Friday, June 20, 2014

Not in it Alone

I intended to write this post immediately following the Alabama School Library Association Conference, but life got in the way. In the end, I think that might have been for the best. This really allowed me to reflect on the experiences related to my first keynote address.

Back in January I mentioned during the TL Virtual Cafe that it was always good to find that friend that challenged you. It probably comes as no surprise that the person who challenges me is Jennifer LaGarde. She is great about nudging me in just the right direction at just the right time. Needless to say her encouragement was critical to my first keynote address for the Alabama School Library Association.

It was such an honor to be asked to share my thoughts about Meeting the Challenge @yourlibrary. This is such an appropriate topic for school libraries at this time. I will probably post more about the specifics of my speech in another post, but today I want to focus on something else.

In talking with the teacher librarians of Alabama, it was easy to see that the concerns for school librarians are the same no matter the location. Yet the thing that stood out to me is that involvement in your state's professional organization is critical. It is easy to begin to feel as if you are working in isolation, but active membership in your state's professional organization provides you with the opportunity to connect with others who understand your day to day life. What's even better is that often others have found solutions to problems you face every day. Additionally,  your professional organization can really help promote advocacy activities that are critical to helping others understand the importance of our work.

I know adding one more thing to your plate can sometimes seem overwhelming, but can you really afford not to be a member of your state's professional library/school library association? Better yet, don't just be a member, be an active participant. Help navigate the course of school librarianship in your state. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bring Advertising to the Library

We have all heard the adage "Don't judge a book by its cover", but let's be honest, we all do this. In this day and age there really is no excuse for a bad cover, yet they still exist. As a librarian, I want students to read a book based on its merits not the cover, but what if this doesn't happen? Why not advertise those books that we know will get student attention if we can just get them to crack it open?

I worked with an AIG teacher to develop an advertising unit. Students had to develop their advertising agencies, and they basically had to sell a book. We used Caldecott winners that were worthy of attention, but that did not get checked out much. Students had to develop commercials and book trailers for their books. They also had to recreate the covers. We had a couple of covers after the completion of the unit that did increase the circulation of the book.

It also didn't hurt that these advertising agencies had to market these books. It brought attention to some worthy books that were not necessarily on the student radar. In addition to the marketing tools, they had to set up booths in the media center to "sell" their books. Groups had been accumulating funds throughout the project, so they were able to bid on prime real estate. Tops of bookshelves were used as marketing booths. Because my shelves were mobile, the group with the highest bid could move their display space anywhere they desired. They, of course, chose to move it right outside the library door so they could catch students as they entered the library. The group that received the most monetary donations was recognized and earned "income" for their agency. All of the donations were then given to the library for the purchase of additional books.

This project made for a great collaborative project, increased interest in reading, and helped raise money for the media center. Student engagement was at an all-time high, because there was a definite competitive edge for the agencies to be better than one another.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


I have really enjoyed reading about why members of my PLN became librarians. It has been great to learn their histories. As with many of those, my path to librarianship was not that direct. I started my professional career as a middle school teacher. While I loved middle school, I knew that I needed to find something to challenge myself. I started with working on a Master's degree in Middle Grades Education. One class in, and I knew this just wasn't what I wanted to do. 

I took some time to evaluate and make some decisions about my professional future (oh, and I got married, completed my National Boards, and bought a house in the meantime). After looking at school administration and various other career paths, I decided to pursue my MLIS. To be honest, my initial goal was not to be a school librarian. I actually intended to become an academic librarian. 

I took the classes for academic librarianship and avoided the classes for school libraries like the plague. Then as I was finishing up, I decided I should go ahead and take the classes for school library certification just in case. Boy, that turned out to be a great move. Our school librarian was taking a year off for maternity leave, so I asked to take that position during her absence. That was the best thing that ever happened to me. She actually ended up not returning, and I stayed for ten years in the position. 

Being a school librarian has been one of the most rewarding experiences. My evolution as a professional started when I took that position. I was lucky to have supportive administrators, and I am so thankful for all the students and teachers I had the opportunity to work with over the years. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure PD

We've all had that moment where we sat in professional development and wondered what we were doing there. There is nothing I find more frustrating then sitting in PD that teaches me something I already know. I try not to complain, and instead try to help those that are struggling, but we all know that we want more.

One way to address this is to restructure our professional development days. Prior to leaving my last position, we developed a Choose Your Own Adventure type of professional development afternoon. The instructional coach, principal, and I wanted to provide meaningful learning opportunities for the faculty on an early dismissal afternoon. The structure of the day allowed teachers to choose two hour long sessions that would be beneficial to them.

