About Penny Cowell

Arts & culture writer

Our cat Leo

Year 10 student Sophie was with us for a week’s work experience recently, and decided to write about her beloved Leo, her family’s moggy. Read her story below. 

We got Leo when I was four. We never thought we would get a cat as we had just moved into a house which is right next to a busy road but my mum loves cats so much. The first year Mum would always try to keep Leo in at night so he wouldn’t go wondering, but he soon worked it out and started hiding in the bushes, so Mum couldn’t find him to bring him inside. Leo didn’t seem to be going on the road because he would always be back home the next morning, so we started leaving him outside at night.

Leo was mostly in a playful mood. Even though he passed the kitten stage pretty quickly, he would never give up an opportunity to claw something. You would think he was a playful cat, but in fact, he was mostly scared. He was always hesitant walking through the front door or turning a corner – instead he always liked to be hiding under his favourite bush out in the front yard.

Leo

My beautiful cat Leo

When I turned ten, I started getting bored with Leo and I wanted a dog. I would complain to Mum that Leo wasn’t fun and if we had a dog you could take them on walks and on holidays. When I was eleven we got a dog and named her Lizzie, I was so happy. Lizzie didn’t like Leo but Leo didn’t really care. Leo kept out of the backyard and spent his time inside and out the front, away from Lizzie. I played with Lizzie as much as I could after school. I soon realised as I got older that Lizzie wasn’t as great as I thought she would be. Lizzie would smell, but Leo didn’t. Leo loved cuddles, but Lizzie didn’t. My sister started being great pals with Lizzie and I then went back to loving Leo the most.

On the 23 of January 2015 at 9:11pm (I remember it very clearly) we were watching a movie when mum’s mobile phone rang – it was the local vet. The vet said Leo had been brought in because he had been hit by a car. My mum then asked if she could come and get him the next day (thinking he was OK) but the vet then told mum he didn’t make it. Mum told us what happened and we all started crying. I was then crying for the whole night and the next week.  I couldn’t believe he was gone forever and I would never see him again. It really hurt I didn’t get to say goodbye.

My mum spoke to our neighbours about Leo’s death and they mentioned there had been a dead fox on the road. We now think Leo had been chased by the fox onto the road. I had Leo for eight years and I am glad I have beautiful memories and photos of him. We are not considering getting another cat at the moment but when I am older, have a house of my own and live next to a quiet road I would like to have another cat like Leo.

Twenty years of Harry Potter

Work experience student Tiah is a Potterhead. She has seen all of the Harry Potter movies and continues to work her way through the books. Tiah has definite opinions on her favourite and least favourite characters – read on to see who they are. 

This year marks 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published, so I thought ‘why not blog about it?’ My name is Tiah and I came to Tea Tree Gully Library for my Year 10 work experience for school. 

I am going to tell you about my favourite character Draco Malfoy. Now you may hate me for this, but I am also going to talk about my least favourite character Dolores Umbridge. I think most of us will definitely agree that she is one of the least favourite characters.

Draco Last Year

Draco Malfoy: my favourite character Image: Wikia

Yes in the first five movies and books, Draco is really mean to pretty much everyone at Hogwarts, but in the last three movies and two books you start to discover why he is that way. He doesn’t really have a choice on being nice to Harry and his friends, seeing as his parents are Death Eaters who serve Lord Voldemort. They killed his parents and are trying to kill Harry.

Honestly, I have not read all of the books yet, so I don’t know all that much (the books have more details than the movies) but Draco has always been one of my favourite characters. He is a siriusly misunderstood character (pun intended).

After realising he has been a jerk to everyone, Draco decides he does not want to raise his son, Scorpius, the way his parents raised him. He didn’t marry a Death Eater and he didn’t make his son believe everything his parents made him believe about muggle-borns and half-bloods.

