Sunday, December 15, 2013

Diversity and Booklists
This fall as school started I was lucky to learn from an engaging speaker at a teacher inservice day. Alison Park  (her company is called Blink Consulting) spoke with our k-12 faculty about diversity at independent schools and it was a valuable day. I remembered learning from Ms. Park at a CAIS workshop a couple of  years ago and was excited to see her again. After her workshop, I subscribed to her blog, Rethinking Diversity. This is actually one of the few non-librarian blogs I read, and I wanted to share it with all of you, especially because her thoughtful latest post, Books for Middle Schoolers, and how relevant it is to our work.
Her blog posts are always clear, short, and thought provoking. In this post, Ms. Park  asks us to consider,
What’s wrong with using “diverse” as code for “minority”?
Read it, and let me know what you think. Will it change how you view, describe, or make booklists?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rules.. Yes, Rules.

Wow! This was an amazing start to year two as Head Librarian of a library where I have been for 17 years. I feel as though the high school curriculum I am going for is actually happening, the professional development I am giving is making a difference, and I am learning now what to improve.

Last year, so much was new. Our 1:1 iPad initiative, our library apps, our middle school librarian, a new look to our beloved NoodleTools, and some new library privileges. This year started much more easily.

Nothing was really new, except much to some faculty's dismay, I decided to allow eating in our library. Yes, eating. Last year I allowed drinks. The kids brought in their Gatorade, coffee, tea, and water, and nothing happened! The world was still OK. And the library was still tidy. So this year I allowed food. That's right! Bring in your hamburgers at lunch! Your sushi, chicken tenders, and granola bars. And still.. the world is fine, the kids are studying, the library is tidy enough, and the kids really appreciate it.

Studying in Starbucks by quatar, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  quatar 

Some people are aghast, but I just could not figure out why food wasn't allowed in our library. I even had one faculty member say under her breath, "well I guess it it just isn't a library anymore!" I assured everyone it is still a library and I wondered if her classroom has all the same rules she has had for 20+ years! Does she still teach the same way? I don't think so!

A very happy moment for me was last week when I watched 3 junior boys studying together at a table. Another boy walked in with bagels and cream cheese and drinks. They all quietly ate and studied and cleaned up without being asked. They do not take this new rule for granted, and they were able to get work done and eat quietly. And they are teenage boys!

Another new rule is about library noise. Our library is mostly one big room, and although we have silent "areas" the majority of the library gets very loud at lunch (even before we allowed food!). This year, thanks to advice from a couple of librarians on the amazing Association of Independent School Librarians listserv, we instituted Silent Tuesday Lunches, and after a survey of the students we added Thursdays. We allow very little whispering on those days, and so group study is difficult. But the kids who need to do independent work are thrilled, and just like the other days, the library is full of high schoolers at lunch.

The survey was quite informative and we learned that a slight majority of kids need silent space sometimes to work and they weren't finding it anywhere at lunchtime when everyone on our campus is free. Very few kids wanted the library silent all the time, and some even smartly pointed out that the silence will disrupt the exchange of ideas. But so many kids were happy to have a silent place just a couple times per week, that we are happy to oblige.

One new rule seems too permissive to some, and one new rule seems to strict for some. I believe that while working with small communities we should be concerned with caring for everyone and making rules that make sense. Our rules need to show we care. Our rules should matter.

I visited another school library recently that had many rules posted: cell phone free zone, no eating, you must reserve this room, do not lock this room, etc. I wondered how those rules came to be and if my students would follow them.

I believe I gained respect by listening to the students and pondering what they need from our library. It is their space, after all. My students may tease me about teaching too much NoodleTools (do you get that?) or about being geekily excited about books, but they do not tease me about the rules and comfort they have in our library. In fact, the library is the favorite place to be of many of our students when they have free time on campus. Friendly and understanding are words I like them to use to describe the librarians and our policies.

Have you critically considered some of your rules recently? Do they have meaning? It is good practice to revisit them once in a while and see if they are all still needed.

