Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Review: For Keeps by Natasha Friend

Although the story is somewhat predictable, I couldn't put this book down! I wanted to know how Josie and her mom were going to work out the news that Josie's paternal grandparents, who don't know of her existence, moved back into town. I wanted to know if Josie was going to let the gorgeous Riggs be her boyfriend, and I really wanted to see what trouble her best friend Liv might have. The warm and realistic characters and exciting connections between them kept me up late reading. This realistic young adult novel is great for 9th-11th grade girls.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Too Many Decisions! Which Conference to Attend?

I am very jealous of the other librarian at my school who gets to go to the Association of Independent School Librarians conference in Nashville in April. It looks like it will be great, but I cannot go for two reasons: we serve the school better by not being gone at the same time, and I already went to the American Association of School Librarians conference in November and plan on attending ALA Annual in June.
So why complain?
AASL and AISL compete for the same librarians. They are very different conferences, and in an ideal world, we could all go to both. From what I can uncover, in the 1980s the independent school librarians (from the Independent School Section of AASL) felt excluded from and ignored by  ALA and AASL. They felt as a group that their unique needs weren't being met, and in particular, conferences had little relevance. They started AISL, with a yearly conference just about our issues (please tell me if I am mistaken). Frankly, I would love to see the amazing and active librarian leaders from each group merge the conference into AASL/ISS - imagine the preconferences, the leverage, the support, the sessions, and the parties we could have if we were all at the same conference!

I love conferences, but I hate deciding which to attend each year. Considering library budgets, school budgets, staffing, and time away from the students and teachers (or your family), we need to look carefully at each conference and make some important decisions. I interviewed several librarians about their thoughts on which conferences they like best. Here is what I found - please comment if you have something to add!

Conference Breakdown:
AASL - every other year in the fall
  • Great networking with all types of school librarians (I met some of my library heroes there, like Buffy Hamilton and Joyce Valenza!)
  • Good exhibit floor with several vendors
  • ISS section always has some specialized sessions, a school tour, and a social. 
  • Great chance to meet many authors
  • Large selection of sessions and pre-conferences to attend
  • Casual alternative sessions in the "Blogger's Cafe" (new this past year)
  • Great first-timer conference, because there is so much to do and so much going on, a good overview of the profession
  • Too much about public school issues and programming
  • AASL is too big and sometimes has ignored ISS
  • Difficult to be involved in AASL if you don't know the right people (I'd disagree - they have been very welcoming)

AISL - every April
  • Small, one hotel, very intimate.
  • Sessions are often at the independent schools.
  • Lots of free time to network and enjoy each other
"[W]hen I went to my first AISL meeting I felt like I had come home.  It was just for librarians like me.  They had the same problems, they had the same kids, headmasters, faculty, you name it.  They had great ideas.  It was a wonderful networking opportunity.  It was great way to make really fine friends.  It was a way to get involved and work and see something done quickly without dealing with a bureaucracy.  They wanted something done, I did it.  Now I run the list and the website and work with the technology committee.  It's wonderful...If ... I had a new librarian and was advising them to go to only one conference, it would be AISL.  It is the only conference where independent school librarians gather for three full days to talk only about their libraries and network.  It's incredible.  I wouldn't miss it for the world."
 - CD McLean, Librarian, Berkeley Preparatory School, Tampa Florida
  • Few vendors
  • Few authors - but you really get a lot of time with the one or two who are there
  • Less session choice (although this year's session choices look really great)
  • Some newer librarians have complained that it can feel clique-y (AASL gets the same complaint, by the way!)
  • Too much free time to be social, not enough serious professional development
  •  Sessions are sometimes at a beginner level, need more advanced topics (although this year's sessions look more varied)
Internet Librarian/Internet@Schools - The west coast one (Monterey, CA) and the international one (London) are in the fall each year. East Coast  is in the spring.

I haven't been to this one yet, but I hope to attend this fall, because AASL is every other year.  Many people love this conference. The only complaint I have heard so far is that school librarians don't  like to be separated out into their own conference, but would rather be integrated into the regular conference. Attendees enjoy learning from all types of librarians.

ALA Annual - Every Summer
This is the big one. If you like lots of people, vendors, authors, and parties, this one is for you. Some independent school librarians feel lost at this conference; we come from such small communities. But others look forward to getting inspired at ALA, to network with the ISS group, to learn from other types of librarians (This is where I first heard of LibGuides two years ago), and meet authors (you can really get to know some, and hear others present). ALA has ISS sessions, school tours, and socials. It is less intimate and a bit overwhelming, but if you jump right in you can have an amazing professional development experience. Go to sessions about library design, technology, and issues concerning university librarians; all of which have information to bring back to our schools. And, since this is during summer, you do not have to miss school for it!

ALA Midwinter - every January
I haven't been to this one yet. I think it is mainly important for those wanting to do committee work, although I am hearing that for some committees you may not have to commit to going to this conference too, but can Skype in and electronically meet. More on that another time.

