Category Archives: Just A thought

Intellectual Freedom vs Censorship

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As a librarian, the hardest part for me has been when I have asked an eager student not to pick a particular book just because the teachers felt it was inappropriate for the age. The long drawn face still lingers with me, years after the experience. The incident made me think that how can a teacher be the judge for a child as to what he/she should read. Isn’t it impinging on the Intellectual Freedom of the student?

The school libraries play a very pivotal role in dissemination of information and promoting intellectual freedom. It serves as a nodal point of voluntary access to information and ideas in the form of books, periodicals, journals and other materials. They also serve as learning avenues for students as they acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Thus stopping a student from accessing a material is equivalent to censorship, thereby flouting his/her freedom to read. And yet creating a curiosity in the young minds about the content of the book, as they say forbidden fruit tastes better.

The ALA( American Library Association) describes censorship as, “Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone”. (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship/faq)

Being an avid reader, I was devastated as a student myself when I found some of the most popular classics to be banned for the flimsiest of reasons. But, on the other hand it also throws light on the issues that the authority fears the most, or the society wishes to suppress. For eg: Little Women  by Louisa May Alcott  was challenged frequently for having female characters that are independent, resilient and open to make their own choices. This was unacceptable at the time it was published. Similarly, Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie  has been banned and challenged on the grounds of promoting homosexuality and miscreant-ism!!!!! Any answers to that??? A book that is a classic par excellence, which is a blend of pure fantasy and magic, transporting the readers to an adventure ride is seen as objectionable !!!!. But then , the question arises: Who gives the power to curtail the freedom to read? and why? Please answer.

In my 9 years as a Librarian, I have invested my time, energy into acquiring all types of  resources for my students. I have made it a task for myself to satisfy their hunger and yet keep the hunger for more. But out of the blue,  there is an email, or a letter asking me to explain myself as to how I let myself fail at the job, and allow the students free access to all kinds of books. It is not pleasant to read or answer them since may parents and teachers refuse to understand my stance of defending a books, and end up using very harsh language against me. It took a lot of courage, integrity and character, not to answer them in their own tone yet defending my reason. Most often I have had to back off since Heads also do not accept the stance of why a particular book should not be removed.

It has been of utmost importance to me to be judicial when dealing with students. They are like open pots. So I refuse to label a book that might prejudice a potential reader. I wish to fill them knowledge that surpasses all kinds of prejudices, biases and intolerance. I take it upon myself as a librarian to “defend the right to read, to speak, to learn, to explore, to question, to differ, to contradict, to grow, and to think?”. (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship/faq)

To educate my students, I organised Banned Books Week, to educate them about their Right to Read, Intellectual Freedom and Censorship. My efforts paid off. The display board outside the library was the ‘Talk of the School’. And even now I have students stop me and discuss as to why they feel its unfair to put a blanket ban on a books, or the judge of a book should be the reader. They were thinking for themselves and also questioning the rights of the author to be read , and the rights of a reader to read, reasons why a book was banned when the author wrote for the very same reasons to come to light, etc. The appropriateness of a book should not be handed down, rather one should judge themselves whether the content is suitable or not. Here,  I would like to add what Michelle Luhtala, Library Department Chair, New Canaan High School, CT, had said in one of her webinar: ” We will have a book for every child, but not every book in the library is right for every child”. 

Thus my job as a librarian becomes even more riskier since we are always under scrutiny for allowing the freedom to read. I would also like to add  that the mere presence of a particular book in the school library does not imply endorsement of the ideas expressed by the author. The library is simply acting as a a neutral provider of information . The freedom to read is essential for our world today to harvest young minds that make informed decision, and develop creative culture.

So dear all, if you find your favorite book in the library, be appreciative and grateful of the librarian who has been the voice behind it being there for you, defending  your right to read.

