Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Prague : the city of reading

Attendee's of InSPIRing Conversations conference, Prague.

I had the pleasure and good fortune to visit Prague in The Czech Republic to facilitate the School Librarian Connection InSPIRing Conversations mini conference in September.

Prague / Praha is a most beautiful city which was mostly spared from the ravages of war through various invasions and overthrowings, world war one and two and the communist regime. After a period of neglect through the communist time due to lack of money and priority, the baroque buildings have been restored to their glory days, and to walk around the city is an exercise in time travel with each street in the city revealing something breathtaking around each corner. History of The Czech Republic.

Random street / river scenes of Prague. Photo by Dianne McKenzie

What I noticed about Prague was that the Czech culture was still evident through the people and the city, even after all of the turmoil of the 20th Century. The culture of reading that permeates the city and the whole country impressed me the most. It is apparently the country with the densest library network in the world, along with having some of the most beautiful libraries within its borders. The New York times has even written an article about this phenomena. "Why libraries are everywhere in the Czech republic" explaining that in 1919 a law was passed where every town had to have a library to boost literacy and the Czech language after the German occupation.

The book tower in Prague Public Library entrance. (Photo by Dianne McKenzie)
We had the opportunity to visit the Klementium Library Hall  along with the astronomical tower and just be present in history for a little while. The entire library is being digitised as part of the Manuscriptorium digitising project so that everyone has access to these historic works.

Klementinium Library Hall. Photo by Dianne McKenzie

Apart from the historic aspect of the city, there were multitudes of bookstores all over the city catering for the new book lover and second hand treasure seeker. 

Shakespeare bookshop. Old Town Prague. (Photo by Dianne McKenzie)

I also saw many people reading physical books on public transport, and, as well as having advertisements for food, clothing, events in the subway along the escalators, there were promotional posters for books.

Book advertisments in the subway. (Photo by Dianne McKenzie)

Some data and statistics on the Czech reading habits can be found in this article "Czech's cling to literary traditions in spite of new technologies.IndexMundi reports that the Czech republic has a 99% literacy rate for both males and females over the age of 15. 

I wonder if there has been a study conducted on the Czech population to see if they have all the qualities as a population that voracious readers are supposed to develop individually as readers? These qualities would include empathy, reflective thinking, knowledgable, internationally minded, culturally aware, reduced stress levels, critical & creative thinkers, large vocabulary, better memories and better writers among other things. They have certainly produced a number of accomplished composers, architects, musicians, artists and writers for such a small country. This could be a good study for someone.  

It seems that it is the adults that are benefitting from the strong history of reading with the contemporary children falling behind as found in the study " The Reading Matters: Children Readership in the Czech Republic." The abstract states "There is something unusual going on with reading and literacy among the Czech children. International assessment of reading literacy shows that the results of Czech children are poor as compared with other countries."  Could this be a result of the laws changing where it is no longer required to have a library in every town or is it a result of newer technologies taking the place of reading?
Is this a modern trend throughout the world even when a culture has developed a strong reading culture? 

If such a strong reading nation as the Czech Republic is seeing a decline in reading in its young people this is even the more reason to keep up the good fight.  We have an important job to do to promote reading.

Dianne & Marion overlooking Prague from the Observatory tower

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lessons from Apple

The Kowloon Tong Apple store in Festival Walk

I love going into Apple stores and it isn't just about the product. I love how simple the design is, how uncluttered the space is and how everything is just right.

Service is such a large part of the Apple store experience. They have so many people in their simple identifiable uniform walking around the store approaching people and helping that you simply cannot leave an apple store without some form of engagement with their employees. They are experts on the products they are selling and will be able to answer all your questions. They truly are Apple specialists. They even say goodbye and thank you for visiting when you leave.

How can we learn from them and apply this in our libraries? 

Let's start with their mission of the stores from the very outset : 

"We wanted to engage users, convey a clear message about the brand, and create a venue with superior visual articulation – so we built an environment designed entirely round the consumer, where service, learning and products were combined." Eight 

Service, learning and product. In that order.

