Sunday, December 6, 2009

Turning Off, Again!

Back in July I wrote about turning off 2.0, just temporarily - just for part of the summer, to get some needed rest, time with the family, and check in with myself without the computer. Well, it must be a twice-yearly itch, because as you can tell from my lack of new posts, I am bowing out for a while again. At work I am quite busy. But after my day job, I am consumed with family and now the upcoming holidays. So I just wanted to let any readers (my loyal fellow librarians) know, that I am fine, busy, happy - and I will post again. I'm just taking a break. And although my Google Reader numbers are astounding, I cannot catch up on reading all of it until I finish reading Shanghai Girls. I am still facebooking and twittering but I'm just pulling back a bit. I highly recommend taking time off once in a while to step back and look around at the world. And to dive back in when ready!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Giving Thanks - My PLN

As we approach Thanksgiving, I have to give thanks to my PLN (Personal Learning Network). I should write about the AASL conference, and what I learned and thought about, and I will soon, but today I have my PLN on my mind.
The following diagram illustrates my PLN from the center (the heart), which was also the beginning, out to the also very important periphery, which I check less often but still find very valuable. It represents the layers of my PLN, and although there are some public school librarians and public  librarians I follow avidly (Buffy Hamilton, Joyce Valenza, David Lee King), my coworkers,  local consortium, and other independent school librarians I engage with more frequently about daily issues.

I want to thank the Independent School Library Exchange, ALA's Independent School Section, the Association of Independent School Librarians, and the many librarians and educational technology people I follow, for educating me and engaging in conversation about our profession.

Today I attended a webinar with the educational technologist from my school. David Warlick was presenting at a Linworth webinar about PLNs (he posted his notes about the webinar and handouts), and how to help teachers and co-workers develop them.  Although I feel I have a strong PLN already (thanks!), Mr. Warlick today gave me powerful language to use while talking about the importance of a PLN. He spoke about the PLN as a garden and the need to cultivate it. He acknowledged that fast food (lectures and textbooks) is fine and has its place, but cultivating a garden, an ecosystem with interactions within it, takes time and work to grow better. David Warlick's metaphor spoke to me - I understand my PLN in a new way - I love that! I enjoy gardening, I admire people who find time to garden. I can connect that relationship between gardener and garden to me and the people I follow.
Along with a plan for helping our faculty develop PLNs, the Linworth webinar also gave us a common ground about which to discuss and teach. The educational technologist I work with is relatively new to our school, and I think this webinar has given us place from which to grow together as a team. This professional relationship will need to be cultivated as it is crucial that we, librarian and educational technologist, define our roles and work together well and in a coordinated fashion. Mr. Warlick emphasized the "lifestyle of learning." I experienced it. And I experience it with my Personal Learning Network. Thank You!

Monday, November 2, 2009

NoodleTools and Blogger: Putting your Works Cited on your Site

One of our History teachers is requiring each student make a blog using Blogger. The students will be informing their classmates about famous thinkers and they will be gathering information from several sources, including books. The students are used to using NoodleTools to take notes and format their works cited.

I found that what looks the best is to cut and paste the Works Cited from Word into a gadget. Use the wide gadget option at the bottom of the page and paste the text there. Then no words will be cut off. The URLs will be missing, but URLs are no longer needed in MLA. If the teacher wants the URLs, as our teachers do, students could easily link them in the titles before saving the gadget.
I like how the works cited looks at the bottom of the blog. Also, set as a gadget it will always be there, whether you are looking at the main blog page or just one entry.

I hope this tidbit is helpful to you! I spent time trying out different ways of posting the works cited, and I wanted to share what I think is the best way to do it. Do you have a better way? Or another helpful tip for students using Blogger? Let me know!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Women's Conference

Sometimes working at a school brings responsibilities and opportunities you just don't get at other jobs. Tuesday I was lucky enough to chaperon several teenagers at The Women's Conference in Long Beach.

I was thrilled when by mid-day I still hadn't heard the term 21st century skills. Nobody urged me to change with my profession (which I am happily doing, by the way), and nobody discussed library Facebook pages. Instead we heard people discuss women's issues and universal issues of leadership, risk-taking, health, balancing work and home, experiencing grief, overcoming obstacles, and activism. It was a good break from the day-to-day issues to have time to listen to and think about broad issues, the big issues that run over, under, and through my daily life in the library. I realized I didn't miss the Internet Librarian conference as much as I thought I would.

The exhibit hall was a unique experience, full booths of clothes, jewelry, snack bar samples, breast cancer information, make-up, and Barbie. But the highlights for me were:
  • Hearing Katie Couric discuss the failures and perseverance that led to her success.
  • Wishing I could pull up a chair and join the conversation led by David Gregory between Madeleine Albright, Amy Holmes, Valerie Jarrett, and Claire Shipman about balancing work and parenthood, the changes of this balance over the years, and the importance of good communication with your families when choosing this difficult role of working mother.
  • Watching retired school teacher Agnes Stevens win one of four Minerva Awards for her activism. She founded School on Wheels, a one-to-one tutoring service (and more) for homeless children in Los Angeles.
  • Hearing Maria Shriver speak about her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and through her story, remind me how to support my daughter.
  • Listening to Jane Goodall imitate the sounds of a chimpanzee.
  • Chatting with the teenagers about how "amazing" and "inspiring" the day was, and noticing they had a flicker of feminism in their eyes.
I thank my school for sending me to a great conference!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jumped - on a Kindle!

I finally read a book on a Kindle. I didn't want to like it. But, I found myself wanting to own one. This Kindle we bought for our library, to eventually develop a program where we circulate it (and maybe others) to students and faculty, something many school libraries are starting to do.
I brought it home, added the National Book Award Finalist Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia, and started reading.
At first I didn't like it. But once I fixed the size of the font so that I wasn't having to hit "next page" as often, I felt very comfortable with the size of the Kindle. Angrily, or maybe disappointingly, I slowly started falling in love. Maybe it was the novel, which I did enjoy, but I think it was the Kindle. I didn't miss the feel of the page, or the smell of the binding. I liked not having to prop the book open. I enjoyed imagining my daily newspaper in that little slick device instead of all over my breakfast nook.

