Sunday, March 30, 2008

A note on PD

Having explored Ning a bit more, I think it would be a better forum for PD conversations, and could provide some solutions to the time demands placed on educators engaged in collaborative apprenticeship (Glazer & Page, 2006). While I still think face-to-face would be best, it isn't always possible: here we all are learning at a distance! Social networks built on the Ning platform do seem to encourage more of a conversation than what I've seen on wikis and bulletin boards. In fact, I wonder if it might be more conducive to conversations in courses like this than the vista discussion forum? It is certainly more visual and easier to track than clicking on messages and following 'threads.' I always seem to get lost in the formality of that system. There could be security and privacy issues though, although Ning seems to have taken great care to address those concerns.

I'll be watching this web2.0 technology with interest to see if it is adopted by more professionals as a way to engage in long distance learning conversations.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

One more Ning thing

Just spotted this on Yahoo: musicians are building their own social networks to exist alongside the biggies (Facebook, MySpace...) on platforms such as Ning, so that they have better control over content, advertisers, and user data. So if musicians can do it, why can't librarians?

The good and the bad

"Social networking technologies give teens the chance to practice reading and writing literacy skills in real and meaningful ways. When teens use social networking they aren't just writing and reading for out-of-context classroom experiences, they are writing and reading in in-context experiences that have something to do with their real lives. Is there a better way to learn how to get ideas out there and find out what others are saying about the world in which we all live?"
--Linda Braun, YALSA, from here

I really like this quote. I have been thinking a lot about the usefulness of social networking tools in schools since the beginning of this course. Social networking sites are the only web 2.0 tools blocked on the school computers here. The news is full of teens bullying and being bullied with these sites. There is controversy about them being used for cheating. I was beginning to think sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo had no use in the classroom or library. After all, what can they do that blogs, wikis, and photo/video sharing sites can't? The quote above refers to all social networking (web2.0) tools, but I think it is particularly apt to sites like Facebook. Our teenage students are communicating through these sites: the Ashley Jones reports in the March 2008 edition of EContent that 55% of online teens have a social networking profile, and the number is climbing rapidly. To be honest, I'm surprised the number is that low.

So if we can't beat 'em, join 'em? As teachers and librarians, why not establish a presence on these sites and encourage our students to use them for good? There are Facebook groups dedicated to good causes that students could explore and participate in, or they could create their own to champion a local cause. Librarians could use Facebook groups to teach critical thinking and other information literacy skills as students navigate them looking for opinions on current events and issues. The sites are ready made for collaboration and could be an alternative for students trying to coordinate group work (though I'm convinced wikis or blogs would be better suited here). The incident at Ryerson is a great jumping off point for a discussion on academic honesty, abuse of technology, and the nature of collaboration. And, if monitored by teachers, I think these sites are a great way for students to study together, discuss school work and solve problems collaboratively.

The big 'but' is cyber bullying. The tragic case of Megan Meier may be an extreme, but it demonstrates just how destructive online bullying can be. Bullies feel emboldened by their sense of anonymity, and indeed, often targets don't know the identity of their tormentor. The Carol Brydolf's article in the October 2007 Education Digest Minding MySpace: Balancing the benefits and risks of students' online social networks describes a bullying situation at a school in California and how the school dealt with it. The school principal "decided that his devotion to free speech had to take a back seat to his responsibility as a school administrator." The student responsible for the bullying pulled his nasty post off Myspace and was suspended. The school then used the incident as a spring board for discussion. This is a tricky balance. We want to keep our students safe, but we want to encourage them to express themselves as well. So is the solution banning the sites outright, to save teachers, administrators, and librarians the trouble of striking that balance?
Keeping social networking sites of off school computers doesn't keep students from the sites. Sure, not all students will have access to them at home, but most will. So the bullying will still happen, but school staff won't know about it. Ignorance of a problem doesn't make it easier to solve. If, rather, we embrace these sites, use them, encourage students to push the potential of the sites, we can keep an eye on what is happening and address concerns right away. By being a part of our students' MySpace or Facebook or Bebo experience, we can help them learn how to stay safe and participate appropriately: skills they need on the Internet, and in life.

Another California school district in the Minding MySpace article takes an approach I'd like to see in more schools. Rather than hide from technology, they embrace it by providing every student in grade 6 and up with their own email address, web page, and access to discussion groups, and monitor them, rather than censor them. The district works hard to educate students on how to stay safe, and educate teachers and parents on how to monitor what kids are doing.

