Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Winnowing Down

If you watch Modern Family, then you should get the reference in the tile. If you don't watch Modern Family, you really should, consistently funny and generally very family-friendly humor.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, isn't that how everyone is before they actually get into a job? Scaling back my expectations and goals, that is what the first year was like. There were some setbacks, not least of which was finding out I was to teach almost a full class load on top of the library responsibilities. Did I mention that I was also the ICT department chair and there was no curriculum to speak of? Right, winnow down your expectations a little there.

This isn't to say I've given up, of course. The work ethic that was forced instilled into me by my parents would never let me give up, but I have had to drastically revise my expectations for what is possible and practical given my limited means and the fact that I live in Bangladesh. My goals for the year are as follows:

1. Complete documentation for the library. Fortunately, thanks to the excellent education I received at the University of Michigan School of Information this should be relatively simple. I took an entire course which prepared me to produce this documentation. In fact, I've already pulled out the collection development plan a couple of times, to illustrate why some books are not appropriate for our school library (hint: ICT books from 1989 are not appropriate for most school libraries). Unfortunately, for some reason, the document was lost when my Google site was lost (still hoping we can find it out there, Google supposedly keeps multiple copies of things).

For me, documentation is essential to any workplace. The most frustrating thing about any job is going in and having no idea where things are, what is expected of you, and what type of resources are available to you. With students it's even more difficult because you have no idea what they are capable of if you have no documentation. Last year was spent ascertaining what level the students were on and now I have a clean slate to design a curriculum for them.

On a side note, I cannot over-stress how important it is to not reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing curriculum. Sure, don't just print it off and expect it to work perfectly for you, but you also don't need to start from scratch every time. This was my major breakthrough last year.

2. A properly cataloged library. In our world of instant gratification and unbridled access to information, I think having a properly cataloged and searchable library is essential. When we throw kids out onto the un-cataloged web we do them a disservice, because they are left floundering, wondering where they should go. By properly organizing the library I hope to teach students the importance of organizational skills. Not because I enjoy putting things in order (although, to be honest, I do), but because without organization, information is useless and we limit ourselves and what we can find.

I could digress into a discussion about how we minimize the importance of properly organized libraries, archives, and other information centers, but I'll save that for another post.

3. A user-friendly library. This has been the easiest task. When I first came to the library it was arranged in boring rows, with all the books (fiction and non-fiction) classed according to the Dewey Decimal system. There was a reading area with carpet, but it was drab, there were no decorations, very little group seating, hardly any storage, no book drop, and the walls were a ridiculously ugly cream color (which had a hint of green). After much discussion and masses of back and forth emails, I was able to acquire some primary colored paint. It's amazing what a few coats of paint can do.

The seating area has floor cushions (although not nearly enough). We're working on rotating displays, and I introduced my assistant to Pinterest.

Mind you, all of these goals are library related. I will have other goals relating to my education and technology goals, but right now I'm trying to build the infrastructure, I need goals that I can attain. I would love to implement a professional development program to introduce teachers to new technology products, on the other hand many of them are just now exploring their Google Apps products, such as email, Engrade (which I adore, and it is free!), Blendspace, Blogger, etc. There's enough to be explored in those that we don't need to add a ton on top of it. I want the teachers to be more comfortable with these basic programs before we delve into something more advanced. Also, using technology for the sake of using technology is not sustainable. It takes some time to determine what we need, find the right tool, learn how to use the tool, and then implement it with the students. I've just gotten the students signed up to do digital portfolios on Blogger and many of them can submit their work on Engrade, so we're taking baby steps in the right direction.