But I didn't like the note taking/bookmarking features. I couldn't see using it for margin notes if I were a student is a class at my school - especially because our teachers grade the margin notes. Could you imagine turning in your whole library to a teacher to take care of for a few days while he or she graded your notes?
I didn't enjoy the glare on the screen from my recessed lighting.
I didn't enjoy trying to flip back several pages because I forgot a section I had read too late at night the previous evening. It was time-consuming to skim back as the text uploaded page by page.
Even with the drawbacks, I do love the Kindle. I hope it isn't checked out all the time so I get more turns to download and read books on it.
Now I am even more curious about the other e-readers.
Do you have a favorite reader? Does your library check out more than one type of reader? The current Wired Magazine (October, 2009) gives the Kindle a 9/10. I Agree.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Review - I'm Down: A Memoir by Mishna Wolff

I read this book to laugh out loud. Recently caught in a slump of serious books, I needed a comedy. Although I did laugh out loud at parts, this memoir mostly made me empathetic to the many trials and triumphs of growing up different and trying to please. I'm Down is actually quite serious. Mishna is white, as are her father, mother, and sister. However, her father grew up in an African American neighborhood, and he identifies with that culture, wanting his children to do so too. Mishna's sister seems to have no problem fitting in, but Mishna is self conscious of her extreme whiteness. Just as she finds a way to fit in at school, she is sent to the much more white private school, where she is too black in culture and too far down on the economic scale to fit in right away. The memoir explores race, identity, class and privilege. Many of the moments about Mishna's wealthy and yet unfulfilled friends stand out to me, and make me think again about the variety of experiences of our student body. Mishna is overjoyed to go to a friend's house and play Nintendo and eat Hotpockets all day undisturbed by adults, while her friend just wants her parents to pay attention to her. Mishna is embarrassed as she tries not to inhale the warm cafeteria lunches that her wealthy friends look at with disdain. And the section about skiing is enough provoke me to feel what is must be like to be a child on scholarship at one of our independent schools. Mishna's family doesn't understand the responsibilities her school places on her, nor how important these responsibilities are to her. She straddles two cultures and it doesn't always work to her benefit. Mishna is worried, angry, sensitive, scared, but above all, she is hopeful. I highly recommend this quick memoir to everyone in high school through adulthood, but especially to those of us who work with teenagers, many of whom struggle to fit in at home and at school every day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Overhead Party

We had a little going away party for the overhead projectors yesterday. Don't they look like they are socializing in the conference room? The are replaced by projectors and SmartBoards. I think we are keeping two, just in case (in case what? I don't know). I am happy to see them go. The technology department troubleshoots/fixes the projectors and SmartBoards so we have one less type of equipment to manage.
Goodbye overhead projectors!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Conference at my Desk

Friday I sat at the reference desk with our library assistant, and I checked my Twitter account. Buffy Hamilton, The Unquiet Librarian, had sent out news that the keynote speaker for the SLJ Leadership Summit was getting ready to begin, and she forwarded the link to the CoverItLive session. Jealous of all the school librarians at the event, I decided to attend the summit virtually (luckily my school doesn't block many sites).

CoverItLive is a live blogging program where you can read and post comments and photos, collaborating and engaging with people from all over the world - live. There is a streaming video function too, but that wasn't offered for this session. It is so easy to use, that even as a novice, I was instantly ready to interact with the conference attendees.

Luckily I had relatively few questions at the reference desk, but I was able to go in and out of the discussion when I needed to assist students. As Buffy Hamilton, Cathy Nelson and other librarians publicized the essential questions and ideas of the speaker, Bernie Trilling, other people participated either through Twitter using the hashtag #sljsummit09 or by responding directly into CoverItLive. The conversation was expanded, as well as the attendance at the keynote.
Sadly, I only participated in the one session. My day took me away from the reference desk. But I am excited to go back and read/watch the sessions. Thank you, Buffy and Cathy, for taking me to the Summit!

The conference focused on librarians taking the lead in 21st century learning, and the sessions covered aspects from databases to advocacy. This new leadership direction for librarians excites me,and I am looking forward to reading the blogs of the librarians who attended and learn some of what they learned! I am inspired to get to the SLJ Summit next year. Want to join me?

Friday, October 2, 2009

This Made My Day!

On Fridays as I drive into campus at 7:25 AM, I always just catch a story on NPR's StoryCorps. I look forward to hearing these short oral histories of regular people. Sometimes they are interviews between generations of family members, and they are always touching. They all impress me. These few minutes pull me out of my daily routine, and remind me about how special each day is.
Today's was about a librarian changing a teenager's life, and it made my day. Please listen to it - it may remind you why you became a librarian.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

School library Journal Leadership Summit 2009

I am a bit sorry I didn't apply to attend the SLJ Leadership Summit. Some librarians who are my online pals these days are going. I learn from them every day, and I would love to meet them and work with them in person. Are any Independent School Librarians going this year? Let me know - I hope we are represented! How does the experience compare with AASL and AISL? I have enjoyed both of those conferences in the past, but this year I am only attending AASL. The timing is right, and the other librarian I work with is going to AISL.

So many conferences, so little time! How do you choose which to attend?

Let's try to follow the SLJ Summit blog and twitter streams, and maybe we can join in the discussions that way. The conference starts tomorrow (October 2nd).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Will Kanye West's reputation ever recover from his antics at the VMA's? Does he regret his behavior?

Have you ever regretted something, wondering if your community will ever be able to forget it so you can move past it?

In the 2009-10 California Young Reader Medal nominee Story of a Girl , Deanna is wondering the same thing. When she was 13, her father caught her having sex with 17-year-old Tommy. Rumors spread, and now, 3 years later, people are still gossiping about her. Wort of all, Deanna's father hasn't had a real conversation with her since that day. As her family life falls apart, she relies on her brother and her 2 best friends, who are a couple. Deanna feels lonely and is trying to figure out an escape. As I read this book, I found myself caring about her, rooting for her, and hoping she would figure it all out. She is a girl who made a mistake which took over her life. Will she (and the people she cares about) get past it?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Read Aloud Favorites

Update: We got most of the books below at the public library. I am glad we don't live in Philadelphia! Closing all the libraries? REALLY?