Monday, September 23, 2013

23 Things: Pinterest

Some people love it, some don't, but here is how I feel about Pinterest. I'm conflicted, a wannabe, a lapsed user.
I want to use it for non-librarian related things. I have librarians in my twitter, facebook, and feedly. So to avoid information overload and overlap, I'm saving Pinterest to be about activities to do with my kids, recipes, garden ideas (one board I hope to keep up is about recipes using food from my garden - I have to add Jon's habanero salsa to it - YUM), inexpensive but tasty wine, ideas for my home, etc. I am busy creating boards, but I am not really attached to anyone in particular to follow yet. I started following some cooking magazines that might give me good dinner ideas for my family.

Pinterest was really helpful while I was planning my son's Bar Mitzvah, which was on Cinco de Mayo (2011), I made a planning board for that, and the visual page was excellent for me when organizing the color theme and a general look for the party. Other boards I haven't kept up well, but I am going to try to remember it.
I had started using Evernote to keep track of some images and products for my home that I wanted to remember, but Pinterest is better for displaying images so I should be using it instead. Evernote is just so easy because I can take pictures from my devices within Evernote of things I like, and not have to find them online at all!

So many tools overlap - I like to pick one or two and go for it, but then I feel like I am ignoring other tools that people love and I don't want to be out of the loop! I feel a bit out of the loop with Pinterest so I am glad to have a nudge to give it another try.

Note to Readers: I am exploring my 23 Things course on my blog. Some updates will be my learning and some will be my observing of other's approach to the course.

23 Things: Twitter

This is my post for Thing 3 in the class I am teaching with Yapha Mason, Jessica James, Pam Horrocks and 2 more fabulous ed tech people from our school. Yapha wrote a concise, humorous, and fabulous twitter introduction and assignment and this is our homework:
Write a post on your new blog about some of the people you choose to follow. What are their Twitter handles? Why did you choose to follow them? Please list some interesting things that you learned for them. If you have a themed blog, you can list ones that match your theme

Well, since I have been tweeting for over 5 years (!), I think I will keep participating. I am off and on with twitter, getting into it, then pulling back when I am really busy in other areas of my life or just need a break.

I loved looking back on my information using Twopcharts.

A few tweeters who have influenced me, taught me, and inspired me over the years stand out in my twitter journey.

@DavidLeeKing - introduced me to social media five years ago, and whether he knows it or not, he was a huge influence in my social media and library life. His public library work is community-building and it spoke to me.

@Buffyjhamilton - Soon after finding David, I found Buffy and she quickly became my mentor and friend. Meeting her offline was like meeting a superstar, but as a leader in school libraries, she really articulated (and still does)where I wanted to go in the field of school librarianship. She blends the personal, political, and innovation, making her twitter stream a "must read." I found many of the people I now follow through her. And, she is a lot of fun!

@michellesfromme@Davewee1 , and @annalynnmartino are independent school librarian friends in Southern California who have twitter conversations with me regularly. We share information and jokes  and it has just been a fun part of twitter for me for the past few years! And they all have such great advice and ideas!!!

Recently I have started following the #tlchat conversation in twitter. Sometimes I just check into that hashtag and see what people are talking about. Today they are talking a bit about weeding collections and banned books week, which starts today.

Also, @bwslibrary has been on twitter since 2010, and I use hootsuite, a social media dashboard, to keep track of my accounts. If you have multiple accounts, what tool do you use to organize it all?

Note to Readers: I am exploring my 23 Things course on my blog. Some updates will be my learning and some will be my observing of other's approach to the course.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Makerbreak Update

The #makerbreak is going well. These two weeks were all about Lego. I brought in my son's huge bin of old Lego, and the upper school boys were so happy. One 11th grader gave me a hug for bringing in Lego and requested other games like Risk (which I immediately bought along with some other games including Loteria, Quirkle, and more). Some girls are building, but the boys are much more interested. Some have taken pictures, but haven't posted them to Instagram @bwslibrary or our twitter. They may be having trouble getting used to that aspect of our low key maker space. Next week I am putting out 5 magnetic poetry kits and offering up some apps that simulate the same thing.

I think by next year, maybe sooner, we might be able to do some electronics or more typically "maker" activities. We are building the space as a zone for creativity and building, and if I can prove that kids would be interested, maybe I can get the right people involved and some small financial backing, and a maker space could evolve in the library. That is a goal of mine, but I think baby steps are just fine for my school and staff. I want to build up the idea with care and interest from the students.

