September 13 2016

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 2016

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 2016

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 2016

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 2016

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!



July 22 2016

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:


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:


NMC (2015). Horizon Report: Library Edition. Available at:



Rodgers, T (2016). Resourcing the curriculum: priorities and issues. Available at:

April 26 2016

Resourcing the Curriculum – Annotated resource list

Annotated Resource List – Assignment 1, Resourcing the Curriculum

Britannica Online (2016). “Native American” Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

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”. 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.” 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. 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.

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

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.

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. Retrieved 25 April 2016, from

NSW, BOSTES. (2016b). History K–10 : Learning across the curriculum. Retrieved 25 April 2016, from

NSW Board of Studies (n.d.) Teaching heritage: Oral history.

Pridham, K. (n.d.) The Little Red Yellow Black Book. IndigenousX: Showcasing & Celebrating Indigenous Diversity.

Thorpe, K, and Byrne, A (2014).” Indigenous voices in the State Library of NSW” Library History Forum, SLNSW, 18-­­19 November 2014. Retrieved from

May 25 2015

Social Networking for Information Professionals: A Reflection

I’m now half way through my studies in the Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship) course, and it’s been an interesting journey (cue bad reality tv metaphors here!) The subject that this blog post is submitted in requirements for, Social Media for Information Professionals, has been in many ways the most challenging for me. I approached the subject with what now appears to be a sense of over-confidence. I’m considered somewhat of a social media expert in my region, and have been frequently called upon to present at conferences or professional development sessions, as well as liaising with the NSWDEC on the development of departmental social media policies and plans. I’m confident in my ability to use social media in both my personal and professional life. So, to have struggled to hit the mark, I believe, given the results I received from the social media project assessment task, was particularly disappointing. I’m glad about this though. It’s given me much food for thought as I consider my role as a social media advocate, and the way in which I integrate my academic life and my professional life. This is a cogent point for consideration, given the focus of this subject on the use of social media in information services, and the potential (indeed, often the goal) of blurring the lines between work life and social life.

If I, as someone who is quite comfortable in the use of social media, and prides myself on presenting excellence in academic and professional work, can get “sucked in” by the relative familiarity of social media tools, and end up presenting an assessment task which fails to meet the required academic conventions and standards expected, what are the implications of this? Particularly for my target group of users, high school students – teens who are perhaps more fluent in many ways in social media and web2.0 than I am, but perhaps not as committed to the idea of importance of academic conventions. So, it’s given me much food for thought on how I lead the blending of social media and the necessary focus on academic writing, particularly for my senior students as they prepare for HSC and further study.

It has also led me to consider much about what I thought I knew about social media, and to realise that I’m very reliant on what I know, and am familiar with. My experiences with Second Life, for example, highlighted how quickly I retreat to what is familiar – even when I don’t find a task difficult, I don’t necessarily adopt it as part of my common practice if it isn’t in my immediate frame of reference. This prompted more reflection on the roles of social media in my library practice, and consolidated the importance of ensuring that when we decide on implementing a social media strategy for our patrons, it’s based on their needs and interests, not on what is familiar to us. Cohen’s Librarian 2.0 Manifesto was incredibly resonant for me in this regard – the notion of us as professionals being willing, and indeed embracing, the idea that we need to go to where our users are, rather than expecting them to come to us (Cohen, 2007). If the students in my school are familiar with, and active users of, Instagram, it makes sense to explore ways in which our library can connect with them, and this has been one of the key successes of my ongoing Library Warriors project, as has the establishment of a Facebook group, which I continuing to develop into a successful platform for collaboration and discussion amongst this passionate group of students. My initial thoughts about developing a Goodreads presence, however, was more about my own skills and experiences, rather than what met the needs of my school community. For me, then, one of the key takeaway messages of this subject has been the focus on what my users need and want – not just what I’m comfortable in delivering. Thankfully sometimes those two things will line up – but I’m more comfortable now with embracing the idea that I don’t have to be the expert. I can find someone who is, and learn from them, which has the dual effect of developing my own skills, and also modelling for my students the benefits of lifelong learning.

So, reflecting on my learning for this session has consolidated for me a few things. Firstly, I am evermore in love with my career of choice. The focus on lifelong learning is a core passion of mine, and the fact that I have been able to gain new insights into both my own learning processes, and draw upon this to examine the way I operate professionally, has been immensely rewarding. I have printed out Cohen’s Manifesto, and have it in sight each day at work (with some helpful suggestions added by students – “buy more chocolate!!”). I am encouraged by my failures, and have discussed them with my students as an example of what I am learning, in the hope that they will learn something from it, as I have. And I will continue to advocate social media in education, and in our libraries – and I will make sure that in the future I will give as much credence to the opinions of my school community as I do my own preferences. Isn’t it interesting when the subjects you will initially think will be the easiest to conquer, will be the ones that become the most challenging and thought-provoking?

