Thursday, January 19, 2012

Displaying Book Series Made Simple

"Do you have any series books?"

"Do you know which number this book is in the series?"

These are two questions most school librarians are quite familiar with hearing on a daily basis.  Over the Winter Holiday I started trying to strategize how I could more effectively display the book series in my library.  Each time a student asked those questions I was off on an Internet hunt to find the answer.  This was time consuming and a bit frustrating.  There had to be a better way. I came up with plan after plan but none really seemed to be any more effective than what I was already doing.  Last week I was thinking out loud about my dilemma with an easy way to identify book series to my student library aides when Evan (one of my brilliant student library aides) suggested putting dots with numbers on the book series.  I almost did the V-8 bonk to the head! How simple and easy! 

My fabulous Library Aide, Mrs. Janet Nelson, ran to the store and got a package of 1000 bright yellow dots.  In the meantime my student aides and I started pulling book series off the shelves.  For the last four days we have been labeling book series like crazy!  The response to this has been nothing but positive.  Students and teachers alike have said how much they like the labels and how easy it is to find the books they want to read.  It has also been helpful in finding books that are missing from series so that we can order them with our Spring book order.  Additionally, our book circulation has also increased.  All this from a few simple yellow dots!  

Another question all school librarians should be familiar with is, "Do you have any good books to read."  I always start by asking the student what types of books they like to read.  Then I take them to a computer and show them the following website: 

I LOVE What Should I Read Next!  Enter a book you like and the site will analyse a database of real readers' favorite books (more than 80,000 different titles so far, and more than a million reader recommendations) to provide book recommendations and suggestions for what to read next. The students really love this and I've seen several now using the site on their own to find new books to read.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

ASLA Twitter Chat Review 1/3/2012

Read my @Storify story: "ASLA Twitter Chat ReCap: 1/3/2012"


*Disclaimer: This post is not necessarily a recap of the ASLA Twitter Chat session, but an opinion piece on the topic discussed.

Funding woes was the topic of discussion this past Tuesday evening.  This topic is of particular concern to librarians in the state of Alabama as we have been in pro ration for the past four years.  For the last four years the Alabama State Department of Education has allocated $0 for school libraries.  It should be kept in mind that Alabama State Department of Education funds for school libraries have always been intended to supplement library budgets allocated by local school districts.  Thus, if your school library (in Alabama) has not been funded for the last four years, the first line of defense should be within your own school.
The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries is the only the only federal program exclusively for school libraries and is designed to boost academic achievement by providing students with access to up-to-date school library materials and Congress voted not to fund the program in FY2011.  While ALA is calling on Congress to restore support for libraries as the FY2012 budget debate continues.

Depending on ALA, AASL, ASLA or legislative action to protect libraries is short sited and the least effective strategy for improving budget woes.  The building and maintaining of relationships have the greatest impact, negatively or positively, locally and nationally. It is through these relationships that advocacy for our programs naturally occur.  One parent telling a school board how important he thinks the library program is to his child is more powerful than a dozen AASL brochures. One teacher willing to tell the principal that library services have helped her class be more successful secures library funding better than any mandate. One community group that works with school libraries to build information literacy skills is more effective than any set of state or national standards. But the kicker is that we need to make sure we build the kind of relationships with parents, teachers and the community that are strong enough that members of these groups will speak on our behalf.” 

So what can you do? 

Know your patrons. If the local school board were to vote to replace you (the certified librarian) with an aide or to close the library what reaction would your teachers, students, parents have regarding this decision?  Would they advocate for the library program or not care one way or another?

Shamelessly self promote.  Leverage social media and the Web.  While school librarians don't commonly brag on their achievements, detailing what you do via an online presence is essential in this economic climate.  Make sure your community knows what you provide. Build an identity that exemplifies a clear, stated mission.  Invite parents, community leaders, school board members, city council representatives, and local and state politicians to events at your library. 
Step up the tech.  If you are not the leader in your school where technology is concerned you MUST change or become obsolete.   "So start small," advises Gwyneth Jones, a librarian at Murray Hill Middle School in Laurel, MD, and ISTE board member. Whether it's building a wiki or a blog for your library [or embracing new technologies like eBooks and cloud computing], “It's time to put on our big girl or big guy panties" and make that change.”
Know where your school district’s money comes from. Schools get funding from a variety of sources. The percentage that any one of these sources contributes to a budget can widely vary from state to state, and even from district to district. But nearly all public schools get some funds.  If media and technology programs are to be viewed as core to the educational process, then funding for them should be from the regular school budget, not dependent on state budgets.
Learn about your district’s budget and who controls the budget.  Establish a solid, positive relationship with this person. Volunteer or run for governing committees. 
Learn how to write an effective budget. Too often budgets have relied on state or national standards as a rationale for funds for resources and collection building. Rely instead on a budget which is justified because it supports the specific needs of your individual curricula, students, and teachers. The fact that Mrs. Green’s science students need more current and varied resources for their solar system unit will carry more weight that any state rule or national standard.
Work with other groups and participate in local politics.  Offer to give short talks at service groups like Kiwanis, Sertoma, and Lions. Inform the community about your program, and fill the talk with specific times your program helped individual students.
Remember, in the end that it isn’t the budget we prepare or the technology we use… "Every element of librarianship comes back to the human experience. “

Congress Denies Federal Funding for School Libraries in FY2011." School Library Journal. 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <>.
Ishizuka, Kathy. "Tech Trends: ISTE 2011: Don Your 'Big Girl Panties'" School Library Journal. 11 July 2011. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <>.
Johnson, Doug. "Budgeting for Mean Lean times." Blue Skunk Blog. Nov.-Dec. 1995. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <>.
Johnson, Doug. "4 Rules of Library Advocacy." Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog. 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <>.