Stephen Abram, in the January/February 2007 edition of Multimedia and Internet@Schools, writes my new favourite analogy on this topic: banning social networking sites to keep students safe "is like teaching traffic safety to kindergarteners by banning roads." The problems with social networking sites are another opportunity for educators to bring current, relevant issues into the classroom for discussion, communication, and learning. We have a responsibility to prepare students for the real world, not a perfect world.

I was just about to end this blog when I found this comment on the Ning in Education site. Ning is a place to create your own social network, which could take care of some privacy and safety issues for schools. Basically, she argues that Ning, and social networks in general, are more like a conversation that a wiki can ever be, which may be more appealing to many people, particularly those most social of beings, teens. Something else I thought of was that students might be less intimidated commenting on a social network than on a wiki, since it is more of a conversation that the altering of a web page, although the way we ran our discussions on the wikis worked well enough for us grown ups.

Social Networking: Friend or Foe?

I've been on Facebook for about 8 months now. I joined up at the behest of my brother, since he said it was a great way to share pictures, something very important with a brand new baby around! Up until then, I had been reluctant to jump on the social networking bandwagon. It seemed, well, phony. I had heard about friend collecting, the practice to building a huge collection of friends for status, and it made me think the whole social networking movement was just a way to continue the social strife of high school forever. Yuck. But, for the sake of baby pictures, I decided to give it a try.

As a picture sharing site, I loved it! Uploads are quick and easy, you can tag people in your photos, you can add a caption to your photos, and people can comment on them. It isn't as full-service as the photo sharing sites we explored earlier, but it certainly got the job done for my pictures.
A couple of months ago, an item popped up in my news feed: I had been tagged in someone else's photo. Huh? I followed the link, and there I was, dancing the night away at a club in Korea, 6 years ago. There was an option for me to remove the tag, but as someone who doesn't visit my facebook page very often, how long had that picture been there without me knowing it? I just looked a bit silly so I didn't mind the picture. But in our time of ubiquitous cell phone cameras, it would be very easy to snap an inappropriate photo, tag it, and upload it, to someone else's embarrassment or worse. Or what's stopping a cyberbully from mistagging photos with a target's name?

As a social networking site, I also enjoyed it. I found some friends from high school that I had long since lost touch with, and had fun catching up with them. It has also helped my husband find some old friends: for two nomads like us, this kind of site could really go a long way to keeping us in touch with far-flung friends!
After the initial catching-up, those friends from high school are silent images on my facebook page. While now I can get in touch with them whenever I want to, using facebook doesn't make non-social people more social.

Facebook has some fun features, likes sending 'gifts' to your friends (I like to send hatching eggs and Tim Horton's treats), and games to play.
You could play a real game with a real person and have a genuine interaction with them. I also find these activities to be real time suckers. They are often not designed all that well and confusing to navigate, so while I want to save more square feet of rain forest with my Green Patch, eventually I say to myself "this is a waste of time! I have REAL things to do!" But there is always one more button to click, one more thing to check out... and one more advertisement to load on your screen. I have friends on Facebook that, by the updates I see in my news feed, must spend hours on the site, playing games, chatting via the wall posts and messages, and posting on discussion boards.

As you can see, social networking leaves me conflicted. Frankly, I'm a fan of real life. I think it is really important to spend time with the people around you, interacting in genuine ways. I would much rather take my daughter for a toboggan ride than post on someone's wall.
I'm not a teenager, and I've never been much of a social butterfly. Students are using this web2.0 tool to stay connected with each other, just like we used land line phones in the olden days. So what's wrong with that? Well, cyber-bullying, false senses of security/anonymity, wasted time, diminished human contact.

But what about better communication skills? And increased information literacy? And engaged learners? And collaboration?

Social networking is a double-edged sword, a very sharp one.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm keep getting more impressed...

As I said in my last post, I think voicethreads could be of tremendous use in schools. But then I watched this voicethread, and now I KNOW it will be of use! They have really worked hard to make it safe for students and useful for educators. I think the designers of voicethreads knew they had a great educational product and wanted to make sure it was well-used, and not feared like so many other web2.0 tools (youtube, facebook, even wikis). In case you missed it, here's a link to a voicethread all about it.

