O'Brien, M. (2003), "International Association of School Librarians (IASL) 2003 Annual Meeting: School Libraries - Breaking Down Barriers", Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 20 No. 9. https://doi.org/10.1108/lhtn.2003.23920iac.001Download as .RIS
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International Association of School Librarians (IASL) 2003 Annual Meeting: School Libraries - Breaking Down Barriers
This report of the International Association of School Librarians (IASL) 2003 Conference was held in Durban South Africa, July 7-11. The Conference theme was "School libraries: breaking down barriers." The report summarises events of the conference including keynote addresses; presentation of professional papers and research results, as well as workshops and poster sessions; HIV/AIDS panel discussions; opening and closing ceremonies; award presentations; school tours; gala dinner and end-of-conference tours. The keynote addresses are detailed whilst other presentations are listed with presenter and title of presentation only. Where appropriate, web addresses are given, for access to further information.
It would be difficult to write about the recent IASL 2003 International Conference without first attempting to describe the African experience. The words open, friendly and celebration first come to mind, but these are quickly followed by struggle, poverty and expression. South Africa and its neighbouring nations are indeed celebrating this conference, because ten years ago such a gathering would not have been possible. Many long years of hoping, wishing and sheer hard work have culminated in the wonderful and uplifting event that was IASL Durban.
As an outsider from a wealthy first-world nation I feel humbled in the presence of the African people I have met. What has been achieved is remarkable, given the lack of resources, both monetary and physical, and the lack of support at a government level. Passion and commitment to the cause of the education of South Africa's youth has appeared to me as lilies blooming in the desert.
School libraries exist despite the fact that there is little or no money to buy books, and teachers and librarians work tirelessly to build resource bases for their students in the face of obstacles that would see less determined souls simply give up. But nothing comes from nothing and everything springs from a collective dream; the dream to see the people of South Africa become empowered through greater access to education and information.
The International Association of School Librarianship exists to promote the interests of school libraries worldwide. The IASL Policy Statement on School Libraries states that:
The school library is central to the fulfillment of the instructional goals and objectives of the school and promotes this through a planned programme of acquisition and organization of information technology and dissemination of materials to expand the learning environment of all students (Clyde, 2003a).
In his opening speech the President, Peter Genco, expanded upon this by saying that:
... the mission of the International Association of School Librarianship is to provide an international forum for those people interested in promoting effective school library programs as viable instruments in the education process. IASL provides guidance and advice for the development of school library programs and the school library profession. IASL works in cooperation with other professional associations and agencies (Clyde, 2003c).
The South Africans involved in the organization of this, the 32nd Annual Conference of the International Association of School Librarianship and the 7th International Forum on Research in School Librarianship, and indeed all South African teachers and librarians, are extremely proud that such an event could be hosted by their nation. Those attending from nations outside of Africa quickly came to appreciate the long path that has been travelled in order to arrive at the wonderful event that was "Breaking down the barriers".
In her welcome note in the conference handbook, Sibongile Nzimande, the Conference Chair, outlines the principal reasons for ELITS (Education Library Information Technology Services) deciding to host the conference in South Africa:
South Africa's post-apartheid government has a political agenda that aspires to action programmes and strategies that will contribute to social transformation ... The Senior Management of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education and Culture has recently approved a Provincial School Library Policy. This policy attempts to redress the imbalances of the past, and propagates a menu of school library models ... The challenges brought by this paradigm shift in the national agenda, motivated ELITS to host this 32nd IASL conference, hence the theme "School libraries: breaking down the barriers" (Nzimande, 2003).
Held at the magnificent Durban International Conference Centre, the conference programme was well organized, rich and varied. Aside from presentations, workshops, poster sessions and displays, other activities included school tours, a gala dinner, the annual auction which raises funds to bring a delegate from a developing nation to the following year's conference, exchanges and awards.
From the moment that delegates were ushered into the main hall, there was promise of something a little different to follow. Between the glittering heavens set high above the gathering crowd and the smouldering stage, were the hushed sounds and awe-struck expressions on the faces of the assembling people; a scene reminiscent of a church gathering. Such was the atmosphere. Suddenly, and unannounced, a throng of Zulu dancers, complete with drums and spears, burst onto the stage with an energetic and spectacular display of a traditional Zulu welcome. The chief gave a resounding speech in Zulu, welcoming the representatives of 26 nations from around the world to KwaZulu-Natal, accompanied by loud and enthusiastic rounds of yulaleti from the women in the audience. Yulaleti is the term describing the yodel-like sound that is often heard throughout Africa and the Middle East. It is equivalent to the western cheer. It is a gesture of appreciation and encouragement.
Following the Zulu welcome came dancing of yet another tradition and from an equally ancient culture. Three Indian dancers in brightly coloured costume told their story. They represented a significant group of people living in KwaZulu-Natal. In the mid 19th century, Indians were brought to the province by the white farmers to work the cane fields, as there had been resistance from the Zulu men to do women's work. Prior to the ending of Apartheid they too were classed as second-rate citizens.
