Monday, December 31, 2012

The Truth About Change

Change is often something to be embraced or dreaded, and it seems that people are often either for or against it. Two months ago, I would have claimed to have embraced change. In my former life as a middle school librarian, I loved change. I was always looking for ways to change or improve the media center and the services we provided to the school community. However, leaving my school and my four walls taught me what my husband already knew, I am not that comfortable with change. As I reflect on where I was then and where I am now, I have begun to see change a little differently. It is almost like there is a spectrum of change.  There is change, and then there is CHANGE!

For me, change within my comfort zone is easy. I enjoy it, it challenges me, and I thrive on it. Then there is change outside of one's comfort zone. For me, that was taking a new job. Within the first week and a half, I was in tears and wondering if I had made the worse decision of my life. Let's be honest, this was the first major change of my professional career. I had worked as a classroom teacher at the same school where I became media coordinator. Yea, it was change, but it was safe. I was able to grow in this position and take on many leadership roles, but I could always come back to my home base. Suddenly, I had stepped into a world unknown, a position that held endless possibilities, and I had this unknown feeling. I lacked confidence. For those who know me, I am very confident in my workplace abilities or at least I was. What happened? Transitioning to this new position was somewhat isolating. My new job involves some travel, but in the early stages it is all about taking in information. All of this from my new office, also known as the cat's room. Yep, I now work from home. I went from days when I never thought I could get five minutes alone to days where I only interact with the furry babies. From the moment my husband would walk in the door in the afternoons he was bombarded. He finally had to tell me that he just needed a few minutes of quiet time. That was his way of politely telling me to shut up! 

What I finally learned is that change takes time. I am adapting to this new world. It took some pep talks from my new coworker and friend, Jennifer LaGarde, along with some well-timed professional development. Right about the time I had my total meltdown, we had two professional development days. What I learned in those two days was not nearly as important to me as the time spent with coworkers. They provided inspiration just when I needed it. Right after that, I also got to spend some time with former colleagues and friends. Those two things combined really helped me get refocused. Now after a holiday and a little reflection, I am ready to go. I am inspired, energized, and ready to take on the world. 

One of the things I have missed most is blogging and tweeting. There is definitely been a downward spiral in those two activities since I left my school library. I just wasn't sure I still had anything to share. This, of course, goes back to my lack of confidence. Now, that all changes. I am back, so watch out as I bring you more media and technology adventures! I may have left my four walls, but now I have so much more to share from the world around me. Wishing you the best in 2013! Go forth and create your own CHANGE!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

iPad Play Time

The addition of 42 new teacher iPads has really kept me busy this year. Between walking all of these teachers through the setup process and setting up their Apple TVs, I have been consumed with getting things off the ground. It has been great to see teachers get so excited about this new technology. This is especially true this year as all teachers delve into the new Common Core and Essential Standards and have an increased amount of stress. We have a core group of teachers who received iPads last year. These teachers along with myself and our principal are the go to group to help teachers as they learn more about using these devices in the classroom.

I developed an afternoon iPad Play Time to help teachers get more comfortable with their new iPads. About 15 teachers attended and it was so great to see their enthusiasm. With my principal's financial support, I was able to create a fun environment for teachers to learn. We provided large amounts of candy and offered door prizes. We gave away three $10 iTunes gift cards. There were multiple stations set-up for teachers that included directions on everything from creating folders, to using specific apps, or using QR Codes. While teachers used these, they spent more time just sharing apps or things they had already learned about their iPads.

If your school has iPads for every teacher, this is a great way to help them become more comfortable with a device. The teachers at my school were so excited and requested that we offer more iPad Play Time sessions. Another activity that will follow this is App Speed Dating. I look forward to seeing how teachers use iPads to enhance instruction in their classrooms.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A New Adventure

For the last 16 years I have been at Flat Rock Middle School as a student teacher, a classroom teacher and a media coordinator. To be honest, I thought I would spend my entire career with Henderson County Public Schools. In my district I have been provided so many opportunities to learn, grow and lead. However, I recognize that it is time for a new challenge. Now, I have to admit that while I embrace certain types of change, making this change fills me with sadness. Sadness because I will be leaving a place I consider my second home. Moving away from the comfort of my library is somewhat daunting, but I am looking forward to the future.

