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!

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SCASL Conference Reflections: Day Three

The third day of conference is a half day.  There are three morning sessions and the grand finale of our conference is always the Author Celebration Luncheon.

“Meet the Author”  Chris Crutcher

I have long been a fan of Chris Crutcher and looked forward to his session.   His characters ring true with compelling, heartbreaking stories.  Chris shared some of his life experiences that have inspired his fictional characters and situations.  He had us alternately laughing and crying, but always wanting to read (or reread) the stories inspired by the children who had touched his heart.

“Unwritten Research Paper:  Projects for Busy Teachers and Bored Students”  Cathy Nelson

Cathy Nelson lives and breathes instructional technology!  Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, she is always in search of ways to enrich her students’ educational experiences – often with technology.

One of her pet peeves is the “KMN” PowerPoint presentation.  We have all suffered through them:  slides with too much text that the presenter just reads to his/her audience.  You know, those presentations where you think “Kill Me Now!” (KMN) rather than see another slide with several bullet points.

Her session offered suggestions on improving those PowerPoint presentations – information that MUST be shared with our teachers and students.  Then she shared her recent collaborative experiences where students were allowed to choose a means to share what they learned through their research (no three page papers here).

Cathy has shared both her PowerPoint on improving PowerPoints (!) and her ideas for the unwritten research paper on her wiki.

Side note:  This is NOT how Cathy appeared when she was presenting at the 2012 SCASL Conference.  But it is a favorite picture of mine that captures Cathy’s spontaneity and willingness to try new experiences.

“eEk and eCstacy:  Incorporating eReaders and eBooks into Your Curriculum”  Jen Chesney

This was the second session I attended focusing on eReaders.  Jen Chesney, media specialist at Powdersville High School, shared her experiences with eBooks and eReaders  as she opened a new library last year.

Her nonfiction eBooks haven’t been as successful as she would like.  Students want instant access;  having to visit different sites to reach the library’s Infobase and Marshall Cavendish eBooks is off-putting for them.  Publishers are still exploring the new frontier of eBooks.  Until there is a “one size fits all” solution,  nonfiction eBooks are not going to be our students’ first choice for information.

Jen chose to go with Nooks for her fiction eBook collection.  She purchased enough Nooks to take advantage of the Barnes and Noble management program and devised a way to keep track of titles on each device.  Because students check out the devices rather than the books, she has no way of tracking which titles are being read on each device other than to ask students when they return the Nook.

The Nooks have been extremely popular.  One of the “eCstasies” that Jen has discovered:  no more having to wait days or weeks after publication of the newest book in a series!  If you purchase these on eReaders, the books will be there the day they are released.

Although earlier in the school year I had decided to wait a bit longer until the dust settled (and prices on devices are bound to drop), Jen’s success has me wondering whether I should purchase a few Nooks and see how successful they would be in my library program.

Final Thoughts

In this and my past two posts, I have attempted to share some of what I learned at the 2012 SCASL Conference.  Our keynote speakers were topnotch this year and the talent of my fellow South Carolina school librarians never ceases to amaze me.

I am never able to attend all of the sessions I would like to; two or three will be going on simultaneously and I must make a choice.  However, thanks to the generosity of this year’s presenters, I can at least get a taste for sessions I was unable to experience in person.  Their presentations/handouts/materials can be found on the Conference page of scasl.net.

 

SCASL Conference Reflections: Day Two

“Ereader Duel:  Nook vs. Kindle”  Tamara Cox and Carla Nash

Tamara and Carla sponsored a showdown between Nooks (both Simple Touch and Nook Color) and Kindles (both Kindle and Kindle Fire).  It was a lighthearted “duel” that ended in a tie.  Both Tamara and Carla have had great success with their eReaders and admit that the choice boils down to preference based on our community’s needs.

After their presentation, they passed out both Nooks and Kindles to give attendees an opportunity to get a feel for each.

Their presentation provides a clear overview of both the pros and cons of each device.

How to prevent students from purchasing ebooks on your devices:

Carla inherited Nooks when she took over the program at West Pelzer Elementary.  Although Barnes and Noble offers a management service if you have a minimum number of Nooks (now 25), Carla manages her own eReaders.  She uses gift cards to purchase eBooks for the readers and pointed out that a zero balance does NOT mean that you can’t purchase any more titles on a device.  Because you must register the device and your account with a credit card number, if purchases are made once the gift card zeroes out, purchases are then put on the credit card associated with the device.  Yikes!

To prevent students from purchasing any more books, Carla sets the Nooks on “demo mode.”  Students are still able to make some changes to the content on a Nook, but none that will be charged to the credit card.

I personally own (and love) a Kindle with keyboard but left from the conference on Friday and stopped by my local Barnes and Noble to begin a discussion on purchasing and using Nook Simple Touches for my library program.

Image attribution:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/scasl/6989720469/in/set-72157629585399085

“Change or Start Looking for a New Job”  Bob Berkowitz (keynote)

What would really happen if your library program were cut?  Berkowitz challenged us to consider the possibilities and then to realize the importance of showing our library program’s impact on student achievement.