YALSA's Young Adult Literature Symposium - every other fall, alternating with AASL
This is a newer conference, and I haven't attended yet. It has a literature focus, and I hear that YALSA is very welcoming and fun to be a part of. Librarians who attended last time found it very valuable, and enjoyed the focused topic.

But There are MORE!
And what about state library conferences? Regional consortia professional development days? The School library Journal Leadership Summit? The International Association of School Librarians conference? And conferences that aren't just for librarians, like ISTE and CUE?  What about curriculum mapping conferences? One-to-one laptop program training conferences?
And what of NAIS,  the People of Color Conference, or other more school-wide issue conferences? Jump-starting creativity and promoting libraries are just two of the many reasons why we should be going to conferences outside of librarianship (read about it here and here!).

How can you balance the above with all the interesting library conferences? Add all this up, and mix in a bit of school retreats and field trips, and you could be gone from your library more than present.

How do you decide which conferences to go to, and how many? Do you have a favorite conference not listed here? What are your conference plans for 2010-2011, and why? Please share your ideas!

Monday, March 15, 2010

An Independent School Librarian Mover and Shaker!

Read all about it! Ernie Cox from St. Timothy's School in Raleigh, North  Carolina is a 2010 Library Journal Mover and Shaker!
 Last year I lamented the fact that no independent school librarians (or public school librarians) had won. I am proud to have Ernie represent us to the library world.  Congratulations, Ernie, and thanks for being a role model!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

LibGuides: Collaborative Aspects

So many of us now use LibGuides and love the ease, consistency, and clarity of them. But are we really using them to their potential as collaborative information sources? Most of the ones I have seen are being used as information dissemination portals, using the LibGuide as a platform for links to databases, books, and even videos. So much better than our paper or web pathfinders of earlier decades, but they are still a one-sided educational tool.

Are we really using LibGuides to their greatest "2.0" capabilities? Easy to use boxes can be added that allow for not only user ratings of links, but interactive polls, feedback boxes, and, most interesting and least used (as far as I can tell) user link submissions.

Some libraries use these boxes, but how can we get kids to participate?

Our 7th graders research the people and cultures of Middle Eastern countries in order to write a first person creative piece. Over the past few years we have built a Google Custom Search Engine for this project (I wrote about it before), and put it on the LibGuide.

I ask the students to participate in this endeavor by submitting links to the LibGuide for their friends to use. This has been relatively successful, and by that I mean maybe eight kids have submitted links this year so far. I might ask the teachers to make submitting links mandatory next year, to help us build a good database in the Google Custom Search Engine, but also to show the kids that we want to collaborate, that they often find great sites to use for research, and that their research is worth sharing.

When the students submit links, they are asked for their name and email as well as the title of the link and the url. I tell kids to only put their first name (privacy), and that the email address doesn't get posted. Then I receive an email telling me I can preview the link before I either reject or post it. This is helpful, so kids take it seriously and really only post worthy sites. It also lets me look at the sites they are finding so I can potentially help them if I see they are somewhere they might not really want to be. After I post the link, at a later date, I add the link to our custom search engine, to be used by others in later years. 

On other LibGuides, we ask the kids how they like the LibGuide, or which database is most useful via polls, but the voting is minimal.


I poked around a bit in LibGuides and I found that Juliet Kerico, librarian at Southern Illinois University's LoveJoy Library, has had some success with this type of collaboration with students.

Have you had any interesting collaboration experiences with students using these features? If so, how did you entice students to vote and participate?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blog Post about Using a Blog to Teach about Blogging. Wait, what?

Monday at the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) 2010 Southern Regional Meeting at Campbell Hall School, I presented about blogging using Blogger with Joon Kim, one of the educational technologists and computer science teacher at my school.

 After working together for over a decade, Joon and I started experimenting  with using tools for expression and collaboration with the students. Along with co-teaching a wiki enhanced research project to our 8th graders, we teach blogging to most of the tenth graders, and we co-sponsor a student life blog. It felt like a natural decision to do a presentation for CAIS together.

The presentation and hands-on session was called Blogging Inside and Outside the Classroom, and we presented from a fairly simple blog. Joon had the great idea of using pre-prepared articles which we posted onto the blog as we started talking about the topics, just to show how it all worked. We traded off speaking, and then co-taught the hands-on part so the approximately 25 attendees could have lots of individual instruction. The students can return to the blog to revisit the lesson.

Although we could have used another half-hour (it was already 90 minutes!), and I started rushing near the end and neglected one small part completely,  I think we got people off to a thoughtful and productive start. I enjoyed the way Joon and I collaborated, and I think it made us an even stronger team in the classroom for our students.  Presenting about blogging also prompted us to us reflect about our blogs and our teaching, which I suppose is one reason schools like teachers to present at conferences.
All in all, it was a great experience in collaboration, reflection, teaching, and blogging.  If you haven't yet tried presenting at a conference, try it out at a local conference to see if you like it. You may surprise yourself at what you learn.