Friday, February 27, 2009

Robin Masters

MASTERS Robin Geza 1958 - 2009

"Life gets rough, life gets tough, So tell me what you gonna do about it?" The Specials - "Pressure Drop" These words from one of Robin's favourite bands, encapsulates the last 9 years of his life. Our entire family's lives were turned upside down with the onset of Robin's carcinoid cancer. He was brave, long-suffering, remained unfailingly polite in the face of arduous treatments and side-effects, wishing for that elusive miracle. However, in order for us to come to grips with losing this wondrous 50 year young man, his wife, Karen, sons, Rory (Olivia) and Riley, and daughter, Emily wish to remember the husband and dad who was loving, dependable, a mentor to many, incredibly well-read, and inspirational. Robin's life-long passion for books and reading and love of children combined naturally in his chosen career as teacher/librarian in Delta. Before his illness, Robin was consumed with running, mountain biking, comic and graphic novel collecting, and supporting his children's many activities. Because he was extraordinary, he had an extraordinary number of friends and the love and respect of many colleagues. Remembering him also, are his sister, Evelyn (Ron) Embree, and brothers, Ian and Doug (Trudy) and several nieces and nephews.

A "Celebration of Life" (expect the unexpected!) will be held Saturday, February 28 at 2:00 p.m. in "Robin's library" at Delta Secondary School in Ladner. In lieu of flowers, you would be honouring our family with a donation to the Delta Hospice Building Fund in Robin's name. "The only reason people die, is because everyone does it. You all just go along with it. It's rubbish, Death. It's stupid. I don't want nothing to do with it!" - "The Absolute Sandman" by Neil Gaiman

Published in the Vancouver Sun and/or The Province from 2/25/2009 - 2/27/2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vancouver teachers state budget expectations

Report Card: 2009 February 25
Janet Steffenhagen

Vancouver teachers are joining the provincial government in calling for their board of education to reduce administrative costs (although they likely wouldn't word it that way)...

Read the rest of this blog - especially the Comments.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

AASL's Exploratorium to feature best practices in school library media program development

ALA: 2009 February 17

CHICAGO – Attendees of the American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) national conference, Nov. 5-8 in Charlotte, N.C., will once again get a taste of current programs that are leading the way in school library media program development at one of the conference's most popular events, the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium will be held Thursday afternoon of the conference.

Co-chair of the National Conference Committee Ann Marie Pipkin said, "The Exploratorium offers a potpourri of ideas from authors and school library media specialists who have put their concepts to work. See what they have done and replicate them in your library. The Exploratorium is a speedy way to 'rev up learning @ your library.'"

The Exploratorium features more than 50 small programs occurring simultaneously that are geared to give attendees a taste of the current research, projects and best practices in the school library media field. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore and ask questions at as many presentations as they would like during the afternoon. AASL's last national conference featured programs on promoting non-fiction in the school library media center, assessing student achievement, cataloging tips and tricks and collaboration strategies.

This year, proposal submissions are being asked to highlight the use of the AASL learning standards in school library media programs and school communities. Topics can focus on collection development, meeting special needs, reading promotion and many others. Proposals will be accepted until March 30 through an online submission process.

AASL encourages submissions from those whose proposals were not accepted for preconference or concurrent sessions. More information regarding presenting at the Exploratorium is available on the conference's presenter pages on the AASL Web site.

"AASL is excited about your ideas, best practices and successful programs. I urge you to submit an Exploratorium proposal. The accepted proposals provide fun and excitement for attendees as nuggets of information and knowledge are shared with colleagues. Take this opportunity to share your ideas," said Ann M. Martin, AASL president.

The AASL 14th National Conference & Exhibition, "Rev up learning @ your library," is the only national conference dedicated solely to the needs of school library media specialists and their roles as educational leaders. The AASL National Conference will feature 10 preconferences, numerous concurrent sessions, more than 200 exhibiting companies, educational and school tours, a storytelling festival and special appearances by award-winning authors. Registration is now open at a discounted "early bird" rate. For more information on AASL's 14th National Conference & Exhibition or to register, visit

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library media services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library media field.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google

Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update

New York Times: 2009 February 16
Motoko Rich

It was the “aha!” moment that Stephanie Rosalia was hoping for.

A group of fifth graders huddled around laptop computers in the school library overseen by Ms. Rosalia and scanned, a Web site that, unbeknownst to the children, was intentionally peppered with false facts.

Ms. Rosalia, the school librarian at Public School 225, a combined elementary and middle school in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, urged caution. “Don’t answer your questions with the first piece of information that you find,” she warned.

Most of the students ignored her, as she knew they would. But Nozimakon Omonullaeva, 11, noticed something odd on a page about Christopher Columbus.

“It says the Indians enjoyed the cellphones and computers brought by Columbus!” Nozimakon exclaimed, pointing at the screen. “That’s wrong.”

It was an essential discovery in a lesson about the reliability — or lack thereof — of information on the Internet, one of many Ms. Rosalia teaches in her role as a new kind of school librarian.

Ms. Rosalia, 54, is part of a growing cadre of 21st-century multimedia specialists who help guide students through the digital ocean of information that confronts them on a daily basis. These new librarians believe that literacy includes, but also exceeds, books.

“The days of just reshelving a book are over,” said Ms. Rosalia, who came to P.S. 225 nearly six years ago after graduating at the top of her class at the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. “Now it is the information age, and that technology has brought out a whole new generation of practices.”

Some of these new librarians teach children how to develop PowerPoint presentations or create online videos. Others get students to use social networking sites to debate topics from history or comment on classmates’ creative writing. Yet as school librarians increasingly teach students crucial skills needed not only in school, but also on the job and in daily life, they are often the first casualties of school budget crunches.

