Is Digital Scholarship limited by cultural myopia?



The parameters of scholarship in education are often based on Boyer’s (1990) dimensions of discovery, integration, application and teaching. Healey further expands on the scholarship of teaching to include “research into teaching and learning, critical reflection of practice and communication and dissemination about the practice of one’s subject” (2000, p. 169).


Broadening the discussion to include the transformational aspects of “digital” technology, educational scholarship has been enriched through open data, open publishing, a blurring of the academic and ‘real’ world, open teaching and learning and a movement from the individual to the distributed scholar and global access (Pearce, Weller, Scanlon, & Kinsley, 2012). However, Pearce etal. (2012, p. 169) cautioned that technology is “a necessary but not sufficient condition” for true scholarship. The question is, given the potential and reality of technology, what else is needed to fulfil the obligations of a modern ‘digital’ scholar?

Argument statement

This essay will argue that the dominance of a Western cognitive constructivist tradition in online and offline education, led by British, Australasian and North American (BANA) institutions limits knowledge, understanding and progress not only of its students, but of its scholars as well in exploiting the true potential of open educational tools and resources.


There are four main reasons for situating this essay in the context of teaching and learning, in particular, a critical reflection of digital scholarship practice in relation to multi-cultural multi-lingual (MCML) learning environments. Firstly, demographic shifts in education are occurring at an unprecedented rate as a result of globalisation, immigration, migration, and war (Boelens, 2010; Boelens, Cherek, Tilke, & Bailey, 2015). Secondly a significant shift to online education where the global market is showing a 9.2% five year annual compound growth rate and is now worth $107 billion led by India and China (Pappas, 2015). Thirdly, work and employment increasingly is global, remote and disaggregated with globally mobile and fluid workforce and both employers and employees requiring “just in time” rather than “just in case” skills and knowledge. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is a moral, ethical and value-based argument. On the one hand, MCML students are prejudiced by the dominance of a Western cognitive constructivist tradition in education (Catterick, 2007; Sadykova, 2014; Zhang & Kenny, 2010) and on the other, ignoring the MCML dimension limits critical reflective practice, the potential of international digital scholarship and knowledge and understanding of a large part of the educational scholars’ field.

Interpretive Discussion


Traditionally, creating culturally-responsive accommodations for MLMC students has faced considerable institutional opposition. The response of educational institutions, comprised a narrow range between non-accommodation and intervention in the form of student induction into ‘the system’ i.e. modify the student not the program (Catterick, 2007; Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010). Arguments against interventions cite costs, quality control, and expectations of the students themselves and their future employers that they are “Westernised” as a by-product of their education (Catterick, 2007).


Parrish and Linder-VanBerschot (2010) acknowledge these issues and suggest that institutions distinguish between entrenched cultural values and superficial practices, and create interventions with constructivist and instructivist alternatives or choices in learning activities and instructional format only where these are critical to learning success. Researchers sound a word of caution against cultural generalizations that lead to stereotyping and discrimination (Gazi, 2014; Hardy & Tolhurst, 2014; Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010). This can be ameliorated through a combination of embedding cultural considerations in each stage of the instructional design process, ensuring an iterative practice of reflection and modification and encouraging student interaction and feedback (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010; Young, 2009).


Models designed to foster awareness of cultural implications in education vary in their orientation. Initially research done in corporations (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010) and physical classrooms led to classroom or systems originated and oriented models such as the Inclusion, Attitude, Meaning, Competence (IAMC) model of Ginsberg & Wlodkowski (2009, cited in Suzuki & Nemoto, 2012) and the Cultural Dimensions Learning Framework (CDLF) (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010) which were adapted for online learning.


In contrast, the Culture Based Model (CBM) framework of Young (2009) and the Cultural Adaptation Process (CAP) model (Edmundson, 2007b) are product oriented with the aim of guiding designers to incorporate culture in the design of digital and online educational products. (See Appendix 1 for illustrations of these models).

Reflection on teaching and learning in a multi-cultural environment

Educational institutions are not the only suppliers of teaching and learning. Commercial entities, particularly multinational companies, go to an enormous amount of effort in creating culturally compatible user interfaces – see Edmundson’s (2007a) book “Globalized e-learning cultural challenges”. One could argue that this effort directly benefits their bottom line, however all institutions would benefit from this approach.


Fortunately there are some researchers open-minded enough to examine the assumptions of their own culture, reflect on the embedded cultural practices of teaching and learning and those of the digital platforms and applications and thoughtfully researching ways to reconcile the two so as to optimise the learning of their students (Chan & Rao, 2010; Looker, 2011; Ren & Montgomery, 2015; Sadykova, 2014). Critical examination of one’s own culture and introducing new technologies in a more considered and less forceful way, appears to result in more success and acceptance. Pedagogy aligned with sociocultural context allows scaffolding of current to new practice and understanding (Chan, 2010; Chan & Rao, 2010; Law et al., 2010; Rao & Chan, 2010).


Chan (2010) demonstrated aspects of the Confucian approach to teaching and learning were highly compatible with the values of digital scholarship, and showed how modifications in the way technological tools for collaborative learning were introduced positively impacted their acceptance by teachers and students in a high school setting.


More recently, in examining Korean students’ experiences of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Ahn, Yyon and Cha (2015) built on the CDLF of Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot (2010) showing how awareness, cultural sensitivity and relatively minor adjustments could enhance the online learning experience of such students without detracting from the quality and substance of the courses.


The introduction of digital innovation in the learning environment does not automatically lead to universal acceptance, but can resoundingly be rejected in any culture when it is felt basic assumptions and expectations are being violated – as the study of an online peer-to-peer review workshop tool revealed (Wilson, Diao, & Huang, 2015). Even if peer-to-peer review and data analytics have meta-cognitive benefits, their implementation is often poor and occurs within a context where cooperation and collaboration is espoused but underlying assumptions and pressures of competition and the importance of good grades prevail (Durall & Gros, 2014; Wilson et al., 2015). Similarly, suboptimal outcomes are seen if the social-emotional needs and group formation process is neglected in online scholarship or learning and made subservient to certification and task performance (Carabajal, LaPointe, & Gunawardena, 2003).


Current trends, futurist predictions, theoretical perspectives

Disaggregation and re-aggregation appears to be a theme in many of the discussions on trends and the future of education – something technology allows in ways previously not possible.


Ware, writing in 2011, predicted that the publication of academic research would be disaggregated between the repository process of registration and dissemination of work and the certification process which includes peer review and branding – an idea that harks back to the learned societies of the 18th and 19th centuries. (Ware, 2011). Four years later this is the reality in open access repositories in China (Ren & Montgomery, 2015). Retractions of research papers have also resulted in the calls for the publication of the complete research work flow including raw data – something that is now technologically possible and feasible as interrogation and data analytic tools develop (Larsen, 2008; Oransky & Marcus, 2010; Ware, 2011).


Technology enhances the agency of the self-directed learner (SDL) to re-aggregate OER to suit their learning needs. Mike Caulfield’s idea of choral explanations in OER textbooks:

“the text branches off into multiple available explanations of the same concept, explanations authored individually by a wide range of instructors, researchers, and students. You can keep reading until you find the explanation that makes sense, or you can start with simpler explanations and work your way to nuance.” (Caulfield, 2016, para. 63)

opens many possibilities for expanding textbooks to accommodate linguistic and cultural diversity – something international students already do when they purchase two (physical) textbooks, one that is not only in their home language but also in their home pedagogical culture (Bailey, 2016; Kim & Mizuishi, 2014)


Bates cautions that there is still an agency role to structure and accredit that knowledge acquisition (Bates, 2011), but in a globally mobile and fluid workforce, those aggregators will need to accommodate different cultures of learning. Public/private educational entities such as Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education are taking a regional lead in exporting their vocational training through their educational services division (Chong, 2014; ITEES, 2015; Li, Yao, & Chen, 2014).


Similarly consideration could be given to using the models and algorithms in the field of adaptive learning (Charles Sturt University, n.d.) and personalisation in order to create cultural adaptations based on parameters set by students.


Two universities, although very different in design are using innovative online technology, Kiron University to give refugees the opportunity to further their education (Bates, 2015) and Minerva University to give fee paying students a global education that is location independent for both students and professors (Wood, 2014). Such disruptive models of higher education raise all kinds of questions on the implications of digital learning including whether scholarship and research will continue if scholarship is not directly visible or rewarded (Harry Lewis, cited by Wood, 2014).

