Wednesday, February 1, 2017

JAW for library staff in KL in December -- a report back from GESS library officers

When we first heard about JAW 2016 @ISKL, we knew we it would be a great opportunity for us to meet people who shares the same profession as us but comes from a different country. We quickly signed up for the workshop and before we know, it was time for us to pack our bags for this trip.

To make it more enjoyable, we decided to bring our spouses along and did a road trip to Malacca and KL before attending the workshop. We got to experience the beautiful KL city and definitely enjoyed the makan there! Buffets after buffets, food trucks – we loved it!

We made our way to ISKL on the morning of 20th Dec 2016. The session started with the groups introducing themselves. The first presentation was on the topic of ‘Readers Advisory’ done by Azlin Library Assistant from ISKL followed by groups discussions on how ‘Readers Advisory’ are handled at the different schools. The different sources librarians use to provide book recommendations for our readers.  In between breaks and the different sessions we had throughout the day, participants were encouraged to try quizzes and participate in ice breaking games which promises great prizes for winners. One of the most interesting activity was the part where we had to guess the total no. of pages from a book tower that was on display! Both Rosnita and myself were happy to walk away as winners for two of the games – Unlock the Ring and Kahoot game.  Another good topic was on Weeding where we shared amongst ourselves some best practices used to give the book that got weeded another chance to ‘live’ and we discovered a few schools there donate their books to refugee centers.

It was enriching to learn from our friends there and we surely picked up some practices that we can apply back in GESS. We also had the opportunity to share our knowledge with the participants and we got to work in groups and everyone was given a chance to present their ideas through active group discussions. We discovered that in KL they also have something like the Red Dot Awards but it’s called Novel Knockout.  Some other topics covered at JAW was ‘how to handle student behaviors in school libraries’, weeding practices, library displays and also what I personally like best is the last topic for the day on how ISKL successfully implemented EzProxy in their school. It’s a one stop sign-on for all the databases that the school have subscribed for their school community.

Last but not least we want to thank ISLN for offering some sponsorship for our trip. It was a great learning experience for the both of us and we look forward to future JAWs!

-- submitted by German European School Singapore (GESS) Library Officers
  • Rosnita Mohamad
  • Sharifah Nooraiza

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

LKSW 2017 & Speed Dating Picture Books from around the world

A reminder that Barb and I are closing registration at the end of the week for the Feb 17/18 Librarians' Knowledge Sharing Workshop 2017, being held at UWCSEA East.   Go to for registration details.

Note that all our network members are invited to join us for any of the social events (even if you don't register for the conference itself).  Details of the social event offerings are here:
where there is a Google Form to fill out to let us know if you want to come along.
We have about 70 people attending the conference, plus Dianne McKenzie and Brad Tyrrell, our workshop/keynote speakers.

Note that Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal, from the National Institute of Education here in Singapore and author of the "Gathering Books" blog, is also going to present.  Her session will be on "Speed Dating: Picture Books from around the world - Expanding the Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) bookshelf" -- which will be similar to the talk on her ongoing "Social-Emotional Learning Project" which she gave at Tanglin last November.  For those of you who enjoyed that, it will be another chance to look at many of the picture books she has collected.

You can browse Myra's collection online as her group has cataloged all the picture books using LibraryThing.  See her lists and tags here:

The BLISS Bangkok Book Awards

The Bangkok international school librarians -- BLISS -- have started their own annual book awards.


Note that Kim Beeman, now at Shrewsbury Int'l in Bangkok was one of the teacher-librarians leading the BLISS initiative.  She's moving to Tanglin next year to be the Secondary Teacher-Librarian.  So she will undoubtedly get involved in our Red Dot Book Awards.

Monday, November 21, 2016

ISLN Partners with Wheelers ePlatform

Wheelers has generously donated an ePlatform to ISLN. The committee decided to populate the ePlatform with 5 copies of the available Red Dot books. These are available now.

ISLN members will now be able to subscribe to their own ePlatform, and with a letter of introduction from the Secretary, have access to these titles and an additional 1000 titles in the Singapore consortium.

To subscribe contact Megan Bruere - 

Wheelers platform costs NZD375 per annum and you can choose to add your own books that you may wish to share with the consortium, although, you are not obliged to.

Alternatively, you can pay NZD1500 per annum and receive NZD1500 books of your choice. 

Books are reasonably priced but do have differing licence conditions depending on the publisher.

There is a good range of titles including a good selection of Australian and New Zealand titles. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Next year's Red Dots - 2017-2018 - the game plan....  

This is the 8th year of the Red Dot Book Awards, run by our international school librarians' network here in Singapore.  (For a full list of similar awards by other international school librarians, see this list.)

