GLAM Blog Club – Happiness

About 15 years ago, I was sitting in a pub in London with my husband and a couple we were good friends with, talking about our jobs. One of the people at the table was a nurse. When it comes to fulfilling careers, this one is pretty much at the top of the scale for feeling like you’re doing good in the world. Her husband and my husband worked together for a record store chain, so while they were working for a large corporation, they also really believed in the product they were selling. Through their jobs they were bringing joy into people’s lives and supporting artists. I, on the other hand, was working in search engine optimisation, helping to drive increased traffic to our client’s websites. Around this time SEO was moving from reverse engineering Google algorithms and was becoming more about writing copy for Google Ads, which was just taking off. While I was good at my job and enjoyed what I was doing, it struck me at this point that helping people make more money wasn’t really where I wanted to be long term.

It took me a few more years and a country relocation before I got the opportunity to go back to university and study to be a librarian and a lot of things have happened in that time. I have so many reasons to be happy with my life but when it comes to my working life, the fact that I am now able to help people on a day-to-day basis gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Whether it’s giving a homeless person somewhere to shelter from the weather, sparking off a love of reading in a child, assisting in formatting a resume, or helping foreign-language speaking customers to practice their English, everyday as librarians we are able to visibly see ways we are helping people. And this makes me happy.

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Posted by on March 4, 2018 in GLAM Blog Club



The kids are alt-type

My question for today is, why aren’t kids learning typing at school? My kids are in primary school and I work at a high school, but nowhere am I seeing typing classes. Back in my day… (watch me really date myself here) we learnt to type on manual typewriters with no backspace and no delete and it was a real work-out for your fingers. Not everyone did typing lessons, I imagine it was seen as a rather feminine skill to have but this was before computers were ubiquitous. How times have changed.

The ‘hunt and peck’ style of typing will certainly get you by in a pinch but shouldn’t we be aiming for more? Of course touch screens and mobile devices continue to gain in popularity and perhaps future innovations will make keyboard typing so very passé. We may one day reach the point where the accuracy of voice input is as good as the sci-fi movies of the 90s. But until then, we need to be focussing on a skill that young people need right now and for the foreseeable future. If we are pushing coding as an important proficiency for students, typing should be right there alongside it.

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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in Uncategorized


GLAM Blog Club – Watch and learn and contribute

Part of the allure of the modern online life is the ability to sit back and watch what’s happening without having to really interact. Facebook is the ultimate example of this, where we all feel like we are keeping up with other people’s lives even though we haven’t seen them in person for three years. 

In my school job, I take care of the library OPAC site as part of the LMS we use. I subscribe to a user group email list where my counterparts in various libraries across Australia and internationally can ask for help and advice on processes, issues and enhancements. Of course when you start out in these kinds of groups, you often are a newbie, flailing around trying to work out what you’re doing and how things work. At this point, all you can really be is a passive recipient of information with nothing to contribute. 

But then it starts to happen, you get to know your way around the system and you work things out, often as a result of the advice of others. And one day, you realise that the question that someone is asking is something you know, something you’ve learnt, something that’s already fallen into place for you. It’s a wonderful feeling when you can be the one to step forward and give some help. You can move out of the shadows of watching and lurking and give something back. 

It’s a strength of the library profession, wanting to help and contribute in our communities, but I think one that sometimes we need to be reminded of as we get caught up in our daily minutiae. Not just sitting back and watching but jumping up and diving in. Come on in, the water’s divine. 

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Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Uncategorized



Review – Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I came across this book after a query from a new student, and interestingly it turned out to be a “proper science-based” science fiction book which deals with some of the same ideas (of dealing with ‘otherness’) as ‘In The Dark Spaces’, which I reviewed recently.

Spanning thousands of years, Children of Time uses the concept of cryogenic sleep to jump over long spans of time and to allow us to explore the concepts of evolution, the risks in meddling in ‘godlike’ creation, humanity’s hubris and propensity for violence and war, and how is it possible to find common ground when meeting a completely ‘alien’ lifeform.

The book begins in a future time when technology has progressed to the point of interstellar travel and planet terraforming. In an experiment to ‘seed’ the universe with human-parallel beings, on a terraformed planet 20 light-years from earth, a cargo of monkeys and a nano-virus which supercharges evolution are about to be released. However, at the last moment, an operative for an earth-based terrorist organization blows everybody up, save the architect of the project, Dr Kern, who escapes in a sentry pod, the purpose of which was to keep one person in cryogenic sleep until intelligent life was detected on the planet.

Meanwhile, back on earth, humanity has descended into war and destruction (a recurring theme and comment on humankind). The following centuries include a mankind-caused ice-age with only ten thousand survivors clinging on in primitive conditions, a grasping back towards understanding of the previous generations’ technologies, and the eventual understanding that the earth has been poisoned beyond saving. The remnants of the human race are then forced to abandon the earth and embark on a last-ditch journey to the stars to try to find a habitable planet.

Over the same time, on the terraformed planet, instead of the monkeys which were blown up along with the people, the nanovirus finds purchase with spiders who then evolve in unexpected ways, forming huge cities and matriarchal societies, creating a vibration-based communication system, developing technologies such as computing systems based on controlled ant colonies, and eventually contacting their god-creator, Dr Kern, barely clinging onto sanity after thousands of years in a tiny space-freezer.

