Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Solve One Problem, Create Another

My students used to email me all the time for database passwords.  Even though I had them listed in our intranet, which was easily linked to our web page, many students seemed unable to deal with those steps. It was somehow easier to email me and wait for a response. That was fine for several years.

Then I found out about EZproxy, which allows the students to log into all the databases with their regular school user name and password! Voila, I thought, problem solved! no more emails!
It turns out I created a problem that might just be a stumbling block in getting the students to use the databases.

confused arrows
image: confused arrows by massdistraction 

When bookmarking the database articles (or saving/sharing  the URL in diigo, google docs, Word, NoodleTools, etc), if you save the permalink, durable link, bookmark, or whatever the database calls the link to go back to for the saved article, the bookmarked web address doesn't have the right prefix to the url that would give the students access from home. So, they have to put a prefix on the URL to get back to the article. I am not sure how many of my students are running into this problem, but I see it could happen more and more with all the collaborative GoogleDoc work going on at my school.
Now, all my LibGuides have this information:
Often you will want to save a link to an article in GoogleDocs or bookmark an article to DiigoEvernote, or another information organizer.You access our databases through EZproxy, which allows you to use your Brentwood School login. In order to save URLs or bookmarks for future use, please follow these instructions: 
1. In the database look for a link called Bookmark or Permalink. If the database offers these types of permanent links, those are best to use. Otherwise copy and paste the URL  (Gale and ProQuest have these special links to their pages. ABC Clio and SIRS do not). 
2. When accessing your saved links from home, put the following in front of your link:, a link to an Encyclopedia Britannica article would look like this: 
3. If you are having trouble, try opening the database first, and then click on your saved link. 
4. If you are still having trouble, contact Ms. Abarbanel for help.

Did I just create something even more complicated than teaching how to access the database passwords? Which is more complicated for 7-12 grades? And teaching the faculty how to link to an article is a whole other can of worms. I certainly can't teach it both ways. I have to pick a way and publicize it. Which is better? Do you use EZproxy? How do you deal with it? Am I missing something?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


On Saturday Penelope Trunk  (@penelopetrunk) tweeted the following:
 "Why are we quiet in libraries? Collaborative learning is loud. And if you read everywhere you go, you're used to reading in loud places." 

And I thought, are we really still having this conversation? She isn't a librarian, but that is how she sees libraries. And she usually thinks outside the box! So where does that leave us? Will we be allowed to transform? Libraries are changing in so many ways, but will public perception of libraries ever change? If not, the consequences are serious: more and more budget cuts, and the potential end of our institution.

So many institutions and professions are at a point of redefinition. Publishing, retail, design, architecture, education, religious institutions, everywhere we look times are changing. A fellow Independent School Librarian posted a conversation starter about coming together as a profession on the role of libraries, and referencing Clay Shirky he states, "[r]eporters and news organizations don't seem to have consensus about how this can be achieved and neither do libraries and librarians." Not only do we need to come together, we need to be loud about it! How can we reach non-librarians?

A big difficulty is helping people outside our professions (and used to the old ways) re-think the institutions. Some institutions are trying to change, but their reputations and old public perceptions are holding them back. Let's remember to let other institutions change as we work hard to change ours.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflections on a Season of Professional Development Part 2

Better Late than Never!

In October I joined over 3,000 librarians attending the American Association of School Librarians conference in Minneapolis. This was a much broader conference, and Steven Carr (the author if The Shallows) and Mimi Ito's ideas were almost pitted against each other. Their keynotes were the beginning and the end of the conference, respectively. I helped just a bit with the Learning Commons, an area where people gave more impromptu talks which were streamed live. For a couple of hours I acted as PR and host for this area, and I got to enjoy some of the presentations as well. I also watched the live streaming of Wendy Stephens' presentation from my hotel room as I rested one afternoon, which was great!

I attended several thought provoking sessions. Realizing  that everyone is in the same fuzzy space regarding ebooks, ipads, ereaders, and that we are all grappling with how to interpret copyright issues with regard to multimedia in schools, I am now more comfortable in that muddy space. Now I just am more clear about how we are in the middle of a state of change, and nobody has all the answers. I just have to decide how and when to dive in.

