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?

Discovering New (to me) South Carolina Talent

Flag-map of South CarolinaPalmetto Pride

Does your heart ever swell with pride when you hear the “The Star Spangled Banner” played?  I may not be able to hit the high notes when I sing along, but my heart is soaring along with them each time I listen to our national anthem.

As an educator, does your heart ever swell with pride when one of your current or former students is recognized for his/her excellence?  I teach with one of my former students who makes me proud every time I have the privilege of working with her.

Media Mavens

And so it is with pride that I share the work of three of South Carolina’s own media specialists who have been or will soon be recognized for their excellence.

  • Lori June is the media specialist at Alice Drive Elementary School in Sumter, SC.  Recently she was contacted by the eChalk Academy Site requesting permission to feature her site on their page.  Way to go, Lori!  You’ll want to add Lori’s The View from Here blog to your reader.  In it she addresses issues of importance to school libraries.  Her reflections challenge me to consider my own practices.
  • Tamara Cox is the media specialist at Palmetto Middle School in Williamston, SC.  What a powerhouse!  She shares her passion for reading, technology, and teaching at the Eliterate Librarian.  Check out her blog for awesome ideas to incorporate into your program.  Thanks for sharing the details of your Gadget Petting Zoo, Tamara!
  • Lorena Swetnam is the media specialist at Blythewood Middle School in Blythewood, SC.  Lorena recently shared with me the website she created for her library.  Wow!  She has held nothing back in creating an inviting, informative, and well-organized site for her students and faculty.  The slide shows and often updated Library News posts are bound to capture the interest of her students and provide other media specialists with “snaggable” ideas.

Share the Wealth

Both seasoned and new media specialists can spark our imaginations and creativity through their online sharing.  Most of you reading this post are familiar with Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, Gwyneth Jones, Doug Johnson, Carolyn Foote, Cathy Nelson, and Heather Loy.

Who are some of your newest inspirational “finds” online?

Image attribution:

By Darwinek [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

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:

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

“Oh, it’s so Ning to be with you”

“Oh, it’s so nice to be with you, I love all the things you say and do…” Gallery   Eid+Mubarak+-+%D8%B9%DB%8C%D8%AF+%D9%81%D8%B7%D8%B1+%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%DA%A9

I was first introduced to Nings through Joyce Valenza’s TeacherLibrarianNing (2430 members). I have to confess that I found the interface quite confusing for a while.  However, since joining that Ning, I have joined several others and have become accustomed to the way Nings work.

The Ning that has excited me the most recently is the SCASL Ning.  I’ve attended three SCASL (South Carolina Association of School Librarians) conferences in the past and have been impressed with the enthusiasm and creativity of other media specialists in South Carolina.  The current leadership of SCASL has made intensive efforts to involve our association with Web 2.0 through blogging, podcasts, and even a webcast. 

Now, thanks to Julie Putnam, South Carolina library media specialists have their own social network.  As of today, 235 people have joined the Ning.  Great ideas are being shared and new friendships are being formed. 

I want my teachers to experience the professional development that Nings offer, so I thought I would find several to recommend.  The numbers in parentheses after the title of each Ning are the number of members in the Ning as of the date of this post.

English Companion: Where English teachers meet to help each other (594)       This Ning  was created by Jim Burke, author of many books including the namesake of this site, The English Teacher’s Companion. 

Classroom 2.0  (15,559) Winner of the 2008 Edublog’s Award for Best Use of Social Networking. This Ning focuses on introducing teachers to Web 2.0 tools and how they are being used to enhance instruction. 

Smart Board Revolution (750)      The members of this Ning share tips, ideas, and lessons for using Smart Boards in the classroom.

VoiceThread for Educators  (248)      The members here are participating “to create, build, and keep resources” for those using VoiceThread in the classroom.

So, You Want to Start Your Own Ning?

Ning in Education (3229)      This is a Ning on how to use Nings in education.  It’s a great starting point for anyone considering developing their own Ning.  If you want to start a Ning for your secondary classroom, be sure to investigate the offer for an ad-free site.

Image attribution:

Subject Guides 2.0

I have been busy wrapping up my course work for SLIS 761 at the University of South Carolina. And though it may seem I haven’t been writing any blog posts of late, I have had to write 5 for this course and post them on Blackboard.  A couple of them might be interesting to others outside of my course, so I will also post them here.

