Advocacy: Monthly Reports

How do you keep your program front and center in the eyes of your school community? Many school librarians create and share monthly statistics reports with their principals.  But should we stop there?  Why not post these reports for the entire school community?

Example Monthly Reports

Excellent examples of monthly reports are posted online each month.  Each report is different in not only what it contains, but how it is presented.  The common factor?  Transparency.  We must let our communities see how our programs impact student achievement.

Buffy Hamilton’s Unquiet Library report (see link above) provides program highlights, photographs, and statistics.

Lorena Swetnam’s Blythewood Middle School report is a quarterly,  rather than monthly report, on her library website.  The slideshows help bring her program to life! She also includes program highlights, collaborative work, and statistics.

Blythewood Middle School First Nine Weeks Report

Pam Harland’s Plymouth Regional High School report is a pdf file linked to the library home page.  This colorful report includes library highlights, statistics, and collaboration highlights, as well as levels of collaboration attained (from 1-5 with a key explaining each level).

Plymouth Regional High School Library report

Laura Collins’ Clovis High School report can also be found through a link on her library’s website.  She not only includes program and instructional highlights, library statistics, and collaboration information, but also includes standards met through collaborative lessons.

Clovis High School Library reports

Reassessing My Monthly Report

Mrs. Hinmighty, English teacher extraordinaire, has consented to read and grade the latest set of school library monthly reports.  Uh-oh.  Can I say the dog ate mine?  Compared to the examples I have shared here, my monthly report isn’t worthy to even warm the bench.

Up until last spring, my monthly report consisted of statistics and a listing of special events held in the media center.  Can you say drab and uninspiring? (Mrs. Hinmighty is “tsk-tsking” and shaking her head sorrowfully as she considers my report.)

When we moved into our new facility, I began adding photographs of students and student work to the monthly report, but I still felt that I wasn’t doing our program justice.  (Tsk-tsk. Sigh…..)

How can I find the time to create the report my program deserves while maintaining that program?  Fellow South Carolina school librarians provided help this week.

The Advocacy Committee of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians recently requested that example monthly reports be shared on our listserv.  Several have been posted and inspired me to revamp our report.

My October report is taking shape.  Statistics appear in tables and some will be represented visually with pie charts and bar graphs.  The one page report is now a thing of the past!  That page limitation (self-imposed) limited the number of photographs I could include and stifled my desire to be creative. (Mrs. Hinmighty will probably still bleed across my report, but perhaps she may occasionally smile rather than tsk.)

Creating the first revamped report is time-consuming, but will provide the template for future reports, thereby eventually saving me time.

Now to create a page on our library’s website to begin posting our monthly reports…..

What do you include in your monthly reports?

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: 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:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulworthington/82648702/

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.

“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?

Tooting Our Own Horns

Teaching Today’s Students (and their teachers) to be Smart Searchers from Cathy Nelson on Vimeo.

Advocating Advocacy

Budget cuts. Title changes. Both have sent shock waves through the school library community.  Numerous posts have been written calling us to action.  Having recently graduated from the SLIS program at the University of South Carolina, I am well aware of the need to be a strong advocate for my program.

I enjoy reading about the successes of other school library programs; I glean many tidbits from them to incorporate into my own program.  But sharing our successes with each other is not enough:  we must toot our own horn in our school communities.  This is often hard to do for many reasons, but two that come to mind concerning my own situation:  1) lack of time, and 2) fear of sounding like a braggart.

Overcoming Obstacles

How do I overcome these obstacles?  First, adopt the mindset that if I don’t, funding to my program and my very job may be in jeopardy.  Second, gather data. Third, turn to my PLN.  The people in my professional learning network value  school libraries, whether they are teachers, administrators, information technology specialists, school librarians, or consultants.  They challenge me daily as I read their tweets and blog posts.

And, finally, plan.  Plan  in specific detail.  This past week, I challenged myself to proactively spread the successes of my school library’s program.  Once a week, I will share snippets of success with members of my school community.

This past week, I began with an email to my principal, superintendent, and PR district liasion sharing the fall semester results of READissance, our voluntary reading program.  Very quickly, I received positive feedback from both my superintendent and principal which alleviated my fear of sounding like a braggart.

Next, I need to share the results with my school board members.  I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t already created a group in Outlook with their email addresses.  So, guess what is on tomorrow’s agenda?

Emails, newsletters, and phone calls are all means to spread the good news.  But in today’s visual society, photographs and videos provide more impact.  How can I effectively incorporate those into my Advocacy Plan?

