The School Library Situation.

Today’s topic is something I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about for a very long time. This is something that I have been concerned about even before I decided to pursue a career in librarianship because it’s an issue that has affected me in my journey through the Irish education system. I want to talk about the lack of libraries in schools and, with it, the lack of digital literacy training.

The School Library Association has pointed out that the situation in Ireland is “highly unsatisfactory.” As it stands there is no statutory recognition for school libraries and no specific budgetary focus to maintain libraries on a national level. SLARI points out that in many cases libraries are provided by, “boards of management, school principals, teachers, librarians and parents who through dedication, fund-raising, hard work and sheer determination have managed to provide a high quality library service in a relatively small number of schools throughout the country.” Unfortunately not every school in Ireland has such dedicated members of staff and parents. Actually, more to the point, not every school has staff or parents with the time or money in the present climate to provide these services and therefore it is likely that students are receiving different degrees of education.

Many studies have shown the success of school libraries in relation to literacy levels with increased student performance in areas like reading and writing. We can see these results in the very successful Irish initiative the JCSP Demonstration Library Project which has expanded since it’s introduction in 2002. However, there is no overall call for libraries to be established in secondary schools around the country. The drop-off in engagement with libraries during teenage years is a well known phenomenon and I believe this lack of engagement leads to issues at university level. By the time students get to college the library can seem an intimidating place and although college libraries do offer support in the form of tours and liaison, it is a time in life that is very over-whelming anyway and it can all be a bit too much to take in. On a personal note this was a huge issue for me in my first years at college and I think that I lost a lot of confidence in myself as a student. I completely understand the need for us to learn some things by rote the way we do in secondary school but there is a rather large imbalance in the way that you learn things off in secondary school and the way you research for college. I truly believe the presence of a school library and some form of research as part of the curriculum would be hugely beneficial to many Irish students.

Teacher Librarian Infographic by Joy Valencia

Teacher Librarian Infographic by Joy Valencia

However, these issues are not the biggest issues I perceive in relation to the lack of school libraries. I have spoken in the past about how technology has changed the way we work as librarians. Technology has made its mark on schools too. There are new and improved teacher resources, e.g. smart boards etc. I know that there are computer science classes and that students use the internet and teachers use web resources but I still see some gaping holes in this area of education. Students today are so-called ‘digital natives’ but does this mean that they shouldn’t be taught digital literacy. There seems to be this false idea that because these children are growing up with computers and other technology that they intrinsically know all there is to know. We all grow up with a native language and yet we are still taught about English or Irish in school. I was recently speaking to two younger members of my family, both in 5th yr of secondary school, both had been given one talk about social media and cyber bullying. One hour, one day. That’s it!?! They had some idea of copyright from business class and they had never heard of creative commons. These are kids that are on the internet in their spare time, posting things to Facebook, using Twitter and yet they know relatively little about the issues of intellectual property. It is also quite clear from just looking at Facebook that there are many young kids out there that really do not grasp the reality of what it means to be posting pictures of themselves online. I find it quite scary that these kids are growing up in an online environment and yet they don’t really know how to use the internet. There is research to support my opinions that teenagers do not know how to use the internet effectively and don’t evaluate the information they are receiving. Here is a link to one such survey. I don’t blame teacher’s as they do all they can with limited time and resources they have. The answer will only come in the form of a change in the system from the top levels. There has to be an overall national initiative to bring education in this area to every student in Ireland. I know that librarians have the skills to bridge this gap and if given the opportunity I think school librarians could make a huge difference.

These skills are hugely important in later life and teenagers need to know how to navigate the digital world effectively.

In summary, school libraries can:

1. Increase interest in reading.

2. Increase reading and writing skills.

3. Make sure that students have some familiarity with libraries and research before starting in third level.

4. Teach about intellectual property and evaluating resources.

5. Tackle the issues that students of today deal with, like social media, cyber bullying and how to manage their online presence

to name but a few. Hopefully, some schools, parents and public libraries are taking the opportunity to tackle some of these issues but I believe that we need the Irish education system to do something about this and I think school libraries are the answer.

For more reading on the topic:

Libraries key destination for teens to learn 21st century skills.

School Library Information from Library Research Service.

The Guardian: “The library: beating heart of the school.”



The Library of my Childhood: Still going strong and more important than ever!


