The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

The True Adventures of a High School Librarian

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tech Tips of the Week from the JCHS Library

Collaboration: The Ultimate Hands On Professional Development

School librarians know that collaboration is an important if not vital role we play within the school learning environment.  However, a litany of factors can often cause collaboration to be sparse to nonexistent.  

Sarah Deringer, Head Editor, INALJ Mississippi points out in her article,

“Because of the many duties a school librarian has, collaboration with other teachers can be put off to the end of the list if not forgotten entirely.  Besides the time crunch, other factors can weigh in – cliques among teachers, lack of knowledge in collaboration, a undervaluing of the school librarian, and more.”

Sarah goes on to give some great tips that super busy librarians can use to encourage collaboration.

Sarah’s article is but one of many that address and readdress the topic of school librarians and collaboration.  

I propose looking at collaboration from a completely different point of view.  We all know the value derived from getting to visit other schools or to even just sit in the class of a colleague in your own school for a class period or two.  Observing and learning from others helps to make us better in our own educational fields.  

Let’s kick that up a notch and think about how our students learn best.  Do they learn better through passive observation or from active  engagement with peers to discuss, explore, learn, create and deliver what they have learned?  Yup. Hands on collaborative learning wins out every time.  So why are we not applying the same methods that work best for students to our professional learning as educators?

I propose that we look at collaboration as the ultimate professional development experience, not only collaboration with the school librarian but collaboration with other educators as well, whether in your school, your district, your state, nation, or around the world.  Through true educator collaboration great minds come together to formulate never before thought of lessons that ultimately enhance the student learning experience.  

This week I had the opportunity to work with and learn from four incredible colleagues.  On Monday Ms. Meleighsa McLaughlin brought her 9th and 10th grade English classes to the Harvard Room so that I could show them a few helpful tips and tricks for their upcoming research paper.  In Alabama we are fortunate to have the Alabama Virtual Library (AVL) that supplies all Alabama students with access to a large variety of databases.  One thing the students like the most about the AVL is that the works cited information is already created for them to simply copy and paste to their research paper.  (Where was this when I was in school?!) Not all information students will use in their research papers will be accessed through the AVL so I also introduced students to the EasyBib Google Docs add on.  The students  absolutely LOVED this!  The last thing I showed to Ms. McLaughlin’s classes was the Goblin Threat Game.  This game was designed by the Snowden Library of Lycoming College.  It is a fun interactive game that teaches students about plagiarism and works cited.  

Wednesday is Story Time Day! YAY!  I look forward to Wednesdays every week.  This is the day that Ms. Shannon Humphrey  and Mr. G Watters bring their special education self contained students to the library!  This Wednesday we read the book, A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz.  This book is the true story of how Alan overcame stuttering and became know as  "the Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation".  After reading the story we watched a video where Alan talks to the students about his journey and how it felt to have a disability.  While the kids love storytime their favorite part of coming to the library is the MakerSpace! The JCHS Library MakerSpace can be loud and overcrowded most days especially during Refuel Hour so Wednesdays a special day just for our storytime students.  I love that I have this opportunity to spend time working with such awesome students and their teachers.

Thursday I went to Ms. Leah McRae’s Biomed class to teach students how to make infographics using Canva for the data they are collecting on proteins.  We also explored Thingiverse so that students could create 3D models of their proteins in the JCHS Library MakerSpace 3D printer.  As I was getting ready to leave Ms. McRae’s class it occurred to me that we could make the projects even better by adding the element of augmented reality to them with Aurasma.  I am super excited about continuing to work with Ms. McRae and her students as they bring their projects to life.

Friday brought Ms. Laura Smith and her Career Prep students to the library to explore, discover, tinker, and create in the JCHS Library MakerSpace.  Believe it or not, many students in our school have yet to discover the changes that have taken place in the JCHS Library this year.  It was invigorating to get the opportunity to work with Ms. Smith’s students as they explored the robots, green screen, 3D printer and more.  I hope that more teachers will take some time to bring their students to discover the JCHS Library MakerSpace.  
If you have been inspired to collaborate why not get started with the Global Skype-a-Thon, December 3-4, 2015.  

“Amazingly Simple Graphic Design.” Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software – Canva. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“A Boy And a Jaguar | Alan Rabinowitz.” A Boy and a Jaguar | Alan Rabinowitz. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Home.” Home. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Inspire Collaboration: A Quick And Easy Guide for Super Busy School Librarians.” INALJ. N.p., 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Methods And Tools for Information Literacy Assessment – a Collaborati...” Methods and tools for information literacy assessment – a collaborati... Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Microsoft In Education Blog.” Join the Global Skype-a-Thon, December 3-4, 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>
“Plagiarism Game.” Lycoming College. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <>

Friday, November 6, 2015

Library Displays: Do Yours Matter?

