What’s Hot & What’s Not

‘With Malice’ by Eileen Cook appeared on my circulation desk with the pile of new books at the end of last term.  It struck me as an interesting title and considering I work in a Years 7 and 8 library I questioned whether it was appropriate for the age group. After reading the blurb, and of course the Goodreads reviews (a fantastic social media tool!) I was intrigued.  ‘With Malice’ tells the tale of an 18-year-old girl who wakes up in the hospital and unbeknownst to her, has been accused of her best friend’s murder.  I found the book equally interesting because of the constant questions you were left with at the end of each chapter and the fact that it was clearly loosely based on the recent, very public, Amanda Knox case.  There has been a recent rise in the popularity of true crime cases and mysteries with the huge successes of shows such as the  Netflix Amanda Knox documentary, Sherlock and ‘Making a Murderer’, not to mention the popularity of novels such as ‘Gone Girl‘ and ‘Girl on the Train‘ both of which have, in the past couple of years, been made into movies.  Last year millions of people, including myself, tuned in each week to the popular ‘Serial’ podcast to hear the next piece of evidence in a real life murder case, the popularity of which has seen a current retrial of the accused Adnan Syed.


Taken from: Goodreads

Podcasts were also recently mentioned by Nick Earls, in a panel discussion at the ‘Future Libraries Conference’ in Brisbane this week, in reference to his newly released set of novellas.  Nick stated that like podcasts which usually require a shorter time commitment, reading a novella (a movie length book as he describes it) could be something one can complete over a period of hours or say a 2 and a half hour flight from Brisbane to Melbourne. Nick advocating for a shorter book movement really interested me, especially when he made mention of the books that we start reading on a holiday and then leave half finished on our shelf when we return to our busy lives, something I have been known to do on the odd occasion!


Serial Podcast by Casey Fiesler from Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Nick also talked about the popularity of audio books and having recently subscribed to Audible myself I can wholeheartedly agree with this.  He stated that Audible is currently the biggest employer of actors  in New York, a mind blowing statistic that really shows how in demand this book format has become.  I find audio books fantastic when traveling, before going to sleep of a night, or like in an ill-fated, highly sun burnt experience last weekend, a great thing to listen to on the beach.  So caught up in my story was I that I may have forgotten to reapply sunscreen and stayed out far longer than was necessary!

Taken from: Goodreads

Another aspect also mentioned at the conference was the use of enhanced books, where the pages worked as QR codes, unlocking new information through downloadable apps such as Layar.  It is important to note there was also a large amount of discussion around gender stereotyping in young adult and children’s books and the need to encourage students and parents to look beyond what might appear to be a girly theme or a boyish cover.  To get young people looking at a story for what it is and not what they think they should be reading based on their gender or the appearance of the book.  A quick scan around my Year 7 & 8 boys school library proves this to be very true, the books are mainly science fiction, fantasy or action based, there are very few general reads.  Covers often depict men with weapons or explosions and the main character is more often than not a male with the exception of the ever popular Divergent and Hunger Games series’.  This is disappointing and something I need to really think about in the future. The next challenge for me will be asking the library team how we get boys reading this perceived ‘girly’ material or is it something that needs to start at birth as stated during the conference? There is a lot of food for thought here and I came away from both the conference and finishing ‘With Malice’ with an inspiration to explore sites like Goodreads further to find similar titles, some for a potential mystery display and others that could perhaps begin bridging the gender gap that is evident in the library at present. Goodreads however is fantastic, I cannot recommend it enough!


Everyone is playing games

Game playing in my Years 7 & 8 library has forever been a hot topic, what is considered acceptable and what isn’t has often been a contentious issue with the students.  While our library houses many of the traditional games mentioned by Beth Galloway in her YouTube clip ‘Welcome to the librarian’s guide to gaming’ such as board games, puzzles and table top (we even host a strategic games club), there is a very strict not console or computer game policy.  I am also constantly finding myself having to talk to students about watching video game clips on YouTube during their allocated study time. Having just recently installed iPads in the library there have been many heated conversations about what apps we should install and the fine line between an app been informative and educational or being perceived as a game.  Ito, et al.  in 2010 stated that electronic gaming has become one of the main forms of entertainment for today’s youth and that males are more likely to play these recreationally, extremely relevant to our library as it is in an all-boys school.  He also highlights that gaming provides an all-inclusive opportunity to participate in an activity, very valuable for individuals who have learning or physical restraints which is the case for some students that frequent our library.


