31 March, 2010

Don't ask "can I" ask "how can I"

I have noticed during my long career as a school librarian (almost an entire term now), that school librarians seem more likely to ask the question "can I?" when dealing with technological or legal issues.

As in "Can I use this youtube video in class". This is problematic (it seems to me) as the answer that is easiest to give to that sort of question is "no". A no answer is completely safe from a legal standpoint. However, from an educational standpoint it is a crappy answer. Especially as most of the people who are going to answer your question for you are not specialists in the field you are interested in.

Your principal is not a digital media specialist.
Your IT guy is not a copyright lawyer.

I would like it if School Librarians (and teachers themselves) started phrasing their question "How can?"

As in "How can I legally use this youtube clip in a mashup". That way, you are forcing the person you are asking into a different mindset. They may have to answer "I don't know" but they are then admitting they don't know rather than giving you a default "no".

From there, you can move onto finding out the real answer.

You can create mashup works using videos covered by a creative commons licence or of “insubstantial portions” (the words of the act) of a copyright work.
You can get permission from the copyright holder to make use of their work, you could be covered under your educational licence.

Parody and satire do give you another exemption. You can use copyright material for the purposes of parody and satire without permission, provided your use is fair. This would include things like the Hitler videos which were all the rage on youtube recently, where the use of the original work was necessary for the parody to succeed.
(It is worth noting that the act does not define parody or satire, but that probably doesn't mean you can invent your own definition).
You can also make use of an original work without permission if you are doing it or the purposes of criticism or review. So a student could make a video where they analyse works as examples of film making or style and could extract examples from the work they were discussing....

I've been watching this mindset online in the questions TLs are asking each other, but I suspect that the same passive questioning is being used when we ask for;
new shelves,
bay ends,
a bigger budget,
money for a visiting author
a week off to go to a conference...

And that is my thought for the day.
Thank you, come again.

29 March, 2010

My reply

Seems most folk want to reply to me privately on this issue, rather than add any support for me via blog post or on the original e-list.

I wonder why?

Anyway, this was my reply. It took me a while, and is as considered as any of my opinions ever is. And perhaps more thought out than most.

I paste it here unedited.

I am going to take the rope you have given me and use it to hang myself.

Yes, it is a non-issue, I made that statement and I stand by it. It is part of a modern day version of reds under the bed driven by a media who either does not understand the issue or deliberately misrepresents it to the public. This is not trivialising the issue. And I am sorry if it appears that way, however I take the issue very seriously. But no matter how I look at it I just come out with a different conclusion to some of you. Or perhaps it is just because I have looked at the statistics and read the studies, rather than relying on the investigative journalism of Today Tonight for all my fearmongering needs.
Why is it a non-issue?

Because it is part of our current societal belief that we can make the world safe by eliminating risk and danger.
Because it is so statistically unlikely that the fear we put in these kids is more problematic that the danger.
Because the worst case scenario should not be the driving force in all our decisions.

You have personalised the debate, so allow me to personalise it myself. When I was about 13 a very good friend of mine was killed while cycling out to a river for a swim. I often cycled with him, that day I didn't. However, cycling was not to blame. Nor were rivers. It was an unfortunate confluence of events which lead to his death.

What the hell am I talking about? I am talking about the fact that a week or so after his death I cycled the exact same road on my way to the exact same river or a swim. Yet somehow I did not die.

Likewise with your student, there is a horrible confluence of events which no doubt lead to her situation. Yet does that mean that we need to ban metaphorical bicycles? No, it doesn't. It means we do need to teach kids a few things about personal safety but these lessons will be laughed out of the classroom by almost all of our students if they are presented in the paranoid and overly simplistic fashion that some on here have demonstrated.

The idea that a school photo existing online has any parallel with the death of your student would be laughable if it wasn't so often the way the debate is directed. By creating this paranoid fear we are doing damage to our children, this is not just true of online paranoia but of the way children are taught 'stranger danger' or the way I meet so many kids who are too scared to climb a tree or the number of my 8 year old's friends whose parents are too scared to let them ride bikes or walk to school and as such these kids grow up thinking that anything which scares you slightly should be avoided.

There is a line between risk management and risk avoidance, and too many people today seem to have forgotten that kids need to be taught to manage risk rather than have us round off the corners of the world and send them around wrapped in cotton wool.

But enough of me riding my hobby horse. What are the facts? http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV194.pdf
http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/internet-crimes/factsheet_1in7.html Sure, these are American statistics, but they are the best figures available that I am aware of. Anyone here want to claim that Australian kids are less safe online than American ones?