What does it take to have a vibrant school library program?

Berkowitz suggested strong programs

  • have high expectations of their students
  • have a rigorous content
  • engage students in learning
  • use assessment to evaluate the success of instructional strategies
  • ensure students see a connection between what they learn in the library and their lives
  • have environments that support learning
  • are super strategic

He gave us several questions to use as we consider our current programs:

  • Whose program is it?
  • Whose library is it?
  • Whose virtual space is it?

What can we do to improve upon our programs and change with the times?

Berkowitz suggested:

  • form an advisory team
  • rethink sacred cows
  • be recognized as someone who solves problems
  • develop a district-wide plan
  • marketing
  • branding

We are the CIOs (Chief Information Officer) of our schools.  As such, we need to develop a curriculum and put the world in our students’ hands.

Image attribution:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/scasl/6982689629/in/set-72157629604521493/

SCASL Learning Commons

My afternoon was divided between the Learning Commons and my own presentation “Ramp Up Reading with Technology.”

Cathy Nelson kicked off the Learning Commons by sharing how she teaches “Web Evaluation” to her students at Dorman High School. She has a knack for relating well to teens and keeps her lessons interesting.

I love the informality of the Learning Commons!  Even though only a handful of folks listened to my presentation on “Jazzing Up Monthly Reports,” the smallness of the group lead to open discussions that might not have occurred in a larger session.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tamara Cox‘s session on “Nontraditional Shelving” as it challenged my thinking about nonfiction arrangement in my library.  I’m not ready to give up Dewey, but I think that signage to indicate special sections of high interest would help my nonfiction circulation.

Julianne Kaye shared how her elementary students used Blabberize to demonstrate what they had learned through research about famous South Carolinians.

Susan Myers shared several strategies she uses to keep her community informed about what’s happening in her library in her “How to Be Loquacious: Constant Talk about Your Library Impact.”

And Susan Dicey shared “Injecting Life (and 21st Century Skills) into Book Reports with Book Trailers.”  She uploads these student created trailers into her library catalog for all students to enjoy.

Because I was presenting from 3:15-4:15, I missed some excellent sessions in the Learning Commons, but thankfully, most of those presenters have been gracious enough to share their materials through the conference handouts link on scasl.net.

SCASL Conference Reflections: Day One

Who doesn’t love learning?  Certainly not anyone reading this post!  Conferences offer opportunities to expand your knowledge, connect with friends rarely seen, and make new friends.

The 37th annual South Carolina Association of School Librarians’ Conference was held March 14-16th at the T.D. Convention Center in Greenville, SC.  The theme this year was “Advocacy Starts with You @your library.”  Approximately 500 professionals gathered to learn from, and network with, each other.

Our organization is always seeking ways to improve our conference, and this year was no exception.  Hats off to Heather Loy, SCASL Pres Elect, and Patty Bynum, Local Arrangements Chair, for one of the best conferences ever!  Many others helped make the conference the success it was, and I appreciate all the hard work and efforts of each person involved.

Two additions to our conference this year were located in the Exhibit Hall: the SCASL Committee Showcase and the Learning Commons.  SCASL committees created inviting displays to inform our members of the work we are doing and to encourage them to volunteer to serve on a committee next year.

The Learning Commons was sponsored by the SCASL IT Committee.  Members were encouraged to sign up and share a lesson, idea, program, etc. I loved the informal nature of the Learning Commons and look forward to it again next year.

I’ll share some snippets of information I gleaned from each of the sessions I attended.  Many presenters have provided links to their presentations/handouts which can be found on http://scasl.net.

“Big 6 by the Month:  Comprehensive and Essential Information Programs Now!” Bob Berkowitz (pre-conference session)

Bob encouraged us to use the Big 6 not only as a research/problem-solving model, but also as an instructional model.  He stressed that problem solving is not linear, and although there are 6 components of the Big 6, they do not have to be followed in any particular order.

Because our ultimate purpose in teaching is to prepare students for success in the world after high school (whether secondary training or the world of work), we need to focus on problem solving.  To illustrate how the Big 6 works in everyday life tasks, he asked one attendee to share her recent experience with buying a car.

Planning Your Year

“Information literacy is too important to be partial or arbitrary.”  (Berkowitz)

Just as other teachers must create long range plans, we need to create a yearly plan with a focus for each month.  We need a comprehensive plan that can be defined, is predictable, can be measured, and the results can be reported.

You might begin the school year with an overview of the Big 6.  Then in September, you might focus on Task Definition.  Continue to plan your year in this manner.

Our plan needs to be predictable, meaning we will follow certain planning procedures.  What role will the teacher-librarian play?  What role will the classroom teacher play?  How is the plan related to our district and school schedule? How will our plan address the standards?  Create an annual grade level or subject plan.

As we plan our program, we must include the evidence we will use to determine our students’ success.  Will we use portfolios?  Worksheets? Tests? Observations? Self-assessments?  Then we need to determine the criteria we will use to determine how well students met each objective.