Playing Minecraft by Wesley Fryer from Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This year our Makerspace club introduced ‘Minecraft’ and it has not been without its controversies.  Staff and parents were concerned that the program would distract students during their learning time and was too computer based and not social enough.  Tech Soup published a report titled ‘Gaming in Libraries’ which warns about being prepared for these kinds of concerns from staff and parents and we were, we had gathered articles on the educational benefits of Minecraft and visited schools which were successfully implementing Minecraft clubs and using it in the classroom.  Through the ideas from these meetings, we had created a lockout which only allowed students to access Minecraft during the times the club ran, meaning there was no possibility that they would be playing it during any other times of the day, especially during class.  Our Makerspace TL had created a program where the students (12 were selected for the trial period) were given roles and the task of building a model that would be suitable for a subject they were studying, this concluded with all students writing a report at the end of the term about how successful this would be.  As Michael Dezuanni mentions in his 2015 article for ‘The Conversation’ titled ‘Tapping into kid’s passion for Minecraft in the classroom’, students developed a huge desire to learn more and more about Minecraft, generating very constructive discussions around the topic as the time progressed and were extremely enthusiastic and thoughtful when writing their reports at the conclusion.

20100915 013
student iPad 013 by Brad Flickinger from Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gaming provides an opportunity for problem solving and learning with a much lower danger for making mistakes than in other learning environment as highlighted by Jenkins, et al. in their 2006 report titled ‘Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century’  and I think it is because of this that students approached the challenges with so much enthusiasm and were so passionate about addressing the confusion held by many that they were playing for fun instead of engaging in learning.  Don’t get me wrong, Minecraft is a great fun way of building towns and objects but it can also be used in a variety of subjects.  Dezuanni (2015) notes that it requires a range of skills from maths to art and geography to build something in Minecraft and I have in the past witnessed it implemented in various schools, in history presentations where students have created ancient Roman towns which they have then toured the class through while describing details about life in that era to Indonesian classes building maps of the school and then labelling the various areas in both languages.   The options really are endless, from design challenges suggested by both Tech Soup and Dezuanni to making your favourite setting from a story come to life.  I for one will advocate for the introduction of Minecraft into the curriculum for many years to come and direct those in doubt to consider why we are so keen to promote creativity, maths and problem-solving yet shy away from something that offers all these skills and more.


Beth Galloway: Welcome to the librarian’s guide to gaming! (6 mins 59 secs) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1NHI-Z9j4g

Dezuanni, Michael (2015) Tapping into Kids passion for Minecraft in The Conversation https://theconversation.com/tapping-into-kids-passion-for-minecraft-in-the-classroom-43461

Gaming in Libraries | TechSoup for Libraries. (2016).Retrieved from http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/planning-for-success/innovation/gaming-in-libraries/

Ito, M. et al. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media. The MIT Press.http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11889&mode=toc

Jenkins, H. et al. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century. MacArthur Foundation.http://digitallearning.macfound.org/site/c.enJLKQNlFiG/b.2108773/apps/nl/content2.asp?content_id={CD911571-0240-4714-A93B-1D0C07C7B6C1}¬oc=1

LOL….. its a Youtube world.

During my library lessons this week, to begin the new Year 7 comedy unit, I have been showing the classes clips from YouTube that relate to Library Humour.  What surprised me the most during this activity was the difference in reactions to various types of humour. Mr. Bean was of course as popular as always and there were a couple of giggles at other similar skits but the one that received the most laughter was actually a segment of the clip below by a prankster called Justin Stuart, who essentially just loudly ate things in the library.  It amazed me that this was what students were relating to the most, simple pranks played on unsuspecting people with very low production quality and it highlighted to me how YouTube itself has changed many of the ways we look at and react to life.

According to an article in ‘The Telegraph’ by Dui and Ritchie in 2015, YouTube is now the world’s third most visited website after Google and Facebook.  The ability of almost anyone to upload anything for free and then the possibility that that video can potentially reach billions of viewers is quite mind blowing. Celebrities like Justin Bieber and Zoella became famous through posting videos on YouTube as did our much-beloved library Grumpy Cat, who actually earned more money than Gwyneth Paltrow last year. In 2014 the Observer published a fantastic article about the ‘9 ways YouTube Changed Everything’, which is definitely worth a read, highlighting the various benefits YouTube has created which ranged from water cooler conversation to saving the music industry. When looking at these advantages it is also a great opportunity to think about some of the issues that YouTube highlights.  This is a fantastic platform to surround discussions with students about the importance of copyright and oversharing on the internet.  Kim Kardashian is currently an unfortunate example of the dangers of easy access to social media platforms like YouTube and the ability for anyone to publish any information at any time about a person, sometimes perhaps accidentally giving away details about your life or location that you or someone else would rather not have shared.

