Purchaser on the Prowl

Tracking Book Reviews

Your library may subscribe to several reviewing journals, but why limit yourself to print publications to discover new books that would fly off your shelves?

As you can see from the image, I have a folder in my Google Reader devoted to YA Lit.  I have to admit that the small number (39) of unread posts is unusual; the holiday break has given me time to go through my reader.

I often leave this folder unread for days.  Do I not like YA lit?  Please.  It composes approximately 90% of all of my fiction reading.  So why am I not anxious to discover the jewels (some not so shiny) that these blogs hold?

Fear.

Fear?  Yes. Fear of reading about a great new book only to forget its title.  If I read the post, it disappears from my reader.  Yes, I can mark it as “unread” and “star” it, but there have been times when I have seen 170 posts in that folder and just deleted them all. (Sorry to those of you whose blogs I subscribe to – it is no reflection of the quality of your posts! No, it is my way of dealing with information overload.)

I have sometimes attempted to make notes of these titles, but these are often forgotten or misplaced.  You see, not only do I read these blog posts at home, but I sometimes read them during my lunch break at work, or while waiting in line at the grocery store.  And, despite what others will tell you, I am not organized.

I need a way to make note of the titles no matter where it is that I am reading reviews.  What is always handy?  Since I am online while reading them, why not use Google Docs to keep track of those I-do-not-want-to-forget titles?  Because this week is offering me the luxury of time, I decided to create a spreadsheet and begin to fill it with some of those titles.

Bookstore Finds

This is not the only mobile solution I have used to record new titles.  Buffy Hamilton first alerted me to the power of Evernote for collection development.  I haunt the local Barnes and Noble (they know me by first name) and hightail it straight for the Teen section when I arrive.  With iPhone in hand, I scour the new books.  When I find one that seems promising, I use the Snapshot feature in Evernote to take a photo of the book cover and place it in my Collection Development notebook right in Evernote.

Follett Library Resources recently released a Titlewave app that is awesome!  Now, when I find promising titles, I can search for them in Titlewave and read reviews right on my iPhone.  I can even add them to a book order on the spot.

What mobile means have you discovered for recording possible book purchases?

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SCASL 2011 Conference Day One

Last week was an exciting time for school librarians who attended the SCASL conference in Columbia, SC.  Those who were unable to attend were greatly missed and several of us have tried to capture the experience through tweets, photos, videos, and blog posts.

March 9:  Pre-Conference, Exhibit Hall Grand Opening, and SCASL Board Meeting

This was my first conference as a board member of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians.  Hearing some of the planning details of the conference for several months in board meetings added to my excitement as March 9th approached!

I arrived in Columbia in plenty of time to register and set up the Advocacy Committee Display (pictured above) in the Exhibit Hall before heading to my first conference session.

Leadership Strategies for Building Communities @ Your Library

Several intriguing pre-conference sessions were offered on the afternoon of March 9th, but as usual, I signed up to attend a session with the conference’s keynote speaker. This year our keynote speaker was none other than David Loertscher, currently a professor at the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University.

Dr. Loertscher directed us to a website he had created for the session:  Leadership Strategies for Building Community: Leadership by Demonstration and Doing.   He encouraged us to become experts on the Common Core State Standards and directed us to the English Language Arts Standards (pdf is found on the Common Core State Standards site).  He asked us to skim through this document and share any wording that would directly relate to what we as school librarians do.

We quickly discovered much that related to (and shared common wording with) the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st Century Learner.

Which tool?

Next Dr. Loertscher directed us back to the session’s website.  He asked if any of us had attended any “smackdown” sessions at conferences where the audience is introduced to a large variety of Web 2.0 tools in a very short amount of time.  Many of us (including me) had.  “What if,” he asked, “we focus on the learning experience first and then choose the tool?”

He pointed us toward the list “Types of Learning Boosts from Technology” on the session’s website.  Looking over the categorized  lists of 54 learning boosts, he encouraged us to choose a type of learning and then a tool that would address it. We then used that information to complete a survey (a Google Docs form) and analyze the results of the survey.

Knowledge Building Centers

Finally Dr. Loertscher introduced Knowledge Building Centers(KBC): his vision for creating learning communities of the future.  He was planning another session on this topic the next day so did not go into much detail during this session.  But it was definitely enough to arouse my curiousity!  He has provided templates for creating a KBC if you wish to further explore it.

Exhibit Hall Grand Opening

During the Exhibit Hall Grand Opening, Heather Loy and I “manned” the Advocacy Committee Showcase Display so that we could answer any questions posed by those who stopped by to examine our booth.  Because we were using the conference to announce our Snapshot: A Day in the Life of South Carolina School Libraries initiative, I had hoped for a large turnout.  However, the location of our booth was not conducive to tempting school librarians to “come hither.”  We did have several people stop in and show interest.

Board Meeting Dinner

Heather and I left the Columbia Convention Center in hopes of locating our dinner destination before the skies let loose the torrents of rain that seemed to be threatening.  Luckily, we found the Garden Bistro in time to avoid the downpour.  The food was delicious and the board got down to business as we readied ourselves for the two busiest days of conference.

A long, eventful day!  And only the first of three of the conference.

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.

Wow.

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.

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.

Suggestions?

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?

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/