The third dance was a modern choreography which spoke of the new communication between all peoples of South Africa and the hopes for the future of the nation. It represented the unity that the 32nd IASL conference aimed to promote, and the desires for betterment at all levels that the African delegates are working to achieve.
The opening ceremony finale was a choir of local children who sang renditions of a number of melodic, local songs. The last song sung was the South African national anthem, The Call of South Africa. It is a combination of Nkosi sikelel' iAfrica; the unofficial apartheid era black anthem, and Die Stem; the former official South African national anthem. It is sung in four of the 11 official languages of South Africa: Zulu, Sotho, Afrikaans and English, in recognition of the multi-racial character of the country's people.
Seven keynote addresses were given at strategic points throughout the course of the week. Each person selected to deliver these has an intimate working knowledge of what is being done in South Africa to reduce the inequalities that still exist in the post apartheid era.
Jenni Karlsson has been the director of the Education Policy Unit of the University of Natal since 1997 and has been involved in education policy development in South Africa since 1991. During the apartheid years she developed a non-racial resource centre that catered to those who were denied access to white public libraries. Her keynote address, The Politics of Making a New Space for School Libraries in South Africa, (Karlsson, 2003) opened the conference proceedings and painted a picture, for those delegates unfamiliar with the local state of affairs, of school librarianship in South Africa.
Jenni began her speech by quoting the French social theorist, Henri Lefebvre, who said that "... a revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential; ... A social transformation, to be truly revolutionary in character, must manifest a creative capacity in its effects on daily life, on language and on space ...", (cited in Karlsson, 2003, p. 1). She questions whether South African policy makers are creating that new space, or whether they are continuing to do as had been done in the past.
She argues that for education, space is important. It affects all our relationships with learners, teachers and governing bodies, and the way we interact today will shape the way future generations relate to the education space and experience. This is especially relevant to South Africa, given its recent past history of racial separation and segregation. If South African society is to become truly revolutionised then so too does the way in which it uses its spaces in educational settings, and school libraries in particular. National Policies need to encourage the transformation of old spaces so they meet the new requirements that accompany the process of social transformation from apartheid to democracy and equity.
During the apartheid years extremes in school library services existed. A survey in 1996 revealed that only 20 percent of South Africa's 26,734 schools has a school library service. Schools for white children would have had the best services, Indian schools would have had library services of a lesser standard, and the remaining 80 percent of schools, for black children, would have had inferior or no library services what-so-ever. This was the state of the education system inherited by the post-apartheid government. Another survey conducted in 2000 revealed that little had improved. Only a further 3 percent of schools had established a library.
In 1995 a conference hosted by the Education Policy Unit at the University of Natal examined a number of library models from around the world. This event brought together key national and provincial educational leaders and resulted in a resolution being sent to the National Ministry calling for the Department of Education to develop policy that redressed inequality in schools. In 1998 a National Policy for School Library Standards was completed. A national audit was conducted to establish a baseline for further development, but the entire process slowed pace and to date, the national, post-apartheid school library policy remains incomplete.
It appears that one of the main reasons for this is that the two Departmental groups charged with policy development for curriculum and school libraries worked separately rather than together. At that time too, a voice from the school library sector was not strong, although two representations to the Review Committee from the School Libraries and Youth Services Interest Group had been made. The result was that a statement about the role of school libraries in curriculum was absent from the Revised National Curriculum Statements of 2001 and 2002.
A likely explanation for an ineffective library sector voice is the fact that only about one quarter of South Africa's teachers had exposure to a school library service during their school years, so the concept of library does not enter into the psyche of the majority of today's teachers. We are thus reminded of Jenni's opening quote about the past experiences of space affecting future experiences of space.
Other factors impacting upon the progress of finalizing school library policy lie with the structures and operations within the Education Department itself. These include: inexperience in government processes and naivety about the politics of policy formulation, loss of institutional memory through restructure of bureaucracy and through staff turnover, in restructuring the national Department of Education, library services were retained for grades 10-12, but not for grades R-9 where most students are enrolled, a Policy Framework was presented to the Heads of Education Departments Committee, but this was never recorded in meeting minutes, and the commencement of the Library Practice for Young Learners project in 1997 may have diverted the attention of Departmental officials and school library service lobbyists.
The lack of improvement to school library services since the end of apartheid, and the nationwide introduction of Outcomes Based Education (OBE), which is student-centric and reliant on a rich variety of library resources, has meant that the education system is almost at crisis point. Many provinces have now begun to develop their own policies in the absence of guidance from a national educational body, but this situation leaves schools in those districts open to becoming distanced, politically speaking, from the national regulatory body, once a national policy is finalized.