I am also planning our first Friday lunch expert class. We have a fabulous teacher who makes elaborate balloon creations, and he has agreed to teach a class on making balloon animals in the library one day at lunch. The kids will love it - and it might be the first in a series of faculty teaching a craft or skill to the kids in an informal setting in the library. As I am reflecting on it, I am reminded of activities I did as a public librarian, and i thing this would fit in there too.

Do you have a makerspace? Have any ideas for mine?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

23 Things: So Far, So Fun

This week is the kick off for our 23 Things program. 23 Things is an online professional development training course about web 2.0 tools. The 3 librarians and 3 educational technologists from our k-12 school teamed up to create a 10 week 23 Things course that we tailored to our community and the online resources we use at our school as well as other free resources worth playing with. So far we have 52 people signed up - teachers, administrators, staff, and maintenance workers. This week is dedicated to getting everyone into our Schoology (our classroom management system)  course and introducing themselves. People are making friends and connections already by commenting on each others' short introductions which include our roles at the schools, a fun fact, and favorite cookie. I have learned a lot just by the favorite cookie answers, which was a surprise!
Our school is on two campuses so sometimes we don't know many of our colleagues. I am hoping that this course, along with teaching new skills and giving time to play on line, will also bring our community closer together.

The six leaders of the 23 Things course have been collaborating for several months while we decided what 23 Things to teach, who wanted to take which things and write those lessons, and now how to organize looking after, or mentoring, a surprising 52 participants. We have decided to randomly split up the list, each taking 8-9 participants to shepherd through the course. We will check in on them, make sure they are completing the courses, and give them comments on their blogs.

One of the fun ideas that came up in a planning meeting in June was to style each short lesson as a dinner party. So, each lesson has a particular format:
SET THE TABLE: This is where you get a background for a Thing.
MAIN COURSE: Thing lesson.
 SIDE DISHES : A few links and more information related to the Thing. 
BRING YOUR DISH TO THE TABLE: A detailed activity for you to do, so you get experience with the Thing (often involving creating an account or making a blog post).
KICK IT UP A NOTCH: This is like extra credit for go getters. If you want to do more with the Thing, do this optional activity. 
DESSERT: Reflection, usually a discussion in Schoology (this will be located in a discussion thread that is in the same week's folder as the Thing).

Week One, Thing One, is making a Blogger blog to be used as a platform for many of our exercises. I am going to use this blog as my 23 Things Blog, so I can comment on our lessons and reflect on how the course is going. So, if you are instituting something like this at your school, stay tuned! I will write about many of the things and do the lesson exercises here, while also reflecting on the process of leading this type of professional development.

During this time I will also continue with the Maker Break program we are doing. We have Legos out this week, and some upper schoolers seemed interested but nothing too fabulous has happened so far. We had more success with origami, where we had specific things for them to make. See pictures and notes on twitter or instagram (bwslibrary).

Have you run or participated in a 23 Things course? Have any tips for us? Thanks!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Give Yourself a #makerbreak

Today we prepared for our new library program, Maker Break. We introduced it in the back to school student weekly calendar, and put up signs physically and then virtually in our @bwslibrary twitter stream.
I also posted the following description on the Library page of the school's website:

Give Yourself a Maker Break
Libraries foster finding information and creating something new from that information. If we extend our thinking of libraries from housing books to making all types of information easily accessible, we see that we can use videos, works of art, and even tweets for information, evaluate that information, and build upon it. Satisfying intellectual curiosity and creativity doesn't always have to happen in the classroom. Often that spark happens elsewhere.

Introducing Maker Break, a table in the library where you can learn new small skills - in the time of a lunch period or half a free track. Relieve some stress, have fun with others, and create something new. Maybe you will be inspired to take these skills and expand them to something else. Maybe you will just feel good for having spent 20 minutes not thinking of school. Maybe you need an alternative to video games to clear your head. Whatever the reason, come to Maker Break for a little dose of fun, sometimes old-fashioned, sometimes high tech, sometimes crafty, sometimes literary. But always with potential for creativity and learning.

Want to know what is happening with Maker Break? follow @bwslibrary on twitter or bwslibrary on instagram, where we are hoping people will post photos or short videos of their work, #makerbreak.