About 15 years ago, I was a children's librarian. I worked at public libraries and K-6 school libraries. Now that I have spent so many years at the middle and high school level, I miss the children's books! Lucky for me, I have kids who love it when we snuggle up and I read to them.
Now we are into chapter books - especially those with sequels. I have a 10 year old son and a 7 year old daughter, so finding books that they both enjoy can be tricky. Books with sequels are good, because once we find characters that they both care about we can continue for a while with them. Here are some family favorites:

The Tales of Olga da Polga by Michael Bond
After reading this series about a feisty guinea pig, we were inspired to get one as a pet - with rosettes and all, just like Olga. Except ours is a boy. The kids didn't connect with Bond's more famous Paddington Bear, but this one hooked them (and me) from the start.

The Indian in the Cupboard
by Lynne Reid Banks
This whole series is exciting. Imagine your little plastic figurines coming to life! It is an older book, so the language is a bit dated, but it has it all - from adventure to characters needing miniature supplies. They use a toothpaste cap as a cup. What could be better?

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Even my son loved hearing about these adventurous and thoughtful sisters.

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins
The humor of the toys - especially the ball, who one day realizes he has no limbs, is spot-on. We read this one a year or two ago, but it continues to be a part of our family memory.

What are your read aloud favorites? I think any of the above would work in a classroom or school library setting as well as at home, appealing to both genders.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sometimes Fear is Good

I am sure you have all heard about the purging of the Cushing Academy Library. I have thought about it a lot lately - as we all should. I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I see it as a mistake - a huge mistake - but I can also see it happening at other schools. I finally realized today - I feel afraid. I am afraid for our field. I am threatened by the changes at a school I frankly hadn't heard of before they decided to dump their books in favor of an espresso machine.

Now more than ever we have to make our library programs even more relevant, important, and exciting to students and faculty. We have to make ourselves even more indispensable in our roles at our schools, and we must learn to toot our own horns. Make sure others (adminsitration) know about your great books, lessons, clubs, extra-curricular events, and overall contributions to the intellectual life of the school. The death of the Cushing Academy library has only invigorated me to do my best this year, to take more risks, be visible, and solidify my role and the library's role in student life.
How has it inspired you?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wow them with Prezi

Today I had the opportunity to start the year with my upper schoolers by giving 10 minute presentations to each grade, 9-12. It was the first day back, and I needed to tell my students about changes in the library. We (well actually the other librarians) moved all the books, interfiling reference and circulating books, changed how to print from the color printer, and made some other really not-so-interesting improvements. Changes that will help the kids, but changes that could make for a boring presentation. So I decided to make it snazzy by presenting maybe the first Prezi at my school. The kids ooohed and aaahed and asked me to teach them how to use it. Actually the tech department did too. I wish my Head of School was there to see it.

Prezi, a web based presentation program, took only a bit of time to learn. I watched the help videos a couple of times, tried making one, watched the videos again, and finally got the hang of it. It isn't hard - I just kept losing my perspective on the ever changing size of the text. I used the free version, which worked really well from my home. But when I tried it at school it wouldn't load. I don't know if it is because I didn't have the latest version of Flash or if it was blocked for some reason, but I brought a downloaded version on a flash drive which worked perfectly. Now I just have to get Prezi to work at school so I can use it more and teach the kids how to use it. Try it - maybe the kids are getting bored of PowerPoint!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Turning off 2.0

I am having a delightful summer while I purposefully take a break from my usual 2.0 librarian life. Focusing on my family is so rewarding - a reminder of why I don't work during the summer. So, in my non-working I have neglected my blogs, dismissed my Google Reader, and have only clicked on a few of Buffy Hamilton's intriguing links from her Delicious account which she posts on Facebook. OK, so I didn't take a complete 2.0 vacation, but I did take a break and found myself to be so relaxed and happy. I am thinking of leaving Twitter completely. I have to confess, I love not reading it. And so many people publish their status on both Twitter and Facebook, that sticking just with one is a time saver. I feel like I am recovering from an addiction.

I even read less books this summer than usual, spending the time savoring magazines and watching So You Think You Can Dance with my daughter. Or playing with WiiFit! I read LazyGal's reviews (she reads practically a book per day!), and the guilt of not reading that much floats away as I turn a page in Real Simple and sink further into my couch. Not that I haven't been using my brain! I have been very creative about my home, I have made some tough parenting choices, and I am also coping with a parent with Alzheimer's Disease. I do have a lot on my mind. Just letting myself focus on all of that instead of the next great 2.0 tool or debate about "21st century skills" has proven to be very healthy for me and for my family.

I am sure as August comes and the school year starts, I will become inspired and dive in again. But for now... Sorry to those friends whose blogs I used to read regularly, whose reviews and ideas usually guide me, I just cannot keep up this summer. I am relishing my 2.0 break. But I think I will be back. Some new ideas are even starting to percolate...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Review: Methland

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

I keep reading books about meth, and I keep finding myself engrossed in the stories. Methland starts where Beautiful Boy and Tweak leave off. Those books are excruciating personal family stories, one written by the father (David Sheff), one by the son (Nic Sheff), about the son's addiction and the repercussions on the lives of the family members as well as the addict. Set mostly in the Bay Area of northern California, they chronicle Nic's descent from healthy, successful college-bound high school student to the life of an addict in and out of rehab.

is an investigation into what meth is doing to rural America, who the culprits are, and who the heroes are. Methland addresses the problem of what the culture of the drug is doing to small towns and also to America as a whole. Reding investigates how meth infiltrated one small town in Iowa (and across the nation), what the government is and isn't doing about it, Mexico's role, the food industry's role, and the local people who are giving their careers and lives to try to stop this controversial epidemic. He develops relationships with addicts, politicians, and cops over a few years (2005-8) and lets readers meet these people and learn how their issues came to be. An engaging book, this should be read by politicians and citizens interested in the ramifications of addiction to meth on the American Dream.

