Gearing Up for the New Year: Preplanning

Pencils and Moleskines 04 by Paul Worthington.

In June, I posted our library’s annual report.  In it, I included four goals for the 2010-2011 school year:

  • Increase collaboration with classroom teachers.
  • Continue to improve both the content and currency of our collection.
  • Increase participation in READissance.
  • Master Destiny software and complete inventory.

Our first day for the 2010-2011 school year will be August 9th.  I plan to hit the ground running on that day and thought I would do as my friend Heather Loy did earlier this week – share some of my plans with you.

Increase Collaboration with Classroom Teachers

After reviewing our 2009 HSAP scores, I shared my concerns about the low scores on the research portion of the ELA test with colleagues.  I had been following Buffy Hamilton’s effort with the Media 21 project and was impressed with the scope and sequence of the program.  I knew that I needed to take a proactive approach to collaborate with an English II teacher on research but would not be able to accomplish anything as comprehensive as Buffy’s project just starting out.

I scheduled a meeting with my principal after the 2009-2010 school year ended and shared my proposal with him. After he had time to review it, he gave it two thunbs up.  Once teachers’ schedules had been finalized for the upcoming year, I approached an English II teacher with my proposal and she enthusiastically agreed to work with me.

We have our work cut out for us as we plan and implement our research unit, but we have been exchanging ideas and look forward to sitting down for a more formal planning session.  We agree that teaching students how to conduct research is vital.  Plans now include a pretest using the TRAILS 9th grade standards and incorporating a research model such as the Big6.

I’ll share more as the plans come together and we begin to pilot the program.

Continue to Improve Both the Content and Currency of Our Collection

As we prepared to move into our new facilities, we aggressively weeded our collection based on age and condition.  This year we will begin to use a five year plan to systematically analyze and improve our collection. (Dewey Decimal classifications are given below.  All items in the collection identified with these classifications will be inventoried in the designated year.)

2010-2011: 500-799 and equipment

2011-2012: 900’s

2012-2013: 000-499 and Professional Library

2013-2014: 800’s and Biography

2014-2015: Fiction and Story Collection

Increase Participation in READissance

When our READissance founder, Sally Hursey, moved to the Boiling Springs Ninth Grade Campus, our READissance planning committee disbanded.  I have already asked one teacher to serve on the committee this year and need to recruit at least one other teacher and a couple of students to review the program and make needed adjustments.

We will survey the faculty and students and use the data to guide us as we begin to make changes.  I don’t want to be making what Buffy Hamilton referred to in her post “Milkshake Mistakes.”

We are a High Schools That Work (HSTW) school and, in an attempt to address their standard of having students read 25 books a year, we have raised the  number of books we require students to read in the READissance program.  Comparing participation data before and after the adjustments uncovers the negative effect of our changes. (We have increased the number of books required by two for two years, raising the number from 7 to 11 required books per semester.) By our current requirements, if a student reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (759 pages), he/she will get credit for reading one book.  However, HSTW defines “books” as a set number of pages.  If HSTW considers 200 pages the equivalent of a “book,” then the same  Harry Potter book would qualify as three (nearly four) books by that standard.  How do we address this to encourage, rather than discourage, participation?

Several other aspects of the program need to be reconsidered as we seek to increase both student and teacher participation in the program.

Master Destiny Software and Complete Inventory

Of the four goals, this one will take top priority as the year begins, but it should be accomplished quickly, allowing us to focus on our other goals as well as the day-to-day administration of our library program.

Destiny will be used for the first time this school year as our records were converted at the end of last school year.  The district has scheduled a two hour webinar and a full day of training to prepare us to begin using the program.  Inventory will need to be completed to activate the program so we had to wait until the beginning of the new school year to inventory our collection.

Other Plans

1) Reading promotion – using technology to promote books

2) Revamp our library website

3) Continue to work on branding our library – we will be known as “The MC”

4) Create a community of educators who want to explore using Web 2.0 tools in instruction

And, of course, there will be more.  I have never been one who is happy to sit on the sidelines.

What are you planning this year to improve your services?

Photo Attribution:

Gearing Up for the New Year: Terrific Finds to Share with Teachers

Mining for Gold

Summer time….time to mine for those golden curriculum resources!  But, where to begin?

Of course, you can enter your own search terms and visit sites hoping to find a gem.

But why not use the collective brain of your PLN?  Each week, I get an email digest from several Diigo groups.  Members of these groups share links to resources  they found “bookmark worthy.”  To determine which resources will fit my needs and the needs of my school, I check many of these links.  The following  are a few I will share with our faculty:

Authentic Assessment Toolbox Jan Mueller shares the hows and whys of authentic assessment.  Follow the step-by-step process to ensure success in creating assessments based on standards.

