I’ve had a couple of experiences this week which I feel needed an airing.
Firstly, someone I know a little phoned me and asked to interview me around the topic of booksellers and how they relate to libraries and whether there was ground for a developing relationship, and a bunch of questions on were we able to find what we wanted in bookshops and a heap of other really interesting and good to make you ponder questions. And so I got to thinking about this, as always after he had asked the questions and recorded my answers, so far, so why do I always get intelligent after the event rather than during the event, but anyways …..
- Why don’t Booksellers court me and my not insignificant budget?
- Why don’t booksellers automatically assume that if you are buying a popular series you might want all the series, not just the latest one?
- Why is it that some big chain booksellers offer 25% and others only 20? And why in some cases with these same big chain booksellers wouldn’t they offer it automatically when they know you are buying regularly? Don’t make me remind you that you need to give me my discount!
- School libraries must be one of the biggest spenders of bookdollars in the country, maybe second after public libraries – why is there no sponsorship from booksellers for our association and events? Wouldn’t it be great to total up how much is spent across the country in bookshops by school libraries? It would certainly make me loyal.
- I feel like there are a bunch more bullet points here but this is where I’m at to date.
Secondly, today I have had two book reps visit and received an unsolicited book, complete with invoice. I’m going to deal with the unsolicited book first.
Unsolicited books: If you send me an unsolicited book (even if I know you) I do not have to return it, you have the opportunity to collect it from me, but the obligation all rests with you. Don’t send me unsolicited books. Ever! See this link for the actual rules.
Book Reps, ok, two visits from two completely different reps today. Rep 1, works for a well known library book supplier, brings in boxes of books. Lots of cream pages and books for dyslexic students – average publication date is 2010 – they cost $21.00 each. I check the prices on both Book Depository and Wheelers. There is a $10 difference in price, in one book and $4.20 (about 20%) difference in another one, obviously cheaper online. I mention this to the rep who is shocked. She phones her head office and they tell her to take 15% off the total cost of anything I buy, by that stage I am thoroughly peeved.
Offer me discount straight off – I am not so foolish that I will pay your overpriced costs for rather old books. Particularly when I have done the rather meagre order and you had packed up and left. You are lovely and it is maybe not your fault, but this is crap. You should have told me that the price on the books was not the actual price, you made me feel you were trying to get away with ripping me off.
Book Reps (again) If you phone me to arrange to come and show me books you should be nice. I’m getting a lot of:
- All the schools are buying these books and your students will miss out if you don’t buy them too. I don’t actually care what the others are buying. I’m working on MY collection, not the school up the road’s collection.
- If you are pushy, I will also be pushy. And again with the discount – see above.
- And, it is not your business how much my budget is Mr Book Rep. I will spend it where it does the most good for my students. That may or may not be your product!
- It is so not appropriate to say to me that history students all need to study British history if they are to understand any New Zealand history. That will make me wince and show you the door. Seriously, have a look at university papers, they are teaching NZ history, our students need to know NZ history, it’s been a while now since we needed to know about the Reformation to be able to understand how things went here – I kid you not, this is what he told me. I reiterate my point in case you missed it, BE NICE!
And here is a plug. I have two favourite Book Reps. One is Austin Kyle. He is based in Christchurch, he sells fantastic popular non-fiction that I never see anywhere else. I look forward to his visits, he is quirky and funny and full of good humour. And he is so nice! The other is Bob Anderson from John Douglas Publishing also based in Christchurch. He is interesting, his books are reasonably priced, he sends me sample copies to see if I am keen, but always asks first. He is great to have in the office and is genuinely interested in what I need and whether he can really help me.
Anyway, there you go. A rant for the end of a busy week. If you wanted to share your gripes and whines and the names of the book reps you love I’d be keen to hear.
Librarian Design Share is a really useful blog where library peeps from all over (including here, now!) share their ideas and designs and even files for all manner of library materials – posters, pamphlets, event flyers etc. If you don’t follow their blog, jump over there and do it now.
For those of us in school and academic libraries, the end of the semester and school year is a time for reflection and…reporting (womp womp). Rather than send out the same old charts, graphs, and narrative reports, why not turn a chore into an exercise in graphic design? It’s a great opportunity to learn a new graphic design tool like Canva, Publisher, or Illustrator, and may even give you a chance to think about what numbers and data mean the most to you and your library.
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Miranda McKearney has been in New Zealand recently, she is the founder of The Reading Agency and also Empathy Lab in the U.K. exploring the idea that readers have more empathy for those worse off than themselves, than those who don’t. She has been here as the guest of the Book Council and The National Library. A group of people including some well known SLANZA peeps, were invited to hear her speak and workshop ideas about literacy last week in Wellington.