Starting November 29th I will start my new position with the NC Department of Public Instruction as the Region 8 Instructional Technology Consultant. I am excited about the opportunity to work with the media and technology professionals in western North Carolina and throughout the state. The best part is that I will be working with some wonderful people including, but not limited to, my library bestie, Jennifer LaGarde

I look forward to sharing my new adventures with you. Thank you for the support along the way.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I Challenge You!

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have probably read my posts about the Follett Challenge. It was one of the more amazing experiences of my career, and now it is your turn. The Follett Challenge is back and  bigger than ever. If you are like me, you are probably thinking that there is no point in entering because it would never happen to you. I am here to tell you that this isn't the case. I actually waited until the last minute to plan my entry because I had just that attitude. Now I am so thankful that I changed my mind. The $15,000 my school received for its third place win was incredibly beneficial in a year when funds were scarce.

Those funds allowed us to expand our collection. Not only were books purchased for pleasure reading, but we also added books to our nonfiction collection to meet new standards. Also, we were able to add an ebook collection with the FollettShelf. You can't imagine the excitement of teachers and students as all those new books arrived. It has made an immense difference in the resources that we have available for students and teachers. Now that are school is wireless and we have a BYOD environment, our ebook collection is being used more than ever before.

I challenge you to submit an entry for the Follett Challenge. What do you have to lose? I would have lost $15,000, but I guess I wouldn't have known the difference. Having won it, I do know the difference it made for my students and that is what it is all about. Make a difference for your students by showing off what you are doing to prepare students for the 21st Century. The best advice I can give you is to be sure to read the directions carefully. I spent a lot of time making sure I covered all of the requirements. This is a critical step in the process.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Curse Citations!

Research has really occupied my time of late. Seventh and eighth grade classes are moving full steam ahead on research projects, and I have to admit that I love every minute of it. Wow! Did I just say that I love research? When I started teaching 16 years ago (can that be right?), I hated the idea of teaching research. It was torture for me, torture for my students. This was, of course, before I understood what collaboration with a media coordinator could add to my instruction. Now, I know more about the research process and how to organize it to help students be more successful. More importantly, I know how to collaborate with the teachers at my school.

A large portion of this process is helping students understand copyright and plagiarism. Lessons on this usually focus on giving credit to the original creator of the work or citing your sources. When introducing the concept of a Works Cited page, I feel like it is always such a negative lesson. The scare tactic I have employed with students has been that you must provide citations or be accused of copying someone else's work. This then results in a lower grade. During a recent lesson, I was having my own interior monologue about needing to find a better way. What about instilling fear makes students want to provide citations? Um,  nothing. 

The solution hit me in a rare moment of clarity. We have an eighth grade language arts teacher who is extremely well-read, and it took teaching his classes to come up with that positive spin. I explained that the citation served as a path to locate the original source. I went on to explain since Mr. Bojangles (not his real name, but you already knew that, right?) enjoys learning, we want to be sure that if he reads your assignment and is truly interested in learning more, he can find the original source. His students really responded to this and to make things even better he jumped in with a story to help illustrate this point. Last year I created a sample project for a lesson I was doing. Mr. Bojangles took a lot of time looking over my project about Charlie Chaplin, and he found he had a real interest in the topic. He used my citations to locate a book I had used. He read the book in its entirety. I had actually forgotten that last part until he shared it with class, but it worked out so well that we had the conversation multiple times that day.

This allowed students to see citations in a positive light. Needless to say, I no longer feel the need to curse the dreaded citations. All it took was time and the right situation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

BYOD - Bring it On!

