What’s happening in the library?

New books, new displays, new projects, plus more

What’s happening in the library?

Moving on…

December 18, 2008 · No Comments · Uncategorized

This blog has now moved to this new blog….. http://libeast.blogspot.com/

(because this blog platform started putting annoying ads up)


New Year, New Campus, New Library System

September 25, 2008 · No Comments · Uncategorized

What a major improvement — to have the school library catalog available online, so everyone can see what we have.

Follett not only provided the Destiny Library Manager software, but their Titlewave service also provided thousands of our new library books — all barcoded and shelf-ready.  Of course, we’ll be adjusting some of the call numbers, getting the sections to suit our students, but for now it’s just nice to have them out of boxes.

The library search catalog will be available from the school website soon (utilizing the same login/password).  Meanwhile, we’ve set up a Pageflakes for the East Campus — with a tab for Library & Literacy.   On that page are links of interest to both kids and parents.  For example, Lookbooky, which allows you to view the latest picture books online.


Summer reading… for grown-ups

June 20, 2008 · 1 Comment · books, Uncategorized

To start with, I’m going to suggest a few columns from the Guardian (UK).

  • Authors Choose Their Top 10 Books on different topics, e.g., island books, romps and romances, black comedies, boredom, wilderness, etc.
  • Literary Companions for Summer Travel — where authors suggest books perfect for particular destinations, e.g., Julian Barnes on Sicily, William Boyd on L.A., William Dalrymple on India, Maureen Freely on Turkey, etc.
  • Digested Reads — the must-read books in 400 words — for those who have no time and don’t want to be left out of literary conversations…

Whichbook.net, a completely new way of choosing books to read, lets you specify the level of what you want in a book — the degree of happy/sad, easy/demanding, sex/no sex, safe/disturbing, etc.

Another fun one is Literature-Map, also known as the tourist map of literature — plug in your favorite author and see which other authors are located close to them on the map.

In the US the National Book Critics Circle has put out a list of Spring 2008 Good Reads.

I’ve also put together a list via WorldCat (a compendium of thousands of library catalogs from around the world): Summer Reading Suggestions. It contains both books I’ve read and books I want to read. Note that WorldCat also lets you type a city/country and it will find the libraries closest to you holding that book.

Here are a few book reviews that helped me determine my own to-read list:

  • Say You’re One of Them — by Uwem Akpan

    “Poverty, slavery, mass murder: These are the torments that devour the children in “Say You’re One of Them,” a book so overwhelming that when you put it down — if you can — it takes a minute to adjust to the world around you. The writer is Uwem Akpan, a young Nigerian Jesuit. Each of the five stories in his debut collection is set in a different African nation; each is told from a child’s point of view; two are strong, three are devastating.”

  • The Knife of Never Letting Go — by Patrick Ness

    “It’s hard to review The Knife of Never Letting Go without spoiling the story. It’s so cunningly written that I was 100 pages in before I even realised what genre it was.” (a children’s book — but don’t let that put you off…)

  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle — by David Wroblewski

    “Wroblewski creates a tender coming-of-age story and grafts onto it a literary thriller with strong echoes of Shakespeare and “The Jungle Book.” The result is the most hauntingly impressive debut I’ve read all year.”


Some “Super” Stories for the Summer

June 12, 2008 · 2 Comments · books

Children in the Infant section, just like older students, need to keep reading and hearing stories over the summer, so I recommend parents have a look at the K2 Super Story selections. For the past six months each K2 class has read and re-read a set of 50 picture books, with the goal of identifying which books are best in some way. Each class generated the rubric by which to judge the stories — and voting took place last week for the books with the “Best Words”, “Best Pictures”, “Best Characters”, etc.

Check out this year’s winners and the range of books read (about 130 books across the four classrooms).

Don’t worry if your child is going into K2 next year — the Super Story collections vary each year, so it doesn’t matter if they read any of the books ahead of time. Besides, they’re all meant to be books well worth reading again and again.

Top 3 Winners across all four K2 classes


Summer Reading for Primary Students

June 12, 2008 · No Comments · books

Holidays, whether spent at home or traveling, are a perfect time for reading.

Need some suggestions?

I’ve prepared a couple of lists — Great Reads for lower primary students and upper primary students — which are available in the library as a pamphlet and as a PDF download.

The two groupings are only a general guideline; children in lower primary might find books on the upper primary list both accessible and interesting, and upper primary students might read books on the lower primary list with great pleasure. Ease and enjoyment are the main reading goals.