Implications for scholarly practice

In order to understand the role of technology, Kalantzis and Cope (2015) go back to the etymology of ‘media’ as agents bridging meaning across space and time to facilitate communication, understanding and learning. This has huge implications for scholarly practice.


Literature on global collaboration in the classroom (Higgitt et al., 2008; Thombs, Ivarsson, & Gillis, 2011), the research process (Siemens & Burr, 2013; Siemens, Cunningham, Duff, & Warwick, 2011) and online conferencing (LaPointe & Gunawardena, 2004) enumerates many benefits of such collaboration. These include but are not limited to the opening of and access to new knowledge; flattening of hierarchies, easier discovery and connection mechanisms; extending the reach and equity of scholars and reducing costs. Some of the problems however, include issues with technological difficulties and failure, differences in equipment standards and capabilities, scheduling issues due to time differences, misunderstandings due to language, the nature of computer-mediated communication including its text-basis, time-independence, asynchronous nature and inability to interpret culturally based non-verbal cues (Pearce et al., 2012; Selwyn, 2010; Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012a, 2012b; Weller, 2011).


Of these, language remains a significant barrier to open access international research and learning. Even where all members of a research team are proficient in a language (usually English), research in other languages may not be accessible to non-speakers (Loan & Sheikh, 2016; Ren & Montgomery, 2015), and language and cultural norms may be intertwined where nuance can result in misunderstanding (Siemens & Burr, 2013). As translation software continue to evolve will more students be able to study and do internationally recognised and disseminated research in their home language, (Cheesman et al., 2016; Palaiologou, 2007; Sadykova, 2014)? Or will the dominance of English prevail – albeit with a move to “global English” as envisioned by Schell (2007) and what will be lost as a result?


Digital scholarship within the context of international and globalised education could benefit from additional critical reflection into the assumptions concerning and attitudes towards multi-cultural and multi-lingual students and fellow researchers. Given the plethora of technological tools, research, knowledge and practice in non-BANA educational institutions, of intrepid researchers in BANA institutions and of multi-national corporations there are ample examples of best practice and the potential to positively impact student learning and educational scholarship in the digital realm.



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Appendix 1: Illustrations of Models


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Figure 1: IAMC model Ginsberg & Wlodkowski, 2009 (cited in Suzuki & Nemoto, 2012 p. 25)


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Figure 2: Cultural Dimensions Learning Framework (Parrish & Linder-VanBerschot, 2010, summarized in Ahn, Yoon & Cha, 2015, p.207)


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Figure 3: Culture Based Model, Young, 2009, p. 38


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Figure 4: Cultural Adaptation Process (Edmundson, 2007b, p. 269)


Why is multi-cultural understanding important in e-Learning?

Just came across this very interesting infographic while trying to justify a moral gut-feeling on why we need to care about multi-cultural, multi-lingual (MCML) learning environment accommodation for all students. If nothing else – it impacts on the bottom line!

Source: http://elearninginfographics.com/top-elearning-stats-and-facts-for-2015-infographic/?utm_campaign=elearningindustry.com&utm_source=%2Felearning-statistics-and-facts-for-2015&utm_medium=link

Source: http://elearninginfographics.com/top-elearning-stats-and-facts-for-2015-infographic/?utm_campaign=elearningindustry.com&utm_source=%2Felearning-statistics-and-facts-for-2015&utm_medium=link


State of School Librarianship – Selected Asian Countries

Four of the speakers at the International Conference on School Librarianship of Asian Countries spoke about the “State of School Librarianship” in their relevant areas:

Since you are all perfectly capable of reading the presentations I am not going to repeat what was said, but rather to say what my key take-aways were in general.  Read further….

Communicating across cultures: cultural identity issues and the role of the multicultural, multilingual school library within the school community

Dr. Helen Boelens

School Library Researcher and Consultant, The Netherlands

John M. Cherek Jr. MSc

Project Manager, Zorgboerderij “De Kweektuin”, Mijdrecht, The Netherlands

Dr. Anthony Tilke

Head of Library Services & TOK Teacher, United World College of South-East Asia (Dover Campus), Singapore

Nadine Bailey

United World College of South East Asia (East Campus), Singapore




The arrival of increasing numbers of refugees and immigrants has caused large increases in multicultural school populations.This interdisciplinary paper describes an ongoing study which began in 2012, discussing the role of the school library in multicultural, multilingual school communities and offering suggestions about how the school library could become a multicultural learning environment. It provides information to help school library staff to look closely at these issues and to provide help and useful suggestions to the entire school community.  The prime objective is to help the school community to safely and constructively deal with the dynamics of a multi-cultural society, using the school library as a base.   Safe facilitation requires “trained” leaders from the school community.  An e-learning program for school librarians is being adapted for this purpose.


Keywords: multi-culturalism, multi-lingualism, languages, cultural identity, global literacy.




At the IASL Conference 2012, a paper discussed the role of the school library in multicultural, multilingual school communities and offered suggestions about how the school library could become a  multicultural learning environment (Bloelens, van Dam and Tilke, 2012).  Since 2012, various factors have affected multicultural school populations in many different types of primary and secondary schools in countries throughout the world.



Limitation of this study


This paper seeks to understand how learning experiences of multicultural, multilingual students can be accommodated in the school library. Boelens and Tilke (2015) recently described relevant trends and ideas which posits the role of the library in multicultural/lingual school communities from different areas of study: education and pedagogy, library and information science, psychology, sociology and anthropology, and linguistics.


Educational trends


Some international organisations have indicated educational trends. UNESCO’s statement on global education provides a set of objectives for international education until the year 2030. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recommended that schools support both “the identifiable needs of today, and the uncertain demands of the future” (OECD, 2005); schools should provide an environment that will support and enhance the learning process, encourage innovation, foster positive human relationships – in short, be “a tool for learning”. The term “learning environment” suggests place and space: a school, a classroom, a library. However, in today’s interconnected and technology-driven world, a learning environment can be virtual, online, remote – it doesn’t have to be a physical place at all. Perhaps a better way to think of 21st century learning environments is as support systems that organize the conditions in which humans learn. How does this affect the school library?


Library and information Science trends


How do these changes in educational theories and expectations affect the school library? Commentators in North America have suggested that the library has now become part of the school learning commons (Canadian Library Association, 2014; Loertscher et al, 2011; Loertscher et al, 2008). Educuase (2011) considers that learning or information commons has evolved from a combination library and computer lab into a full-service learning, research, and project space. … In response to course assignments, which have taken a creative and often collaborative turn … learning commons provides areas for group meetings, tools to support creative efforts, and on-staff specialists to provide help as needed. The strength of the learning commons lies in the relationships it supports, whether these are student-to-student, student-to-faculty, student-to-staff, student-to-equipment, or student-to-information (p. 1)


Can the needs of multicultural/lingual learners be specifically supported in a Learning Commons environment? Osborne (2014, p. 7) states that “more and more schools … are committing to provide physical spaces that align with, promote and encourage, a more modern vision for learning” and asks “how might the library act as a ‘third place’ to provide unique, compelling and engaging experiences for staff, students and community that aren’t offered elsewhere?” (p. 8)


Furthermore, librarians are co-teachers within multicultural/lingual school communities (Medaille and Shannon, 2014); co-teachers are “two equally-qualified individuals who may or may not have the same area of expertise jointly delivering instruction to a group of students” (Curry School of Education, 2012).


Racial, Cultural and Ethnicity issues (Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology)


Key factors are:

  • Students cannot start learning until they feel safe, seen and valued;
  • Learning is diminished and/or does not occur without addressing equity and diversity topics;
  • Equity and diversity topics are intertwined with academic achievement.


