Thursday, October 1, 2015

BRiMS Shares Lunchtime with Author, Jen Calonita

Early this past summer, I received an email from Sourcebooks publishers explaining a new skype with an author program that the publisher had just started. The thirty minute skype visits would be free as long as you ordered a certain number of books written by that author. I think that I had to spend $50 on books for a group of 30 to attend the skype, and you can spend less if the group is smaller.They have some guidelines set that are easy to meet. I have done many author skypes over the years and never had to pay for them. Since I wanted the students to read the books of these authors anyway, I figured that purchasing a set of books from the publisher at a discount was really a good deal. I immediately set up a skype for the middle school book group, and once done, I selected an author for the high school book group also. The list of authors is so long that I am sure you can find one that fits the age group that you teach. 

On the last Wednesday of every month the 6th and 7th grade book group called BRiMS (Books Rule in Middle School) meets in the library during lunch to eat and talk books. This month the students were asked to read Flunked by Jen Calonita. For our meeting we connected with the author via skype. If the students weren't fans at the beginning of the half hour chat, they were at the end. You can read more about this visit on the library website here.

Thank you Jen for a terrific chat. You made our monthly meeting for BRiMS truly awesome. Thank you Sourcebooks for helping us make it happen. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Need this Blog to Jog my Memory and Poor Bandwidth

As I was getting ready to plan for the teaching of the research process to our 6th grade students, I remembered that I had changed my game plan last year. Since my brain has been aging, it is harder for me to know what I did last week much less how I taught something last year. I did remember that I had written a detailed account of what I did with this lesson on this blog. So I conducted a search to find the post, and you can read about it here. By reading my blog entry from last year, I saw that we had deconstructed the research process to start with the bibliography. The teachers and I decided to get that out of the way first.

Before the day of the lesson, I reviewed my slide show that you can see below. I did some editing and took out tasks that I thought weren't necessary and added some slides at the end to be more specific about explaining how to create a word document out of the bibliography that was created in Easy.bib. I have found that I never redo a lesson exactly as I did it the year before. I always try to reflect on how it went and try to make improvements for the students. Also, in a year's time the technology could change, and I have to change my game plan accordingly.

6th grade ELA Easybib project for Flush from Taylorlibrarian

I love using the technology to create and share a lesson because then it is saved for future use, but I can also easily update and edit the lesson but still use the same link that I shared with teachers and students in years past. Also, if I make a mistake and need to edit immediately (which happens to me frequently), I don't need to resend the presentation to everyone. I can just edit and upload the edited slide show into Slideshare using the same link. This also works well if I am using a different tool like Wikispaces or Livebinders to create my lesson. 

Let me tell you how the lesson went this year. Not so great. This wasn't a librarian or teacher or even student error. It was an issue with the Internet and bandwidth and speed of loading the technology. I like this lesson because I can explain and demonstrate relatively quickly what the students need to do. Then the students are given the task of creating a bibliography with six sources, formatting the bibliography in Word and submitting the final product to the teacher. The students should be able to do this  by the end of the period. All of our classes are on a block schedule, so we had 90 minutes to get this completed. We did it last year, and I thought it was doable this year. As I tried to demonstrate to the students what they needed to do, we were waiting and waiting and waiting for the Gale databases to load. I was losing the class. Finally, when it was their turn, they experienced the same loading issues. Of the six sources that the students needed to find, two were in print. Those were easy. The online sources were torture for me and for the members of the class. The teacher asked the students to finish the activity for homework. She said that they did a good job with the assignment, but I was disappointed that it wasn't completed in class. I was also disappointed that I had to stand there and wait for the sites to slowly load--it wastes so much time. 

I worry about what will happen when I teach a lesson tomorrow to the English I students. In that lesson, I have selected the articles and chapter pages in Gale for the students to read. They will not be doing any independent research. I am hoping that what happened last week was an anomaly and that tomorrow we can move through the teaching portion of the lesson quickly and that the students will have plenty of time to read the articles that I have selected for them. 