Despite these dangers, YouTube also has the potential to be a great educational platform as anything you could imagine wanting to know or create has the possibility of being just one quick YouTube search away. Serious learning facilities, such as the Kahn Academy, also publish lessons on YouTube and I have often used TED and TED-Ed talks and animations on our library screens to complement all kinds of current topics the students are studying. The issues I have faced when using YouTube in the classroom environment have been largely with advertising flashing up midway through a video or the potential for inappropriate clips to appear in the coming up next area, even after you turn off the function.  In my search, I have found two solutions for this, the website Teacher Tube where videos are uploaded that are ‘school and classroom friendly’ and a fantastic website called ‘Safe YouTube’.  Here you can copy and paste the link of a YouTube clip onto the site and it will generate a webpage with just your video available to view without all the hidden extra pop-ups.

Another aspect of YouTube I love using is the option of showing book trailers, as a librarian this is a really effective way of promoting a book to students in a really engaging manner. Above I have added one of my favourite book trailers that once I had put it up on the library screens the book was rushing of the selves.  Book trailers are such a large part of our school now and the Year 9 English students are all currently making a book trailer for one of their assessments.  Some of these are fantastic and a great way of promoting books, reading and student work all in one activity.  Since life just keeps speeding up Vines (a 6 second length video sharing platform) have recently become a very popular addition. I am still undecided on whether this is something I want to adopt in the library but after looking through The Daring Librarian’s blog posts it also has some very valuable assets which could be useful in school and library environment, short book reviews, a quick film about new acquisitions, this could be another social media format we could adopt. YouTube has so many possible uses in today’s daily life and the popularity of it is inarguable, this is where much of pop culture exists and where many of those who work and attend school visit on a frequent basis for many different needs.

Updated on 29/10/2016:  Ironically Twitter has just announced it will be discontinuing the Vine function of its website.  This really is a reflection of the fast-paced, ever-changing world of pop culture and a real example of how successful and unique the video sharing platform of YouTube is for having survived, improved and adapted to its consumers for all these years.


Dui, N. L., & Ritchie, M. (2015). Ten Years Ago, A Video-sharing Site Called YouTube Was Born. then, this Happened. Retrieved from http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/youtube/

Gahan, B. (2014). 9 Ways YouTube Changed Everything, In Honor of Its 9th Anniversary. Retrieved from http://observer.com/2014/05/9-ways-youtube-changed-everything-in-honor-of-its-9th-anniversary/

JStuStudios: Loud Eating in the Library!. (4mins 26secs). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPh9JZlVUK0&w=854&h=480

Random House Children’s Publishing UK: Wonder by R. J. Palacio. (1min 37sec). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgB7_KpBDss


I ‘heart’ Harry Potter

To celebrate the release of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ in November, our Middle School libraries have been running a selection of Harry Potter based activities throughout the term.  This week I organised a Kahoot! lunchtime challenge, usually a fun and reasonably popular activity.  To my great surprise, no sooner had the bell for the beginning of lunch chimed, that students began flooding the library door.  Many of these were members that very rarely frequented the library and it had me thinking about the popularity and the wide reach fandoms like the ‘Harry Potter’ series experience to this day.


Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by Thalita Carvalho from Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Fandoms themselves are not a new concept, just look at Doctor Who or Star Wars. Our school actually has a very popular Dr. Who club who meet weekly and we have in the past had great success with a ‘Star Wars Week’ in the Senior part of the school which included trivia quizzes and blow up droid races. The question is, what makes people identify so much with something like Star Wars and Harry Potter and how do we channel this into great experiences for students in the educational environment? How do I get students to approach their school work with the same amount of excitement and fervor they attend a Harry Potter lunchtime event with?  Jamie Gleklen, a high school Senior wrote an article for Huffington Post in 2014 titled ‘Fandoms and my Generation’ and she makes the point that information about your chosen fandom is so much more easily accessible today through sites such as Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube, resulting in people becoming more and more involved in the world of their favourite celebrity, band or fictional character. She suggests that as a hobby, being part of a fandom is a great form of escapism from the day to day teen life, where one can analyse desirable characteristics for themselves in those they follow.