This summer, the installation of wireless in our schools opened up doors that previously only occupied our dreams. At this time, our schools are allowed to choose how this new BYOD environment looks in our buildings. After a great deal of conversation within our school leadership team, our school decided to embrace BYOD. The possibilities are endless, but we wanted to ensure that our staff and students are ready for this. Ok, let's be honest, students are ready, but now I think our staff is ready too.

After establishing some basic guidelines, we developed a brief overview about BYOD and how it should look and function at our school. The presentation I prepared for our staff can be seen below.


The Flat Rock Freeze emerged from a conversation with my husband. He expressed concern about students being able to communicate via their devices during class. My suggestion to him was to have a hands-off moment where students place their devices on the desk and remove their hands from those devices. This allows the teacher the opportunity to see what students are doing at random intervals during the class. I mentioned this idea to my principal who felt this was a great strategy for teachers to implement into their own classrooms. In putting together this presentation, I felt that we needed a catchy name for this and the Flat Rock Freeze emerged. 

I have also partnered with one of our guidance counselors to get the word out about BYOD. Together we have worked to educate students about the proper way to use the equipment and will eventually be incorporating lessons on interacting with others in this digital environment. Together we created this video for students. 

This was shown to all homeroom classes and was accompanied by a series of discussion questions. Overall, we had a very positive response to our first focused lesson on BYOD. 

Please share what you are doing with BYOD at your school. We are constantly looking for more information to improve what we are doing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

All About Apps

While this week was a short week, the days have been long. There have been after-school commitments every day this week and to be honest I wasn't too excited about another meeting today. However, I left school at 5:00 excited to see where we are headed, inspired by colleagues, and ready to seize the day (or app as the case may be).

Last spring my principal, Scott Rhodes, purchased ten iPads which were then distributed to teachers. These teachers are going to be the leaders in our school as we move forward with iPads for our entire staff. Along with Apple TV these iPads have the potential to really enhance classroom instruction. 

Today my principal scheduled an iPad collaboration. This was just an opportunity for this group of teachers to come together and share apps that they were using. The excitement in the air and the discussion that ensued made me so thankful to work at a place where technology is embraced. It is rare that you have staff development where attendees are hesitant to leave, and we actually had that happen today. 

Here were the apps that our staff members shared today.

  • zite
  • SlideShark
  • Teacher Kit
  • Edmodo
  • iMovie
  • Math Drills
  • Flashcards++
  • Flashcardlet
  • Quizlet
  • 123D Sculpt
  • Audio Books
  • Show Me
  • National Geographic World Atlas
What made it even better was the use of our Apple TV which allowed each iPad user to take over as he or she shared an app. It allowed everyone to see what the app really had to offer. 

As we talked today, I had an idea about the use of movies. So often we have students create movies based on the content they learn, but maybe we need to be creating movies to use with students in previewing activities. Almost like a pre-learning trailer. What a great way to get students excited about what is coming up in class. With something like the iMovie app it would be a breeze to put together a quick snippet to gain student interest. 

As apps continue to grow the possibilities are endless. Looking forward to what the apps may bring. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Opening Doors

I knew returning to work this week would be a little crazy, but it started in a way that had the potential to derail my excitement about all that is happening in our library and school district. This summer a new HVAC system was being installed at our school. The beauty of this was the fact that we would have our own separate system from the rest of the school. This is exciting simply because we tend to run over 85 degrees or so cold you can hardly move. Needless to say a comfortable temperature has been hard to find. Now why is this important? Well, due to a really large return being added some of our shelves had to be moved.

And, yes, it is as big as a window. Not really liking how it looks but for a comfortable temperature I will adapt. This I could deal with. What I had a difficult time dealing with was the shelf movement and the fact that the books from those shelves were stacked in no particular order on tables. A large part of my first day was spent shifting through those in order to put the books back on the shelf. Yes, there was a large amount of cussing and throwing weeding of books as I went. On top of that the work is not finished, and we have had no air. All of this made for pleasant work conditions for sixth grade orientation and faculty meetings (please note the sarcasm). Let me also add that we have no windows, so it is a really stifling environment. Now that you have read my rant you are probably asking if there is a point to all of this. Don't worry I am getting there. 