 

 

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“In memory of children, girls and women victims of silence.” — Edge of Humanity Magazine

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Artist and Photographer Simona Bonanno is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of these images. From her project ‘Chains Of Silence‘. To see Simona’s body of work click on any photograph. In memory of children, girls and women victims of silence. Silence can have many forms: it could be expected […]

via “In memory of children, girls and women victims of silence.” — Edge of Humanity Magazine

 

Every picture speaks a 1000 words…

Stories of pain.

‘We had no other choice’ – rape culture & sexual exploitation of girls — Conversation Zimbabwe

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Original post: ‘We had no other choice’ – rape culture & sexual exploitation of girls On 6th September, StarFM’s show Pane Nyaya hosted two children who spoke about being forced into prostitution in Harare. One was 9, the other 13. The interview, painful to listen to, sat with me for hours on end. The 9 year old girl explained how […]

via ‘We had no other choice’ – rape culture & sexual exploitation of girls — Conversation Zimbabwe

When rape becomes a culture, and the female body only a tool for deriving pleasure, the matter of choice of ceases to exist. In such situation if a woman is desired by a  man, she will be made to succumb, because she does not exist as a human. She is rather only a means of gratifying sexual hunger. Thus, reducing her to the status of an inanimate object to be used and disposed as per will. Think, ponder and discuss why is it that only women are at fault. Its high time that men own up and the society paves way for gender equality.

World Intellectual Property Rights Day: 26 April’ 2017

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Earlier this year, as part of my profile as an IBDP librarian, I thought of introducing the topic of plagiarism and academic honesty in a way that will be better understood by the students. I wanted to make an impact that would stay with them. So I thought of improvising and combined World Intellectual Property Rights Day with a talk on plagiarism.

So, on 25th April, a workshop was conducted for the IB students regarding World Intellectual Property Rights Day (26th April’2017). The aim of the workshop was to inform the students about: What is Intellectual Property? Intellectual Property Rights, Copyrights, Patent, etc. The primary aim was to inform and educate students about the need and importance of copyright, and how plagiarism relates to this. In an earlier session, the students had been briefed on the need and importance of plagiarism and referencing. Thus, the workshop on Intellectual Property was appreciated by the students since they better understood the concept of copyright in literary field and how it affects their work as well. The students could draw connections between the two topics and discussed the same.

The topic for this year was Innovation: Improving Lives (in fields of Education, Healthcare, Clean energy, Agriculture and Communication). Students prepared talks and poster on this topic and presented it before their class. The unique style of presentation and their own understanding of the topic is reflected in their works. The posters reflect their creativity as well grasp of the topic. Each poster highlights a different field where Innovation has brought about change and improved the lives affected by it.

The idea was met with huge appreciation by both students and heads of school, who found that the event was successful in reinforcing the need for academic honesty and how the rights are violated when work is plagiarized. I, on my part was thrilled to see that my efforts paid off to incorporate a topic that they are aware of (Copyright), and merge it with their own skill and work.(plagiarism and copyright).

Are school librarians valued in India today?

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While looking up on books for professional reading I came upon a wonderful resource-The Indispensable Librarian by Doug Johnson. It is immensely useful and beneficial for taking guidance for managing an effective school library program.

It is while going through the book and having visited the author’s blog that certain questions came to me while taking a regular library lesson. Doug has asked the questions in his blog and I too am just voicing my opinion about the same. In his blog (http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/) he questions: “… it’s only fair to ask if libraries, library programs, and librarians will be around long enough to make such a reading worth your time.” And like him my answer is also a yes. But a weak yes. You may ask why?

I work as a librarian in an Indian school where the position of a school librarian is yet to develop from the status of a bookkeeper. And it’s not just the authority to blame. There are still librarians who are complacent in their place and do not desire a growth for themselves. Information explosion has not made them look up from their seats and the see the various roles that we can now play. The roles that not only enrich us professionally but also give a fulfilment within. Sadly, there aren’t many takers of this and so books that can help develop skills to make an efficient school library program are not treasured yet. Hence the weak yes.