This paper will also discuss subjects such as “diversity” and “difference” in multicultural situations within the school community and how these matters affect the school library, not only in developed countries, but also those which are located in emerging and developing countries (Boelens and Tilke, 2015, p. 2). Students from diverse cultural backgrounds, who differ from mainstream students in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic status and primary language, are entering schools in growing numbers. The education which these students receive needs to address multicultural and intercultural issues. Intercultural education relates to culture, religion, cultural diversity and cultural heritage and respects the cultural identity of learners through the provision of culturally appropriate and responsive education, which focuses on key issues and interrelationships (UNESCO, 2006). It concerns the learning environment as a whole and impacts many different aspects of the educational processes, such as school life and decision making, teacher education and training, curricula, languages of instruction, teaching methods, student interactions and learning materials. (UNESCO, 2003a)


Language acquisition


Based on international research, practice and comment, Della Chiesa, Scott and Hinton (2012) identified strong connection between language and culture(s), looking for future benefits in human endeavour, partly as a result of recognizing that language acquisition and use does not develop in isolation from socio-cultural and indeed brain development.   International understanding is perceived as a desired social outcome of such interventions.


Features of language learning assist teachers of culturally and linguistically diverse students. Learners learn a language best when treated as individuals, experience authentic activities in communicationg in the target language and see teaching as relevant to their needs. Learning should be relevant to their needs and they benefit from seeing strong links between language and culture. They also benefit from having helpful feedback on their progress and where they can manage their own learning. (Vale, Scarino and McKay, 1991)



Background information

Demographic shifts, i.e. changes in the demolinguistic situation, have taken place. Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including immigrant and refugee children, are entering schools all over the world; changing demographics will alter both school practices and policies (Center for Public Education, 2012). Features of experiences for students in various countries include:

  • Culturally and linguistically diverse students in Australia typically come from a wide range of language, socio-economic, cultural and religious backgrounds. Up to one-fifth of such students are newly arrived in Australia and with a language background other than English; even if some students are born in Australia, they may enter the school system with little or no English language. (Department of Education of Western Australia, 2011). Australian schools may experience large populations of immigrant and/or refugee students (Ho, 2011).
  • The USA too has seen changing demographics in schools. Forty-seven percent of children younger than five belong to a racial or ethnic minority group, and “trends in immigration and birth rates indicate that soon there will be no majority racial or ethnic group in the United States” (Center for Public Education, 2012). Implications for such trends may include needs for qualified bilingual teachers, preschool programms, concerns over drop-out rates from mainstream education, and other resource issues in schools.
  • There were similar issues in Canada, where students did not have language skills in the main languages used for teaching and learning, though differences in educational performance reduced as students progressed through the school system (Statistics Canada, 2001).
  • The United Kingdom too experienced similar issues, where a focus on educating significant numbers of students who spoke English as an additional language (EAL) (British Council, 2014).
  • Looking at countries where English is not the main or major language of teaching and learning, the European Commission (2015) reported very similar issues for schools and for students, not least for asylum seekers.



Important identity issues in the context of the school community

This paper posits that the school library must be a safe space that welcomes all questions, perspectives and backgrounds. School libraries offer valuable resources (in both traditional and digital format), information, knowledge and insight. In a school context, a library space is one where students can explore their ideas and ask questions. Librarians provide specialised support within this domain and have a responsibility to support the growth of their students. Such healthy development of students can have a strong impact on self-esteem, academic performance and feelings of cohesion. In a multi-cultural school setting, issues of race, ethnicity and culture play a central role in the identity of the school and its students. Celebrating our differences is one way of acknowledging the diverse backgrounds of members of the school community, though such diversity can be overshadowed by a dominant culture and its narrative.


As professionals in education, it is our responsibility to develop competence in the areas that matter to our students, including our own understanding of race, culture and ethnicity, to ensure that young people receive targeted guidance and support they need in order to explore a healthy sense of self.




Central to identity formation is the “challenge of preserving one’s sense of personal continuity over time, of establishing a sense of sameness of oneself, despite the necessary changes that one must undergo in terms of redefining the self” (Harter, 1990). Adolescence is an important and formative period in life that influences many parts of identity development (sexual, racial, ethnic, gender, etc.). Identity development is a dynamic process that plays a central role in developing our relationship to the self, the other and our social environment. It is especially during adolescence that we play around with multiple identities, experiment with “the rules” and test the institutions around us. As a result of this process, parts of our identity are kept and nurtured, while others are briefly worn and discarded.


Much research about racial and ethnic identity development has focused on adolescent and college age individuals. (Helms (1990) in Phinney, 2007, p. 275) This makes sense because self-reflection is an important part of collecting data. It does not necessarily imply that younger children do not have the ability to reflect, but their process of reflection may be different. For example, younger children tend to describe themselves in a more simple, less sophisticated way, according to their perception of personality characteristics — “I am nice”/ “I like to make other people feel good”/ “I like to help people”. This is less about their relationship to things (toys, food) and more about their understanding of certain qualities (both good and bad). For example, “I am good at writing and bad at soccer”. This relates to ethnic identity development, when children become aware of good and bad qualities about their ethnic group. Understanding why society deems these certain qualities good or bad is perhaps one way to help prepare them for dealing with a multi-cultural environment with dominant ideas that are not their own. Ethnic identity has been studied largely with reference to one’s sense of belonging to an ethnic group, that is, a group defined by one’s cultural heritage, including values, traditions, and often language (Phinney 2007, p. 274). Finding interactive and “fun” ways to help children explore or even explain their understanding of these things is one role the school library can play; by facilitating access to information, librarians can guide students through relevant books, movies and other multimedia tools.

Adolescence is a developmental stage between childhood and adulthood when individuals experience biological, social and psychological change. According to psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (1968), ego identity versus role confusion. It is the psychosocial stage of personality development that adolescents encounter when faced with the question, “Who am I?”. A healthy resolution of this stage can lead to strong ego identity. Unhealthy resolution of this stage will contribute to role confusion. Role confusion challenges our ability to build connections and participate as members of society. Here, adolescents create and recreate meaning to provide themselves with a sense of connection. When a lack of connection exists, the ego struggles to build a foundation for fidelity, based on loyalty. If adolescents lack fidelity, they might encounter, in extreme cases, a future of social pathology, crime and prejudicial ideologies. These negative characteristics can manifest when the individual participates as an adult, for example, in religious, athletic, national, and military rites and ceremonies (Engler, 2014).

Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Identity


A healthy racial and ethnic identity can help youth establish a consistent view of themselves. Many aspects of adolescence are transient and changing. One day we love the color yellow and the next day it is the color red. Thus, by creating a permanent anchor from which to develop, we give our students a better chance at achieving positive outcomes; without these anchors, many young people may identify with a completely different culture which has nothing to do with “who they are”.



Identity issues and their importance in the school and the school library


The feeling of belonging is critical to every child’s well-being and helps him/her to fulfill his potential in many different areas of development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive (Welcoming Schools Childhood Education Program, 2015).


Cherek’s 2015 research is concerned with ways that students can develop a healthy racial and ethnic identity and improve their understanding and vocabulary around race and ethnicity, therefore contributing to increased cultural competence; this contributes to higher self-esteem and healthy development.  By using these essential skills, students have the opportunity to take ownership over their ideas and are encouraged to examine the world around them — at home, school, work and in the media – thus preparing them to thrive in multicultural environments.


Essentially, children who feel good about themselves may be more successful, not only at school but in different aspects of their lives (Tough, 2012). Identity is not something that individuals automatically have. Identity develops over time, beginning in childhood, through a process of “reflection and observation” (Erikson 1968, p. 22) Important questions to ask about a child’s learning environment is does he/she see other teachers, parents or students in the school who represent his/her own culture or heritage? Who do these children identify with? Who do they see as a reflection of themselves, e.g. public figures?


Using these factors, the school library becomes a safe “public” space where a healthy and proactive sense of diversity encourages deep and meaningful conversations with all members of the school community about stereotypes such as  discrimination and racism.



Involvement of the school library/ian in multicultural, multilingual education


Ultimately, the aim is that students, teachers and librarians are prepared to safely and constructively deal with the dynamics of a multi-cultural society. Safe facilitation requires “trained” leaders from the school community.


In larger schools with academic disciplinary silos, it may be difficult to create positive messages about mother tongue and cultural identity and pride across to members of the school community as a whole – school leaders, teachers, students and parents. The EAL (English as an Additional Language) teacher is most concerned about getting the students up to speed and may inadvertently give the wrong message. The teaching of the student’s (minority) language may not be part of the school language policy.