Service :
How is service a priority in your library? We see that Apple has multitudes of workers and a "person on point" to direct people to where they need to be. These people are on the look out for customers to help all the time. School Libraries are known to be understaffed, but maybe being ready to help customers even at the most inconvenient could be something to be tried. Perhaps train student volunteers to be the "people on point" at break times when it is a busy period. The Apple genius' are experts in their field - are your library staff experts in children's literature, information literacy, policies, fixing the photocopier etc or are they there to just to do a job? How can they and you be seen as the genius' in your space.

Every Genius goes through two weeks of intensive training, covering such topics as "Using Diagnostic Services," and "The Power of Empathy." Librarian assistants and librarians could be trained in how to conduct a good diagnostic session (reference questions) to ask the right questions to find out what the customer really wants - not what you think they want, from what they said.  

One of the techniques the Apple Specialists are taught is the APPLE technique. (Gizmodo)
Approach customers with a personalised, warm welcome.
Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs (ask closed and open-ended questions).
Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return. 

See the video below for an explanation of how these 5 steps work from Forbes. This approach would work so well in a school library setting. These steps make people feel acknowledged, appreciated, enthusiastic and happy, which generates loyalty.

The new Apple Store in San Francisco has dedicated 20% of the floorspace for community events and community education. They have developed a new position their stores, "Creative Pro's" who will help customers with their lifestyle apps. Apple run classes in their stores and every connection with a customer is a "teachable moment". Apple colleagues are encouraged to learn from each other through a collaborative spirit, a readiness to learn, and being a team player.

It seems that inquiry learning is at the heart of the Apple stores as they "took all of the typical retail items out of the stores to make them a blank canvas that invites shoppers to play and ask questions. The feeling is almost like being in an interactive museum." (cultofmac) Apple combines education with entertainment.

The Product and space

Apples stores have all their product on the shelves face out, the shelves are not over stuffed. They have just enough stock for you to see what they have and know they have enough of it. There is space between the product on the shelves, the shelves are exactly the right height for the product.

The colours are simple and everything looks good.

Clutter detracts from the focus. What are we trying to achieve? Sometimes more is not better. Weeding helps to keep the product saleable - space on the shelves increases focus. Simple display keeps the focus on the product on the shelves. The CARP principles of design need to be followed across the library space. Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, Proximity for it all to be visually appealing. Apple knows this.

The product displays are hands and interactive and the wall space display is simple and elegant and features the product in a way that makes it look cool and exciting. What can be done in libraries that ooze simple & elegant with the product as the main features? Slatwall with front facing books comes to mind, simple coloured walls, no notice boards to detract from the product we are selling.

Apple bring the furniture to the level of their customers - standing height tables, with a 'bar' and stools for the genius bar, with lower seating for the little people with cool seating designs. The furniture is about a short business like visit, rather than a lengthy relaxation time, but you can do this too if you want. Just like at a real bar.

Furniture designed for the purpose. Do you want collaboration to happen? Private reflection is an important aspect of learning - do we allow for this too?  Furniture that suits the user - are heights correct? Comfort level? How long do you want people to stay?  What is the focus of the space and how does the furniture allow this to happen? 

They do not have permanent cash register locations but every Apple specialist is a portable check out point. Making even the extraction of money a pleasant, personal experience. Do you have a giant circulation desk as is want to be the case in so many school libraries?? Why has this become the norm? What message does his send to our customers? How could the check out process be more personal? Why should it be? If we show an interest in our clients, and what they are reading, they are more likely to return and engage with us. 

Their is space delineated - a place for community, a place for learning, a place for buying, and place for hanging out.  There is plenty of room in the stores for movement and flow.