My PLN to the Rescue

Joyce Valenza of Springfield Township High in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, recently  began a new online community, School Library InfoTech Programs: Tapestry of Effective Practice. Here, members are urged to create and share videos that focus on the effectiveness of various components of their school library programs in order to demonstrate the vital need of our programs.  Check out the first entry from Cathy Nelson of Dorman High School in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at the top of this post.  By focusing on specific components of their programs in this manner, they provide a clearer view of their impact on student achievement.

Buffy Hamilton of Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, spiced up her school library monthly reports by creating Animoto videos. This upbeat method of sharing her program’s successes in no way feels like bragging as the students take center stage.

Involve your students in creating mini documentaries of your program and share them via your library’s website.  Ensure your school community’s awareness:  send links to your shareholders, including the education reporters for your local paper and television station.

Accountability

Advocacy. Marketing. Branding.  By incorporating these into our long term plans, we are also building accountability into our programs.

At Boiling  Springs High School, I feel an even more imperative need to establish the validity of my program.  Within weeks, we will be packing up and moving into a nearly-completed new facility.  When plans began for the building over two years ago, my fellow media specialist Jay Campbell and I used our input to make several requests to meet the needs of our growing student population:

  • thirty student computers surrounding the circulation desk (twelve has been the standard in our district.  The seventeen in our current facility have been insufficient to accommodate the needs of classes, prompting our request.)
  • two computer labs (There is currently only one lab in the building for class sign up.  The district planned on adding more in the future;  however, we saw the urgent need to not only have them sooner, but to incorporate them into the research and learning center of the school.)
  • two teaching areas complete with Promethean boards (Current space only allows for one teaching area with a Promethean board.)

I am grateful that our school board agreed with our vision and provided the funds to add our requests to the plans.  I can hardly await the opening of the new facility and am excited beyond words at the teaching and learning opportunities it will provide for our teachers and students.

United We Stand

What advocacy efforts have you enacted lately to demonstrate the value of your program?  What efforts have you read about and want to enact?  Please share – together, we can ensure the lasting successes of our programs.


AASL Reflections: Opening Keynote

Earlier this month, I was among one of over 2800 school librarians attending the AASL Conference in Charlotte, NC. From the moment I picked up my nametag and conference information until the moment I left the closing celebration, I was totally captivated by the experience. It has taken weeks to try and sort out all that I learned and all the goodies I picked up from the vendors. I will try to share some of what I learned here through a series of posts.

Opening Keynote

danah boyd delivered the opening keynote address at AASL’s Rev Up Learning national conference.  According to Boyd, social networking sites play a strong role in teen culture.  Teens use social networking much differently than do adults.  Teens use sites such as MySpace and Facebook to share their creations as well as keep track of their favorite celebrities.

When we go online, we are by default just an IP address. Teens want to share themselves with their intended audience so they write themselves into being through the  profiles, comments, and creations they share.  Teens do lie about themselves online, but they have been told to do so by adults in order to protect themselves.

Adults often wonder about the inane comments teens (and others) make online.  Why would anyone share what they had for breakfast with the world?  Boyd says this is a form of social grooming.  Through status updates, teens can see the patterns of life in their world.  What is important to those important to them?  Just as adults of my generation would get together to hang out and “shoot the breeze,” today’s teens  do so but often do not have the mobility they would like to hang out face-to-face.  Social networks have become a place to hang out with friends.

Boyd describes three categories of teens using social networking sites based on the number of “friends” they had:

1.  Teens with 40-50 identified friends are using social networking sites to stay in touch with face-to-face friends

2.  Teens with 400-500 identified friends are using the sites to keep up with school classmates

3.  Teens with more than 500 friends are considered “Collectors”

Teens actually use social networking sites as a form of social hierarchy.  Many social networking sites allow you to identify your top friends.  Because your online popularity can depend upon how many others identify you as a top friend, teens might say or do things to ensure their staying power as a top friend.

Teens need an online space to be with their friends, but because they don’t often understand how online information is organized nor the repercussions of their online actions, media specialists need to assist teens in learning the skills they need to operate in their online worlds.

Boyd’s keynote address was riveting and included so much information that it was impossible to take notes on it all.  You can read more about her research in her dissertation.  Boyd’s keynote underscored the importance of media specialists taking responsibility for their professional development in the area of technology (as Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson discussed in “Things That Keep Us Up at Night.”)

Want to read others’ thoughts on Danah Boyd’s keynote?  Check out:

Buffy Hamilton’s Cover It Live Blogging

Joyce Valenza’s Danah Boyd on the Importance of Being Present in Kids’ Lives Online

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