My only complaint is that Methland doesn't have an index. That would have made it more helpful for future researchers. Otherwise I highly recommend Methland, as well as the books by David and Nic Sheff. David Sheff was an author and journalist before writing Beautiful Boy, which is evident by the writing, and I recommend it to adults. Tweak, written by the son Nic, isn't as well-written, but it is exciting to read the tale told by the addict. I would recommend Tweak to high school juniors and seniors (it is sexually explicit, so it would depend upon your community). Methland is good for 11th grade and up.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Better World Books

We weeded hundreds of books from our collection this year. We removed a lot of reference books, books that haven't been checked out in a decade (or so), books that aren't relevant anymore. It was a slow process, because we took all year to do it, only weeding when we had time - and space for the weeded books.
What do you do with your weeded books? At ALA in Anaheim last summer, I found out about Better World Books. From their site: "Better World Books offers a no cost program to help you manage your discarded and donated books. We make the most of your books by selling them on over 18 online-marketplaces and sharing the proceeds with you and one of our nonprofit literacy programs. "

It takes time, but there is something very satisfying about sending discarded books to BWB to be either sold or recycled. Each book, after being weeded from our catalog and OCLC, had to be pre-screened through the BWB portal. If the book was accepted it went in one box, rejected books went in another. Sometimes students helped us with the project, but one of our librarians ended up doing the bulk of the work. By the end of next week, we will have sent approximately 35 boxes of books to BWB. They supply the boxes, they pay for the UPS shipping. They don't make us remove the library book pockets, barcodes, etc. We have received just a little money back, but just knowing the books won't be in a landfill gave us reason enough to use BWB this year.

The rejected books went to Goodwill. Where do you send your weeded books?
Better World Books is also a great place to buy used books. Read about how they are even doing well in this economy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Today I ate a perfect plum - the first plum of the season. Plums signify summer to me. When I was growing up, my friends had a plum tree next to their pool. Wearing our matching Snoopy bathing suits, all four of us, 2 sets of sisters, would eat plums while in the pool, the juice trickling down our tan arms and ending up in the pool. No need for napkins. Plums are my favorite fruit probably due to those memories!
Although it is actually drizzling in Los Angeles today, my students are finishing finals and my children are anticipating the last day of elementary school tomorrow. I am wondering how I will spend my free time this summer. What will be the plums of this summer?

I am hoping to read some great books from Yalsa's Teens Top Ten nominees, but also I want to read books for adults. I want to spruce up this site and the one I have for my students. I am thinking of starting another blog too! I want to get better at using Jing, Skype, WebNotes and a few other tools I probably haven't even heard of yet!

But I also want to exercise, ponder, cook, garden, organize my closets, and that is just in my free time, while my kids are at day-camp! I am always excited to be a stay-at-home mom for the summer. In June the summer seems so long, but my mid July (when this year I will be in the Outer Banks with my husband and children) I realize I have to whittle down my expectations of what I will accomplish. And I wonder, will feeling that I accomplished something or learned a new gadget be like those plums I ate in the pool? I don't think so.

What will be the plum, the sweetest memory, of this summer? And how can I make time to relax and just let it happen? How do you get away during those fabulous months off from work and make time to discover the plums?

Have a wonderful summer everyone! Take time for yourself and your family. And enjoy the plums!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Having fun with LibraryThing

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about LibraryThing lately. I am in the process of tagging our Summer Reading Lists ( 7th-8th, 9th-10th, 11th-12th) and the YALSA Teens' Top Ten Nominations. Usually I just link the PDFs of the lists on the library website, but this year I am also linking to the library's LibraryThing with the summer reading tags. The school librarians on the ISS and AISL listservs have shared some other dynamic ways to promote the summer reading. Some are making slide-shows, LibGuides (Laura Pearle at Hackley School), or colorful online brochures (Carol Ansel at Pine Point School). Since my library already has a LibraryThing account, I figured it would be a good place to start. Please comment and share links to your more flashy summer reading lists. I would love to have some new ideas for next year.

Through my personal LibraryThing account, where I keep track of books I have read, I started requesting Early Reviewer books. The first one I forgot to read - it got put in a pile and there it remains. The second Early Reviewer book I requested, I made a commitment to read:

Published by Orca Book Publishers, Inferno is a satisfying read about Dante, a lesbian teenager whose first love moves away and does not keep in touch. As Dante rebels in school and at home, she claims her sexuality and finds friendship. It seems so many good books with gay themes are about boys - this has a wonderful female lead.

If you actually post reviews on LibraryThing of the Early Reviewer books, chances are greater you will receive another. And, yes, I got another book by Orca Book Publishers. This one is called Leftovers, and I will read it when I am done with Alex-Award winner Finding Nouf. And I will post a review to LibraryThing, and then request another Early Reviewer book. I think I can keep up with about one a month - don't you? Do you participate in Early Reviewers? Do you read the books you request?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Alex Awards

I promote the Alex Award winners each year as summer reading suggestions to my 11th and 12th grade students. I usually read 5 of the ten winners, and I end up reading books I never would have picked up for myself. Last year my favorites were American Shaolin and Night Birds.

So far I have only read 2 of this year's winners. Actually I read one and a half. I started reading Sharp Teeth, and I can understand why people like it (my husband loved it), but it was just too violent for me. Usually I enjoy reading books set in Los Angeles, but in this case I didn't really connect with the book. But still I gave it to one of my students who is a voracious reader, thinking he may enjoy it. I see the appeal of the book - I just didn't get into it.