Week #1 is Origami. We are putting out instructions for making some beginner to intermediate origami, including our school mascot, an eagle. We also have paper to fold, and instructions on how to share their creations with the school community. We are excited to have the kids write poetry some weeks, make stop motion with lego, and do other small, inexpensive, put fun "maker" activities, without the 3-D printer. We are trying to get our kids from just hanging out to messing around...maybe someday to geeking out. I'll keep you posted!

What maker activities are you doing at your library this year? Do you have any new programming? 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer Professional Development Part Two: ISLE Retreat

One week after attending NAMLE, I attended another professional development weekend. The Independent School Library Exchange (a Southern California consortium) held a weekend retreat at the gorgeous Thacher School in Ojai.

The librarians at Thacher have wanted to host a retreat for the ISLE group for many years, and finally it happened - and I hope it happens again. The ISLE Board met the first evening, and sat outside with a view of the mountains as we discussed consortium agenda items such as dues, attracting new schools, what to do when a school doesn't pay, the pros and cons of the Ning that we use to communicate and host documents, and we started to discuss what goals we should have for the upcoming year. As a group, we usually meet twice a year, but there usually isn't time for pondering and long discussions, which we finally had time to do.

Saturday morning more librarians came, bringing our total to about 20. Saturday and Sunday we had carefully selected sessions and roundtables on favorite books, professional publishing, LibGuides, book repair, integrating library/information/research skills, and maker spaces. Past Thacher librarian and ISLE member Elizabeth Bowman, now from Santa Barbara City College,  presented about information literacy on the college level, entertaining and informing us, and delivering great ideas.

Our hosts fed us well, and made sure we had time to share more informally during free time. We had time to swim, surprise each other on the high diving board, hike, have dinner in the town, and generally learn from each other and collaborate on new ideas for our schools. I got to know librarians who I had only met at brief meetings in the past, and i am so thankful for the opportunity to do so. Building these relationships will only benefit our school libraries and our work in the future.

I even got to take an early morning run with my fabulous co-worker.
This small and relaxing retreat was extremely beneficial, local, and inexpensive. The complete focus on independent schools was extremely valuable. I hope we can make it a tradition and that more ISLE librarians can take part in it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Professional Development Part One: NAMLE

I had two great new professional development experiences this summer, so in chronological order..

Instead of going to ALA or ISTE this summer, I joined NAMLE, the National Association for Media Literacy Education, and attended their  conference in Torrance, California. I thought it looked interesting, and it was only a 25 minute drive from home, so why not go?
I am glad I tried something new because I learned so much about a diverse group of people who care about media literacy, why they care, and what they are doing about it. NAMLE is a very helpful organization with a ton of quality resources. It was a small conference all in one hotel, and it was packed with interactive sessions, conversations, keynotes, and connections. Attendees were college professors and students of media literacy, producers of systems of teaching media literacy, makers of media in a variety of formats, teachers, researchers, and more.  I was a bit disappointed that I didn't find very many librarians there, because I think we really care quite a lot about media literacy, but I did meet a few (including Rutgers assistant professor Rebecca Reynolds and fabulous high-tech children's librarian Cen Campbell).  Aren't we school librarians often the ones on campus teaching elements of media literacy? Don't you teach (or at least try to get in the curriculum!) about copyright, evaluating information, visual literacy, digital citizenship, and how to be skeptical about information in all formats?
Here is an overview of my conference experience:

Keynote #1:
I have a new Jewish heroine and she is Tiffany Shlain. She spoke about how she makes cloud movies, how to make change through film, how she is helping nonprofits make videos, and she shared her family's unplugged Shabbats, even though this is her medium for her work and creativity! Her site is Here is her keynote presentation:

Keynote #2:
Jim Berk, CEO of Participant Media, was the other keynote, and he was also inspiring and full of information I can bring back to school.  I am very excited about  in particular. And I love the movies made by Participant Media so I am glad to know more about the company.

The sessions I attended were interesting and worth while as well. Here is a sampling:

I heard about three fabulous girl-led activism organizations involved with media, from Dana Edell, Executive Director of SPARK Movement, Jennifer Berger, Executive Director of About Face
and Dana Hernandez from the  Training Institute for Hardy Girls Healthy Women. These women and their organizations will be great resources for me to inspire the girls I work with and with a new class I am teaching second semester about using social media for social good.