During her visit here she was interviewed by Phillippa Tolley from Radio New Zealand for the Saturday Morning programme. Her interview makes interesting listening. She gives a great chat which includes reference to research into the skills which good readers have which may be useful to school librarians when justifying their existence, their budgets and their hours. Listening to this talk I started to wonder if maybe there was the beginning of a push back to the disestablishment of libraries, to the idea that modern learning environments don’t need to have books. I have a LOT of thoughts and opinions on this topic but am not going to vent them here yet. Maybe harnessing the power of someone like Miranda McKeraney is useful for us as school librarians. Maybe the cynics see us as usually self-justifying when we talk about the things we know about libraries and their places in schools and in society. Have a listen, see if what she says rings true for you in your life and the reasons you love books and reading and try to share that with the students you work with and your own children.
You know you’re a librarian when you see book covers everywhere. Case in point:
And now I want them both #LibrarianProblems
These are the books that have made it to my 5-star shelf on Goodreads this year.
Frances Hardinge – I am late discovering her, the first book of hers I read is the recently published “The Lie Tree“. Now I need to seek them ALL out! The two I’ve read (Lie Tree and Cuckoo Song) are a mix of historical/fantasy. Perfect for avid Year 9-10 readers who don’t mind things a bit weird. The main characters are girls deeply affected by what’s fair and right, they behave realistically (setting aside the fantasy elements of the stories!) so they’re not always 100% likeable. They are both stories that feature death and grief, so they have some dark and (slightly) scary moments. Both also have an interesting slant on matters of faith/belief and religion. Absolutely beautiful writing, in my opinion.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel – Winner of this year’s Arthur C Clarke award. I am recommending this to seniors particularly who are into Dystopian fiction. Nice alternative end-of-days sort of story for those (perhaps like me!?) who aren’t huge fans of The Road. It’s a short book, that weaves together the stories of several characters, after a global flu-like pandemic wipes out most of the population. Interestingly, there was an article in the NYT recently discussing how/whether the author’s gender makes a difference to elements of story/writing in this genre.
All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr – Pulitzer winner. I had been avoiding this for a while, thinking it might be one of those ‘worthy’ sort of titles – this is the problem with judging a book by it’s cover! Possibly my favourite read of the year. Mainly young (teen) characters, short chapters, it feels sort of compact in it’s settings and time-frame (for the most part, at least). Much more accessible text than what I was expecting. Am recommending it to everyone, will appeal to anyone who loved The Book Thief.
The Truth Commission by Susan Juby – hipster/arty/fandom types will love it. The kids in this story are all WAY cool, you sort of love and hate them at the same time for that. The family relationships in this story are so whacked out, you just want to get them all into therapy. Sad and funny sometimes too. Interesting themes about reality/perception, self image vs what other people see/think.
Vivian vs the apocalypse by Katie Coyle – another YA dystopian series, really looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Set during/after the (supposed) Rapture. It’s got betrayals, an awesome road trip, truth/religion stuff going on. Really good. Probably best suited to Y11 upwards.
The cure for dreaming by Cat Winters – published late 2014. Historical/fantasy again. Horrible father tries to hypnotize the bolshiness out of his headstrong daughter, but things go weird and instead she has visions of how things/people really are as opposed to how they purport to be. Bonus beautiful photographs from the time (pics of suffragists, ads etc).
What books have you loved this year?
Late in 2014, the National Library announced a transformation of their Services to Schools Curriculum Service. At first, reaction following the announcement came mainly from school librarians – those whose Principal had passed along the news from National Library, or those subscribers to the NZ School Libraries listserv. In the days and weeks following the announcement, there has been much opposition voiced from all over – the SLANZA website has a good roundup of links for those who want to get up to speed.
I’m posting today with the letter I wrote to Peter Dunne on 13 February, to which I have not yet received a reply (other than an automated “we’ll get back to you” email).
Kia ora Mr Dunne
I am writing to address some of the points you made in your beehive.govt.nz release of 5 February 2015 regarding changes to the National Library’s Curriculum Service.Far from being 3 tragi-comic voices in the wilderness as you imply, Ms Ardern and Messrs Hipkins and Robertson are speaking out as a result of concerns expressed to them by parents, teachers and librarians on behalf of the many students who stand to lose from these changes.
