Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

For the last time, Google is not our competition in libraries… I really enjoyed this smart, pithy piece. Of course Google is awesome at some stuff – and why would we try to compete with it? After all, I bet you use it all the time in your librarian life. But Google is not so good at other stuff, deeper stuff, the people-based stuff, so let’s show off our skills in that! (Shared by Carole Gardiner of Twitter.)

Words matter: Why I’m not ready to drop “digital” from the #DigCit conversation. Some interesting thoughts and provocative questions about digital citizenship and how it differs from citizenship. I like the idea of programmes focusing on the positive, as a lot of digital citizenship lessons seems to focus on plagiarism and cyberbullying aspects (and don’t get me wrong, these are aspects of #DigCit – they just shouldn’t be the whole focus).

Google to highlight fact-checking articles with new labels. This is a promising sign in our “post-truth” world. However, it would be great if some of the social media giants would look at doing something similar, with 44% of Americans getting their news from Facebook. Education surely plays a part as well, but it is a slow way to effect change. (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

Pre-university skills course boost students’ A-level success. This was shared on the NZ schoollib listserv as a kind of self-congratulation to those librarians involved in tertiary transition library programmes. And that’s okay. But I read it as a single cohort study, with anecdotal reporting, self-selected participants (who are more likely to apply themselves and do well), and no significant discussion of the data and what it means. It’s great if these types of programmes are having an effect on wider student learning and achievement. But let’s not all hang it on one study. We’re better than that, we’re information professionals.


Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

Oh Greta! The library’s real role on campus. Why is it always people that don’t use libraries that feel the most compelled to comment on them? And why do they always have such a big audience? We need to get library users in all shapes and sizes to comment instead! Do any blue-ticked people use libraries?

What does your blog really say about learning? I really like this post. Calls into question those blogs / posts / tweets that are increasingly becoming like the “perfect lives” we see in our personal social media feeds. Learning is messy. Let’s keep it real and keep showing that too.

Voting: information is power. While the US has now elected their next president, this is still an important post. Information is power and maybe the dissemination of it shouldn’t simply be left to the media. We have a general election due in New Zealand next year and we will have some first time voters among our senior students at school. It would be handy to put together something like this for them too. Thanks for the inspiration, Joe!

Constantly surprised. I bet this is pretty common. I wonder how many of our students have successful endeavours outside of school that we know nothing about. Last year we had one of our Year 13 students making a five-figure sum each month from a game he created. Funnily enough, his interest in school showed a sharp decline! We need to harvest the power and creativity of these students. There is much that educators and other students alike could learn from them.

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos,shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

We Are Terrible At Data Literacy. And this is now having a terrifying impact on world politics! Once again, education is touted as being the answer to this problem. But this is a slow way to deal with something that is happening now. I don’t know what a more direct solution is (but surely journalism should hold some accountability too) so I’m going to hide my head in the sand. (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

New report on family engagement in public libraries. A project that investigated the ways in which public libraries engage with libraries. Some interesting implications for school libraries and the ways in which we engage with our communities. (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

Reading in 2016 – digital vs print, the ultimate smackdown! Yes! To all this, yes! Please let’s not have the either / or debate anymore. It should always be “and”; as Kay rightly says, with purpose, pedagogy and learning objectives driving choices. Thanks, Kay, for articulating so well what many of us in Libraryland think! (Shared by Helen Stower on Twitter.)

Research: Yes, Being Helpful Is Tiring. Possibly explains why I finished Term 3 so exhausted! I like that it has tips for those that ask for help, as well as those who are helpers. Now, I’m off for a restorative nap. (Shared by Tim Kong on Twitter.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

I can’t even with librarians that don’t read diversely. This. So much this. This to all those school librarians who say they don’t need to buy Pasifika books because there are no Pasifika students in their schools. This to all those school librarians who don’t even read. I. Just. Can’t. (Shared by Book Riot on Twitter.)