In conclusion, Jenni pointed out that when formulating post-apartheid education policies, governments need to avoid looking back, and avoid espousing a particular political stance, but rather, look to the future in order to avoid elitism, and instead, cater to the most disadvantaged members of society; victims of HIV/Aids, orphans, urban and rural poor, as well as other social groups who would currently be classed as advantaged. Inequalities that currently exist need to be equalised without devaluing the current knowledge base. Policies should not be developed along racial lines as has happened in the past, but rather be based on bettering the total social structure of South Africa.
A further closing remark brought attention to the impact that the HIV/Aids epidemic is having on the communities of Africa. Jenni called for delegates and members of the wider community to think laterally about ways in which the school library can play a pivotal role in educating families about the disease and in ways of preventing its continued spread. She also called for discussion about creating alternative ways of delivering curriculum to students who might not be able to attend school directly because they or a family member has the disease, or because they have been orphaned as a result of parents dying of Aids. Similarly, teacher numbers are being affected; so new ways need to be sought for the delivery of curriculum where there may be a high staff turnover in any given school. All racial groups are affected by HIV/Aids. It at least, does not discriminate.
Dr Jamie McKenzie is the Editor of From Now On – The Educational Technology Journal, which is available online at: http://fno.org (see McKenzie, 2003). Prior to becoming a full-time speaker and writer, Jamie was the Director of Libraries, Media and Technology for the Bellingham (WA) Public Schools in the USA. Jamie now publishes and speaks extensively about the use and role of technology in schools.
Jamie's address, entitled Libraries of the Future: Searching for the Difficult Truth in Uncertain Times, followed immediately after Jenni Karlsson's speech. It had a very different theme. It looked to a world almost alien to the reality facing most of present-day South Africans, one where an abundance of technology is a problem for teachers and students in the information age, and one where teacher-librarians are well placed to take a key role in leading school communities through the Information maze. Jamie referred the audience to http://newlibrary.org/articles.html (McKenzie, 2000a) for further discussion on this subject.
In schools where students commonly use the Internet, it is the teacher-librarian's job to teach search techniques that will allow those students to find suitable, reliable, authoritative results from their queries. However, the results obtained from these searches are skewed by the actions of commercial organizations. Most Internet users are unaware of this fact.
There are companies operating on the World Wide Web, which sell rankings to the highest bidder. An organization by the name of Overture controls the Yahoo database, the AltaVista search engine, Lycos and more. A listing is available on the company's Web site (Overture Services Inc., 2003) at www.content.overture. com/d/home. The organization which pays the greatest amount of money will, in return, receive the highest ranking on any given search result when using these services. This Payola system may well have profound effects on the shape of some aspects of education in the near future, and in the ways in which school libraries operate. Jamie poses the question – "Do we allow marketing to shape our future?"
Despite the trend towards an increasing reliance on ICT in the classroom, Jamie strongly recommends that for at least the next ten years, libraries, but most particularly, school libraries would be ill advised to rely solely on Internet resources for their information. There are still gaping holes in the types of information available through digital technologies. The aforementioned commercial interests in information exposure make what is available somewhat market oriented rather than being available for its own sake. The best option for schools is to continue to stock the best traditional print and non-print resources together with digital technologies, so that an effective and reliable balance of "good" information is available to school communities. The article Just in Time Technology: Doing Better with Less (McKenzie, 2002a) on Jamie's Web site http://optin.iserver.net/fromnow/sum02/jitt.html gives further insight to this matter.
The next question Jamie posed is whether the school library can be regarded as a place or as an experience, since the new technologies broaden the reach of information. The answer to this lies with the Librarians who direct them. He suggested that the new library should be a programme. There should be an emphasis on research where students are taught to be discerning users of information technology through the use of multiple literacy skills: auditory, visual, reading, kinetic etc. Students also need to be taught to question information they find rather than accept it as gospel truth. Many Web sites appear to offer factual information but there could be a separate agenda behind this information, a political point of view for example. Students need to learn to discern between "good" and "bad" information.
Because information is no longer confined within library walls the role of the teacher-librarian has changed. He/she must now go beyond those walls and out to the classrooms where the information is being used. The classroom teachers also need to be information literate, so the work of the teacher-librarian extends too, to becoming a Professional Developer/Teacher Mentor.
A number of articles have been written on these two topics. How Teachers Learn Technology Best (McKenzie, 2001) can be found at www.staffdevelop.org/howteacherslearn.html and The Slam Dunk Digital Lesson (McKenzie, 2002b) is at www.fno.org/sept02/slamdunk.html
The teacher-librarian need not completely revolutionize the way he/she works. The longstanding role as leader and innovator is still relevant. He/she must continue to lead by making connections between students, teachers and curriculum, lead by creating teams and communities albeit through the use of new tools, lead by putting values up front, lead by doing the impossible, and lead by spreading the good word, the myth, the story and the challenge about the new libraries of the information age. In finishing, Jamie points us to an article he wrote entitled The New Vertical File (McKenzie, 2001) which can be found at www.fno.org/oct00/vertical.html. It speaks of new ways for old practices. The true revolution in teacher-librarianship.
