A Library Start-up Year in Review

As the school year came to a close, I thought it important to reflect on the progress that we have made in developing an effective library facility and in delivering excellent services to our school community thus far. Often working in isolation or only intermittently with various constituencies in a school, the work that we do in libraries can sometimes fly under the radar. The annual report that I’ve drafted (below) is an attempt to highlight some of the work that we have been doing. There are of course still many challenges ahead, some of which I’ve attempted to identify in the report, but I feel that on the whole, we have accomplished a great deal over the past ten months.

Starting From Scratch

Open Road © Brian Farrell

I am incredibly privileged to be embarking on a tremendous new challenge this school year. As part of the foundation staff of Branksome Hall Asia in Jeju, Korea, I have been charged with developing a whole school library facility and program. The facilities that have been created at the school are world class and truly remarkable (pictures to follow once all of the furnishings are in!), and my task now is to outfit and create a library and library programming that fits the needs of our learners.

In approaching this task, I’ve begun with a needs analysis to better articulate the end goals that I should be working towards. This processes is easier said than done since our students don’t arrive on campus for another month, but I’m beginning to understand Branksome, its rich heritage, and how it will differ from other international schools. The Branksome library will serve a unique group of learners, as the majority of our students will be:
– Korean girls
– Boarding students
– Using English as an additional language
– Unfamiliar with the International Baccalaureate and its three programs (we are a PYP, MYP, and DP candidate school)
– Connected with Branksome Hall in Toronto through exchanges and regular collaboration

With these traits in mind, I am aiming to create a library and library programming that is accessible (both physically and virtually – we will need to offer in-person services for resident students outside of the traditional school day, and I feel it’s critical that I’m accessible across the school outside of the physical library space), globally-minded, welcoming, and enriching to student growth and understanding.

As the year progresses, the needs of our community will become more clear, but I’m hopeful that the resources and systems that I am developing for our initial start-up will provide a good foundation to build upon. It’s such a great opportunity to have a blank canvas to draw on, particularly when you feel fully supported by your school administration, and I have a million ideas already bouncing around in my head about wonderful things that we can offer as a library.

Having said all of this, one thing that’s critical to developing a library space and programming that’s used and valued is soliciting input and feedback from our entire community. So this post is just one of many attempts to garner input; what would you want from your school library? How can the library best support your classroom practice, and how can it inspire a love of reading? What resources are critical to building understanding and developing the skills that we want to instill in our future graduates? I’m asking all of these questions of myself, but am looking forward to also hearing as many other opinions as possible.

Some Good Reading

© 2011 Brian Farrell

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately getting things ready here for our school’s launch of the 2012 Sakura Medal reading program. This program sees international school students across Japan reading and sharing about a fantastic range of books, from elementary picture books through to high school fiction in both English and Japanese.

Every year I spend quite a bit of time rebuilding the Sakura Medal review site, which is always a bit of work, but always so worth it, as many of the nominated authors stumble across the site and often leave feedback and responses to our students’ comments (how’s that for authentic learning!). The site’s statistics are on a steady trajectory upwards (now up to about 17,000 views per year), and it’s great to see students from other schools engaging with one another (and about books of all things!).

I’ve managed to get through a few books already, but with our fall break on the horizon, here are the Sakura Medal books on my wishlist to read next:

High School:
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Middle School:
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
Trash by Andy Mullligan

Chapter Books:
An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpugo
Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari

Picture Books:
Here Comes the Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winters
Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

If you happen to read these or any of this year’s Sakura Medal nominated books, please share your thoughts by adding a comment to our site !

The Latest ebook Frustration

I’ve mentioned a few times here my frustration with ebooks and their lack of functionality in libraries. The saga continues:

“HarperCollins—citing the explosive growth of e-book sales—announced a new e-book lending policy beginning March 7 that will limit the length of its library licenses to a maximum of 26 loans per e-title.” (Calvin Read – Publishers Weekly, March 2, 2011)

Eiffel Girders ©Brian Farrell

The irony in this for me is that I have just this week been in contact again with OverDrive about possibly starting a subscription to their library ebook service now that they support the iPad and iPhone. OverDrive is the very company that is bowing to HarperCollins’ demands of limiting the number of circulations of each ebook to 26 loans per title, and so I now have to face the moral issue of whether we should support them or not.

Author and blogger Cory Doctorow has been writing for years about how awful any sort of Digital Rights Management (DRM) is, and I’m starting to understand why. Publishers like HarperCollins are now starting to realize their power given these tools, and are lashing out in a bid to keep themselves relevant. Not surprising, given that authors are realizing that in the ebook game, publishers are irrelevant and they can do just fine on their own, thank you very much.

Wowbrary

Wowbrary looks like a great way to keep our patrons updated of new additions to our collection.  This site uses the Z39.5 data from library automation programs to generate automatic weekly email newsletters and an updated rss feed that we could easily paste into our public website of new additions to the collection.  They include reviews from Amazon, but that could potentially mean a wrinkle since Amazon is unlikely to have data on our additions from outside of the US.  They do charge a small fee, but are a non profit organization and it seems fairly reasonable.

BUT, they don’t currently support Follett’s software.  Hopefully this will change.

I’ve already been in touch with them about possible improvements that would make this work for us, but no luck just yet.  So, for now, we’ll sit and wait.  Sigh.

D-day approaches

Tomorrow we will be installing our new (to us) library management software from Follett. This has been a long time coming, and I’ll be happy when it’s up and running (it seems more than just a bit inefficient for me to be constantly answering emails about what we do or do not have in our collection).

While I’m happy that the new platform will be web-based, I can’t say that I’m really pleased with its interface.  Unfortunately Follett has kind of begun to take over the world when it comes to library management software, so there aren’t a lot of alternatives out there at the moment (not that I vehemently dislike their products or anything, I just always like to have other options).  Hopefully something more user-friendly and visually appealing will come along eventually.  I’m pretty sure the IT department here would have my head if I look for something different too soon, but for now this will have to work as a first step in the right direction.

Break week next week.  I’ll be on my first trip south of the equator – tough life, I know.