Having worked with schools with different curricula like CBSE, IGCSE and IB, I saw a stark difference in the way the role of a librarian is perceived. Not all CBSE schools give their librarians the scope for development since they are overworked. Being a part of administrative staff, librarians perform duties other than the library profile which takes away time from their work. They are understaffed and thus he/she does not have time to develop a library program or even organise engaging activities. They are given board duties, invigilation work and other such works without a thought that the work of a librarian is specialised and that it cannot be performed by anyone else.  The very essence of a library period is lost when students are sent for substitution to library in the absence of a teacher. CBSE schools are yet to recognise the strengths of a librarian in curriculum and project designing. Ver few school engage a librarian in department meetings when syllabus is discussed. The use of library is restricted to reading and research. What they fail to see is that library can become the hub of the school if given a chance. But for that librarians should be allowed time to do so and not be scattered into different directions as need be.

And yet there are schools and librarian who show a way for the others like G D Goenka school library and Ms. Madhu Bhargava, the librarian who also happens to be the Director of IASL, which has a comprehensive school library program that not only engages the readers but also teaches students about information literacy, plagiarism, intellectual property rights, etc. She has developed lessons to integrate classroom teaching with the library lessons by way of Collaborative planning and teaching, develop curriculum contents by interacting with international communities and also train the teachers to use web tools and integrate in teaching. So, the students and teachers are Digital citizens as well. In the same lines, we have S. L Faisal from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pattom, a beacon of how library can be developed into a hub. A visit to the blog gives you glimpse into what potential a library holds, if only right opportunity and support is provided.

I call myself a novice in technology integration as I have a long walk ahead. I have just tasted a drop in the ocean. Our names have now changed to Information specialist, Library media specialist, Information manage, etc. Thus, we all need to adapt to changes in technology to keep ourselves updated and well-informed. It is our responsibility to create and mentor effective library programs in our respective schools.

But the impact and influence of the program is our sole responsibility. There is need devote more time on effective promotion and evolving extensive ownership of the library program. We all know that our roles keep evolving just like the physical facilities, our areas of knowledge, our collections will become more heterogenous, and the services by the school library will also be different each year.

Here comes the second question Doug Johnson has asked in his blog: “So a second question then comes up: Will our libraries be so changed from what we now consider libraries will they still continue to be called libraries.”

And I echo the YES, he provided in his blog. It has become a motto for me to better my services as a librarian and yet not be limited in any means. The answer is:

“If, we maintain the core values that will transcend the specifics of library programming.”  In rather very simple words he has summarised the key to a successful library program.

I have often heard remarks that librarians would soon be redundant with the emerging technology. To these I answer, we have Google, but for a person to arrive at the information he/ she is looking they need a librarian to train them to be critical thinkers and search for relevant information. Otherwise there is every chance of drowning in the ocean of information. We are yet to receive the acceptance and recognition for all the behind the scene work.

In India, the position of a school librarian is very side-lined. It is very rarely looked upon with respect. The wealth hidden in the potential of a librarian is yet to be mined in the schools. Little is done besides the regular lending and borrowing. We are taught Ranganathan’s five laws of library science. But very little is taught on the application of the same in a school scenario.

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There is no help or training provided as to how one is to apply the rules in a school set-up. So, I have been on the lookout for the basic core of librarianship and how it stands in a school environment. Doug in his blog has listed the enduring central or “core” values of librarianship as identified by long-time academic librarian and past ALA president Michael Gorman. (Gorman, 2000). These values stand the storm even though the impact of technology can be heavily felt:

  1. Stewardship
  2. Service
  3. Intellectual Freedom
  4. Rationalism
  5. Literacy and learning
  6. Equity of access to recorded knowledge and information
  7. Privacy
  8. Democracy

These core values may or may not summarise everything but they do provide me a starting point to analyse my own core values as a school librarian. Keeping in mind the Five laws of Library science I embrace:

  1. The primary objective of a school library is to help a child to become a thinker and develop his/ her own views about the world. They are not to be taught what to think, rather How to think. And this is achieved when they can have opinions and not be agreeable to all.
  2. Every child is unique and comes from varied cultural, social and economic background. Thus, their individuality is to respected to help them become better library users.
  3. It is of utmost priority to teach children to honour and respect their privacy and that of others as well.
  4. The ability to find, evaluate, organize, synthesize and communicate information is a basic skill for every child. (Doug Johnson)
  5. Reading skills are best developed when a child voluntary reads through personal interest and is not coaxed. Hence, the job of librarian to help a reader find his/ her book.
  6. Every child is must be taught the skills and sensibilities of digital citizenship. (Doug Johnson)
  7. The success of a library is determined by the services provided to the students and how much they benefit from it.
  8. The skills taught and resources provided by the library program are critical to a free society.
  9. Information in all formats should be treated equally and a child’s preference for the same is to be respected.

Striving to achieve this in the Indian schools is like climbing uphill. The lack of support and understanding makes it difficult to explain the roles a librarian can play in a school and enhance the learning and teaching process. Collaboration between teachers and librarians are unheard of. There is so much that we could bring to the classroom if only given a chance to step out of the island we are closed in. We have been branded Teacher- librarian, but how many of us have really given a lesson in a class. And nowadays without understanding the real value of a librarian there are institutions who are employing technology experts and not people with library background. But can these experts answer the questions Doug Johnson has put: Who will fight for information access for all students? Who will fight for intellectual freedom? Who will be concerned about the privacy rights of students and faculty? Who will insist that information literacy is right of every child?”  They may value these but unlike librarians will it be their principal task? A librarian is not just a bookkeeper, given the provision and occasion to display their knowledge and expertise and help make school libraries the heart of every organisation.

Credits:

Gorman, Michael .Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century, Chicago: American Library Association, 2000. Gorman.

Johnson, Doug. The Indispensable Librarian, Linworth Publishing, Incorporated; 2nd Revised edition edition, 2013.

Blog: http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/

 

Beyond books and walls: What it takes to be a 21st century school librarian

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From connecting with parents and students to keeping up with the latest technologies, there is a whole lot more to the job than stamping due dates and lending books.

A few days ago, while going back home in metro, a fellow female passenger and I got talking. And in between the talk we shared what we do for a living. The moment I said I worked as librarian in a school, she smiled blissfully and remarked that I was lucky to have such a relaxed and comfortable job. Upon hearing this I asked what she meant by her remark. Lo and behold! what I heard next was just the stereotype people possess of the nature of a librarian’s job. For her all I, did was lend books to students in school and shush them when they talk. And the most painful was that I get to sit all day in a comfortable chair with tea on the side. Really!!!!

Is that how I work? Well my friend the answer is no. I do not get to sit on a chair or sip tea all day. Leave alone rest. My day does not merely involve stamping books. I do much more and I am proud of it. I did not choose this job so that I would be having an easy work to do. And yet who am I to get upset because if I stopped the next person walking by on the street and asked them what our jobs as librarians involve, I’d be willing to bet that their first answer would be stamping books. This is because the experience you all had of librarians is of the frontline, the old lady with glasses who kept books locked in cupboards and looked down upon you if your shoes so much as even squeaked. But dear friends have you ever spared a thought how the books get on to the shelves and ready for you to borrow? There is no magic behind it, but behind the scenes there are teams of librarians working to make this happen in universities and colleges. But in schools the job is carried out single handily by the librarian, or if the school infrastructure supports he/ she might have an assistant. Other than that, we ourselves do all the behind the scene from selecting the books for purchase, to processing the orders and later create the bibliographic records that make it possible for you to find the book in the library catalogue and then on the shelves.

I am not here to glorify my job or to argue. I only want you all to see us in the true light. For years, we have plodded to receive the status we enjoy now. And a lot of hands have worked towards making this job reach a level where we are not lesser than our teaching counterparts. No, I have no issues against. I have been a teacher myself, but it is disheartening to see them remark about the librarians’ job as being a job that requires no specific qualification or specialisation and can be done anyone. I was horrified when they said that it’s a job anyone can do effortlessly as there is no level expertise needed.