Dr Ross Todd is Associate Professor in the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers State University, New Jersey. He has also lectured at the University of Technology in Sydney. Ross conducts research into many facets of teacher-librarianship and has published extensively on the subject. He has recently established the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries.
The complete transcript of Dr Todd's address Learning in the Information Age: School Opportunities, Outcomes and Options is available on the IASL Web site at www.iasl-slo.org/conference2003-virtualpap.html (Todd, 2003). It centres on three core beliefs held by teacher-librarians; that information makes a difference to people, that making a difference does not happen by chance, and that learning outcomes matter. Ross then continues with a discussion that evidence-based practice is an essential tool that should be used to ensure that authority figures understand the value that libraries and teacher-librarians have for their school communities. In conjunction with this, the paper goes on to considers a range of strategies, opportunities and options for maintaining effective library services in information age schools.
Kay Raseroka is the librarian at the University of Botswana and Africa Chair of the International Federation of Library Associations. She has conducted research on the relevance of libraries in developing African communities.
In her address Shaping the Future of School Libraries: What Is the Agenda? Kay referred to her audience as the parents of the information age, acknowledging that we are the first generation to have moved beyond defining a library as a room with four walls and books. A library now means much more. She also acknowledged that despite the very basic learning conditions she encountered as a child, it was teachers and libraries that most influenced her in her early years.
Kay was much more graphic in her description of current learning conditions in Africa than Jenni Karlsson. She points out that many children have nothing to help them understand information. There is a crying need to create an environment, from the grass roots up, where learning becomes relevant to their experiences. African educators must acknowledge that there are literacies other than those of the Western cultures. Oral literacies and verbal communication are just as important to black Africans.
Students must be able to build their knowledge base, and at the same time, learn to become critical thinkers, whereby they can make informed decisions in order to distinguish between truth and propaganda. The ability to do this is important in the new South Africa where freedom of speech and open access to information for all citizens will continue to strengthen the democratic movement.
With a new beginning in the country comes the opportunity to shape the future by changing the way education is delivered to the majority of its people. The South African education system was and still is rigid and geared towards exams. It is a system inherited from a past era dominated by a minority white western culture where students are spoon-fed and where there is little room for the teaching of critical thinking skills, especially at the senior levels. With the recent introduction of Outcomes Based Education for all schools in the country, librarians are well placed to begin making many of those changes. By focusing on the development of the person, not on the process or the book, and by helping students to become critical thinkers, the best interests of each individual can be met. Librarians can now forge partnerships with teachers, principals, and regions that will make a difference to the lives of the students they work with. This is essential in the current educational environment as resources are scarce and resource sharing is one means of obtaining maximum access to educational resources for all.
Professor Kingo Mchombu was born in Tanzania, and educated in Kenya and the UK. He has worked in Tanzania Library Services and at the University of Botswana. He is currently Head of Department of Information and Communication Studies at the University of Namibia and is conducting research on rural development, indigenous knowledge and behaviours to combat HIV/Aids.
Kay Raseroka, the current President of IFLA, briefly spoke of the need for traditional literacies to be included in the national curriculum. Professor Mchombu's address, Indigenous Knowledge Systems: Education Content and School Librarianship strengthened the argument by explaining some of those literacies and how they can be applied to the present educational setting in South Africa. Namibia has done this for the past 11 years in its information literacy skills programmes.
Traditional knowledge encompasses all aspects of life. It is passed on orally, in the main, in the form of stories, myths and legends and there is also a rich knowledge about the care of plants and animals and the use of these products. Traditional medicines, for example, have only recently begun to be investigated for wider, global applications. This is a huge potential source of income for many South African communities. The wide cultivation and processing of Aloe ferox for export, for medicines and cosmetics is one example of the successful commercialization of a traditional knowledge. The worldwide production of ostrich meat as a source of protein is another. There are many other lesser-known examples.
The passing on of traditional knowledge from one generation to the next is important as it gives young people an understanding of their world, and entrenches in them a physical and spiritual identity that gives their lives meaning. Since the 1950s, anthropologists have studied traditional knowledge. American and Asian studies have yielded much information, but Africa, due mostly to political barriers, has proven to be a little more difficult to investigate, particularly though, South Africa. Its own keepers have also neglected traditional knowledge. Colonization has forced many communities to either abandon or alter their ways, and often, the elitism that has developed in some communities has affected changes in attitudes to this knowledge.
In 1992 the United Nations declared that the protection of indigenous knowledge was of paramount importance, and that communities had a right to access that knowledge. Subsequently, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) requested that libraries support this decree by keeping indigenous resources. These should include realia (such as artifacts, implements etc.), records of processes (written documents, tape recordings, photographs, drawings etc.) and could go so far as to include animals and small crops, which require regular attention and nurturing. (Through the regular attendance to these things, knowledge will be gained and retained within communities). These resources should be readily accessible to the communities who "own" them, as well as to others who might wish to investigate them.