Draco Year 1

Draco in his first year at Hogwarts – evil from an early age – yet still my favourite character Image: myharrypotterlovestory.wordpress.com

Even J.K. Rowling has a soft spot for Draco. She has said: “I do not discount the appeal of Tom Felton, who plays Draco brilliantly in the films and, ironically, is about the nicest person you could meet.” 

However Dolores Umbridge did have a choice on the way she behaved.
She is not a Death Eater, nor was anyone else in her family, with her father being her only other magic relation. She is just really rude to anyone who is not a pure blood. She didn’t let her students use spells for learning how to defend themselves during her class Defense Against The Dark Arts (aka DADA). Eventually in the end, after The Dark Lord’s final battle, Dolores was arrested, tried and sent to Azkaban for crimes against humanity.

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Dolores was just plain rude. Image: thisgeekymommy.com

Stephen King told J.K Rowling, that he described Dolores Umbridge as  ‘the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.’

Umbridge (2)

J.K. Rowling describes Dolores as ‘fat, short, ugly and toad-like’ in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Image: storyofcamelcow.wordpress.com

J.K. Rowling will always be one of my favourite authors and people in this world and if you didn’t know already, there is a website she has made about the wizarding world that is easy to use pottermore.com

You can find out everything about the characters, creatures and professors, discover your patronus, find out what house you’re in, what Ilvermorny house you’re in, find out what wand you would have, locations such as Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade Village, and there’s even things on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. You can also shop for J.K. Rowling’s books, ebooks and audiobooks on the website.

PS I think Tom Felton and Imelda Staunton were perfect for the roles of Draco and Dolores.

Anirban’s work experience at Tea Tree Gully Library

 

Anirban recently completed a two-week work experience placement at Tea Tree Gully Library. Here is his account of his time:

I am a people person. I enjoy talking with patrons and I enjoy dealing with a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities. I enjoy giving direct support to senior management, colleagues and co-workers in a way that really makes a noticeable difference. I enjoy challenges, responsibilities, methodical as well as precise approach.

My placement at Tea Tree Gully Library has provided me with an excellent opportunity to develop professional networks with colleagues and library staff members. Over the past two weeks, staff have become familiar with my professional ability, punctuality, reliability, team skills and work ethics. I believe these connections will provide strong references in the future when the time comes to gain meaningful and sustainable employment in the library industry.

Working at the Library has given me a chance to observe how other employees operate and behave in various circumstances. For instance, verbal and non-verbal communication, writing clear business correspondence, observing office etiquette and behaviour patterns, answering telephone calls, dealing with difficult and aggressive patrons and resolving conflicts.

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This placement has been an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge I have learned at TAFE in a professional environment. Applying skills practically has helped me to identify my biggest strengths and areas I can improve in the future. My workplace supervisors have given me the necessary training and induction during my placement. Customer service attendants and other specialist library staff have helped me to complete my work placement through various on-the-job training.

For instance, a WHS representative Stephen Radlett gave me the necessary training for manual handling. The Digital Hub coordinator, Julian Smith, explained vividly how to use various electronic devices for placing a hold, searching the library catalogue and how to use social media platforms for collaboration, communication and effective engagement with peers, colleagues and patrons. Overall, the preparation was insightful and equally comprehensive.

My placement has allowed me to work in different areas in the Library to see what environment suits me most. For example, dealing with children, computers and systems, collections, adult programs and community history. It is practically impossible to know where I will best fit without trying a variety of responsibilities. Moreover, the library has a wide range of patrons and staff from different cultures, ethnicities and educational backgrounds. That has made the internship even more vibrant, stimulating and insightful.

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Placements usually award me with some kind of compensation such as course credit or a professional recommendation. With the Tea Tree Gully Library, I have greatly admired their support, constant cooperation and desire for professional growth in their employees. I was privileged to be able to take advantage of in-house training and flexible scheduling to complete my Certificate IV in Library and Information Services.

