Forgive the shameless self-promotion, but I’ve just been featured in the latest edition of Australian Books & Publishing, speaking about community outreach, daring to be different, and why rural Australia proved one of the most exciting places to create children’s and youth events for libraries.
It’s a subscriber-only link, but there is the option to sign up for a free trial.
You can read my profile piece in Australian Books & Publishing Online.
A guest post by urban planner turned librarian Jessica Begley. What can libraries do to help users make the most of their spaces?
“Desire lines” – unofficial footpaths created by human behaviour
Like the Pixies, I believe in Space.
I have been fascinated by how and why people use space, and how subtle design can influence behaviour, for as long as I can remember.
As a teen, I merged this interest in social geography with psychology and came up with a degree in Urban Planning and Design. I was going to change the world. Improve open spaces. Create spaces people felt happy in. The reality I found was far from my planned dream. Rows of brickwork, overshadowing, trellis screens, and complaints all dominated my day. Not even I liked the spaces I was approving. Approving, not designing.
Fast-forward fifteen years. I am still an urban planner, but only in my mind. I have been trained to look at spaces, movement of people, land use, all in a certain way. I can no longer look at a space like an ordinary person. Taking my kids to the shops, the park, the library, I analyse the flow of movement through space. When I see conflicting uses, I see a design-based solution. When I see desire lines – the unplanned paths naturally taken by people in any setting – I read them.
Today we’re joined by Paul Alborough – a witty British rapper who “hosts, performs and teaches hip-hop in more ways than you can imagine” in the guise of steampunk cleverclogs Professor Elemental.
Paul’s been interviewed many times about his music, but as I’ve recently started working in South Auckland, with its strong hip-hop culture, I was especially excited by his former career as a special needs educator, and his ongoing commitment to youth development through hip-hop workshops.
I began our interview by asking about Paul’s time as a teacher.
The truth is that I stumbled into it, having realised that I hated or had been fired from every other day job that I could possibly think of. That, and a natural affinity with children, who always seemed a lot more fun to hang out with than adults, led me to the world of education.
Marina and the Diamonds – image (c) Frances Ross
Libraries are utterly thrilling places. At least they ought to be. They should wow the pants off people. Shouldn’t they? All that free stuff. All that culture. All that Keatsian poetry to woo the ladies, and bomb-like knowledge to help pave your way in the world. What’s not to like?
I have long held the belief that a library user should leave a library a more enlightened, brighter, happier, braver, more empowered individual compared to the same person that first went in. In modern TV-land, the romance of people “going on a jouney” is increasingly paramount.
People go on journeys in libraries every day. Maybe we just don’t shout about it enough?
But for that to happen, for that surging flood of the imagination to take place, for the journey to take place at all, the original resources often need to be re-imagined. To be presented in a way that is fresh and appealing and meaningful. Especially to the young.
Central City Library, Auckland
So, a big announcement has been in the works for some time: from 25th February I begin a six-month contract as adviser to Auckland Libraries, the largest public library network in the southern hemisphere. The mission is to extend and enhance Auckland’s already superlative library offerings for children and young people with creative, challenging, and sustainable activities for the future.
I feel confident that we’re entering an era of swashbuckling literacy adventure Down Under. Auckland is the city where kids play a Kiwi-themed version of Angry Birds in their libraries; the city whose librarians already talked Bryan Lee O’Malley into letting them use Scott Pilgrim as the face of their comic book events and wooed Amanda Palmer into giving an impromptu Get Loud In Libraries-style guerilla gig.
Before Auckland beckons, I’ve been looking at the latest developments in the UK and US. The Future Foyles workshop held on Monday of this week brought together publishing, retail, and literacy professionals seeking a vision for London’s next great flagship bookstore – you’ll see me quoted in The Bookseller’s report of the event - and finding much food for thought from a wider community outreach perspective.
In the second part of his guest post for Books and Adventures, Steve Saville of Alfriston College in Auckland, New Zealand, discusses the lessons to be learned from his pioneering comics in the classroom workshops.
Most educators currently involved in secondary schools in New Zealand would agree that creativity is a good thing and that it needs to be encouraged; that we need to nurture and encourage the creative young people who will solve the problems posed by our ever changing world.
We can all look to our own school environments and proudly detail how creativity is nurtured, encouraged, and celebrated in our schools. We provide ample opportunities for writing, artistic expression, the creative use of digital technologies, dance, and drama. Our schools have bands, singers, sculptors. We offer classes in creative writing and philosophy. It can be argued that we have countless opportunities for young people to express and develop their creative skills.
We can also think of numerous teachers that we would classify as creative in their approaches, talented educators who find new and exciting ways to get their learners thinking. Teachers who challenge thinking by making learners ask questions and by asking learners to seek the relevance and authenticity of material studied.
All of this is totally correct – but is it enough?
It may be creative to enable a learner to write a story, to perform in a play or to design a web page but who chose the play and who decided the topic and who wrote the brief?
There is a difference between asking a learner to produce a creative response to something on a particular day, as part of a particular programme of work, and allowing an individual to be creative.
More profoundly, how can creativity flourish in schools, which are essentially non-creative environments?
Today, we’re joined by Steve Saville, deputy principal at Alfriston College in South Auckland. For four years, Steve has championed the use of comics in the classroom through a series of innovative workshops which have allowed students to develop and publish their own high quality comic books. In the first of a two-part guest post, Steve tells the story of Alfriston’s unique comic book education project.
See more on comics in the classroom via the “comicsedu” tag on this site.
Like most teachers, I can think of numerous times that I have attempted to encourage or develop creativity with students, both in and out of the classroom. Like most teachers, my in-class efforts have fallen firmly in the realm of teacher-directed, and therefore dictated, creativity.
Comic book learning in action at Auckland’s Alfriston College
More recently, I’ve spent a few years encouraging learners to genuinely take control of the creative process, exploring creativity through the medium of comics. The aim has been to produce original comics that are of a publishable and professional standard. I have done this within a single school environment, Alfriston College. A potted history of our programme follows.
In the last of three features pushing the boundaries of what librarians can learn from pop culture, Melburnian writer and roller derby official Jordi Kerr tells us what libraries can learn from the glamorous, full-throttle sport of roller derby.