One of the things I do like about Apple is that they know their strengths and and being very strategic to focus on these. The products are streamlined, they are not wasting energy trying to do too many things going off on little tangents. Apple are purely focused on what makes them great. What are the focuses in your library and programmes? Are you trying to do too many things - does this make you appear to be all over the shop? Do people actually know what you can do well? Stop and make strategic plans and do not stray from them. Focus on your strengths and build from there.

Apple have just opened a brand new concept store in San Francisco where they have evolved the Apple store experience even further - taking a risk to move on, to make changes, to just push the boundaries further. Thinking different to what has become the norm for Apple, and we as School Librarians need to be always evolving and thinking just a little bit different and pushing the boundaries - personally and professionally.

I had written a previous post about the Apple experience. Inspired by Apple.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pokemon Go & Augmented reality

Pokemon Go finally arrived in HK and I have been playing it for the past 24 hours. It is cute, it is addictive and I think it is quite a bit of fun. It can also get a little bit complicated when battles, badges, eggs and incubators all come into play. Baby steps for now. (See here for the Beginners guide). My children were fans of the original Pokemon craze when it first came out - Pikachu was a firm favourite, they have take up the armour of a virtual Pokemon trainer in their 20's and relished the game with gusto.

The whole Pokemon Go concept and launch was well thought out and managed with launch dates coinciding with the beginning of national school holidays especially the long summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere. Each country was released in stages to get the excitement built up - with Australia, USA & The UK first. I was chanting at the bit to see what all the fuss was about and to understand the conversations on ALA Think Tank FB group. There are also the haters with many memes being released about the Pokemon player.....  

There have been some teething problems with the game with Pokestops and Pokegyms being placed near monuments and other areas that really should not have had people traipsing all over them - places like memorials and cemeteries and other reverent, sombre paces. Many libraries are seizing the opportunity to be Pokestops, so that people will enter, or at least come close to entering and maybe they will stay a while.

Many school librarians and teachers have downloaded the app and are giving it a go so they can talk about it with there students when they return from holidays, school principals have been asked to comment in the general media on the game and what repercussions it may have on education. Here are two excellent articles on Pokemon Go in the school environment:
Pokemon Go : A distraction of an opportunity?  by Dr Alec J O’Connell, Headmaster Scotch College Swanbourne, Western Australia)
Pokemon @ School  by Skye Moroney

I am intrigued by the VR technology. I recently was introduced to it by a friend who developed a head set similar to but more permanent to the Google Cardboard. (Merge VR Goggles)  Wearing these goggles and watching a VR app go through its motions was incredible and literally mind blowing. But, this headset took me out of my normal environment and isolated me from the world. Pokemon Go reverses this and puts us back into the environment and allows us to interact with it in a whole new way, and placed the technology squarely into the mainstream. Everyone is taking notice, whether they love it or hate it.

There are currently a few Augmented reality apps on the market - Aurasma, Fresh Air,  Near Pod, Google expeditions, Star Walk  and Flightradar24 (two of my favourites) that can and are being used in the education field. Have a look at this new app that could be used to train doctors.  Many cities and museums are taking the augmented reality technology to help tourists explore their cities at a whole new level. Singapore has Waalkz and few European countries have Beetletrip apps. Of course, advertising has also got on board - iButterfly. What will be the real game changer is when crowdsourcing starts becoming mainstream and we are not just consumers of VR - but creators in a more meaningful way.

Although Pokemon Go may be a game, the technology is one of constant development and needs to be taken seriously - where can it go from here? Have a look at this article from Mashable on how Augmented reality will improve your life.  Further reading from VB - Pokemon Go is nice, but this is what real augmented reality will look like.

Get on board it is here to stay and is the 'next big thing'. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Approaches to Learning skills

This post is going to be a straight up post about the Approaches to Learning in the IB Middle Years Programme and what I have learned about them in teaching and working with them through workshops I have led and hopefully it will help others to gain the insights that I have arrived at and ease some of the stress about them. The principles discussed can be applied to the DP and PYP as well.