Update added on October 1st: I was able to repeat this lesson yesterday, and it went so smoothly that the students completed their bibliography with 30 minutes left in the period. That meant that they had time to check in and check out books. I was so happy to know that the slow Internet was an anomaly. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Banned Book Week: Students Make Comments Pro & Con Censorship

This blog post is being designed as a lesson for the English I students at PFTSTA. The teachers and I have collaborated on an activity to celebrate Banned Book Week (BBW). Many times in the past during BBW, I have invited the 8th graders into the library to discuss the banning and challenging of books in schools and libraries. I usually show some videos and share books owned by our library that have been banned or challenged somewhere in the US. This activity always spurs great discussion among the students and teachers. This year we wanted the students to create a written response to the presentation. We thought there was a real world connection if we had the students post their opinion online as a comment to someone writing about censorship in schools. The teachers and I want the students to learn how to compose a well thought out comment that is supported by evidence and concrete details. How more real world could it be than having the students comment directly on their librarian's blog? 

Together, the teachers and I created the lesson that you will find in the slides shown below:

Censorship of books in schools is a very hot topic. There are individuals and groups on both sides, who feel very strongly about  the need for censorship or the need for the freedom to read. When discussing this issue, you can look at it in terms of ethos, logos, or pathos. Now that you have heard my presentation and read several documents that support your stance on censorship, it is your turn to take a stand. Tell us in a paragraph why students should either have the option to read what they want or why schools should keep some books off the shelves of the library or out of the curriculum in English. You will need to support your stance with at least two concrete details. Please follow the rubric and post anonymously and follow the directions on how the teachers expect you to sign your paragraph. 

I am excited to hear what you have to say. Ms. Kahn

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Why the Louisiana Teacher Evaluation System is Flawed

For about four years, the state of Louisiana has been using a system called Compass for the annual teacher evaluations.It is composed of three parts. First, the teacher must write a professional growth plan and submit it. I have been writing one of these plans ever since I began teaching in the public school system, so that is nothing new. I always set some new goals for myself each school year anyway, and I really don't mind putting that down in writing. See below for an example. 

My professional growth plan for 2012-2013
click the picture above to enlarge it

The second part of the evaluation is the observation. I am suppose to conference with my principal about a lesson that I am going to be teaching, and then she observes it. The administrator must make two formal observations a year. I have always done very well on these observations. You know, I should have learned something about the best way to present material to students with 35 years of teaching under my belt. You can find the rubric here that the principal uses when she makes an observation of a librarian. The librarians have only been using this rubric for the last two years. When Compass launched, the librarians were observed with a checklist created for classroom teachers. That was totally ridiculous because it did not take into  account all the things a librarian did besides teach. It was the members of the state school librarian organization, LASL, who took it upon themselves to create a rubric specific for librarians. Not all districts in Louisiana use the rubric, but mine does. I think that to promote professionalism of librarians across the state, LASL needs to work towards getting the rubric in place for everyone. That is why if you open the rubric link above, it is housed on the Jefferson Parish website, not the state department of education website. When the two observations are completed, you are given a score from 1 to 4 based on how well you hit all the points in the rubric. For the 2014-2015 year, my score was a 4, the highest. This score is subjective based on your evaluator's understanding of the librarian rubric as it differs from the one for the teachers. In some schools, the librarian is not always judged fairly. 

I was certainly pleased with that 4; except, I still had to survive the completion of the third part of the evaluation which is the most arduous. It is solely dependent on how your students perform on a test. This part is called the SLTs or Student Learning Targets. SLTs are a measurable goal for student achievement over a given period of time. Most of the teachers use the standardized tests given by the district and the state to show achievement. There is no standardized testing program for the library. The librarians must create two tests of their own to give as a pre-test and post-test, and then with the baseline results from the pre-test, you create a goal demonstrating growth of the students.

It is a very time consuming process to create two tests for the two SLTs measuring students' understanding of research and information literacy skills. I decided that I would use the TRAILS program from Kent State University for my tests. TRAILS offers two different tests for grades 3, 6, 9 and 12. The tests are difficult. When you look at the benchmark data for 2014-15 in Louisiana for TRAILS, of the 2164 six graders tested, the median score was 49.7%. Of the 1104 9th graders tested, the median score was 47.9%. This test is hard!