And the expression was priceless when I informed that we do possess degrees to qualify as a librarian. Not many of my teacher friends were aware. And that’s the level of ignorance behind one of the oldest professions. The fault lies on our part as well because many librarian do not engage themselves beyond books and thus the stereotype continues.

But for me books are only one aspect of what libraries and librarians are about. Librarianship is a people profession. Our job is to connect people with the information they are seeking, whatever format that may take. At their heart, all library jobs have a central purpose: to help people access and use information, for education, for work, or for pleasure. In all library roles, irrespective of place and institution, customer service and communication skills are important. If anyone ever thought they’d become a librarian because they liked books or reading, they would be disillusioned if they did not also like people too. Libraries of all kinds are keen to demonstrate their value to as wide an audience as possible, and to open access to all significant resources that they hold.

In the digital age, with information explosion becoming a common term and every information becoming available online, there is a proclivity to say that libraries and librarians are redundant. But this is not the case. Information available online is often of dubious origin and there is still a wealth of information behind paywalls that can only be accessed by those who have paid. I have helped many students and teachers who have used search engines for their research and projects and come to the library perplexed because they cannot find the information they want or are rather baffled by the overflow of information pertaining to a topic. If anything, the internet has added to the range of services libraries provide and in turn this has also increased the variety of roles available to librarians.

As well as being good communicators with people and dynamic adopters and exploiters of technological developments, librarians need to have detailed specialist subject knowledge to pass on to library users. Our job now includes providing training to show people how to search for information and evaluate the same. These information skills sessions are now expanding to include digital literacies such as cyber safety, the use of social media sites and online collaboration tools.

There is no standard route into librarianship: librarians have first degrees across the whole spectrum of subjects. To become a professionally qualified librarian we also need a masters qualification in librarianship or information science. An introduction to librarianship can be gained through a graduate degree.  A year as a graduate trainee can be useful but it is not a requirement for a place on a postgraduate programme.

I have a job that goes beyond the school walls as I am in constant touch with teachers and students as and when they need any help. As a librarian, my job requires that I be available to them as much as possible. Last month I gave a workshop on Referencing and Citation. This required me to do a lot of reading and research so that the information I communicated was accurate and current. After the research, I was engaged in assembling the information and resources I gathered. Presentations and handouts were prepared keeping in mind the guidelines and student friendly. It took me weeks to prepare for it, as my mistake would cause the students lose marks in their research work. And people consider my job to be cakewalk.

My intention is not to belittle the teaching profession. But friends please be considerate when you happen to meet a librarian. We are not sitting idle all day. The 21st century librarian is more like an information officer who needs to updated and always abreast with the latest in information, books and technology. And this necessitates that we read and keep ourselves up on our surrounding. Nevertheless, we keep doing our work behind the curtains, but it does hurt when people deride our work. Every profession has its share of hardships and bounty, but it is not often that we give each their due.

Yes, teachers have lesson plans to prepare, report cards to write and much more. But we, the librarian work no less. We too have classes but our teaching is not limited to curriculum. We act as aide to your teaching and assist the students study and evaluate information, build up on knowledge and open the horizons for you. Just like your work, our work also requires hours of planning and hard work. Like preparing reading lists, deciding on age appropriate resources for their projects, guiding them in selection of collaboration tools and technology best suited for their need. And this is not easy for us. It involves lot of enquiry, research and assembling of information from the ocean to find that one drop that would quench the need of the user.

We have moved beyond books and walls, and moved ahead, just as information is not limited to books anymore. Our names have changed also, we are called information officer, information specialist, teacher librarian, information and media specialist, and many more. And with the change in the names our role and duty have also changed, become more extensive. We perform research, evaluation, investigation, exploration, curation, referencing, examination. I could go on and the list would only get longer. With the transformation in education system and advancements in technology, our jobs have evolved to extend beyond books. My job is not limited to stamping alone, I am an information officer trying my best to help students search information and evaluate its authenticity and suitability for their work.