City of Thieves by David Benoff is another story entirely. I wasn't excited to read it (not another book about Nazis!), but I couldn't put it down! My husband reads a bunch of the books I bring home, so I have been handing him the Alex Award winners. He is currently devouring a third, which I haven't yet read. He read City of Thieves in one day. He was traveling to and from San Jose on business and the book kept his attention throughout his many hours at the airport. This exciting page-turner starts quickly, and although there is violence, there is also humor.
Smallish and Jewish Lev finds himself on an improbable mission with Kolya, a strong, gregarious soldier accused of leaving his unit during the winter siege on Leningrad. If the two can find a dozen eggs and deliver them to a powerful colonel, their lives will be spared. In their long journey to find the elusive chickens or eggs, they encounter horrors of poverty and hunger, and the sincerity and loyalty of friendship. And along the way, they find out what it means to become men.

Do you have a favorite Alex Award winner? Which one should I read next?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Watch our Winning Video

A ninth grader won our first ever "Love My Library" Video Contest!
Capturing the spirit of the contest, this short humorous film about the library will delight you.

Enjoy the diary of a struggling Limansa who is helped by brave Gerard. A docu-drama/ romantic comedy (romedy).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

AISL - Wrap Up

I had no time to blog again while at the conference in Las Vegas. We were so busy with school visits, speakers, and there was a lot of networking and socializing to be done! The Las Vegas librarians were wonderful hosts who made everything run smoothly.. and the hospitality room was always stocked with snacks and wine. I had never been to Vegas before, and although I liked some of The Strip, the tourist highlights were eating dinner at Nobu and hiking at Red Rock Canyon.

AISL is a great conference for meeting other independent school librarians and making connections. Also it is a wonderful conference for seeing other independent school libraries - I always learn something new by visiting other people's libraries. In Las Vegas, we had a few sessions about web 2.0 tools and ideas, and some wonderful authors gave presentations, including Jane Yolen. I highly recommend going to Nashville for next year's conference.

I won't be going though, because I am going to AASL in the fall, which is in Charlotte (I am scheduled to be on a panel). One big conference per school year is enough for me. I have been ruminating over the two organizations (AASL and AISL) and what I like about each conference. Why do you choose one over the other? Stay tuned for a comparison!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

AISL Day 1

Phew! I am exhausted! It is about 4:00, and in 1/2 hour the wine and cheese party starts, where we will get to meet several local authors and illustrators, so I can only blog for a bit. Please excuse any typos!
Today was a busy day.
First I wanted to exercise before the heat started cooking Las Vegas - so Joann from Archer School for Girls and I met at 6:15 for a great run. By 8:00 AM we were boarding buses headed to our first independent school visit: the gorgeous Alexander Dawson School. There we first heard the mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman speak. He presented the librarians with a Proclamation that today is The Association of Independent school Librarians Day in Las Vegas, which was pretty cool! I will post a picture of it when I get home. He spoke about the growth of Las Vegas as a very important American city and was very entertaining. Being from Los Angeles, I was a bit uncomfortable with his statement that Las Vegas is the "entertainment capital," but I can let that go.. Maybe it is.. I haven't yet been to The Strip!
Bruce Coville also spoke - and if you are looking for an author to visit your school, I am sure you'd be happy with him! He was fantastic. He told engaging stories, and he also spoke about the gender issues in education and in children's literature. He urged us to "cherish the oddballs," and to be a safe haven for kids who need a refuge. Noting that at least at public schools (and I would venture to say many independent ones too) being smart sets you up for being teased. Bookworm. Suck up. Smart ass. What is lost by these kids who shut down after being so teased? Those kids need to thrive and grow. I would love to look into having Mr. Coville speak at my school. Any Los Angeles schools want to share costs by having him visit both our schools? Let me know.

Next we toured the beautiful library.. the school is so beautiful. The design really blends in well with the desert. It looked like it was Pajama day for the younger kids, which was really cute.

Next we toured Springs Preserve, which was a beautiful way to celebrate Earth Day!

Well, I am off to the next event. I can't wait to meet some of the local authors and illustrators like Frank Fiorello, who has written and illustrated quite a lot of books about pumpkins, and Laraine Russo-Harper, the author of Legal Tender: True Tales of a Brothel Madam!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Indepent School Librarians are Movers and Shakers Too

Today I finally read the March 15th issue of Library Journal, which includes stories on the 51 library Movers and Shakers 2009. All are interesting librarians who "embraced library technology, particularly library 2.0" and are making a difference and an impact on our profession, but none are independent school librarians - or school librarians for that matter. What about the wonderful librarians across the nation who are doing innovative work at their K-12 libraries and in their local consortia? Aren't some of the librarians at our schools creative overachievers? I think so.

I am eager to meet these librarians at the AISL conference (Association of Independent School Librarians) in Las Vegas this week. I learn from them via listservs, blogs, email, twitter - and now I get to meet them in person! I want to learn more about the Greater Boston Cooperative Library Association and their amazing book blog, The Book Network. I want to learn how school librarians are using audiobooks, ebooks, and regular print books with their students. I want to know what 2.0 tools work for them, and even more - what ones don't!

Many independent school librarians are out there doing innovative work. Let's nominate them next year to be included in LJ's Movers and Shakers. We work in such small but vibrant communities - let's show what the independent school librarians are doing!
Who would you nominate?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tip: Store all your Passwords Online

I love getting things done during spring break - you know the things - organizing closets, cleaning carpets, gardening. Getting rich.
This spring break I have been reading I Will Teach You To be Rich by Ramit Sethi. I am not his target audience. Yes, I want to be rich - or at least learn to better save for retirement. But this chatty, informative, and funny book is really geared toward 20 to 30-year-olds who are just starting to get jobs with 401(k)s. I still like it. I am still learning, and I am reminded of things I should be doing better. The book is readable and I recommend it, although people my age (40 and lovin' it) and older might be better served by something different.

Ramit has one suggestion in particular I thought librarians would want to know. As a co-founder of PBwiki, he recommends making a free PBwiki account to keep track of all your passwords and other information you want to be able to access from any computer (p. 88). He vouches for the security of the site as well by saying he keeps his passwords on one. I think that not only could you put your passwords for your financial accounts in a wiki, but you could keep all your web 2.0 links and passwords there as well. I started one up - it took only a few minutes. The wikis are easy to use - many of you use them already for school. Just make a new account, set the security settings to private, make sure only you can view and edit the page, and start loading the links and passwords.