The Welcoming Schools Childhood Education Program (2015) suggests that children who are motivated and engaged in leaning are more committed to the school. By providing books, information and other resources, the library can “provide an important mirror for children to see themselves reflected in the world around them”. Here, library resources “also provide a window to the lives of others. … [and] students also find positive role models through literature”; benefits from such activities are best seen when coordinated in the school community. The library can provide a stable permanent base for the length of the student’s school career.

Research (Bedore and Peña, 2008) indicates that bilingualism can only be sustained if there is at least a 30% input in the less dominant language. If the less dominant language is not a language which is used and taught within the school community, then the library can provide access to relevant materials. This is an intellectual process of proving the benefit and a practical exercise of resource collection, curation, access, promotion and marketing. These can be very simple, such as the creation of displays of books about diversity, multiculturalism and multilingualism and about national days of the countries which are represented by children at the school, and reflecting their cultures.


In any event, the school library is a helpful environment where students can reflect on these issues. It can highlight resources, or profile individuals relevent to various ethnic groups. This can be achieved by exploring literature authored by indivudals from their ethnic own group or by reading about the history of their own ethnic group. Additionally, the library can give students the basic skills to find or locate this information.



Multicultural, multilingual school libraries


In 2012, Boelens, van Dam and Tilke focused on various aspects of multicultural and intercultural education, identifying a symbiotic relationship with school libraries. It reported on support needs for both children who were immigrants, i.e. those permanently moving from one country to another, as well as more geo-mobile children, known as Third Culture Kids or Global Nomads. Various relational features were identified: literacy, language, bilingual education, world languages.


Krashen and Bland (2014) have identified the need for second language learners to develop competencies in academic language acquisition. Before that, self-selected recreational reading habits were partly dependent on a varied, indeed wide, selection of reading matter. In itself, this reading matter did not provide access to academic language acquisition, but it prepared children to do so. This reading stamina also had an effective domain, in that it motivated students to become readers, and arguably gave them confidence.  For some children who use school libraries in multicultural education environments, the digital age was not wholly relevant, as ebook use was associated with affluence. For children whose socio-economic experience is that of poverty, libraries represent the only stable source of access to reading materials, especially in developing and emerging countries. The provision, promotion and use of such reading materials is a feature of the work of (school) libraries/ians in these countries. These libraries/ians support students and teach them to to navigate abundant sources of information. Such skills and aptitudes are commonly known as information literacy skills. Sometimes, the prevalence of information literacy skills is pervceived as being a main role of the school library/ian, however the teaching of these skills and the provision of reading materials need to be symbiotically linked.


Smallwood and Becnel (2012) identified various factors in successfully providing library services in multicultural settings – accessing and reaching the clientele; provision of appropriate materials; consideration of use of space; focusing services on linguistic and socio-economic needs; appropriate technology; professional development and awareness-raising amongst school librarians. Indeed, Welch (2011) promoted the idea of the library collection having an aim of influencing student behavior, in terms of increasing tolerance and sensitivity in a multicultural setting.


Whilst not substantially different from good practice elsewhere, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO or IB) has identified good practice in library support for multilingual learning environments (International Baccalaureate, 2012). Schools that offer IB programmes comprise state or government schools, semi-independent, independent and international schools. When a school adopts IB programmes, it needs to also take ownership of IB philosophy, including a holistic approach to language and international-mindedness (Singh and Qu, 2013). There is, therefore, a symbiotic link between language and intercultural education approaches in schools which may (or should) experience  strong ESL (English as a Second Language) support (Carder, 2014), though the IB stance is that every teacher is a teacher of language (International Baccalaureate, 2011).


Therefore, the literature has identified a need to develop competencies in academic language proficiency and a resource/information role for (both public and school) libraries, especially for children, sometimes immigrants or refugees, who are affected by poverty. Therefore, libraries may be part of scaffolding strategies to support children who need language support, and which include resources and facilities (space). Thinking and planning for such library services and support needs to be holistic and wide-ranging (from facilities and plant to professional development), all based on an understanding of the needs and concerns of targeted client groups.



Focussing services on the needs of mutlicultural/ingual students


The librarian needs to establish the current and future users of the school and its library, and user demographics (i.e. how many students come from which minority or language group). Library collection and services should then be related to such information.


School libraries have roles related to literacy and reading, and teaching and learning of information literacy skills. To support this, resources – mainly physical – have been curated to serve a mainstream interpretation of students’ needs, often curricular, and in the dominant language (often English). This role could be broadened to meet the needs of the multicultural/lingual school community.


The library collection should contain books and information (in traditional and digital format) which reflect the diversity of the children in the school. The library exposes the entire school community to many different cultures and languages. This collection can help students to understand that while their families are unique, they share many common values, beliefs and traditions.


The collection should contain literature in the native language of students, and link to digital international children’s libraries and also digital libraries for children from relatively small indigenous groups. This could include online links to songs, poems and stories from many different cultures and in many different languages. It should also contain current information about student countries of origin. Parents could be asked to help the librarian with this task. (Smallwood and Becnel, 2012)


Using these guidelines, the school librarian can strengthen the collection, and then present this information in attractive ways to the entire school community, so that it becomes aware of the extent ot their library’s resources.


Librarians can provide an enabling portal function for immigrant, refugee and Third Culture Kids. They may be hesitant to assume this role, perhaps due to mono-lingual experience or lack of expertise in the creation of digital personal learning environments (PLEs) or personal learning networks (PLNs).


The librarian may consider applying principles of information ecology to the school library. This multi-disciplinary emerging field offers a framework within which to analyse the relationships between organisations, information technology and information objects in a context whereby the human, information technology and social information environment is in harmony (Candela et al., 2007; Wang et al., 2015).


Steinerová (2011) and Candela et al., (2007) looked at features of digital libraries and suggested that librarians examine where value integration can take place between the library service, technology, scholarship and culture, adding value through new services or contributions to learning, user experience, research productivity, teaching or presenting and preserving cultural heritage. Applying these ideas to the school environment, constituents of the eco-system include teachers, teacher librarians, students administration, parents and custodial staff (Perrault, 2007).  Elements of the system will co-exist but also compete and share, converge and diverge in a dynamic interactive, complex environment (García‐Marco, 2011). The role of the library is such that information ecology needs to be understood in order to support information-seeking behaviour and thereby discover zones of intervention and areas to leverage to optimise advance information-seeking, usage, creation and dissemination within that eco-system and beyond. In response, curriculum, content and subject delivery can be collaboratively reshaped and constructed according to changes in the environment or needs of students (O’Connell, 2014).


Different kinds of resources and adaptive technologies can optimally support students with special educational needs (Perrault, 2010, 2011; Perrault & Levesque, 2012). This type of thinking can be adapted to considering the needs of bi- and multi-lingual students who are part of the school’s information ecology, but have linguistic and cultural learning and informational needs.  These can be seen as a potential zone of intervention for collaboration between the teacher, teacher librarian (TL), family and community.


Literature intended for school librarians generally discusses cultural diversity in materials and the building of a world literature collection in response to student diversity or as part of language and humanities curricula (Garrison, Forest, & Kimmel, 2014). Some schools build a “Languages other than English” (LOTE) collection.  To do so, schools may try to recruit bilingual or minority TLs or ask for help from parents; schools can also provide training in competencies in multicultural education (Colbert-Lewis & Colbert-Lewis, 2013; Everhart, Mardis, & Johnston, 2010; Mestre, 2009).


The main educational and social issues within schools are to ensure students acquire the official language of instruction so that they can adapt to the new learning environment without loss of educational momentum, while maintaining and developing their mother tongue (Kim and Mizuishi, 2014). Carder (2007) and Cummins (2001; 2003) suggest that even though there is evidence that supports the maintenance of mother tongue (the most effective way of supporting such students), schools place most effort and resources on the official language of instruction of the school. Evidence now presented above suggests that by doing so, children may lose some of their own healthy cultural and ethnic identity.


School librarians may be aware of geographically dispersed personal learning networks (PLNs) in order to create a personal learning environment (PLE) using various technological tools (McElvaney & Berge, 2009; O’Connell, 2014), and could assist different individuals throughout the school community to make use of a PLE. For instance, the International Baccalaureate (IB) allows students the option of guided mother tongue self-study if the school does not teach that specific language. Figure 1 below describes a PLE of an IB self-taught language student.



