Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

What a wonderful idea!

The Garden Library

The Garden Library

Located in central Tel Aviv, Israel, The Garden Library is a unique concept which aims to bring the community together and provide opportunities and programs for a wide cross section of people: adults, children, and foreigners.

The Garden Library was established based upon the belief that culture and education are basic human rights that bridge differences between communities and individuals, and that can affect lasting social change.

In addition to offering library activities, a range of communal, cultural and educational activities and programs are offered for the diverse community in surrounding areas.

Read more about this amazing space and all that if has to offer at TheGardenLibrary website.


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For those unable to easily visit The State Library of Victoria, home to more than 8 million separate items, this recent interview/video shows off Melbourne’s pride and joy.

State Library of Victoria

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Located in Newmarket (Toronto, Canada), this Story Pod is a beautiful concept which at a glance is a more sophisticated version of  a Little Free Library in which patrons can exchange, browse and/or borrow books at no cost.  I have blogged about this concept previously.

This Story Pod is both inviting and beautiful in design and is certainly alluring to those who may want to spend some time between the covers of a book!   Designed by Architects AKB the emphasis is on simplicity and functionality to ensure that, night or day, the Story Pod will be a valued feature for regular urban use.


Check the AKB website for more info and pictures.

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It was some years ago, after undergoing a fairly major operation that I found myself, doped to the gills with pain killers, totally unable to pick up any of the enticing books I’d brought with me to the hospital. None of them caught my interest and in any case I was sleepy and completely unable to concentrate.

Then it happened! One book somehow slipped into my hands. It spoke to me, inspired me and made me realize that my despondent state was not as bad as the experiences of the character I was reading about. I finally felt connected and inspired and yes ….. the book, I discovered with some joy, brought me hope and a great deal of pleasure. This book was a key to my return to the ‘land of the living’ and re-established within me the joy of reading. The book was given to me by my work colleague, another Teacher Librarian.

It is this experience I often reflect upon when faced with those occasions of feeling “out of it”, hit by a bad run, or totally preoccupied with “stuff”, so-much-so that my ability to concentrate on reading is dead, buried and gone. How easy it is for each of us who work with books, to suss out the kind of book that is ‘just right’ for our library patrons.

So when I read an article a couple of months ago in The Age: Bibliotherapy a novel approach to helping readers treat literary indecision I was intrigued. Before I’d gotten too far into the article though, skepticism started creeping into my mind. By the time I got to the end of the article though, I was soon saying out loud to myself ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me!’ ‘Is this for real?!’

To put it mildly, I was blown away by the idea that a new profession had evolved from the tools of the trade normally associated with those working in libraries and book shops. I was also bowled over by the idea that these kinds of services, normally provided at no cost, were being charged for and that consumers were ready to part with money for the kind of information being offered.

Thanks perhaps to a recent article in The New Yorker: Can reading make you happier?, which has most probably fanned interest in yet another ‘alternate therapy’, two Melbourne Bibliotherapists have expanded their trade by taking on overseas clients via Skype. With interest piqued, three sessions presented by this pair at the recent Melbourne Writers Festival were sold out. It is interesting to note that one of the Melbourne Bibliotherapists, a former genetic counsellor, trained at the British School of Life with Bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud, the person quoted extensively in The New Yorker article.

The process, I gleaned from both articles, seems fairly straightforward. Clients complete a questionnaire prior to meeting the Bibliotherapist. Questions asked, hinge around a person’s reading habits:

  • What kinds of books do you like?
  • What books did you read as a child?
  • What are your interests/passions?
  • What would you like to try? (Presumably life pursuits)
  • When do you read? Daily? Weekends? Holidays?
  • Do you buy or borrow books?
  • What is preoccupying you at the moment?

On her personal website, Ella Berthoud, gives greater specifics of the questionnaire:

When you book a bibliotherapy session, you will be sent a questionnaire asking you about your reading habits, loves and dislikes. We ask why you read, what you read, when and where you read – who with, or whether you always read alone. Do you ever read aloud, or listen to audiobooks? All your reading habits are explored. We also ask what is going on in your life at the moment – are any major issues coming up? Are you in the middle of a career-change, about to have a baby, moving home, experiencing a break-up, or beginning a new relationship? Are you perhaps retiring, or living alone for the first time? All life situations, whether serious or frivolous, can be illuminated by a good book. We believe that reading the right book at the right time can change your life. Our job is to help you find that book.”

Her business website, The School of Life, expands on the process:

In a consultation with one of our bibliotherapists, you’ll explore your relationship with books so far and be asked to explore new literary directions. Perhaps you’re looking for an author whose style you love so much you will want to devour every word they’ve ever written. Perhaps you’re about to trek across China and need to find ideal travel companions to download onto your kindle. Maybe you’re feeling disconnected from the world and want to listen to the classics of your childhood during your daily commute. Or you’re seeking a change in your life and want to hold the hand of people who’ve been there and done that already.”