Mesa, the largest school district in Arizona, began phasing out certified librarians from most of its schools last year. In Spokane, Wash., the school district cut back the hours of its librarians in 2007, prompting an outcry among local parents. More than 90 percent of American public schools have libraries, according to federal statistics, but less than two-thirds employ full-time certified librarians.

Lisa Layera Brunkan, a mother of three in Spokane, said she recognized the importance of the school librarian when her daughter, who was 7 at the time, started demonstrating a PowerPoint project. “She said, ‘The librarian taught me,’ ” Ms. Brunkan recalled. “I was just stunned.”

School librarians still fight the impression that they play a tangential role. Ms. Rosalia frequently has her lessons canceled at the last minute as classroom teachers scramble to fit in more standardized test preparation. Half a fifth-grade class left in the middle of a recent session on Web site evaluation because the children were performing in a talent show.

“You prepare things to proceed in a logical sequence and then here comes a monkey wrench,” Ms. Rosalia said. “We are teaching them how to think. But sometimes the Board of Ed seems to want them to learn how to fill in little bubbles.”

In New York City, Ms. Rosalia is a relative rarity. Only about one-third of the city’s public schools have certified librarians, and elementary schools are not required to have them at all.

Ms. Rosalia ran beauty salons with her husband and volunteered in her sons’ school libraries before pursuing her graduate degree. She was recruited to P.S. 225 by Joseph Montebello, the principal, a brother of a middle school librarian in Brooklyn.

In the school, just a block from a bustling stretch of Brighton Beach Avenue with its overflowing fruit stands and Russian bakeries, Ms. Rosalia faces special challenges. More than 40 percent of the students are recent immigrants. Language barriers force her to tailor her book collection to readers who may be in seventh grade but still read at a second-grade level.

Before Ms. Rosalia arrived, the library was staffed by a teacher with no training in library science. Some books in the collection still described Germany as two nations, and others referred to the Soviet Union as if it still existed.

Ms. Rosalia weeded out hundreds of titles. Working with just $6.25 per student per year — compared with a national median figure of $12.06 — she acquired volumes about hip-hop and magic and popular titles like “Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty.” With the help of grants from the City Council and corporations, she bought an interactive white board and 29 laptops.

Ms. Rosalia introduced herself to her new colleagues as the “information literacy teacher” and invited teachers to collaborate on lessons. The early sessions focused on finding books and databases and on fundamental research skills.

Soon Ms. Rosalia progressed to teaching students how to ask more sophisticated questions during research projects, how to decode Internet addresses and how to assess the authors and biases of a Web site’s content.

Even teachers find that they learn from Ms. Rosalia. “I was aware that not everything on the Internet is believable,” said Joanna Messina, who began taking her fifth-grade classes to the library this year. “But I wouldn’t go as far as to evaluate the whole site or look at the authors.”

Combining new literacy with the old, Ms. Rosalia invites students to write book reviews that she posts in the library’s online catalog. She helped a math teacher design a class blog. She urges students to use electronic databases linked from the library’s home page.

Not all of Ms. Rosalia’s efforts involve technology. The license plate on her black BMW says “READ,” and she retains a traditional librarian’s passion for books.

During a lunch period earlier this month, Gagik Sargsyan, 13, slunk into the library and opened a laptop to research a social studies paper on the 1930s and 1940s.

“Have you looked at any books?” Ms. Rosalia asked.

A look of horror came over Gagik’s face. “No,” he said.

Ms. Rosalia, who has a bubbly manner, went to a shelf and returned with a stack of volumes on the Empire State Building, fashion in the 1930s and life during the Great Depression. Gagik recognized the Empire State Building as the place he spent his 13th birthday and started paging through the book.

At the end of every week, Ms. Rosalia opens the library for classes to come in solely to check out books. One Friday, she wore a T-shirt imprinted with the words “Don’t make me use my librarian voice.” Whirling from child to child, she swiftly pulled volumes off the shelves as third graders requested books on sharks and scary topics. By the end of one period, more than 30 students stood in line at the circulation desk.

Still, Ms. Rosalia understands the allure of the Internet. Speaking last fall to a class of a dozen seventh graders who recently immigrated from Russia, Georgia, China and Yemen, Ms. Rosalia struggled to communicate. “We have newspapers in all of your languages,” she said. She turned to the digital white board.

When she clicked on the home page of Izvestia, the Moscow-based newspaper, the Russians in the group cheered.

“Does anybody like books?” Ms. Rosalia asked. Several students stared blankly. The Russians, who spoke some English, shook their heads.

So Ms. Rosalia pulled up the home site for Teen People magazine, and Katsiaryna Dziatlouskaya, 13, immediately recognized a photograph of Cameron Diaz. Ms. Rosalia knew she had made a connection.

“You can read magazines, newspapers, pictures, computer programs, Web sites,” Ms. Rosalia said. “You can read anything you like to, but you have to read. Is that a deal?”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Elementary school librarians on endangered list, NY: 2009 February 13

Here’s a Scott Waldman story about an issue that we can expect to hear more and more about: budget cuts mean less librarians in our schools. I already miss Mrs. Smith at Elsmere!

– — – — –

BETHLEHEM — Children may someday file school librarian with the dodo bird or Caspian tiger under extinction.

“During budget shortfalls, school librarians are among the first to be considered for cuts,” said Michael Borges, executive director of the New York Library Association.

To cope with the fallout from the financial crisis, Gov. David Paterson’s proposed budget would cut $698 million in state education spending, forcing every school district to weigh staff and program reductions.

