How do you quantify this moment?

So, yesterday, I’m standing up in front of a Year 10 class, waxing lyrical as I do, when one of the students chimes in with, “You know that book you gave me last time, Miss? Well, it was really good. I finished it in 3 days.” “That’s great,” I reply. “Have you returned it today?” “Yes, Miss. It’s in the chute thingy.”

So I go and get it out of the chute thingy, and ask the student if he can give the group a run-down of the plot, unless it will be too spoilery. And he thinks it will be too spoilery, so he just says, “It was really, really good, Miss”. The book is a little over 300 pages – it’s Bruiser – and I say out loud that this boy has read 100 pages a day – “So it must be a really good book.”

One of the other boys asks to read it. I admit it, I’m a bit disappointed that he’s got it, because last time this class was in the library, two weeks ago, I had to reprimand him for talking and interrupting other students when the focus is all on reading in a sustained way in preparation for VCE. At the end of the lesson he was the last to leave, so we had a bit of a chat about his focus, and what he wants to do with his life, and he’s pretty honest. He has no idea. And I agree that focus is hard when you don’t know where you want to go. And that’s that.

So we settled down to reading, and this week the class is on fire. They are reading their heads off. It’s all quiet, and everyone is giving their books a chance to speak to them. The 45 mins passes really quickly (I’m reading Alex as Well – must read!) and it’s time to borrow.

I suggest that the students need to borrow their books as we have had a few books get snitched out from under noses because the kids won’t borrow them (!) and then I notice that Bruiser boy is walking towards the exit with the book. I ask him, “Are you going to borrow that?” And I hope my surprise isn’t showing on my face when he replies, “You know what, Miss. I think I will borrow it. I’m really enjoying it.” I act really cool, and just say, “Great”, but inside I am doing a happy dance and my heart is singing, because a boy who has resisted and avoided and downright refused to read for the last three years is BORROWING A BOOK!

And this is my question – how in the hell do I quantify this? It has taken three years, with new suggestions of great books given every week, for this young man to borrow one book. His English teachers and I have despaired of this moment ever happening. It sounds small, and in some respects that’s true. But really it’s a triumph. It’s a win. It’s a bloody miracle.

And I’ve worked really hard to provide great books, to work with the teachers and kids, to read widely and enthusiastically, but how do you quantify this when you are trying to show Senior Management that what you do all day, every day, is important. I can’t test it, or examine it. I can’t count it or test it.

But this moment is an A+ moment. And there is no way to measure it other than to share it as a story.


I’ve been quiet here of late. So damn busy!

But today I’ve come across a curious, confusing and confounding problem – why are eBooks that were previously available from our US supplier now not available to Australian customers? WHY?!

Here’s the whole story as I see it:

We use Destiny Library Manager from Follett. It’s a US company that makes various database management systems, including student and learning management. They know their stuff.

Which is why I am TOTAL IN LOVE with their online purchasing system, called TitleWave. TitleWave has thousands and thousands of great resources, in heaps of great formats – eBooks, audio, visual, and hard copy. It’s so easy to search, order, pay and upload. And the great thing about it is – we own the books.

Now here’s the problem as I see it. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks pretty clear to me.

It seems that “someone” found out about this easy-to-use system and has shut it down. Rather than lifting prices for Australian purchasers, or making the titles available elsewhere (on publisher websites, for example) so that I can upload them into my catalogue, or renegotiating contracts with the US, they just shut. it. down.

I’m not trying to do the creators out of their dough. They get paid little enough already. I’m happy to pay Australian prices for eBooks that SEAMLESSLY upload to my catalogue software. Overdrive ain’t seamless. Wheelers ain’t seamless. They are proprietary rental systems. I don’t need another place for my students to have to look for resources. Getting them to look at the catalogue is hard enough!

The Destiny/ TitleWave system of buying, downloading and USING eBooks is the best ANYWHERE. No extra modules. No format changes. Licences for single- or multiple-use built in to the cost. Easy for users to access and read. Isn’t that the point?