The Approaches to Learning Skills are conceptual in design. They are made up of 15 conceptual ideas about different tools of learning. They are divided into 5 main categories and 10 clusters.

The five categories are: 

The ten clusters are: 

When working with the ATL skills, these categories and clusters are non negotiable, which means they are the concepts with which teachers must work within when planning to teach, map and identify the skills. All teachers in MYP schools are responsible for integrating and explicitly teaching ATL skills.

In the MYP: Principles into Practice  (Appendix 1 p. 97) these categories and clusters are expanded into a framework with suggestions of what skills may be included under each of the headings. These are not the be all and end all of ATL skills. In fact, these are suggestions of a possible framework only and can be modified to suit the needs of the school, students as well as local and national requirements as explained on page 21 of the MYP Principles into Practice. 
  1. "Appendix 1 provides a framework of important ATL skills for MYP students. Schools can identify additional disciplinary and interdisciplinary skills within this framework that meet the needs of students as well as local or national requirements. " 
After working with the ATL skills deeply with teachers in workshops I have discovered that schools are using these examples of skills as the gospel of the only ATL skills that can be taught, and they are being jammed into the curriculum without much thought or unpacking. Managebac has a drop down menu of these skills, as does Atlas without any other option to input other skills that the school or teacher is developing. This is going by the letter of the law rather than the spirit. The list of ATL skills in the appendix are suggestions that could be used. Used by themselves without unpacking they really are too broad as they offer little description in what skills are being taught and learned.

The big idea behind the approaches to learning is that they are taught explicitly based on and correlated to the required assessment task at the end of the unit. For example, in year 1 of the MYP, in Individuals and Societies, an assessment task requires a student to give a verbal presentation with a slide show on Forces of Nature. This would be assessed under -

Individuals & Society - Year 1
Criterion C - Communicating 􏰇􏰞􏰎 : 
       i.Communicate information and ideas with clarity􏰈􏰋􏰔􏰔􏰄􏰌􏰇􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰂􏰎􏰇􏰌􏰛􏰋􏰁􏰔􏰉􏰊􏰇􏰋􏰌􏰎􏰉􏰌􏰏􏰎􏰇􏰏􏰂􏰉􏰒􏰎􏰜􏰇􏰊􏰕􏰎􏰈􏰆􏰉􏰁􏰇􏰊􏰓􏰎
     ii. Organise information and ideas effectively for the task
     iii. List sources of information in a way that follows instructions

For students to achieve in that assessment task, they need to know and demonstrate presentation skills which would include but not be limited to : - 
  • planning and drafting a presentation with opening, body & closure in a logical order
  • voice projection, 
  • Clarity & fluency of speech
  • Variety - pace, pitch, emphasis, pause
  • facing the audience, 
  • speaking without reading off notes, 
  • knowledge of subject
  • designing good slides & visuals, 
  • appropriate transitions and animations,
  • engaging the audience
  • knowing the audience
  • time management
  • meeting deadlines
These skills would come under : 

CategoryCommunications skills, Cluster - Effective communication through interaction, 
Category - Self management - Cluster - Organisation skills.

Using the Framework in the PiP Appendix - the suggested skills would be : 

Communication skills: 
  • Use a variety of media to communicate with a range of audiences
  • Use a variety of speaking techniques to communicate with a variety of audiences 
  • Share ideas with multiple audiences using a variety of digital environments and media
  • Organize and depict information logically 
Organisation skills
  • Plan short- and long-term assignments; meet deadlines
  • Create plans to prepare for summative assessments (examinations and performances) 
  • Use appropriate strategies for organizing complex information 
  • Select and use technology effectively and productively 
The skills offered in the Principles into Practice are too broad to be able to be taught effectively and with any possible real measurement or meaning. They need to be broken down further to make them meaningful and from there, the vertical and horizontal mapping can be developed with much more intent.