State mandates require only that students in seventh through 12th grade have school librarians, so elementary school librarians are most vulnerable in times of economic crisis, Borges said.

In Bethlehem, the retirement of Elsmere Elementary School librarian Nancy Smith last month has some parents worried because she is not being replaced. The district will rotate librarians from four of its other elementary schools into Elsmere to deal with the vacancy and will have one librarian working at several schools next year.

Elsmere library volunteer Harriet Jaffe worries that her son will no longer get personalized book recommendations. The third grader isn’t naturally inclined to read, she said, but he devoured the bestselling “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and a book on World War II history that Smith selected for him. That personalized attention will be lost if librarians shuffle between schools, she said.

“Librarians positively contribute to student achievement,” Jaffe said. “In an era where literacy is so important, that’s what is being lost.”

Sharing librarians is “the tip of the iceberg” of district trimming next year, Bethlehem Superintendent Michael Tebbano said. Faculty, staff and programs will be reduced next year as the district strives to plug a $5 million budget hole without significantly raising property taxes.

“It’s our intent to have a creative solution to this budget crisis,” Tebbano said.

Librarians, who are certified as teachers, teach children to think critically and how to retrieve information, said Joseph Mattie, library development specialist with the state Department of Education. They work closely with teachers to enhance classroom learning.

“They’re teachers but in a different learning environment,” he said. “The library should be the hub of the schools.”

Bethlehem may be a sign of things to come. Borges said he expects more schools statewide to lose librarians in the coming months.

For coverage of layoffs, job losses and unemployment issues facing the Capital Region, visit

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hold onto at least some school library services

The Bakersfield Californian: 2009 February 13
Marylee Shrider

A bit of friendly advice: Don’t mess with librarians.

They have words and they know how to use them.

I was reminded of that this week after I unintentionally conveyed in a recent column that library services on our high school campuses are superfluous.

I didn’t actually say that, but my suggestion of a temporary suspension of library services as part of district budget cuts prompted a flood of choice words from local librarians. Words like “disappointed,” “saddened” and “dismayed.”

I couldn’t help but notice the librarians’ letters were markedly different from the virulent, grammar-rules-optional type of e-mails I often get from those who don't share my views. Armed with elegant prose and stacks of statistics, librarians are their own best argument for keeping libraries in the Kern High School District.

That being said, the cuts are coming and libraries aren’t the only candidates for cuts. So, I asked some of the letter writers, what would you cut if the choice was yours to make?

What programs and activities are MOST crucial to a well-rounded education? And what programs will keep our kids in school?

Receiving no response from the heretofore chatty librarians, I paid a visit to veteran teacher/librarian Catherine Henry at Ridgeview High School to pose the same questions.

What programs, I asked, are most important? Music? Sports? Libraries?

All are important, she said.

OK. What programs would you cut, if the choice was yours to make, I asked.

None, she said.

“Anybody who hopes to avoid all cuts isn’t paying attention,” Henry said. “But cutting an entire program? The students may have to do with less, but doing with none cheats them.”

No argument there.

A former drama teacher, Henry believes a well-stocked library, with a credentialed literacy educator, is as crucial to a student’s education as music or sports and she has the stats to back it up. She admits this is the worst economic crunch she’s seen in her 34 years with the KHSD, but believes some library services can be saved.

I hope she’s right. Especially after talking with Sherry Gomez, deputy director of libraries in Kern County.

Gomez agreed with Henry’s contention that the county’s 25 public libraries and two book mobiles simply don’t have the resources for the district’s 35,000 high schoolers if library services get the ax.

“School libraries are there to support the curriculum and instruct students on how to do research and evaluate what they find,” Gomez said. “The public library has a broader mission, purchasing materials on all subjects for all age groups and points of view.”

OK, we agree. Our students’ education will surely suffer if library services are cut. But weighing those services against other programs — programs that may be as or more likely to keep kids engaged in school — is a valid exercise.

There’s no nice answer to this one, Henry told me. True. It’s gonna hurt. But if district officials can figure out how to hang on to at least some library programs, our students will be well served.

These are Marylee Shrider’s opinions, not necessarily The Californian’s. Reach her at 395-7474 or write

Publisher under fire for pushing toys

National Post: 2009 February 13

The largest distributor of books to children’s schools is under attack from parents and teachers, who are pushing to drop the company from their schools for selling too many video games and toys to their captive market.

Scholastic sells to parents in Canada and the United States through book fairs and book club order forms sent home monthly in children’s backpacks at thousands of schools. The company, which also sells materials to teachers, has been allowed to market its products within schools because of its reputation for offering educational, inexpensive books and by giving back a portion of the revenue to help classrooms and libraries.

Last year, the company was forced to drop the Bratz line from its booklets and book fairs because of the dolls’ overly sexualized image, and now is under increasing scrutiny for what its critics say is a proliferation of commercial products at the expense of books.

“Scholastic no longer deserves to be in the schools. Scholastic deserves to be treated like a vending machine half-full of junk food and pop; it should be removed from the schools,” said Mark Matchen, who teaches English at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Thornhill and is the father of three elementary school children.

“When I was a kid in school, Scholastic was one thing my parents always found money for. I want to do the same for my children. I hate it when we go through the Scholastic brochure and every page has cheap toys instead of books … Why should we permit Scholastic privileged access to our schools and children? The answer used to be that they were delivering high quality reading material and a good price. Now, that is not really the case — by virtue of pushing low-grade trinkets instead of books, glorifying TV over reading, and bombarding children with branded advertising.”