More satisfying were the sessions I chose to attend about teaching research and increasing true inquiry and scholarship.
  • I attended 4 hour pre-conference workshop on meaningful senior projects.  This session gave me a lot of ideas for new programs at my school.
  • I am inspired to use Stripling’s Method of Inquiry to engage learners and provide structure to the messy road of research - help the kids define the chaotic road by using the same method, 7-12. The Big 6 method used by our lower school doesn’t resonate with me, the Stripling method does.I am hoping I can find ways to incorporate it for next year.
  • I want to explore the notion of transliteracy - what does that mean for our students and our research curriculum.
  • I want to encourage MultiGenre artifacts as objects of creative synthesis of information in order to increase the opportunity for creativity at school.
  • I am more knowledgeable of current research on teenagers as Internet searchers, and have ideas on how to incorporate this research into my teaching.
  • I enjoyed Informal learning with friends and mentors who are leading the profession, and persuading me to continue my blog and to get involved in professional leadership through ALA, writing for professional publications again, or speaking/presenting at more conferences.
All in All, AASL was a real treat. I learned, engaged, enjoyed, and was inspired. This is a not-to-be-missed conference. Start planning for the next AASL in 2013 (November 11-13, 2013, Hartford, CT) now!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reflections on a Season of Professional Development, Part One

I was lucky to attend two very interesting yet very different professional development experiences this fall. Each had a different focus, and each has helped me think of the library and our curriculum in different ways.

Idea board, Cohort D
Image: Idea Board, Cohort D by dianecordell

ReImagine: Ed was a gathering of approximately 200 librarians, technology directors, and designers at The Lovett School in Atlanta and was focused on using the design process to  imagine the school library of the future.
This conference seemed to be more focused on the physical library as a learning space, and less about the teaching that happens in that space. I learned that we as a profession are well on our way to knowing where we want to go, but the harder next step is how to get there. For some issues, like seamless integration of ebooks, we need to muddle through this time of innovation and uncertainty in the ebook market. But when we think of the library as a space for curiosity and innovation, we need to start now by introducing the ideas to our communities. Like last year, I am focused on Mimi Ito’s work with the MacArthur Foundation and the YOUMedia lab in Chicago as a model we should try to develop for our school.

ReImagine Ed had some very talented leaders and “provocateurs,” and one of my favorites was Lee Van Ordsel, the Dean of University Libraries at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. She walked us through her inspiration and vision behind her university’s new main library, which is to be completed by May of 2013.  I enjoyed how she spoke about the different uses of space, and her metaphor of the library as a shopping mall was compelling.  In a shopping mall, everything is in one social space. “Nobody likes an empty mall,” Ms. Van Ordsel pointed out, so in her library the consumers get to choose what they do, they control the experience, but they also allow for serendipity.
The new library will almost all be for group study, (although there will be some nooks for individual study too) where students can essentially create a room wherever they want to. The space is flexible, blending intellectual and social. They will also provide knowledge market kiosks, no appointments necessary, including a writing center, speech center, I.T. help desk, and research center, all run by student peers.
I enjoyed hearing about this vision and extracting how it might work at my school. My students still need a quiet zone - our many study carrels are very popular, but the other ideas could be redesigned for a small independent school like mine.

After listening to Buffy Hamilton speak powerfully about Enchantment and Bud Hunt talk passionately about the importance of school libraries as a safe space (virtual and physical),  I came away with ideas on how to make the library a meaningful place in the lives of our students by being a place where students are safe to be themselves, safe to try and fail, and safe to be creative and make connections. I enjoyed brainstorming library metaphors and learning how libraries can fit into different models.

All in all, ReImagine Ed was a unique, enjoyable, and difficult conference. Grouping professionals with different backgrounds and different ideas of libraries together to work collaboratively had its ups and downs, as did some of the structure of the conference. But it was a good and challenging experience, and I learned a lot about the design process, libraries, librarians, and myself. For more of what my group ended up with, see Diane Cordell's blogpost about Cohort D.

Stay tuned for Part Two: AASL

Friday, October 28, 2011

What do Synagogues and Libraries have in Common?