I went ahead and signed up for my free educator pro account and got started! It really was easy, the hardest part of making my voicethread was waiting for my pictures to upload. I decided to make an interactive alphabet. Time and 'stuff' constraints limited me to just 4 letters for now, but I love how it turned out, so I'll be adding to it until it's complete! I took pictures of items that started with a particular letter sound and narrated the picture. Students could comment by telling what they see in the picture, or by telling about other things they know start with that sound. Teachers could also assign each student a different letter to make a picture for and have them narrate their picture for a class collaborative voicethread! Here is a link to my voicethread, since embedding doesn't want to work for me.

I haven't had much luck finding information about voicetheads or multimedia sharing site in journals, so I put on my critical thinking hat and hit the web. I found this blog post by Wesley Fryer, where he describes best practices for voicthreads: they should be safe, feature multiple voices, be open for comments, and welcome interaction. While my initial reaction to this was "shouldn't everything we do in schools meet those criteria?" I quickly realized that a lot of it doesn't. A lot of what goes on in schools, while safe, showcases only one voice, is never commented on by anyone other than the teacher, and stops at the classroom door. Web 2.0 tools might be intimidating to teachers because they try to push our teaching past those safe boundaries with which we are familiar. But won't all learning benefit if we apply those 4 best practices to voicethreads... and book reports, and math projects, and... well, everything?

Brenda Dyck blogged on EducationWorld about voicethreads, and mentioned that they "give teachers a bird’s eye view into the thinking of their students, especially students who have difficulty communicating their learning through writing." Voicethreads could be a very powerful addition to student portfolios, as teachers could upload samples of student work, and that student could tell why this is great work, why she's proud of it, etc, questions we often ask our students about portfolio pieces but that are paraphrased by an adult's hand at the early childhood level. This let's kids speak for themselves!

She linked to this wiki (that has Wesley Fryer involved) that features voicethread book reports. What a great library use! TL's could use voicethreads for book talks, and encourage students to add their own thoughts about the featured books, in addition to creating their own book talks. Here's another handy use of this technology for TL's: a voicethread tour of the library!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The ultimate web2.0 tool?

To be honest, I haven't even gone back to Jumpcut to see if I can salvage my experience there. From what I understand from my short visit, you put together video clips to make your own video... clips of your own, or from other people's videos. Um, copyright issues anyone? That could be a good jump off for a discussion on intellectual property rights with students, but I think that's a discussion that could start from just about any of the web2.0 tools we are studying. Now, I'm a bit shaky on video making, but doesn't Windows Movie Maker let you import and rearrange clips? So why do we need Jumpcut? I'll let someone else answer that question. It's not for me.

But voicethread... now that is cool! I have had so much fun browsing through this site, and have been really impressed with some of the student created voicethreads. A voicethread is like a wiki crossed with a podcast crossed with Flickr or YouTube. There are so many possibilities out there for this technology! This great wiki showcases a good variety of voicethreads being used by students and teachers. A teacher at Usher Collegiate in Regina uses voicethreads to publish his students' artwork, an administrator made a presentation on a grant proposal and asked for feedback from other administrators, and kindergarten students tell about pictures they made to illustrate animal habitats!

I think voicethreads could be very useful in the classroom for a wide variety of activities because of how well it caters to visual and auditory learners. Voicethreads have great potential for story telling (how about an activity where one student starts telling a story about a picture, then the next student continues it, and so on?) and for otherwise encouraging oral language skills. I could see so many uses for this in early childhood. Young students can explain what they have painted or drawn, or could read words that they have written, and it's captured for parents to view and for teachers to assess. Other students can describe what they see in an artwork, flexing those oral language muscles in a meaningful way and exploring how their thoughts may be different from the thoughts of others.

In higher grades, students could use this as a multimedia presentation method that allows their peers to make suggestions and comments that will be audible to people who view the voicethread later, inspiring students to do their best work. Of course, that work could be published to a wider audience and generate comments from outside the classroom: even more incentive to do a great job!

Students could use this tool to collaborate on visual matters like designing a school mascot, and teachers could use it to create interactive classroom newsletters... imagine being able to ask parents in your newsletter if they could volunteer for a field trip, and have them answer you on a voicethread! Ok, that's kind of the same as a wiki newsletter, but I think hearing someone's voice can be more powerful that reading a newsletter. So it would be like a podcast newsletter, but interactive: impossible for podcasts.

Up next: what the web world has to say about voicethreads... no luck on the journal front so far!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Scary stuff!

