Dressing Up Destiny

This post is based on an article published in the South Carolina Association of School Librarians’ Media Center Messenger (Volume XLVIII, Issue 4).

My school district upgraded our library catalogs to Follett’s Destiny over the summer of 2010 and provided training to the school librarians in August.  I was disappointed that the training provided little  information on creating a Destiny home page.  As I usually do, if the professional development I need is not provided by my district, I went in search of information to meet my needs.

I began combing the Internet to find great examples of Destiny home pages, and serendipitously stumbled across Alicia Vandenbroek’s Destiny home page.  Not only was her home page not just a list of links, it was colorful and animated.  How did she do that?


The answer:  www.wix.com.  Alicia discovered this awesome free web site creator that allows web pages to be embedded into other sites – including Destiny!  Not only has she created an inviting home page for her school catalog, but she has also shared detailed directions that all school librarians can use to dress up their Destiny home page.

Using her directions, I created our Destiny home page as seen in the screenshot above.  Wix offers many options, but one that I love is the Mini Page option.  Using this option, you can create hyperlinked sections to be displayed on your home page. I created three:  Library Info, Recommended Reading, and Book Trailers.

In the screenshot below, you’ll see that the left column of our home page has changed to the Recommended Reading Mini Page where I have inserted hyperlinks and a book trailer. (Disappointing news at this point for my school district:  the embedded YouTube book trailers played perfectly for the first week or so, but the district once again blocked YouTube so I am currently looking for other options, including a Vimeo player that can be embedded into Wix.)

The third Mini Page I created is solely for book trailers:

Our new Destiny home page is colorful and informative.  At this point, Destiny is only on our district’s Intranet so we still use our library web page as our Internet home page on library computers, providing access to more research oriented links.  Although you cannot visit our page on the Internet, you can find Alicia Vandenbroek’s and her detailed directions for dressing up your own Destiny home page!

Shack Stacks, Shackelford Junior High’s Library Wiki:  http://shackstacks.wikispaces.com/Find+a+Book

“Wix and Destiny” found on the Librarian’s Lounge page of the above wiki:


(The “Wix and Destiny” directions are the fifth embedded document on the page.)

Inspire Your World!

“We must stop reacting to the world around us and start inspiring it!

For too long have we defined the core of our profession – service – as standing ready to serve. No one ever changed the world by standing ready. We do it through action. This is the time – this is the place – we are the people.” ~ Dave Lankes, “Libraries and Broadband:  Forging a New Social Compact”

Changing Nature of Libraries

In his recent presentation at the Delaware Library BTOP Launch, Dave Lankes, associate professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, challenged several long-held beliefs that we as librarians have used to guide our work. He then  focused on the changing nature of libraries:

  • [from]quiet buildings with loud rooms to loud buildings with quiet rooms
  • [from] places of knowledge access to places of knowledge creation
  • [from] territory of the librarian to territory of the community

However, these changes are nothing new to those of us in the school library field.  Joyce Valenza and Buffy Hamilton have long been promoting these changes.

What Else is Changing?

What else have we been doing because “that’s the way it’s always been done”?  When we hear that statement, we should automatically reexamine the issue at hand.  This is a new day.  This is a new time.  And I am excited to be part of it!

Image Attribution:  Stock photo: beach, playa 6  http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1270499

Advocacy: School Library Newsletters


Planned:  monthly library newsletter to keep our school community abreast of library happenings and resources

Reality:  one, perhaps, two newsletters a year

Fix:  create a template that will simplify the process of creating the newsletter

Searching for Exemplars

Because I tend to be a perfectionist (I know, those of you who know me well are shocked), I wanted to locate some exceptional school library newsletters for inspiration.  I was surprised that my searches provided very few results, however, I did find several that provided me with food for thought as I worked on our template.

The first two examples are from slideshare allowing you to go through the entire newsletter if it is multiple pages.

To view two other newsletters, click on the links below.

Hillside Middle School Library Newsletter

The Dean Librazine

Widespread Problem?

Are other school librarians also having difficulty finding time to create a monthly/quarterly/once a semester newsletter?  Is that why my searches on Google and Libworm produced few results?  Or are school librarians just not posting the newsletters online?

As we advocate for our programs, we need to strive for transparency.  In today’s connected world, that means posting information online for our communities to see.

BSHS LMC Media Matters

Below is the January 2011 issue of BSHS LMC Media Matters. It still needs some tweaking, but if I were to try to perfect it anymore, it would go the way of past issues that I had every intention of finishing (but never did).

Please Share

If you know of any other online school library newsletters, could you post links to them in the comments section? 

Food for Thought: Data Collection and Analysis

Last month in an effort to improve my own practice, I studied monthly reports from several high school libraries around the country.  I found many outstanding examples which assisted me in creating a new format for my monthly reports.  (I reported on this process here and here.)

