Sunday, November 30, 2014

Entry into the Edcamp World

After returning my niece to her family following the Thanksgiving holiday, I got home to see tweets from tonight's #nctlchat. The topic for tonight was edcamps. This made me think about my own edcamp experiences.

For quite awhile now, I have watched edcamp tweets from afar. Timing and distance have always presented a barrier when it came to actually attending an edcamp. Finally a couple of weeks ago #edcampwnc was held in Cullowhee. I was so lucky that I got to socialize and learn with some of the awesome members of my PLN. It was also great to meet some new educators. 

To be honest, I did not know what to expect from my edcamp experience. I am such a planner and organizer that the lack of an agenda made me uncomfortable. Oh, how I hate to admit that, but it is the truth. However, the development of the agenda went incredibly smoothly. The organizers used Google Moderator. This was my first time seeing Google Moderator in use. Participants were able to provide possible topic ideas and then vote on those of interest. The top 16 were used to form the agenda. Each time slot featured a topic of interest for me. The ability to just have a conversation with a group of educators was wonderful. It is so rare that educators have the opportunity to do that. 

The implication of edcamps for professional development have yet to be realized in my opinion. I hope we will eventually see administrators embrace similar styles to meet professional development needs. Imagine the day when teachers have the opportunity to share ideas about topics that interest them and have true implications for their work. No more would we be sitting in professional development that either isn't applicable or something we have already mastered.

After experiencing my first edcamp, I encourage you to find an edcamp near you. You will not only learn a lot, but you will also make connections that will extend learning beyond just that day. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Creative Chaos

It is interesting to me that as I work with other teacher librarians, I find myself encouraging them to embrace chaos. I recognize that fear and uncertainty I see in their eyes when I say that. For all librarians order has always been the name of the game, but the game is changing.

Libraries are undergoing an evolution. Makerspaces, flexible learning spaces, authentic learning and so much more has changed the nature of that once quiet, organized space. In order to be the hub of our schools, we have to be on the cutting edge of student learning. In order to do this, many of us have to step out of our comfort zones.

In the first years of my career, I kept that orderly space. However, in later years, I began to let go of the control in some areas. This was the natural by-product of a collaborative project with a teacher. Throughout the project I expended a great deal of energy trying to control the creative chaos that emerged from students that were truly engaged with their learning. In reflecting on the process, I quickly established that there were better ways to expend my energy. Students were engaged, and they were on-task. What was I stressing about? I was the one with the issue, and I needed to let go.

For the next large scale project, I structured things a little differently in order to make the space more functional, but I stopped stressing about the chaos. The chaos was learning and wasn't that the most important thing? That is not to say that those nagging issues didn't pop into my head sometimes, but I got better about pushing them to the deep recesses of my brain.

Begin retraining yourself to embrace the creative chaos around you. You will be amazed at what emerges from the disorder. It has the ability to not only change you but the culture of your school as well.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Get in the Action!

Two words tend to create a feeling of discomfort in many professionals. Those two words are "action research." I am not sure what causes this stigma around action research. My guess is that for many of us we have flashbacks of graduate school, and we are likely intimidated by the concept of action research.

As part of the School Library Media Coordinator Professional Standards in NC, action research is included. As I work with school librarians, it is obvious that this is one area that causes them significant heartburn. The rubric descriptor reads as follows: Conducts action research to determine the impact of the school library media program on student achievement. What I think most don't realize is that they are probably doing action research annually anyway. I wanted to create something that made action research seem less daunting, so here is what I came up with.

This is more of a brainstorming guide that is meant to provide guidance in getting started. While action research can be a very intense process when done for graduate work or for grant purposes, you can also keep it simple. When doing action research for your own purposes, don't tend to think of it as the next paper you will be submitting. Instead, focus on the outcome and how it will impact student achievement.

So get into the action today! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

From Rough Waters to Smooth Sailing

I keep putting off writing about the content of my keynote at the Alabama School Library Association Conference this summer. The timing just has not felt right. Now that the beginning of the school year is near for so many, I know that it is the right time to talk about the different vessels of librarianship, and where the focus needs to be for many of us as we move into the new school year.

My inspiration for the keynote started with an episode of Gilmore Girls. The grandmother in the episode calls her daughter, Lorelai, a kayak. She is a kayak because of her independence and ability to be successful on her own. Whereas the grandmother sees herself as a canoe. She and Lorelai's father have been split up for awhile, and this has made her feel like she has been rowing in circles because she ultimately belongs to a two man canoe team. This really made me think about myself personally and whether or not I was a kayak. Then it led me to question whether or not I was a kayak professionally. I definitely started my career as a kayak.

As the kayak, I was ok on my own. I often worked in solitude. Lessons were taught in isolation. Collaboration with teachers was nonexistent. I was sailing along, but it just wasn't what I envisioned. So what vessel of librarianship did I want to be? What vessel should I strive to be?

Many of us may feel like the speedboat. You know how it is as a librarian. You hardly have time to eat lunch some days. Between troubleshooting technology, teaching, meetings and so on, every day seems like a blur. We wear a lot of different hats, and sometimes we don't know if we are coming or going.

The tugboat can be a tiring role. The tugboat is pushing and pulling at every turn. As the tugboat you are ready to move forward and make changes, but you are always fighting the resistance. The tugboat has to be cautious about not being too pushy.

The list of possible vessels of librarianship is endless. In fact, there are several others I mentioned in my keynote. I shared tactics for making sure the drawbridge stays open and allows the vessels to pass through (more on that in another post), but it all boils down to one thing. As you start this school year, you need to be the lifeboat for your students, your teachers, and your school community. The lifeboat combines all of the best elements of librarianship. As the lifeboat we are able to come to the rescue and provide just in time service for our stakeholders.

I wish you smooth sailing as you start this school year. I have no doubt that there will be days that other vessels will win out, just remember to reflect on your practice and remind yourself that you have the power to be the lifeboat. Bon Voyage!

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!