I have to admit - I feel strange putting my accounts and passwords on the web. I thought of just hinting my log in name to myself and putting the passwords, or not linking to the accounts - giving them a code name or something - but then where would I store that information? But for some reason I do trust Ramit. I trust that PBwiki will keep my passwords safe. Am I naive? Do you keep track of your passwords online? or in a Rolodex? or in your head?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Twitter Book Club

I am on page 147 of People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks. I am loving this book - partially because it is about a very old, very rare Haggadah, and Passover starts next week. I didn't realize the timeliness of my spring break reading until I started reading the book.

I twittered about loving the book, and then I thought - how about a Twitter book club? I got several positive responses, so here goes: A Twitter Book Club about People of the Book.

Now it turns out I am not the first one with this idea (big surprise). Vegan YumYum, a blogger who is a vegan cook, did a Twitter book club about Twilight. And Picador, an imprint, has a book club too. I found a couple other ones - each trying it out in different ways. Here is what I'd like to try. Your input is more than welcome.

1. Read People of the Book.
2. Twitter about how you feel/what you think of as you read. Use the hashtag #potb.
3. If you have already read the book, you can post too!
4. No spoilers, but feel free to refer to certain page numbers - i.e. -pg 124, Can't believe Hanna did that - so out of character!
5. Once in a while, search the #to see what people are writing, and respond to them, still using the #. And maybe subscribe to the feed for #potb.
6. Let's finish it up by April 15th - the last day of Passover. If that is too soon, we can extend it.
7. If it works, we can start doing one per month!

Part of a great book club is having deep discussions about the text. Obviously this may not happen. But I am a working mom - I don't always have time to meet and discuss in depth!
I also like book clubs that bring in information about the author, etc. This site has it all - even an excerpt read by the author. We should explore this site and share favorite parts via twitter as well, still with the #potb hashtag.

Let me know what you think! Will you join me in the book club?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Yes, We Have That!

When a student asked for a rope the other day, I wasn't surprised to tell him that we had one. He needed it for a clothesline on which to hang some painted t-shirts to dry. We didn't have clothespins, but he used big paperclips instead.

We have many unexpected items /services we provide at our library. Karen, the Library Director, is very crafty and has been found fixing broken flip flops and backpacks. We also store big projects that do not fit in student lockers in my office - not to mention the snacks and birthday cakes (oh the temptation!).

Besides the regular office supplies, the students ask for a variety of objects that we usually have! I do love teaching 16-year-olds about office supplies however. They never know the name of the staple remover, and they love learning how to get paper clips out of the dispenser.

A side note - when our stapler is out of staples, we have noticed our boys ask for a new stapler, and the girls ask for staples to load the current one. Hmm.. what can gender studies specialists say about that?
We have safety pins, stamps, lint removers, markers, and wrapping paper.
We have math supplies,

we have old technologies,

we have items to take care of students when they are hurt,

and of course, I could do a whole other post on what we have put in the lost and found (underwear?)!

What unique and handy services do you provide (that are not library-related)? What useful items do you have that the students sometimes need?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Privacy for our Students

The student body at many independent schools includes some famous people's children, or children and young adults who are famous themselves. Privacy is important for all minors, but especially those who are targets for the paparazzi. As we move into global collaboration and communication, the privacy issue gets difficult. How can we protect our students but still participate? I do not want to compromise their privacy.

In my blog for my students (and also in the student led blog about campus happenings which I advise), we sometimes have a Picasa or Flickr slide show. When I look at my pictures, I have to compare each child with the photo release forms their parents filled out for the school. I cannot put any captions on the pictures, and if I mention a student in a story it can only be the first name and first initial of the last name.

I recently had a privacy problem with Flickr. I put up a slide show of the students and I marked all the privacy settings so supposedly nobody could tag or comment of the photos. I didn't want anyone to tag their friends. After about 7 emails so far back and forth with customer service, I am still left wondering how somebody was able to make a comment (the customer service was really unhelpful, by the way - I could tell they didn't really read my problem carefully).

If we make a wiki, or something else interactive and public, the student cannot use their last name, even without any pictures attached. But their school email addresses have their last names. If a screen name includes an email address, the students are compromised. We don't want to attach their last names to our school in a public way. We can get around this by using the Moodle version of the wiki and forums, which is good, but not public. And therefore, the conversation stays in just their class community, presenting pros and cons.

The athletes don't seem to care. The kids could get written up in the LA Times sports section, with their last names and schools, and in that case it is good - good for colleges to see, and fine with the parents. I suppose when they decide to play football, for instance, they understand it makes their lives more public.

In LibGuides, there is a cool tool that allows you to have a box where students submit links to other students. I put it on my 7th grade LibGuide for Middle East culture. When kids fill out the information, their full name is essentially put on the Internet. I have not yet asked LibGuides if there is a way to customize this, but I sign in every day and delete their user-submitted links, which I then add to the Google Custom Search for the project. That takes away form the visible collaboration with students that I am trying so hard to achieve. I told them not to write their last names, but they still do it. They are 7th graders, after all!

The kids can have aliases in other tools like Glogster, for example, but that is a lot for a teacher to keep track of, if the teacher wants to grade on participation. I suppose we just need to do a great job on educating our kids about the importance in privacy, and how to achieve it in the online world.

Our band teacher posted a YouTube video of our middle school students playing a rock song. The 12-year-old female guitar player was especially fantastic and cool. The teacher didn't put any names up, he didn't mention the school - so all was clear. But wouldn't it be great to be able to give these kids credit? It is so sad that it is so anonymous, though I completely understand why it has to be this way.

As independent school librarians we have to be particularly vigilant to work with our educational technology specialists and together teach how important maintaining privacy is. But no matter how much we teach it, sometimes the 2.0 tools will test our rules.

Librarians have a history of protecting the privacy of their patrons. How can we reconcile the need for privacy and the desire for collaborative and social use of these new teaching tools?