I am still pleased with the transformation of my monthly report, but….

New and Improved?

This wonderfully relaxing five day holiday has provided time to further reflect on the data I collect to share with the school community.  School librarians understand the value of statistics and measure such things as student and class visits to the library as well as items circulated. These numbers are the backbone of many school library monthly (and yearly) reports.  In the past, library resource and facility usage = proof of the necessity of a school library.

However, the more I contemplate this, the more I am convinced that these statistics are not enough to prove the need for a school library program.

In my annual report, I include statistics on the number of pages read by those participating in our voluntary reading program.  But even that does not provide proof positive that my program is impacting student achievement.

Using Collaboration Data

Pam Harland of Plymouth Regional High School includes a Monthly Collaboration Highlight table in her report. She indicates five levels of collaboration in her table that range from merely scheduling classes to teaching an information literacy skill concept and planning a unit with teachers.

Armed with her monthly reports and test data from the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), Pam could correlate data that indicates her program’s impact on student achievement.  Having taught only in South Carolina, I do not have specific knowledge of the NECAP, but if it is similar to our High School Assessment Program (HSAP), then New Hampshire’s students’ research skills are tested.

Extracting the research skills data from test reports of students who benefited from an information literacy skill library lesson would be time consuming and tedious, but it could be done. However, school librarians do not have to await state test results to obtain proof of their program’s impact.

“Our Instruction DOES Matter!”

Sara Poinier and Jennifer Alevy**, teacher librarians at Horizon High School in Thornton, Colorado, successfully proved their program impacts student achievement.  In “Our Instruction DOES Matter! Data Collected from Students’ Works Cited Speaks Volumes” (Teacher Librarian, February 2010, p. 38-39)* they share that success.  Partnering with health classes, they spoke with the students about available reliable resources and demonstrated how to create citations and Works Cited pages. When the students had finished their reports, the teachers shared the Works Cited pages with the teacher librarians.

Sara and Jennifer also collected a class set of Works Cited pages from a science class that did not receive library instruction.  Then they began to analyze the papers and gathered data concerning the types of resources students had used as well as the format of the Works Cited pages.  When the dust settled, these ladies proved their instruction made a difference in student achievement.

How Can You Measure Your Impact on Student Achievement?

We know that our programs increase student achievement, but being able to provide data that demonstrates it can be powerful.  What suggestions do you have for measuring your program’s impact?

I’m starting small.  Tomorrow, two English classes are coming in for brief instruction before they begin researching aspects of the Roaring Twenties.  I’ll ask them to complete a Google form and use the feedback to help us as we plan library instruction for next semester.


*You’ll want to read this excellent article for more details on their accomplishment.  I do not subscribe to Teacher Librarian but was able to locate the article through SC DISCUS, the databases our state library helps provide.  You might be able to locate it through databases in your own school or public library.

**Jennifer Alevy is now a teacher librarian at Northglen High School.

Image attribution: “Clementine” by ilmungo   http://www.flickr.com/photos/48094050@N00/392088926

Worth the Effort!

October 2010 report

My last post concerned revamping my monthly report.  The previous format I was using left a LOT to be desired.  It was useful in quickly compiling data to submit to my principal.  Period. Ever heard the saying that goes something like “You get out of it what you put into it”?  Definitely applies here.

I put more into October’s report.  Not just more data.  More thought, more time, more effort.  October’s report does more than present data; it analyzes data.  When I finished the report (I can’t say “completed” the report because there is actually more that I wanted to add), I found that I was using it to analyze my collection’s cost effectiveness.

I finally met with my principal on Friday to share the report.  I had been anxious to see his reaction to the new format and discuss how I was using it to inform my practice.

I was confident that the report was superior to any other monthly report I had created but wasn’t prepared to be overwhelmed by his response.  After just a few minutes of discussion, he picked up the phone and asked our assistant principal in charge of curriculum to join us (this was a first).  She found the graph illustrating each department’s usage of our facilities and resources informative and requested that I create a larger copy to be placed on our school’s Data Wall.

Then they discussed sharing this information with department heads this week and accompanied me to the library for a show and tell – identifying the Dewey sections each department would find useful.


All this because of one little monthly report.  Ladies and gentlemen, it was worth the extra effort!

Just a side note:  I remove pictures of students before I post reports online.  The five photos this month put a “face” on my program – reminding the reader that it is all about students.

Discovering New (to me) South Carolina Talent

Flag-map of South CarolinaPalmetto Pride

Does your heart ever swell with pride when you hear the “The Star Spangled Banner” played?  I may not be able to hit the high notes when I sing along, but my heart is soaring along with them each time I listen to our national anthem.