"In the MYP unit planner, teachers identify ATL skills—general as well as subject-specific—that students will need to develop, through their engagement with the unit’s learning experiences (including formative assessments), to meet the unit’s objectives. "p. 63  PiP.

For the assessment and unit example above, some (not all) of the presentation skills need to be identified by the teacher of the unit as those that need to be learned, and then explicitly taught through the unit, and hence assessed through the task specific subject criterion through the completed assessment. 

"MYP assessment plays a significant role in the development of ATL skills, especially skills that are closely related to subject-group objectives. The MYP approach to assessment recognises the importance of assessing not only the products, but also the process, of learning. " p. 79 PiP.

For example in the task assessment rubric it may develop from something like this :- 

Individuals & Societies
Criterion C - Communicating 􏰇􏰞􏰎 :  Year 1.
       i.Communicate information and ideas with clarity􏰈􏰋􏰔􏰔􏰄􏰌􏰇􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰂􏰎􏰇􏰌􏰛􏰋􏰁􏰔􏰉􏰊􏰇􏰋􏰌􏰎􏰉􏰌􏰏􏰎􏰇􏰏􏰂􏰉􏰒􏰎􏰜􏰇􏰊􏰕􏰎􏰈􏰆􏰉􏰁􏰇􏰊􏰓􏰎
              Skills focused on : - Voice projection, clarity and fluency of speech
                                              Audience Connection 
     ii. Organise information and ideas effectively for the task
             Skills focused on :- planning and drafting a logical presentation - 
                                            with focus on the  opening or hook
                                            Slide design using CARP principles
     iii. List sources of information in a way that follows instructions
             Skills focused on :- Writing a bibliography

The specific presentation skills would then be mapped as being taught and assessed in this unit by this teacher (in his case Dianne). Other teachers could teach the same skills, slightly differently with different resources, or they could build on what has already been taught well and move on to one of the other presentations skills so that the students will reach the end of the year with all of the planned skill developed ready to move into year 2 and 3.

A possible example of horizontal planning ...

The important part of the mapping and teaching of the ATL skills is that is it strategic, you map what you will teach or have explicitly taught based on the requirements of the assessment task.

What has been happening in schools in the drop down menu culture is that teachers are looking at the skills from the framework and saying to themselves - "yep - we will cover this, and this and that" ending up with most of the ATL skills selected, but not being explicitly taught in the unit, specific to the assessment task. It is a tick the box exercise and not at all meaningful or helpful. The mapping programmes need to add boxes for further information for the mapping to be useful and meaningful.

There are many assumptions about what students can and cannot do with regard to these skills. In some cases the assessment task requires a student to complete a field report (or lab report, or annotated bibliography etc), but how to write a field report may never be actually explicitly taught. This is an ATL skill under Communication - "Use appropriate forms of writing for different purposes and audiences" which is then further broken down into more specific forms of communication ie "Using a specific format and including required information, write a field report"

Once these skills have been identified for each year level for each assessment task and unit across the curriculum, the vertical planning becomes clear. 

This approach is flexible enough to allow national standards to be incorporated into the curriculum without trying to jam them, or create an added burden into the MYP framework. If the suggested skills are looked at critically and compared alongside national standards such as the Common Core (USA) , ACARA (Australia), National Standards (NZ), the national Curriculum (UK) or any other nations standards, they are all pretty similar. 

Myth busting: 
1. There is no requirement for all of the 140 framework suggestions to be taught or mapped in the MYP. (from Further Guidance for developing ATL in the MYP) 

2. It is not necessary for planning for teaching, assessing and reporting on all 5 MYP ATL skill categories or 10 MYP ATL skill clusters, they should used as a guide to direct learning and opportunities for learning. (from Further Guidance for developing ATL in the MYP).

3. All the MYP requires for the ATL skills documentation is that schools demonstrate that teachers have time to work on this important aspect of curriculum planning. Robust horizontal articulation (year-level planning across subject groups) will include discussion about ATL skills that cross disciplinary boundaries. The results of these discussions do not have to be documented in order to meet requirements for MYP authorisation and evaluation (from Further Guidance for developing ATL in the MYP).
So - stop stressing out about the Approaches to Learning, most teachers are already teaching them but now they need to be mindful of why they are teaching them and when. 