Professor Mchombu also acknowledges that there are also some harmful practices in indigenous knowledge. Superstitions and tribal beliefs may inhibit progress, but he hopes, as does Kay Raseroka, that the teaching of critical thinking skills will help to overcome such barriers. It is widely recognized in Africa that the failure to slow down the spread of HIV/AIDS has much to do with traditional beliefs and practices within many communities.
How then does indigenous knowledge become incorporated into mainstream curriculum? The answer, Kingo Mchombu says, is quite simple. People with that knowledge need to be "employed" to impart it. By becoming an integral part of the normal school curriculum, that knowledge has a more than better chance of being retained by future generations, regardless of the tendency to modernize and westernize. The teaching of geography can include in-depth studies of the local area. Local "experts" can be called in to impart this knowledge to students, and field trips can be organized. Similarly, the local environment can be studied. Biology can incorporate the study of local plants and animals. Those with traditional knowledge of such lore can pass on to younger people, for example, traditional healing techniques using herbs and other plants. Traditional production of indigenous crops can also be studied. History can be told by those who have lived it and who have heard the stories from their elders. These are but a few examples of local indigenous knowledge passed to the younger generations, in traditional ways understood by them, but applied to a modern school curriculum that teaches about the wider, modern world. Through this method of teaching it is envisaged that South Africa will produce more informed thinkers who will feel empowered enough to take charge of their own future and the future of the country.
Dr LT Mbatha started out as a teacher, quickly progressing through the ranks to achieve his present position as Chief Director: Education Planning, Development and Support Services. He transformed South African curriculum from the traditional Bantu Education System to the modern Outcomes Based Education methodology (OBE). He was responsible for Implementing South African National Party education initiatives in KwaZulu-Natal. Dr Mbatha reiterated the oft-repeated sentiment that the inequalities resulting from the Apartheid system need to be redressed. He outlined The Role of ELITS as a Collaborative Force for Effective Outcomes Based Education Implementation.
The revised National Curriculum Statement Curriculum 2005 is an attempt to begin the transformation of the education system in South Africa. The adoption of OBE (Outcomes Based Education) for grades R – 9, the compulsory years of schooling, is the tool for this transformation. It does away with the old style of rote learning, and instead introduces a system whereby education can be made relevant to ALL learners, and accessible to all who wish to learn.
ELITS has been charged not only with the task of providing the resources to support OBE, but more importantly, with knowledge construction. This entails a number of things. First, materials and programs to support OBE must be developed. Teachers need to be equipped with high-level knowledge of OBE techniques and must learn the skills necessary to teach to it. At present many do not understand what is required of a teacher in terms of OBE. The ability for them to engage in and teach good research skills and high level critical thinking skills is most important. In this way, students can, in turn, receive the best opportunity for themselves to become critical thinkers and successful life long learners.
There are a number of challenges to face during the education transformation process. The vision is to develop a School Library Policy and to develop a mission statement for this Policy. To date this has not been achieved. Also, the number of resource centers needs to be increased. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal there are 5,725 schools. Between them there are 35 resource centers and 135 libraries. Not all of these are within schools. The situation for the other 21,009 South African schools is similar or worse. KwaZulu-Natal is relatively well resourced.
At the present time, albeit with little government funding, ELITS is doing a number of things to try to improve Library resources for schools. Most importantly, it is lobbying the government for greater funding for school libraries. ELITS is also faced with the task of attempting to fairly allocate scarce resources between schools, with little success. In the absence of a national school library policy, it is helping provinces to develop their own school library policies. It is also ensuring that each region has a resource centre, that regions have educational libraries and that video centers are also being developed.
There is still much to be done for schools and school library services in South Africa. A National School Library Policy needs to be completed. More funds needs to be found to provide ELITS with the backing to do what it is charged with doing, more teacher-librarian posts need to be created, and lastly, there is an acknowledgement that there needs to be much more collaboration between government bodies and ELITS for the planning of better physical spaces and for better overall educational infrastructure.
Director General of the National Department of Education, Thamie Mseleku was the final keynote speaker. He completed his studies in the UK. In the past he was an advisor to the former Education Minister. He was not concerned with ideals in the same way that educators "at the coal face" were expressing. His words were grounded in the practicalities of running a government department that did not have sufficient funds to address many of the concerns held by some of the previous speakers. He freely acknowledged the fact that in the majority of cases, conditions fall somewhat short of desirable. He acknowledged that in many cases too, school premises were inadequate, if at all existent. He pointed out the difficulties of resourcing schools with materials to assist in the delivery of OBE, when many schools do not have electricity, telephone or running water. Some do not have toilets.