The entire purpose of a placement is to gain new skills and apply them to real tasks. For example, during the placement I have learnt the different uses and functionalities of the SirsiDynix Library Management system, how to display an educational event and project management techniques. A placement is like a crash course of working in the real world. I am learning from hands-on experience instead of a classroom-based lesson. Whether it learning big things or little things, I have been learning constantly. In the real world of employment, learning never stops, so it has been great to start adding to my skill set while undertaking my placement as a trainee library assistant.

It is difficult to find a placement in the library industry under the current economic and political climate, especially in South Australia. Placements are all about gaining experience, making professional connections and learning new skills. They involve a lot of work, learning, observation, and involvement.  Whether it is the work I am doing or the people that surround me, there are so many different things to love about my placements.

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The successful completion of a college certificate does not necessarily provide direct entry into a career. I think of placements as career experiments to accomplish long-term educational and career objectives. I have enjoyed my placement and wish to work in the Library industry upon graduation.

Doing something I love and thoroughly enjoy is vitally important because it resembles what I want to do in the future. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I got my approval letter to complete a placement at the Tea Tree Gully Library. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

A placement may often be perceived as an audition for a full-time job either with the same organisation or with a different organisation. My advice for future work experience students is to apply yourself to a placement as if it is a permanent engagement, or if it might turn into one. Libraries are always looking for dedicated, passionate, dynamic, and creative individuals. It is worth remembering that hard work always pays off!

How many books will you read in 2017?

How many books do you read in a year?

Some Tea Tree Gully Library staff recently compared their 2016 reading lists. It was interesting to see not just what books people read, but also how many books they got through.

Penny read 24. Hayley got through 25. Rose smashed 69 books – an impressive effort.

But no one had anything on Pixie. The magical Pixie, who read 94 books in 2016. An incredible 1.8 books a week.

Pixie created a reading challenge list at the start of last year and especially focused on reading classics, seeing as they’re not her thing. In the end, she got through nine classics – one short of her goal of 10. Amazing.

Here’s the full list of what Pixie read:

Classics
1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
2. The women in black by Madeleine St John
3. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
4. Little men by Louisa Alcott
5. Jo’s boys by Louisa Alcott
6. Good wives by Louisa Alcott
7. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
8. One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
9. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence

Non-fiction
10. Quiet by Susan Cain
11. Talking to my country by Stan Grant
12. I, Digital: personal collections in the digital era by Christopher A. Lee (ed)
13. The Life of I: the new culture of narcissism by Anne Manne
14. Shrill: notes from a loud woman by Lindy West
15. The Japanese mind: essentials of Japanese philosophy and culture by Charles Moore (ed)
16. Primates of park avenue by Wednesday Martin
17. Reckoning by Magda Szubanski
18. Love and death in Kathmandu by Amy Willesee & Mark Whittaker
19. Between you and me: Confessions of a comma queen by Mary Norris
20. Yes please by Amy Poehler
21. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Foreign titles
22. The angel’s game Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spain)
23. My mother’s house by Colette (France)
24. The white tiger by Aravind Adiga (India)
25. Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami (Japan)
26. The post-office girl by Stefan Zweig (Austria)
27. China Mao’s last dancer by Li Cunxin (China)
28. Breathless by Anne Sward (Sweden)
29. Ines of my soul by Isabel Allende (Peru/Chile)
30. The hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe)
31. Half of a yellow sun  by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Fiction
32. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Greene & David Levithan
33. The messenger by Markus Zusak
34. The language of flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
35. The god of small things Arundhati Roy
36. Purple Hibiscus by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
37. The curious incident of the dog in the night by Mark Haddon
38. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
39. Lost and found by Brooke Davis
40. Witches abroad by Terry Pratchett
41. Odd hours by Dean Koontz

Sci-Fi
42. Some kind of fairytale by Graham Joyce
43. Stardust by Joseph Kanon
44. The prisoner of heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
45. Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
46. The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
47. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
48. Mountain shadow by Gregory David Roberts