“Track It!  Documenting Instructional Impact”  Donna Shannon, Gerry Solomon, Elizabeth Miller

I was anticipating this session from the moment I first read about it.  If I had to name just one area in which my library program needs to improve, it would have to be documenting the learning that takes place as a result of our instruction and resources.

The presenters created a wiki that provides both background information on why documenting student learning in our library programs is essential and links to resources to assist us as we incorporate documentation into our programs.

The presenters shared a variety of documents and ideas (all on their wiki) including collaborative planning logs, learning logs, rubrics, project based learning checklists (I really like these!), and more.

Please take some time to explore the resources they have gathered.

Exhibit Hall Grand Opening

As always, the first day of conference ended with the opening of the Exhibit Hall.  Attendees were treated to refreshments as they browsed vendor booths, checked out the SCASL Store, and visited SCASL Committee displays.  Attendees left with their appetite whetted for the sessions planned for the second day of conference.

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

To Be or Do, or Not to Be or Do: Is That the Question?

Bandit

One of my all-time favorite treats:  quietly sitting on my back porch gazing at the beauty of nature.  The mist rising over the lake and glazing the sun.  The colors of the garden I have lovingly crafted.

The birds are chirping and busily hunting for breakfast; it’s early enough that the tree frogs are still serenading me.  Bandit, our manic little hummingbird, is  jealously guarding “his” feeder, perched either on the pool fence or in the crepe myrtle tree that overhangs the deck.

This is “being.”  I have not done enough being this summer.

Instead, I have been busily doing. Doing helps me prepare for the next school year. Having a strong school library program is paramount to me.  I want to be able to offer my teachers and students the resources and assistance they need to be successful.  I want to be well read in current YA lit so that I can suggest possible reads when students seem to be wandering aimlessly around the shelves. I want to be knowledgeable about the latest technology and online tools so that I can suggest the most appropriate ones for teachers to incorporate into their instruction.

All those “I want to be’s”….

Wanting to be knowledgeable has led to endless hours of “doing” this summer.  I finally completed my 2010-2011 Annual Report, I participated in the SCASL Summer Institute, I attended and presented at the Upstate Technology Conference.  I have read countless blogs, played with new-to-me online tools, skimmed through part of a backlog of last school year’s professional journals. I have devoured many YA titles (and found several gems) and collaborated with other SC media specialists to create Readers’ Advisory tools to promote our South Carolina Young Adult Book Award 2012 nominees.

All in preparation to craft the best school library program for the 2011-2012 school year.

And yet….

How ironic that in my summer quest “to be,” I have not enjoyed just being.

I love watching Bandit; each year I almost giddily anticipate his spring return.  His bright colors and passionate antics fill me with an inexplicable “everything is right with the world” feeling.

However, this morning as Bandit gallantly protected “his” feeder, I saw myself:  always poised to be alert and to act, and never just allowing myself the time to enjoy the scenery.  What if other school librarians learned or did something that I myself overlooked?

Inspiration

The question is not “to be or do, or not to be or do.”  No, both are necessary.  The question for me is, “When am I going to allow myself to be?”

This morning as I was savoring the peace in my own back yard, I remembered:  it is often in quiet contemplation that I receive inspiration.  What other excuse do I need to pour myself another cup of coffee and head out to my sanctuary?

Being.

Garden serenity

But, Officer…..

Definitely not proud of this, but on Tuesday morning I was speeding (57 in a 35 zone).  And I got caught.  (Please note:  there are no houses –  nor open businesses at 7:15 a.m. – on this stretch of road.  I know, it doesn’t change the fact that I was speeding, but I don’t want any of my readers to think I would drive this fast through an area where people are out and about.)

You know how you feel like a chastised child when pulled over by an officer of the law? It is embarrassing to sit there and wait while the officer checks your license and license plate and writes you a ticket (or a warning in this case).  Well, to compound the embarrassment, I personally knew the officer who stopped me:  not only was he a former student of mine (7th grade English), but I had also worked with him at my high school – he was once one of our SROs.

Lesson to be Learned

I am a firm believer in learning from my mistakes.  I will not be speeding on that stretch of road again.  I would like to promise that I would not ever speed again, but let’s face it.  I’ve driven for 40 years and I know myself.  I will be more mindful of my speed – I can promise that.

It doesn’t end with just that lesson learned, though.

I was running late on my self-imposed schedule and had only one purpose in mind as I took off from home that morning:  to make up for lost time so I wouldn’t get stuck parking in Timbukto at the conference.

With blinders on, I did not see Officer C’s car until it was too late.  Which is what happens in life in general.  When our focus is too narrowed, we overlook details not associated with it.  We barrel ahead, shutting ourselves off from anything that might detract our attention.

And we miss opportunities. Opportunities to make a difference in others’ lives.

“I expect to pass through this world but once.  Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now.  Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

~Stephen Grellet, 1773-1855
French-born Quaker Minister

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Image used through a Creative Commons license:

“P4040002”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/11441121@N04/2477713305