Clonmel Public Library

It’s been a long semester and with only 6 weeks to go I can’t fathom how I have gotten this far already. I’m on mid-term and I’m exhausted. I’m home in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary for a few days trying to get some work done and I thought it would be a good idea to visit the library where it all began. I was worried that I was going to be saddened to see the library in a poorer state than I remember it or to see it empty of people because everyone is at home on their computers. However, I’m extremely happy to report that the library was busier than I can ever remember seeing it and this was during the day while the children were in school. It was a hive of activity and full of colour. I have such fond memories of the children’s area and it is as vibrant as ever, now equipped with computers at lower tables. There were quite a few older members of the community seated in the comfortable sitting area at the back reading their books and newspapers and there were plenty of people using the computers. It was clear to me that the library is still an essential part of the community. Probably even more so now; people who may be unemployed etc. need computers to access job postings, to apply online, to check their benefits and supports on various websites, older people who may not have computers in their homes need to access banking, bills and other services online. Having access to the computer and library employees to turn to for help is probably vital for some people.

I’ve noticed they’ve recently done up their website too. I may be mistaken but I think its a WordPress template site that they’re using and I think they’ve done a really good job on it. It just goes to show that you can do a lot with a little money and a bit of effort. Having this kind of site also means it should be easier for staff who may not be trained in coding to keep the site updated and fresh.

They seem to have a wide range of services available for all age groups. Although, it does seem that the teenagers aren’t as involved with the library as other groups with services for this age-group mainly internet based. There was plenty for children of all ages, from picture books to story-time and reading groups and the computers as I have mentioned. They offer services for parents and elderly members and it seemed very warm and inviting.

I’m delighted to see my old library still going strong and helping members of the community.

As part of my module Information Professional as Educator I have to design an information literacy programme and I’m hoping to create one for Transition Year students to teach them about subject choices for Leaving Cert and preparation for college. I think a programme like this might be beneficial for public libraries to outreach to the teenage group that may be missing out on the library experience. I truly believe that learning about the digital world, information retrieval and information evaluation is so important for that age-group and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have a place in their education. But….that’s a post for another day.

Nothing like a bit of nostalgia to inspire and it most certainly worked for me. Libraries are still important, useful, and more than anything, they are exactly where I want to be and what I’m about. Information, learning and support!

Bring back the Rare Books module!

559943_10200731772681569_507787984_nYesterday, as part of the InfoSoc committee my classmate Kate and I organised a field trip to Marsh’s Library. The library was established in 1701 by (the somewhat unfortunately named) Archbishop Narcissus Marsh and it was the first public library in Ireland. It stands today like something trapped in time; the building itself has changed somewhat over the years but in the first gallery the books still sit almost exactly the way they did back in the 1700’s. It is an amazing feeling when you walk in and see the beautiful wooden bookcases and see the old bindings for the first time, you can sense the history! Funnily, if these books could talk they’d have amazing stories to tell, regardless of their content. The books have seen visits from the likes of Bram Stoker and James Joyce. They have been shot at during 1916 and have the bullet holes to prove it. It was a truly fascinating trip.

However, I did leave feeling somewhat saddened; the MLIS course in UCD no longer offers a module in Rare Books and I think that this is a pity. We were lucky enough yesterday that Maria kindly brought us some books to look at in more detail, she gave us a short history lesson on bindings and ink but really this is a subject I would love to study in detail. I know that technology is growing increasingly important in our field but librarians still deal with books too and I sometimes think that the books are being neglected in this course. Now I realise there probably aren’t many people who have an interest in this area but, for those of us that do, it is a real missed opportunity.

At the end of the day I think there are still reasons for study in this area. Although you might not get the opportunity to work with rare books, it is good to have some knowledge of the history of books and in essence the history of the profession. Books and manuscripts are where in all began for us. You can learn a lot from rare books, not least from what they actually contain, but also history of ink, bindings, printing, rights and ownership, annotations in the margins…..the list goes on. And, to be honest, there seems to be a consensus that rare books are important and need to be preserved for future generations. There are efforts being made to catalogue these books to indicate provenance and all the other important information and to digitize these books to make them more accessible. For one such project see Irish Script on Screen, and there is another project getting underway this summer. I know funding is an issue, but funding is an issue everywhere and I think there will be jobs in this area in the future. Let’s face it these books have made it 400 years and they’re still here. Eventually funding comes from somewhere!


Basically, I believe there will be opportunities for people in digitzing these types of materials. I would like to see librarians have a part to play in this and I would like to see those librarians trained correctly in order to understand the books and how to treat them. These books are parts of history; they have been and will be around far longer than you or I and therefore we must do our best to appreciate them and protect them.

It’s too late for me (its something I would love the opportunity to do in the future and I will study on a personal level) but bring it back for the future library students! Even an optional day course at some point in the year would be beneficial.