Mr Mseleku suggested that teachers need to become resourceful in their approach to collecting learning materials. There was a suggestion that too many teachers expected resources to appear on demand. The reality is quite different and there should not be the expectation that the government will provide, when clearly, it cannot. In the years so soon after apartheid many undesirable aspects of a previous life remain. It will take many years to set things to rights and with new found liberties for the majority of the population, comes the chance to make an impression on history, a chance to rebuild a nation. But it will take more than money can provide. It will take a collective national will.
On July 7th a news article appeared in BuaNews (Pretoria) in which are reiterated the words of the Deputy Minister of Education Mosibudi Mangena during his address to delegates and officials at the opening ceremony of the conference. He acknowledged that the Department of Education is still working on a Framework for school libraries in South Africa and that the majority of schools have no functional library. He suggests that in the absence of a final policy, but with the knowledge that there will eventually be one, provincial departments should be "slowly increasing the number of schools with centralised traditional libraries". (Clyde 2003b).
The HIV/Aids epidemic in Africa was an important issue for most conference delegates and was addressed as an integral part of this conference. It can be said without any exaggeration that there is not one family or person living in southern Africa that is not affected by the virus in some way, be it friend, family member, acquaintance or colleague. Teachers are dying, students are dying and many children are becoming orphaned. The disease does not discriminate between black or white either. Nobody is able to remove themselves far from its grip. Speakers for this short but poignant session included Margaret Baffour-Awuah, W. Bernard (Bill) Luckenbill from the USA School Libraries, the Community and HIV/Aids, Ann Leon and Mrs S.L. Ngcobo.
Ann Leon is infected with HIV and has lived with the disease for the last ten years. She is married to a man who is HIV negative and remains so despite Ann's status. She was infected by an HIV positive man who did so knowingly. She has since seen him die of Aids. Ann is an outspoken advocate of HIV/Aids prevention. Ann has been able to control her disease by changing many aspects of her lifestyle, by educating herself about the disease and by seeking new information as it becomes available. As a result, she has changed her diet; she avoids alcohol, takes dietary supplements and takes courses of anti retro viral drugs. She gave a fairly graphic account of her experiences and concluded that despite having HIV+ve status, many people can lead full and rewarding lives.
Bill Luckenbill has conducted extensive research in the USA. He has looked at the extent of Aids education in that country and has made many observations during the course of his work.
The Federal United States policy on Aids prevention is one of abstinence. In most states there is no safe sex education or sex education at all. In those states the law says that sex must only occur within a marriage. Some states, but only a few, are more liberal in their outlook on sex and sex education. Amongst the policies of these states are library guidelines that indicate that sex education collections must focus on HIV/Aids prevention and education. The problem is though, that the teaching of programmes for HIV/Aids education must operate within a hierarchy, whereby content must be approved by authority figures before it is taught. Due to constraints imposed by this type of regime, HIV/Aids education can be difficult to deliver to any community.
Materials for the teaching of HIV/Aids prevention take many forms. Individuals can give talks to groups; there are many print and non-print materials, posters and pamphlets available from health departments, and information on symptoms, prevention and treatment is widely available on the Internet.
Librarians are generally the people who have the responsibility of collecting and organizing these materials. It is best if they, themselves are knowledgeable about the disease, committed to educating people about HIV/Aids, and are non-judgemental, and have an understanding of different cultural values and can constantly reacquaint themselves with current developments in the treatment of HIV/Aids and of governmental policies dealing with it. As a consequence of becoming HIV/Aids educators, librarians must, by default, engage in a form of social marketing. The principals of social marketing are based on commercial marketing practices that aim to change social attitudes to HIV/Aids in a positive way. The main activity of this marketing though is promotion of information from organizations and individuals, rather than promotion of any product.
US Library services for HIV/Aids education range from very basic to fully fledged support and information services. The most basic service offered is the provision to clients of community group and organization contact details. More sophisticated services offer: wider contacts with outside agencies, provision of referrals to these agencies, a wide collection of specific types of information, e.g. diet and lifestyle, and established links to "underground" or non-mainstream sources of information. Bill stressed that Libraries with vigorous HIV/Aids information programmes can and do make a difference to the people and communities who use those services.
Mrs Sophia Ngsobo is the KwaZulu-Natal Life Skills and HIV/Aids Coordinator. She works closely with ELITS to establish programmes that aim to assist in the fight against HIV/Aids. ELITS has created a number of initiatives that educate people about the disease. First, it has established a Theory and Research Foundation for guiding policy formulation, design and implementation. This will ensure that there is a better understanding, within communities, of issues surrounding HIV/Aids.
Second, it takes a leading role in educating and transforming knowledge of and attitudes to HIV/Aids through its library programmes within many communities. It encourages librarians to expand their roles as educators to that of health educators as well. ELITS assists local groups in targeting the particular demographics of a community who might require the attention of information specialists. It also assists libraries in the acquisition of special collections that will help to get the message across to those people, and to keep them informed of new developments in the prevention and treatment of HIV/Aids. In line with its community education policies, ELITS also helps community libraries to obtain increased funding for HIV/Aids education, to install electronic resources to access current information and to form partnerships with marginalized community groups, such as Aids orphans, widows and the aged.