Is the following quotation from library literature or synagoge literature?

My model of a good XXX [is] multiple gateways to engagement.

A year ago I was asked to be on a leadership training committee at my synagogue. At these monthly meetings I learn about the synagogue and it's role in Jewish Los Angeles and the Reform Movement as a whole. In June, our group was asked to read Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary, and one of the authors, Isa Aron, came to speak with us. I haven't stopped thinking of the parallels between the 21st century journeys of two institutions, the library and the Reform Jewish synagogue. I wonder how comparing the issues and solutions might help us both. I wonder if other institutions, religious or otherwise, have similar challenges.


Library (especially public): How do we keep families involved after the toddlers grow up?
Synagogue: How do we keep families involved after preschool?
Library: If students are reading more online, getting their information online, how do we keep the teenagers involved in the life of the Library?
Synagogue: If students can now do their Bar Mitzvah preparation via Skype, how do we keep the teenagers involved in Temple life?
Library: Many exciting activities are competing for the time and interests of students today. How do we make our resources available, relevant, and essential?
Synagogue: Many exciting activities are competing for the time and interests of students today. How do we make our resources available, relevant, and essential?
Library: How can we promote lifelong learning through the library?
Synagoge: How can we promote lifelong learning through the Synagogue?

How do we promote the importance of the sense of community found in both institutions? How can our institutions learn from each other? How do we blend and balance the virtual and the physical? 

We learn so much from going outside of our profession to gain insights from others which we can adapt for libraries (remember Good to Great?). Our school library leaders, like Buffy Hamilton, adapt foundational ideas from marketers and innovators like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki, and transform these ideas for libraries. Hamilton's Pivot Points for Change (inspired by Seth Godin's post Pivot's for Change), and Participatory Librarianship: Creating Enchantment and Conversations for Learning (inspired by Guy Kawasaki's book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions) could both be adapted to inspire synagogue leaders.  Professionals at both institutions talk a lot about participation, collaboration, creating community, branding, access points, being where the users are, creating experiences. What can we learn from the Jewish Reform Movement?

I am much less knowledgeable about the conversations and discussions of the Jewish leaders on these issues. But here is what I have found by reading Sacred Strategies:

The synagogues and libraries are using the same lingo!

The authors differentiate between functional and visionary congregations. Functional ones are "those that may excel at performing discrete functions...but tend to fall short of genuinely achieving an integrated sense of sacred community," (Aron 15) and they are characterized by:
  • Consumerist purpose
  • Segmentation in programming
  • Passivity
  • Meaninglessness ("failure to excite, provoke, mobilize, or inspire congregants")
  • Resistance to change
  • Nonreflective leadership
 The authors then identify six characteristics of visionary congregations:
  • Sacred purpose: a pervasive and shared vision infuses all aspects of the synagogue
  • Holistic ethos: the parts are related to each other, such that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
  • Participatory culture on all levels: congregants, lay leaders, professionals, and family members of all ages engage in the work of creating sacred community
  • Meaningful engagement achieved through inspirational experiences
  • Innovation disposition marked by a search for diversity and alternatives and a high tolerance for possible failure
  • Reflective leadership and governance
Perhaps we can use some sacred strategies to reveal the characteristics that could move libraries from purely functional to visionary. These six make such a good starting point, I don't think they even need to be adapted.

What would you add?

The quote at the top of this post is from: Sacred Strategies, pg 4.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

iPad Disappointment

I love my iPad, and I love reading on the kindle. I feel I have to make those statements because now I have to complain about an ebook, and I don't want anyone to think I am not on the ebook bandwagon. I am - I love ebooks.

Recently I re-read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book is on my top 10 books list- I LOVE it and I was excited to read it again (I needed to read it before the movie comes out). I downloaded it to my iPad using iBooks and then I began to read.

Here is what I learned: ebooks are not great for books that play with the page, put just a few words on a page, and sometimes have pictures. So much of the beauty of this book is told through white space and black and white photos, and in the iBooks edition, the white space was gone and the photos were cut in half.
Is this a particularly bad ebook edition?  Have you had a similar experience?
Which  books  should be either more carefully transferred or just read as  print books?
Please share your experiences.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Last Night I Sang to the Monster

"Some people have dogs. Not me. I have a therapist. His name is Adam.
     I'd rather have a dog."