After giving the 6th graders a pre-test, these were the results: 38% (or 21 of 56 students) in my class(es) passed the pre-assessment with a score of 67% or better. Not very good, but it gave them room to grow. The district provided me with the following SLT: 80% of students in the 6th grade ELA classes will achieve a score of 85% or higher  on the post-assessment. Okay, maybe that is doable, but there were only 20 questions on the test. Eighty percent of the students had to miss three or less for me to meet the target. Not going to happen. It didn't. I got a 1, the poorest score. It was worse for the 9th graders because 90% of the students had to achieve a score of 95% or higher, and the students had to miss two or less for me to achieve my goals which I did not

Problems with the SLT program:
1. I was using a test that I did not design and was not created as an evaluation tool for librarians. 
Though it is a well written test covering a wide breadth of information literacy skills, the amount of material in the test is so far reaching that I am unable to cover it in the amount of time that I have.
2. Unlike teachers who see their students daily, I had only a handful of face to face teaching lessons with the students that I tested. 
3. If you look at the benchmark median scores at the state level which were below the 50th percentile and just a few percentile points higher at the national level, it is unrealistic for a majority of my students to reach an 85% or a 95%. 

It was decided at the state level that the two scores including the observation and the SLTs would be averaged together to create the teacher's overall score with one exception. If a teacher scored a 1 on either section, the teacher would receive a 1 on their evaluation thereby branding them as ineffective. 

Ineffective!!!!! I work very hard for my students and my teachers. I have won several awards at the national and state level. In my district of 70 librarians, I am one of the ones who is called on to assist others. I have made many presentations to educators across the state including the keynote speech for 300 librarians on the LAMP tour in 2011. I am not trying to brag about my accomplishments. I have had many and ineffective is not one of them. 

Now my ineffective is part of the statistics for my school and my district. I just don't believe that is fair considering all that I do. In July, I was able to go to the district with a grievance to have my SLTs amended. My case was denied. 

The whole process has begun anew for the 2015-2016 school year. I have taken apart the four online TRAILS tests and edited them for my students. I inserted the language that I use when I teach and the language that reflects my school library rather than a generic one, and I took out some of the ambiguity found in both questions and answers. Also, the state in its infinite wisdom has changed the exception. No longer does a one get trumped. Teachers' scores will be determined by an average of the two parts of the evaluation process. If that was done for me last year, I would not be ineffective. Who knew, it was so easy to change that moniker.

Why have I written this post? I am not proud of what happened, but I don't believe that it is a reflection of what I do day in and day out as an educator. The general population needs to realize that not all statistics paint an accurate picture of what is happening in our schools. Tests are not the answer.

To me, it is the students who come back after graduation and tell me that what I did for them helped prepare them for college, and that research was a breeze because of the assistance and guidance that I gave to them. I know that I am providing what my students need for future readiness. Now I wish the state of Louisiana did, too.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Katrina Ten Years Later: My Story

This is the story of how Hurricane Katrina ten years ago affected my professional life, as I remember it. I totally understand if you have no interest and want to skip this post. You have my permission to stop reading right now. 

I need to actually start in 2003. In spring of that year, I made the decision to leave the elementary school where I had been librarian for twelve years. It was an extremely hard choice to make. I loved the students and parents at that school. I believe that I was made to sing, dance, use puppets, and voices to bring books to life for the younger set. I had developed a program where I taught information literacy and library skills in a very systematic way to the students. I loved what I was doing and was extremely proud of my program, One of my good friends worked in a school of 1500 students in grades 7th -12th. The other librarian, who was also a friend, was retiring. If I did not move at this time, I might not ever have a chance to work with Jo Ann again. 

My friend Jo Ann had been at McMain for about nineteen years, and she had helped to develop a wonderful teaching library at that school. I was shaking in my boots to work with that age group, but I knew that it was a good move for me. It would give me a chance to learn and grow. When I arrived in August of 2003, I found the most awesome group of teachers, many today are still friends, and a group of kids who loved the library. We had the best time working together, and we also had a full time clerk who had been there over ten years. That library was a well oiled machine, and I could help move it forward into the digital age as technology was one of my strong suits. 

