Sophie, Olivia and Jack is easy. But it's more difficult looking for stories to suit the multitude of Thai nicknames. You can find a book which is about the subject of the nickname, but it's just not the same.

In English language children's books there are names which come up over and over. And the name of a character is important, an essential part of them which could make or break the story. Think back to a book like Where the Wild Things are. The escapades of the daring and difficult Max come to mind. What about The Tiger who came to tea? Straight away it's got me thinking about Sophie and the Tiger who drank all the water out of the taps. There's also the more recent stories of Oliver who travelled far and wide and Olivia. Lily is a name shared by two of my absolute favourites in the children's book world - the Blue Kangaroo series and Lily's plastic purple purse. When it comes to more unusual names you can find books like You'll soon grow into them, Titch.

Disney has had a lot of influence on names. Sleeping Beauty is no longer Sleeping Beauty - she's Aurora, of course! Now I know what to look for when one of the girls asks for Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Ariel (The Little Mermaid) and Tiana (The Frog Prince). They've even put out lists of baby names inspired by Disney. It will be interesting to see if authors pick up on these names too. Guess it will take a while for them to filter through though.
Baby names for girls.
Baby names for boys.
Thank you, Disney.
This has me wishing that I could read Thai. I'd love to know what the most common Thai children's book character names are. Obviously they'd be Thai names. But what would they be? Something like Namtaan or Ploy for a girl? Or Nop or Ong for boys? The most common Thai nicknames at our school are English words like Proud. So would the characters have an English nickname? And if so, how do you write that in Thai? Since I can't read Thai (and am unlikely to be able to anytime soon!) I looked up the most popular names in English language children's books... which turned out to be a really interesting thing to do.
Especially since I haven't been able to find anything conclusive yet!

It does seem that the most common names in children's books are names such as Jack and Max for boys, and Rosie and Lily (hmm, both flower names) for girls. But I don't know for sure. The names would also vary by country the book was written in, the era and circumstances around the publishing of the story... plus a range of other factors.
Hmmm... I think I feel a research project coming on!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Elmer, the elephant ambassador

David McKee's Elmer books are popular with both staff and students.
If you're not familiar with Elmer, he's a patchwork coloured elephant who lives in the jungle. The Elmer stories are fun and well written.

We've just reordered some titles which were missing, and one of them seems especially relevant to us here in Thailand as it touches on the issue of elephant hunting. Even though it's something we might not think about a lot, it does happen here.

The story is called Elmer on stilts.
The elephant hunters are coming!
Elmer has an idea - they can hide on stilts. Nobody expects to see elephants above them.
When their plan goes wrong, the elephants land on the frightened hunters.
Scared by the falling elephants, the bad guys decide to run away.

It's a nice story, and funny in parts. It also provides a good starting point for everyone who reads it to think about animals and how they can be affected by problems like poaching.

There are some organisations working to help elephants. You can read more about why poaching happens on the eleaid website.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Goodnight moon, er... I mean Ipad

Goodnight moon is considered a classic picture book by many people.
So it's interesting to see it in a new form... that essential internet gem - the YouTube parody.

Goodnight Ipad pokes fun at our use and love of technology. It was released by Penguin and comes complete with plenty of sound effects and a soothing voice reading the story to us. Nice.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hidden gems

Do you ever get excited about the random references you find in books?
Like when the main character mentions a song you like or eats a kind of chocolate you love? It's something which makes me very happy and somehow makes me feel more connected to the story.

It seems to be something which makes other people happy too, because now there's a site which is dedicated to mapping and tracking these references in books.

The site is called Small Demons (they call it a Story Verse!)
To become a member you just sign up (it's free!)

It's more than just a place to track references, though.
You can look at a book that you love and how it links with other books. You can use the references in linked books to find new music and movies. You can even use it to help you find new books you might be interested in reading. (In conjunction with Literature Map, you will be set for life!)

This concept really appeals to me. Once you've become a member you get to see all of the book covers, quotes and information about each book. You can search by category to find books which are related to something you're interested in too. For example, if you're going to a new country and would like to read books which might mention it. You can also look for references to your own country or city. I spent ages looking in the food section - it can even tell you which food is mentioned most in books!

