Important Facts You Should Know. Light Bulbs

I don’t change light bulbs. Admittedly I have seen other people change a light bulb or two, and I know that it’s a safe activity to partake in. However, it’s not something I do.

I’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid light bulb changing and I have some pretty impressive avoidance tactics. On more than one occasion a friend has arrived to visit only to find the scene strategically set in preparation for light bulb changing. I’ve gotten by for days at a time with a lamp and a very long extension cord.

But one night a crisis befell me. My trusty lamp inconveniently stopped shedding light late at night.

I considered waking my ten-year-old son. But sleeping children should be left sleeping. I could wait until morning to obtain assistance from a neighbour … but that second option, while more polite, wouldn’t help me right then. And right then, I needed my lamp to do what it is that lamps do.

It was a dilemma of epic proportions.

I sent a text to my neighbour, two doors down, enquiring if they were still awake. When the reply came back in the affirmative, I unplugged my lamp, collected a fresh light bulb and trotted off down the road.

It should be noted at this point that I was not talking about a small bedside lamp that I could tuck under my arm. It was a large room lamp. I’m rather short in stature, and the lamp was in fact, a good 10 centimetres taller than I was. Regardless I had a light bulb problem, so I traipsed along hefting my lamp alongside me.

“I have a situation,” I explained when my neighbours answered their door. Given they were already aware of my non-light bulb changing status, and that both myself and my large lamp were on their front porch, no further explanation was necessary, other than why I had not chosen to ask one of them to come over to change the bulb. You too might well ask this question.

I’ve always been independent, mainly because my mother refused to be a helicopter parent. If I need help, I’ve always found it prudent to make things as easy as possible for people I require assistance from. Hence the carting of a large room lamp down the road in the middle of the night.

I would like to point out that, my non-light bulb changing status, has nothing to do with the fact that I can’t change light bulbs. I can change light bulbs. One time I was forced into a situation where I had to change the brake light in my car.

This accomplishment was followed by multiple phone calls as I informed those in my life that I can change light bulbs, I just choose not to.

Because I think that’s an important distinction to make.

Bassendean Library Competition

The Bassendean Library held a call for submissions on “what the library means to you” as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations of operation from their “new” facilities.

I’m delighted to announce that I was one of the winners  – also worth mentioning is that fellow Bassendean Writing Group member, Punito, was also a winner.

Bassendean Library Confirmation Letter

Here’s the full text of my submission:

As a small child, the side room at Bassendean Library where the children’s collection was housed was a treasure trove of stories waiting to be read, somewhat akin to Aladdin’s cave. While my Mum fossicked in the main library, usually hunting for the latest Wilbur Smith novel, I was free to explore and make a choice about which picture book I was going to take home that week.

Growing up with Cystic Fibrosis, I soon discovered that I could take a book with me while I waited at the hospital. I could read while I did my many treatments, and if I felt tired or short of breath, I could sit and read. I was different to other children, marked by a progressive illness, but books didn’t judge me. Instead, they took me on adventures and to places that my wonky lungs would never allow me to go.

Midway through primary school we moved to a semi-rural area. I no longer had access to a public library that I could walk to, and the school library was just a shelf at the back of the classroom. My Mum, who read but wasn’t a “reader”, couldn’t see the problem. You can after all, only read one book at a time, she reasoned.

I solved my problem when, every second weekend, I stayed overnight with my Gran in Bassendean. On a Saturday morning, I would trek back to Old Perth Road and head to the Bassendean Book Exchange. I was without doubt the worst customer they had. Each Saturday I managed to scrounge a small bag of Gran’s Mills and Boon books or Secret Confession magazines that I exchanged for the pick of their children’s books. There was a wonderful lady who ran the book exchange, and she never once complained that I treated her shop as a library when I sat and read all morning. Each week just before noon she would remind me that the shop was closing soon. I would carefully make my selections, always maximising the use of any credit I had. Clutching my bag of swapped treasures, it was time to hustle back to Gran’s. I always slowed down as I passed by the library, staring longingly through the door towards the books that were out of my reach. It never occurred to me that instead of reading at the book exchange, I should have been reading at the library. Living out of the district, my focus revolved around the loss of my precious pink library cards and the flow on consequence that I was no longer entitled to take library books home.

In high school, I continued to stay with my Gran, still on a fortnightly basis, but by now I’d found a solution to my library card problem. One Saturday, I dragged my Gran down to the library and got her to sign up. I immediately relieved her of her library cards. Having both out-read and outgrown the children’s section by this time, it was fortunate that her four yellow cards allowed me access to the main library. Initially I crept through the library, making my selections rapidly, trying to borrow before any of the staff realised that I wasn’t “Mavis” and sent me back to the children’s section.

One Saturday as I skulked through the stacks trying to be inconspicuous, Wendy, one of the librarians, placed a book in my hand and told me to try it. The following fortnight, she had another suggestion for me. She carefully cultivated my reading after that, pointing me towards books that challenged my thinking, that pushed me as a reader but were always age appropriate. Two authors that I distinctly remember her placing in my hands are still among my favourites today. Dean Koontz (back when he was still clinging to his middle initial) and Anne McCaffrey with her grand tales about the Dragonriders of Pern.