Earlier this month Jennifer LaGarde, aka Library Girl, wrote a timely blog post, Six Tips for Building Book Displays That Matter that made me take a second look at how I approach the book displays in the JCHS Library.  Out of the six tips Jennifer features it is tip number 5, Build Displays That Generate Meaningful Data, that will present the greatest challenge.  I'd love to see some examples of how others have achieved this type of data as related to displays.

After reading Jennifer's blog post I have since designed two new library displays.  The first is seasonal and will be taken down after Thanksgiving Break.  The title of this display is, What Are You Thankful For?.  Students and teachers can choose to either write what they are thankful for and why on a construction paper leaf and place it on the display wall in the JCHS Library OR they can add to this display virtually via a Padlet.

The other display created, READBox, is intended to stay up throughout the year. This display includes input from our Not Your Average Book Club members, other students, teachers, administration, parents and community members. We hope that our principal, Dr. Brian Clayton, our superintendent, Dr. Dee Fowler, Mayor Troy Trulock, school board members, city council members, parents and others will all contribute their top picks for students to enjoy.

To get feed back and book suggestions to add to the READBox display I created a Google Form and sent the link to the form out via a QR Code using

It will be exciting to watch this display grow and see how our students use it.

BTW: Students have already started checking out books from the display even though it just went up during the course of this week. It will mean so much to them to see their teachers and administrators names associated with books they have recommended!


OK Jennifer...I'm ready for your feedback! How have I done so far in meeting your 6 tips?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The School Library & SPED

Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week in the JCHS Library.  Every Wednesday Ms. Humphrey brings her students to the library for story time, to check out books and to explore, tinker, discover & create in our MakerSpace.

Story time is all kinds of fun! To accommodate the visual needs of some students in Ms. Humphrey's class I take pictures of the book pages and turn the book into a Google Slide presentation.  We use the Harvard Room with it's three large projection screens to read the story.  Some days we will also do arts & crafts activities associated with our story time book.

My favorite books for story time so far this year are The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers was so much fun to read because it was based on a true story and had just been made into a movie.  After reading the book I showed the students the movie trailer.  Everyone was enthralled...even those students that normally find story time to "baby" for them.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was a beautiful story based on an Academy Award winning Best Animated Short Film.  After reading the story we watched the animated short film on which the book was based, but the best part of the book was that it is an augmented reality book! I downloaded the app to my iPhone and then attached my phone to the system in the Harvard Room so students could see the pages of the book come to life on the three giant projection screens.  It was SO COOL!

This week we read Interrupting Chicken.  The kids thought it was so funny how Little Red Chicken kept interrupting the stories her Papa was reading to her.  Each student made their own Interrupting Chicken to take home with them.

My 4th Block student aide, Jonathan, always helps with story time....even getting into character!  Below is a picture of Jonathan as the main character in the book, Baghead.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Getting REaL In The Library

R-Reflect, Revise, Reinvent
E-Evaluate, Energize, Expectations
L-Listen, Lead, Love, Laughter

This year I returned to the high school library full of ideas gathered from my PLN (Professional Learning Network) I hoped to implement.  Two ideas I have implemented, with the help of my library aide, Kim Johnson, and my student aides each block, are creating a MakerSpace and Genrefying the library fiction collection. 

Designing the MakerSpace started before I had a chance to meet and get to know the students in my new school.  I plowed through blog after blog from my PLN about MakerSpaces in the School Library and contacted a few friends to ask clarifying questions, crowdsourced ideas, suggestions and equipment.  Once students arrived the real work began.  First, I had to step out and "sell" the MakerSpace.  This meant finding kids and saying, "Have you heard of Google Cardboard? It is so COOL! Let me show you!"  "Come here! We just got Cubelets in the library! Look what you can do with them!"  "Don't you want to play the piano with bananas?"

As students became comfortable with not only talking in the library but relaxing, socializing, tinkering, creating, and exploring, I not only interacted...I watched.  As I watched I noted what areas of the MakerSpace attracted the students in my new school and which areas fell flat.  After a visit from the talented MakerSpace/Librarian guru, Wendy Cope, I revised the look and feel of the library MakerSpace with just a few simple changes.  I moved the green screen out of a back room in the library to the center of the library MakerSpace.  I also added popular board games and card games to the MakerSpace.  