As an educator, does your heart ever swell with pride when one of your current or former students is recognized for his/her excellence?  I teach with one of my former students who makes me proud every time I have the privilege of working with her.

Media Mavens

And so it is with pride that I share the work of three of South Carolina’s own media specialists who have been or will soon be recognized for their excellence.

  • Lori June is the media specialist at Alice Drive Elementary School in Sumter, SC.  Recently she was contacted by the eChalk Academy Site requesting permission to feature her site on their page.  Way to go, Lori!  You’ll want to add Lori’s The View from Here blog to your reader.  In it she addresses issues of importance to school libraries.  Her reflections challenge me to consider my own practices.
  • Tamara Cox is the media specialist at Palmetto Middle School in Williamston, SC.  What a powerhouse!  She shares her passion for reading, technology, and teaching at the Eliterate Librarian.  Check out her blog for awesome ideas to incorporate into your program.  Thanks for sharing the details of your Gadget Petting Zoo, Tamara!
  • Lorena Swetnam is the media specialist at Blythewood Middle School in Blythewood, SC.  Lorena recently shared with me the website she created for her library.  Wow!  She has held nothing back in creating an inviting, informative, and well-organized site for her students and faculty.  The slide shows and often updated Library News posts are bound to capture the interest of her students and provide other media specialists with “snaggable” ideas.

Share the Wealth

Both seasoned and new media specialists can spark our imaginations and creativity through their online sharing.  Most of you reading this post are familiar with Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, Gwyneth Jones, Doug Johnson, Carolyn Foote, Cathy Nelson, and Heather Loy.

Who are some of your newest inspirational “finds” online?

Image attribution:

By Darwinek [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Analyzing Shelf Life

Spice Cabinet: Tins with Spices

Tired of having spice bottles fall off the shelf when I was trying to extricate one from the bunch, I decided to weed through the shelf contents.  Embarrassing to say, I had not one, but three, old bottles of chili powder.  Even more embarrassing to say, I uncovered bottles that had to date from the early part of this century. (At least I can almost certainly say none were from the 20th century as I have reorganized that shelf within the last few years.)

Why would I have two bottles of orange peel  when I rarely use that spice?  What is the purpose of hoarding spice bottles when each spice loses its potency over time?

Shelf Life?

Whether common or exotic, spices are meant to enhance food’s flavor.  Stating the obvious here, but to work, spices must be applied.  Purchasing the spice and displaying it in your spice cabinet adds nothing to the intensity of your meal.

I must admit I have not only hoarded spices, but also ideas.  I look forward to reading journals and scouring  the Internet for new ideas to incorporate into my library program. I’ve created various folders on my computer to store the treasures I find.  But if I am just storing these ideas on a “computer shelf,” then I am doing no better with them than I am with the spices I have accumulated.  These ideas cannot help my program unless I apply them.

I must make a conscious effort to break the information cycle (seek, read, store) I have created.  Although there is nothing inherently wrong with  seeking, reading, and storing information, if the purpose I am doing these tasks is not being satisfied, then I am no different than a hamster endlessly running on its wheel.

Have you found yourself in a rut lately?  If so, what steps have you taken to break out of the routine?

“We judge others by their behavior.  We judge ourselves by our intentions.” Ian Percy

Image Attribution:

“Spice Cabinet:  Tins with Spices” by Chris Martino

Used through a Creative Commons license

Gearing Up for the New Year: Calendar Dates

Each July, I am conflicted over the upcoming death of summer vacation and the birth of a new school year.  The realization that the alarm clock will once again be sounding at 5 a.m. giving me an opportunity for a brand new start causes those proverbial butterflies in my stomach.  I pour over the back-to-school fliers in the Sunday paper while leisurely sipping my hazelnut creme coffee, knowing that the delicious freedom of sleeping late and not living my life by a bell schedule will soon come to an abrupt halt.

Fresh Start…and New School Supplies!

But how can I not love a chance to get it right one more year?  Each August, educators are blessed with the opportunity to improve our teaching and meet new students.

When I moved from the classroom to the media center, I gave up lesson plan books in favor of planning calendars.  Three years ago I found an almost perfect academic planner (At a Glance  Academic Year Weekly/Monthly Planner) and have made a trip to Office Depot each July since then to purchase one for the new year.  This calendar becomes my map and journal for the school year.

Events Sponsored by ALA, YALSA, and the AASL

First to be filled in are important events sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Association of School Librarians, and the Young Adult Library Services Association.  Those dates for this year include:

Sept:  Library Card Sign-Up Month

Sept. 25 – Oct. 2:  Banned Books Week

Oct. 17 – 23:  Teen Read Week

Nov. 13:  National Gaming Day @ Your Library

Mar. 6 – 12:  Teen Tech Week

April:  School Library Month

Apr. 10 – 16:  National Library Week

Apr. 14:  Support Teen Literature Day

May 1 – 7:  Choose Privacy Week

Other Dates

Once those dates are on the calendar, then I begin to scour the Internet for other events/celebrations that could be added to our library calendar.