John  Dewey hate your digital citizenship curriculum. I’m part of my school’s ICT steering committee and we have been talking about how we don’t teach our students anything about digital citizenship. I think this post is full of important messages and questions we should be asking ourselves before we develop any sort of programme. I’m a big believer in just teaching our guys to be good citizens no matter what space they are in. But I love this idea of COMMUNITY as well. I’ll be sharing this with the rest of the committee. (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

Daniel Pennac, The Rights of the Reader. I love the way Austin Kleon writes about the books he’s read. I was a late discoverer of this book. And I’ll admit to having bought a copy that I haven’t yet read. This post has moved the book up to the top of my TBR pile. And I have no doubt that I will refer to it often as I think about devising a long-term literacy strategy for my school. (Shared by Austin Kleon on Tumblr.)

Libraries matter: 18 fantastic library infographics. Some great facts and figures here to help advocate for libraries. And while it’s heavily American-based, there’s also some really good dos and don’ts of design to be seen in the various infographs.  (Shared by Bridget Schaumann.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

The WHY of libraries and librarians. I haven’t watched the video yet – but I will come back to it and also the exercise at the end. Because I am all about the WHY. Why do we do stuff? Why should we continue to be employed? We need to have a clear idea and it should be written down in our strategic plan and / or library policies. If we can’t say why we do what we do why should we expect anyone else to know? (Shared by Lis Marrow on Twitter.)

How technology disrupted the truth. I despair of the mainstream media at times – and this did not make me feel any better! Provides some good examples of the filter bubble and a reminder about not sharing links you haven’t investigated. It is also a good reminder about why we should be teaching our students how to be critical thinkers. I hope society gets over its anti-expert thing soon. And I long for politicians to become post-post-truth! (Shared by John  Campbell on Twitter.)


The best starter graphic novels for YA readers. This could be a good place to start for those who aren’t sure. I’ve got some of these titles already, others are probably not of huge interest for my demographic (teenage boys), but I’ll definitely be looking out for The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil! There’s some good suggestions in the comments too. (Shared by Libraries & Learning on Twitter.)

Book-loving stars on Instagram: They’re the new Oprah. I love that celebrities are sharing what they’re reading on social media and giving authors and their books greater exposure. But can we please try and keep this organic? Let the celebs pick and choose what they’re going to read and share. Pretty please. And if these women could persuade some of their male co-stars to do something similar that would be excellent. Some fierce male reading role models would be awesome right now. (Shared by Kathryn Schravemade on Twitter.)

Close reading IV: The reader-friendly library service

Open book

Image shared on Pixabay with a Creative Commons public domain licence

Chapter four: Reader-centred stock management

This chapter raised some interesting points for me. The buying plan in my school library is fairly simple: BUY WHAT THE BOYS WILL READ. But there are other points to consider too.

One of the most important ideas to think about from this chapter is the reminder to consider the “invisible” borrowers as well. I have a lot of students who are comfortable telling me what they want me to buy, however, I also need to think about the boys who aren’t demanding and those that don’t even consider themselves readers.

Another significant point is to use “evidence-based stock management”. That is to base decisions on evidence derived from loan and collection data: what is being borrowed? what is not being borrowed? what is worn out? what is in the collection? what is not in the collection? what has big reserve lists?

Reader development is about opening up reading choices and helping people find books they didn’t know existed, not only about managing the most popular titles.

This (page 114) is why it is really important to know the book stock in your collection, and also to keep up with new releases. I know I need to have multiple copies of Muchamore’s perennially popular Cherub series, but I also need to know what other books and authors are similar. This way, when all the Cherub books are out, or a student has read the whole series, I can point them to other books that may keep them reading.

Does a library service have a responsibility to meet needs as well as wants? But who determines what those needs are?

These questions (page 132) are easier to answer in a school library because we are not solely focused on recreational reading, we are also concerned with the curriculum. These “needs” are mostly determined by teaching staff, so it is important to keep in regular contact with these stakeholders as well.