When the remains of humanity realize their only hope of survival is a planet populated by giant spiders, well, there’s going to be trouble, isn’t there?

This is an epic book, both in span and in heft (coming in at 600 pages). I found it fascinating and would recommend to anyone with an interest in science fiction and speculative futures. I think however that the sheer size of this book might make it a difficult sell for some of our students.



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Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Book Reviews


Review – In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black

Melbourne author Cally Black was the recipient of the Ampersand Prize in 2015 and this is her debut novel.

Tamara is a teenage girl living aboard a space freighter with her aunt and cousin, her only family. Her aunt is working as a cook but as children of workers aren’t allowed onboard, Tamara and baby Gub were smuggled aboard and live silently as stowaways, with Tamara’s only movement through the ship via the ducts and crawl spaces. When the ship is invaded by an alien species of crow-like Garuwa who kill everybody onboard including Tamara’s aunt, Tamara manages to hide baby Gub and is taken by the Garuwa as a kind of mascot.

Stranded now with violent aliens who might kill her at any moment, she must do whatever she has to to survive and to keep the hope alive that she might one day be reunited with her cousin. As she learns their language and starts to understand their culture she realises that there is more to the Garuwa than aggression and death. In a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome she comes to identify with the Garuwa and is forced to question where her loyalties lie.

While on the one hand this is a thrilling and often violent adventure story, it is also about love and family and community. Tamara has many moral dilemmas to deal with as she is caught between the two very different races and the fear of the ‘other’.

It’s always refreshing to see a female-driven YA book which doesn’t fall into the romantic love interest trap.  There is quite a bit of violence in the book which means that it might not be suitable for younger middle school students but I would highly recommend this book to both boys and girls.



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Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Book Reviews


Review – How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

The main character of this book, Tom Hazard, has a strange condition which means that he only ages 1 year for every approximately 15 normal years. This means that he lives for a VERY LOOOOOOOOOONG time! Born in 1581, he currently only looks about 41 years old. People like this have to keep moving and changing identities to avoid awkward questions and in fact his mother was killed as a witch once his aging stopping when he reached puberty. There’s a secret society of people with this condition, calling themselves the Albatross Society which helps to protect them from governments or biotech companies which might want to exploit them to work out their aging secrets.

After falling in love as a young man, and having to leave his wife and daughter to avoid the suspicions of people around him, his broken heart leaves him unable to form strong relationships. He spends his time pining for his daughter, who turned out to be long-lived like him but who disappeared before he found out. He begins to work as a history teacher in London (obviously he’s pretty knowledgeable about history in general, he’s lived it) and he starts to question his life when he meets the beautiful French teacher.

Jumping back and forth through historical eras makes this story really fun and exciting and he meets a number of historical characters, including Shakespeare. The book also has a wistful feel as he philosophises on time and memory and finding yourself and having a purpose in life.

I’d recommend this book to both adults and students from middle school up. In the vein of the Time Traveller’s Wife, I thought it was both a lovely story and a rollicking adventure.


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Posted by on November 8, 2017 in Uncategorized


Review – The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

I chose to read this book as I’d seen there were rumours that it’s being made into a film and I was surprised I hadn’t heard about it as I’ve read a large number of these kinds of books.

The premise of this book is fairly standard for the YA dystopian genre. A virus has wiped out almost all American children and those that have survived have suddenly developed ‘powers’. The why and how of this is not really explained but I suspect it may be revealed in a further book of the trilogy (these kinds of books usually do). Fearful of these children, the government has herded them into ‘rehabilitation camps’ where they are treated very badly. The kids are divided into five categories of powers: ‘reds’ who can manipulate fire;‘oranges’ who can force their way into people’s minds and make them do things; ‘yellows’ who can control electricity; ‘blues’ who can move objects with their minds; and ‘greens’ who don’t seem to have much going for them except maybe they’re pretty smart(?). Seen as the most dangerous, the reds and oranges have pretty much disappeared, it is to be assumed killed. The main character, 16-year-old Ruby, is an orange who managed to convince the testers that she was green and has been keeping a low profile for the last  six years. She is afraid of her powers after she accidentally removed all memory of herself from her parent’s minds before being sent away to the camp. She manages to escape the camp, aided by a shadowy resistance movement of adults, who she then also escapes from and falls in with a small group of other kids trying to find their way back to their parents.

Of course there is the obligatory romance storyline, as she tries to accept that she can be loved and accepted despite her belief that she is a monster. It’s also an exciting action story as they try to avoid capture by all number of bad guys. So basically it’s Divergent meets Fault in our Stars meets Carrie. I can certainly see why it’d be a good movie adaptation, it’s got all the right ingredients although I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up bombing like The Fifth Wave movie did.  I quite enjoyed it despite it being a bit beyond believable at times. They certainly manage to escape some pretty tight situations again and again and evade notice easily despite there being almost no other children/teens around anywhere.

I’d recommend this book for any middle school students looking for something after The Hunger Games, I Am Number Four or Divergent series. It could fit into the dystopian and science fiction book time lists.


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Posted by on November 8, 2017 in Book Reviews, Uncategorized