I learned from Chris Sperry about Project LookSharp and how to use constructivist media decoding in classes. This type of conversation with a group of students takes practice, and I hope to start practicing in the fall!

Bonnie Nishihara (technology director) and Joe Harvey (head of school) from Saint Mark's School, an independent school in California, and Cyndy Scheibe (from Project LookSharp)  gave a great overview of how they made media literacy a priority and have integrated it into their K-8 curriculum purposefully and successfully.

Near the closing of the conference, Renee Hobbs led us in an exercise to define what the term media literacy means to all of us. Using brainstorming, collaborating, and hundreds of post it notes, the group came up with lots of ideas. I would love to try to re-create this exercise with school librarians someday.

I think the next NAMLE conference will be in the Spring of 2015 - I hope to see you there! School librarians need to attend this conference to show what we are teaching about media literacy, and to learn what others outside of librarianship are doing. Web/information evaluation, digital citizenship, decoding images, copyright and Creative Commons - it is all a part of it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Independent School Magazine: The New School Library

So many people, even at our own schools, don't really know what we do. In this article we tried to help non-librarians at Independent schools form more current views of school librarianship and understand how librarianship and school libraries have evolved into the school centers they are today.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pondering E-books, Memory, and Moonwalking
Found on

I am fascinated by the recent articles about relating current brain research and reading e-books, like this article from Scientific American by Ferris Jabr, who writes the following:
Beyond treating individual letters as physical objects, the human brain may also perceive a text in its entirety as a kind of physical landscape. When we read, we construct a mental representation of the text in which meaning is anchored to structure. The exact nature of such representations remains unclear, but they are likely similar to the mental maps we create of terrain—such as mountains and trails—and of man-made physical spaces, such as apartments and offices. Both anecdotally and in published studies, people report that when trying to locate a particular piece of written information they often remember where in the text it appeared. We might recall that we passed the red farmhouse near the start of the trail before we started climbing uphill through the forest; in a similar way, we remember that we read about Mr. Darcy rebuffing Elizabeth Bennett on the bottom of the left-hand page in one of the earlier chapters.
In most cases, paper books have more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open paperback presents a reader with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page of a paper book without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the book begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a paper book is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail—there's a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has traveled. All these features not only make text in a paper book easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text. 
The article is much longer and points to other areas where e-reading is often less desirable than reading the printed page, but this area stuck me the most.
During Thanksgiving weekend of 2011, I read Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. I often marvel at those people with fabulous memories and I wonder how they do it. How do you memorize so many numbers of Pi? How do you memorize cards during card tricks and gambling? One technique that Foer shares from the centuries of memory masters  (he calls contemporary ones mental athletes) is that they visualize a home or a building they know really well and place their memories in locations in the house (or memory palace). Then, they can tour through the house and have this mental map, which gives context to the details they are memorizing. Sometimes instead of a home, mental athletes will image something else, a streetmap they know well, or the human body, "so long as there is some sense of order that links one locus to the next, and so long as they are intimately familiar" (97). One person could have many memory palaces, one for each thing being remembered.

This type of memorization technique must be somehow related to the "mental maps" above that Jabr writes about in Scientific American. Perhaps the physical space of a book naturally helps our brains remember the stories better. Thinking of a book as a structure, or memory palace, and knowing where events happen, and what details occur on what page, probably helps with remembering and context. I wonder if the memory masters Foer writes about prefer e-books or print books for learning.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Teaching Citing: The Importance of Individual Attention

This month I spent a lot of time assessing some of what I teach the kids. I haven't done a lot of this in the past, and I am seeing the the fruits of my labor now. Believe me, it has been a lot of new work. But it is so worth it! Here is an overview:

 A teacher asked me to grade some of her works cited sheets from her seniors, and while grading I realized we were failing in how we were trying to teach them how to cite using NoodleTools. Maybe failing is too strong a word.. Some students did well, some didn't, either because they didn't put in the effort, or they didn't know how. They also didn't know I'd be grading it, so senioritis could be part of the problem.

