The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

National Poetry Month in Your Library

April is such a fun month to be a school librarian.  Unfortunately, I recently had spinal surgery and will miss out on my favorite April celebration-National Poetry Month/Poem In Your Pocket Day! Stuck at home healing I started going back through my blog posts and was shocked to realize I never wrote about what we did in our library last year for National Poetry Month/Poem In Your Pocket Day. Shocked because what we did was EPIC and lots of fun!

I wasn't very pleased with the display itself, but, thanks to Jennifer Lagarde's Six Tips for Building Book Displays That Matter, I felt that how fancy or Pinterest perfect the display was or was not didn't matter as much as the content of the display itself.  

Within the display itself I had examples of different types of poetry as well as poetry books displayed.  The display was set up to be interactive and give students ideas of types of poems they could write and submit for our National Poetry Month contest.

Some of the poetry on display included Book Spine Poetry, Haikus, Blackout Poetry, Acrostics, Social Media Poetry (using SnapChat, Twitter, and/or Instagram), and Magnetic Poetry. We even had a link to Goth-O-Matic, a poetry generator for the Goth in you!

We also had our 3D Printer up and running all month long making Spiral Poetry Bracelets which were a big hit!

Our student library aides made copies of poems, rolled them up, tied them with a ribbon and had them out for students to pick up and take with them so they could always have a "poem in their pocket".  We had these in the display and at the circulation desk.

The last week of April we sent out a Google Form with the various original poems students had submitted. Our winner received a "major award".... the leg lamp from A Christmas Story printed on our 3D Printer!

To stay on top of all the cool things you can celebrate in your library each month be sure to check out this great calendar created by Shannon Miller

Below is a slide show of pictures taken during National Poetry Month/Poem In Your Pocket Day last school year. 

I'd love to learn how you celebrate National Poetry Month/Poem In Your Pocket Day at your school!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rethinking Genres & MakerSpaces

This week I had the pleasure of brainstorming via Google Hangouts with Anne Graner, Library Media Specialist at Ruth Hill Elementary School in Newnan, Georgia.

The conversation that we had that just blew my mind and made me want to share it with the rest of you, my amazing PLN, was about how Anne wants to combine her genrefied collection with MakerSpace"ish" aspects.  In other words, instead of Anne being the librarian in one place and the MakerSpace lady in another section, and the this in another place, and the that in yet another section... she could be EVERY WOMAN all rolled into one.

Below is a very simplified example of what Anne Graner is wanting to do with her library.  We would love your feedback and of course if you have already done something like this in your own library please share your process, tips & tricks, and pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Let's take for instance the history and geography genre in Anne's library.  She has combined both fiction and non fiction books in this area as well as career related books that would support this genre. What Anne would like to do next is have space actually in or right next to where these books are located that would have MakerSpace"ish" activities out for students to explore, tinker, create, and learn while also having those books there to connect what they are doing in that particular MakerSpace area.  That way students are relating the activities they are doing back to the books surrounding them. This would also lead (in my mind) to students checking out more of those books when they discover they want to continue to learn about the topic once they leave the library.

There is so much to love about this idea, but what I love most is that although it has loose curricular ties, the MakerSpace hasn't lost its spontaneity and has not been strangled with curricular regulations, i.e.: "This MakerSpace activity can only be done when it is your class' turn to do it".

Thus, getting back to Anne's history & geography section we brainstormed that some of the activities in that area could include MineCraft where students could build the worlds they read about, a Google My Maps set up so students could add their own layers to tell about places they read about, places they would like to learn about or visit, places their parents, grandparents, or great grandparents are from and more.  I had also suggested using Build with Chrome but just discovered it was discontinued on January 31, 2017! UGH! What other ideas can you think of to add to this area?

Anne also had great ideas geared up for the Arts Genre section including the obvious arts & crafts, easels, paints, sculpting and molding equipment but also wanted to have a recording studio in this area as well for those whose artistic skills learned towards the musical side.

So my friends, I put this out there for your constructive feedback. What do you think? We'd love to know!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Broken But Not Down!-Sharing ELL/ESL Resources

Just because I have some cadaver bones, metal plates, and screws holding my head on to the rest of my body doesn't mean I can't still help out my teachers when they need it.

Today I reached out to Ms. Sharon Rowland, MCS's wonderful ESL/ELL Secondary Education Teacher for some assistance and in turn she asked me for some as well.

Ms. Rowland is looking for materials that her English as a Second Language high school aged students would enjoy reading to help them learn to read English.  Elementary school picture books could be used but what high school kid wants to do that?!