May 25 2015

Social Networking for Information Professionals: An Evaluation

The future for Information Professionals is exciting. Rather than existing purely in a paper-based world, today’s library operates in an increasingly multimodal landscape, with an ever-increasing web of tools, resources and contributions at their disposal (Harvey, 2009). It is essential that a 21st century librarian is able to adapt to the changes around them, and to strive to provide the best service they can to their clients (Bonanno, 2011). Drawing on the extraordinary variety of Web2.0 tools, then, is an essential element of the librarian’s service.

Web 2.0, as discussed in Rodgers’ blogpost “Oh what a tangled web we weave – Web2.0” (2015a) provides extraordinary opportunities for libraries to leverage the quality and quantity of web resources and information to clients. Web 2.0 provides opportunities for users to engage with the wider web world – the Wikipedia definition (n.d.) of Web 2.0 as encompassing “user-generated content, usability, and interoperability” reflects key goals of the 21st library, as engaging with their users, and as such, resonates as an important reason for information professionals to include Web 2.0 tools as one of their core tools. Employing Web 2.0 tools as part of the library service supports allowing users “to contribute content in order to enhance their learning experience and provide assistance to their peers” (Cohen, 2007), and it takes advantage of the idea that Web 2.0 tools allow for the development of relationships with the sites, as they create, exchange and use information (Miller, 2005). These types of relationships are essential if we wish to ensure that our libraries continue to be meaningful today and into the future.

The notion of community is one that appears in much of the literature around the library of the present and future. Valenza (2014) discusses the value of collegial interaction, as we surround ourselves with people who “reflect and share their practice through their slide decks, videos, blogs, and tweets—all high-quality, informal learning opportunities.” The importance of community applies not just to collegial connections, but also to users and the wider social network. Exploring options that are available to develop community connections is a vital aspect of library practice, and the proliferation of virtual worlds in today’s online experiences is a fascinating opportunity to develop community connections, allowing for a sense of presence for users who may not necessarily be able to be physically present, but can still develop that sense of community connection (Hill and Meister, 2013). It is important to consider the needs and interests of the users in these seemingly endless options for online community building, however. Rodgers’ blogpost discusses the concerns of more in-depth virtual worlds for people who aren’t familiar with the platforms (2015b). As such, it’s critical to consider the potential learning curve when deciding on using a social network or site, and analyse whether the benefit for the users is worth the potential problems that may be associated with its implementation and use.

Given the proliferation of opportunities for information professionals in developing new ways to interact with, and provide services to, their users, it is inevitable then that there needs to be a reevaluation of the way in which libraries are managed. This reflects both on the types of leaders we have in our libraries, and the policies which govern the management of 21st century library services. It is vital that policies which are put in place provide flexibility for growth, and allow for future innovations. As such, they should provide guidance for actions and interactions, rather than specific instructions which relate to individual sites, as discussed in Rodgers’ blogpost “Social media: engagement with policies” (2015c). Policies which support the development of effective social media profiles will reflect the value of every person’s contributions – both those from staff members, and from students and community members. Implementing policies which support and encourage positive interactions, respond to negative comments and replies with tact and honesty, and demonstrate trust in the integrity of those participating, will help establish the integrity of the social media account (, 2015) and ensure it’s effectiveness for its users.

So, what does all that mean for the information professional of today, and days to come? It would be a mistake to assume that, because the library of the future is so dependent on the input of so many other people, the librarian is of less importance. The reality is that a library is, in many ways, driven by the personality of its leader (Donovan, 2009). If a teacher librarian in charge of the learning heart of the school models a sense of courage and innovation, students are more likely to be inspired to adopt the same practices. If TL demonstrates a willingness to learn and fail in order to achieve new outcomes, their staff are more likely to join them on the journey. An information professional, supported by effective and innovative social media policy, and willing to embrace new opportunities and experiences in developing connections, both with people and information, will have amazing impacts on the learning culture in their school. What an exciting opportunity.


Bonanno, K. (2011). A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan.

Cohen, L (2007) A manifesto for our times. American Libraries Vol. 38, No. 7 (Aug., 2007), pp. 47-49

Donovan, C. (2009) Sense of self: embracing your teacher identity. In the library with the lead-pipe.

Harvey, M. (2009) What does it mean to be a Science Librarian 2.0?

Hill, V., & Meister, M. (2013). Virtual worlds and libraries Gridhopping to new worlds. College & Research Libraries News, 74(1), 43-47.

Miller, P. (2005) Web 2.0: Building the new library. Ariadne.

Rodgers, T (2015a) Oh what a tangled web we weave … Web 2.0.

Rodgers, T (2015b) Second Life Adventures.

Rodgers, T (2015c) Social Media: engagement with policies.,. (2015). Best practices for developing a social media policy. Retrieved 15 May 2015, from

Valenza, J. (2014, December 18). School Library Journal.