To those of you who have watched me destroy my professional reputation on here today while sending me quiet messages of support off-list, here are a couple of things worth reading on the topic of over protective parents (which I think we can apply to school librarians).

and, how to talk to kids about the issue (the sane way)

Yes, I continued the debate.

OK, I can be quite rude sometimes caustically sarcastic perhaps. But come on folks, "The stupid. It Burns"

I will avoid going into detail about the various bush lawyers who leapt into the debate, all with their personal ideas about copyright law
Dear John Regardless of the personal practices of particular photographers, international copyright law still vests the photographer with the copyright ownership of their images.
No, it doesn't! That is simply untrue under Australian law, there are just too many variables to make that statement.

It wouldn't surprise me if this is a breach of the Privacy Act if she hasn't obtained permission of all the people in the photo to use their image or name.

Ah for crying out loud. We are librarians folk, we have the ability to look stuff up. Two clicks later and I can confirm that the Privacy Act covers personal information gathered by " government agencies and private sector organisations."
Wow, the Privacy Act doesn't cover information 13 year olds put on Facebook? Who could have guessed that!
Even private schools aren't included in the act unless "they have an annual turnover greater than $3 million, or provide a health service"

OK, lawyers aside...

How should I respond to this;
I am deeply concerned by your trivialisation of an issue about which so many of our colleagues
have so justifiably expressed concerns.
Because one of our ex-students (aged 15 years) was stalked and murdered by a middle-aged interstate predator who "discovered" her via her social networking page (MySpace).
A non-issue? I don't think so.
I will await people's ideas of how I should have responded, then will put up how I actually did respond. Sound fair?

The internets are going to rape your children!

As a school librarian, I have of course subscribed to an email list of school librarians. This has opened the floodgates to a lot of emails, most of which I read the subject line of, before deleting; some of which I read and am grateful for but others which lead me to the conclusion that many in my profession are a group of reactionary old fools who should be put out to pasture before they create another generation of kids who think libraries are pointless.

Take today's example (one which got me up on my soap box in the forum and now here in my blog, where I can write without the "OMG paedophiles are everywhere" brigade having the right of reply).

The issue of school photos on facebook came to a head with an email which read (in part);
We have a Year 6 child who has scanned a class photo... to her Facebook page.
We now realise that we will have to put something in place in terms of
privacy etc. This was done at home with the child's own property. Do you
involve yourselves in this or is it a home issue? ... is it OK for her to post photos of other kids without their permission? Can we really do anything about this?
I replied in calm and measured tones;
I'm going to leap in on this one and say "do nothing"
As a parent, I would be appalled if my daughter's teachers thought they had any say in what she did on facebook. I am surprised that there are teachers who think that there is any role for the school in this. Aside from the fact that the photo was taken at school, what is the issue?
Is it OK for her to put up photos of the other kids without permission? Yes. There may be a copyright issue depending on who your school photographer is and how they feel about it, but that is not a school issue, it is for the photographers to follow up if they feel they need to. That aside, the kids will fill their albums with photos of each other. Photos from the school social, from the camp, from the swimming carnival...
As for teaching kids about their safety and privacy online, most of them know more than most of their teachers. At least, by the time they are 13 (the age when you can get a facebook account - unless they lie about their age).
Now, some of the folk took issue (and quite rightly too) with my saying the kids know more than most of their teachers by talking about how little protection many of them use online. It was a throw away line and while I still believe I could argue my point I will try to focus on the real issue. Such as the person who said;

there are also safety issues because any would-be predator now has enough stuff to start a conversation with either that child or one of her friends....
There could be repercussions from the photographer against the school....
If I were in your shoes, I would be contacting the parents and explaining the privacy issues and asking them to ensure that the student removes the photo.
Seriously? Arghhh

Let me go out on a personal limb here and say that the world is mad. But that is no excuse for those of us who should be educated to believe this sort of A Current Affair rubbish.
Forget the paranoia and look at reality.

Slipping out of my School Librarian role for a moment and into my parent role, if a teacher was to contact me about my daughter's facebook profile I would be asking them why the hell they were looking at it, and questioning why they didn't have anything better to do with their time. If they added the paranoid OMG the paedophiles are everywhere rubbish I would be hard pressed not to laugh.

My eldest (13) is on facebook, her photos can be seen by her friends. If her friends are in the photos, then those photos can be seen by their friends. Who are those friends of friends? Who cares! As I said before, the world is mad. We have taken risk management and decided if there is any risk we will manage it by eliminating it. Risk can't be eliminated, nor should it be. Kids should be given the opportunity to learn how to accept risk and how to deal with it is a sensible fashion.
Remember folks, the reality is that abuse comes from those our children know. Uncles, grandfathers, friends of the family...
Yet, I don't believe the school has a role in telling parents not to let the kids visit their grandfather without a chaperone, so why should we be butting in on their online private life,
Unless your school has a particularly high number of students who are on the witness protection program, this is a non issue.