If your visit with a Bibliotherapist is in England, you will, after parting with £80.00, have a forty minute consultation face-to face, via phone or on Skype which will further illuminate responses to the questionnaire, and then be prescribed a list of the 8 best books to be read over the next few weeks or months. The list is accompanied with an explanation as to why these books are considered to be the best. A few weeks later, the client is contacted to ask if they would like to come back for another consultation.

The questions asked by Bibliotherapists are eerily similar to those asked by Teacher Librarians working in School Libraries, Librarians working in Public Libraries, and those working in book shops, all of whom have an excellent grasp of literature and regularly make sound book recommendations to their patrons. Indeed, the raison d’être of our profession aims to put the right book into the right hands at the right time. There is of course, no charge for this service. It is a role that we joyfully take on; revelling each and every time we establish that connection between patrons and books.

On sending the link to The Age article to family and friends, as well as current and past work colleagues, the comments and replies received back were interesting. One emphatically stated:

You should write to the author of the article and remind them that librarians are there for more than putting books away on the shelves.”

Another response reminded me that there is many a website today which can aid and assist the needy in their search for the right book. No costs apply of course. I’ve blogged about this previously: What’s a good book to read Miss? and Any more good books Miss?

I’m passionate in my belief of the immeasurable value to be gained from reading. I agree totally with many of the statements made in The New Yorker article:

For all avid readers who have been self-medicating with great books their entire lives, it comes as no surprise that reading books can be good for your mental health and your relationships with others, but exactly why and how is now becoming clearer, thanks to new research on reading’s effects on the brain.”

as well as this:

So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction makes us treat others better, it is a way of treating ourselves better. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.”

I also applaud the engaging video which appears on The School of Life website which I have taken from YouTube:

Who knows, perhaps in our next career some of us will become Bibliotherapists!

Right now though, I get a real thrill out of encouraging others to read, getting them to discover the joy of reading and yes ….. helping them find the perfect book to meet their mood, interest, need or take them to the next point of discovery in their life.


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I came across this on Facebook last week.  One of my greatest needs is summed up perfectly!   Thanks Denise for the share!

All I want in life = books!

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It’s taken a couple of weeks, but finally I’ve got my feet back on the ground after returning from an awesome vacation!

While I admit to not having time to open the covers of a book even once while away, literature kept finding me – sometimes in the most unexpected of places!

For those of you who’ve had the pleasure of cruising, you’ll know that a library on a ship is as anticipated as the numerous eateries that are to be found on board.  Without a doubt, the libraries I’ve seen on the high seas each have a beauty and character all of their own.  They are inviting and peaceful, gently coaxing you to ‘come visit’.


Celebrity Silhouette Library (left) Royal Princess Library (right)

Celebrity Silhouette Library (left) Royal Princess Library (right)

Working in a secondary library as I have for some years now, I tend to lose track of those adorable characters that I used to love sharing with my young readers.  So when I discovered that Dick Bruna’s Miffy turned 60 this year, I was over the moon to see a beautiful collection of stuffed toys hidden in a gift shop in Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands


and then equally enamoured when I spotted a magical display of Miffy collectables on show in the beautiful Royal Delft Shop located in Delft in the Netherlands, to honour her 60th!



Soon after another adorable character popped up in a shop window in Helsinki.  Moomin and his family of white, roundish, fairy tale characters which have been immortalized by Swedish speaking Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson in books and comics, are today brought to life in an incredible array of soft, cuddly toys and ‘must have’ paraphernalia.




Then, I literally walked into another very distinguished find!

Look down this bustling canal fronted street in Copenhagen to the cream coloured building next to a brown building  – exactly nine buildings from the left:



to see none other than a building with a most notable name!


Even if it is just a cafe nowadays


I really got a kick out of standing outside of a building that was once the home (or in the vicinity of the home) of none other than Hans Christian Anderson!

A similar shiver went through me as I viewed this hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland


It was here, we were told, that Mark Twain used to stay for extended visits where he contemplated or perhaps wrote some of his classics while enjoying the beauty of Lake Lucerne which lies right opposite the hotel.


Not far from here, is the valley where the legend of William Tell originated.  Today, just a short distance away, a lively restaurant cashes in on this belief!


Literature continued to engulf us as we traversed the streets of Zurich.  While tempted by this poster to sign up to Zurich’s Literature Festival while we were in town


I knew that my mastery of neither French nor German would let me enjoy much!  So instead, I had to make do enjoying the beautiful window displays in the very large English branch of the beautiful Orell Fussli Bookshop which we just happened upon while strolling along Zurich’s elegant Bahnhofstrasse.



The prominent value of literature even followed us on our way home!  As we wandered along Orchard Street in Singapore, this gigantic statue of busy shoppers managed to include someone reading a newspaper!

And so it was, that our journey has now concluded.

Back in Melbourne, I’ve returned to the shelves of books that surround me in our school library and where I will aim to continue to inspire students to read, read, and read some more!

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How cool it is to pop into a local library to borrow a book while on holiday!

The joy was made even better when I discovered that the newly installed Coogee Beach Library was just a few steps away from from the home of Sydney friends with whom I was staying over the summer holidays!

Housing more than a thousand books, the Coogee Beach Library has made a welcome addition to what is one of the most magnificent beaches in Australia.