Wikipedia (n.d). Web 2.0

May 17 2015

Second Life Adventures

Over the past few years, I’ve had a number of opportunities to play around in Second Life. My first experience was as a Highly Accomplished ICT Educator with the now defunct PLANE project. I joined PLANE at the very beginning of its flight, in 2012. PLANE, which stood for Professional Learning Anywhere: A Network for Educators, strived to develop a game- based professional learning platform for educators, providing them with opportunities to build networks that were not reliant on their geographic location, and to allow them to collaborate with colleagues, and take part in asynchronous professional learning which supported their professional development.
After completing a few boot camps, I picked up SL fairly quickly – possibly due to my previous experience in gaming, the platform was fairly natural to me, and once I got my head around the controls it was a fairly easy learning curve. In my role as HAICTE, I assisted the SL experts in running a few boot camps for PLANE participants, acting as a flight attendant of sorts in the PLANE metaphor. We had a few team meetings in SL, and ran a couple of teach meets in-world,  and I was confident and comfortable in the use of the platform as a communication and collaboration zone.
Then, PLANE derailed. Funding was cut, and after a while support for the PD sessions provided on the site was no longer available. From this time until the beginning of 2015, my SL avatar sat neglected in cyberspace, waiting for me to return and give her a wardrobe update and take her flying. When I joined the executive of SLANSW at the end of last year, some planning about future and events was discussed, and it was suggested by our president that we run some PD sessions in Second Life, to allow geographically isolated teacher librarians to be able to access the professional learning without the need to travel. PD in your PJ’s has always appealed to me as a concept, given that our profession is becoming more and more time poor, and there are increasing pressures for educators to complete mandated professional learning in their own time. I also believe that it’s a valuable opportunity for educators to ensure that they are taking responsibility for their own professional learning, and thus experiencing professional development which targets their individual needs and interests, rather than the “one size fits all” PD which is often provided at a school level.
(Image: SLANSW Second Life Bootcamp featuring Jokay and Stanley Yip, in the leadup to a SLANSW PD Event run in-world)
Again, SL was a quick pick-up for me. A couple of Second Life sessions with speakers including Dan Haessler and Hamish Curry provided participants the opportunity to develop our in-world skills whilst engaging in some meaningful conversations with other educators about our own often very diverse circumstances. This led to some wonderful sharing of ideas for potential solutions to problems around topics such as well-being and design thinking. Great stuff.
Cue INF506, and another opportunity to play in-world, and explore the opportunities for virtual reality experiences like Second Life for developing connections. The distance education experience is a perfect opportunity to explore non-traditional communication and collaboration options. I was unable to join my fellow students in-world during our scheduled bootcamps due to timing, however did meet a few people in Second Life for some small group catch-ups, which we honed our skills. It was an engaging way to develop our expertise in a largely unfamiliar setting for many of us, and allowed for some valuable conversation about our study experiences. What I have found, though, is that whilst my experiences in-world have been largely positive, they haven’t led to any strong desire on my part to include it as an ongoing part of my life, either professionally or personally. I can play around with it when needed, but it hasn’t become an embedded part of my professional practice or my online life.
So, how does a virtual world like Second Life lend itself to supporting information services? That’s a great question. And, I suspect, the answer will vary depending on the interests and experiences of the individuals and the information services in question. One of the key benefits of a virtual world is the sense of connection that it can provide. Rather than just “dialling in” to a webinar, or participating in an online meeting through any of the multitude of online platforms available, a virtual world creates a sense of presence (Hill and Meister, 2013). You are really there with your fellow participants, in the form of your avatar. You interact with the same environment as them, sit on the lounge beside the avatar of a colleague from miles away, and share in conversations and connections with people in a far more engaging way that you would in a slightly more clinical chat box of an Adobe Connect room, for example.
One of the downsides, however, is the often overwhelming technical skill required for such a connection. During my frequent  experiences with SL bootcamps, I have discovered many people who find the whole environment too much to cope with. Concentrating on the conversations, figuring out how to move to new locations, and the skills needed to troubleshoot any technical issues has the potential to create a barrier for people who may already feel geographically isolated – they then become more isolated by their perceived lack of skill in a virtual world too. Helmer and Learning Light reference the key strengths and weaknesses of Second Life as a learning environment, and the steep learning curve for most participants, as well as the significant time required to develop mastery of the virtual world, as high on the list of problems (2007).
The potential for virtual worlds in information services are limited only by the imaginations of the librarians and educators who are continuing to explore new ways to provide opportunities for connection with their clients. Virtual libraries, hang outs, in-world author talks and workshop experiences, and any number of other services that might meet the needs of clients are possible. It’s essential, though, that the needs of the clients are placed at the centre of any decision to embark on a virtual world project – otherwise, these adventures will go the way of my initial Second Life explorations, and become an infrequent adventure rather than a regular part of an individual’s interaction with the information service.
Helmer, J., & Learning Light (2007). Second Life and virtual worlds. Retrieved from
Hill, V., & Meister, M. (2013). Virtual worlds and libraries Gridhopping to new worlds. College & Research Libraries News, 74(1), 43-47. Retrieved from