I teach students to use the 5-Finger Test (by which they count the number of words they don’t know on a random page to determine if a book may be too hard for them to read easily).

Some websites allow you to search for children’s books by age or grade level (where 2.3 would mean 3 months into Grade 2, and 5.1 would be the first month of Grade 5):

However, use those age/grade levels recommendations with caution! Philip Pullman, author of the best-selling trilogy “His Dark Materials”, has recently started a campaign against publishers labeling books with recommended ages of readers. As he and other authors argue,

  • Each child is unique, and so is each book. Accurate judgments about age suitability are impossible, and approximate ones are worse than useless.
  • Everything about a book is already rich with clues about the sort of reader it hopes to find – jacket design, typography, cover copy, prose style, illustrations. These are genuine connections with potential readers, because they appeal to individual preference. An age-guidance figure is a false one, because it implies that all children of that age are the same.

There was a recent column in the Times (UK) on the controversy titled “Judge a book by its cover: Publishers give us plenty of clues to a title’s target audience; we don’t need read-by dates as well“, as well as another in the Telegraph (UK).

Please consider the Rights of the Reader, as proposed by Daniel Pennac, an award-winning French author for children and adults, in his book, Comme un Roman, which discusses how to raise children as readers. (Note: there are three English translations: Better Than Life, Reads Like a Novel, and The Rights of the Reader.)

The right not to read

The right to skip pages

The right not to finish

The right to reread

The right to read anything

The right to escapism

The right to read anywhere

The right to browse

The right to read out loud

The right to not defend your tastes


Joyce Dunbar, K2 author visit

May 23, 2008 · No Comments · Uncategorized

On Thursday, June 5th, Joyce Dunbar, an award-winning UK author of over seventy books for children, will be visiting with the K2 classes.

She is in Singapore in conjunction with the iTheatre’s production of her picture book, Moonbird at the Alliance Francaise from May 20th to June 7th.

The K2 students are particularly looking forward to meeting Joyce as she is profoundly deaf and they did a unit of inquiry earlier in the year on the senses.

One of her most recent books, Shoe Baby, was illustrated by her daughter, Polly Dunbar, who is winning awards in her own right.

Joyce’s books will be on display in the K1 pod next week and her books can be ordered from Bookaburra Books.


Tuning in to the Extended Essay with a wiki

April 3, 2008 · No Comments · NLB, Research/Inquiry

Back in February I did a 10-minute presentation in a Grade 11 assembly about a new Extended Essay wiki for UWCSEA students. A main reason was to promote National Library membership and its advantages, especially their online databases, so we also handed out the NLB’s “Don’t Panic” booklets. As they’re just at the start of the project, I think the page that interested them the most was the list of previous Extended Essays titles by UWCSEA students, extracted from the school library catalog, as students are allowed to look at past essays stored in the library, though not to check them out. I opened my slide presentation with a photo of a spiral staircase and said they might be wondering why the primary school teacher-librarian was going to talk to them about research. I said learning is a spiral and that what they’re going to do for the Extended Essay is very similar to what the PYP students do in their units of inquiry — on a higher level. The next slide was of the research wheel I use with the youngest kids — a simplified Kath Murdoch one — Tuning In, Finding Out, Sorting Out, and Going Further. They laughed.

So then I mentioned the sites they probably used all the time, e.g., Google and Wikipedia, and said the wiki had links beyond those — before going into my spiel on the NLB and other tools that might help them out.

Time will tell…


Update on the NLB and online databases

November 27, 2007 · No Comments · Research/Inquiry

Last spring I publicized the National Library (NLB) as a general resource and, in particular, the wide selection of online subscription databases available through the NLB for anyone living in Singapore — whether they had paid to join the National Library or not. We subsequently signed up a lot of our Grade 11 students — in anticipation of them doing Extended Essay research this year in Grade 12.

Unfortunately... over the summer the NLB changed their membership policy. Now foreigners have no option but to pay for Premium Membership (which costs S$ 52.50 to sign up for — and then S$42.50 per subsequent year) to get any book borrowing or digital library privileges.

The good news is that everyone who signed up for FREE digital library membership before the summer is still signed up.

The other good news is that the NLB has improved their search interface. There is a nifty beta release of a one-stop-shopping-search interface. From the eResources tab on the top of their screen, select eSearch & Browse beta (or just click on the words here). Then select eDatabases.You now have the option of entering one phrase and having ALL databases (or all databases in one field) searched.

