I Love Being a Librarian

As the summer was coming to a close, I had a thought that I never imagined would enter my head:  maybe retirement wouldn’t be so bad.

Who I Am at the Core

I am now in my 36th year of education.  Education has been, and continues to be, part of my core.  I am a nerd from the tip of my auburn head (not so much my natural color now)  to the hot pink polished nails at the end of my toes.  As a classroom teacher for 29 years, I loved interacting with teens and our discussions about literature. I loved reading their writing (well, maybe the research papers tested my soul) and discovering the individuals behind the faces in my room.

When the opportunity to leave the English classroom and head into the largest classroom in the building was offered to me, I was both excited and hesitant.

Excited because now I would have the chance to interact with more students, collaborate with more teachers, and guide both through problems they were having with technology.  I would be able to recommend books to more students and be surrounded by books and technology all day long.

Hesitant because I worried if I would still be able to form that teacher/student bond when I didn’t see the same students every day.  Relationships are the core of education.  I love teens and want to help them through the angst of the teenage years and celebrate with them when they achieve their goals. I had this discussion with my mentor, Sally Hursey, who promised me I would still have those bonds.

CC Image Attribution:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/47823583@N03/4382573949

Best Career Decision EVER!

The first three years as the lead librarian at my school were stressful as I was also taking courses at the University of South Carolina‘s School of Library and Information Science.  Fortunately, I had a wonderful mentor to guide me through the transition from the classroom to the library.  (And for those of you who haven’t made the transition, let me tell you, it is a different world!  That is a blog post for later.)

However, I loved every minute of librarianship (well – except grappling with the budget).  I have never been more fulfilled by my career than I am now.  School librarianship involves ALL of my passions:  students, teachers, education, reading, technology, collaboration, teaching, and forming relationships (I needn’t have been hesitant about taking this position!).

I was reminded of this today as I began going through the posts that have collected in my Google Reader through the first week of school with students.  One of my favorite blogs is TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox.  In yesterday’s post, “Libraries Are the Beating Hearts,”  one of the blog’s authors shared how libraries/books/research have helped her through some of life’s difficult times.  She ended with this, which sums up my feelings about libraries and being a librarian as well:

I love being a librarian.  I love walking in the doors of a library.  I love opening the pages of a book.  I am honored every day to be a part of the beating heart of a community.  Support your libraries just as you would take care of your heart.  Healthy libraries are the same as healthy hearts, and without them our communities die.

Fleeting Thought

So, back to the beginning of this post:  I was amazed that I even considered retirement.  After two weeks back at work, I am pleased to say that I still love every moment of my job. Meeting new students who love reading is so rewarding, as is meeting those who don’t and being able to put the right book in their hands.  Twenty-one classes came through the library this week to check out books and I loved working with each.

Summer?  Yes, I enjoyed the freedoms it offered.  But now I am back where I belong and couldn’t be happier!

Put Some Excitement into Citations!

As an English teacher, I struggled to teach my students to use MLA citations.  Why?  Students didn’t see the need for citing.  They failed to understand its purpose and if students don’t comprehend the purpose of a task, they often don’t put forth their best efforts to accomplish it.

In South Carolina, tenth graders take the High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test during their spring semester.  As part of the ELA section, the research questions can include the proper form for MLA citations.  So, although I prefer to use citation generators like BibMe and KnightCite, I know that our students need practice in creating citations to prepare them for THE TEST. (Please don’t shoot me – I don’t agree with THE TEST, but it is a reality, and if I am not doing my part to prepare our students for it, then I can’t look teachers in the eye when I offer to assist them meet their objectives.)

The World of Citation

Last February, an awesome post appeared in my Google Reader from K-M the Librarian, Sara Kelley-Mudie.  In order to impress the importance of citation to her students, she used a great analogy:  citations are the addresses where the resources reside.

Please take a moment to go read her post – it is darned well worth it and I can wait while you read it.

Now- wasn’t that awesome?!  Doesn’t she inspire you to approach citations from a different perspective?

Switching Things Up

The next time you are preparing to teach citation, why not use K-M’s plan and begin with the address analogy?  Then show her Slideshare presentation (it’s awesome, too!).