What privacy issues have you encountered, and how do you resolve them?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

LibraryThing and InfoCentre

I have been having trouble with my school account on LibraryThing. I use it to highlight our new books to our community. Each month or so, I import records from InfoCentre, our integrated library system, into LibraryThing. It seems so easy - I can batch import, and tag the whole batch with the same tag (I use NewMonthYear, for instance, NewMarch2009). Sounds perfect, right?
Well, I must be doing something wrong, because in a batch of ninety three, ten are duplicated - often with different cover pictures! Does anyone else have this problem? I'd love your help.

(Update! I figured it out! The MARC records for the duplicated books had more than one ISBN in them, and since I don't do the cataloging at my library, I didn't realize that would happen sometimes. I have since asked the cataloger to only include in the record the ISBN of the book we actually have.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How did You Jump into Library 2.0?

I am trying to remember how and why I started embracing the 2.0 technologies.

I think LibraryThing (I am bwoodreader) was my first real adventure into social networking, but I really didn't end up using it in a social way. I suppose you could call it my gateway drug. Now I use it more to keep track of what I have read, with tags to remind me about the content. I should write reviews, but I rarely do. I also have a school account on it to help publicize the new books.

After that, I started paying attention to new integrated library systems. I wanted my catalog to be as interactive as LibraryThing. Alas, InfoCentre is incompatible with LibraryThing, but we are planning on getting a new ILS in the next year or two. We are part of a consortium which shares a catalog, so we have to make the big change all together - it will take time.

By then I was hooked on the idea of 2.0 - I wanted more interaction. I started using Delicious (I am eabarban), then Google Reader (well, really all things Google), Facebook (for home and work - FB just changed their format for Pages, so I am still working on this one), Twitter (I am eabarbanel), LibGuides, and finally, Storytlr (I am just starting with this - here is my story). Now my kids ask me why I my computer tweets so much (I use TweetDeck, which makes a sound when a new tweet comes in). I really ought to shut the laptop!

Here is the important part: all of the tools I am attracted to seem to make my small independent school library world bigger. I have more contact with more librarians around the world, and that is really exciting to me. I learn about what other librarians care about, read, make, teach. I try to bring some of that to my library. I know there are more tools just waiting for me to jump on board (but frankly I don't know if I can add another just yet!).

I do want to teach my students more 2.0 skills, but right now it isn't really a part of the library curriculum. They use LibGuides, sure, and I do teach Delicious to the seniors, but I don't teach blogging or wikis - it isn't what the teachers want right now. Or, if they do, they use Moodle for the wikis, and it has little to do with the library. In this case the teachers are doing it in the classroom - and isn't that one of the goals? We also have education technologists working with the classes on simulation games that use blogs and web pages. In the library we teach research and evaluation skills but not creative collaboration skills in the library...yet.
  • How have you jumped into 2.0?
  • What tools do you recommend for the novice?
  • Which tools do you use for yourself, and which for your students?
  • Have you integrated your 2.0 life into your curriculum?
I'd love to read your journey!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Engaging the Eye Generation - Book Tour!

Today is blog stop #1 for Johanna Riddle and her new book, Engaging the Eye Generation: Visual Literacy Strategies for the K-5 Classroom. (See my previous post for a short overview of the book.) I was lucky to have a Q & A with Ms. Riddle.

You had a lot of energy and inspiration when you started your job in Florida. What advice do you have to new School Library Media Specialists who don't know quite how to get started?

I am well known for my bursts of enthusiasm, often followed by a bout of head scratching and a “now what?” However, I can recommend a few essentials, guaranteed to get any new media specialist off to a sound start.
First, get to know your collection. After all, you are your school’s expert on these resources! That means not only making time to review the subjects, formats, reading levels, and relevance of the materials your have, but finding out how those resources fit into your school’s learning landscape. It is so easy to become, and remain, bogged down in the myriad demands of each day. (My media clerk, Becky Blankenship, and I used to call it “death by minutia”), but carve out some time familiarize yourself with your framework. Get to know the standards and benchmarks of each subject area, and take a good look at the new NETS standards for teachers. You add value to your school and your media center when you have the expertise to help students and teachers draw connections between those resources and your school’s curriculum. It also helps you to identify the holes in your collection, and begin to devise a meaningful map for future acquisitions.
I would also advise new media specialists to cultivate a sense and scope for their roles as leaders, learners, and collaborators. Information Power (1998, AASL and AECT) is the best book that I know for clearly defining the multiple roles of school media specialists. I can’t tell you how many times I read and re-read it. I also looked around my school district for the most dynamic media centers that I could find, and simply asked to spend a little time with the media specialist who created and cultivated these exceptional programs. The programs were widely diverse, yet shared a common thread of excellent management and a sincere desire to be of service to the teachers, students, and parents of their learning community. I would have to add that the National Board process further encouraged me to identify and prioritize principles of effective media instruction and service.
Finally, be kind to yourself. I found working in the media center to be the ultimate professional growth experience. Found your media center on a desire to be of service to your school community, and relevant to the needs of today’s learners. Begin with the technology tools you have on hand, and strategize on ways to include them in student learning. Cultivate a willingness to grow with your profession, and you will achieve great things.

You say that collaboration is key and making "small learning communities" is ideal. Sometimes teachers use the time that the students go to the library to get other work done - have you found this to be a stumbling block? Have you had trouble encouraging teachers to stay with you and help with the class while doing some of these labor-intensive projects? Do they collaborate on many levels of the experience?