In May of 2005, we were hit with a time bomb. The new principal informed us that the Orleans Parish School Board had decided that all the schools in the district could manage with only one librarian. The school board did not care about the size of the student body. That meant that I was out because Jo Ann was the senior librarian. Let me tell you, that library and the program there was amazing. However, the library was designed like a bowling alley, and there was no way possible that one person could teach, serve 1500 kids, and manage it all by themselves. 

I wanted to be pro-active, so I found a very small elementary school close to home that was without a librarian. I asked for that position and got it. When school started in August of 2005, I was working at Bauduit Elementary. Then on Friday, August 26, 2005, I found out that the school board was going to change their position on only one librarian. All the schools with over 1000 students would get their second librarian. I was thrilled. At the end of the day on the 26th, we were told to leave the computers on in the school because IT would be working on them over the weekend. At that point, no one was thinking that Katrina would be heading our way.

Saturday morning I woke up early and went to the bookstore where I was scheduled to hold a story time. There were only a couple of kids there with their parents. Everyone was talking about the hurricane named Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico, but most were up in the air about the need to evacuate. My husband and I were going to wait until the afternoon when I returned home to make our final decision. He was going to go to the grocery to stock up on food while I told stories. 

Find out more about Tisserand;s book here

Early Sunday morning we did evacuate to New Iberia, LA. It was in New Iberia that I became the resident story teller for Sugar Cane Academy, the school created by Paul Reynaud. He had evacuated to the same house as us. One of the parents wrote a book about that experience of starting a school from scratch. You can see the cover of the book in the picture above. Being a part of Sugar Cane Academy brought me back to elementary school, and it kept my mind busy so I worried less about the future. 

At some point in August or September, all the teachers in Orleans Parish were dismissed from their jobs. I had no clue what I was going to do next. I had a house in uptown New Orleans that did not flood and had very little damage. I had a home where I could return but no way to make a living. For a few months I worked part time at Sugar Cane Academy when it moved to digs at Loyola University in New Orleans.

After losing their teaching jobs, many of my friends with twenty or more years in the system decided to retire, including my friend Jo Ann who worked at McMain. In November, I got a call from Orleans Parish Schools. McMain was going to open in January of 2006, and I was asked if I would be the librarian. I needed a job, so I said yes, Many of the teachers returned but not all. The school opened in January with about half of the original population and students who had attended almost every other high school in the district. 

I could manage the library with 800 kids in the building, but there was a new administration hired to run the school. This was the fourth principal since I started at McMain in 2003. This principal and her assistants were not familiar with a busy library where the librarians served as teachers. I realized early on that I needed to find somewhere else to work that would allow me to be the professional librarian that I knew I could be. 

Library at Patrick Taylor Academy on Jefferson Highway in Jefferson, LA

In April of 2006, Jefferson Parish schools was expanding the number of advanced academies in the district. There were several librarian openings. I felt confident that I could run a library serving middle and high students on my own. I had learned a lot in the three years that I had been at McMain. I interviewed and within a day or two I got the phone call offering me the job at Patrick Taylor Academy in Jefferson. 

I just began my tenth year at Patrick Taylor three weeks ago. I have watched it grow from 178 students serving grades 7th-10th to its present 550 students in grades 6th-12th. The school is now located in a brand new building in Avondale, LA which is thirty minutes from my home. 

Library in the new building in Avondale, LA

I feel like this school is my second home. I am definitely one of the old guard there, and I have worked with every single student who has graduated from Taylor. Yes, my life has truly changed because of Katrina. In some ways, my life has taken a turn for the better that would never have happened otherwise. Thank you goes to Kristy Philippi, the principal of Taylor who hired me, and also to the current principal, Jaime Zapico,who has the confidence in me to support all the library programming ideas that I believe the school and the students need. 

Life goes on.................................

8th graders enjoying books in the library
(photo by KVR photography)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Symbaloo Helps Teachers & Students Get Organized

PFTSTA teacher Symbaloo
I am an organizing freak. Though my desk may not always be neat as a pin (I run a very busy library), I usually can put my hands on exactly what I am looking for whether it is in print or in electronic format. My belief is that it is my job as a librarian to help everyone else in the school to be organized too. Which is why I love curation tools so much including Wikispaces, Livebinders, Diigo, Sqworl, Pinterest (unfortunately blocked at school), etc. 