This summer I had the opportunity to be involved with staff development across the state. While being involved with this, I had time to ask questions of media and technology professionals in order to prepare for the professional development I would be offering our district media coordinators. One particular conversation with Jackie Pierson, Director of Media Services with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, encouraged me to start with a theme. What I developed was Opening Doors to the Future. You Are the Key.

After dealing with all the drama of HVAC, heat, disorganized books, etc. there was the potential for my frustration and negativity to derail the positive environment I hoped to create for the media coordinator professional development. Yet, after taking a closer look at what was important during this first week of school I was able to refocus. What happened was a great day of collaboration and conversation. You might have already read about QR Code Meet and Greet that started the day. This lead to great discussions and set the tone for the day. I am not going to give all the details of our day but based on the evaluations I feel that everyone left inspired and ready to tackle the year. This is especially important to our teachers who are undergoing so much change with new standards. To me the beauty of this change is that there are so many doors open to us and all we have to do is turn the key. Be the key in your school as the year progresses. Don't let those little things that don't really matter take away from what you have to offer. Students are our priority and we need to be leaders in our schools in order to help open those doors.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

QR Code Musical Meet and Greet

This morning I was involved with professional development for our county media coordinators, and one goal for me was to make sure to keep things on a positive note. In order to do that I wanted to start the day with a fun activity. What emerged was a QR Code Musical Meet and Greet. I developed a list of about twenty discussion topics and created QR Codes for each. Discussion topics were personal and professional in nature. Here are the questions I used.

  • Discuss a time when you used the Big6 with a class.
  • What does ITES stand for?
  • Do you have a good strategy for using informational text with students?
  • What is the research model adopted by HCPS?
  • Provide an example of how  you have taught students ethical behavior online.
  • Name an example of how teachers can maintain high expectations.
  • How do you build positive relationships in your building?
  • What’s your favorite children’s book?
  • What did you do on your summer vacation?
  • What makes for successful collaboration?
  • How do you advocate for your program?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • Do you prefer Apple or PC? Why?
  • Who is your favorite superhero?
  • What is your favorite movie?
  • How are you supporting the transition to Common Core and Essential Standards?
  • Have you used social media to enhance your learning? How?
  • Describe your favorite lesson.
  • If you were on a desert island, what one item would you take with you? Why?
  • Provide an example of a program you created to support reading. 

The QR Codes were posted around the room and when the music played you had to make your way to another QR Code. Once the music stopped participants had to be at a QR Code with another person. They would then scan the code and discuss the topic that was displayed. 

This activity generated not only excitement but prompted others to consider activities using QR Codes with their own school communities. I shared with them information about creating their own QR Codes, and I can't wait to see what happens at their own schools!

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's All About Marketing

In the past, many of my presentations for my state conference have included a session where I provide a quick and dirty brief overview of some of the programming etc. that we are providing in the media center. Along with this presentation I also talk about how our schooling should provide a course in marketing. To me marketing is one of the easiest steps to begin advocating for your program. Promoting what you are doing is critical to gaining the support of your administration, teachers, students, and school district. 

With that being said, I have really begun to feel like a slogan might be just what the doctor librarian ordered. The idea really started with a mural that was started for the library. Working with the artist we came up with "An Eye on the Future". 

This is a picture of the start of the mural. The focus of the eye will reflect the change of the printed word. I am hoping that the mural gets completed soon. Unfortunately, we have had some difficulty getting it finished, but that is another story. 

In thinking about this concept of An Eye on the Future, I wanted to think of something to take it a step further. Why did this really matter? What I came up with was this:

The FRMS Media Center - Where we have an eye on the future so students can Dream*, Discover, and Design. I will be incorporating this into my emails, flyers, etc. Pretty much everything that is published by the library will include this slogan.