In response, I changed tactics this year with how I teach citing to 9th graders. It is now much more individual in approach. As we embarked on our third project of the year, I did show them briefly how to cite reprinted articles - the last new piece of citing we do as a group. But instead of spending a lot of time on it, I made some quick citing videos: What is a Reprint and How to Cite it, and How to Cite from Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Then, as I did in two other projects this year, I gave them individual feedback online in NoodleTools to their working bibliographies.  I told them if their sites weren't academic, I told them if they didn't understand how to cite the items. I gave them feedback online, and met with several individually either on their free time or in class "workshops" where they could work at their own pace and ask either me or their teacher for help. Then I had them turn in a paper works cited to me and I graded the 120 works cited lists using a rubric which included citing skills from our few years together.

The kids enjoyed this new approach and individualized instruction. Who wants to listen to a lesson about citing or do citations in the abstract? They need to know it when they need it, and I need to be there for them. They have to know when to ask for help - and what to ask. I got to know many of them much better, and I feel like they trust me and know I care about them. They know citing is not exciting, but they also know it is one of my responsibilities to help them understand why and how  to do it. I am excited to see how their skills last as they continue in the upper school. Will their lists of Works Cited be as dismal as the ones I graded from our seniors? Or will this new "worshop" approach work better for them?

I am also in the midst of grading 10th grade blogs. Each 10th grader made blogs during a UN Simulation activity, and I am part of the grading team. I just make sure they are citing quality sources and using proper Creative Commons images on their blogs, with appropriate captions. The tenth graders with more research and Creative Commons experience are doing better than the others, demonstrating that practicing information literacy and digital ethics helps you over time.

An interesting side observation:
The most important part of citing is knowing what you are looking at and trying to cite. For the first time this year I had several students think they had the paper copy of a newspaper article for example, because they had printed it out. So they chose print, when actually they were citing a database newspaper article. Interesting.. I long for the day when none of this will matter anymore.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Library Sleepover!

A recent Friday night was our 11th annual Upper School Library Sleepover. Originally started by students, I was ready to let this tradition retire with the previous librarian, who retired last year and chaperoned and organized this event for a decade. The students who thought of it as a Brentwood School tradition, however, demanded we do it again, and I am so glad we did! As soon as I advertised the event one time at assembly, it was full, with over 20 students wanting to attend. Members of the Student Library Advisory Council (SLAC-ers) decided we would read Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet and watch the BBC Sherlock version of the Sherlock Holmes novella. One senior created a role-play mystery game for us to solve, which we did at 1:00 AM. She creatively invented characters related to the novella, and gave us each clues on paper made to look old, complete with  wax seals. A tenth grader shared that the “library overnight was a great way to bond and meet new people ... My favorite part was when some people summarized the first half of the book by performing an interpretive dance version. Overall, I had a ton of fun, and I'm definitely excited for next year.” We set up our sleeping bags in front of the TV at around 1:30 AM and most of us were asleep by 3:00. It was a night of laughter, acting, books, mystery, and new friends,  and we are glad to keep the tradition going for another decade.

So many of our kids excel at sports or drama, where they get to have parties - end of season parties or cast parties - with their peers who have similar interests. I was honored to have a party for the students who love to celebrate stories, and I was happy to bring them together. Our foreign exchange student from China came too, and it was so fun for her to enjoy the craziness of the teens being up most of the night. Next year I think we are going to read excerpts from Pride and Prejudice and watch the Lizzie Bennet Diaries - we supported the Kickstarter project and bought the DVD already!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

9th Graders Prefer Print Books

I work in a 1:1 iPad environment. All of our 9-12 grade students have iPads. I have slowly been collecting a fiction and pleasure reading e-book library with Baker and Taylor's Axis 360. Currently my Magic Wall has about 120 books.

This semester's 9th grade students in Human Development class  have a reading assignment.  They are going to read a fiction young adult novel of their choice, as long as it has a human development-y theme (identity, sexuality, divorce, family issues, drugs, addiction, cutting, romance, teen pregnancy, etc). In a month or two we are going to have a book party with refreshments, where they will present creative interpretations of the books - slide shows, playlists, collage, painting, monologue - whatever they want to do to celebrate and share the book.

This week I have seen this as an opportunity to teach Axis360. I show them e-books in our collection to read  by Chris Crutcher,  David Levithan, and other important authors. I also have print books for the students to check out. Can you guess how many students decided to use the e-books? Answer: about three out of sixty.