Sept. 8:  International Literacy Day – sponsored by the International Reading Association

October:  International School Library Month – sponsored by the International Association of School Librarianship

Nov. 14 – 20:  American Education Week – sponsored by the National Education Association

School Library Monthly‘s Almanacs

School Library Monthly publishes their monthly almanacs online.  You’ll find both an Activities Almanac and an Author and Illustrator Almanac that provide a wealth of information and ideas.

The Author and Illustrator Almanac provides not only the birth dates of important authors and illustrators, but also links to more information on many of them.

The Activites Almanac can be the answer to prayers for bulletin board ideas.  Not only does each month provide an illustration and details on a specific bulletin board, but reading through the events in each month is bound to spark ideas for other bulletin boards and displays.

Thanks to School Library Monthly, I added these dates to our calendar:

October: National Reading Group Month – sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association

February: Library Lovers’ Month

May:  Get Caught Reading Month

Let the Programming Begin!

In addition to these dates, I input dates for our local literacy programs (READissance and Bulldog Booklovers Club).  With this done, I can begin to plan programs and activities to ensure that the library has a major celebration each month.

What Other Events Do You Celebrate?

Have you found a great source for dates of special celebrations? Please share!

Photo attribution

Photo used through a Creative Commons License


Gearing Up for the New Year: How Do You Assess Students?

As you prepare to begin a new school year, consider starting an “Advocacy” file on your computer.  Include links to resources (see the Advocacy page of this blog) that can assist you as you plan your advocacy strategy for the year.

We often refer to studies conducted by Lance, Todd, Baumbach or others as we explain the need for school library programs.  But in bleak economic times, statistics from a study conducted years ago in another area (studies have been conducted in Ontario, Canada, and 18 states) aren’t going to provide the support you need to prove YOUR program is making a difference.

Gather Evidence

How do you assess student learning in your media center?  If you have only used observation in the past, plan to gather concrete evidence this year. Add this evidence to your Advocacy file and include information from it in each and every meeting you have with your principal.  Plan on sharing your monthly reports with your superintendent and your school board.

There’s Strength in Numbers

In a March post, I shared the above presentation created in Google Docs and asked readers how they assessed student learning in their media centers.  Two school librarians responded, but only Joquetta Johnson of Milford Mill Academy in Baltimore, Maryland added information to the presentation.

I have met many awesome school librarians at conferences and online and know they use a variety of methods to assess learning.  I hope that some of them are reading this and will add to the presentation, allowing us all to benefit as we face one of the toughest years yet in education.

Out of My Element

Image Attribution:  http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/r08_vE1ku6g71Q_hYImDQA

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

My husband and I joined Anytime Fitness gym last month.  My daughter and son-in-law have been members for a while and raved about it, so when we had a recent health wake-up call, we decided to take the plunge.

I went in the first day  to complete the paperwork and work out just a bit.  The only other gym I’ve belonged to was Shapes, a Curves-like place with additional cardio equipment like bikes and ellipticals.

Anytime Fitness has top of the line equipment – and lots of it.  I recognized treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals.  But how to use these technological wonders?

Then there were the other – things.  Strange contraptions with seats, handles, cables, foot rests, weights, etc. litter the floor.  I was extremely intimidated by all of it my first day.  If not for the friendly owners and a personal trainer’s help, I doubt I would have attempted to use any of it.

Who feels out of his element in a school library?

I don’t often find myself feeling as out of place as I did on that first day.  I started wondering if our school library ever makes anyone feel as uncomfortable as the gym made me feel.  Probably.

How do students and teachers  using their school library for the first time feel?  Are they instantly at home, do they approach the shelves with trepidation, or do they just seem to throw up their hands and pretend disinterest rather than risk appearing ignorant of library ways?

We attempt to familiarize students with our library through orientation in their English II classes, but as I found out Wednesday, one time of being shown where things are does not equate to understanding how to use them.  Our students complete Scavenger Hunts during orientation that require them to circulate through the library, using the print and nonprint resources.  But is that enough?

Current Approaches

We make an effort to greet students and faculty with a welcoming smile (and a personalized greeting once we know a patron’s name) and a pleasant, “How can I help you today?” We have created some signage (I need more in this new library space) to help guide folks to the areas they seek.  We are working to create another inviting seating area that encourages students to relax with a good book or magazine.

We circulate when students are looking for materials or using the computers and offer help when we feel it is needed.


What else can we do to put our patrons at ease and help them feel not only welcomed, but at home in our media center?


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