How are you marketing your library? 

*Special thanks to Jennifer Lagarde who helped me with the addition of Dream.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reflection of a Different Color

Reflection is critical to the improvement of instruction. Teachers are constantly reflecting throughout a lesson, after a lesson, and so on. This helps us change as needed to meet the needs of our students. However, there is a type of reflection that I think we often relegate to the background, a reflection of a different color. Being able to adequately reflect on student projects far exceeds our observations of the completion of student projects. We tend to look at what went well, what we think needs to change, but how can we do this in the best interest of our students? Sometimes what makes perfect sense to us, doesn't work in practice for students. We often blame their inattentiveness, but maybe it all rests in the design of the project. And to be honest, how many of us actually take the time to use our directions and our materials to actually complete the same project we have assigned our students?

This past school year I actually took the time to complete a sample History Our Way project. This collaborative project designed with an eighth grade social studies teacher was also recognized with third place in the Follett Challenge. Needless to say it has been an important project for my school and one that I have come to love. I spent countless hours using the resources we provided for students to complete my research and project. Let's just say that did not go as quickly as I had anticipated. I found that there were areas were we needed to make some huge changes. It was confusing to me, so I can only imagine how our students felt during the unit. I was constantly tweaking materials as I went through the process. I would stop all my research and make the necessary changes to proceed through the process. One of the most significant changes I made involved our note-taking guide. The existing guide was great if students were in a one-to-one environment, but the limited number of computers in our library makes that impossible. Placing myself in the position of my students truly allowed me to reflect on our project in a way that provided an opportunity for students to really drive their own learning. The process was much smoother this year, and I can't help but feel that is a direct result of the time I spent actually redesigning the project as a result of my own experience. In addition to allowing for improvements, I was able to provide samples for students to refer to as they completed their project. 

Here is the tower board (just one of the project completion options students could choose) I created for my History Our Way project.

While I know time is limited, I really encourage you to take the time and complete at least one of the collaborative projects you are assigning students. You might be surprised by what you learn.

**Note: Unfortunately, this school year was my last year of History Our Way. My collaborative partner has moved to another school. I will truly miss working with her, and I cannot thank her enough for her willingness to build such an amazing project. This project has opened many doors that has allowed our media center to thrive. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

YALSA 2012 Best of the Best Challenge

I have decided to take YALSA's 2012 Best of the Best Challenge. If you aren't familiar with the challenge check it out HERE. I will be keeping track of what I read on this blog post. Hope you will join me soon as the challenge ends on June 30th.

Titles Read

1. Chime
2. Shine
3. The Returning
4. Jasper Jones

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Research Revamp

A focus for me the last couple of years has been two-fold -- to work more with teachers collaboratively and to show them new avenues to complete research projects. Despite this, there is still a need for the typical research paper. Students need to learn skills that help them complete this task. To be honest, I have a difficult time teaching students to write research papers. The research part is easy. It's the writing part that is hard. While you monitor students throughout the process, you might not notice errors until later on in the process. 

This project led to a new approach in research papers. Eighth grade language arts students are working in pairs to create their papers. We chose to have partners write their paper on large sheets of chart paper.

This might seem unwieldy, but it has turned out to be a great strategy. Each paragraph is color-coded to match the section of the outline the students are working on, thus making it easy to see where they are in the writing process. The size of the paper allows the partners to easily work on it together, and it allows us to easily check student work without disrupting the writing process. Seeing issues with student work is a cinch because it can easily be seen as students work. If we see errors, we can sit down and discuss them with students. I carry a black marker (a color they are not allowed to use on their papers) to make corrections right there on the paper. The best part is that students seem to enjoy writing in this way as well. 