While watching the first episode of ‘Survivor Australia’ a few weeks ago, one of the contestants stated he had prepared for the competition by reading a selection of books including ‘Lord of the Flies’, ‘Bear Grylls’ and ‘Robinson Crusoe’.  This got me thinking, this hugely popular show had just made itself directly relevant to my library with it’s reference to books we have on the shelves and straight away I began planning a display relating to the show, including the books mentioned.  After talking to other members of the library team, however, we came up with a plan to turn a program we had been developing called ‘How to survive the zombie apocalypse’ (yet another Fandom) into something that may be more ‘younger student friendly’.  It was then that we created the idea of ‘Survivor Hacks’ and the program has been immensely popular, with students even attending the library on a Friday afternoon to learn the new ‘hack’ of the week! Past hacks have included braiding paracord wristbands and compass making, successfully tying this very current fandom into a real learning experience.  Reflecting on this we posed the question; could we in future approach other fandoms the same way? Could we form clubs where students could meet to create or to discuss particular fan bases they are a part of, similar to the Doctor Who Club?  Or could we go even further and attempt to teach topics based on certain fandoms, looking at things like ‘The Heroes Journey’ in English or comparisons to historical events in a Humanities subjects such as those suggested in the Star Wars article ‘Fully Operational Fandom: Star Wars in the Classroom’?

In fact, why stop there, more and more recently I have been hearing people discuss the inclusion of fanfiction into their writing classes. Members of fandoms can often progress to creating fanfiction and I am not too proud to admit but I have in the past read one or two Harry Potter fanfictions in an attempt to go back and visit the magical world.  I have found some people, those often quite young, to have written HP fanfictions which were quite magnificent and almost as good at the books. There are however a few hurdles that come with the introduction of fanfictions in the school environment, I have often found myself in conversations with teachers and librarians regarding how suitable it would be due to the inappropriate content some people are using online.  Peter Gutierrez wrote a series of articles for the ‘School Library Journal’ between 2012 and 2013 on this particular subject stating that the reuse of other stories in well known books throughout history, just like the recently released to film ‘Pride, Prejudice and Zombies’ by Seth Grahame-Smith, is one way to legitimise to educators the fanfiction we see today.  He also noted it was important to reiterate that the writing does not necessarily need be created online, removing the dangers that come with anonymity and inappropriate content.  Fanfictions are actually a great way to bring students with similar passions together or just get them a little more excited about writing whilst also modeling responsible peer-mediated feedback.  Our library has been extra busy this week with a writer in residence program wrapping up on Friday and when proofreading some of the student’s stories I found quite a few that sound almost too familiar to popular young adult books, with similar characters and similar settings.  Perhaps students are already showing us in their daily lives that the incorporation of fanfictions and fandoms, in general, is something that may help them to become more involved and passionate about their learning. There are many possibilities to including fandoms in schooling life, it is just a matter of gaining the support of all members of the school community and considering a wide-reaching fandom that will not alienate people to the real aim of the activity to begin with.


Gleklen, J. (2014). Fandoms: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-gleklen/celebrity-fandoms_b_5056143.html

Gutierrez, P. (2012). Guest Post by Christopher Shamburg… When the Lit Hits the Fan in Teacher Education — @Peter_Gutierrez Connect the Pop. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/connect-the-pop/2012/11/comics/guest-post-by-christopher-shamburg-when-the-lit-hits-the-fan-in-teacher-education/.

Gutierrez, P. (2013). Fanfiction: What Educators Really Need to Know — @Peter_Gutierrez Connect the Pop. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/connect-the-pop/2013/07/english/fanfiction-what-educators-really-need-to-know/

Gutierrez, P. (2013). 433 Words on Why Fandom Doesn’t Belong in Schools — @Peter_Gutierrez Connect the Pop.Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/connect-the-pop/2013/05/english/433-words-on-why-fandom-doesnt-belong-in-schools/

Ratcliffe, A. (2015). Fully Operational Fandom: Star Wars in the Classroom | StarWars.com. Retrieved from http://www.starwars.com/news/fully-operational-fandom-star-wars-in-the-classroom