Give it a try. Go to eSearch & Browse beta — and use this login: max1989 — with the password the very same.

(No, I do not feel guilty telling you to do this — the NLB digital library manager came to the last Singapore international school librarian networking meeting and we complained about the change in policy over the summer — and he professed surprise that it was ever possible to become a Digital Library Member without having paid for any foreign membership. So I sent him this login name/password as proof. Max is my son who is one of those who has never paid for library membership and signed up for the digital library resources last spring. He’s no longer living in Singapore — yet his account is still valid even, after I told the NLB about it, so I see no reason why you shouldn’t use it to check out the NLB Digital Library holdings…)

For example, try entering a search string, e.g., “united world college” (in quotes) — and tick ALL databases to be searched AND select Keyword searches to be used. You can then watch as it collects results in various databases. Wait for the complete list of results to be displayed — then note how it clusters results by sub-topics on the left. (Sorry for the slightly truncated image below… but you get the idea…)NLB Search Results page

(Did you know Montezuma Castle, the main building of the UWC in New Mexico, hosts a ghost — an opera diva who was a guest at the then-hotel in the 1880s?)

NB: If you try accessing the Digital Resources, but keep getting bumped back to the NLB home page, it probably means they’re doing maintenance. This sometimes happens. Try again later…. And don’t hesitate to come ask me for help if you’re having trouble getting this all to work.


TeachIT 2007 (in case you missed it)

November 27, 2007 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Just wanted to let you know where to go to get the info that you would have gotten IF you had made it to my workshop on November 17th at TeachIT.

There’s an overall wiki for the day:  TeachIT 2007

and within that, in Sessions 2 & 3, you can click on “Social Software in School and Life” to see what Barb Philip (the Tanglin junior librarian) and I presented.  Basically, we said it was not a “how-to” session — though we provided some links to define the software tools and get people started.  Instead it was a sampler of what we’ve used — and tools we can’t live without now — to help us collect, organize, and share information — both professionally and personally.  We thought more people in the audience would have already been fooling around with social software.  No matter.  The space is still there for participants to add their own experiments.   I still have hope….


The UN, a young economist and AIDS, and the potential influence of a UWC teacher

November 25, 2007 · No Comments · Global issues, Links, Research/Inquiry

The activities of the United Nations are necessarily of interest to us at UWC — so I thought you might like to know two ways to keep up-to-date with their news.

1) Subscribe to the daily e-mail update from UN Wire

2) Read their blog — UN Dispatch: Posts on the UN – which you can subscribe to — either sign-up to receive updates via e-mail or use their RSS feed to receive updates via an RSS reader (e.g., GoogleReader or Bloglines).

This is one of the news items that landed in my in-box last week, thanks to UN Wire:

UNAIDS to adjust worldwide HIV/AIDS numbers

The United Nations’ AIDS agency released a report Tuesday stating it has systematically overestimated the number of HIV/AIDS cases worldwide since the 1990s. Methodology used to conduct surveys and compile data caused the discrepancy, which will see UNAIDS drop its estimate of the number of cases worldwide from 39.5 million to 33.2 million. Read UNAIDS’ press release and view the report. The New York Times (11/20)

There’s a TED talk (see my previous posting on some of my favorites) which deals with this very issue — which might be of interest to anyone teaching economics or working with AIDS as a global concern. It’s a wonderful example of how research (information plus critical thinking) can help us decide — as a society, as activists, as policy makers — how best to address problems such as AIDS.

TED Talk: Emily Oster — What do we really know about the spread of AIDS?

Here’s her biographical blurb off the TED website (it’s pretty impressive for someone 26 years old):

Her Harvard doctoral thesis took on famed economist Amartya Sen and his claim that 100 million women were statistically missing from the developing world. He blamed misogynist medical care and outright sex-selective abortion for the gap, but Oster pointed to data indicating that in countries where Hepetitis B infections were higher, more boys were born. Through her unorthodox analysis of medical data, she accounted for 50% of the missing girls.

She’s also investigated the role of bad weather in the rise in witchcraft trials in Medieval Europe and what drives people to play the Powerball lottery. Her latest target: busting assumptions on HIV in Africa.

I’m sure some of our students will end up as TED speakers some day.

Did you know the latest Man Booker Prize winner is a UWC graduate? (Pearson College)  And one of Anne Enright’s former Pearson classmates wrote an article in The Telegraph (Calcutta, India) about how one English teacher from those long ago days might be responsible in part for Enright’s success