Another Trick to Toss In:  Conquer Citation Chaos Kits
When I was a classroom teacher, I started using a hands-on approach for citation practice.  After reviewing the parts of a citation I gave groups of students jumbled citations:  I had written individual parts of citations on index cards and the students had to arrange them in correct order.   Students enjoyed the activity because it was like solving a puzzle.
In preparation for reviewing MLA citations with sophomores recently, I began putting together Conquer Citation Chaos Kits – gallon sized Ziploc bags filled with color coded slips of cardstock.  The picture below shows just two sets of jumbled citations, but I added one more (an encyclopedia article) before using these with my sophomores.
The hot pink strips are parts of a book citation while the orange strips are from a website citation. Currently the strips are not laminated, but if the lesson is successful, I’ll be laminating them for future use. (Note:  The strips are now laminated!  The teacher and students enjoyed the activity and we will use it again.)
The next activity I would like to create -and I’d love suggestions from my readers! – is a hands-on approach to working with in-text citations.

Online Citation Games

You can find several games online to further reinforce the proper formatting of citations.  I must thank Karen Hill, media specialist at Byrnes High School, for introducing me to these games. (Karen probably does not even realize that she “hooked me up” with the games as I found them on her website!)  I have linked to two of these from our library’s website.

Readers:  What do you do to add some ex”cite”ment to citation instruction?
Image attribution:  “Sky Blossoms” http://www.flickr.com/photos/96223849@N00/74626966

Resources for Teacher Librarians

Slidestaxx by Donna Baumbach (AuntyTech)

Teacher Librarians Rock!

I am always ___________ (fill in the blank:  in awe of, extremely grateful for, in debt to, inspired by) the people in my PLN (personal learning network).

When I sign into HootSuite to catch up on tweets, I often feel like a contestant on an old game show entering a glass enclosed booth filled with money being blown in the air. The contestant is given a limited amount of time (say thirty seconds) to grab as much of the money as possible.  Whatever he can grab becomes his.

Although the tweets flying around contain just as much wealth as that glass enclosed booth, there is a HUGE difference:  the buzzer never dings while I’m visiting with my PLN and the wealth they offer remains available even if I have to step away from the computer.

Take, for instance, what Donna Baumbach shared today on Twitter:  a Slidestaxx entitled “Lesson Plan Resources for Teacher Librarians.” (seen above)

Or, how about this:  Carolyn Starkey’s Livebinder entitled “School Librarians and the Common Core Standards:  Resources‘? (seen below)

Livebinder by Carolyn Starkey

Role Models for Sharing

Looking for ideas to promote reading through technology?  Colette Cassinelli created a Google Site to share the resources she was using in a presentation at ISTE this summer.  She has freely shared this on Twitter and it is a treasure chest of great ideas to help fire you up for the new school year. “Got Books?” is just one more example of a passionate teacher librarian sharing with others in her PLN.

Google Site by Colette CassinelliThis are just three resources I’ve recently added to my Diigo Library to refer to as I plan lessons and activities.  The teacher librarians and other educators in my PLN exemplify all that is right in education.

If finding awesome resources like this doesn’t convince you to jump on the Twitter bandwagon, I don’t know what will.

The resources shared here are just the tip of the iceburg!  What is your favorite Twitter find recently?

 

Video: South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2011-2012

South Carolina YABA 2011-2012 Video

The nominees for the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award for the 2011-2012 school year were announced earlier this month.  To encourage interest in the books, I promote them in a variety of ways:

  • SCASL Book Award Committee Brochure (contains book cover images and blurbs for each book)
  • SCYABA bookmarks (Follett Library Resources generously provides one free set of 50 for each SCASL Conference attendee)
  • bulletin boards
  • book displays
  • booktalks
  • book trailers
  • Animoto video

For the past two years, I have created an Animoto video of the nominees and have shared it here.  (Animoto allows you to upload the video to YouTube, but because YouTube is blocked in most (if not all) of SC schools, I usually share the Animoto link.)

What other ways have you promoted your state award list nominees?

Snapshot: A Day in the Life of South Carolina School Libraries

The South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) held their 2011 Conference March 9 – 11.  During the conference, the SCASL Advocacy Committee announced their initiative “Snapshot: A Day in the Life of South Carolina School Libraries.”  The purpose of the initiative is to gather information from school libraries across South Carolina to share with administrators, school board members, and legislators.