My final note is just to say, if you get the opportunity to go visit Marsh’s, please do. It’s €2.50 for adults and worth every penny! But bring a coat. it’s pretty cold! We have to preserve the vellum binding, don’t you know!

Final Round Up – Thursday and Friday

So today is the last day of #HLSDITL. It’s been a really enjoyable experience and it was great to see my own classmates get involved and to become someway acquainted with my peers in different countries. I found it interesting to see what different modules people were taking; like modules concerned with legal issues pertaining to copyright and business and management modules that deal with practical things like budgeting. I think some of these modules could be extremely useful but I guess completing a MLIS like this in one year means that some things need to take priority over others and these are things I can focus on when I begin working in the field. CPD is something I will be taking very seriously. I also want to do some CSS and I’d love to do some work on rare books.

I’ll give a very quick run through of my Thursday and Friday. Yesterday (Thurs) I had my Issues in Professional Practice module. For this module we have to build our PLN’s and e-Portfolios on WordPress. A few of my classmates were having trouble with creating menus so I volunteered to go in an hour earlier and help them out. I made up a tutorial sheet and tweeted about it and I’ve sent to some other MLIS-ers so I hope it helps. It took me awhile on YouTube watching tutorials to figure it out. I’ve only been blogging since late 2012 and I’ve taught myself a lot which is something I’m quite proud of and it makes me more hopeful that I will be able to keep up with changing technologies in my future career if I apply myself. The class was a workshop so I also got to teach a little bit. I think the teaching aspect of the librarian’s role is really important and I get a lot of enjoyment out of helping people learn. I think collaboration in courses like this, that are so intense, is really useful and I always appreciate help and try to help others if and when I can.

Today I had a class in my Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator module which I suppose, considering what I’ve just written, is a really important class for me. Today we had a group-work session for the first hour. We were given a group of ‘users’ and we had to consider characteristics, information behaviour, information services that could be provided and barriers to offering the services. We were given Junior Doctors in an Acute Care Hospital. I found this a really interesting thought-experiment and it was particularly useful in that I’m really interested in medical libraries and the necessity of information literacy skills in relation to evidence-based practice. In the second half of the class our lecturer spoke to us about understanding the user. This is a very important part of teaching but it also important for ensuring libraries remain relevant. The user’s needs and wants have to be considerations.

It has been a really interesting week to be involved in #HLSDITL. I really enjoy blogging but I’ll be glad to go back to once a week. I hope anyone reading this has gotten a good idea of what it’s like to be a library student. It’s a LOT of hard-work but the learning is very rewarding. Some of my assignments that I will be working on over the mid-term include a cataloguing assignment, building a digital library on Omeka and creating an information literacy course (my ideas include either a college preparation course for 4th yr students or a course on social media networking for pre-graduates.) It’s going to be a busy two weeks but they sound pretty fun, if a bit stressful, so it’ll all be worthwhile.

Thanks for a great week Hack Library School!

Woo-hoo for Wednesday!

Yesterday we had our big table-quiz night. There wasn’t a huge turn out but I have to say I think everyone that did turn up had a great time! I was able to enjoy myself because I had submitted the big Qualitative Assignment due today and although there was some nerves, (and a bit of a pain in my stomach pressing the submit button) it was a great feeling to have it done. I was really happy with the rounds, there was a lot of laughter and all-in-all I think it was a great culmination of our hard work. Next week some of us are visiting Marsh’s Library as an InfoSoc outing so hopefully that will be just as successful. A lot of people in my class are on mid-term now but I still have two more modules today and Friday. The way my timetable works out I have a class everyday but I’m over halfway there and I really enjoy the next two modules so I don’t mind seeing people on their holidays already. (Well, I don’t mind too much!)

Yesterday we had A LOT of cataloging to take in but it was all really interesting so it wasn’t so bad. The first hour was RDA and subject terms. The next two hours we had some guest lectures talking about cataloging music, rare books and digital images. My favourite of these three was rare books and it comes at a very good time with the Marsh’s trip next week. Its very unfortunate (for me at least) that the course doesn’t incorporate a rare books module anymore. I know that technology is really important and all that but at the end of the day there’s always going to be need to catalogue and preserve rare books. At least I sincerely hope there will always be a need for it.

We were shown this YouTube video to illustrate the different vocabulary used in rare books.

I didn’t get into library studies particularly because of my love of books but I guess it doesn’t hurt. I’ve loved books forever and one of my favourite things is that old book smell. It’s a total comfort thing for me. In fact I have a perfume by In the Library perfume from CB I Hate Perfume.