I learned about Symbaloo years ago at a librarians' conference but never really used it. Then at ISTE in 2014, I went to a poster session on Symbaloo. I was convinced that it would solve a huge problem at school. PFTSTA is a one to one laptop school, and the teachers try to teach with the least amount of paper as possible. As such, there are many, many on-lines google forms and responses, links, websites that are used on a daily basis by the faculty and staff. At the beginning of last year, I created the Symbaloo webmix that you can see above for the teachers to use as the homepage for their browser. I have gotten many positive responses about it. 

The teacher Symbaloo webmix is organized to find all the links that teachers need very quickly. The ones in blue in the upper left corner are all those pertaining to the school. It begins in the far corner with ECHO which is the school's learning management tool. We create many google forms some for student infractions, and links to those forms including links to the resulting responses are in the Symbaloo too. Then in the upper right corner in yellow are all the links that have to do with the district, in the lower right in red are the links from the state department of education and those involving the teacher evaluation, and finally in the lower left in green are all the sites either produced by the library or are essential library resources. Having everything in one place in such a visual format makes teachers' jobs easier. 

PFTSTA Student Symbaloo

This year, I decided to create a Symbaloo webmix for the students to use as their homepage. I organized it the same way as the teachers. The school links are in blue in the upper left corner, in green in the lower left are the library links and links to the subscription databases. On the right are resources that many students are expected to use. In orange in the lower right are links to finding images that are royalty/copyright free. The students have told me that they love this page because it contains everything that they need for school. Since the laptop program has not rolled out yet this year, I don't have any statistics on subscribers for this Symbaloo yet. I have emailed all the students the URL and have encouraged them to start using it. 

The teacher webmix was originally created just for me, but I shared it because I thought it would be a helpful tool. So in its first configuration, I had links to all the tools that I use, and that list was getting longer and longer. I decided to move those links off and created a Symbaloo just for the links related to the library and librarians that I use frequently.

Royalty Free Images Symbaloo
Above is the webmix that I created for the students to help them find royalty and copyright free images. There is one subscription database linked there, Encyclopedia Britannica Image Quest, but all the other links are free to use with attribution. 

Recently, I watched a webinar presented by rock star librarian, Shannon Miller. She used a Symbaloo webmix to share all the resources that she presented in the hour session. I thought that was a great idea. So I am in the process of developing one for a presentation that I am going to make for a Louisiana school librarians' conference. I will share that link and more about the presentation in a later blog post. 

Tips and tricks for using Symbaloo:
1. Very often when you are saving a link, a picture will pop up that you can use to populate the tile in the webmix. Sometimes the pictures are too small or just don't work on the tile. When that happens, I use the snipping tool on my PC to capture the logo or name of the site that I am linking too. You can easily upload that image into your tile. 

2. If you do not have a good image to upload, there are a variety of stickers and badges within Symbaloo that you can use to make your tiles look appealing. The students love the idea that Symbaloo looks like a bunch of apps. It 's visual nature makes them want to use it. 

3. Be sure to save after you create each tile or edit your tile. When I first started using Symbaloo, I sometimes forgot to save and would lose a lot of hard work. 

4. Once you click share your webmix, your Symbaloo is ready and can be viewed by anyone. If you add my webmix to your group of webmixes on Symbaloo, it will have a lock icon. That means every time I update the webmix, you will get all the changes and edits that I make. If you want to save my webmix, but also have the ability to edit it and make changes that fit your school's needs, you can select stop updates. Once you have selected that option, the webmix is yours to do what you want with it. You will not get any more of the edits or changes that I make in the future. 