Now, these papers have not been typed yet, so I am not sure how well these large sheets will work when students move to the computer to type them. Here's hoping that doesn't become too cumbersome. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I don't know that the title of this entry should be advocacy, but I have several topics I want to write about today and it seems there is an underlying theme of advocacy. This is one area where I feel that I am just beginning to develop my skills. While very candid about many things, hence the name Candid Librarian, advocacy is not one of them. Or is it? While I may not come out and use the word "advocacy" on a regular basis, I do encourage others to improve their practice, to be more than someone who just checks out books, to be someone who impacts learning. But is that really advocacy? I think it is, because I tend to believe that if you have a program that others in your school see as valuable, then you are advocating for yourself. Your program should speak for itself. If it doesn't, what are you advocating for anyway?

On Monday I will be presenting to the media coordinators in our district about my experiences at the NCTIES 2012 Conference. I actually don't have a tremendous amount I want to share with them at this time, because there are many tools that I have not explored thoroughly. However, one tool that I learned about from Ken Shelton will be front and center. That is Google Search Story. I absolutely love the possibilities of this very simple tool. Of course, it has been a love/hate relationship due to a technology snafu. When it comes time to upload to YouTube it indicates that you can login with your Google account. Yea, that didn't work. I could login to YouTube but not from the Google Search Story. I created a YouTube username and logged in with my Google password after trying ever other possible solution. So you have now read this paragraph about Google Search Story and are wondering how this relates to advocacy. Well, take a look at my first story.

As I mentioned, I will be sharing this with others on Monday and I really want to make a point. We need to be involved at all levels and ensure that we are a key part of Common Core implementation. We need to be collaborating with teachers and showing that we make difference. Hmmm, advocacy, maybe I am headed in the right direction.

So now we have the support of those within our building, what do we do to let others in our community know about our services and programs? How do we reach beyond the walls of our own schools? I don't know that there is one certain right way. We all have areas we are more comfortable and to be honest this is not mine, but I value our profession and know that we do impact student learning. While at AASL in October, the Follett Challenge winners were interviewed. These interviews were released this past week. Here is what I had to say about libraries and advocacy.

To be honest, I debated adding my interview here. It seems so self-promoting, but as my wonderful husband pointed out our profession requires us to show others what we are doing. Promoting my profession is not self-promoting but advocating for what I value. Wow, he is so much wiser than I knew. :)

So, there it is, the evolution of advocacy.

**Please note my school is actually in East Flat Rock, NC not Winston-Salem as mentioned in the video. There was some confusion as there is a Flat Rock Middle School there as well.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Random Acts of Culture

I would like to welcome Guest Blogger, Barbara Poole. Barbara is the Band Director at our school. She along with the rest of our Fine Arts Department will be recognized at next week's NC Middle School Association Conference as the Region 8 Team of the Year. I thought this would be a great time to recognize an outstanding program that they began last year.

"Random Acts of Culture" began as an idea after viewing a  news report about a "Random Act of Culture" in a shopping mall in a nearby city.  In this news report, an opera singer randomly burst out into an aria and entertained the shoppers who were completely surprised and amazed.  The idea of taking the arts out of the concert halls and museums and directly to the people was exciting!  Why couldn't we do something similar in our school? What a great way to get more Arts exposure to kids!  Thus, "Random Acts of Culture" was born.  The five Fine Arts teachers in our school collaborated on ways to make this happen and wrote several grants (Arts Council and Target Stores) to help fund artists fees.

Our version of "Random Acts" takes place in the cafeteria during lunchtime.  The students are not aware when a "Random Act" is coming, so the element of surprise adds to the excitement.  Artists are selected based on their uniqueness and kid-appeal. We try to draw artists from our community and surrounding areas and ALL ARTISTS participating in our project ARE PAID.  We feel it is important to acknowledge to the students that being an artist is a possible career choice and we, as consumers of the arts, support their career choice. The artists perform in an informal setting as students are eating lunch. This creates an atmosphere that allows students to observe, react, discuss, interact and relate to art in a way that cannot be achieved through our traditional arts classrooms.