 PLN language
Figure 1: PLE of an IB self-taught language student


A training program about multicultural/lingual issues for the school community


In 2015, Boelens and Cherek examined the possibility of creating a personal development training program for the entire school community, facilitated by the school library. This is an attempt to help teachers, school leaders, librarians and parents to better understand problems being confronted by the multicultural/lingual school community, especially immigrants and refugees. This program would be made available through the school’s electronic learning environment.


The first part is a 24-minute video that provides an open conversation about race and ethnicity between professionals and young people. Here, participants listen to different perspectives about race and ethnicity, and appreciate why these topics are important to both caregivers (teachers, social workers, child welfare professionals) and young people. Finally, with the help of a study guide, participants explore the possibility of integrating racial and ethnic identity development into daily practice.


The second part is an eLearning course that provides participants with necessary tools to develop a deeper understanding of issues related to racism and discrimination. The content is specifically designed so that professionals (adults, educators, caretakers) develop a vocabulary for discussing race and ethnicity with others who are interested in and concerned about these subjects. A constructive vocabulary is an essential tool when discussing identity development, as it enables participants to safely address issues of racism and discrimination. Finally, participants can further integrate this deepened knowledge into daily practice. This is an important part of the training because it prepares participants for a facilitated in-person learning event.


The third and final part of the curriculum is a two day in-person learning event. In this face-to-face meeting, trained facilitators guide participants as they begin to incorporate their new skills into daily practice. The most effective and powerful events occur when both young people and professionals are present. The training is highly interactive and challenging. Participants are encouraged to openly discuss the impact of stereotypes and the social influences that affect their own racial and ethnic identity.


A similar training program is by The Welcoming Schools Childhood Education Program (2015), which provides a starter kit for a personal development training programme for members of the school community, relating to equity, school climate and academic achievement.


Tapping into the experiences and communities of practise (COP) of distance education, massive open online courses (MOOCs), school librarians could be trained to facilitate this training program through PLNs and PLEs, Training programs would be available at any time and in any geographic location providing internet access is available. Initially, a pilot program would be tested with one language group, and could later be extended to other groups.


This training program will help to establish a multicultural/lingual school community based not only on academic achievement but also on a healthy climate with regard tp racial, cultural and ethnicity issues. It will also contribute to a school´s goals of equity in teaching and will require the support and involvement of the entire school community. Since library staff will be facilitating this program, their reputation will be enhanced, and be perceived as integral members of the school community.




This paper has discussed a developing role for the school library in the multicultural/lingual school community in 2015. It promotes a training program for the entire school community which will be facilitated by the librarian. Because of their involvement in the school´s learning commons, the librarian is already involved in interdisciplinary activites related to the multicultural/lingual nature of the entire school.


While all aspects of identity development are valuable, one area that is often ignored, especially when talking about young people who are detached from their culture, is racial and ethnic identity. Along with ever-changing realities of society, demographics and politics, the impact of race and ethnicity have never been more important.


With an increasing number of migrant and immigrant students, the acute reality of living in multiple worlds becomes more apparent. Social norms and values become entangled. Home life, school life and street life compete for attention. Without proper guidance and support, alienation that occurs when individuals feel split between dissonant forces results in a confused sense of “Who am I?”. Addressing these issues in an educational setting means that we as educators have the power to create “safe spaces” for our captive student audience. Thus, students can be prepared to effectively deal with the realities of a multi-cultural society while at the same time developing a healthy sense of racial and ethnic identity.


As a result of the proposed training program, students at the school will learn more about `who they are`, especially those who come from an immigrant or refugee background. With the support of the entire school staff, they will some to terms with their own cultural identity and ethnicity in their new school and in their new place of residence, and have positive feelings, with an expected corrolorry that their academic achievement will increase.





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Perrault, A. M. (2010). Reaching All Learners: Understanding and Leveraging Points of Intersection for School Librarians and Special Education Teachers. School Library Media Research, 13, 1–10. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67740987&site=ehost-live

Perrault, A. M. (2011). Rethinking School Libraries: Beyond Access to Empowerment. Knowledge Quest, 39(3), 6–7. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=58621336&site=ehost-live

Perrault, A. M., & Levesque, A. M. (2012). Caring for all students. Knowledge Quest, 40(5), 16–17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=82564002&site=ehost-live

Phinney, J., and Ong, A. (2007). Conceptualization and Measurement of Ethnic Identity: Current Status and Future Direction. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(3) 271–281.

Singh, M. and Qi, J. (2013). 21st century international mindedness: An exploratory study of its conceptualisation and assessment. South Penrith: Centre for Educational Research, School of Education, University of Western Sydney. Retrieved from http://www.ibo.org/contentassets/ 2470e1b3d2dc4b8281649bc45b52a00f/singhqiibreport27julyfinalversion.pdf.

Smallwood, C., and Becnel, K. (2012). Library services for multicultural patrons: strategies to encourage library use. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press.

Statistics Canada (2001) School Performance of Children of Immigrants in Canada 1994-98, Statistics Canada catalogue number 11F0019MIE2001178. Retrieved from http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/olc-cel/olc.action?objId=11F0019M2001178&objType=46&lang=en&limit=0

Steinerová, J. (2011). Slovak Republic: Information Ecology of Digital Libraries. Uncommon Culture, 2(1), 150–157. Retrieved from http://pear.accc.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/UC/article/view/4081

The Welcoming Schools Childhood Education Programs (2015). Actions You Can Take as a Librarian. Retrieved from


Tough, P. M. (2012). How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. United States: Tantor Media.

UNESCO. (2003). Education in a Multilingual World, UNESCO Education Position Paper. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001297/129728e.pdf

UNESCO, (2006). UNESCO Guidelines on Intercultural Education, Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from  http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001478/147878e.pdf

Vale, D., Scarino, A. and McKay, P. (1991). Pocket ALL: A user’s guide to the teaching of languages and ESL. Carlton, Vic. : Curriculum Corp.

Wang, X., Guo, Y., Yang, M., Chen, Y., & Zhang, W. (2015). Information ecology research: past, present, and future. Information Technology and Management, 1–13. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10799-015-0219-3

Welch, R. (2011). Multiculturalism in school libraries. Warrensburg: University of Central Missouri.

Biographical notes

Helen Boelens (PhD) was awarded a Ph.D. degree by Middlesex University, School of Arts and Education in 2010. She now focuses her work on the development of and assistance to hundreds of thousands of school libraries in developing countries. She is the former co-ordinator of the Research SIG of the IASL (International Association of School Librarianship). She is also one of the founders of the ENSIL Foundation (Stitching ENSIL).

John Martin Cherek Jr. (MSc) received a Master’s in Political Science from the University of Amsterdam in 2009. His thesis examined the post-reintegration needs of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Before moving to Amsterdam to study at the UvA, John worked Casey Family Programs. As the largest operating foundation the U.S.A dedicated to improving outcomes for children in foster care, John developed programs related to life skills education, identity development and child welfare policy. Originally from the United States, John holds a degree in Psychology from Seattle University (2004). He works primarily with vulnerable populations and specializes in education, mental health and youth & child development.

Anthony TIlke (PhD) has spent nearly 20 years in the international school sector, in Asia and Europe. His doctoral thesis (from Charles Sturt University, Australia) focused on the impact of an international school library on the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, and which subsequently fed into his book about the Diploma and the school library/ian. A common feature of his work is supporting mother tongue programmes in schools, and he has contributed to an IB document “An IB educator’s story about the role of librarians in multilingual learning communities”.

Nadine Bailey (MPhil, MBA, MIS) has lived and worked internationally for 20 years, in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. Her area of interest lies in language and identity particularly related to students educated in a third culture environment. In an increasingly digitised educational environment she argues that librarians play an important curation and leadership role in guiding and enabling students to create personal learning networks in and for their mother tongue language. In that way libraries are both a safe physical and virtual space.


Design – Space, thinking and time (3) …

A whole month has now passed and we’re still making slow progress. In addition to the pretty pictures this week I’d like to post a little bit about “time” as a space and virtual spaces.