ELITS finds that it has many issues for urgent consideration. Most importantly, it is faced with the task of lifting those marginalized groups out of the poverty traps that Aids creates, by reintegrating those people into a social group. For this reason, women have been targeted to undertake this work. Through their nurturing, caring and generally more sensitive natures they will be the ones whole will have most success in bridging the gap between ignorance and education. Women are the backbone of traditional African society and they are the ones who most value teaching and learning, and who most see the need for betterment. They too are the backbone of Africa's schools, the resource builders and the social networkers. Africa's women are the ones who are best positioned to involve the country's youth in open discussion, to educate its children and to restore children to a world of opportunity.
With this in mind, ELITS finds that it needs to continually re-evaluate it policies and programmes, monitor and evaluate its interventions, and be open to recommendations from all stakeholders, government and non-government, so that it may continue working towards bringing a better life to the majority of South Africans.
There were nine concurrent sessions held during the conference, with eight speakers per session, a total of 72 papers presented. Many of the transcripts are available in IASL Reports 2003: School Libraries Breaking Down Barriers, (Zinn, et al., 2003) which can be purchased through IASL. They showcased a most impressive range and standard of works being undertaken in and for school libraries around the world. This work encompasses research into various aspects of library practice as well as much on-going practical work including finite projects that will benefit schools.
Of the sessions I attended, the Paper presented by Maud Hell et al. of Sweden and Mpumi Kamango et al. of South Africa To Set the Ball Rolling: Library Practice for Young Learners: A Swedish – South African Project (Hell et al., 2003) was of the greatest appeal. As the title suggests, it was a cooperative project that was conducted over a period of years from 1997 to 2002. It focused on developing human, rather than physical resources, looking at some of the innovations set down in the South African Draft Policy Framework for School Library Standards. It involved Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Sweden's Bibliotek i Samhälle, South Africa's national and provincial education departments and two South African non-governmental organizations. The outcomes of this project were manifold. In the participating schools, spread throughout the nine provinces, library committees were formed. These committees developed Library policies and plans. Networks with neighbouring libraries were established and this provided participants with stronger support structures. Manuals on school library management and development were developed and most importantly, it provided a forum for advocacy for school libraries in South Africa.
My own paper, Information Eltham: Linking Communities, (O'Brien, 2003) describes the learning environment of ELTHAM College of Education (Melbourne, Australia), the school's philosophies and future directions and a current project that could benefit learners in remote areas around the world.
Students at ELTHAM are able to access their work from anywhere in the world via an internet connection. Work is stored on the Student Learning Management System (SLMS), a product developed jointly by ELTHAM College of Education and Corskill Australia. Reporting is also delivered online and is continuous, rather than periodic. The author has developed an Online Information Skills programme for students in grades 5 and 6. It is designed to lead students through a variety of ICT skills while at the same time, teaching them some fundamental Library and research skills, such as searching on an OPAC, searching a variety of databases, looking for information in a book etc. Along with this they are required to use ICT technologies to produce work done as a result of this learning. The same technology used to develop the school's digital environment for its own immediate college community can be use to deliver lessons to students in remote locations. This is currently being done by ELTHAM for students in mainland China. The school has a campus in Beijing and its students there learn English with lessons developed here in Melbourne. This kind of service can be extended to schools in other countries wherever there is a connection to the Internet.
IASL Awards 2003
Each year the ASL/Softlink Alice School Library Automation Award, an automated library system, is given to a school from the conference's host country. This year Pinetown Boy's High School, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, was given this award.
Each year, individual members donate to the International Children's Book Exhibit. These books are then donated to a school from the host country. Simla Primary School in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, received them this year. Many recipients of this year's awards were from the region which was most gratifying.
This unforgettable event was one of the Conference highlights. The Master of Ceremonies was South Africa's most loved and respected broadcast presenter, Vuyo Mbuli. Entertainment was provided by none other than the world-renowned singing group, the Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Each delegate received mementoes of the evening, a simple beaded necklace and a large black bag emblazoned with the colourful conference logo.
Many activities of the conference remain memorable because of the special planning and local venue. On the lighter side of conference activities, the organizers booked a large number of delegates in to see a show at a very popular Durban entertainment venue, the Barnyard Supper Theatre, situated inside the wonderful Pavilion Mall in the western suburb of Dawncliffe. La Vida, headed by local singers Jason Ralph, Shelley McLean and Bruce Taljaard, provided an evening's entertainment of popular Latino music from the past and present, with numbers such as Lambada, La Isla Bonita, Smooth, La Bamba, Hot Hot Hot and much more.
