Show Your Stuff!

Gloom and Doom

When animals feel threatened, they become defensive and attack.  When school librarians feel threatened, they become__________________.  If I had to fill in the blank based on what I’ve been reading on our state’s listserv, I’d be filling in “negative and whine.”

Yeah.  That’ll protect our jobs.  Let’s just sit back and whine – others will feel sorry for us and not only save our jobs, but pay us double and get us library assistants, and give us unlimited budgets, and, and, and….

Loud and Proud

Instead of feeling defensive, let’s do what some of our colleagues have done and toot that horn, blast that trumpet, raise that roof!

Kelly Knight, librarian at Fork Shoals School in Greenville County, South Carolina, began today what I hope to see as a continuing theme on the SCASL listserv and forums:  a thread entitled “Tooting my own horn.”

In the post, Kelly shared the success she has been experiencing while teaching her 4th graders about blogging. Today the students learned netiquette and began posting comments on the library’s blog.  Next they will tackle book reviews and are revved up and raring to go!

After wading through several negative “gloom and doom” messages, Kelly’s post was like a breath of fresh air.

We are doing AWESOME things in our school libraries.  Let’s share them with not only one another, but also with our school communities.  They’re dying for fresh air, too.


Let’s inspire one another.  Please share one (or more) awesome thing(s) that you are doing in your library in a reply to this post, or in a post of your own (and then share the link to that post here).  And remember to share it with your faculty, administration, parents, and community.

Image “African trumpet‘ by smithadri  is  used through a Creative Commons license

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?

Gearing Up for the New Year: Calendar Dates

Each July, I am conflicted over the upcoming death of summer vacation and the birth of a new school year.  The realization that the alarm clock will once again be sounding at 5 a.m. giving me an opportunity for a brand new start causes those proverbial butterflies in my stomach.  I pour over the back-to-school fliers in the Sunday paper while leisurely sipping my hazelnut creme coffee, knowing that the delicious freedom of sleeping late and not living my life by a bell schedule will soon come to an abrupt halt.

Fresh Start…and New School Supplies!

But how can I not love a chance to get it right one more year?  Each August, educators are blessed with the opportunity to improve our teaching and meet new students.

When I moved from the classroom to the media center, I gave up lesson plan books in favor of planning calendars.  Three years ago I found an almost perfect academic planner (At a Glance  Academic Year Weekly/Monthly Planner) and have made a trip to Office Depot each July since then to purchase one for the new year.  This calendar becomes my map and journal for the school year.

Events Sponsored by ALA, YALSA, and the AASL

First to be filled in are important events sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Association of School Librarians, and the Young Adult Library Services Association.  Those dates for this year include:

Sept:  Library Card Sign-Up Month

Sept. 25 – Oct. 2:  Banned Books Week

Oct. 17 – 23:  Teen Read Week

Nov. 13:  National Gaming Day @ Your Library

Mar. 6 – 12:  Teen Tech Week

April:  School Library Month

Apr. 10 – 16:  National Library Week

Apr. 14:  Support Teen Literature Day

May 1 – 7:  Choose Privacy Week

Other Dates

Once those dates are on the calendar, then I begin to scour the Internet for other events/celebrations that could be added to our library calendar.

Sept. 8:  International Literacy Day – sponsored by the International Reading Association

October:  International School Library Month – sponsored by the International Association of School Librarianship

Nov. 14 – 20:  American Education Week – sponsored by the National Education Association

School Library Monthly‘s Almanacs

School Library Monthly publishes their monthly almanacs online.  You’ll find both an Activities Almanac and an Author and Illustrator Almanac that provide a wealth of information and ideas.

The Author and Illustrator Almanac provides not only the birth dates of important authors and illustrators, but also links to more information on many of them.

The Activites Almanac can be the answer to prayers for bulletin board ideas.  Not only does each month provide an illustration and details on a specific bulletin board, but reading through the events in each month is bound to spark ideas for other bulletin boards and displays.

Thanks to School Library Monthly, I added these dates to our calendar:

October: National Reading Group Month – sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association

February: Library Lovers’ Month

May:  Get Caught Reading Month

Let the Programming Begin!

In addition to these dates, I input dates for our local literacy programs (READissance and Bulldog Booklovers Club).  With this done, I can begin to plan programs and activities to ensure that the library has a major celebration each month.

What Other Events Do You Celebrate?

Have you found a great source for dates of special celebrations? Please share!

Photo attribution

Photo used through a Creative Commons License

“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?

Going Gaa-Gaa for Google

It is no secret to those who know me:  I am a Google fan.  Google offers great (FREE) tools that have simplified my life and allowed me to accomplish more  – efficiently and effectively.  Some Google services I use:

Google’s Educational Uses

For those educators who are still not sold on Google, here are some links that either offer more information for educators, or give examples of educators’ use of Google for their students.


Google Search Options

Google Docs


Taking Control of Your Clogged Gmail Inbox

gmail overload by ario_j.

I have a love/hate relationship with email.  Each day I open my Gmail in the expectation that I will get a great email from a family member or friend that will just make my day.  Those are the emails I read immediately.  But there are countless other emails that greet me as I open my inbox. 

 I have recently spent time unsubscribing from several automated emails, but there are other automated emails  I still wish to receive but may not have the time or inclination to read pronto.  They sit in my inbox – a reminder that if I don’t know exactly what to do with an email, my inbox never seems to get cleared out.

So this morning when  I stumbled across the “Problogger” blog, I was overjoyed to read  the post entitled “From 10,000 to 0 Emails in an Inbox in 24 Hours” . It  inspired me to try Gmail’s filtering feature to alleviate the Inbox Clog that I typically experience.

Use the Gmail Filtering Feature

To set up filtering on your Gmail, click on “Settings,” “Filters,” and then “Create a New Filter.”  You can then choose from five different search criteria:  “From,” ” To,” ” Subject,” ” Has the Words,” ” Doesn’t Have. ”  Type in your terms, click on “Test Search,” and analyse your results.

From there, you can choose:  “Skip Inbox (Archive It),” “Mark as Read,” “Star It,” “Apply the Label,” “Forward it To,” “Delete It,” and/or “Never Send it to Spam.”  Then click on “Create Filter” and take control of your Inbox! 

You can also choose to color code your labels.  Find the box on your Gmail Inbox page labeled “Labels.”  Click on the box to the right of the label you wish to color code and choose your color.  

Google also provides a demo of using labels and filters.

Be Ruthless

You may create as many filters as you wish.  Be ruthless – take control of that Inbox!

Any other suggestions on how to tame my inbox?


Image attribution:  Gmail overload