He has joined the lobbying effort started by The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston-based group that found 14% of the items advertised in Scholastic’s U.S. school flyers last year were not books, but were products such as M&M’s Kart Racing Wii videogame, an American Idol event planner, a Princess Room Alarm, a wireless controller for the PS2 gaming system and a makeyour-own flip-flops kit. An additional 19% of the items were books sold with other bonus commercialized items — the book Get Rich Quick was sold with a dollar-shaped money clip “to hold all your new cash!” and a Friends 4 Ever Style Pack consisted of a book and two lip-gloss rings.

The lobby group, which is affiliated with Harvard University and has about 600 Canadian members, is calling on the company to drop non-book products and has launched a letter-writing campaign.

“Schools grant Scholastic unique commercial access to children because of its reputation as an educational publisher,” said Dr. Susan Linn, director of the group. “But Scholastic is abusing that privilege by flooding classrooms ... with ads for toys, trinkets, and electronic media with little or no educational value.”

Although the group did not do a Canadian tally of commercial products versus books, the company also sells many non-book products in this country, like paint-your-own hockey mask kits and computer games, and books bundled with commercial products.

In Canada, Scholastic has already received enough complaints about selling video games that it now puts all computer and software products on separate sales sheets so teachers can choose whether to put it into backpacks, said Nancy Pearson, Scholastic Canada’s director of marketing.

She said the Canadian division of Scholastic has had complaints about other products and is “reviewing daily” all of its items for sale in schools but has no immediate plan to drop anything. She said the toys bundled with some of the books are meant to entice reluctant readers. “We are really trying to motivate them,” she said.

She added that the company is also trying to remain relevant in an era where children use cellphones, play computer games and use a lot of electronic gadgets, which is why it offers electronic organizers and video software as part of its book sales.

Celine Gummer, a Grade 1 teacher at Valley View Elementary school in Courtenay, B.C., and mother of girls aged 12, 10 and nine, is “increasingly uncomfortable” sending home the Scholastic forms with her students.

“On the one hand we want to nurture a love of books and reading, with the added bonus or accruing more books for our libraries; on the other hand, we are becoming increasingly aware that this happens at an unexpected cost,” she said.

“Our children have been bombarded by the marketing of merchandise enticing them to buy everything from books to jewellery ... to lip gloss. The last book fair that was held at one of our local schools included Wii accessories. Aren’t we already in an uphill battle to encourage our children to read? I think Scholastic, holding such a unique position in our schools, has a moral obligation to sell books and to do it without the gimmicks.”

Joanne Service, who has boys in Grades 3 and 5 at Ecole Margaret Jenkins School in Victoria, B.C., said the schoolbased sellers pose an added challenge for parents because children come home already having read them and lobbying to buy things. “There is always a lot of excitement when the new book flyers come out each month, but I’ve noticed more and more non-book items appearing in the flyers,” she said. “I’m forever having to stipulate to my kids that I’ll only consider book purchases, not toys or software. Additionally, they are marketing video games that are borderline inappropriate for young children.”

Martha Hogan, the mother of a nine-year-old boy in a Toronto public school, agrees: “It’s always hard to say no to your child when he’s been given an enticing catalogue by someone he trusts — his teacher — and encouraged to think that he can have whatever he wants from it,” she said. “On top of that, the kids are told that they’ll earn ‘points’ for books for their classroom if they order, so they sometimes end up feeling that they’re letting their teacher or their class down if they don’t … It’s increasingly difficult to find “just a book” to order; many of the items are just cheap, junky plastic toys, or are books packaged with cheap, junky plastic toys.”

B.C.'s ultimate success depends on literacy

A community-based approach to learning is reaping rewards across the province

Vancouver Sun: 2009 February 13
Cynthia Whitaker

We probably have all experienced hearing someone use a word we don't understand or give directions we can't follow. We've felt the vulnerability and isolation of wondering if we are alone in "not getting it." We've had that momentary panic and anticipated the embarrassment of asking a "dumb question" that would let everyone know we aren't following the conversation. For most of us, this feeling usually doesn't last long. We recover our composure and carry on. That is, most of us with strong literacy skills recover quickly and carry on.

It is a different matter for people who struggle with reading, doing simple arithmetic, or communicating their ideas clearly. For them, momentary panic can become lifelong anxiety as they try to navigate a world that confounds and intimidates them.

It's a funny thing about literacy. It seems that the more you have, the easier it is to get more. This is because literacy increases our confidence to take learning "to the next level." It gives us the tools to participate. Indeed, the benchmark used in studies to compare literacy rates across countries is the level of literacy required to fully participate and succeed in the modern, knowledge-based society. Literacy enables participation; low literacy limits it. By the way, in 2003 that international study found that more than 35 per cent of working-age adults in B.C. fall below the benchmark and lack the literacy skills for full participation.

The box-office hit The Reader provides insight into the stigma felt by many people who have low literacy. In the film, we meet a former SS guard who falsely claims to have written a report on horrific actions she took part in rather than admit that she can neither read nor write. Protecting her secret earns her a life sentence in prison. In raising this issue, the film causes us to think about the metaphorical prisons that people with low literacy all too often find themselves in. For example, the job that doesn't fully use their abilities, the social relationships they avoid, the meetings with the kids' teachers they don't attend, the dreams they think are beyond their reach and, of course, sadly, the real prisons they are overrepresented in.

Low literacy can narrow the world a person lives in and limit his or her full participation as an engaged citizen. It's that simple, and that important. Increasing literacy is one of the best insurance policies a community can take out on its future. Literacy brings employable skills; it produces stronger economies, stronger families, and stronger communities.