Actions arising from this chapter:

  • update collection management policy and buying plans
  • survey reluctant and non-readers to see if their wants and needs are being met


Riel, R. V., Fowler, O., & Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle upon Tyne: Society of Chief Librarians.

Close reading III: The reader-friendly library service

Open book

Image shared on Pixabay with a Creative Commons public domain licence

Chapter three: Reader-friendly environments

This chapter outlines library environments and how we might think we are making them reader-friendly while we are in fact doing the opposite. This chapter made me smile to myself a bit – as I think many school libraries fall into the traps discussed. I know I will be looking at my school library with fresh eyes tomorrow!

On entering any new space, 80% of the impression we carry thereafter is based on what we see immediately. In the case of libraries, the view is often dominated by security barriers and the main counter, after which there is no real focus, just rows of similar looking shelves, crammed into the space.

After reading this (page 83) I thought the authors must have visited my library without me knowing! This is just about a perfect description of it. While in the short term there is not a lot I can do about security gates and fixed shelving, there are some things I can alter at little or not cost. It also provides a lot of food for thought for our future library rebuild.

Negative notices are part of a policed environment. They set up a relationship of censure and anticipate bad behaviour before its occurred.

This (page 94) is one of my pet peeves about school libraries – they are places of “NO”. I removed most of these notices when I started in my library but a couple have remained – and it is totally for the purpose the authors’ identified (so I can point to it and say “See?”). I’m going to remove them first thing tomorrow. The signs are to remind students there is no eating, but as they are not supposed to eat in any of the school buildings they are really surplus to requirement.

Public libraries have a tendency to undersign globally and oversign locally…[there is a] real lack of directional signs – Fiction, Internet, Children -…[until] they get to the shelves [where] they will find that individual books can have as many as three or four different labels on the spine.

I chuckled at this (page 98). I’ll admit that our library has terrible global signage but I ditched genre labels a few years ago – pretty much when everyone else was ramping them up as they genrefied their collections. And at the beginning of this term, inspired by Miriam Tuohy (and a Rachel van Riel video), I ditched call number labels on our fiction stock.

As the authors point out, the labels are usually there for library staff but they are justified as being there to help readers. Surely being able to see the title and author clearly on the spine helps the readers more? Another objection to the genre labels is that often the designs don’t look that good and can be confusing (do students even know what a deerstalker hat is? Or what the castle signifies?). The authors have a great suggestion if you really must have a category label to help staff – put it somewhere discreet, like inside the book.

Most customers don’t want to understand the systems, they just want to find their type of book easily…Wanting customers to understand can be about self-justification rather than empowerment.

These statements (page 102) are more clear cut for public libraries, but the lines are a bit more blurry for those of us working in school libraries – we are in the business of education too. However, I think we do need to question our motives about why we continue to do things at times. Stubbornly sticking to Dewey at primary level because “they need to know how to use it in secondary” could be counterproductive. As long as students can see there is a system for organising books, and have the confidence to explore it, search it or ask for help, do whatever works for your community of users.

Actions arising from this chapter:

  • Gather data for missing books to ascertain whether security gates are worth the cost
  • Remove extraneous signage and spine labels
  • Investigate smaller issues counter at low / no cost


Riel, R. V., Fowler, O., & Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle upon Tyne: Society of Chief Librarians.

Close reading II: The reader-friendly library service

Open book

Image shared on Pixabay with a Creative Commons public domain licence

Chapter two: Finding out what readers want

This chapter outlines how public libraries can gather statistics and information about and from their users. Again, school libraries have a bit of an advantage as we can gather a lot of information from our Learning Management Systems and the age range of our users is quite specific. However, I think it is important to remember not to make assumptions about our students’ preferences and how they use the library. We can still gather information that will help us improve programmes, stock, and library organisation.

The image of the library is as much a barrier as the reality.