Well, I just visited Jumpcut for the first time, and I will tell you right now: I would never allow students to browse the videos there. As I was clicking through the recently popular videos, one was deeply disturbing: scenes of self-mutilation and drug use, and who knows what came after I stopped it. There were no indications that what I was about to see might be inappropriate for some audiences, no descriptions listed, and the tags visible without scrolling down gave no indication either. Scrolling down in shock, some more tags listed "horror" and "addiction:" now I know to check.

I will go back and explore this site a bit more, but to be frank, Jumpcut will have to have some pretty amazing tools for me to get over this unfortunate experience. And even if the tools are useful, I would be very hesitant to use them in a school setting: this site is NOT student safe.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Wikis were my very first foray into web2.0 tools. I learned a bit about them in my inquiry-based learning class last semester, and immediately bought in! It seemed like the perfect tool for educators: easy to use, collaborative, free, secure... I couldn't wait to give it a try!

I showed my husband the video Wikis in Plain English, and he was quickly convinced that this technology should have a place in his school. We decided a good place to start was the school calendar. This was early November, and already the Tribal Council had sent out 3 amended copies of activity calendars, each a different colour, each several pages, and enough copies for every teacher in the Council. What a waste of paper and time! Plus, teachers had to make sure they were checking the right copy for upcoming events: "which colour are we on now?" they'd ask Jim. Also, some teachers rarely checked their mailboxes, and were missing important information about sudden calendar changes... a fact of life here.

We got to work. I showed the admin assistant and the technology coordinator Wikis in plain English, and together we set up a wiki at wikispaces. I showed them how to edit and save pages and how easy to was to put up new information. The admin assistant loved the idea of having the calendar on a web page, saving her the trouble of printing it off and filing it into mailboxes each time an update was made. The trouble began when I suggested we allow all staff to edit the wiki. I thought this would allow staff to keep each other up-to-date on activities that might not warrant inclusion on an official calendar, but would nevertheless effect other staff. After all, the plan was to already include things like scheduled staff absences, so why not?

Wikis need trust. According to the Educause Learning Initiative's Seven things you should know about wikis, "because users can modify the content of a wiki (add to, edit, delete materials), allowing such manipulation of the sites information carries some risks." If an organization has a low tolerance for that risk, a wiki won't work. The lack of trust among the staff at the school here means that only a few people are allowed to modify the wiki. Which is too bad for a couple of reasons: I think users that are allowed full privileges to the wiki are more likely to buy into the technology and adopt it for their own uses, and, well, when the admin assistant got tired of updating the wiki, someone else could have taken over.

Jennifer commented on my last post about how the really daunting part of Virtual Libraries isn't setting them up, but keeping them up to date. This is the same with a wiki. Someone has to be willing to take responsibility for keeping it up to date and checking for inappropriate manipulation of the site. When I asked the admin assistant what the trouble was, she expressed that she just didn't have the time to keep the wiki up to date. As I mentioned earlier, updating the wiki is quicker than typing up memos, printing them, and distributing them, so I suspect "not having the time" is code for "I don't have the time to learn the finer points of this new technology."

Educause states that "wikis permit asynchronous communication and group collaboration across the Internet." To me, that translates into a tremendously powerful tool for remote communities, but also for 'ordinary' communities as well. Students can now work together on projects without trying to coordinate meeting times, phone calls, or emails. High school students from Buffalo Narrows can collaborate with students from Loon Lake on research projects, or grade 1 students from Waterhen Lake can collaborate with grade 1 students in Clearwater River to build a Cree alphabet book. According to Del Siegel in his Winter 2008 Gifted Child Today article Working With Wikis "Innovative educators are drawn to wikis because wikis can facilitate and record students' collaborative work." Having a record of collaboration can assist educators in assessment, but also reveal insights in thinking that might have otherwise been missed by students and teachers. Later in that same article, Siegel lists a tremendous array of possible activities students could use a wiki for, ranging from creating simple pages that present personal information to the class, to allowing students to edit each other's writing.

So this is a perfect technology right? Well, if only. Many of the problems with wikis can be summed up by looking at the most famous wiki of them all: Wikipedia. I remember when I first heard about Wikipedia and immediately dismissing it. Anyone can add to it or edit it? So if I decide the holocaust never happened, I can go and change the holocaust page to reflect that view? Or if I'm feeling bored and mischievous I could go and delete every reference to dogs? Or if I really believed that snow would burn if you tried to melt it too quick, I could create an article to do with just that? Silliness. According to William Badke (online, Mar/Apr 2008), "Wikipedia marches on like a great beast, growing larger and more commanding every day." And yes, I consult it regularly.