The town of Hazelton in northwest B.C. is demonstrating how literacy strengthens the resilience not just of individuals but of whole communities. Through the Learning Shop community learning centre, participants learn literacy skills from involvement in community development projects.

At one project, the Senden Farm, literacy learning occurs in the applied setting of growing, harvesting, and preparing locally grown and wild food. After just two years, coordinator Melanie Sondergaard confirms that the results are rewarding. "Literacy skills are growing; there is more knowledge of and interest in growing sustainable food and harvesting wild food; participants see themselves as more part of the "glue" of society; and there is a growing confidence that the community can still provide its own healthy food." A literacy initiative developed and managed by community members is strengthening community resilience and producing more positive and engaged citizens.

Literacy programs in correctional institutions provide another example of how the process of upgrading literacy skills helps people find a productive place in society. Canadian studies show that these programs reduce recidivism by up to 30 per cent. They are also linked to inmates finding and keeping jobs, maintaining positive family ties, and successfully reintegrating into their communities.

In releasing his new study on the costs and benefits of investing in literacy, co-author Scott Murray says that "upgrading adult literacy could result in the greatest productivity boost to our economy since sewer and water were introduced in our cities over 100 years ago." The study estimates that bringing all Canadians up to the level required to fully participate in the knowledge economy would yield an annual rate of return of 80 per cent to 250 per cent. If physical infrastructure built our competitive advantage in the 20th century, an effective literacy infrastructure will underpin success in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.

For the past three years, communities throughout B.C. have been taking charge of their literacy challenges. Through a Literacy Now initiative (a division of the 2010 Legacies Now Society), with funding from ReadNow BC, more than 400 communities either have or are actively setting up multi-partner literacy tables. Schools and community colleges, neighbourhood houses, the police, first nation governments, libraries, chambers of commerce, unions, churches, elders, and food banks are among the scores of partners coming together to develop community literacy plans. Support, mentoring, and training for front-line champions are provided through an integrated network at the local, regional, and provincial levels. This made-in-B.C. approach rejects one-size-fits-all formulas in favour of bottom-up, community-led action. Grounded in the communities' realities, the plans mobilize local resources and help people develop the literacy skills for life in their community. The result is more than a literacy plan; it is an important part of the economic and social plan for the community's future.

The Canadian Council on Learning has been using its Composite Learning Index (CLI) since 2006 to measure and compare learning indicators in 4,700 communities across Canada. Communities are scored in relation to a number of conditions that support learning. In addition to the predictable things such as school completion rates and training programs, the index also tracks such things as access to libraries and museums, use of recreational facilities, volunteering and membership in organizations. It's both instructive and empowering to use the council's free online simulator to see the impact that smart investments have on the CLI score of communities in B.C. The index makes it clear that communities can take action and achieve results. Kudos to Saanich and Kelowna, which were among the top eight Canadian cities with the most improved CLI scores last year.

A community-led approach to literacy strengthens citizenship not only at the local level, but at the national and international levels as well. This is because literacy skills are fully portable. They travel with the learner wherever he or she may go; they are transferable from one arena to another. They are truly "skills for life." As usual, Dr. Seuss had it right: "The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

We should celebrate the communities that are taking leadership on this issue and thank each and every partner for the contribution they are making to B.C.'s resilient future. Urgently, we must encourage others to join the effort.

Cynthia Whitaker is executive director of Literacy BC, the independent, non-profit organization supporting and promoting literacy in British Columbia since 1990.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ministry publication comes under fire

Vancouver Sun: 2009 February 11
Janet Steffenhagen

Education Minister Shirley Bond is defending a ministry publication that identifies a Scientology website as a potential resource for teachers to use while preparing lessons about human rights and social justice.

The Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) website is identified as a "supplementary resource" in a teaching guide developed by the ministry as part of an effort to make the K-12 curriculum gay-friendly. It's also mentioned in the guide for a new elective course called Social Justice 12.

In an interview, Bond insisted that mention of the YHRI website does not constitute an endorsement of it or the Church of Scientology. It was included on the advice of teachers who helped develop the guides, but it will be used in the classroom only if approved by teachers and local boards of education.

The website describes Youth for Human Rights International as a non-profit corporation that promotes tolerance and peace. It makes little mention of its affiliation with Scientology, although it identifies the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King as "great humanitarians of the 20th century."

Patti Bacchus, chairwoman of the Vancouver board of education, said inclusion of the YHRI "is kind of alarming." She suggested the ministry should have applied the same critical-thinking skills that schools are urging students to use.

Bond said the guides list many websites, and others could also be considered controversial. Teachers will use their professional judgment in deciding which ones to use, she said.

Susan Lambert, vice-president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, suggested the YHRI website and Scientology could be used in discussions about non-mainstream religions.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

E-books: coming soon to a B.C. library near you

Project aims to balance universal access with the rights of publishers – and to promote Canadian content at the same time

Globe & Mail: 2009 February 10

The publishing industry is waking up to the possibilities of electronic books. But even as companies such as Google Inc. and Inc. place bets on the success of the e-book industry, there are many economic and technological hurdles to overcome. What, for instance, is the best way to distribute these products? In British Columbia, the solution could be through the public libraries.

The Best of B.C. Books Online is a project to purchase electronic rights to a collection of non-fiction books by B.C. publishers, and make them accessible through public and school libraries. This pilot project will make about 1000 non-fiction titles, both new and back catalogue, available for free to anyone with a British Columbia library card.

“We want this to be a success story which then translates into more Canadian content being available, generates more revenue for Canadian publishers, and more people accessing these books so the Canadian content doesn't get left behind,” says Mr. Whitney, city librarian at the Vancouver Public Library.