We have 35 classes and 35 periods of 40 minutes which are potential useable in a week, so one would think that’s a perfect match. But it’s not. In elementary school every class does need to spend time in the library exchanging books, looking around and just “being”, but different classes have different needs of different intensity as far as the teacher-librarian time is concerned.  One of the things the outgoing librarian advised me to do, was to move from fixed 40 minute time-tabling for every class every week, to fixed 20 minute fixed timetables, which freed up 17x 40 minute blocks for booking sessions which were Information Literacy focused and needs-based. And also a space in case classes missed their library period due to field-trips, school events, public holidays (of which there have been PLENTY, this term). In the ramp up of a new year and and being a new TL and a being in new school, this time has been invaluable to me to get things sorted out and on the rails to ensure the role of TL is not just to read stories and help with readers advisory (not that those are not important tasks, they are), but also to be a co-teacher co-thinker and collaborator in literacy and information literacy.

Slowly but surely I’m getting requests for those bookable times.  I myself have been a little slow in inviting myself to grade curriculum planning meetings – mainly because I’ve just not been ready for them yet.  That will start this week.  I’m having to keep my foot lightly on the brake and not try too much at once and have it backfire.  Luckily my colleagues have been very admirable in helping slow me down in the nicest possible way.

My virtual space is also at last moving forward. After a 4 week battle with IT and firewalls, I finally have access to Libguides and have started with my first priorities – a library libguide and an Information Literacy libguide. I’ve also started promoting the Destiny Quest app amongst the teachers. Slow progress is also progress.


Phase 1 of sorting the literacy circle books. Next stop to put the unused ones back into circulation and to ensure they’re all levelled.


White board installed and post-its for “to-do”




What to do with all those DVDs? But I do have more shelf space now.


First step of venturing into the digital realm with the library … that has been an uphill battle of a month … but we’re getting there!


My flexible space turned into a meeting place for Open Day


Open Day treats … reminder to self – make sure they don’t just replace the shelving but also vacuum the food remnants – little people are very close to the ground.


Removed one desktop to create space for display … it’s not yet there, but a first step. Need to remove the chair, put some bins underneath and I’m thinking gutter shelving for the top


My review wall is exploding! Yay, also thanks to some pictures from my group after watching “The Dot” and drawing for me.


Are we there yet? No … and this is why – an appeal to database owners and academic libraries

I’m about to write another assignment.  This must be about my 40th serious assignment of over 1,500 words requiring academic research, looking for good peer-reviewed studies, reading through 1,000’s of pages to try and distill exactly what is being said, whether it is of relevance (directly or tangentially), and once I’m finished that to pause and think and think and think and try to come up with some new insights, some different ways of applying the theory, some critiques that go beyond the obvious.

As I’ve written before, (unfair advantage, / how I used to write) the true work isn’t in the procuring of the articles, it’s in discerning their relevance, it’s in rejection rather than reading.

So why am I, Anno Domino / Common Era  2015 STILL spending so much time on the library database doing silly work. Honestly, those who lead academic libraries and who run academic databases please tell me why this isn’t easier, faster, more streamlined?  Is it me? Am I doing something fundamentally wrong?

Yes I know how far we’ve come and how much easier this is than 10-15-20 years ago. Yes I also studied in the days of micro-fiche where you didn’t even bother finding articles because it just went into the box of “too hard”.  But we do have the tools now and we have progressed further so there should be no excuse as to why the “stupid” work is taking up so much of my time.

Right now I’m looking for good literature on “Classroom Libraries” as opposed to “libraries” in the use of space and resources.  I put in a federated search. At the same time, I search Google Scholar.  I open tabs of dozens of potential articles, reject many, decide to proceed with some.

As you all know by now I’m a huge fan of Evernote.  I put my entire life, but particularly my academic life into Evernote.  And as I stuff it full of articles, I also at the same time put the citations straight into Zotero, (my citation manager of choice – yes I know there are other new ones like RefMe that everyone is raving about, but Zotero has served me well and they’re very responsive to comments and suggestions).  But WHY oh WHY is it still such a pain to get an article in a PDF format, a citation into a RIS format and both tucked up securely into the bedding of choice?

Time for some pictures … follow the captions for what I’m trying to say

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.46.32 am

Primo Search – CSU Libraries



Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.20.22 am

Google Scholar (with the addition of the CSU library link)

Google Scholar (with the addition of the CSU library link) makes things much easier – I confess I’d rather click on a dubious link than the library link because it will take me straight to the article / pdf. It does make citation a bit more of a pain without the citation tools, but at least I can accept or discard it more quickly. On the other hand – there are way too few limiters for Google Scholar … as a distance learner, I don’t usually want books that I cannot access or where no eBook is available

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.20.34 amThe open tabs in my browser once I get searching for articles … and that’s on a slow day

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.21.21 am

delivery.ris? out? blah blah, how about downloading me some meaningful names?

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.19.52 am

When I click on an article, if I’m lucky I get something nice and neat and tidy like this

But it’s only after a year or so of using databases that I built up experience in knowing which would get me the article most efficiently and with the least number of clicks and doubts

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.20.03 am

If I’m not so lucky I get this –

Did you see all those tabs open on my browser – I don’t even have any idea what on earth is article was, so I just stab for my favourite database and hope for the best. If it goes wrong and I need to do an advanced search … expletive time

 Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.20.52 am

So I ask you nicely for the pdf. But then it just opens in a new browser window and I STILL have to click “print” and then “print to pdf” and then if I’m lucky it will retain the title or author as file name, and if not it will be “out/pdf” or “23489038” or “gobblydy gook got you there” or even worse “something.html”.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.22.07 am

The extra steps in getting a pdf onto your desktop and then into Evernote, don’t press “SAVE” because then you get an HTML file which is pretty useless!

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.20.59 am

Such a short life, so many choices. And so many of them don’t actually provide what you think’s on offer. Cite? Sounds good – no that just means you copy and paste the citation into your document. Which makes it “dumb” data – You actually need “export” and then you need to click through a couple of times until you get the RIS file in your downloads

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.21.08 am

Riddle me, Riddle me Rhy,
which of these options should I try?

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.21.36 am

Zotero – Yes I do want to import, otherwise I wouldn’t have clicked on the RIS file in the first place – why make a one click step into a 2 click process. (But don’t fret too much you’re not the worst of the redundant click club)

Files waiting for transfer

Files waiting for transfer

Phew … A subselection of files, tabbed and colour-coded waiting to be put into the correct notebook in Evernote.

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 12.28.01 pm Just drag and drop and then the real work starts – roughly an hour or so for 10-15 articles and their citations … if you don’t get sidetracked by writing a blog post on the whole process!

NOW … If I ran the circus …

Let’s be completely impractical and totally utopian. See the top photo in the top left column?  I’d add two buttons to each entry:

* One click *.pdf download (with tagging allowed)
* One click *.ris download

because you see, as long as I can get the article, I don’t give a &*^*&^ (insert expletive of choice) which database it comes from. Just give the me the pdf.  With a sensible name like the title. And believe me, I don’t have the time or patiences or hard-drive to keep articles that are of no use for me, so I read the abstract and  delete.

Another circus I’d like to run – those learning modules.  I’ve been around the block a bit, and I’ve seen inside libraries.  A certain academic library that shall not be named in a town that shall not be named has a whole department dedicated to copying articles for coursework for their students who then get a bundle. Hard copies. Trees dying.

At CSU we judiciously just add links to the articles in primo, which the student then has to click on and go through the whole rigamarole highlighted above. Oh for heaven sake, just stop the pretence and put the articles into subject reserve in pdf form.  Who are we kidding that this is meaningful work or adding to knowledge? And then the links that don’t work, and instead of everyone going off and sleuthing how to find the article and thereby actually learning something, there is just a host of complaints on the boards that the article isn’t there.  Finding coursework articles that have been pre-selected by a lecturer does not a good student make. And we’re foolish to pretend it is so.  The success is in the seeking out of related material from other fields and dimensions that may not be thought of, in finding links and relationships, and then seeking those articles and selection and casting aside and applying that to the task at hand or real life that is the mark of the better student.

So now I’ll get back to the boring work.  And just as an aside mention – the databases that do it half ok?  ScienceDirect I always like – clean and easy and good with recommendations on related articles.  Proquest isn’t bad, and I like their little sidebar extras like seeing how many articles in which years / decades so you can see the rise and fall of fads.  EBSCO and JSTOR you’re ugly and clunky and too-many clicky and I avoid you as much as possible.

And here’s an open invitation – if all this is my own  stupid fault because I have nary a clue what I’m doing, please comment and tell me so and let all of us know a better way.