You write that the transformation will see more schools receiving an increased number of books from the National Library. At this stage, I can’t see that as anything more than conjecture. For many secondary schools, receiving an annual loan of 200 books comprising “high-interest” fiction and some non-fiction which will be aimed primarily at Year 9 & 10 students, represents a complete change to the way their teachers and librarians have used Curriculum Services to date i.e. to request, as and when needed, subject-specific books to support the research needs of senior students in particular, as they undertake specific topics of study throughout the year. Consequently, I believe many schools will decide not to opt in to the scheme. The result of the changes will be, in my opinion, that while some schools will receive an increased number of books, at the same time many schools will receive a smaller number of books from the National Library. It is naive and overly optimistic of the National Library to think that every school will embrace these changes. I will be interested to see the actual statistics on uptake and use of the transformed service when National Library next report on these.
I am not surprised to hear that the Ministry of Education supports the changes to National Library’s Curriculum Service. I hope you – and they – are now aware that many professional organisations whose members are stakeholders in the services National Library provides to schools (particularly the School Library Association, but also the PPTA, NZEI, and the NZ Principal’s Federation) have spoken out against the changes on behalf of their members, and the students they in turn represent.
So National Library will support topic requests by providing information delivered digitally rather than in print, as it is “up-to-date and in formats the current generation of New Zealand students need”. Unfortunately, only meeting these specific requests with digital content does not in fact match the needs of many of our most vulnerable students, who do not have the wherewithal to access digital content at home and at school, as they might with print materials. I am relieved to hear that the National Library will operate targeted programmes to assist these students, presumably where their school profile suggests extra support is needed. When and how will more detailed information be made available on these targeted programmes so that those affected can begin as soon as possible to manage the change process within their school?
Further to your comments about sharing materials between schools and teachers, can you advise how much of the digital content that National Library plans to provide (through curated web links presumably) is in fact freely available via the internet and therefore accessible by teachers, librarians and students already, and how much of it will be subscription (licensed) material purchased by the National Library for the purpose of further electronic distribution to schools? This raises the question of how National Library and schools will manage the DRM implications of sharing licensed or subscription material, and furthermore what delivery mechanisms will need to be put in place for making this content readily accessible by students? How quickly will Curriculum Services be able to provide this curated digital information? Because a good deal of our students’ learning happens through what is often a quite fluid process of research and inquiry, much of the work that teachers and school librarians do to help students locate and use digital resources happens “on the spot” at the moment a student finds they have a particular information need. Curriculum Service requests are of no use to them in that case.
You have written about the “wide consultation” undertaken as part of National Library’s 2012 review of Services to Schools. Teachers and librarians who were involved in the focus group meetings listed in the review document were explicit in their recommendation that National Library continue to provide topic-specific print resources, particularly to support rural and low decile schools, and other schools whose library budget does not otherwise allow their school to provide either print or eResources sufficient to meet the information needs of their teachers and students. I was shocked and baffled to find that the interview subjects of that 2012 review did not include a single currently practicing teacher or school librarian. Reaction from school librarians and teachers since the Services to Schools Transformation announcement has been overwhelmingly critical of the decision to cease supplying specific print materials on request from National Library’s large and very valuable collection, to meet the specific needs of learners. I am certain that if those in attendance at the 2012 focus group meetings had any inkling of the likelihood of losing this valuable service, they would have vociferously expressed their disapproval at that time, as they are now.
You imply in your release that opponents of these changes must be opponents of progress. Of course this is not such a simple black-and-white issue, and Labour are not at all attempting to keep Curriculum Services out of the 21st Century as you facetiously suggest. Rather, they recognise, as do teachers, parents and school library staff, that resourcing the curriculum should mean providing information in a range of formats, and at the time it is needed. There has never been any suggestion that National Library are expected “to purchase in advance hard copy books on all possible subjects”. National Library have in fact been doing an excellent job of purchasing books to meet the specific curriculum needs of teachers and their students up until now, and providing an excellent service of distributing those books to schools. This is not to say that some improvement to distribution processes and promotion of Curriculum Service’s print resources isn’t required – as it surely will be for the digital content they plan to provide, too – especially if, as it appears, one of their aims is to increase the numbers of teachers who access the collection.
Can you confirm whether the suggested savings of $.392m p.a. associated with the transformation include consideration of any new or increased costs of providing the ‘enhanced’ service e.g. staffing allocations for skilled reference librarians who will be locating and curating digital collections on a wide range of topics, suitable for a wide range of curriculum levels, accessible in a wide range of formats? Will these costs, and subscription and/or licencing costs of digital content simply replace the cost of print materials?
I remain unconvinced that the transformation of Curriculum Services will enhance what National Library provides schools, and I look forward to hearing your reply to the questions I have raised.