The Learning Network The N.Y. Times‘ collection of links on often taught subjects.

DocsTeach Resources from The National Archives to bring history to life for students.  Create your own interactive learning activity.

EduHound Provides collections of topic- based links for education.  Some topics included in their sets:  Global Warming, Cyberbullying, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Research paper strategies, Measurement, Visual Arts, Oceanography, and Forsenic Science.

Villainy, Inc. Great interactive game for teaching middle school mathematics.  Dr. Eugene Wick and his sidekick Platypus have plans for taking over the world – but the plans just don’t add up.  Your students become Dr. Wick’s advisor in an effort to stop his evil plans.

Viper This free plagiarism checker is designed to assist students find possible problems in their papers.

Ready to Pick Up Your Mining Pan?

You, too, can be a miner of information resources!  Use the collective work of your fellow educators to uncover those information and curriculum treasures.

Two social bookmarking sites to try are Diigo and Delicious.  Not only is your life simplified by keeping your bookmarks in the cloud, but enriched if you join groups at these sites to help you uncover fantastic resources you may not have found on your own.

You’ll discover a plethora of groups on these sites to assist you.  I am a member of the following (among others): (312 members as of this post’s writing) (1340 members as of this post’s writing) (4668 members as of this post’s writing)

Taking It One Step Further

After you have created your own social bookmarking account, why not create one for your classroom or library?  Visit Creekview High School’s Delicious site to see how their media specialist, Buffy Hamilton harnesses the power of social bookmarking.

Readers, how do you use social bookmarking in your personal and/or professional lives?

Image Attribution:  This image is a work of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

New to the Job?

Yesterday I was honored to be videotaped as a guest presenter for Dr. Virginia Wallace of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science program. Her course, SLIS J742, concerns the curricular role of the library media specialist, but she encouraged me to discuss other aspects of a high school librarian’s job.

Where Do I Begin?
As I was checking my Shelfari account this morning (one of the tools I recommended in my presentation), I found a request from a new media specialist who is excited to start her job this fall but wanted some guidance on where to begin.  Since I had shared a few tips in my presentation, I was able to quickly supply her with an answer.  I am providing it below, just in case this might benefit any other media specialists who are gearing up for their first job.

My Response

Congratulations! This is my dream job because it combines so many of my passions.

1. Find the Policies and Procedures manual and read it. This is not set in stone – you can change things, but you need to know what is in place now.
2. Memorize your mission statement (again not set in stone). Your programs and instruction must support the statement.
3. Begin advocating for your program early. Meet with the principal before the year starts and ask A) what committees you can serve on (School Literacy Team would be perfect), B) to be added to the first faculty meeting agenda so that you can introduce yourself and share info on how your program can help the teachers, C) ask to be put on the new teacher orientation agenda – you may be one of the new teachers, but you can still help ease everyone’s jitters by sharing with them what your program can do for them, D) find out what your budget is and the proedures you must follow in ordering for your school/district.
4. Create a library brochure geared towards your teachers to share at both of those meetings. (Email me and I can send you what we use.)
5. Familiarize yourself with the library’s collection – walk the shelves to see what is available. Run a Titlewise Analysis to get an overall view of the collection.
6. Organize your office.
7. Set up a method for signing up classes to visit the library.
8. Set up a method for checking out equipment and videos to your teachers. (This may already be in place – just know how it is done.)
9. Make sure you are familiar with the circulation program that your library uses.
10. Get your bulletin boards up before the teachers come back.
11. Plan on keeping monthly statistics to share with your principal. (Again, I’ll be glad to share what we use.)
12. Start a folder in which you put a copy of every handout, brochure, bookmark, monthly statistics, program information,  etc.  This way you have a record of your year so that you will be able to create an end of the year report.
13. Your first few days will be a whirlwind of activity! Being prepared for them will make things go more smoothly and will project the image  that you are knowledgeable about your program. First impressions are so very important.

Good luck – I hope you will love your job as much as I love mine!
My email address: (Please include “New SLMS” in the subject line.)


Okay, those  wonderful media specialists reading this post, what other suggestions do you have to share with new media specialists as they are preparing to embark on this new adventure?

Image Attribution:

Conferencing Vicariously

This week I am attending the Education Business Summit in Greenville, South Carolina.  Although the program includes many interesting, informative sessions and motivational keynote speakers, I continue to check Twitter to see what is happening in DC and Denver.  Many members of my PLN have traveled to these cities to attend conferences I’ve only dreamed about:  ALA and ISTE.