5. There is a bit of a learning curve to get all the nuances of creating a webmix. Once you figure it out, you will realize that this is a wonderful tool to keep all your links organized. In the end that saves you a lot of time, and I am all for saving a little time. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First Week of School and the Library was Hopping

First check out for the new year
Okay, I had an idea for a post where I had some pithy comments to make about the opening of the new school year and the library. Since I have been too busy to sit and write, I decided that I would post pictures of our first week showing you the students' interest in the library. It was overwhelming to me. I just want this excitement for the library to last all year long. That is why I spend a lot of time programming for the high school book group, the middle school book group, author visits, skype visits, Teen READ Week, Teen Tech Week, reading challenges, National Poetry Month, and on and on. 

Thanks to Donor's Choose the library got a Lego Station
The new Lego Station  has already seen lots of use

One of the 8th graders who has spent every day at lunch in the library since 7th grade
Chess continues to be a much loved game at lunch time
Luckily, the library has six sets

Library orientation for 6th grade on the third day of school

There are always some diehards who pull out the Dungeons & Dragons game every year
I had a wonderful summer break and spent quality time reading and relaxing. Now that I have been back to work for two weeks, I am so glad to be spending my days with the marvelous kids who attend Patrick Taylor Academy. It is a wonderful school, and the library here is a special place where students can fuel their passions, learn, and experiment, and be accepted for who they are. Can you tell that I love my job?

Excited about the books nominated for Teen's Top Ten

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Students Begin on August 10th

PFTSTA Library
All Readers Welcome

In just two days, I will begin my 35th year of teaching and 10th year at Patrick Taylor. No longer am I nervous like I was so many years ago. Now I am brimming with excitement about all the special events that I have planned in the library this year and all the new books that may come our way as the year unfolds. 

To get ready for the new year, I began cleaning up the library website. There are always edits and updates that I want to make. I am anticipating changing the look of the website, but I want to gather some new pictures before I do that. One of the sections of the website that I am most proud of is the one offering assistance to the students in preparation for college applications. You can find a link to that page here

Finding authors to visit or skype with takes time because of all the scheduling logistics. The sixth and seventh graders will meet Jewell Parker Rhodes in October. This will be her third trip to our school, but the first in our new building. She has been a real friend to our students and our school, and I can't wait to see her again. I have one skype visit scheduled for the middle school book group in September, and I am working on one for the high school book group, too. Last year I wrote two Donor's Choose projects to get books for the middle school book group. I am not sure if I will do that again. The other day I decided to use my Scholastic Dollars from last year's book fair to purchase fifteen copies of a book for the book group. 

Legos Poject from Donor's Choose

I had posted a thousand dollar Donor's Choose project last school year to start a makers space in the library. It did not get fully funded. I was not sure what happens to the money that is donated to your classroom. Now I know. Once my unfunded project expired, I was sent gift cards by the donors to use as I saw fit. I only had a couple of weeks to use the cards. I quickly rewrote my mobile makers space project to include the Legos and not any of the expensive electronics, and I made sure the total cost of the project added up to the total that I was given in gift cards. As soon as Donor's Choose approved of my project, I spend the money. Last week the items arrived, and the materials will be available for the students to use from day one. 

At the end of the school year, all the teachers recieved a $25 gift card to Walmart for Teacher's Appreciation Week. I decided to visit the store to buy some things for the library. I was able to find two new games to add to our collection. I will need to learn how to play them, but the kids are willing to learn alongside me. 

Of course, there are new books to add to the collection. I placed an order in May to be delivered in July. These include all the books that were nominated for YALSA"s Teen's Top Ten. Voting opens soon so I need to make a display of those books ASAP. 

For two days before teachers reported to school, I helped with our school's orientation for new teachers. I got to talk about all things library. I also made a 30 minute presentation to returning faculty during our professional development prior to the opening of school. Last week I was bombarded by the teachers about projects that they are planning in which they want me to collaborate. I love that. It means that I have trained them well. 

I am ready for another school year to begin. One aspect about the library that really appeals to me is that no matter how much you plan, something fun and exciting for you and the students could be lurking around the corner at any time. 

"You sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve." - quote by Ginny WeasleyHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I am Reading and Why I Can't Always Share

One of the ways that I like to use this blog space is to share some of the titles that I am reading and write about which books are my new favorites. So far this summer I have finished ten books and are in the middle of two books as I type this post. 