Each year before spring break the 9th grade human development class comes to the library to check out fiction books on serious topics they cover in human development class. I set aside books about addiction, divorce, sexual identity, racial identity, eating disorders, etc, and the students can choose whatever they want to read about. This year the kids will make book trailers for their choices.

I try to read some new books for this project each year, and I just finished a fabulous one: Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Zach is 18, an alcoholic,  and in rehab.  He slowly remembers what brought him to this place - his family. Each of his family members has a part to play in his abusive childhood, but it takes him the whole book to remember the incident that actually brought him to rehab.

With the help of kind Adam, his therapist, Rafael, a father-like figure to him who is also a patient, and the other "clients" at the facility, Zach finds his voice and his will to live. A sad novel with hope at the end, readers will admire Zach's will to get better.
Zach believes that God predicts your temperament in life. He says, “I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes happy and on some people’s hearts he writes sad and on some people’s hearts he writes crazy and on some people’s hearts he writes genius and on some people’s hearts he writes angry and on some people’s hearts he writes winner and on some people’s hearts he writes loser… And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. And when it came to my turn, he wrote sad.” (pg. 11)
Zach is a great main character, full of warmth and insight, and I recommend getting to know him.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ignited by DML

This week I was lucky to attend the Digital Media and Learning conference in Long Beach, California, only a thirty minute drive from where I live. According to the website,

The Digital Media and Learning Conference is an annual event supported by the MacArthur Foundation and organized by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at University of California, Irvine. The conference is meant to be an inclusive, international and annual gathering of scholars and practitioners in the field, focused on fostering interdisciplinary and participatory dialog and linking theory, empirical study, policy, and practice.
The smallish conference attracted people interested in sharing current research and innovation connected to online experiences and learning. There were four tracks (Digital Media and Learning, Emerging Platforms and Policies, New Collectives, and Youth, Digital Media and Empowerment), and people floated between tracks quite easily. Browse the almost 100 page conference program to get a sense of the discourse and the amazing presenters.

I was excited to learn about digital learning from a perspective other than the librarian perspective, I was interested to learn about trends we could see in librarianship in the coming years, and I wanted some help with a new part of my school life (next year I am probably gong to co-teach a class with one of our educational technology specialists about using social media for social justice. Several workshops and sessions focused on aspects of this theme, which made me realize we were on the right track by proposing the class.).

Inspired by the workshops, sessions, ignite talks, and exhibits, I took more notes at this conference than most others I have attended. Here are some recurring themes related to school librarianship :

Now that we have our 2.0 skills down, get ready for another change. Many people spoke of the importance of teaching a deeper understanding of the technology in regard to trouble shooting, and understanding that you are in control of your digital experience - if you don't like something you can change it. Our next skill set? Hacking. Remember thinking we didn't really need to know too much html because so many tools do it for you? Well, maybe we do need to know the code.
Look at hackasaurus and find out about their Hack Jams.

People like incentives. Make your social justice campaign or even your portfolio, a game with badges, and people will respond. Yes, badges - online versions of those earned by Boy and Girl Scouts across America. Maybe we should make badges for reading clubs, or badges for new research expertise? Proud you learned how to make a QR code? Now try making a badge - people didn't talk about QR codes at all at the sessions I attended.
Look at the P2PU wiki about their badge program.

Finding time to play and innovate is particularly hard at institutions like schools - but can it be done? How can we make the down time when the students appear to be wasting time on Facebook a more playful and productive time?
Look at YOU Media and think about how we can bring some of this innovation to our libraries.

Participatory media is growing up - but in what ways? How can it be used effectively for civic engagement? What prompts people to participate in online social action? Will games make youth want to use digital media for social justice? Can the games be designed with the values of the community inherent in the design? Why do people get involved in writing entries for Wikipedia? Is that civic engagement?
Look at Nuf Said. Are you inspired?

Next year DML will be in San Francisco.  Want to join me?