Our first set of four lists (8 titles each in four age-range categories) was announced in November 2009 -- and the first winners were announced in March 2010.
Since then we have progressively been trying to perfect the timing.   The ideal is to have enough time for a group of us to find and agree on the best 32 titles, then to source enough copies, and then to get them into the hands of children so they will have time to read and consider them.  All before it's time to start all over again.

This past year we finally managed to get our shortlists announced on June 1st (via Padlets (early / younger / older / mature) -- just to our members, if not on the official Red Dot website.  At least that gave us time to order books over the summer break.

The goal for this coming year is to announce our shortlists by May.

We've been tripping over ourselves in the past -- what with having the Readers Cup competition in May and trying to set the next year's list of Red Dot shortlists.  It's all too much at the end of an academic year.

This year we are taking a one-year break from the Readers Cup competition, in order to potentially re-imagine it.  And that means this is the year we should be able to devote time to discussing our Red Dot books in plenty of time to get those shortlists settled by mid-May.

So here's my proposal for the coming year -- as chair of the Red Dot committee.  Especially as I think us coming together in-person in  a book-club kind of setting is important.

1)  Log any good books in this ISLN Google Spreadsheet -- use the FORM to submit and this LINK to see what has been submitted -- for whichever Red Dot category -- starting now. 

Use GoodReads or whatever else you want to be recording what you're reading and thinking.  (For example, here is my personal "Potential Red Dot" bookshelf on Goodreads....)

2)  Tuesday, November 29th - Open evening social at The American Club, 5:30pm onwards -- hosted by Kate Brundage and/or Susanne Clower -- come with a list of books that you have read and want to rave about.

3)  Tuesday, Feb. 21st - Open evening social at The American Club, 5:30pm onwards - hosted by Kate Brundage and/or Susanne Clower -- come prepared to talk about more books you are excited about.   We have a network meeting on February 28th at ISS -- and we should have good progress to report on the Red Dot shortlists coming together.

4)  Tuesday, March 21st - Open evening social at The American Club, 5:30pm onwards - hosted by Kate Brundage and/or Susanne Clower -- come prepared to finalize our shortlists.


When I was in Prague for the School Librarian Connection conference in September, I was interested to meet with librarians working in Switzerland and Germany -- and to hear how their network awards are run.

Judith Bows gave an overview of The Golden Cowbell Awards in Switzerland -- see her slides here -- -- and something they do which we have never taken very seriously here in Singapore -- is to create something to give to the winning authors.  They literally cast a giant cowbell and raise (find) funds to ship it to the winner whenever they might live.  (See the photos of Cece Bell accepting her award!)  Frankly, we've been so focused on getting kids to read the book, to determine a winner, and to then hold a Readers Cup competition -- that contacting authors was low on the priority list.  (A missed opportunity!)

I was also surprised to learn that the Swiss books are chosen mainly by a series of ballots by members -- with not much face-to-face discussion.

As I have argued in a past blog post, the balance in the baskets -- in terms of diversity, genre, appeal, etc. -- is key to what we perceive as the strength of our award.  Successive votes by ballot wouldn't necessarily guarantee that.  For us at least in Singapore, it has required us sitting together and hashing out the place of each title, genre, and country of focus or origin on a list.  To leave it to a succession of ballots without active discussion seems harsh.  But then we have the luxury of living in a small country where all of us can easily get together.

The Hansel and Gretel Awards in Germany is another recent entry in the field that I hadn't heard about before -- and one that differs from others in that some old favorites are allowed in the mix.

I personally believe the 4-year-window of recently published literature is important -- as it's the library's way of influencing the currency of the class libraries and refreshing our group reading cupboards.  All those extra copies get re-purposed in a wonderful way.

Repeat of Red Dot criteria

The Red Dot categories are roughly based on readers, rather than book formats or school divisions.  (NB: It is up to every librarian to determine which books are right for which classes in your school to read.)
  • Early Years (ages 3-7) -- formerly Picture Books
  • Younger Readers (ages 7-10) -- formerly Junior) -- (where Captain Underpants and Geronimo Stilton are the assumed reading level)
  • Older Readers (ages 10-14) -- formerly Middle) -- (where Inkheart and The Lightning Thief are the assumed reading level)
  • Mature Readers (ages 14-adult) -- (formerly Senior) --  (where Twilight and The Book Thief are the assumed reading level)
Shortlist titles are chosen by a committee of teacher-librarians from recent children's literature (first published in English within the past four years), with the goal of offering a range of books from around the world
Criteria in choosing books:
  • Mix of genres, e.g., fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic format
  • Balance of boy/girl main characters
  • Balance of nationalities
  • Published (in English) within the last 4 years (i.e., for the year 2015-2016, books published in 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015)
  • The shortlists will consist of 8 books at each level
  • Preferably only #1 if in a series
  • Preferably no repeat of an author from previous years
  • Preferably books that encourage Text-Text, Text-Self, and/or Text-World connections for students (i.e., books worth talking about)