As you an imagine, my logical and reasoned approach was greeted well. Actually, that sounds sarcastic. But I did get a flood of emails along the lines of "thanks for not drinking to cool-aid" But those were all off-list. On list there were messages like;
...it is implicit in our duty of care that students cannot be tracked through FB, Google or anywhere else if we can prevent it...
I wonder what the outcome of a lawsuit might be if something happened and it was proven that I, as a teacher, knew about it and did nothing.
And the person who wrote that was lauded as
...a voice of reason in this discussion.
Seriously, that is a voice of reason? that is not a voice in the same vicinity as reason. That is a voice of paranoid insanity. If 'something' did happen. What the hell is 'something' and how is something prevention a part of my job description?
Some of the paranoia seemed also to be about students whose non-custodial parents must be avoided. OK, now we at least have a real issue to discuss. Yes, if there are problems in custody battles we don't want that student on the front page of a major newspaper with directions to their home. But, rather than go for an instant paranoid overreaction, how about we hope that the custodial parent is sane enough not to have their kid on facebook at all.

Trying to be logical in this, how many random facebook profiles of 13 year old girls would I have to search through in order to stumble across a photo of my own child if they were not on facebook? The odds are astronomical and I would have a much better chance of finding my child by randomly standing outside actual schools watching kids come and go.

Trying to be logical again, I decided to look at the other issue, copyright. Because the paranoid librarian quoted above made a good point in a later email;
It is part of our role as the school community's information specialist to inform the school community about the legal aspects of IP, copyright and acceptable use, including legal ramifications of possible use.
I called three school photographers at random and asked them where they stand on the issue.
Their answers were a unanimous acceptance that kids (and their parents) will put the school photos online. They all said that the only reason they would care about digital reproductions would be if the someone was trying to make a profit from them.
So, there is one less issue for everyone to cry "OMG people is going to sue us all ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" about.

None the less, the debate continues online and I am currently deciding whether to continue trolling the message board with my persistent and countercultural insistence on not being paranoid.

25 March, 2010

Girls are more mature: now with wings

Lunch in the library today was a quiet one; only about 65 kids in the place at any one moment. Yet despite the fact that I have a lot of kids in a fairly small library they were behaving quite well today. Seems my methods are working, certainly at the beginning of the year I was having about 50 kids in the place and it seemed like a riot.
However since then I have managed to learn classroom management skills (downside of not being a teacher was that I hadn't done this before. Although doing storytime for 60 pre-school kids in Penrith library had certainly provided me with some skills in crowd control at least.)
I have been trying to be nice to the kids, I know that trying to be everyone's friend is a bad plan. But I have a sense of humour, I don't try to take out my own inadequacies on the kids and I don't feel upset when the girls sit among the shelves and giggle about my hairstyle.

Still, I digress. A post on how I would make a much better teacher than all these actual teachers can wait until later (and is contingent on me not examining my thesis too closely for flaws).

So, today. In my quiet library...
A young boy, amongst a small group of young boys, was teasing a couple of girls. Nothing which would warrant my intervention. Instead I feigned disinterest and watched as these girls maintained the moral high ground. I was very impressed, they did not rise to his bait, continued talking quietly amongst themselves. I thought a bit about my own behaviour at that age and mused somewhat about the difference in maturity between boys and girls of the same age.

Until, with the sounding of the bell, the boy of our story rose from his seat and walked towards the door; with a feminine hygiene product stuck lovingly between his shoulder blades. Like some sort of tampax brand angel wings.

08 March, 2010

What is a school librarian?

Andrew, over at Librarian Idol has an interesting post on his first visit to an ASLA meeting. I find the questions he raises quite interesting. I think a librarian without teaching qualifications is a better fit in the school library that a teacher without library qualifications would be.
Sure as a librarian I may be biased in that direction but I would be interested in hearing what others think. Like Andrew I am a school librarian now, but I am not a teacher librarian. But hey, last year I did a guest lecture to some primary education students on making to most out of their librarian. So what difference does not being a teacher make to the skills I bring to the library?

Well in my case it means I didn't think I had much in the way of behaviour management. But last Friday I managed to break up a fight (albeit between 2 year 7 nerds) and stop a case of racist teasing.
Plus I am managing 50-80 kids in the library each lunchtime. Initially I was doing this alone, but on the day I hit 80 I decided I would talk to the senior staff about a bit of help. Now I get an 18 year old who is working at the school for a gap year to help me at lunch time.