Why not jump on board, Australian publishers? Get with the program. Because I’m not swapping to Overdrive or Wheelers when I have a BUILT-IN, ownership system already in my catalogue. (Not to mention that, heaven forbid, if my library budget gets cut, then our students no longer can access the eBook ‘rentals’ from these companies).

You’ve been more than happy to let libraries buy books and lend them to people until they fell apart for years and years. And do you know what? You didn’t lose a cent. Because when a paper book falls apart from use you know what a library does? They buy a REPLACEMENT! And you know what happens when eBooks don’t get read, you buy another one!

So, my suggestion is. Get talking to Destiny. There are a lot of users of this catalogue software in Australia, and the excellent ordering and uploading of electronic resources is a great selling point. Why not get your product into more schools, rather than less?

Yours in crankiness,

Karen Bonanno's great Slideshare on Library Advocacy

WA Premier's Literary Awards

Well, it’s funny how the world turns.

Last week, through ‘channels’, the opportunity to become a judge for the WA Premier’s Awards – YA and Children’s books – came up.

Just the day before, I had been saying to colleagues and family alike that I was looking forward to 2011 being the year that I would ‘read books for me’. Having been involved in the Aurealis Awards for the past two years, and the CBCA awards for two years before that, I’ve been reading books for awards for the last four and a bit years. I thought I’d had enough.

But – apparently not. After I got wind of the opportunity, I came home and put it to my husband, reminding him of what I had been saying about having some time off from judging. His response? “That’s fantastic! You’ve got to take it!” Which sort of made it a given, as I really didn’t want to pass up this chance to get involved in a whole new arena where books for ‘kids’ are appreciated. (If you’re interested, here is a blog and discussion about someone very famous [who should propbably know better], Martin Amis, disparaging those who write for young people on the BBC program Faulks on Fiction).

Bottom line – I’m rapt to be involved in the world of books written for young people. I think that children’s writers have to work so hard to get the voice of the character right. Working with children on a daily basis does give you a good ear for an authentic voice, and the young readers can pick a ‘wrong’ voice a mile off.

So, here’s to happy reading for all, whether old or young, tall or small. 🙂

Five on a Treasure Island – Blyton – review

Five on a Treasure Island (The Famous Five, Book 1)Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review will have to do for all the Famous Five books, because, well really, it’s just the same story over and over again.
But that ‘sameness’ is the very reason I come back to the Famous Five even now. There’s something very satisfying about knowing that the Five will triumph, despite all the set-backs, baddies and dire (unlikely) occurences. End Blyton was a queen of the ‘safe’ book – predictable in a very British sort of way, but with four capable, clever and courageous protagonists, who had their foibles, but were, in the end, the victors.
I wanted to be George so much! Anne was too prissy for me, Julian too grown-up, Dick was OK, but George and Timmy were fearless, head-strong and in deep, deep doggy love with each other. And I loved her for it.
If you haven’t read then for a while, or ever, read them for a time gone by, read them for the language of a time and place that no longer exists, and read them for the fun.

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Anonymity Jones – James Roy – review

Anonymity JonesAnonymity Jones by James Roy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

True to form, James Roy has written a thought-provoking and moving novel of a young girl on the cusp of adulthood. Anonymity Jones is seventeen and until now has not really paid attention to what is happening in her family, but now finds her comfortable, familiar life disintegrating around her. Anonymity’s Dad, Richard, has had an affair with a work colleague (again!) and this throws a spanner in the works of her parents’ marriage. Megan, Anonymity’s older sister, has changed her name to Raven, has left school and has decided to head to Europe for a gap year. And as the Four Musketeers, Anonymity, Tina, Viera and Andi, approach the final years of school, their lives start to diverge and change in a way that Anonymity is not altogether comfortable with.
James Roy’s ability to consistently tackle the family and personal issues that confront teens, and to write about them with a genuine voice, compassion and class is shown once again. He is skilled at getting inside the thoughts of the teenage character and examining difficult ideas and events in a realistic way.
Recommended for secondary students and beyond.

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