Our project goals are:

  1.  to build appreciation, participation and support for the Arts
  2.  to nurture future consumers of the Arts
  3.  develop in students a sense of their power to create
  4.  expand students' perceptions of what "Art" is
  5.  to promote the understanding that everyone can enjoy the Arts and can be artistic

Artists that have performed or will be performing as a part of this project include an Ice Sculptor, a Steel Drummer, a Bagpiper, a Harpist, a Brass Quintet, Ballet Dancers from a professional troupe, a mosaic artist, a "Statue" street performer, Contemporary "Body Bag" Dancers, a harmonic player, a mime, a Mariachi Band, a Fiber artist, and others.
An ice sculpture of our school mascot created during a Random Act of Culture. The sculpture was displayed during our Honor Roll program.

The project has been well received not only by the students, but the faculty and staff as well.  In addition, it has generated a high level of collaboration within our Fine Arts team to plan "Random Act" events, write grants, and to create bulletin boards with vocabulary word walls and pictures in the cafeteria that relate to each artist. Each "Random Act" generates discussions in our Arts classes about the artists and their craft. As result of this project, students' arts vocabulary has expanded, they are more aware of arts opportunities not only in our school, but also in our community and are more excited to be at school! They love the anticipation of what the next "Random Act" might be and when. Our events generally happen once per month and we negotiate a fee with each artist separately.

Barbara Poole

If you would like more information, please contact me and I will pass along Barbara's contact information.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blog for Students

Creating a blog for students has been something that I have wanted to do for awhile. To be really honest, I have actually started a couple over the last few years. These initial attempts were blogs created through our email system and just did not appeal to me. This was primarily due to the fact that comments were not allowed. I wanted my student blog to have all the advantages of a typical blog. A blog that allowed for reader interaction.

Finally, I have the blog that allows for that interaction and meets the standards of our county technology department. I am really pleased with this blog overall and hope that it helps students find the necessary information they need. 

Check out my new student blog, Media Musings.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Decor and More

As I peruse blogs, I must admit I frequently find myself with library envy. Big open spaces, windows and high ceilings all cause me to be incredibly jealous of other library spaces. Top this with my inability to decorate and you have a bland space. I have been trying to break out of this mode for the last couple of years, so I have tried to find ways to bring some visual interest to the library.

Signage was one of the first elements I used to improve the overall appeal. Various other improvements have come along the way, most of which go relatively unnoticed. Over the last few months I have added some items that have drawn great attention. First, I added these blue beanbags.

Now, I must admit these beanbags were much smaller than I anticipated. I decided to put them out anyway. They were very well-received. The group that has had the most positive comments have been 8th grade boys. This is especially strange given that they are among our largest students and these seats are so small. The best comment from one of these boys was, "We love these chairs. They make a great addition to the library."

When I purchased the beanbags, I also bought this flower pillow. 

While this is super-cute, it is not the color I expected (can you tell I must've had an off day the day I ordered these items). I thought I was ordering a flower with alternating blue colors. Regardless of the fact that this lacks serious color coordination, students have loved it. They hold it, carry it around. 

I recently read a blog entry that had pictures. The focus of these pictures was not of these shelf markers, but I thought it was such a great use for these magazine containers, so I created my own.
Unfortunately, I don't remember where I got this idea, so if it was your idea that I stole, please let me know so I can give credit.

Here's to a future with many more improvements ahead. How are you brightening your space?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Award

Every year I tell myself that I am going to have our school participate in our state association's book award voting. Of course, I never actually do this. Elementary schools do such a great job promoting this, but I am not so sure that middle and high schools are as effective in doing this. This makes me wonder what changes. I suspect book length might play a role. Elementary librarians have an opportunity to share all of the nominees with the students prior to voting. Middle and high schools have to be more creative in their promotion of these books. Don't we want to show that we value good books?

This year it all changes for me. I am taking small steps to ensure that my students are involved. Earlier in the school year I purchased at least two copies of each book and created a display area for the books. I also created this nifty sign for the display.