Quirky
49. Everything is illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer
50. The love song of Johnny valentine by Teddy Wayne
51. Wild abandon by Joe Dunthorne
52. The truth about diamonds by Nicole Richie
53. The woman in the lobby by Lee Tulloch
54. A most immoral woman by Linda Jaivin

Young Adult Fiction
55. March by Geraldine Brooks
56. The bone dragon by Alexia Casale
57. Finding serendipity by Angelica Banks

Horror/crime
58. Wraith by Lee Tulloch
59. The vampire shrink by Lynda Hilburn
60. Career of evil by Robert Galbraith
61. A prick with a fork by Larissa Dubecki

Memoir
62. Bitter is the new black by Jen Lancaster
63. Blood bones and butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
64. Stephanie’s feasts and stories by Stephanie Alexander
65. The devil’s picnic by Taras Grescoe
66. Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
67. Cyndi Lauper: A memoir by Cyndi Lauper
68. Weird Sister by Kate Pullinger
69. The anti cool girl by Rosie Waterland

Other reading
70 + 71. Divergent series (2 books) – Insurgent & Allegiant
72-83 Stackhouse series (11 books ) + The Sookie Stackhouse companion
84. Fun home by Alison Bechdel (graphic novel/ memoir)
85. We need new names by Noviolet Bulowayo
86. Pure by Andrew Miller
87. Japanese mythology by Juliet Piggott
88. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
89. How to be happy by David Burton
90. Go set a watchman by Harper Lee
91. Candy girl by Diablo Cody
92. Rosewater and soda bread by Marsha Mehran
93. Be different by John Elder Robinson
94. Orange is the new black by Piper Kerman


Rose’s 10 favourite books read in 2016 (in no particular order)

  • The Fifth Season – NK Jemisin
  • The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante:
  • My Brilliant Friend
  • The Story of a New Name
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
  • The Story of the Lost Child
  • Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
  • The Wrath and The Dawn – Renee Ahdieh
  • Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy L Sayers
  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson
  • The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

Penny’s 10 favourite books read in 2016 (in no particular order)

  • French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
  • The Other Hand by Chris Cleave
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
  • Shelter by Kara Rosenlund
  • Love x Style x Life by Garance Doré
  • Eat Real Food by David Gillespie
  • Use Your Words by Catherine Deveny
  • Mastery by Robert Greene (this book is a treasure!) 
  • Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami

As for Hayley, she loved ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, ‘Use Your Words’ by Catherine Deveny and ‘Princess Jellyfish’ by Akiko Higashimura in 2016.

Here’s a pic of her 2017 reading challenge:

hayley-book-list

Many of these books were presents given to Hayley in 2016. All of them are titles she really wants to read but hasn’t gotten around to yet. There are 12 of them – so she is aiming to read one book per month.


Do you set ambitious reading goals each year?

Do you aim to read a book a month, or a book a week? Or one book a year? Let us know.

My experience with music and my work experience at the Tea Tree Gully Library!

Jaenaya recently spent time with us at the Library, completing work experience as part of her Year 11 studies. Turns out she is a total muso – she has played the clarinet since she was nine. She tells us a bit more about why she loves it:

My name is Jaenaya and I attended a week of work experience at the Tea Tree Gully Library for Year 11. I chose to go to the library because of my love for quiet spaces and books. But another thing that I like is music.

So, because it is one of my favourite things, I have decided to write about the clarinet and just my general experience with music.

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The clarinet is one of my favourite things…

When I first discovered the clarinet, at about 9 years old, I barely knew what a clarinet was. It may even be the same for you right now. I began lessons partly because my mum was like “Yeah, clarinets are lovely” and because I was 9 and easily persuadable. But it certainly was a good choice! (Thanks mum). One thing that may be confusing to some people is the difference between the clarinet and the oboe. I understand, because they look so similar, but I’m here to tell you that there is a difference.