I choose the books that I read for a lot of different reasons. I am a book reviewer for both School Library Journal and School Media Connection (formerly Library Media Connection). That means that I am sent books to read and review. I get to choose favorite genres and age ranges, but what I get is a crap shoot. Sometimes I love the books but very often I am underwhelmed. SLJ asks all reviewers not to broadcast to publishers or authors what books that they will be reviewing. I am also asked not to publish, like on this blog, my reviews until six months after the review has been published in the print magazine. LMC has never given me any such guidelines, so I just follow what I do for SLJ. By the time that my review has been in print for six months, I have sort of forgotten about it. I certainly have moved on in my reading. I have only recommended two books to receive stars from SLJ. One of the titles was not given the star in April of this year, but the other one did. I am not suppose to reach out to the author on social media so that no one thinks that I gave a star to a friend. I have to say that I have befriended many authors over the years. If I received a title from one of those authors, I would probably have to decline to review it. What if I hated it?

April 2015 SLJ Star Reviews
I am a member of the Louisiana Teen Reader's Choice Committee. Right now we have a list of about 40 titles published in 2014 that we will use to select the ten titles for the 2017 list. We meet in early August to finalize the list, so I have spent some time this summer reading those titles. I just checked online and found that the past consideration lists with the 40-odd titles were available for anyone to see. Though I guess that I could tell you what I am reading for the 2017 list, it just doesn't feel right giving you an assessment of how I liked a particular book. I will say this. The committee is made up of about 25 school and public librarians across the state, and everyone has definite opinions of books that they like and don't like. Many times none of us agree. 

I usually schedule five to six author visits a year at school. Some of those are virtual not face to face, but either way I think that it is crucial that I read at least one book by any author who my students will meet. This year we get a return visit from Jewell Parker Rhodes who will be talking about her newest book, Bayou Magic. That book is on my to read list, and I plan to visit Octavia Books on Friday to pick up a copy. 

I run two book groups at school one for high school and one for middle school. My high school students never want to read the same book, so I just share with them books that I read that I think will interest them. My middle school group reads a book a month. I certainly can't run a discussion if I haven't also read that book. Sometimes I try to select books that I have already read, but I want books that have appeal to the students. I do try to give them a chance to select titles for our meetings and very often those are books that I do not know nor have read. 

Now I get to the point where I can select books that I want to read. That doesn't seem to happen very often. Early in the summer, I listened to an audio version of the adult book, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. All my retired teacher friends loved it, and I did, too. I even bought it for my husband so that he could read it on our vacation. After buying the book, I found out that it had been sitting on the shelf of my library. I try, but I do not know all the volumes on the shelves. Anyway, we left the book with my father and his wife so that they could read it also. I loved Seraphina by Rachel Hartman that was published in 2012. When the second in the duology came out this year, Shadow Scale, I was thrilled to find out what happened to the characters in the first book. The only problem was that except for the main character I really did not remember what happened in the first book. Then I remembered the Recaptains' website. This is a blog written by some librarians who recap what happens in each book in a series so that you don't have to reread a book before reading the next in a series. This website is definitely a keeper. The other book that I read just because I wanted to was The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston. I loved the premise that in a modern day Canada, there needs to be dragon slayers who the government contracts to keep the population safe from the dragons. The second book in that series, Prairie Fire, came out in March, and I have it in my pile of to reads. 

So I stand by the motto of my school library---All Readers Welcome. I hope that you had a chance to get into some first rate reads this summer like I did. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

AASL has Published Updated School Librarian Advocacy Toolkit

Several years ago, the Advocacy Toolkit committee from AASL (American Association of School Librarians) called for members to submit stories with examples of library advocacy in their libraries. The toolkit was getting revised. I wrote a story about how the Louisiana school librarians fought the state board of education (BESE). The librarians were asking BESE not to revise the librarian section in the bulletin that outlines how superintendents and principals should govern K-12 schools. I submitted my story two years ago and forgot about it. I received an email earlier this summer asking for a picture because they had planned to publish my story. The toolkit was published on June 25, 2015. Open here to read the Louisiana library success story and more; scroll down to the bottom of the page to find my story. 
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