Why can’t a library?

Be more like a store (with apologies to Frederick Loewe & Alan Jay Lerner)?

And if it were a store, what kind of store would it be? Please don’t say bookstore, because even though we apparently love them, they’re dying and going out of business. Except for those that evolve beyond books, earn the respect of customers, get into their communities, incorporate new ideas such as subscription services, “reading spas”, bibliotherapy, cafes, events and festivals with authors and celebrities (Butler, 2014).

The bookstore

Yet many libraries are adopting the bookstore model, by genre-fying their collection, ensuring that titles are front facing, having multiple copies of popular books (Day, 2013; Kindschy, 2015).

Even as many libraries have a huge online presence which they work hard at making visible to their clients through a wide variety of means including signage, display, print-outs, screens, bookmarks, social media etc. people like David Weinberger, are still implying that libraries are missing a trick while Gopnik laments “By atomizing our experience to the point of alienation—or, at best, by creating substitutes for common experience (“you might also like…” lists, Twitter exchanges instead of face-to-face conversations)—we lose the common thread of civil life” (Gopnik, 2015).

The fashion store

A few months ago, I had the most horrendous shopping experience – my son insisted that I accompanied him to an A&F store. Only after reading this article do I “get” why it was so awful.  The whole point of the loud music and low lights is to keep the wrinkly parentals OUT of the store, not to entice them in. There are those who lament that as libraries become more inclusive, more multifunctional hybrid spaces they are going the same way – keeping out the very people who have the need for scholarly quiet space (Miller, 2013; West, 2013).


On the other end of the spectrum, one has the Burberry model (Bath, 2014; Davis, 2014; Williams, 2014). Where there is seamless integration between the online and offline experience, which may go some of the way in addressing Weinberger’s concerns. What we are looking for is the omnichannel “an experience that takes consumers from their current channel of choice and seamlessly chaperones them within an uninterrupted brand experience through digital and physical worlds without the customer being consciously aware or concerned about where one channel started and the other finished” (Bath, 2014, para. 8).

The Grocery Store / kitchen

Joyce Valenza also uses a store metaphor “We need to stop thinking of the library as a grocery store a place to get stuff and start thinking of it as a kitchen a place to make stuff” (cited in Johnson, 2013). Further in the same article, referring to the mission of libraries, Johnson states “The library’s resources have changed, but not its mission: teaching people to effectively access information to meet their needs. The emphasis has shifted from teaching learners how to find and organize information to teaching them how to evaluate and use information” (2013, p. 85)
Strolling through Ikea yesterday on a mission to have a look at the design elements for a different assignment, I suddenly realised it had many elements and features that could be incorporated into a library.


A couple of things work in the Ikea model:

  • It’s practically impossible to leave without buying something
  • Your route is determined by the store layout
  • Clear signage and explanations
  • The incorporation of demo-rooms and demo-apartments shows you how you can use what the store can offer – visualizing and envisaging
  • A price point where decision making is easy (Carlyle, 2015)
  • Few of the products are “ready to use” without customer engagement (assembly)
  • Trends of users and society are researched and analyzed (IKEA, 2012)
  • Extreme users can hack the basics and go beyond to create to meet their own needs – and share their experience / learning with others (IKEAHackers.net, 2014; Mars, 2014; McGauley, 2015).


One of the things that struck me yesterday was that in addition to the traditional layout idea of “bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom” the signage in the demo-apartments referred to “solutions” as in “kitchen solutions, media solutions and sleeping solutions”, which is somewhat contradictory to the trends identified in the report by IKEA, that indicated a move towards hybrid functional spaces defined more by whether people wanted solitude or company than by their traditional function (IKEA, 2012).



Full demo-apartment


Floor plan


Solution spaces configuration 1


Solution spaces configuration 2


Clear signage and explanations


Instructions for self-packaging

But I like the idea of “solution” spaces. Especially for a library. It fits in a bit with the “campfire / watering hole / cave” ideas of Thornburg (2007) but I don’t think that goes far enough in providing users solutions for their learning needs. Yes it does allow for a variation in pace and intensity and communal versus individual effort, and facilitates knowledge gathering through listening, collaboration or research but are these solution spaces? I’d argue they aren’t. That’s not to say we haven’t by accident or design created solution spaces in the library. Thinking to the user needs in the secondary library where I worked:

  • Finding books to read for pleasure at the right interest / ability level
  • Hanging out with friends in an air-conditioned space (we live in the tropics!)
  • Having a “third space” that wasn’t home or classroom
  • Playing games (on-line and physical)
  • Lounging around reading dip-in dip-out books such as comics, graphic novels and poetry
  • Mother tongue resources
  • Resources – physical and online for school units or assignments
  • Resources – physical and online for personal questions or interests
  • Information literacy / literacy assistance for completing assignments to a high standard including academic honesty and scholarly value added.
  • ? more that I’ve not thought of at the moment.


With respect to the library space, I think we met most of the needs in a satisficing way given the constraints of space, resources and person-power. But I’d argue that if we were to combine the concepts of the omnichannel with solution spaces after careful observation and involvement of our users we could go so much further. Perhaps our library guides should have “hacking your grade 7 middle ages assignment” or “hacking citations”? Perhaps we should have a research zone where online and offline is seamlessly integrated with signage and demo-products?


These thoughts are in their infancy for me, somewhat half-formed and not “quite there” and I’d appreciate further comments and ideas and examples of where you’ve done this.


Bath, O. (2014, May 16). The Burberry model: why blending online and offline boosts success [Web Log]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://wallblog.co.uk/2014/05/16/the-burberry-model-why-blending-online-and-offline-boosts-success/

Butler, S. (2014, February 21). Independent bookshops in decline as buying habits change [Newspaper]. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/21/independent-bookshops-campaign

Carlyle, R. (2015, May 1). The secret of Ikea’s success [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/560828/Ikea-history-Swedish-furniture-design

Davis, S. (2014, March 27). Burberry’s Blurred Lines: The Integrated Customer Experience [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottdavis/2014/03/27/burberrys-blurred-lines-the-integrated-customer-experience/

Day, K. (2013, November). Liberate your book cupboards and create a more true “bookstore” model in your school library? [Web Log]. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from http://www.thelibrarianedge.com/libedge/2013/11/liberate-your-book-cupboards-and-create.html

Gopnik, A. (2015, June 12). When a Bookstore Closes, an Argument Ends – The New Yorker [Newspaper]. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/when-a-bookstore-closes-an-argument-ends

IKEA. (2012). What goes on behind closed doors – Life at home in the UK (p. 23). United Kingdom. Retrieved from http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_GB/img/site_images/about_ikea/PDF/What%20goes%20on%20behind%20closed%20doors_Report_Spreads.pdf

IKEAHackers.net. (2014). IKEA Hackers – Clever ideas and hacks for your IKEA. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.ikeahackers.net/

Johnson, D. (2013). Power Up! The New School Library. Educational Leadership, 71(2), 84–85. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct13/vol71/num02/The-New-School-Library.aspx

Kindschy, H. E. (2015, January 13). Time to Ditch Dewey? Shelving Systems that Make Sense to Students (Learning Commons Model, Part 4) [Web Log]. Retrieved July 26, 2015, from http://www.clcd.com/blog/?p=186

Mars, R. (2014, August 19). Hacking IKEA [Podcast]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/hacking-ikea/

McGauley, J. (2015, February 19). Easy IKEA Hacks For Your Apartment – Best DIY Projects [Web Log]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.supercompressor.com/home/easy-ikea-hacks-for-your-apartment-best-diy-projects

Miller, L. (2013, January 31). Bring back shushing librarians [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.salon.com/2013/01/31/bring_back_shushing_librarians/

Thornburg, D. (2007, October). Campfires in cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for learning in the 21st Century. TCPD. Retrieved from http://tcpd.org/Thornburg/Handouts/Campfires.pdf

West, P. (2013, November 20). Libraries: a plea from a silence seeker [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/libraries_a_plea_from_a_silence_seeker/14317#.Vb2l6JOqqko

Williams, G. (2014, March 19). Why the online/offline split no longer matters [Newspaper]. Retrieved August 2, 2015, from http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2014/03/features/ecommerce-is-history