While postsecondary libraries across Canada have had electronic access for years, public and primary-school libraries have lagged behind. Still, B.C. has the infrastructure to make e-books accessible to library patrons. In 2009, 241 of the province's 243 public libraries have broadband, as do 99.6 per cent of K-12 schools.

The Best of B.C. Books Online is run by a consortium of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC), the Educational Resources Acquisition Consortium (ERAC), public libraries, K-12 schools and the B.C. Electronic Library Network.

“We started off in a vendor-client kind of relationship when we started this project. It's ended up as a partnership,” with publishers working together with libraries to negotiate the agreement, says Margaret Reynolds, the ABPBC's executive director.

However, the established print-publishing industry is wary of e-books because of concerns about piracy, an unfamiliar marketplace and new technology. B.C. Books Online aims to make it simple for publishers to submit a PDF file and let others handle the conversion and formatting.

Because of this, Mr. Whitney is optimistic about the project's potential for growth.

“What we're hoping is that the publishers can develop a comfort level with how [the technology] is used in libraries – what the implications are, more broadly speaking, for their business model. As that comfort level grows, as the libraries get accustomed and our users get accustomed to accessing it, I think you will see more content migrating to this.”

At the moment, many of the project's details are still being negotiated between libraries and publishers. In this new area, there are no standards, such as the right price for an e-book. Ms. Reynolds and Mr. Whitney say the consortium would purchase rights to titles at a cost equivalent to 90 copies at retail prices, but they also admit it's an arbitrary number and subject to change. Another question is the length of term, which could be an annual payment or a one-time purchase.

Mr. Whitney sees the book industry as ready to learn from what the music industry went through 10 years ago, when fear of piracy made record companies hesitant. “Now we've got the music industry understanding that the notion of restricting content to one platform means it's not going to succeed in the marketplace.” The B.C. project was sold to publishers as a way to have libraries handle authentication and guarantee payment.

The technology is being handled by Gibson Library Connections. Robert Gibson, GLC's vice-president of e-publishing, says the platform for the project is Ebrary, which is already used in every university across Canada.

The e-books will be stored in central servers, and users will log in to library websites with their membership cards and read via an application that runs in web browsers, similar to Google Books or The program won't allow users to download the files into portable devices like the Sony Reader or Amazon Kindle, but the users will have a limited ability to print pages or copy text to other applications. How much of that would be allowed is uncertain at this point.

Mr. Whitney says that the permissions have to be balanced between the needs of the users and the publishers. “We're not going to enter into any license agreements which don't allow our users to exercise their lawful right with copyrighted content. That would include copying a portion of the work. And then we have the negotiations about, well, is that a chapter? Is that three pages? These are the kinds of things where you've got to start somewhere.”

The “elephant in the room,” as Mr. Whitney puts it, is Google. The Internet giant's Book Search service already includes about seven million titles, and is integrated into the Web's most popular search engine. A service like the B.C. books collection, accessed through a provincial library system, could end up insignificant next to the massive Google database.

Google has been sued for copyright infringement by writers and publishers organizations for scanning books without permission. Google recently settled the lawsuit out of court, and starting in May will reimburse rights-holders for their work. However, users outside the United States won't be able to access the out-of-print books in Google's library.

Because copyright is somewhat stricter in Canada than in the U.S., Mr. Whitney says, Google has not delved deeply into Canadian titles, leaving them underrepresented online. The B.C. books project, however, will clearly own the electronic rights to the titles and will compensate the publisher fairly.

Ms. Reynolds anticipates that the Best of B.C. Books Online will go live in the summer of 2009.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why our libraries must be a priority

PressDemocratic, CA: 2009 February 8
Cathy Collins

While shuffling through family papers the other night, I came across the notebook my grandfather kept while attending night-school for immigrants new to America.

It is dated 1927 and details some of the facts he had to learn, such as proper behavior for a gentleman, facts about our country's history and also a sample "help wanted" ad he had to construct in which he highlighted his skills as a machinist.

Though my grandfather's dream to be a teacher never came to fruition, his daughter, her husband and their children carried the seeds of that dream forward, through a work ethic and belief in lifelong learning that was instilled in us.

After his death, my grandmother often walked my sister and I to the public library, a few blocks away from her house.

That library opened up a new world, as we were suddenly exposed to the full range of this world's wisdom and imagination. Not only was this wealth of information unlimited, it was also free, convenient and accessible.

That's what Benjamin Franklin had in mind when he and his fellow printers discussed ways to help the community. Through his suggestion, they began a lending library that was open to everyone. They pooled their money to buy books which everyone could borrow.

In 1731, the first lending library in America opened. Soon, other towns began to imitate that first library, until reading became fashionable across all social and economic classes. This generous, wise and practical idea of sharing resources to provide more for all has, sadly, not always been supported by our national and local politicians.

A recent foreign movie, "Nuovomondo," captures a beautiful image of a group of immigrants swimming in California's "river of milk and honey." In the movie, a poor Italian immigrant widower and his family make the journey to America in the last part of the 19th century. The film debunks many myths about arrival in this country, showing how families were often separated when they arrived.

Some of those "lucky" enough got to stay and to work in factories without unions. Their hope often rested in the hearts and minds of their children.

A local student, describing her mother in a biographical essay, recently wrote:

"A couple of years ago, she moved to California because in her country there were not enough jobs. This wonderful person, my mom, is working really hard to give us all the opportunities she did not have when she was young. She wants us to finish school, to be better people every day and to achieve our goals."

This student, like so many others in our diverse sea of learners, composed, typed and edited her essay in our library, with the assistance along the way of teachers, librarians, library clerks and instructional aides: equal partners in a journey toward student achievement.

