The conference was held at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham. Our rooms were in the university halls of residence and they were like saunas. I was very much the Princess and the Pea last weekend excepting that the Pea was multiple springs and the mattress was non-existent. But lack of sleep aside, it was a very productive and inspiring weekend. Above Chatsworth Hall where I attempted to sleep. Below my room before I made myself at home.
Friday's opening lecture was given by our current children's laureate Anthony Browne. For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work he is a much loved author/ illustrator of picture books. One of Anthony's key aims of his laureateship is to make people realise that picture books are for everyone not just the under 5s. Browne talked about "the shape game". He said that all of his books begin this way. You draw a shape. Another person turns that shape into something. It becomes a story. He said that we can absorb everything: dreams, paintings, news, TV and that can all be tapped into during our creative work. He also has a surprising number of Gorillas in his books. I'm not sure even he knows why this is but he was very interesting to listen to and I was fascinated.
I should probably tell you that the theme of the weekend was The Magic Threshold. In other words: how can you bring creativity and inspiration into the library? For someone like me who loves anything creative, it was a weekend of heaven and a little bit of brain overload.
Our next speaker was Professor Stephen Heppell and he has a biography longer than the Amazon river. He is one amazingly intelligent and well-educated guy and his talk was all about creative library design and innovation. He is working on some amazing projects all over the world and he told us a little about each of them. He also spoke about how 21st century learning is out and 3rd Millenium Learning is in. To paraphase, we are moving into a new age of learning. We have so many technologies at our finger tips and we can harness this to engage learners. There were some very shocking statistics about common knowledge and literacy but like a fool I didn't write them down. I daren't just try to remember them because if I'm wrong I may get a few complaints in the comments.
In terms of libraries he said we should try a "shoes off" policy to create a more social space. I kind of do this already in one area of the library. But I'm going to speak to my line manager and see what she thinks about this for all pupils at lunch time. I think you do need to separate lunch and lessons because they have different expectations of pupil behaviour. He also talked about outdoor libraries and I think next Summer I may try having the library outside one day a week. Heppell also suggested using smells to engage readers like fresh bread. Okay, so I'm not all that sure about having time to bake before I go to work but I am interested in engaging the pupils with different textures and also using sound. Something to think more about next year. One of the things that his research showed was that the age range of pupils that I have like the library to be full of "surprises". To have something different every time they come. Quite a tall order for a part-time librarian to manage but I am definitely going to work on this. I want to start using the windows for display and changing these frequently.
After our dinner on the Friday evening, we had ...some entertainment...from Henry Winkler (otherwise known as The Fonz). It was the most entertaining and hilarious speech of the weekend. But it had an important message about believing in your dreams and as a result reaching them. How very timely for a little librarian who is desperately trying to finish the first draft of the worst-ever-written novel in the history of first attempts. Anyway, it was uplifting and encouraging and reminded me that every child matters. Henry has written a series of novels for younger readers called Hank Zipster - The World's Greatest Underachiever.
Saturday morning and time for another lecture! This one came from caricaturist Kev Sutherland so actually it wasn't a lecture at all. It was fun! He drew pictures whilst giving a lot of banter. It was a great way to wake us all up. But it did have another important point, comics, manga, graphic novels are all valid forms of reading and children should be able to enjoy them without being told that "isn't a proper book!" I agree! Censorship is WRONG!
Then it was my time to visit the conference exhibition. Now this was very different to the last time I went because firstly, I knew practically every new book released in the UK this year. Secondly, because I had been emailing some of the publicists who were there so it was nice to get to meet them face to face. How do I know all this already? Because of my blog. I love my blog. Mwah! Good blog. On a serious note I cannot believe how much blogging is making me a better librarian. Anyway, I was given a few more books to review for those lovely publicists. The most exciting must be My Name is Mina by David Almond and it is the prequel to Skellig. Very exciting indeed!
Then it was time for my first seminar which was on the topic of plagarism. Wow! Certainly not the most creative topic but so important. I have some interesting lesson activities to try out on my pupils now to make them realise how hurtful it can be to those who get their intellectual property stolen, misquoted, mistreated etc.
Then another seminar, this time hosted by Phillip Wells, the Fire Poet. Oh yes, twenty odd librarians sat around looking like they were not ever going to try performance poetry and by the end we had all written a poem. Because I never share my writing with you, I figure I should share this as I will never do anything else with it. So here it is:
Miscafoi in my hand
fingers dipped in gloop
Ribbon trailing through my hair
snaking frozen in the moment
Miscafoi showering my feet
toes lost in rainbow petals
Pebbles crunching in my pocket
swooping in my memory
Miscafoi a maybe, a might
Miscafoi a remembrance of mine own self.
The taste of rice pudding.
© RS, The Bookette, 2010
Okay so now let's skip along over that. If you're wondering about "miscafoi", we had to make up a random word through an exercise using word sounds. Now I'm saying no more. It was lots of fun though.
In the evening we had a drinks reception hosted by Piccadilly Press and their authors.
From left to right:
Tamsyn Murray, Hilary Freeman, Jane Prowse, ??, Tricia Adams, Director of SLA, Brenda Gardner
I apologise to the lady in the fetching pink wig, I know not who you are! Please identify yourself...
Now for Sunday (yes I thought this was going to be a short post too).
We began with a key note lecture from Miranda McKearney - Patron of the SLA. She spoke about partnerships between school libraries and public libraries and I am going to work on this over the next year. She also made me think about getting parents more involved in the library. My ideas are little seeds right now.
The final part of the conference was a panel discussion with four authors on the theme of "sequels". The panel was made up of Hilary Mckay, Geraldine McCaughrean, David Benedictus and Mark Burgess. It was so interesting but I was so tired I am not sure if I can tell you any more than the fact that I thought Geraldine McCaughrean a most fascinating speaker and very intelligent author. She spoke about how series books can often be a money-maker and how this is not a good thing. Writing a series just to have another book to sell is not a good thing. Although I do love series books, there is a lot of value in stand alone and I wish publishers would remember that. Children actually now ask me for books that are NOT in a series so perhaps a change will soon come to pass.
The weekend was also full of many author talks. Saci Lloyd, Catherine Fisher and MG Harris to name but a few. I bought a fair few books and now I am looking forward to reading them over the Summer and getting to grips with all the ideas the wonderful librarians shared with me. One involves Dr Who so that should be fun. Another involved papier mache fish (but this idea belongs to moi). Who wouldn't want to be a librarian?!