In addition to all the information there are great pictures.
The site is attractive and easy to use, and even better there is so much great stuff that you could get lost on it for hours. Books are missing, but it is being added to. (It's only new!) It's going to be fun seeing how this one works out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book reviews from Primary Book Club

Looking for something new to read? Our Primary Book Club recommends these titles.

Andy Runton
Owly book is very fun! Because it’s funny. It kind of doesn’t have any words.
I can teach you how to draw Owly.

Gigi Y5C
Title: Thea Stilton Big Trouble in the Big Apple
Author: Geronimo Stilton
I like this book because it’s fun and I like the mouse. They went to the Big Apple to help Pamela’s family, they had a really big problem. And Nicky had to practice running for the race. Her friends will take care of her anyway. I can’t tell you the story – why not read it for yourself!

Michael Y3M
Title: The Official Manchester United Annual 1999
It teaches us how to be good at football. It has good pictures.

Hill Y3E
Secret Agent Jack Stalwart – The search for the sunken treasure : Australia
Author: Elizabeth Singer-Hunt
You should read this because its very fun.
The book takes place in Australia, in the sea.

Tita Y5G
Diary of a Wimpy Kid the ugly truth
Jeff Kinney
I love this series!! What an amazing series. First was Wimpy Kid.
I started reading this book because I saw Pike read it and I thought it was very, very funny. I have read two books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series – Dog Days and The Ugly Truth.

Awesome comics! Cool info about cool stuff! Video games names and what they’re about!
Awesome games. Ninja who tells cheats! Info about movies. Puzzles, pranks!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Origami genius

Do you like Origami? Maybe you're one of the many students who comes into the library to borrow the books on this Japanese paper art phenomenon.

Today is very special for you, then! 14 March was the birthday of Akira Yoshizawa, the man credited with completely changing and reinvigorating the craft of Origami. He's the one who truly transformed it into the art form that it is today.

So whatever your favourite folded animal may be, make one today!

If you're not sure how to make Origami, and can't get to the library to borrow a book, here are some sites to help you out.
Origami fun
Folding for you

You Tube also has some great clips for making the most traditional pieces like Origami Cranes. Very handy if you like to see someone actually folding the paper.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

School play props

One of our student librarians just bought in the most amazing stuffed toy dog that she has made for the school production. (She made the whole thing herself, and it looks real!)

Well done Ton Aor, and good luck for A midsummer night's dream!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Greatest library rapper who ever lived

Does Melvil Dewey sound familiar? That's because he was the creator of a system now used to organise the non-fiction sections of countless libraries.
And he's also a rapper.

Recently, I stumbled across an article entitled 'Greatest library rapper who ever lived'. It was all about a guy by the name of Scott Hayes (aka Melvil Dewey) making up songs and music about libraries. According to the newspaper one song (Super duper library dance party) has even made its way to becoming something of a You Tube hit.

And if we want libraries to exist in the future, it's important to think of alternative ways of promoting them. Libraries need to evolve in order to stay relevant.Maybe an irreverent, slightly wacky rapper from Illonois is exactly the person to keep libraries in the public eye.

You can read all about Melvil Dewey on his wonderfully named website

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Harrow's best books... the results

In honour of World Book Day we decided to ask people to tell us about their favourite books.
After a week of voting we had just over 300 votes!

At the end of the week, we made a list of the most popular books.

The top five were:

1. Geronimo Stilton
2. Harry Potter
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
4. Dork Diaries
5. Garfield

Last Friday during our library book week, we shared the results at lunchtime.
We also held a lucky voter draw for everyone who took part.
Congratulations to Khow Poon (3H), Mac (3H) and Klara (5C), who won a prize pack made up of one book from each series, and two movie tickets.

Thank you to everyone who voted!

We also had two other competitions during library book week.
Congratulations to Kaopod (5C) who won our quiz and Melody (1S), winner of the book quote matching competition.