Should we not be placing the highest priority on ensuring equity of access for all learners by fully funding the heart of our schools, our libraries?

I'll conclude with two quotes and some statistics:

"For too many years, California has ranked last in the number of library books per pupil, a factor that has repeatedly been shown to affect student achievement. In the latest federal statistics on school libraries, the number of school library books in other states averages 22 books per student, while in California the average is 13." (This is from California School Library Association: Standards and Guidelines for Strong School Libraries, 2004 edition)

"In 2004 the federal government reported that only 23.7 percent of California schools with a library media center have a paid, state-certified library media specialist, compared to an average of 75.2 percent for all other states. California is the only state in the nation in which less than 50 percent of its schools have paid, state-certified library media specialists." (This is from "Status of Public and Private School Library Media Centers in the U.S: National Center for Education Statistics," 2004)

Has California's river of milk and honey really gone so dry that we can no longer afford to invest in our state's greatest resource: our children?

Friday, February 6, 2009

James Patterson’s Gets Kids Hooked on Reading

School Library Journal, 1/26/2009

James Patterson knows it’s not easy getting kids excited about reading. So a few years ago when he noticed that his 10-year-old son Jack was lukewarm toward books, the best-selling author decided to do something about it. First, he started writing books for kids. And more recently, he launched a new Web site devoted to promoting a love of reading.

"Before then, I'd always written books just for grown-ups," writes Patterson on "In fact, one of my proudest moments as a writer was when I passed [Jack my] manuscript of The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (Little, Brown, 2008). Not only did he like it, he told me it was his favorite."

Patterson’s is a user-friendly site designed to help parents, teachers, librarians, and other adults find books that kids of all ages will enjoy. For example, Mo Willems’s Knuffle Bunny (Hyperion, 2004) and Kevin Henkes’s Kitten’s First Full Moon (Greenwillow, 2004) are recommended picture books, while Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007) and Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (Scholastic, 2007) are recommended for more advanced readers ages nine and up.

Titles are hand-picked by Patterson and broken down by age and genre, and each comes with mini reviews, a quick list of the book's themes, recommendations of works similar to the one selected on the site, as well as links to online retailers such as,,, and local independent booksellers.

“These are very, very special books that kids will gobble up and ask for more,” Patterson writes on his Web site.

The site’s community section includes a social aspect that kids will love—chats, videos, a blog, as well as messages from Patterson and other authors and celebrities who are passionate about getting kids excited about reading. Patterson also interviews Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Rick Riordan (the "Percy Jackson" series), and Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.

“You’ve found your way here because you’ve decided to take your kid’s reading future into your own hands,” Patterson writes. “Something told you the only way to get kids to read was to give them great books, cool books, books they would absolutely love. I believe we’ve gathered the crème de la crème of such reading right here.”

Between 2005 and 2007, Patterson gave away more than $600,000 to promote literacy through his annual PageTurner Awards. This Web site replaces the awards.

According to the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report by Yankelovich and Scholastic, most kids say they don’t read more because there aren’t enough really good books they like.

President, First Lady Send Picture Book Skyrocketing

By Rocco Staino -- School Library Journal, 2/4/2009

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama not only surprised a group of second graders yesterday when they visited their school library at the Capital City Public Charter School in D.C.—they also stunned Diana Hutts Aston and Jerry Pinkney , the author and illustrator of The Moon Over Star (Dial, 2008), the picture book the First couple chose to read during their visit.

Why the unannounced visit? “The reason we came to visit: A, we wanted to get out of the White House; B, we wanted to see you guys,” said the president. After fielding questions from 25 students that included who were the president’s favorite superheroes (Spider-Man and Batman), the kids listened as the Obamas read about the 1969 moon landing.

Perhaps the book was selected because July 20, 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. In the book, young Mae and her family who live in a town called Star, excitedly gather around the television to hear Walter Cronkite’s important “Man on the Moon!” announcement. Mae watches in awe as the astronauts walk on the surface of the moon and is inspired to tell her grandfather, “Just think, Gramps: If they could go to the moon, maybe one day I will too!”

The day after the presidential reading, all the copies of the book in the Westchester Library System in New York were either checked out or on their way to fill patron requests.

The book recently received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award for illustration and a starred review from Publishers Weekly. An upcoming School Library Journal review says, “this book offers children a close-up view of an experience that seems quaint today, but that was life-changing in 1969.”

Pickney says that every time a celebrity reads a book in a library, authors and illustrators always hope its one of theirs. "I was thrilled and surprised to see my book not only on display but being read by the president." says Pinkney, who has more than 75 picture books to his credit and numerous awards including five Caldecott Honors, five Coretta Scott King Awards, and four New York Times Ten Best Illustrated Awards. Pickney say he feels that this story of an African-American girl's dream of being an astronaut in 1969 may parallel President Obama's dream of being president.

Former journalist Dianna Hutts Aston says The Moon Over Star was written to encourage children to dream big.

Boards get cash to restock libraries

The Record: 2009 February 6

Coming soon to a school near you: some new books.

The provincial government is providing extra funding to school boards to restock elementary school libraries.

Waterloo Region's Catholic board is getting $180,428, and the public board, $422,920. This is on top of their regular budget allocation for libraries.

There's a base amount of $1,500 per school, plus $7.50 per full-time student. That means about $2,200 for a small school like St. Boniface and more than $6,000 for a larger school like St. Luke.

All the money must be spent by March 31, and any money not spent has to be returned to the Ministry of Education, said Catholic board spokesperson John Shewchuk.

"It's a short timeline but as always we're very grateful for the money," said Shewchuk. "It will certainly benefit the students in our school system."