Like Andrew I am getting involved in things outside the library. I spent a day coaching an under 13s league team at a carnival and I ran the cross country. Both good things, and both have given me the chance to get involved with kids for whom the library is not the number one destination.

At the moment I am working hard to get the library up to what I consider a decent standard and I think that this is a librarian's job rather than a teacher's. Not that a teacher wouldn't have been able to do my job today, pulling off horribly outdated books. A books where Cliff Richard talks about teen culture (1973) a book on cinema talking about a new film called Star Wars. OK, those were spectacular examples and most of the books I am deleting are newer than that, but unfortunately not much outdated. Computer books don't have a long shelf life, books on teen culture or books on health issues need to have pictures which current students can relate to.

But I digress...

so, rather than try to clean up this post I will publish it and tell you to go read Andrew's post instead. He is being a lot more lucid on the topic than I am.

04 March, 2010

The new starting point

My new library is a secondary school library, I have one library to service the needs of about 500 students on two interconnected campuses.
I am told, that at one point there were two libraries and two bookrooms for distributing class texts. This is a Once Upon a Time scenario. These libraries each had a staff of two, the bookrooms were also staffed. Gradually however these processes have been centralised, initially because a former principal read an article explaining that libraries were useless and outdated and should be replaced by computer labs. Why the bookrooms were also folded into the library, I don't know but as is often the case with such things the budget and the staff did not follow the resources*.
So, for some years the library has been staffed by one (overworked) library technician. Last year a teacher librarian was added to the school's staff. However, with his teaching load, he was not full time in the library.

Enter me...

I now sit in a library which has been sorely neglected for some time and have a budget which I don't believe is large enough to turn it around. However, budget is not everything and I am convinced I can move the place in the right direction (while at the same time agitating for more money next year).

So, what do I need to work on?

  • I have 2 compactus units in the middle of the library which take up space, prevent a clear view of the library and are plain ugly. They even obscure the view to a set of stairs which are 'out of bounds'.
  • I have a octagonal library, painted six different colours.
  • I have ugly furniture.
  • I have no spare shelving units.
  • I have no magazine racks (but then I currently have no magazine subscriptions).
  • The average age of the non-fiction books is around 26 years.
  • I have ugly, damaged and outdated materials.
There is more to it than that, I also have author authority files which are misspelt, some even contain ampersands? I have an OPAC which is not linked to from our homepage (or anywhere else).
There are other (minor) annoyances. I have no comfortable seating. The windows (which should look out at the botanic gardens) have bizarre asbestos 'things' which some mad architect (the same type of mad architect who would design an octagonal library) has placed there to prevent anyone seeing the view.

I think I will have my work cut out for me here. But I seem to be hearing the right noises from the senior staff in regard to them supporting my ideas, so I am not disheartened.
I am;
  • Undertaking a massive weed of the collection.
  • Waiting for new furniture to arrive (ordered prior to my arrival).
  • Working out how to best use my limited budget (basic non-fiction and popular fiction only for now. Other collections, such as graphic novels or audio books, will have to wait).
  • Getting wheels or my shelving, so I can make the library a versatile space.
Things like bay ends would help, as would turning the library backwards to make the out of bounds stairs my entrance. This would also let me turn my current entrance hall into a compactus room. The principal has had an engineer looking at the building in order to see if I can knock down a couple of walls and if I can do this, I may be able to create a quiet study room too.

How will it all go? Stay tuned, I may even blog about it.

*this is the story as I understand it, as has been told to me by several staff members. Albeit each time I hear the story there are some differing details.

03 March, 2010

ADHD (School) Librarian

An update on my (professional) life.

The ADHD librarian has moved from higher education and is now practicing his particular brand of librarianship for the Catholic school system. As a result of this new (and, yes, wonderful) career opportunity some of the old posts on this blog have been edited to remove my overuse of the 'Q' word. While some others were beyond redemption and as such have been moved back to draft status, where they will remain until I reinstate them upon my deathbed.
While I was doing all this, the blog has been offline but I am now here again. Am I going to be blogging regularly again? Well, did I ever blog 'regularly' in the past? I suspect there are more posts on here telling you I am back, than there are posts which actually discuss ADHD or librarianship.

Next up will be (perhaps) a nice introduction to my new school (which I will not be naming) and a discussion of the poor state of the library, followed by what I am going to do about it.
I do find it somewhat amusing that I am not the only former public librarian/blogger who is making the move across to a school library this year. Andrew Finegan is also chronicling his transition. And, to be honest, if you look for regular updates in your blogs, you'd be better off to add him to your roll.