Don’t break my heart

I’ve just spent 5 days at the Suzuki European Convention, accompanying my cello playing daughter and viola playing son, which was a brilliant opportunity to observe some very hardworking and talented students and teachers in action. There are group classes, orchestra classes, concerts and a lot of playing and learning for the students, the teachers who are not teaching the class but observing classes and of course the parents.
Since my current course is INF536 “Designing spaces for learning” I was particularly interested in seeing how thinking about space and learning was incorporated into the lessons.  The idea of space is an interesting one. I do not have any power over changing a learning environment, since I am an observer and living in a hotel, however I can make some comments on what I have seen around me.
The first thing I have noticed is that we should not limit our considerations about space to physical space.  One of the interesting things is how the temporal space of timetabling is used.  Each group starts the morning with a “play in” – with all children at all levels attending. Then there are group classes depending on levels interspaced with orchestra (for the higher levels) and free time, during which students are free to wander into other orchestra rehearsals or to observe classes of their own or other instruments.  Building “space” into “time” can also have an impact on learning.
Within the structure of the class the teachers (who are all very skilled “master” teachers) build in playing and learning and working (Kuratko, Goldsby, & Hornsby, 2012) through alternating fun activities with advice on technique, dynamics and other musical issues, as well as the hard work of repetition until the desired effect is achieved.
One lesson that stood out was an advanced class that was working on the Haydn Cello concerto with Takao Mizushima.  First the class all played a section together. Then each student had to play it separately while he made comments and suggestions for improvement. All students play to a very high standard, but over the years various habits and issues with posture can creep in which may be expeditious in the beginning, but over time will compromise the quality of sound.  In this instance the learning space is the cello and the bow and in fact limited to a very small section of the cello, namely the area from where the finger board ends to the bridge as well as the C Bouts (see below).
The area of learning indicated by the red circle
An important aspect of sound relates to bowing. Ideally the bow should be at right angles to the string and should remain at right angles even as the cellist moves from string to string – which requires adjustment of the whole arm.  The video below explains this – in a rather boring fashion. (Note there are exceptions to this “rule” such as in baroque playing or when a specific sound needs to be created).









Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v20gjN3yTLY

As the boy finishes playing, the teacher praises him for his interpretation and then says, “please don’t break my heart” – he moves to his bag and gets a roll of sticky tape and fashions a heart out of the tape. He then places the tape on the tip of the C Bout (as illustrated in 3 below) and instructs the student to play the passage again.  At no point does he tell the student he’s bowing incorrectly (as illustrated in 2 below) but the student in question and all the students around him immediately get the point of what was wrong.  He plays again, to animated “acting” by the teacher about his heart not being broken and the bowing is better.  The ‘goal post’ is then shifted (as illustrated in 4) and the bowing is even better.

An illustration of the lesson components

Enjoy the video – the quality is not very good as individuals are not focused on to protect their privacy.

Don’t break my heart from Nadine Bailey on Vimeo.

The lessons I drew from this were the making of a design change – in this case introducing a constraint, display (playing with the constraint) and replay (moving the constraint) with the feedback to both the participant in question and all the learners around, as well as to the audience of a teaching “trick” that is effective.


Unfair advantage

Following the release of the results of our first assignment, there has been some soul searching and discussion on how better results can be attained and what went wrong etc. I’ve seen this on various Facebook groups I’m a member of too. I’ve referred earlier to the whole privilege thing, and I’ll say it again.  No one mentioned it, but of course some of us (myself included) had an unfair advantage. When I write “the whole privilege thing” and then so easily reference the exact article, it’s because I’ve read it, and stored it on Evernote, and can easily access it.

Sichuan peppers at dinner in Chengdu last night

Sichuan peppers at dinner in Chengdu last night

Let me ‘fess up on where my starting line was when this course started. I’m not doing this to brag, but to give courage. I started at ground zero in August 2012 and I too had the shock of getting back grades from assignments and not only beginning to understand where I’d gone wrong.  My starting line this time around:

* A collection of 3,350 academic, professional and lay articles on Evernote, to which I’ve added 269 articles since I started this course in this course’s notebook.  I can only find 5 articles for my first course (in electronic form), because then I was still printing it all out.  And I threw out all the printouts in my last house move. I don’t even have the course overview or modules. That’s how bad it all was.  In fact it’s even worse. I naively thought that Interact was forever so I didn’t even save my marked assignments! So I don’t even have a hard copy of that. I cringe when I thought how stupid I was. How little I knew, how I bumbled through the first year. How scared I was to ask for help. How I didn’t even know who to ask for help.

* A Zotero library of 1,697 references to articles I’ve read (the difference with Evernote above is I only put articles in that I’ve used in assignments, and Evernote has a lot of my “life” in it, not just academic life). Most (but not all) of those references are “clean” i.e. I’ve sorted out the metadata and added the fields I need to make my referencing better.  I also have the email of people at Zotero  if I find it behaving strangely and not doing things the ‘correct’ APA way.

* I’ve passed 14 subjects at CSU. If I wasn’t starting to get the hang of things by now I’d have dropped out a while ago.

* I’ve discovered the APA blog, and experienced first hand their 24 hour or less (sometimes less than an hour) response time to queries if you can’t find the answer you need. I’m a regular at OWL Purdue (I even know what OWL means!). I also have just been through an exercise at work whereby I’ve been making reference posters for our students. There I had to make 6 posters each for APA, MLA and Chicago, which are the referencing styles we use. That sure was an education on referencing!  Even after weeks of tweaking things and getting it ‘right’ after we put it out in the open (this link is the first version – so not all correct! first link is the latest version), we kept getting comments and corrections from people with more knowledge and experience – talk about crowd-sourcing!

* I’d been blogging privately since 2006 and had written 1,931 blog posts with nearly 200,000 page views by the time I stopped in 2013. When I started this course I’d done about 100 blog posts professionally. I also re-started blogging reluctantly, and totally intimidated by those older and wiser and more experienced than myself and then was forced to by my courses, and now find it a way of releasing pent up thoughts and organising my jumbled thoughts on what I’m reading and experiencing. The community is not the same as 9 years ago, I’m not getting the steady stream of comments and encouragement that I had in the past – so it is less motivating if one speaks of external motivation. But it is still a learning tool for me, and the more I write, the more I can write and the easier it becomes.

* I work with a terrific person. Katie Day  (googleplus link) is the best boss a starting out TL could wish to have. She pushes me when I want to hold back, she challenges my naive and unformed and uniformed thoughts. She throws articles and books and websites and blogs and names at me when I get stuck. She takes me out of my comfort zone and encourages me and supports me when I have self-doubt. And most importantly she knows her S***. Whether it’s on the literature front, the technical front, the digital front, the teaching front, the working with teachers and students front.

* My family is supportive. We’ve just come back from a weekend in Chengdu – but we haven’t had many weekends off in the last 2.5 years, where I’ve not been tied to my laptop or iPad reading articles or writing assignments. And to be completely honest, the fact that I wasn’t this weekend is only because the wifi was so unbearably slow it was better to just give up and quit trying to study than to keep battling it.  My 12 year old daughter reads through my assignments and picks out bad grammar and discusses where things don’t make sense. My husband reads through my assignments and tells me if I’m becoming too academic.   Neither of them always know what on earth I’m writing about, but they do make me a better writer, since if I can’t write well enough for them to at least understand the gist of what I’m saying, I’m doing something  wrong.My 11 year old son gives me hugs and moral support. And reminds me that everyone learns in their own way and at their own pace.

Of course my privilege didn’t start there. As Gee would point out, I had parents who spoke to me and read to me. I grew up in a bilingual environment. English is my mother tongue. I had a tertiary education. I am surrounded by intelligent people who read and write and discuss things.

While writing this I’m just humbled by what a long journey this learning thing is, and if anything each of us should have a handicap that we start with, like golf, to make it a little fairer and more equitable.  But on the other hand, looking back I can say there is hope and it does get better. A lot better and a lot easier.  I also both care a lot more and a lot less. That may sound strange. On the one hand I’ve become very passionate about learning (care more) but on the other I’m a lot less scared of making mistakes and putting myself out there (care less).  All these processes take time. A lot of time. And while I may be a few metres past the starting line compared to some, I’m nowhere near others, and I can’t even see the finishing line. And that is life. And that is fine.