The Incredibly True Adventures of a School Librarian

The Incredibly True Adventures of a School Librarian

Sunday, July 8, 2018

School Librarians: The Batman of Superheroes

I often see School Librarian avatars take on a Superman persona. Just type in "Super Librarian" in a Google Image search and see what you get (

Copy short URL)  Heck, I've even purchased the  "Super Librarian" T-shirt!
Rather than Superman, I feel that School Librarians have more in common with Batman.

Batman is unlike other superheroes. He wasn't bitten by a radioactive spider. He wasn't sent from a far away planet gifted with a unique and super human DNA. He didn't absorb a vast quantity of gamma rays.

Batman is human. . .  just like school librarians.

The thing that enables Batman to be a superhero can be attributed greatly to the tools Batman has at his disposal. School Librarians, like Batman, also have a powerful set of tools at their disposal as well.

POW! School Librarians are alternative fact fighters! They teach students (and teachers) information
        literacy to help curtail the spread of fake news!

                  BAM!  School Librarians have standards! AASL, ISTE, and Future Ready!

                                      SMASH! School Librarians smash teacher/admin fear of new technologies
                                            by providing individualized professional development including
                                            co-teaching when needed!
                                                           ZAP! Full Time Certified School Librarians operating on a
                                                                 flexible schedule increase standardized test scores....
                                                                 without ever once "teaching to the test"!

                 BOOM! School Librarians develop a rich and diverse collection to meet the needs of
                        of their teachers and students!

                                           CRUNCH! School Librarians teach and model digital literacy and good
                                                     citizenship both IRL and on the digital "playground"!

WHAM! School Librarians empower students as creators through creating Makerspaces, either in
         the library or on portable carts for use in the classroom!

                                                         ZOOOM!  School Librarians develop in students a life long love
                                                                 of reading by connecting them with "just the right book"!

These are just a few examples of the tools School Librarians have in their "tool belt".  Administrative support of the library program is critical to the successful, effective, and consistent use of these tools.

Similar to Batman, a School Librarians success greatly depends on their ability to "reach & use" the tools they have at their disposal.  Even Batman can be reduced to a mere human when access to his tool belt is impeded.

A few things than can impede a School Librarian from effectively using and implementing the tools at their disposal include, but are not limited to:
  • Fixed Schedules
  • Funding (or lack of)
  • Spreading one librarian across multiple schools
  • Lack of Administrative support
  • No Library Aide (Robin)
  • Hiring aides in place of librarians

Library Aides are the Robin to our Batman.  Robin doesn't have the training (library certification) or pay grade to adequately do the job Batman (Certified Librarian) can do.   

With this said, Batman needs Robin. School Librarians and Library Aides are an essential team in the endeavor to empower students and teachers from the library.

For Batman to be at his maximum super hero capability it takes a whole team working together toward a common goal.  School Librarians are also empowered with a team. Their team includes library aides, teachers, administrators, a robust PLN (Professional Learning Network), library volunteers, parent and grandparents, community and local businesses.

When we, as School Librarians, find ourselves standing alone, hands tied, we must garner within ourselves to do the best we can and find inventive ways to meet the needs of our school community.  Fighting with ourselves about all the things we simply do not have to ability to do because our "hands are tied" is poisonous and is the tough lesson I have had to learn this past school year. 

Having recently retired after 25 years of service in Alabama, I moved to Texas and "started over" again in an elementary school after 12 years at the high school level.  I had been spoiled in Alabama with flexible schedules and library aides so it came as a shock when confronted with a fixed schedule that was part of the Specials rotation with PE, Art, and Music/Performing Arts. 

For the majority of the school year I had an internal struggle with the inability to access my "tool belt" to provide anything beyond student library services.  My schedule and lack of a full time library aide left me literally and figuratively tied to the library.  Other librarians with similar schedules advised me, "If the Library is considered a Specials class then we should treat the library as a Specials class and close it when no classes are scheduled", (a very rare occurrence in a school with my student population). This advice felt like a betrayal of my professional and personal ethics, yet, trying to go at a marathon pace all the time only caused me to feel like an abject failure because my focus was on all the things I couldn't do.

It was when I finally realized I am HUMAN that I was able to make changes that met my personal and professional standards while also allowing me to jog and/or walk as needed. I also changed my mindset from that of seeing my shortcomings as failures to celebrating the student learning taking place in the library.

I might not be able to do everything I want to do and should do as a certified School Librarian to my level of satisfaction, but I can provide tools to empower my students to be their very own Batman!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Winkley Elementary Wolverine News (Morning Announcements)

What an exciting school year this has been! I started creating our Wolverine News Youtube Channel with students in grades K-5 creating special segment introductions to teach Green Screen skills. 

From there students applied to be Wolverine News Team Members and learned how to create a news broadcast from beginning to end!  

Additionally, students, parents, teachers, and administrators have also submitted over 1000 Book Reviews and Quotes of the Day (using FlipGrid) to be included in our Wolverine News broadcasts! 