Twitter allows me to experience some of the excitement and innovation occurring at other conferences by following hashtags.  For those unfamiliar with the term, Wikipedia defines a hashtag as “a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching.”


To simplify my Twitter use, I have installed Tweetdeck on my laptop and iPhone.  Tweetdeck is the equivalent of a social dashboard allowing the user to customize to suit her needs. The hashtags I have been and/or will be  following are #iste10, #ebc10, #sigms10, and #ala10.  Check here for a list of other ALA hashtags for various interest groups.

The above screenshot displays several of the columns in my Tweetdeck dashboard.  If you’ll look closely at the last two columns, you will see that they are labeled “search #iste10″ and “search #ebc10.”  All tweets tagged with those hashtags are displayed, allowing me a glimpse into what is happening concerning those two events.

@AuntyTech (Donna Baumbach) has begun an archive of the #sigsms10 tweets here.  This hashtag will really pick up tomorrow as the SIGMS forum (with the now legendary “Learning Tools Smackdown” lead by Joyce Valenza and Gwyneth Jones) gets underway in the morning.


In case you haven’t been following these hashtags, I thought I’d share just a few of the jewels that I have found through them.  Perhaps seeing these will whet your appetite for more!

  • List of smackdown tools shared at Edublogger Con – and a blog post discussing them
  • Free download of book Teaching with Netbooks by Brad Flickinger
  • Blog post on Edublogger Con session on student blogging  – includes great links to guidelines, Web 2.0 Code of Conduct, and a pdf on setting up blogs as electronic portfolios
  • Readability, a tool that removes the clutter from web pages, making reading more enjoyable
  • HP Teacher Experience Exchange - teachers sharing lesson plans
  • DEN Summer School 2010 – great professional development on digital storytelling, professional learning networks, and project based learning

What exciting, innovative ideas have you come across either through attending the conferences, or following the tweets of those who have attended?

Advocacy: Annual Reports

The Old Way

I’ve completed my fourth year as a media specialist and love the job even more today than the day I started.  To keep track of what happens in our library, I used my mentor’s monthly statistic report and added activities that the library sponsored each month.  At the end of each semester, I compiled a chart of the monthly statistics to notice trends.  These two reports were combined into a yearly chart at the end of each year and provided a means to gauge improvements from year to year.

The Annual Report:  Getting Started

Two years ago, I noticed that several of the school librarians in my Google Reader were doing much more than compiling statistics; they were creating detailed reports including collection development and analysis, budgetary spending, collaboration efforts with teachers, reading promotion programs, and goals for the upcoming year.  The reflective aspect of this kind of report immediately caught my eye.  As a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, I learned to use reflection to help me grow and become a better teacher.

This year as I began work on our first annual report, I studied reports other school librarians have shared on the Internet.  The organization of these reports is as varied as the programs they reveal.  Using ideas culled from these, I created an outline for our annual report.   Currently at 17 pages, the report is an attempt to provide a complete picture of our library media program.

My Inspirations

In case you have toyed with the idea of creating an annual report but gave up because you found it too time consuming, you might want to look at the reports and blog posts that inspired me to get started.

Exemplary Reports:

Blog Posts:

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Need another reason to consider creating a detailed annual report?

In his post “13 Point Checklist 2009,” Doug Johnson provides administrators with a list to assist them in evaluating their school library program.   The final checkpoint , #13 Evaluation, includes

“Does the SLMS determine and report ways that show the goals and objectives of the program are being met and are helping meet the building and district goals? Does the SLMS create an annual library report for administrators, staff and parents that include qualitative and quantitative measurements?” ~ Doug Johnson

Your annual report will not only provide your administration with an overview of your library media program’s accomplishments, but also provide you an opportunity to see where you’ve been and provide you with information for next year’s goals.

Spread the Wealth Using This Google Spreadsheet

Last year, Lesley Edwards (teacher librarian at Seycove Secondary Library) created a spreadsheet for school librarians to share the link to their annual reports.  When my report is finally completed, I’ll post it to Slideshare and  add the url to the spreadsheet.  Why not add yours?

Image Attribution:  Year End Inventory by The Truth About…

Recommended Reads

Because cloning myself is completely out of the question (my husband doesn’t think the world is ready for more than one me), I’ve had to consider ways to work smarter, not harder. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is being able to connect a reader with the right book. However, that reader often walks into the library when I am working with a teacher or teaching a class. I hate to see a student leave the library empty-handed because I was unable to find the time to work with him before he had to return to class.