I started searching and one of the first things I did was reach out to my PLN.  Below is a list of ideas we have gathered so far today.  I have made the link editable so please feel free to add your own suggestions and share with colleagues who might need this information as well.

Social Media & The Connected Librarian

I need help from my awesome School Librarian (#TLChat ) Tribe.  Thanks to the generosity of Tiffany Whitehead, I have the honor of writing a book for ISTE about social media and the connected librarian.  

While I have many examples and stories of my own to share, nothing that I have been able to do with my career has been possible without the outpouring of love and support from my PLN...YOU! Thus, with this in mind, I would very much like to include YOUR stories of successes, failures, fixes, tips & tricks, etc as part of the book (credit given to you of course).  

Like so many things that we do in our community it is almost never just one person who does something STELLAR, but a conglomeration of ideas from a variety of sources and personal experiences that lift the project to astronomical proportions.

If you would like to add your experiences, thoughts, trials, lessons, etc to the book please use the form below and thank you in advance for being so willing to share.

Librarians UNITE!.... or at least let's get organized.

I remember not too many years ago when Twitter was the new kid on the block and #EdChat was the first and only educational Twitter Chat available as a place to connect, share, learn and grow together as educators.

Now the field has become saturated with speciality area chats from all corners of the world and with topics I didn't even realized existed in the education world.  Both Participate Learning Chats and Cybraryman's Educational Hashtags provide comprehensive lists of ongoing Twitter chats but sometimes finding just the right search term to put in to find the one you need, especially for us librarians, can prove to be a challenge.

Please use the form below to help bring our communities together from across the nation and around the world so that we can continue the thing that makes us as school librarians so awesome...CONNECTING!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Get Woke. Stay Woke.

Let me preface this post by saying I am a white middle class gay female who has absolutely NO personal experience or platform to address the issue of race and encourage my friends like Rafranz Davis, Sarah Thomas, and so many others to PLEASE call me out or add to this post.

For those of you inflamed by Elissa Elliott Malespina's open letter especially with regards to the "poor white middle class people" who were not mentioned, overlooked, and/or disenfranchised or who feel the political beliefs in Elissa's post are leaning in just one direction need to take a closer look in the mirror at themselves and examine why this is YOUR knee jerk reaction. Basically, you need to get WOKE. (Try starting to #getwoke by watching the documentary, 13th)

And while we are on the topic, how exactly have YOU (including me), the white, middle class, disenfranchised and underrepresented been slighted by the book industry in your school libraries?

And how exactly have YOU (including me), the white, middle class, disenfranchised and underrepresented been slighted by the television and movie industries?

And for those of you who think #BlackLivesMatter is a made up or over hyped phenomenon and should really be #AllLivesMatter, I have lived and seen how I, as a white person, am treated differently in comparison to my black friends, colleagues and associates in almost every conceivable situation. This includes how I was treated by social workers when I was a single teen mom with twins on welfare.   

Don't even get me started on the disenfranchisement of women *cough Elizabeth Warren cough*.

And then there are all of the jobs being taken away from the disenfranchised and underrepresented white, middle class.  What is actually happening is our school system has failed and is failing to educate students for the jobs that industries are in desperate need of. Each year the United States has over 500,000 computer science related jobs open and available but our current education system only graduates approximately 43,000 students knowledgable enough to fill these jobs.  It's not a matter of our jobs going to other countries; it's a matter of WE aren't teaching the skills industries want and need. Other countries actually start teaching coding and computer sciences as a basic literacy, just like reading, writing and basic mathematics, starting in Kindergarten.  Maybe it's actually going to take a massive shakeup of the current education system with someone like Betsy Devos to get our school system WOKE to the fact that we are FAILING children by continuing to teach the same content in the same way we have been doing for over 100 years.

But I digress.  Let's get back to libraries and the critical role we play in connecting, sharing, learning and growing together with our students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members. Certified school librarians are often the only professionals in a school who are exposing students to coding and the computer sciences through events like Hour of Code and through MakerSpaces. Certified school librarians are often the only professionals who create a safe place for all students regardless of their own personal beliefs and take opportunities to teach empathy and compassion.

I have personally attended sessions in library conferences where a presenter has specifically said, "We don't allow 'those' books in our library", in reference to books about homosexuals.  People like Jonathan Werner and others have fought to change the Dewey classification for homosexuality so that those like myself don't have to find information about ourselves among the "deviant behavior" books.  

I spent a day with Sharon Draper and loved that she doesn't like defining her characters by ethnicity but wants her characters to be open enough for the reader, regardless of color, to see themselves in the story.