There is so much truth in this statement (page 54). One of my biggest frustrations is how our library is perceived by some students and staff. Throw away comments about libraries as quiet spaces, being only about books, and perhaps not being required in our changing educational landscape reveal to me that many people do not see the library as it is now. Or worse, lack the imagination to see how the library can contribute to teaching and learning. This is not only my biggest frustration but also my biggest challenge.

Another common discovery is that people are very prejudiced about what they will not read but not so definite about what interests them.

This (page 74) is certainly true of my experience helping teenage boys select reading material! I like the suggestion that staff don’t have to take the expert role and can encourage users to recommend books. I know I have found this helpful when a student has asked for a recommendation and a classmate overhears and suggests books they’ve enjoyed. The students almost always take what their classmates suggest over what I offer them. I need to encourage more of this peer discussion around reading.

I like the authors’ suggestion to tempt users to overcome their prejudices rather than preach to them. Instead of making a “worthy” display about diversity in literature include diverse books in displays with other themes, such as “Books we love” or “Bite sized books”. This way reading choices are being opened up and barriers are being broken down. Someone who might swear they would never read chick-lit / fantasy / gay fiction could quite happily pick up a brief one of these if they were displayed with other short books (aka Bite sized).

How do you choose what to read next?

This is a simple question (page 75) that can provide library staff with a great deal of information. The answers to this question reveal barriers and provide a greater awareness of issues such as displays, stock arrangement, signage and library organisation.

Actions arising from this chapter:

  • Change the way the library is perceived
  • Encourage peer discussion about books and reading
  • Survey students about how they choose what to read next: include regular library users as well as non-users, keen readers and reluctant readers


Riel, R. V., Fowler, O., & Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle upon Tyne: Society of Chief Librarians.

Teens reading less…or are they?


Image shared on Public Domain Pictures with a Creative Commons public domain licence

Given the interest in my recent post about school libraries supporting literacy, I thought it might be timely to republish my thoughts on school libraries and teen reading.  This is an article that I originally wrote for SLANZA’s Collected magazine which was published in August 2015 (Issue 16).

When we browse the internet, we are not really ‘surfing’ at all.  We are reading.

Lili Wilkinson

In July, following a Radio New Zealand news report titled “Teens reading less, say school librarians” (Gerritsen, 2015), there developed an interesting discussion on the New Zealand School Libraries email list (schoollib listserv).  A lot of the comments contributed to the discussion about young people’s reading habits were based on anecdotal evidence, library borrowing statistics, and gut feelings.  As information professionals perhaps a deeper look into the matter is required, in order to ascertain whether teenagers are in fact reading less, whether this is a problem and, if it is, what can be done to remedy it.

Are teenagers reading less?

There has been little research done on young people’s reading habits and preferences within New Zealand, with most local studies focusing on reading achievement.  However, recent research carried out in the United States and Australia seem to confirm the gut feeling of educators – that teenagers are reading less.  A 2014 report by Common Sense Media (Rideout, 2014) that reviewed a number of studies and databases found there was a sharp decline between the percentage of 9-year-olds and 17-year-olds that “read for fun” every day.  They also reported a sharp increase in the number of 17-year-olds between 1984 and today who say they “never” or “hardly ever” read (Rideout, 2014).

A closer look at the methodology of most of these studies, however, reveals a very narrow definition of the term “reading”.  “Reading” in these circumstances seemed to be identified as reading self-selected books in one’s own time.  Aronson (2014) contends that a young person’s complete reading life needs to be understood; it should encompass all forms of reading, include in-school reading, and be “platform agnostic”.  Reading in this wider context includes that done on social media sites, such as Facebook and Reddit; fan-fiction; online news and magazine articles; TradeMe auctions; or gaming cheat sites.

In these studies, “pleasure reading” is also a troublesome concept.  Aronson (2014) argues that ‘for most adult professionals it’s often impossible to draw a clear line between work and leisure reading’ (para. 6).  The same could be said for young people.  They may chose to follow up in their own time on interesting content covered in the classroom, or research done for class assignments may take meandering side roads as new facts or characters are discovered.  Common Sense Media’s Seeta Pai (2014a) agrees with Aronson on this and suggests ‘engagement is perhaps a better yardstick than pleasure’ (para. 6).  This distinction also removes the value judgment placed on “work” or “fun” reading.