The students use their iPads for so much: e-textbooks, assignments, games, everything. I thought this was a great opportunity to teach how to access our e-books, and the students checked out print books. With e-books nobody can see what you are reading, there are no real scary due dates, you won't lose the book, you can read it in the dark (on the iPad).

The teacher thought maybe they like having a print book because it becomes almost like a transitional object when they are getting really into the book. Was she comparing it to a comfort blanket? I think so, and I love the comparison! The kids are attached to the book. They don't want the book for fun to be attached to their other stressful school work, perhaps. I understand that too. 

Providing e-books for this population isn't really taking off the way I had expected. But I am a bit delighted with their attachment to the print book. 

Coming up next: The Library Overnight - will the 20 students attending want to read the free e-book book on their iPads, or do they want the print book? Find out in the next post! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

6 Word Story Contest

I have been looking for ways to make the library a hub for a growing community of writers at Brentwood School, so on the heels of NaNoWriMo, and before the yearly spring short story contest, I was ready for another writing incentive.

The idea for this contest came from Kate Hammond, librarian at Perkiomen School, who sent out her idea for a multi-school 6 word story contest via the listserv for AISL, the Association of Independent School Librarians. I responded, and the 6 Word Story Contest was born. Brentwood School community members competed against each other, with 223 entries, submitted via a Google form embedded on the library blog. A committee from Perkiomen School judged our entries as we judged theirs. The students who participated eagerly awaited the results.

The winners from both schools were announced on twitter a couple of weeks ago. The librarians enjoyed slowly tweeting out all the winners, @bwslibrary tweeted the Perkiomen School winners, and @perklibrarian tweeted the Brentwood School winners.

We had 3 faculty winners, 3 middle school winners, and 5 upper school winners from each school. The results were tweeted (see the twitter stream here). I look forward to holding this contest again next year!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Adventures with E-books, Part 2: The Positives

After several research projects this year (as you can see from our LibGuides), I am in a much better place to review the e-book platforms we have chosen to play with this year. I am reviewing them from the perspective of the upper school (9th-12th grade) that is in its first year of 1:1 iPads.

The Gale Virtual Reference Library is still a favorite for specialized encyclopedias. E-book reference is really the way to go, and if your reference collection isn't migrating online, it really should be. We also have some ABC CLIO ebooks and I am thinking of adding more, since their databases are also quite popular for introductory research at our school. Our upper schoolers now use the GVRL via the easy to use Gale iPad app, Access My Library. The students download articles as PDF's and highlight and annotate using PDF Expert. GVRL is also popular because the students can copy and paste the citations into NoodleTools.

Ebrary has  really caught on with our upper schoolers because of the scholarly content and fabulous keyword searching. Once the students see how they can use a massive library instantly (78,000 books and growing!), with easy bookmarking,  downloading, highlighting, keyword searching, and an iPad app to read the books offline, they are very happy. The teachers are impressed by the ease of access to quality information. [Update to my previous post, the copying and pasting from the app works beautifully into Evernote and the NoodleTools notecards.] The students also seem happy with the idea of reading the books offline via the app, but I don't know how many have done so. I have to review my ebrary usage statistics - but who has time? I know they are using it - I see them in the library. I will look it over when research season is over. Currently the 10th and 11th graders are using it, and the seniors are about to start.

A couple of students have found e-books in ebrary that we actually cannot access.  I would like to try the Paton Driven Acquisition process soon. Although not officially on my selection policy, I try to buy most of what my community recommends - that day. Sometimes they are even delivered the following day (thank you, Amazon). Those books will at least get used! I'd like to do the same with nonfiction e-books, so that will be my next thing to learn with ebrary, the award winning product that is becoming a favorite (even after all my complaints on the previous post).

Axis 360 hasn't caught on quite as much, because  our kids really enjoy reading in print, as many Americans do. I think that if more popular titles were available, it would be more consistent and students would use it more. Also, since I am not using it for anything curricular, the students are not really forced to learn how to use it. I am saving it mostly for pleasure reading, and some students and faculty are enjoying it, but I'd like a larger affordable selection.

Stay tuned for more of our adventures with e-books, and let me know about your adventures!