As the nominees are returned, they are placed back on the nominee shelf. It is not uncommon to go by the shelf and see only one or two of the books. That means the kids are reading them, but now how do I get them to vote? I have created a Google Doc survey for students to complete and that way I can easily tabulate the results. Students will receive bookmarks with the web address for voting. 

Hopefully next year we can expand the activities we are doing to get students involved. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Year in Review!

It is hard to believe that it has been a little over a year since I started this blog, The Candid Librarian. In fact, December 16, 2010 was the death of my old, unused blog The Captive Audience and the birth of something that has totally changed my approach to my practice of librarianship. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this entry, but I just could not decide if I wanted it to focus on resolution or reflection. This was so much on my mind that I even asked my Twitter followers their thoughts. I got one reponse from coastalNCmama: reflections, always. So with that, here it goes.

2011 has been an amazing year for me. I have begun to focus on the development of my PLN, a wonderful group of library and tech professionals that inspire and motivate me. I wish I had the time and energy to implement all of the great ideas and lessons I learn from these individuals. In addition to my blog, I became a more avid Twitter user. While these skills are still developing, I am thankful for a world that allows me to communicate with professionals from across the country.

When looking at the instruction I provide for students, I see that the vast majority of it is based on teacher need. Last year I worked with a Social Studies teacher on a truly collaborative project. She had the idea and together we were able to develop the History Our Way project. I firmly believe that the scope and nature of this project will be something that those students will always remember. This upcoming year we will repeat the project, and I have plans to work with a 7th grade Science teacher on a similar project. While I will continue to provide instruction on topics like podcasting, Photostory, etc., I am always looking for those opportunities for truly collaborative units.

At my school I am librarian, teacher, technician, technology facilitator, and yearbook advisor all rolled into one. I know many of you fulfill these roles in your school too and it does present challenges. Sometimes I find instruction takes a back seat to the many other tasks assigned or required by entities outside of our school building. Fixed asset inventory or some other task has to take priority. I find this to be infuriating and often have to fight that negative impulse that arises when I feel those tasks take priority over the students and what our library can offer them.

The end of last school year was one of those times where we were finishing book inventory, fixed asset inventory, gathering software to be installed on our laptops that were coming in during the summer and on and on. During this time I was considering entering the Follett Challenge, but I soon dismissed the idea because I was simply too busy. With that I had a certain epiphany as we approached the deadline of the challenge -- I needed to show off what our students had accomplished and all those other things could wait. So I dropped everything to create a Follett Challenge video. Boy, am I glad!

In September I arrived at work one morning to find a message from Tom Kline at Follett. All the message said was "re: Follett Challenge". Well, it was too early to return that call, so I called my husband. Surely they would only be calling if I had won. He tried to talk me down, just in case. Fortunately, it was good news. We had placed and would be attending AASL11 in Minnesota. What an unbelievable dream come true!

Prior to attending AASL11, I had the honor of presenting with Jennifer LaGarde at the NC School Library Media Association Conference. While we may have been co-presenters, I learned an incredible amount from Jennifer during that session. This conference was also the beginning of my term as a secretary for the organization. I never saw myself holding a position in the organization, but my dear friend Sarah Justice, and current president, has a way of talking me into doing things that I did not see myself doing. Being able to meet more people from within our state is one of the perks of being a state leader. This is another way in which I have expanded my PLN.

You can read my post about AASL11 and I won't rehash it here. What I will say is that was one of the best experiences of my entire career. All because I decided to put aside those other tasks that did not directly impact my students. The recognition for our school was phenomenal, but the award could not have come at a better time and the improvements to our collection will benefit my students more than words can express. For those who think you will never win, believe me when I say, "you just might."

Building your PLN is a great way to expand your horizons, but taking a leap and doing something you have never done before may lead to unexpected rewards. I'll be looking for new challenges in the year to come. What will you be looking for?