So, friends I am not just a librarian, I am the librarian who works behind the scene to ensure you get what you come looking for. The next time you visit a library do pass a smile and give a second to appreciate our work.

Don’t overlook your school librarian, they’re the unsung heroes of literacy

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School librarians are depressingly underused, argues Sally Dring. Many teachers would be amazed at how much support they can give them and their students

Library book checkout card
‘Many school librarians are seen purely as minders of a spare IT suite or as date label stampers.’ Photograph: Alamy

When talking about teaching and learning, most people don’t immediately think of librarians. But in a school where the librarian or learning resource centre manager is valued and properly made use of, we can teach important skills.

Librarians are in the privileged position of being able to work with teachers across all subjects and students of all ages, observing the inner workings of a school from a slight distance.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the belief that students are adept at using the latest technology to find the information they need is simply not true. Students turn up in the library with the ubiquitous task of researching a topic and they don’t know where to start. Usually they head to Google, which takes them straight to Wikipedia (it’s top of the list so it doesn’t take much effort). Wikipedia is handy if you know how to use it properly, but many students need this explaining to them. Should they choose to go to university, a Wikipedia footnote will not be acceptable.

A librarian’s area of expertise is in information management and we try to make the process of finding information easier for our students and staff by providing relevant, reliable resources to support the areas they are studying or teaching. We teach information literacy – finding, assessing, evaluating, using and referencing information. We can also share this knowledge with teachers if it’s needed, especially since some find learning how to use new technology, or keeping up with the latest programmes and websites, very difficult.

Teachers are busy enough as it is and often don’t have the time to critically assess all the sources of information out there. If you’re struglling with this – or need help with research – it’s a good opportunity to make use of your friendly school librarian, who is usually more than happy to help out. It’s part of our job.

Librarians can help students to formulate assess and evaluate what they’ve found and, importantly, use information in a way that hones their note-taking skills, avoiding plagiarism. Librarians can teach your students to be better, more independent researchers.

Most school libraries will have their own management system, including a catalogue that students and staff can access. This will probably include details of online databases, magazine articles and recommended websites, as well as books. What better place for students to start their research? If the teachers start using and valuing the librarian in their school, the students will do the same and view them as more than someone to help with the photocopying or chase them for an overdue book.

Encouraging literacy across the curriculum is something that comes naturally to the school librarian, whose job revolves around literacy of all kinds, a fact that can be overlooked. We spend our time finding the right book for the right child and each student is individual in their needs and taste. I have been lucky to obtain the role of literacy co-ordinator in my school. The role sits naturally alongside that of the school librarian, working with all the different subject departments with a unique overview of the school.

Librarians also share teachers’ frustration at each new change to the curriculum – we’ll have to get some new books and find some different databases. We’ll probably have subscribed to several databases with reliable, curriculum-based information that is perfect for students. It’s at times like this that it would be great if teachers work with us and share the burden of selecting and providing new resources. We could help you build up a list of websites that are suitable, and can guide students on the skills they need to find information independently.

As it is not a statutory requirement for a school to have a library (although, interestingly, it is for a prison) so there are no set models or pay scales for school libraries, librarians or the status they hold within a school. I am fortunate in having the support of senior management and holding an assistant subject leader position, which helps to give me more clout. But many school librarians are seen purely as minders of a spare IT suite or as date label stampers. They are enormously, depressingly, frustratingly underused.

So don’t forget to seek out your school librarian. You will be amazed at how much support they can give you and how much time they can save you. And they really do want to be taken notice of.

Sally Dring is learning resources manager, literacy and numeracy co-ordinator atRipon Grammar School. She is chair of the School Library Association, Yorkshire and Humberside branch, and School Library Association elected board member.

Courtesy:

https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacherblog/2014/sep/18/school-librarian-literacy-support-teacher-students