After a few more weeks we received our LittleBits Kits which lead to more changes in the library MakerSpace.  I had my student aides use the LittleBits Kits to create interactive arts & crafts, thus leading me to move the "robotics" tables next to the arts & crafts area in the MakerSpace.  By having examples of what you can do with LittleBits out on the table students were more willing to jump in and try to make a creation of their own.

I also brought in a Wii and a flat screen TV from my house that I never use.  This has been the biggest hit in our library MakerSpace so far.  I absolutely love watching how animated the kids get as they play sports or dance their hearts out! 


The genrification of the library will be a year long process but the big task of moving, sorting and reshelving the books was accomplished in the first 19 days of school.  Student library aides were essential to the process of assigning books to genres but the assigning of genres have not been written in stone.  As students discover the new arrangement of books in the library we are open to and have received suggestions of the genre a book or books should be a part of.

As the library was genrefied it became clear what genres we needed to grow. When creating our first book order of the year we took into account not only the areas that genrefication had revealed to be weak, we also asked for input from students and teachers.

Just in our 2nd 9 weeks of school I have not only listened to the verbal and interactive (mostly through Google Forms) responses from our library patrons I have also tried to listen to non verbal cues as well and make changes accordingly.

Let's get REaL.  Changes to what is happening in the library will always occur if I am truly listening to the needs of our patrons.  Riding those ebbs and flows and rising to the challenges presented will make for a fun ride this year.

An area I hope to improve that has been somewhat pushed to the back burner this year is connecting and collaborating with the teachers at my new school.  I think this can start by partnering with our inspiring Instructional Partner, Kristi Combs.

Follow our adventures and growing pains throughout the school year though our various social media accounts, including SnapChat!

Take a glimpse into our library fun HERE or below.

JCHS Library MakerSpace

Sunday, September 27, 2015

This Week In The Library @JCHS: September 21-25, 2015


Wendy Cope, Librarian at Woodstock Middle School and Media Specialist of the Year for Cherokee County, GA, came to visit the JCHS Library during her Fall Break.  We were delighted to have Wendy come see how we have shaken things up this year from genrefying the collection to setting up our MakerSpace.  

I had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Cope at the Georgia School Librarians Association Summer Conference this past summer.  I attended her MakerSpace session and learned so much.  What I liked most about Wendy when I first met her was her enthusiastic personality.  She is a dynamic individual filled with wonderful ideas that she is willing to share! 

Wendy jumped right into the day helping and talking with students, faculty members and administrators.  I was excited for Wendy to see how James Clemens High School runs "lunch" as we ditched the traditional lunch waves for a Refuel Hour.  Our students love this change and it allows for students to choose the direction that hour will take.  I am pleased to say that many students use this time to tinker, explore, discover and create in the new JCHS Library MakerSpace.  

Together, Wendy and I were able to collaborate, think out and put up the beginnings of a Banned Books Week display.  During this time we discussed how important it is for librarians to get out of their little isolated spots in the library and visit other libraries, public and school, as often as possible to keep your mind fresh and sharp looking for new ideas to incorporate for your patrons.

After Wendy left for Georgia I looked at the JCHS Library through new eyes and made some changes to the arrangement of the MakerSpace.  I certainly wish Wendy had stayed for another day or two because the changes I made caused traffic to the JCHS Library MakerSpace increase dramatically!

I hope to visit Wendy Cope soon at her school during my Fall Break in October!  Watch out Wendy! Here I come!

Class Visit

Ms. Humphrey's students came to the library this week for story time. We read, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.  After reading this story we talked about food chains and played a food chain game from BrainPop.

After story time was over we made our way from the Harvard Room into the JCHS Library to check out books and spend time in the MakerSpace.  

Professional Development

Dr. Jim Knight, Instructional Coach and author, brought his years of study and wisdom to Madison City Schools leading two 3 hour workshops on building better communication skills.  

This was definitely one professional development session that I felt was well worth my time.  It has provided me with realistic strategies I can use to become a better communicator.  I also loved how Dr. Knight had us divide into groups using a "clock".  I plan on stealing and using this idea next time I present! 

Library Collection

In the realm of "behind the scenes librarian stuff" is working on a book order.  This week I was finally able to take a moment to get our first book order created.  When preparing the book order many factors were considered.  Genrefying the collection this year let me know what areas we need to build.  I also reviewed our automated system to see what long term missing books needed to be replaced.  The most important part of creating a book order is listening to your patrons and what they want to read.  To get student and faculty input regarding books they would like to see added to the library collection, a Google Form was created and widely advertised.  

Tech Tips of the Week: September 21-25, 2015