We know our students are using it as a resource, so we need to help them judge what they read in Wikipedia articles for currency, accuracy, and bias, much like we help them judge other sources. As there is no official watch dog checking Wikipedia, this is especially important. Badke suggest "a professor or information literacy instructor assigns groups of students to evaluate and edit Wikipedia articles, using research from other sources as an evaluative tool."

When I was reading Penuel's article Implementation and effect of one-to-one computing initiatives: A research synthesis, from the Spring 2006 edition of Journal of Research on Technology in Education for assignment 2, I can across some interesting findings related to professional development. When implementing 1:1 laptop programs, "informal help form colleagues within the school... [was] especially important to ensuring implementation success." If informal help from colleagues is such a powerful mode of professional development, maybe wikis are just the way to facilitate that! What if a district set up a wiki for each grade or subject area, and teachers within that grade/subject area could post questions, thoughts, and ideas there for others to view and comment on?

I did some looking on the Internet and found a few professional development wikis out there:
a best practices for libraries sites
an arts education site for Saskatchewan teachers
David Jakes talks about PD
a high school posts tech support for teachers

Are there concerns? Sure. At the Library Success wiki, users now need to use email confirmation to edit the page because of vandals. Siegle suggests that some students may not feel comfortable putting there work in a forum for all to see. Educause reminds us that wikis represent "the collective perspective of the group that uses it," so again, we need to help our students carefully consider the validity of any information they find on a wiki. Still, I think this is a tool teachers and librarians should seriously consider adding to their arsenals.

I built my first wiki at wikispaces, and for assignment 2, used pbwiki. While both were easy to use, I prefer pbwiki. I found it to be easier to navigate in and a bit more intuitive overall. I also liked having templates within which to put my content, while still having the flexibility to do just about whatever I'd like! Both sites are free for educators, but pbwiki is ad-free... something I greatly appreciate. In the interests of curiosity, the next time I build a wiki, I will use wetpaint, just to see if I like it any better! And when will I build my next wiki? I am going to use a wiki as a class webpage next year, but hopefully I'll get a chance before then to keep experimenting in this exciting technology!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Virtual(ly) Learning

As a distance education student, the virtual library is near and dear to my heart. As much as I enjoy the tactile experience to holding a journal or book, unless I know what I need well in advance, it doesn't happen up here, so having virtual access to learning resources is invaluable. The University of Alberta's Libraries page is one of my most visited websites. Sure, it is a place to start looking for journal articles and books I might order, but it is much more than that: I appreciate all of the extras that are there! While I've never used the service, knowing that I can contact a real, living, breathing librarian by phone, email, or chat is reassuring. I know I can go there to figure out how to cite my sources rather than googling APA format (don't even bother. It's a disaster.). By focusing on the library's Education page, I have access to all kinds of helpful resources in one place, specifically designed for my needs as an educator.

I love Google. I love being able to put in some simple search terms at the top of my web browser and get back some reasonable results. But lets face it: Google has some pretty significant limits, as anyone doing any kind of research past "peanut butter cookie recipes" will know. So where can a searcher go to find relevant information? Virtual Libraries. Joyce Valenza, in her article The Virtual Library in the December 2005 edition of Educational Leadership, defines these as "multipage online resources devoted to the needs of their specific learning communities." Later on in the same article, she praises one virtual library for providing "a clear launching pad for research, media use, and leisure reading." Valenza later comments that students themselves recognize the advantages of the databases over commercial search engines.

Hmmm. A launching pad. I like that metaphor to describe libraries, particularly school libraries. It applies particularly well to the school libraries of today, where students will very likely use resources for their learning that is not physically in the library.

Audrey Church states in her Nov/Dec 2006 article Your library goes virtual: Promoting reading and supporting research in Library Media Connection that our kids today "prefer the Internet to traditional libraries because they consider the Internet to be easier to use, more convenient, open 24/7 and full of more up-to-date material." If this is the case, she argues, don't we have a responsibility as librarians to provide them with the resources they need online? I certainly agree. While we might hope that students will visit our physical libraries and ask questions directed at actual people, schools need to help students learn however they can. I think that with an effective, efficient virtual presence, librarians can actually encourage students to come into the real library!

Church lists a wide variety of suggested ways to promote reading and support research in her article, such as book blogs, links to reading lists, subscription databases, and information literacy skill help. I visited several virtual school libraries, and saw these and other practices in action.