At the end of Year 10, I approached Wendy and asked if I could do some volunteer work at the library over the summer holidays. I was so fortunate that not just Wendy, but all of the ladies working in the library, took me under their collective wing and showed me the ropes. Eventually, my volunteer work became more permanent, and I volunteered every Saturday morning. Each week I hungrily absorbed everything they showed me. Here was a world that revolved around books and information, I absorbed everything I could, eager to learn. I couldn’t imagine a better place to work.

Throughout my life, one of the messages that was repeatedly given to me was, “you can’t” or “you shouldn’t”. Therefore, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when my Year 11 Guidance Officer told me that due to my health, I couldn’t make a career out of a love of reading. ‘Libraries are too dusty,’ he told me, ‘they’ll make you cough. Books are too heavy, you won’t be able to carry them.’ So he sent me off to do an accounting course. Account books were definitely NOT the sort of books that I was passionate about.

After high school, I studied an accounting course at TAFE while I worked part time. My heart wasn’t in it, I kept thinking back to my happy Saturday mornings, flicking through the card catalogue, checking for inter-library loans. Still it took me another seven years to shake the message that I couldn’t make a career from my love of books. By now, libraries were starting to go digital, and as I studied librarianship, I realised that the background the Bassendean Library ladies had given me had been priceless.

When I graduated, my chosen career path within the library industry was never in doubt. I intended to work within the school system. The first time I placed a book in the hands of a child and saw their eyes light up with delight, I knew my instincts had been right. My core values have always been moulded by how Wendy treated me as a teen. That the right book in the hand of a child at the right time can change their life. That you shouldn’t judge or devalue a child’s reading tastes and that they should be given the freedom to explore the world of literature.

In my mid-30s I returned to reside in Bassendean. The library building had changed, and so had some of the faces, and this time my son joined me on my Saturday jaunts to the library. Around this time, the prophetic words of my Year 11 Guidance Officer started to come true. My health was rapidly declining. Books were now too heavy for me to carry home from the library and I was forced to change my organic browsing habits into consolidated searching with the use of the online OPAC. With a Herculean solo effort, my son somehow managed to carry home all the books I’d selected, not to mention his own. Although I had never neglected the friendship I had forged with books in my childhood, while I was on extended sick leave they became my lifeline. On oxygen and virtually housebound, I wiled away the days with my faithful dog at my side and a library book in my hands.

Now, I’ve been given a second chance at life, with the gift of a new set of lungs. This gift has meant that not only have I returned to managing my school’s library, but I now have the energy to pursue my love of books in a different way. No longer on a Saturday morning and not always as a reader, now my Bassendean Library routine centres around Monday evenings in meeting room 2. As a children’s writer, I attend the Bassendean Writer’s Group, perfecting my stories. Stories that reflect a lifetime love of books and reading. Stories that will one day reside on the shelves. The circle will be complete when my stories are ready for another child to take off the shelf and begin a love affair with books. A love affair, that for me, began at Bassendean Library.


Scholastic Literacy Champion Interview

This interview was initially printed in a condensed format in Scholastic Teacher’s Bookshelf, Issue 5, July 2013, and in full text on Scholastic’s website during 2013.

Name: Sandi Bowie
School: Mount Lawley Primary School
How many years have you worked in a library? 12 years

What was your favourite book (or books) as a child and why? As a child, I read anything I could. Every Saturday morning would see me first at the book exchange, then the library to select my books for the following week. My favourite books that I read over and over included anything by Enid Blyton, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Silver Brumby series, Black Stallion series, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew and the Trixie Beldon books.
Can you share your ideas on how best to keep students engaged in reading in your library?
Where possible I try to give students ownership of the library collection. They enjoy being part of selecting books, so it’s not uncommon for students to bring their own books in for me to look at when they are excited about a new author they have found. I’m always talking about books, and I encourage them to recommend their favourite reads to their friends. Because the students know that I read ‘their’ books too they will often visit the library before school or at lunchtime just to talk about their favourite book and sometimes to speculate about what might happen in the next book of an ongoing series.

Which books or activities have your found success with in your library which motivate or encourage students to read?
Each year I run a reading promotion with ‘on the spot’ as well as major prizes.
Last year I ran the Reading Olympics with every student who participated winning a small prize for each event that they completed. Our Gold Medal Year 1 student read under 3,000 pages while the Year 6 Gold Medal reader totalled over 31,000 pages.
This year I am focusing on the West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award. My students love this children’s choice award and actively vote on books on this year’s list as well as nominate books for next year.

What is the best advice you can offer to others to inspire a lifelong love of reading in students?
That each and every reader is equal. Don’t ignore your good readers just because they do read. I feel it is just as important to keep the momentum going and continue to place books which suit their reading interests into the hands of my good readers, as it is to find that right book for a reluctant reader.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about teaching, learning or reading?
My passion for children’s books inspired me to write my own book, which was published earlier this year. This in turn has taught the students at my school that readers can also be writers.


Scholastic Literacy Champion 2013

Sandi Bowie – Scholastic Literacy Champion 2013