Drawing the conclusion that teens are reading less because of declining borrowing statistics in the school library is equally problematic.  There are a variety of reasons that may lead to lower borrowing numbers that do not mean the students are no longer reading.  These include: students accessing reading material from other places; reading library material that is not allowed to be issued; reading library material but not borrowing it; and reading e-books that are privately owned, borrowed from elsewhere, or have been illegally downloaded.  Using borrowing statistics as a measure of reading also returns “reading” to that narrowly defined activity that can only be done with traditional print materials or with materials that can be checked in and out.

Until more research has been done into the complete reading life of young people it is difficult to say whether or not teens are reading less.  However, it is probably safe to say that teenagers are reading less traditional print materials and do not identify the activities they participate in online as related to “reading”.

Is this a problem?

There are numerous studies that present evidence of the correlation between pleasure reading and a wide range of benefits.  Manuel and Carter (2015), in their research into Australian teenagers’ reading practices and preferences, collated studies that show reading for pleasure matters for a number of reasons.  It matters because it supports broader literacy development and learning; enables young people to develop their own, better-informed perspective on life; is a safe, inexpensive, pleasurable way to spend time; allows young readers to understand and empathise with the lives of those in different situations, times and cultures; and improves educational outcomes and employment prospects (Manuel & Carter, 2015).  Reading for pleasure also matters because it has been shown to be more important to children’s cognitive development and educational success than their parents’ level of education or socio-economic status (Manuel & Carter, 2015).

However, Manuel and Carter (2015) could not find any Australian research comparing children’s leisure reading across different formats or media.  This leads one to the conclusion that the “reading for pleasure” referred to in their article refers back to that narrow definition discussed earlier.  If this is the case, then the fact that teenagers are reading less traditional print materials is a problem.  If the benefits found to be evident in these studies are only related to this type of reading our young people are not getting them.

Further to this, it is a big problem, as Miriam Tuohy (2015) pointed out during the listserv discussion, if young people do not think of themselves as readers.  If teenagers view reading as an activity solely done with traditional print materials, and that is not an activity they participate in or enjoy, they are potentially closing themselves off to the benefits associated with being a reader.  As Aronson (2014) states,

we need to…not just honor all reading…but to keep offering new doors, new opportunities, and new options to teenagers…The idea is to keep opening doors, so occasional readers recognize that there is something of interest – something appealing, stimulating, or unexpected – waiting for them when they do take time to read. (para. 10)

What can we do about it?

For young people there are a variety of barriers to leisure time reading.  Reader reluctance can generally be categorised in to five main reasons (Merga, 2014):

  • Time availability: for example, crowded curriculum, lack of focus on “pleasure reading” at high school, sporting and other extra-curricular commitments, sibling care, homework, after school employment;
  • Preference: for example, low appeal, other pursuits have a higher priority;
  • Skill deficit: for example, not a competent reader, low confidence, second language learner, slow reader, low parental literacy, limited exposure to reading;
  • Access and choice: for example, difficulty in locating engaging books, paucity of books or dearth in quality, inability to employ choosing strategies, need access to books that are relevant and of interest;
  • Physical and cognitive factors: for example, concentration issues, visual language processing difficulties, optical issues, tired or hungry, cognitive impediments, inability to sit still.

It should be noted that while students may offer one barrier for their reluctance to read (‘I don’t like reading’), this attitude will often involve a number of reasons (‘I’m not very good at it and I can’t find a book I like and I’d rather be doing something else’).

School librarians will be able to look at this list of barriers and see which ones they can have an impact on.  However, they will not be able to mitigate all the factors and will need help from the wider school community to affect real change.  Parents have perhaps the greatest impact on their teens and it is never too late for them to encourage reading habits.  Parents can help by:

  • modelling reading themselves;
  • providing access to reading material at home;
  • setting aside time for teens to read each day;
  • acknowledging the many and varied forms of reading (Pai, 2014b).