The ATL skills should not be taught as a stand alone but in context of what skills the students need to achieve in the units of work and they do need to be explicitly taught. 

Remember also you are working with a team of teachers across the school who are all responsible for teaching these skills, collaboration and conversations are required. It is not a single persons job to teach all skills to all students.

The MYP co-ordinator needs to be tracking what is being taught where and by whom, so that an idea of strengths and weaknesses can be identified in the curriculum to ensure the students have learned many of the skills before they leave school.

Those 140 skills suggestions in the appendix?  Use them as a base to build more meaningful descriptors of skills. They do not need to be (or should not be) used as a check the box exercise.

Links to resources that provide more specific skill descriptors are below: 

The image below is a graphical representation of how the MYP planner works with all of the pieces connecting with each other. The ATL skills role and place is depicted in red in the lower right hand corner. 
I would appreciate any feedback you have on this post in the comments.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The data driven library

Image from Pixabay

In the August / September 2010 edition of the Library Media Connection was an article titled "The Data-driven library program".  This article is timeless as it discusses how the Oondag-Cortland-Madison Board of Cooperative Educational Services, School Library System (OCMBoCES SLS in the USA)  district thought a little bit different about collaboration and came up with a strategy that not only boosted the use the library, but also gave the librarians much needed status with the teachers and schools by improving student learning, school wide.

The main question to start the discussion and program initiatives was:

"Through collaboration, how can the library program be instrumental at leading efforts to school-wide improvement in student learning?" 

There are four parts to this question that we need to connect with ;
  • collaboration
  • leading
  • school-wide
  • student learning
These three elements are what makes a strong school library program and what we need to be focusing on.
  • Collaboration means no going it alone, it is about working with others toward a mutual understanding and goal.
  • Leading is about being proactive, knowing where you want to go and how to get there. It is also about bringing others along for the ride. It is not reactive, or complaining or just accepting things as they are.
  • School-wide is about the whole school community - not just about the library. It is about moving beyond comfort zones and shaking things up.
  • Student learning is what why we do what we do in schools. It should be the focus of every decision and change in school and the library.
From this big and important question the PALS (Partners in Achievement : Library and Students) initiative was born.  The program worked by using "student achievement data from state assessments to inform & enhance library collections and collaborations with classroom teachers and to plan unit of instruction to address identified student needs."

The PALS developed a second essential question :

How could my library program in partnership with classroom teachers, leverage data from standardized state assessments to respond to students’ academic strengths and challenges?”
  • library program
  • partnership
  • leverage data
  • respond

In other words, how could working with the classroom teachers and data make what I do more meaningful and have an impact on learning?

One strength in the success of the program was that each school librarian started working with one teacher who was supportive, a master of their craft and willing to work collaboratively. The program did not go all out to change the world all at once.

The school librarians and teachers were up skilled on a particular piece of software (Data Mentor) and worked with the data. They then asked further questions to guide where they were going and what they were learning. They analysed how the questions on the standardised tests reflected AASL & NYS information literacy standards (and now common core, or even ATL skills) for each grade level. They evaluated how each grade was performing in relation to the standard indicator, and to other grades, they also identfied the strengths and challenges that each grade demonstrated. Once they had curated this data, they made a plan to move forward to target instruction.

They worked on a 2 year action plan together focusing on a or a just a few specific performance indicators. They did not try to cover everything at once. The school librarian and the teacher collaboratively planned learning experiences that built the skill level for those weaker indicators over time.

Another part of the PALS program was to address collection development and formed this important question ....

"How do librarians use various types of data to inform their instruction and to build a library collection aligned to curriculum & recreational reading?"