Recommended Reads Notebook

To address this problem, I recently created a Recommended Reads notebook that is displayed on our Circulation Desk’s counter. It will remain a work in progress but currently contains:

  • Yearly South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees brochures (annotated brochures provided by fellow SC school librarians and available at the SCASL website)
  • Copies of our B.O.W. (Book of the Week) signs.  Each contains a photo of a book’s cover and an annotation meant to entice students to read the book.
  • YALSA’s 2010 Teen’s Top Ten Nominations (with the titles in our collection highlighted)
  • Readalike Lists created using ATN Reading Lists
  • The Great Scavenger Hunt Book list (with the titles in our collection highlighted)

Next I will be adding a section on Series.  It will contain annotated lists categorized by genre to help readers determine the sequence of a series.

Not Reluctant Readers, but Readers Reluctant to Use the Notebook

At first, I had to physically hand the book to students to encourage them to discover what it contained.  I have been rewarded recently with seeing students approach the desk and pick up the notebook on their own when they are looking for a book to read.  I still love to help students find books, but it is gratifying to know that even when I am not able to verbally suggest a book, I can still guide students towards books they might enjoy.

Suggestions for Improvement?

What else would be helpful to readers who have to rely on this notebook for a recommendation?

“How You Doin’?” or “How You Doing It All?”

Matt LeBlanc

Photo by Alan Light, used with permission under a Creative Commons license

Joey Tribianni from the sitcom Friends is known for his line, “How you doin’?”  But if he were to seriously address today’s  school librarians, Joey would ask,  “How you doing it all?”

Where Does the Time Go?

At times, I wish there were a camera on me during the school day to record the life of a school librarian.  As a classroom teacher, I had a better grasp on what I did with my time:  for ninety minutes at a time, I was in a classroom being guided by my written lesson plans.  I would pencil in notes on my lesson plan book to help me remember where I left off, what worked well and what didn’t, and thoughts for improving the lesson the next time around.

But as a a school librarian on a flexible schedule, my work day doesn’t follow a written plan.  Yes, you can look at our library’s scheduling calendar to see what classes I worked with and look at the Class Visit Request forms to determine what information literacy skills I taught those classes.  But those capture just a short time in my day.

The First Wave

The busiest parts of my day are usually those that don’t involve teaching classes.  When the library opens at 7:30, the whirlwind of activity begins.  Students and teachers must get ready for the day by working on projects, checking out equipment or materials, and scheduling classes to use the library teaching areas or computer rooms. When the bell rings for first block to begin, I have a moment or two before a class arrives to try to read email, sort through the stacks of paper that have accumulated on my desk(s), and tackle one of the items on my ever-growing “to do” list.

The Tide Rolls In

Before I know it, scheduled classes arrive and other students begin to trickle in from classes to return, renew, or check out books or to use a computer to work on an assignment.  Teachers stop by to look at the scheduling calendar during their planning periods and discuss how they will be using the library facilities.  Other teachers call to request help troubleshooting  misbehaving  equipment.  Students often approach me  to say they enjoyed the last book I recommended and would like help in finding another one like it.

Multitasking to the Max

So, on any normal day, a school librarian is often pulled in multiple directions during a given moment:

  • A class to teach
  • An individual student’s needs to be addressed (checking out books, requesting computer use, requesting help with an assignment or locating  a book) – multiply this need by five or six (an average number of students who visit the library on their own)
  • A teacher who needs to discuss scheduling a class to use the library’s facilities
  • A teacher who needs help to get equipment running smoothly

Notice that the list does NOT include any of the librarian’s work that must be accomplished:

  • reading reviews and creating a materials order (or a collection wish list)
  • working with student staff to insure tasks are accomplished (shelving, processing magazines)
  • updating web site
  • processing materials
  • inventory
  • weeding
  • repairing books
  • creating/editing catalog records
  • reading professional journals/blogs
  • recommending new resources to teachers
  • working with vendors
  • running reading promotion programs
  • preparing and presenting staff development
  • creating, assembling, and putting up new bulletin boards
  • creating displays
  • reading children’s/YA lit to recommend to students
  • creating advocacy opportunities/reports
  • planning and creating information literacy lessons
  • compiling statistics
  • planning and holding book club meetings

Words of Wisdom

During my school library internship, I was able to visit several high school libraries in the upstate of South Carolina.  One of the questions I asked each librarian was, “How do you do it all?”  Their answers varied, but they all were proceeded by a knowing smile –  implying that we must accept that it can’t all be done as we would like.

I was told to prioritize.  I was told to focus on the program component that was nearest and dearest to my heart.  I was told to learn to accept that it wouldn’t all get done.

As an idealist, I want to believe that I can do it all – and do it all effectively.  As a realist, I know that it is impossible to do without the help of others.