One of the blogs I subscribe to is “iLibrarian” written by Ellyssa Kroski. One of her most popular posts has been one from 2007 entitled  “A Librarian’s Guide to Creating 2.0 Subject Guides.”

  In this post she describes several Web 2.0 tools that can be used to create Subject Guides: 

  • The first is Squidoo.  Squidoo is a free service that allows you to create a multimedia Subject Guide called a Lens. Kroski provides links to three example Squidoo Lens created by librarians.  One of them,Using Web 2.0 Tools to Become Librarian 2.0”, is an excellent example of what you can incorporate into a subject guide using Squidoo. (Because this is a free service, Squidoo inserts advertisements on each Lens page.) 
  • Another tool Kroski describes in this post is Libguides. This is a subscription service used by college libraries, but the professional interface is worth a look. 

I want to add some Web 2.0 created Subject Guides to my library media center site and feel that will be the least time consuming to utilize. Just one look at Creekview’s account proves how useful and powerful this social bookmarking tool can be for busy library media specialists. Using just the basic format, Buffy Hamilton and Ruth Fleet have created master Subject Guide lists for their faculty and students.  Having been a user for some time, I know that these lists are easy to create and can be added to in a few spare moments here and there. And, using the social aspect of this service, media specialists can choose to collaborate with teachers who can add authoritative annotated links to the Subject Guides.

The State of School Libraries

In June, talk on the South Carolina Association of School Librarians listserv focused on the need for school library program advocacy. In somes states, library media specialist jobs are being eliminated in tight budgets.  Today, YALSA’s podcast on Teens & School Libraries focuses on interviews with media specialists in Michigan and Massachusetts.

In YALSA’s Podcast #53, Maureen Ambrosino of the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System interviews Kathy Lowe, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Library Association.  Interestingly, Lowe states, “It really comes down to a principal in a building within a district and whether or not that principal perceives the school library program as having value and if they do,  and if they understand the positive impact on students and teachers of having a professionally staffed and up-to-date library then they will support that.  It’s a priority that any prinicpal has to decide.”

How can your principal know the value your program adds to the school if you don’t tell him? Our job as school library media specialists must include advocacy.  Already overwhelmed by all the roles they must fill, many media specialists have put advocacy for their library program on the back burner.  If we don’t advocate for ourselves, no one will, so this year, plan on making your presence known!  Here are some resources to help you get started:

Welcome to the School Library Campaign AASL site

School Libraries Work! The 2008 edition of Scholastic’s Research Foundation Paper

Strong School Libraries Help Students Learn An advocacy toolkit that accompanies the School Libraries Making a Difference site

Research: Making the Case Part of a site started by 3 moms in the state of Washington in response to hearing that school librarians’ hours were being cut

Advocacy: The Teacher Librarian as Advocate This online course offered by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson defines advocacy and provides many links to sites to help you in planning your advocacy program.

The Principal’s Manual for the School Library Media Program A two page guide to evaluating a school library media program produced by AASL

School Library Systems Advocacy Toolkit Although created for New York, this site has many suggestions that all library media specialists can use.

Advocacy Toolkit for School Library Media Specialists The Colorado Library Consortium has compiled several resources, arranged by category: Learning to be an Advocate, Usable PowerPoint Presentations, Facts and Stats, Brochures, and Quicktime Video.

Added 3/31/2010:

California’s Best Seller Campaign for Strong School Libraries This California School Library Association’s site includes several useful sections and forms: The Message, What is a Strong School Library? (identifies 5 components), Identifying “Best Sellers,” “Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students and Lifelong Learners” (a flyer you can access from the home page – scroll down to “Identifying and Inviting ‘Best Sellers'” ), and Research and Other Resources (an annotated list with hyperlinks) found at the bottom of  The Message page.

We can incorporate research that proves the efficacy of school library programs in increasing student achievement, but we must begin to collect our own evidence.  Circulation statistics, class visits, and tallying individual student visits show our media centers and their resources are being used, but the best evidence is proof that our programs are making a difference.  How can we show that learning is taking place?