If you are a South Carolina school librarian, you are urged to participate.  Let’s gather data that proves the vital role we play in the education of our students.  Please click on the link for more information about this initiative.

SnapshotADayintheLifeofSouthCarolinaSchoolLibraries

Today’s School Librarian, with thanks to Alice Yucht

A not-to-miss school library blogger is Alice Yucht, currently an adjunct faculty member of the Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Communication, Information and Library Studies Professional Development Program.  In her February 18, 2011 blog post entitled “Knowledge Broker,” Alice describes the role of today’s school librarian.

In one paragraph, she summarizes the roles we assume when we undertake the career of school librarian.  I have added a few of my own roles (including that of “furniture mover” – any school librarian worth his/her salt has to smile at that one!) and created a visual:

What additional roles do we play?

Define: librarian

Librarian Avenger by Librarian Avenger.

*I began the draft of this post in April, but wasn’t inspired until recently to complete it.

Earlier this year while going through my reader, I came across a blog post that questioned broadly applying the term “librarian” to those in our profession.  I found this intriguing after the brouhaha surrounding the Association of School Librarians (AASL) decision to again to refer to us as “school librarians” rather than “media specialists.”

How do others define librarian?

A quick search on Google turned up these:

“a professional person trained in library science and engaged in library services” (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=librarian)

“A librarian is an information professional trained in library and information science, which is the organization and management of information services or materials for those with information needs…” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Librarian)

Not very enlightening definitions, are they?

A teacher teaches….

….so a school librarian _________?  Librarizes?  Why is there not an alternate form of the word that acts as a verb?  But even if there were, it would not be able to capture the essence of what we as school librarians do.

The following is an excerpt from the post “Librarianship and Burnout.”

“But it seems to me that the family resemblance of all librarians, to borrow Wittgenstein’s term, is not so much the nature of individual librarians’ work as a shared belief and faith: the belief that information and knowledge is to be treasured and someone must work to deliver and preserve this information and knowledge accumulated throughout human history to the public, the faith that access to information and knowledge is a basic human right and it should be equally provided to anyone who desires to learn. If someone asks what I do and asks again what that means when I reply that I am a librarian, this is the answer that I should give rather than enumerating all the mundane things like setting up e-resources for a trial, filling out the paperwork for my grant project, updating web pages, and going to lots of meetings.”  Bohyun Kim, author of  The Library Hat” blog

I A a School Librarian! And Darned Proud of It!

In these test-the-kids-til-their-brains-have-been-fried crazed days, school librarians must work harder than ever to assure our communities that we are essential to the educational system.  Pulling the plug on library programs may seem to be a quick and easy way to cut corners in this economy, but it would leave many of our students and teachers afloat in a sea of information awaiting the Perfect Storm.

And so, school librarians must enumerate “the mundane things” as Bohyun Kim refers to them, as well as the exciting and collaborative “things” we do.  If you have not read Joyce Valenza’s updated Manifesto for the 21st Century School Librarian, then you must.  Go ahead and read it.  I’ll wait for you to return.

Can I be honest?  I felt so overwhelmed when I read her post, that I wanted to cry.  I thought I was doing a pretty danged good job of working as a 21st century school librarian until I began to compare what I do to Joyce’s list of 81 bulleted points.

I feel certain that Joyce’s intent in writing that post was not to make me cry or to discourage all of us who work daily in the trenches.  Joyce’s passion for her job is palpable.  She demands the best from herself and expects no less from any other school librarian because our students and teachers deserve it.

So, instead of throwing myself a pity party after I read the manifesto, I printed it and am using it as a guide.

How many of “them 81 bulleted points” can you honestly say you demonstrate?  I haven’t counted yet, but I know I have quite a ways to go.

Photo attribution:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/librarianavengers/481593155/in/set-72157600010008696/

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

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):

http://groups.diigo.com/group/teacher_librarians (312 members as of this post’s writing)

http://groups.diigo.com/group/classroom20 (1340 members as of this post’s writing)

http://groups.diigo.com/group/diigoineducation (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.

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