Tours to primary and high schools in and around Durban were organized for those delegates who indicated that they would like to participate in this activity. In most instances each tour included at least one school of each type. The main purpose of the visits was to view the library facilities of these schools. Despite the fact that school holidays were in full swing throughout South Africa, Sizophumelela Primary School teachers gave a wonderful welcome to delegates with a traditional song and dance.
As a visitor from a developed western nation, it was a shock to see the state of teaching/learning resources that African schools have to contend with. At best, where the schools had previously been for white or Indian students during the apartheid years, shelves are well stocked but the material is at least ten years old. At worst, the school library consists of a small box of books, often on loan from a district center, which resources the entire school, albeit temporarily. In between these two extremes, are the schools which are stocked with print resources, but with material that is totally irrelevant to the school's curriculum, as in the case of Adams High School. It was Nelson Mandela's place of education and in former years, a teacher-training institution. It is now a normal high school catering to about 2,000 students. The Library consists of a few rows of books dating back to the school's teacher-training days. There are no modern, curriculum-related books and there is little or no money to buy new resources. The librarian, instead, spends much of her time, away from the library, on one of the school's few computers, trawling the Internet for suitable information, as it is required.
Some librarians, particularly in primary schools, such as at Saphemelela Primary School, adjacent to Adams High School, have become very creative in their selection and presentation of resources. By reusing older materials and by rearranging, cutting, pasting and re-assembling, the useful lives of many books and pamphlets have been extended. In this way too, resources have been more closely matched to the curriculum.
Many schools in Africa receive donations from developed nations. These are allocated to schools by a quota system in which total book numbers are taken into account and quality or relevance is immaterial. As a result, these useless "resources" are left to gather dust in a forgotten corner. Developed nations who contribute to these "donation" stockpiles really need to consider the end use for their discarded materials. Valuable time, effort and money is put into transporting these goods to a destination, but ultimately, they are of little or no benefit and rather, become a burden to the recipients.
As a fitting finale to the Conference events, a number of cultural tours were offered to delegates including and I note them because they were so special and made the trip so memorable.
Following a steam train journey to the South Coast town of Port Shepstone, travelers enjoyed a traditional South African braai or barbeque lunch. After lunch they proceeded to the three million year old Oribi Gorge.
To experience the KwaZulu-Natal country lifestyle and sample some of the local arts and crafts, this group was taken to the KZN midlands. The highlight of the trip was a visit to the beautiful Howick Falls.
This tour to the Great Kraal overlooking the Umhlatuze Lake was the country of Shaka, King of the Zulus. Highlights of the journey included Zulu dancers, Secrets of the Sangomas, and tales of ancient lore and legend.
This full-day trip journeyed to the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains where participants were met by four-wheel drive vehicles to journey to the top of the pass, which is located three kilometers into the tiny country of Lesotho. The group visited a local Basuto home and then enjoyed lunch at the highest pub in Africa.
St Lucia Wetlands
The St Lucia Wetlands situated on the North Coast, is KwaZulu-Natal's National Heritage Site. The group which chose this tour was given a boat tour of the lake with it abundant bird-life and hippopotamuses.
This full day tour took the group out through an area well west of the city to the Valley of a Thousand Hills and then on to Assegai to the Zulu Cultural Village of Phezulu. Because of the sugar cane burning and a long-term lack of wind in the area, the expected views were not to be seen. However, the delights of the village made up for this. There was a traditional welcome dance, followed by a demonstration of a young man being told his fortune when he sought counsel from the local witch doctor and her apprentice. The guide explained about the way in which huts are constructed and the very practical reasons as to why men and women must occupy certain places in the communal hut. We were also given a small insight into the traditional polygamous Zulu family structure. Finally we were able to see some African wildlife, and for the less faint at heart, handle a very large snake.
The second half of the day was spent at the Tala Game Reserve, spotting such animals as wildebeest, giraffes, zebra, various small antelope, hippos and rhino, some, including a white rhino mother and baby, at very close quarters.
One again, the audience was addressed by the same tribal chief, who greeted us at the start of the week. Much of it was spoken in Zulu as most of the attendees were from KwaZulu-Natal or could understand what was being said. We were thanked for attending and were wished good journeys.
Peter Genco, the IASL President gave a short closing address. In it he echoed the sentiments of the week by offering us a translation of a German saying. "Do first the necessary, then the possible, and suddenly you will achieve the impossible!" This is where South Africa, its schools and libraries can find their inspiration. Traditional Zulu dancers and drums ended proceedings as loudly and colourfully as they began.
The SLA/IASL Joint conference for 2004 will be held at Trinity College in Dublin, Republic of Ireland from June 17-20. The theme is From Aesop to e-book: the story goes on ... It will centre on the power of story through storytelling, children's literature, poetry, myths and legends. More information about this conference can be found on the IASL Web site at www.iasl-slo.org/conference2004-call.html
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Marie O'Brien (mobrien@ elthamcollege.vic.edu.au) is the Senior Teacher Librarian, ELTHAM College of Education in Victoria, Australia.