What words of wisdom do you have?  How do you do it all?

Advocacy: Create a Bragalog

Most school librarians I have met find it difficult to brag about what they do.  But think about it.  While there may be dozens of teachers in your building, you are more than likely the only school librarian there.  Many education programs do not address our role in any of their courses.  How many teachers in your building truly know what your program entails?

Every teacher in your school has a built-in advocacy group – their students.  Students talk about their teachers to one another:  “Oh, you don’t want to get Mr. So and So because he requires two research projects a semester.”  “I love Mrs. So and So because she makes class fun by …..”

Teachers in your building are spoken about on a daily basis.  I wonder how many students discuss their school librarian with their friends?

As I was surfing the Internet recently, I came across the California School Library Association’s website.  What a treasure trove!  One of the treasures there struck me as a very simple way to toot your own horn:  the Bragalog. The YouTube video above was filmed at the CSLA’s 2009 conference.  It  introduces the Bragalog (but unfortunately we don’t actually see it).  Further searching on the website turns up a pdf file explaining the Bragalog.

Peggy Klaus, author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It, created the Bragalog as a marketing tool.  In this article, she provides an example of an effective beginning for a Braglog.  By weaving your passion for your program into your story, you can create a positive “brag” that effectively markets your program.

If you don’t want to feature yourself speaking in your Bragalog, why not involve your students?  If you have a morning news show or a broadcasting class in your school, you might find a ready and willing group to create your Bragalog featuring students.

What do you think?  Is this a marketing tool that you would consider for your program, or is it something you would still feel too uncomfortable doing?

Do Not Go Quietly Into Your Library


As I continue contemplating ways to promote my school library program, I have been investigating various approaches taken by other educators to promote their ideas and programs.  I came across this video by Dave Truss today and was struck by a comment he made in the video: “Do not go quietly into the classroom.”

A Brave New World-Wide-Web

Many school librarians have vital programs that not only increase student achievement, but also increase a student’s sense of self-worth.  Unlike a classroom teacher, what we teach does not occupy a place on student report cards to reinforce the idea that we make a difference.  Do we really want to entrust our program’s future to chance?  The chance  that our students go home and enthusiastically share what they learned or created in the school library that day? The chance that an administrator walks by the library,  is curious about what has students engrossed in their projects, and enters to make inquiries? The chance that a parent will make a positive comment about his child’s school library to a school board member?

Make Some Noise!

What can we do to ensure that our contributions to education reach the community’s ears?  Why not post projects students create using library resources on our library websites?

Ithaca High School in Ithaca, NY  Examples of student created projects for American History and English classes

Hawthorne Elementary School in Missoula, MT  Examples of group projects from kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes

Kapolei Middle School in Kapolei, HI Examples of a variety of exemplary projects from grades 6, 7, and 8

Kamali’i Elementary School in Kihei, Maui, HI Examples of class projects and student created podcasts

Program Promotion Challenge Continues

This week I will be sharing student projects created through the use of library resources.  They should make an attractive addition to our library website.

Where’s my noisemaker?

Image attribution:

Program Promotion

Change is as inevitable as rain in the spring.  Some of us just put on raincoats and splash forward.” ~ Amy Bloom

Continuing the Challenge

In my last post, I shared my personal advocacy challenge:  do something to promote my library program once a week.  Sounds simple enough, but school librarians are a busy bunch and unless we make something a priority, it often gets overlooked amidst the million other things we must accomplish each week.

Last week, I put on my raincoat and “splashed forward.”  This week,  I met my Program Promotion Challenge (PPC) by creating a mini-poster congratulating the winners of our spring semester READissance kickoff challenge.  The poster included a picture of each winner holding her Barnes and Noble gift card.  I posted one in the library and put another one on my principal’s desk. On Monday, copies of these will go on the Student Information boards throughout the school.

How Simple Was That?

It could not have been much easier.  However, that simple mini-poster puts the faces of students who choose to use our resources front and center.  Students and staff are the focus of any school library program.  Often the only promotion I have done in the past was to provide the principal with monthly statistics.    How dry is that?

As I promote different aspects of our program each week, I want to enlighten the school community.  I want them to see the difference we make in people’s lives. The  library space that most walk past at least once daily significantly contributes to  student and teacher success at Boiling Springs High School.

Our highly anticipated new facility is nearly ready for occupancy.  I look forward to moving into it, but since the new media center it is not centrally  located, the move also makes me nervous.  No longer will students and teachers pass it on their way to classes, meetings, the workroom, or the cafeteria.  It will be a destination unto itself, raising the bar in program promotion.

Image attribution:

“Wet Grass”


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