Across the province, the ministry is spending $15 million on books, said spokesperson Patricia MacNeil.

The government has also negotiated bulk discounts with 73 vendors, who are offering savings of between five and 50 per cent. The discounts will make the money stretch further.

"It's quite a significant savings for boards," said MacNeil.

The funding is for school libraries only, not classrooms, and can't be spent on textbooks, teacher resources or software, said Shewchuk. Fiction, non-fiction, e-texts and graphic novels are all acceptable.

The books have to be bought through the approved vendors, the full list of which won't be available until the end of the month. That forces boards to decide between ordering through the vendors already listed and waiting until the full list is available to see if there might be greater savings, said Shewchuk.

Not everybody is thrilled about the funding. The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario called it "putting the cart before the horse" in a news release. It points out most elementary schools don't get enough funding for a full-time teacher-librarian.

A recent report by People for Education and Queen's University, commissioned by the Ontario Library Association, also emphasized the important role of a teacher-librarian.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

AASL's newest publication helps put learning standards into practice

ALA: 2009 February 3

CHICAGO – The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is releasing its newest publication, "Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action." The publication, along with other excellent books and products for school library media program development, is available in the ALA Store at

The purpose of the publication is to expand and support AASL's new learning standards, "Standards for the 21st-Century Learner." "Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action" includes indicators, benchmarks, model examples and assessments to support school library media specialists and other educators in teaching the essential learning skills defined in the learning standards. It also presents action examples for putting the standards into practice in elementary, middle and high school classrooms.

AASL President Ann M. Martin said, "This is exactly the document that school library media specialists need to lead their school library media program’s instructional program forward. The high expectations created by the ‘Standards for the 21st-Century Learner’ come to life within the explicit framework provided by the strategies and information clarified in this book."

The learning standards developed by AASL expand the definition of information literacy to include digital, visual, textual and technological literacies. The "Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action" takes these essential literacies and helps school library media specialists make them a foundation for lifelong learning. At the core of these standards is the learner. AASL's learning standards recognize that a lifelong learner is nurtured by a strong school library media program that offers a highly qualified school library media specialist, up-to-date resources, active instruction and a belief in these multiple literacies throughout the school community.

The publication is the culmination of months of work from AASL's Learning Standards Indicators and Assessment Task Force, chaired by Kathy Lowe, longtime AASL member and executive director of the Massachusetts School Library Association. With drafts available for member feedback at ALA's 2008 Annual Conference and after, the result can be considered a national effort.

"All the members of the Learning Standards Indicators and Assessment Task Force generously shared their expertise, devoting countless hours and much collaborative energy to this project. Their collective contributions, enhanced by input from practitioners in the field, have resulted in a rich resource for the school library community," said Kathy Lowe, chair of the Learning Standards Indicators and Assessment Task Force.

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library media services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library media field.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Library and Archives Canada Launches Black History Month 2009

Library and Archives Canada: 2009 January 30

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Jan. 30, 2009) - Library and Archives Canada is pleased to collaborate with Black History Ottawa to host the official launch of Black History Month 2009, a celebration highlighting the many achievements and contributions made by Canadians of African descent.

The Opening Ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 1, 2009 from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the auditorium of Library and Archives Canada, located at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa.

"Library and Archives Canada is proud of its long-standing relationship with Black History Ottawa in honoring the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present." stated Ian E. Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada. "I invite researchers, historians, educators, genealogists and students to delve into our vast array of material and resources to learn more about the rich heritage of Black Canadians."

Focusing on the theme "The Courage to Make a Difference", the celebration will be one of inspiration and entertainment, spotlighting the valuable contributions of pioneers who helped to build a vibrant community. These leaders include Abraham Doras Shadd who played a major role in the Underground Railroad and was the first Black person to hold political office in Canada, and Rosemary Brown who was the first Black woman to be elected as a member of a Provincial Legislative Assembly in Canada.

For a glimpse of LAC's Black History resources, visit:

Children’s Books Get One-Year Stay from Anti-Lead Law

ALA: 2009 January 31

Librarians can breathe a sigh of relief in the wake of a one-year stay of enforcement on having to test for lead in books geared to youngsters under the age of 12. The extension until February 10, 2010, puts an end to the nightmare scenario envisioned by some in the library community of having to either ban children from their facilities or cordon off the book collections in youth services areas until federal regulators concede that children’s literature complies with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

The January 30 announcement (PDF file) came only days after several representatives of the Consumer Product Safety Commission heard the concerns of the publishing industry during the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Denver. Afterward, CPSC General Counsel Cheryl Farley reassured libraries that they did not have to take any action at this time, ALA Washington Office Associate Executive Director Jessica McGilvray reported January 22.

Acknowledging the burden of imposing a testing mandate before there are definitive laboratory procedures for children’s books, the January 30 notice indicated that such previously unregulated items might receive “appropriate relief” from testing and certification if the publishing industry “provide[s] the additional information requested by our staff in a timely manner.”

Nonetheless, Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff cautioned, “This announcement is not an end to this problem. Since we know children’s books are safe, libraries are still asking to be exempt from regulation under this law.” She went on to assure the library community that ALA “will continue to work with members of Congress and the CPSC to ensure that a year from now, this matter is resolved once and for all, and America’s libraries remain open and welcoming to children.”

In the meantime, some children’s librarians—already vigilant about lead levels in toys available at their libraries—are reporting on the discussion list for ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children that they are sending playthings out for third-party testing. ALSC Executive Diane Foote advised that “before taking drastic action,” librarians should consult the CPSC timetable for rulemaking (PDF file).