In preparation for this day, we surveyed staff to find out areas of professional development interest. We had a few topic possibilities and asked for their suggestions as well. The survey results were then examined and topics narrowed down. Five different sessions were offered during each hour. We, along with other teacher leaders, led these sessions. We did have teachers sign up in advance, because we were using computer labs that had limited space, and we wanted to be sure we could accommodate everyone.

This is easy to organize and is a great way to show that you are a leader in your building. Plus, it has the added benefit of being a collaborative effort. I encourage you to also market this PD. While it may be required, market it in a way that really creates some excitement among your faculty.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Instead of resolutions, maybe we need to have aspirations. Resolutions are easily broken, whereas aspirations provide hope. So what should school libraries aspire to be? That depends on your situation. Do you want your library to be a student-centered hub? What about a place of instructional change? The list goes on and on, but many of your actions can then help you achieve your aspiration.

To be honest, I don't really have a whole lot to say about aspirations. Basically, this post was inspired by a photo I took at the NCSU Hunt Library. This is a library that is entirely about students. Space is collaborative and thoughtful. You won't see bookshelves spread throughout the library. Instead a robot collects books and drops them off for pick-up. What is significant about all of this is this comment written on a table at the library.

Note that I said "written on a table." All tables can be written on with dry erase markers. While the sentiments of this author might be offensive to some, it emphasizes how much students love this space. Don't we all want to aspire to having a space that students love to utilize?

Set some aspirations for your new year. Every time you do something that leads to the achievement of your aspirations, pat yourself on the back. You deserve it!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Football 101

My house is always filled with the sounds of football on the weekend, and I have to admit I don't understand the excitement that accompanies the sport. If I am in the same room, my husband finds it necessary to give me the play by play. Of course, al I hear is "blah, blah, blah." I did not grow up in a house where football was always on, so maybe that taints my opinion of the sport. Ultimately, however, I think it really boils down to the fact that I don't understand it.

As a librarian, one of my favorite things was library programming. Planning special programs was a great way to get to know students and provide outlets for them to learn about topics of interest. Football 101 might be a great way to help someone like me better understand this sport. This could easily be targeted at girls or open to all students. Snacks could have a football theme. The goal of this programming would be for these students to gain an understanding of the game. Obviously, you probably don't want to provide the instruction if you are not knowledgeable on the sport. Instead invite local coaches and players from local colleges or if you are a middle school, invite those from the high school. 

Be sure to share your fiction and nonfiction titles that address football. Also, consider having a viewing party in the library one weekend or even for the Super Bowl. It could even be a family event. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reinventing Space

There are lots of reasons why school libraries need to be reinvented. These range from staying relevant in a 1:1 environment to just remaining relevant in general. You would think that we would not have to talk about changing our space to meet the needs of our users. Ultimately that should just be the nature of the beast, but it is always easy to get complacent or bogged down with the idea there just isn't money. But we have to step around these roadblocks and reinvent space that is instructional and engaging.

While there are a lot of advantages to a 1:1 environment, I have to admit the media center often suffers. Most of the schools I visit with 1:1 programs have media centers that are simply unused. Teachers tend to think that the media center means access and when the access is in the hand of every child, access to the media center is no longer needed. What is a media coordinator to do in this situation? At this point, I believe it is to take a closer look at what the physical space of a media center can have to offer. The first of these in my mind is collaborative space. This is definitely limited in the classroom, so how can you create spaces where students can collaborate. Consider seating and computer display options when creating new collaborative space. Use large screen monitors that students can connect their devices to so that they can all work on a project.  Don't be afraid to be creative with the space. I don't consider myself to be a creative person, so I have to really stop and think about how to make things like this happen. If you know you lack that creative gene, ask someone else for help. A different perspective is always beneficial.

Want it to be a space for students? Then ask them what they want. Have them complete a survey. Better yet have a contest to have students provide ideas for library design. Better set some parameters though because their ideas probably have no limits. While that's not a bad thing, you probably want realistic ideas that you can pull from.

There's no doubt we live in a data driven society. Data can sometimes be intimidating but consider making a committee to look at data. Use that data to determine space. Could you use that data to develop makerspaces in your media center?

Enka High School encourages students to "Make Something."

Funding, of course, can be an issue, but give yourself permission to dream big. You can always scale back as you are planning a reinvention of your space. Start small, show how those changes are impacting students, then ask for more money. Consider applying for grants, keep an eye out for contests, put together a wish list and share with stakeholders. You never know unless you ask, but you need to be prepared to market yourself as well. If stakeholders don't see the value, they are not inclined to invest. Sometimes librarians find it hard to toot their own horn, but keep in mind you are doing it for your students.

Be sure to share your library redesign efforts. We all grow from the creative ideas of others.