Described as “a warm blend of English Novel*, Russian & Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth and a hint of Wood Polish.” What’s not to love! I find rare books beautiful and fascinating. I know there are some courses in the UK that deal with rare books and I would definitely consider doing one at some stage but we’ll have to see where this takes me first.

After that we got a chance to play with OCLC Connexion, which is always fun. We have a big cataloging assignment due next week.

Today I’ve taken a bit of a rest this morning but now I need to figure out a way to help some of my classmates with WordPress. They’re having problems with the whole pages v. categories in menus thing. I think I’m going to do up some diagrams to help them out. I actually looking forward to today’s class too because I’ll be getting some feedback on my blog. I hope the class and my lecturer like it!
Kind-of sad that #HLSDITL is nearing an end but I got a lot from the week so far and I’ve really enjoyed it. Blogging is a bit therapeutic especially when you can see there are others facing the same stresses and worries.

Oh, and Happy Book Day! 🙂

A…maybe not so typical…Tuesday

I knew this year was going to be hard work; I had done my research and I was ready. However, despite having full-time jobs and already completing an MA, I guess I didn’t really know what hard work was before because this year has been an eye-opener and very tough going. You’d think this would be a negative thing but actually this has also probably been the best year of my life so far. I’m doing what I was made to do as far as I’m concerned. I’m on the road to my dream job and if that means working hard then to be perfectly honest I’m 100% okay with it. I’m learning every single day and I’m loving every minute.

Today has been one of those of those particularly tough days. This week we have to hand up an assignment that involved us interviewing people about their mobile use and observing mobile phone use in pubs. We had to transcribe the interviews and write up the field notes and everything needs to be submitted in a certain way so it’s been a little stressful trying to make sure everything is in order. I spent the first few hours this morning working on that, it still needs a little work but I’m not so worried now.

At 3 o’clock I had to be in college for a meeting with other members of the InfoSoc, an alternative society, for us SILS crowd. Although I have a lot going on I have decided to become a member of InfoSoc because I think it’s good to have some sort of work-life balance. Of course, it actually means more work for me but it also means a bit of fun for me along with everyone else and it’s a chance to get to know my classmates better. Also, some students have nominated me for a President’s Award for my work and I am very grateful to have something like this to add to my CV because I was too shy to put myself out there in this way the last time I was in college. Tomorrow we’re hosting a Table Quiz in SILS and I think it’s going to be a great way for us to relax a little after such a busy start to the week. I can’t tell you about the questions just yet but suffice to say there are some library related bits and pieces thrown in.

From 4 to 6 I had a lecture for my Research Methods module. This is the module where we learn all about qualitative and quantitative research. Although this module is really important for Capstone, and especially for me in my role as a Research Assistant, it is always a difficult two hours to get through. I haven’t done Maths since secondary school and while I’m lucky enough to understand everything we are doing, it can be a lot to take in when we’re focusing on statistics and it is definitely not one of my favourite subjects. However, I do get a bit of a kick out of the fact that I know that my secondary school Maths teacher would be very proud that I understand all this stuff and to be perfectly honest SPSS really isn’t the worst thing in the world.

After college I had to go get some prizes for the quiz. I’m home since about 8, my laptop has been out since; I’m working on stuff for the assignment, answering emails and Facebook messages, and having a look at various WordPress sites. It’s 20 past 9 now and I’m just about to have dinner. Exhausted but like I said I love every minute so I’ll be up and ready for another day bright and early in the morning. Might take the rest of tonight off now and watch an hour of TV. Tomorrow’s another long day.

A Twitter Monday

  1. Back to school today after a great wkend. A&SL Annual Seminar and NPD Ireland Event #HLSDITL
  2. Doing reading about Open Access for my Digital Libraries module which is great cos we’re focusing on OA in healthcare for Capstone. #HLSDITL
  3. Worked from home this morning. On the way to UCD now. Digital libraries lecture followed by work and Capstone meetings. #HLSDITL
  4. Trying to decide whether to do a project on Linked Open Data or Copyright and Intellectual Property issues in Digital Libraries. #HLSDITL
  5. On my way home now. Just finished a meeting about Capstone. We’re looking at use of Open Access by healthcare professionals. #HLSDITL
  6. Its going to be a long day 2mro. Research Methods assignment due this week. Transcriptions of interviews. Plus InfoSoc table quiz. #HLSDITL
  7. Health Libraries Conference coming up. Considering whether I can afford to go to one or two days. V. thankful for student rates. #HLSDITL