Over at Valenza's virtual school library, the home page made me giggle, but also feel quite comfortable. It's nice to look at, but more importantly, easy to navigate and decidedly un-intimidating. After all, if students want to use the Internet because it's easier to use, shouldn't we make sure our virtual library offerings fit that ideal?

The Latimer Road virtual library was another site I really liked. While less visual that Valenza's site, the layout is easy to follow, and the sidebar is full of great information about research. The Latimer Road library recognizes that our students will be doing a lot of their work from home and need not just access to information, but ongoing help understanding, organizing, and using that information. The online help provided by virtual libraries in this regard could go a long way in helping students produce quality work at home, far from a teacher or librarian to show them a better way to organize their notes.

The SAS virtual libraries, divided according to grade level, provided access to plenty of good links and databases, some had book blogs and all had access to the library catalogue. I am quite curious to see what is in the library handbook, and I hope it has research guidelines, because information to that end is missing on these virtual library sites.

The M.E. LaZerte virtual library, while visually sparse, is chock full of great resources for students. The extensive lists of resources available for specific assignments is fantastic, and truly a launch pad for student work. This would definitely be my first stop as a student completing an assignment.

As our world becomes increasingly digitized, I suspect our students will be less and less inclined to use print resources for the completion of assignments. While teacher librarians are working hard to change how students, parents, and teachers view libraries, I think most still see them as places full of bookshelves... and little else. I think creating a virtual mirror of our libraries therefore serves two purposes: providing helpful, relevant, and appropriate resources to students, and frankly, changing our image. As communities begin to see the library's presence online, they may be more likely to come on in and see all that we have to offer.

While some might argue that by making all these resources available online, students will be even less likely to use the physical library, and by extension the expertise of a librarian, I think the digital environment provides us with a unique opportunity to reach out to students and the community at large. As Church puts it, a virtual library "provides you a space and an opportunity to inform, guide and instruct. It can be an advocacy tool, a visibility tool, and a public relations tool." In a way, these web presences are a way of saying 'hey, look at all the great stuff we can do for you! Come on in!'

As I was looking at various virtual school libraries, I was thinking "gee, these are great, but I don't think I could ever make one!" However, the Valenza article I mentioned earlier contains a wealth of information on how to create a virtual library, as well as a sizable list of resources for doing just that. Along with the suggestions from the Church article, the whole process seems, well, at least a bit less daunting! While I'm confident now that I could set something like this up, I have to admit that I'm still glad I don't have to this week!

Digital memory lane

I got a little thrill when looking at the weblinks for this week's blog assignment. Singapore American School! I was a student at SAS for 4 years, from 1991-1995. While this isn't exactly related to digital libraries, I'd like to tell you a bit about my experiences with the physical library there.

First off, the school was located in a different set of buildings when I went there, but they were no less impressive than the current buildings to a kid from Red Deer. I remember thinking "this library is bigger than my whole school!" the first time I went into the elementary/middle school library. But it wasn't a library. No one called it that. It was the media center. And there weren't just books. There were newspapers! Magazines! A full edition of the Oxford English Dictionary! Encyclopedias that weren't ancient! As a young bookworm, this place was paradise. Looking back with the knowledge I have now, my school in Red Deer had a pretty good library-- certainly better than any of the schools I've worked in as a teacher. But what SAS had was incredible.

Then there was the high school library. Again, paradise. This was a two storey stand alone building on the campus, tremendous collections as far as I was concerned, plenty of space for studying, reading, and working on computers (though at the time, the Internet was very closely controlled by the government and not available on library computers).

Teachers used the library in ways I wasn't used to, either. It wasn't just a place to exchange books once a week or gather materials for research, it was more of a place to learn about learning. Our teachers team-taught with the media specialist on topics related to research: finding, analyzing, and using information. While this may be standard in many schools now, it was new to me as a student. I liked it.

What I liked best though was the accessibility of the libraries, and I see this is something that SAS has continued. They were open after school for awhile, and even had hours during the summer. The whole school community (parents, siblings...) was welcome and you'd often see someone's mother reading in the high school library. Both libraries were welcoming places, and the staff were welcoming people. I had a grade 8 teacher challenge me to find the origin and context of a different quote each day after school, and I still remember the help I got from the media specialist until I had mastered Bartlett's Quotations.

If I really think about it, I would say it was the time I spent learning in those two libraries that caught my interest in libraries. Before that, I was certainly interested in books, but I didn't really know how much more a library could be other than stacks of books to browse.