The answers to these questions are as diverse as the teachers who comprise any given faculty. If you build it, will they come? Certainly, there are teachers who are more eager to collaborate. Those teachers see collaboration as the way to make learning richer and more relevant for their students. They also tend to view the media center as more of a learning resource for their students. Other teachers are not as eager—they may perceive collaborative teaching as being too different from their teaching style, or too much trouble, or perhaps working with another teacher makes them feel nervous and exposed in some ways. (One of the side benefits of being a media specialist is that we quickly cultivate a comfort level with our own humanity---after all, we're "on" just about one hundred percent of the time.) They may view the media center primarily as a place to check out books, and your primary role as the shelver and duster of those books. You have to build that vision for shared learning. When you know your resources and your curriculum, you can begin to suggest collaborations. Begin with teachers who want to work with media resources and then share those first models with the rest of the faculty. Be proactive about asking teachers how you can participate with them to maximize student learning. Think of collaboration as an initiative that you are tending within your school community. Over time, that initiative will grow.
The best collaborations are the ones where each teacher brings their respective strengths to the table, rather than simply dividing a set of tasks. We’re aiming for synergy here! Planning and management are key. Sit down with the classroom teacher and spell out that plan together. For example, a fifth grade teacher and I decided to teach a unit on early explorers. After some joint planning (some of which was formal sit down planning—augmented by quick emails or a word or two in the hallway), we decided to co-teach a whole group class, outlining and demonstrating the skills and processes that we would be addressing, and providing a foundation of general knowledge for the students. A second session used learning centers to guide students through the processes gathering and organizing multi source research—again, in a team teaching format. After that, the classroom instructor and I worked independently to teach in our particular areas of focus— the classroom teacher handled the writing component of a project while I helped students take, create, or gather digital images, and to organize those images. Finally, the teacher sent small groups of students to the media center to “put it all together” while she continued to cover the topic through learning centers in her classroom. The teachers, the students, and I all knew where we were going—and why we were going there---before we began the process. A side benefit is on-the-job skill acquisition for teachers. I know that I learned more about teaching writing skills from this process, while the classroom teacher adapted my “cut and paste” research technique to future classroom projects. We shared our project with the faculty, entered it into the county social studies fair, and hung an exhibit of student work in the school hallway. And guess what? The next year, another fifth grade teacher asked if I would be willing to work with him and his students in the same way, while a third grade teacher asked if we could use the same approach, with age appropriate skills, to teach a research unit on Medieval times.
Scheduling is a prime consideration in establishing and promoting a collaborative atmosphere in your school. Your principal is the main determiner of the schedule for your media center. If she supports an open media center—the optimal schedule—then it will be much easier to establish and maximize collaborative teaching models. If the role of your media schedule is to provide a steady wheel of planning time for classroom teachers, then the task becomes infinitely more difficult. I worked with a mixed schedule for most of my media career—about half of the time was whole group schedule, with the classroom teacher present, and the other half, open media, which provided time for small group and independent learning. The last year, drastic district actions meant that I was dually cut to half time employment and assigned the new the role of filling in a special area gap. That decision dramatically changed the look and feel of our programs. I did a lot of small group teaching on my lunch break and after school!—but the collaborative nature of teaching was greatly diminished. The further we compartmentalize curriculum and fragment schedules, the more isolated school centered learning becomes, which, is, of course, quite the opposite of the collaborative learning and communication that students engage in during their “off school” hours.

The jewelry box metaphor you use to explain drives and files is helpful. What other metaphors have you found successful?

I was an art teacher for many years. My unofficial motto is “Show me a visual.” I also believe in the notion of moving from concrete to abstract. One of my favorite metaphors is to demonstrate the notion of layering images with Photoshop Elements by showing my students a stack of clear report covers, each with an image drawn on them, or a color added. As I begin to stack the images, adding more detail, students begin to make the connection to the layering process of PSE software. And, of course, storyboarding is a metaphor of types for digital storytelling. I describe our glorious amalgams of index cards, sticky notes, and tape on page 67 and 68 of my book. “Stir me a Story (p. 59) also provides a visual image to help primary students understand how the parts of a story come together to form a whole.

I notice you like the tried and true technologies like PowerPoint and Photoshop. Have you used any new Web 2.0 technologies like Glogster or Mixbook to achieve some of your goals?

During the first few years of my work in the media center, district perimeters afforded much freer access to trials and free downloads. My students and I began our journey into visual literacy using those free resources. It was a district decision to narrow that range, simultaneously increasing firewalls and diminishing school based administrative rights. (In fact, our media specialists no longer have administrative rights to load their own programs on media center computers—they must request that a district tech specialist come out to the school to load all programs). These restrictions made it necessary to focus on maximizing the possibilities of the programs that I owned outright. However, we’ve had fun developing several blog sites, using them to gather resources, share work, and communicate with each other. You can check out one of those at
I do encourage my students to work with a variety of platforms and software. I found that a simple way to promote that investigation was to print out bookmarks with a sample of a piece of work created with something like Glogster, a header that read “Have you tried Glogster?” and the web address. A number of students who belonged to after school groups like our Samsula Snappers digital photo club would bring in work produced with new and exciting programs. It keeps them—and me-- growing!

Have you made videos with the students? If so, what equipment and software do you use? Do you post them to YouTube or something similar?

Moving from still images to digital story making to video production seems like a natural progression to me. We cut our teeth on our morning news show, a live broadcast interspersed with short video clips from students—interviews, announcements, and so on. Video became part of our wider classroom experience after we had worked with sequential stills for a while. We began with short, whole group projects, such videotaping a science experiment and outlining the scientific process. As the students gained skill with the production process, they began to collaborate on small video projects, such as the persuasive shorts described on page 113. Originally, we used Premiere Elements—it was smooth transition from Photoshop Elements, and, again, the tool we had on hand. Later on, the district supplied each media center with a Mac and iMovie. We submitted some of our work to the International Student Media Festival. Winning projects were uploaded to School Tube, courtesy of ISMF. Others were included in Best of Festival collections produced by the same entity. Adobe also came and made an educational short about the students’ work with Elements.

Where could middle school and secondary school librarians take your ideas?

I consider these concepts relevant for any age range—the teaching materials and processes are more sophisticated, but the literacy concepts and skills remain the same. For example, I am presently engaged in creating a multidisciplinary, online version of the Chasing Vermeer project described on pages 89-93 for a middle school in Florida. I am also contributing to collaboration between a high school and a historical museum in Georgia, in which students write and produce digital versions of their stories of immigrants to the United States. The same principles of visual literacy and 21st century learning skills described in Engaging the Eye Generation are at work in these learning initiatives.

I hope you all enjoyed the book and that it sparked some creativity and new ideas to teach visual literacy at your schools.