An oboe (pictured left above) sounds like a goose, and a clarinet (pictured right above) doesn’t (well, I don’t think it does). There is also a bass clarinet, also known as an Eb (E flat) clarinet. I play a Bb (B flat) clarinet, which is smaller and has a slightly higher pitch than the Eb clarinet.

A clarinet, like some other well-known instruments, uses a reed. A reed is basically a thin piece of wood that is fixed onto the mouthpiece. When you blow, it vibrates and creates the sound.

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The almighty reed – the key to making sound on a clarinet

As for my general experience with music, I can play three instruments, one of them being the clarinet. I believe that learning a musical instrument is a very valuable skill. Studies have shown that people who can read sheet music and learn to play instruments have good memory. This is understandable, as reading sheet music consists of linking many things together in your head and eventually figuring out where to put your fingers.  I must say that there are difficulties without a doubt, but learning an instrument is really rewarding. Especially when after practising and practising, you are finally able to flawlessly play a song.

So, I hope I have taught you something about the clarinet. I hope I’ll be able to play in an orchestra one day. I would have to take a great step out of my comfort zone to do that…

But my work experience here at the Tea Tree Gully Library has told me that good things can come of performing daunting tasks! So thank you to all the staff at the library. I now feel just that bit more prepared for the real world.

Summer Reading Club 2017

Wow – we are thrilled to report that a record 40 young readers participated in our Summer Reading Club program over 2016-17.

Altogether, the 40 children read a grand total of 1222 books and completed 117 reading logs and 52 book reviews.

This year’s Summer Reading Club theme was Heroes and Villains. Children were required to read ten books over summer and then record the titles on a reading log. If they wanted to extend themselves, they could write a book review on the books.

Each child has now gone into the draw to win state and national prizes, including an iPad Mini.

On Wednesday 25 January 11am the Library  hosted a Blast off Musical’ finale party to celebrate the end of the Summer Reading Club, and reward participating children. A total of 99 adults and children joined us for dancing and a pizza party afterwards.

Keep up the reading, everyone.

The art of letter writing

Is there anything sweeter than coming home to find a letter in the mailbox?

Not a bill, an invoice, or junk mail. Not even an invitation. But a handwritten letter, stamped and sealed by a loved one.

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It’s a rare thing to receive such a letter. Who out there is writing them? Why would anyone spend time writing to someone when you can talk text Snapchat them instantly through your phone or Internet? Why revert to quaint times and spend money on stationary to write a little old letter, when you can broadcast yourself via video, to whoever you like, any time you like.

In 2014, Australia Post lost money for the first time in more than 30 years. Half-yearly profit fell by 56 per cent; the letters section losing $151 million. At the start of 2016 stamp prices increased to $1 each, to break even.

It seems highly unlikely that the postal letter service will disappear entirely – nostalgia is a strong force and there is an ever-increasing value being placed on the physical. Heartfelt condolences can often only be expressed through snail mail. Children will still want to send letters to Santa. Yet it’s not not certain that people will start writing letters en masse again.

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eBooks aren’t taking over real books (eBook sales have dropped off big time while traditional book sales have increased), vinyl record sales outsell digital music in many countries. But online communications have well and truly usurped the handwritten letter, and perhaps have for the rest of time. Unless the Internet master controls are unplugged, the convenience and speed of online communication will ensure our world keeps progressing at a rapid pace, and will keep the need for letters at bay.

With slower postal times, expensive postage and not enough time on our hands, the humble letter may be one of the most precious things we have left in this hare-footed digital age we inhabit. It’s also a gesture that’s up to each of us to preserve.

Perhaps we just need to be shown how to go about this letter writing business again.

Our library has an impressive collection of books that provide letter templates, words for all occasions, starting a pen pal relationship and the art of personal correspondence.

Check them out

Just think, if you take the time to write someone a letter, chances are one day there will be a letter in the mail box waiting for you.