Manuel and Carter (2015) offer classroom teachers a range of actions to engage teenage readers, some suggested by students themselves.  Strategies teachers can adopt include:

  • providing time for students to discuss books with each other and become part of a reading community;
  • allowing more student choice in book selection;
  • more judicious selection of compulsory texts;
  • teachers reading aloud;
  • allowing time for silent reading of self-selected material.

School librarians need to lead the charge in engaging young people in reading – in all its forms.  They should advocate for a wider definition of the term “reading” and what is considered acceptable reading material in their schools.  They need to reassess the cultures of their libraries and how they fit with their 21st century learners (Bichan, 2015).  They should ‘look at themselves and their services through the eyes of young people who have a preconceived idea of what a library is’ (Blake, Hale & Sherriff, 2011, p.210).  They need to enjoy working with young people and be passionate about libraries.  And perhaps most importantly of all, rather than shake their heads and question why teenagers are not reading, school librarians need to question themselves.  A good place to start is with asking what barriers am I, my attitudes or my library policies creating that disengage young readers?



Aronson, M. (2014, May 22). Are Teenagers Reading Less? | Consider the Source. Retrieved 8 August 2015, from

Bichan, G. (2015, July 28). Re: Teens reading less – lets attack this radically and positively [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from

Blake, A., Hale, J., & Sherriff, E. (2011). The hard-to-reach reader in the 21st century. In J. Court (Ed.), Read to Succeed: Strategies to Engage Children and Young People in Reading for Pleasure (pp. 201–224). London: Amer Library Assn.

Gerritsen, J. (2015, July 28). Teens reading less, say school librarians [Website]. (Radio New Zealand). Retrieved from,-say-school-librarians

Manuel, J., & Carter, D. (2015). Current and historical perspectives on Australian teenagers’ reading practices and preferences. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 38(2), 115–128.

Merga, M. K. (2014). Western Australian adolescents’ reasons for infrequent engagement in recreational book reading. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 22(2), 60–66.

Pai, S. (2014a, June 5). Where, What, How, and Why Teens Do and Don’t Read | Consider the Source. Retrieved 8 August 2015, from

Pai, S. (2014b, July 11). 4 Surprising Findings About Kids’ and Teens’ Reading, Plus What You Can Do to Help Kids Read More. Retrieved 8 August 2015, from

Rideout, V. (2014). Children, Teens, and Reading: A Common Sense Media research brief. San Francisco: Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Tuohy, M. (2015, July 28). Re: Teens reading less – lets attack this radically and positively [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from

Wilkinson, L. (2011). Creative reading and In J. Court (Ed.), Read to Succeed: Strategies to Engage Children and Young People in Reading for Pleasure (pp. 201–224). London: Amer Library Assn.

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

“Non-originals” expect a miracle. I get pretty frustrated with my school at times. And also with our education system. This post pretty much sums up why. (Shared by Jennifer la Garde on Twitter.)

We asked people at the library what they’re doing there. People who think that libraries are dying and an unnecessary community expense generally come from a position of privilege – they don’t need to use a library so can’t imagine why anyone else would. This article is a great reminder about the variety of ways that people use libraries and why they continue to remain relevant in the age of the interwebs. (Shared by Sally on Twitter.)

Teaching men to be emotionally honest. I work in a boys’ school. A lot of the time this troubles me. This article did not make me feel better about it! I found it very interesting and I think there is a lot in here to share with men about why they should be feminists too. (Shared by Stephanie on WordPress.)

When teachers highlight gender, kids pick up on stereotypes. A companion piece to the article above; this also made me angst-y about working in a boys’ school. And made me question everything I did as a primary school teacher. Thanks for all the though provoking, Stephanie – I think! (Shared by Stephanie on WordPress.)