I am so proud of all that our Winkley Family has learned and accomplished this 2017-2018 school year! 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Empowering Student Voice and Choice in the Library

Pictured above is how I use ClassroomScreen to keep kids on track with directions and how much time they have left to complete their learning goal.

My first school year in Texas and back in Elementary School after 12+ years at the high school level is more than half way over! It has been a fun yet challenging adventure. I started off the school year using a center rotation system so that I could work with smaller groups of students to teach a wide variety of skills. You can read more about how I run centers in an Elementary School library HERE.
Now that this routine has been established and the majority of "basic" skills I wanted students in grades 3-5 to master have been achieved it is time to switch things up to empower even more student voice and choice while also continuing to teach technology skills, digital citizenship, support the curriculum, and more.

While students K-2 will continue learning in center rotations, 3-5 students have begun their first steps towards creating digital portfolios. I have been presenting about digital portfolios for at least seven years after having discovered Dr. Helen Barrett's Electronic Portfolios website.

Then I was fortunate enough to work my last two years before retiring from Alabama in the Madison City School District with visionary and digital portfolio advocate, Daniel Whitt.  Daniel has successfully implemented digital portfolios for students 3-12 with the help of school librarians and others.  In fact, librarians & teachers Missy KingSara Baragona, and Ashley Strode are presenting at ISTE 2018 on Monday, June 25, at 9:00–10:00 am to share what Madison City Schools has been able to accomplish with their digital portfolio initiative.  You can access Daniel's digital portfolio files any time HERE.

Before jumping right into building our digital portfolio websites (we are using Google Sites) I wanted to give my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students a chance to reflect on themselves since their digital portfolio home page is their "introduction" to the world.  While I would encourage high school students to write an About Me introduction (example: Sean Neal) I felt that the age group I was working with could better express themselves through an "All About Me" assignment.  Rather than simply printing out the All About Me worksheet I found online, I created my own All About Me in Google Drawings.  Then I pushed this out to students using Google Classroom so that each student had their own copy to work on.  This way I wasn't only letting them reflect in preparation for their digital portfolio home page, I was also teaching kids how to use Google Drawing.  Since I would be out of town during this time I used YouTube Live to record my lesson for my substitute to play.

So far so good! I've been really pleased with the creativity students are showing in completing this task.  Take a look at this one done by a 3rd grader!

One motivator for students to work diligently on the tasks we will do while building or digital portfolios is the ability to have "free" time after successfully completing each task or goal.  "Free" time includes access to makerspace activities like our BB8 robot, games, LEGOs, arts & crafts, Bloxels, VR and AR, Merge Cube, OSMO, coding activities, working on homework, reading, relaxing and listening to music, socializing, etc.  In other words, as long as students are doing something school/library appropriate once they have completed their task they have the rest of their classroom time to do what they choose to do.

The reaction from kids has been extremely positive and it feels good to see the kids so excited about this change.  I also love that as we build our digital portfolios it will be something teachers can start using in their classrooms and with parents during parent/teacher conferences to highlight student accomplishments.

Be sure to follow the Winkley Library on social media to stay up to date with this new adventure!

ISTE Librarians Network Playground Sign Up Now OPEN!

ISTE Librarians Network Playground is happening on Monday, June 25, 8:00–11:30 am CDT.

This playground, hosted by ISTE's Librarians Network, is an opportunity to connect with school librarians and educators as they share their favorite tools and resources. Visitors will learn about innovative technologies and resources that support development of information literacy skills, research and information fluency, as well as creativity and innovation.

We will also have 9 total tables and two large screen presentation areas with 2-3 tables designated for vendors who would like to demonstrate how their products enhance libraries. FYI -  You will not be allowed to sell your products at the playground. If you would like to participate please fill out the form below.

Friday, February 2, 2018

World Read Aloud Day (Week) 2018

On Monday, January 29th the Winkley Library joined thousands of other students all across the world to bring attention to the importance of reading and writing by observing World Read Aloud Day by connecting with other schools across the United States to read and share our love of reading with each other.

For the past few years Shannon Miller and Andy Plemmons have teamed up to encourage educators to observe World Read Aloud Day and provide a way for educators to find each other to make connections using Skype and/or Google Hangouts.

This year was my first year to ever observe World Read Aloud Day as an Elementary School librarian.  Being on a fixed library schedule as part of the Specials rotation, finding coordinating times across varied time zones to connect with other libraries and/or classrooms proved to be a daunting task but with perseverance we were able to connect the majority of our library classes! YAY!

Our first connection was with Ms. Hincks' 2nd grade students from Bloomfield Hill, MI. We read Windows by Julia Draw.  I love that our students also had time share a "Window To Their World" by talking and sharing with each other after the book was read.