And YES...unfortunately the current political climate DEMANDS that we as school librarians take a political stance, not for one side or the other, but for our STUDENTS.  Having a Library Graffiti Window as part of our school library MakerSpace has spawned "student voice" from both sides of the aisle, : "Build That Wall" & "#notmypresident" are just two examples.  These expressions of student voice have been used as opportunities to teach compassion and empathy.  Our wall is and always has been intended as a place for students to express their voice that doesn't attack, demean, or inflame. Because of this stance, I have taken my fair share of push back but I WILL NOT EVER back down when keeping a child safe is at stake.

Having listened to students crying about the fear of deportation, about being bullied because they (or their parents) support one political party or the other, having students afraid to participate in our 1st Annual Global Cultural Celebration Day because they didn't want to be targeted for being from a different country, students making plans to run away because their parents feel emboldened to put their gay child in conversion therapy now that trump is in the White House, and students who have actually killed themselves because the weight of the fear and stress has become too much for them to handle all weigh heavy on my heart.  

The collective "we" of school librarians must come together on this issue because in the end it's not about race, religion, or political affiliations. It is about our STUDENTS.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cha Cha Cha Changes: In The JCHS Library

When school started back after Winter Break our Instructional Partner, Kristi Combs, presented a great professional development session on Equity.  It got me thinking about our library services and whether we were providing equitable services to our 1800+ students. 

This had been a gnawing question at the back of my brain since our library support staff transition in October but I had never really been able to ferret it out and work with it.  What was bothering me was how students had claimed certain areas of the library as theirs and how others had claimed areas in the library and turned them into a satellite lunchroom.  These were the two main things gnawing at me.  These students were preventing other students who needed to use the library to study, work on computer, read, etc. from being able to access these services, especially during our Refuel Hour.

Spurred to action by the Equity PD, Ms. Laura Smith (ACCESS Teacher/Media Teacher), Ms. Sharon Rowland (EL Teacher), and I set about rearranging the library into zones.  When we started discussing the layout for our zones we realized that if we left any of the furniture in the same place it had been before Winter Break students would simply fall right back into their set routines. Thus, we moved every single piece of furniture that wasn’t bolted to the floor or walls!  We also made the collective decision that, although we liked students being able to eat in the library, students were taking advantage of this privilege and misusing the library as an extension of the cafeteria, therefore, we now do not allow food or drinks in the library.  This decision was also one that addressed time, resources and COST.  Our library is carpeted and spills are a commonplace thing with food and drinks. Each time the carpets are cleaned it costs the school $600.  Each day it costs the library staff valuable time cleaning up trays and food left behind, wiping down library tables, chairs and sofas, and vacuuming.  

Zone areas were determined more or less by unspoken student voice.  Over the course of the school year I had observed students and seen frustration at not having a quiet place to study and access computers as well as students looking for a place to just “chill” with their friends, check their phones, or even pull a hoodie over their face and “meditate” for a little while. 

Based on these observations we created three distinct zones in the JCHS Library.  The Quiet Study Zone includes the computer area and four round tables for spreading out textbooks, papers, and notes.  A “Chill Zone” for students who just want to chill.  And the MakerSpace Zone where students can discover, create, tinker, learn, and build. We kept the board games, card games and puzzles in the Chill Zone and reserved the MakerSpace for our more technical equipment like the 3D Printer, the Carvey, and our new sewing machine.

I then created signs to rotate on the TVs located around the school as well as a type of PSA to be read with the morning announcements.

Students, we invite you to visit the library either before eating or after eating during Refuel and to refrain from taking food into the library. The library is a unique space where you can use the computers, socialize, check out books and use the MakerSpace to create, explore and learn. Since only the library has these unique opportunities, we want to ensure that it is being used for these specific purposes. We ask that you eat in other designated eating areas, and not in the library. Thank you for your cooperation.

The response from students has been overwhelmingly positive, except for the no food rule.  Once we explain the $600 cost to clean the carpet the kids grudgingly agree that food isn’t the best idea in the library.

While our new zones have only been in place for a few days we have already noticed an increased usage of the resources that are only offered in and by a school library.  We have even had students thank us for the changes because they said they didn’t come to the library because they couldn’t access the resources they needed because of the areas that were being claimed by groups of students.

I am happy that we made these changes for the kids but will continue to observe their behavior (LOL! This is where I feel like Jane Goodall) and how they interact with the zones.  If it becomes obvious that more changes need to be made to accommodate student needs we will definitely make those changes.

When was the last time you changed the configuration of your library?