What data is used to build your collection? How do you collect it? We need to get beyond borrowing stats, online database usage and how many books we bought. We need to consider what are the needs of the community, how will we find this out, and then what will we do about it.


Reading this article highlighted to me, that to make a real difference in schools, to make a real difference to learning, we need to be involved in the creation, marking and evaluating of the formative and summative assessments of the students we work with. Although this article is based on American standardised tests, the concept & strategies could work world wide using any assessment data and any standards - whether it be ATL skills (IB Curriculum), ACARA capabilities (Australia), Common Core Standards, ISTE standards, NYC Information Fluency standards or another set of standards, or even a mix of any or all of these. 

We need to know what the students don't know or don't know how to do before we can start planning to move forward.

How ...???
  • Be prepared to be the leader in this. Do not wait for anyone else to do it, and do not be pushed out of the way.
  • Understand the process of strategic planning and what you want to achieve, be prepared to fail well, and be ready to move on. Think of how you will evaluate the process at the end, will it show evidence? What data will you collect that will add to your evidence that you are making a difference?
  • Know the standards you need to be working to - they will be the same ones your school uses, do not add anything else to the mix, do not go off on tangents. Use the same language and tools your teachers are using.
  • Start by asking the hard questions in bold above of yourself and your library program.
  • Know what standardised tests or other assessments are being conducted at your school, ask to look at the data across the board. Ask to be part of the planning or help to assess the work the students do. Analyse it to create meaning.
  • Ask questions of the assessments - break down the skill sets that are needed for students to complete them to a satisfactory level, then identify what was done well and what is weak. Identifying these skills, strategically plan with the classroom teachers to teach them specifically & strategically.
  • Start by collaborating with one teacher who is an ally and a supporter of your vision who is ready to learn as you go and make mistakes. Build it and they will come.
  • Have your Principal on board and supporting you.
  • Evaluate the journey - has it made a difference? How do you know? (see point 2 above)
  • Report and publish your journey and results widely in the school and the community.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Forest Libraries in Korea

In the past few weeks I was on a cycling trip through Korea and within minutes of starting on our odyssey we came across a small library alongside the bicycle track in Busan. These are called Forest Libraries, and I did some investigating on what they were and how they worked.

These small libraries are unmanned and stocked mainly through donations from corporations and individuals, but also with some funding from the district council. The books are not catalogued. There is no requirement for a library card, and people can borrow for as long as they like and whenever they like.

One user was quoted in the Korea Herald as saying "“At first, I had doubts about how long and how well an unmanned library could be maintained,” continues Yang. “But every time I come, the shelves are fully stocked and well-organized. It’s great to see how the library is encouraging a culture of trust and consideration among users.” 

These libraries were opened as part of the 2014 Year of Reading in 2012 are across Korea in the major cities. For more information on these particular libraries see this link Books for loan at new forest libraries.

The forest of wisdom library - photo from Korea Herald

Korea has been quite innovative in creating new types of libraries one of which is called the Forest of Wisdom which is open 24 hours a day, again the books were not catalogued on opening (but this is underway apparently), nor are they organised using any specific system. Borrowing is not part of this library's culture and the library is manned by "Kwondoksa" who are volunteers who help find books for visitors and guide them. Only they can climb the ladders to fetch books from the high shelves.  
Library with no restrictions opens up in Paju

The Korean government has been committing quite a lot of money toward creating more public libraries for the Korean people - with over 968 libraries open throughout the country. The population of Korea is about 50 million people, with most of the population living in the northern region of the country. The ratio of people per public library is about 53,000:1. (In Australia the ratio is 15000:1, in the USA the ratio is about 19000:1, UK is about 15,000:1) For more information on the plans of the Korean government see this link No. of public libraries to rise to 968
Evolution of libraries highlights values of books

This was all very interesting to me as governments in other parts of the world are doing their best to remove public and school libraries from their agendas.

If you are interested in our bike adventure through Korea - see our blog Rambling Cyclists