Located on the lower beach promenade right next to the sand, the six-metre wide, freestanding timber bookshelf constructed by Council’s carpenters will stock more than 1000 fiction and non-fiction books and magazines in various languages and genres, ensuring there is something for everyone to pick up and enjoy.”  (Read more: Sydney’s First Beach Library launches in Coogee)

Coogee Beach Library

In opening this very special library, Randwick Mayor Ted Seng said:

….. if the Coogee Beach Library is able to encourage even just one child to pick up a book and discover the joy of reading, then this project will be well worth it!”

A great way to encourage reading, relaxation and enjoyment!   And a super great way to start the year rolling!

Be inspired:

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Over the years, I’ve had lots of fun creating imaginative and inspiring places within my school library.

One of the best was when I converted the sunken Picture Story area of our library into Mr McGregor’s shed which features in the classic stories of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit collection.   With assistance from the art teacher who had her young students paint the brickwork wall, window and window sill and cooperation from our wonderful school gardener – Gordon – who agreed to let me hang on to one of his wheelbarrows, rakes, large ceramic pots and lots of sack bags, the atmosphere created in that closed off area was a joy to share with my students.  The young children loved it and I must admit I loved it too!

So when I saw this collection of 17 Creative Children’s Libraries  I couldn’t help becoming a little nostalgic and wishing I had reason to create a ‘special’ place for students to relax and enjoy.   Hmmm…..  I am tempted!  Perhaps this one could be created fairly easily. Perhaps I should have a go?!

Children's Library entry

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A recent TEDx talk by Andrew Roskill: Get a read on this: Libraries bridging the digital divide set me thinking about what and how we are promoting libraries in our schools and, dare I say it, questioning whether we are ‘doing it’ the right way.

Quoting a PEW survey that 95% of people in our society think that libraries are important, Roskill goes on to quote an American Library Association study which found that only 52% of people said they weren’t using their library as much as they used to.  The big question he poses, of course, is why?

His answer is simple: there’s lots of competition out there with products that are easy, elegant and engaging meaning that people are ready to pay for those products which could otherwise be accessed in our libraries.   Qualifying this statement, he goes on to say that access to products in libraries are often complicated, requiring users to log into different websites or click on numerous links to get where they want to go or borrow what they want to borrow.  Making it easier for library patrons is really what he is on about.   Offering solutions, he urges libraries to adopt these suggestions:

  1. use apps: with mobile usage now surpassing desktop usage, our libraries need to follow suit
  2. embrace the 3 e’s (easy, elegant and engaging):  by providing products that are less clunky and more intuitive, library patrons will stay in the library and more importantly keep coming back
  3. content: rather than competing on best sellers, focus on a niche service provision
  4. curation: by utilizing the skills of library staff, libraries offer what their competition can’t: comprehensive collections
  5. physical presence: libraries have to maximize the advantage they have over their competition and to actively promote themselves for what they can give their community

While Roskill’s talk is focused on public libraries and how they play a pivotal role in teaching library patrons digital skills so that they can better traverse today’s workplace market, much of what he has to say is relevant to school libraries.

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the ‘administrivia’ that is essential to ensuring that our libraries run smoothly.  In the process though, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture and how we are presenting that big picture to our library patrons.

After watching Roskill’s TEDx presentation, my thoughts run like this:

  1. apps are the way to go: if the library software being used in your library doesn’t have an app, change to a library software that does
  2. teach/demonstrate use of the library software app so that patrons can easily access the library database
  3. create easy to navigate library webpages: use icons rather than words to guide the user
  4. run regular demos showing how resources can be accessed via the library webpage
  5. incorporate passwords to databases into the library webpage so that access is smooth and simple
  6. actively market resources emphasizing their value to patrons: make it personal and use language easily understood
  7. make your library collection relevant to patrons by curating resources into relevant topics per year level
  8. utilize the library space: create a flow and a feel that is inviting
  9. ensure signage is clear so that resources are easily located
  10. make your library the hub of the school by regularly holding events, promotions and inspiring activities: make them want to be there!

While there are so many more thoughts and ideas rolling around my head, I will leave sharing them for another post.   Meantime, take the time to have a look at Andrew Roskill’s talk.  His message is clear and simple:

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Traveling to Brazil for the World Cup next month?

If yes – check out the ‘Real Gabinete Português de Leitura’ – known in English as the Royal Portuguese Reading Room or the Royal Cabinet – a 19th-century library in Rio de Janeiro.  It really is magnificent!

Housing more than 350,000 volumes of books, the largest and most valuable collection of Portuguese books outside of Portugal, the building was constructed over seven years from 1880 to 1887 under the direction of architect Rafael da Silva e Castro.  With limestone transported from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, the building is tall and imposing echoing a Gothic cathedral or monastery.  The floor to ceiling bookshelves help to create an awe inspiring sight.

Check out more details on Jenny Zhang’s recent blog post on My Modern Met where you’ll also be able to see more photographs of this amazing building and its book collection.

I’ve added this to my ‘must look-see’ list!

Rio de Janeiro Library


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