  • use programs such as TRAILS to track the improving information literacy skills of our students
  • ask teachers who have successfully collaborated with us to provide a “testimonial”
  • ask students to complete exit slips after you have taught a skill
  • maintain portfolios of lessons taught and evidence such as projects completed in conjunction with the lessons
  • sponsor a “What My Library Means to Me” contest

This is by no means an exhaustive list!  Please help by adding your suggestions.

Image from cindiann

Book Trailers

For more than fifteen years I have been using booktalks to encourage teens to try new books and authors.  Booktalks work, plain and simple.  Advertising a book sells it just as advertising shampoo or jeans sells them.  Presentation is everything in grabbing a reader’s interest.

So last spring, my media center showed the book trailers produced for the 2006 Teen Book Video Awards during the kick off for our READissance program.  The three trailers included the one above as well as The Book Thief and How I Live Now

 Not only did these beautifully crafted videos spark student interest, they lead me to purchase two of the titles for our collection.  As our students raptly watched the videos, I thought, “Why not have our students create book trailers?”  This idea never came to fruition as life, work, and grad school seemed to crowd out my fleeting moments of free time.  Luckily the world was not depending on me to provide new book trailers.

How else can my media center increase the use of Web 2.0 tools for book advertisement? 

 Joyce Valenza, media specialist extraordinaire, explored the use of book trailers, vodcasts, and podcasts in October 2007’s issue of e-Voya.  Her article, entitled “Booktalking 2.0”  provides links to many professionally and student-produced podcasts. These can be used in conjunction with your already prepared booktalks to encourage your students to read.

Now, another set of book trailers have been honored by the Teen Book Video Awards,  doubling our small arsenal of high quality book trailers to entice readers to try new books. Many other book trailers can be found on video hosting sites like Youtube, Teachertube, and Google Video

Here is another trailer for a newly released young adult book that looks interesting.

 The Adoration of Jenna Fox (from Henry Holt and Company)

Graphics Generators

This cool little graphic was created using Image Chef.  Very simple for this Web 2.0 Newbie to use!  Choose a template from the wide variety available, type in your message, then create a widget to post to your blog.  You can have Image Chef post the widget for you, or you can copy and paste the html yourself.

I’ve used graphic generators to “pimp” my Myspace page before, but had not considered their incorporation into the classroom.  Several of my Spanish teachers have students create PowerPoint slideshows as a final product for a country research project. These slideshows tend to be text heavy, lowering their effectiveness as a teaching tool. 

But using Image Chef, students can create graphics using the flags of their countries that they can add to their slideshows.  Because the text size is large, only a limited amount of text can be placed on each image – forcing students to condense text.

For example, here is the flag of Cuba with its population emblazoned across it. 


If teachers don’t wish to try new tools, as a LMS, you can introduce new tools to the students and have them incorporate them into those ubiquitous slideshows. 

How have other educators incorporated use of grahics generators into the classroom?


“Cuba.” CIA: The World Factbook. Mar. 2008. Central Intelligence Agency. 3 Apr. 2008  

Image Chef. 2008. Image Chef, Inc. 3 Apr. 2008

Calvin College Hekman Library openURL resolver

SCASL Conference: Session One M & M’s: Motivating and Marketing for Students in the Media Center

This week, I attended the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) Conference in Columbia, South Carolina.  There were so many wonderful sessions that at times it was difficult to choose which one to attend. 

Ann Hawthorne of Wright Middle School in Abbeville presented at the first session I attended. She creates delightful displays in her media center for just pennies and shared her tricks with us – including “drive by shopping.”  She cruises the backs of stores such as Walgreen’s, CVS, Eckerd’s, and Walmart to see what they are throwing away and if she discovers treasures she can use, asks if she can take the merchandise.  She never passes up a thrift store which she enters with an open mind.  She has purchased numerous stuffed animals to use in her displays.  My favorite was a huge stuffed banana which sits on her shelves with a sign that reads “Books are appealing.”

Anne also shops at dollar stores and finds treasures such as book stands.  My favorite of her dollar store finds and ideas was one she just got:  three little chicks for $1.00.  She will use these in a display dealing with a media specialist’s “peeps” – authors.  I can’t wait to play with this idea!

Another source of merchandise for her displays is, of all places, a funeral home.  One of her former students is a funeral director who gives her beautiful plants that families have left behind. 

Ann’s presentation was just as delightful as she is and I came away with many great ideas to brighten up my book display areas.