Our next connection was with Ms. Walterich's 2nd graders from Buffalo, NY.  kicked off our week long journey of introducing R. J. Palacio's book, We're All Wonders to many of our Winkley Elementary students.  

Then Sherron Gaughan's 5th graders from Minnesota blew us away with a spirited reading of 
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt. We absolutely loved the expressions they put into each characters voice!

The week continued on with many wonderful connections. I was thrilled to connect with my friend, April Wathen, and her amazing students as we partner read, We're All Wonders.

Then Angie Dickerson's 7th graders connected with our 5th graders to read We're All Wonders.  I was blown away by her students and our kids really enjoyed listening to the kids reading rather than the adults.  Ms. Dickerson's students also shared that they had read the dedication page in the book and had researched Nathaniel Newman. During their research they discovered a 20/20 story about Nathaniel on whom the book "Wonder" is based.  After talking with Ms. Dickerson's 7th graders our kids also checked out the great 20/20 story to learn more about the boy behind the story.

We wrapped up the week with Mary Hundt from Wisconsin, Sarah Gobe from Maryland, and with the incredible Sherron Gaughan again.

Did you miss connecting for World Read Aloud Day this year?  Mark your calendars for next year and then in the meantime let go of whatever has been holding you back and get connected for Read Across America Day coming up March 2nd!  Shannon Miller has compiled some great resources for Read Across America Day here:

Monday, January 1, 2018

My Top 10 "Go To" Techs of 2017


Google, Google, Google! From Google Docs, Slides, to Google Classroom and Google Photos I simply can't get enough of Google.  Google is the ultimate tool for collaboration.  Two of my favorite bloggers that keep me up to date on all things Google are Alice Keeler and Kasey Bell.



I learned about Unsplash in 2017 from Librarian at Lowndes County Public Schools, Holly Ballard O'Neal.  Unsplash gives you access to over 300,000 copyright free high-resolution photos.  Chances are if you see a great image on something I am presenting it most likely came from Unsplash!


Buffer is the ultimate social media tool.  Basically Buffer allows you to compose social media messages, choose which social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin) to send the message out through, and schedule what day and time the messages are to be sent.  Buffer saves me so much time and makes me look like a social media guru!


Remind is a K-12 communication platform that helps educators reach students and parents where they are.  This year I am part of a six day Specials color rotation.  I have a difficult time keeping track of what color day it is so I can only image the difficulty parents must have, especially if they have more than one child at the school.  I use Remind mainly to help remind parents of what color day it will be so that they can remember to get library books packed away in their child's backpack.


Smore makes it easy to design beautiful and effective online flyers and newsletters that can be seamlessly shared via social media, via a link, or embedded on a webpage/site.  What I love the most about using Smore is that, similar to Google, when I inevitably discover a spelling error AFTER I have sent out the Smore there is no need to worry. I can make any changes to the Smore and the changes take place universally.  No need to send out an email telling people to ignore the previously sent newsletter! YAY!

This year I began making our school morning announcements via video.  When I first started I used iMovie but knowing that I would be transitioning production responsibilities to students I began my search for a collaborative video production tool.  Thanks to my awesome PLN (Professional Learning Network) I quickly found WeVideo and am now ready to start working on collaborative video productions! WeVideo is fantastic for so many reasons! I would never go back to using iMovie now that I've discovered WeVideo.


Canva makes me look like a genius graphic designer. Whether I need to design a presentation slide, poster, infographic, resume, etc, I can always count on Canva to help me know the right sizes, fonts, colors, placement and more!

Clipping Magic

Have you ever been looking for the perfect graphic but couldn't use it because you needed a transparent background and couldn't quite figure out how to get rid of the background? is a website dedicated to helping you remove image backgrounds as quickly and painlessly as possible.  

Do Ink Green Screen app has been invaluable to me as we produce our video morning announcements.  I simply couldn't do this task without this easy to use green screen app.  "Green Screen by Do Ink makes it easy to create incredible green screen videos and images right on your iPad or iPhone. The app lets you combine photos and videos from the camera roll with live images from your iPad or iPhone's camera."


FlipGrid is one of the most amazing tech tools I have used to empower and amplify student voice.  There are a million different ways that you can use FlipGrid. I have used it this year for students to submit Book Reviews and Quote of the Day submissions to be included in our morning show.  The thing I love most about FlipGrid is just how easy it is for anyone to use.  As long as students have an Internet connected device they can contribute.  I love seeing so many students and their parents contributing.  FlipGrid is also a great way to get the conversation about digital citizenship started in a a way that is real and relevant to students.  Below is a FlipGrid submission a student made with her mom!


EasyPrompter is a free, easy to use teleprompter that I use all the time while filming for our morning news program.  It works in a similar manner as the teleprompters news anchors use. I have my kids create their news scripts in a Google Doc and then copy and past into EasyPrompter.  I also love that you can highlight and change the color of different parts of the script so that students know which parts are theirs to say.  This tech is a definite must have for anyone making video productions with students.