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 my Louisiana library success story and more; scroll down to the bottom of the page to find my story. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Contribution to Article on LGBTQ and the College Bound in School Library Journal

https://www.flickr.com/photos/purplesherbet/10915033606

I was interviewed and mentioned in this article in School Library Journal on preparing LBGTQ students for college . It seems quite timely after the recent ruling on gay marriage by the Supreme Court of the United States. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

What a Librarian Does on Vacation 2015

Finally, off the plane and on the road

Going away for a week during summer break is something that is sacred to my husband and me. We live in a city that is hot in the summer so we try to find somewhere cooler and in a rural area where we can spend our time being outside and enjoying nature. This year we chose to drive through Vermont and New Hampshire so that we could end in Maine where my father lives. 

Vermont is the land of covered bridges

In years past, I would buy a guide book and visit the library to find more guides to where we would travel. My favorite publishers were Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. I loved reading about what we would see and looking for the most charming place to say. It was crucial to read a guidebook with a current copyright date because so much could change from year to year, especially prices. Now I don't even look at a guidebook. I use Trip Advisor (TA). I love the app because I can save everything that I want to see ahead of time and have access to all the info on my phone while I am traveling. I sort of obsess on finding the best place to stay, but the reviews on TA really make it easy to find something just right for us. Since I rely on TA to plan my trips, I feel obligated to write as many reviews as possible from the places I stay and eat and visit. Which means that I give myself work, but I do try to write many of the reviews while I am still on the trip. 

Library on the green in Woodstock, VT 

Town Library, Jackson New Hampshire White Mountains region
 "Towns - Jackson." NH Living. N.p., 13 June 2012. Web. 26 June 2015.
One of the cool things that I found on this trip was seeing a library in every small town that we hit throughout New England. Mid-way through the trip I thought that I should have been photographing all the libraries that I saw. Maybe I will do that another trip. In the teeny town of Jackson, NH there were two libraries. 

My husband and I are on the left with Pamela & Jon  Voelkel on the right
After determining which days that we would be in Woodstock, VT, I contacted my author friends Jon and Pamela Voelkel who live about 20 minutes north in Norwich. I was hoping that they would be in town and that we could visit them. They have visited my school three times and have done a couple Skype visits with the kids at school, too. They invited us to have brunch at their home which is on a beautiful piece of property right in the middle of town. Whenever they are in New Orleans, I always felt rushed. During this visit we spent a couple of hours with them and their three children. It was one of the highlights of the trip. 

Brunch prepared for us, yummy
I am always reading something, but when I go on vacation, I want to make sure that I have books that I am going to adore. I chose three books including Buzzkill by Beth Fantaskey, When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds, and The Story of Owen by .E. K. Johnston. It is unusual to read three books in a row that I really like, so this was a real treat. Buzzkill was a murder mystery, and though I guessed the murderer early on, I still got a kick of how the teen detectives took their time figuring out who did it. Reynold's book was an urban story that I thought teens could relate to even if they don't live in New York, but the cover is very misleading. Guns do not really have a prominent place in the story, and one of the characters in the book knits; you see the gun covered in crochet on the cover. I loved, loved, loved The Story of Owen. The idea of dragon slayers in a modern day Canada is a very unusual concept and boy does it work. I probably should have had a map of Canada next to me while reading because place what an important aspect of the story. 

                  

     

Everyone who visits Dan & Whit's General Store in Norwich, VT needs a urine dispenser

I met several cows on this trip, this one was at Shelburne Farms

The Harry Potter door under the stairs at the Inn at Jackson in NH

The gardens around Kennebunk Beach, ME were amazing 
It was a great ten days of visiting, reading, looking at beautiful scenery and getting out of our daily routine---a necessity of life. Ahhhh.........

If you want to read some of my reviews of the places where I stayed, ate, or visited, click here.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Creating a Year End Library Review with Edtech Tools


As librarian, I try to be the go to person to help teachers when they are looking to design a lesson where students create an electronic product by recommending sites that might fit the objectives of their lessons. Oftentimes, I am familiar with a tool because I have used it, seen it used or know other teachers who have used it successfully with their students, but I have not always had hands on experience using the tool myself. I believe that, as teachers, we cannot nor should not learn how to use every website out there, so that we can give our students opportunities to practice critical thinking by figuring out a tool on their own or collaboration by learning from their peers. Unfortunately, tools do not remain the same over time--no longer free or limited capabilities in free version or merged with another site or newly blocked at school, etc. I decided that it is a good idea for me to spend some time "playing" with edtech and creating my own products now that school is out for the summer, and I have some free time without distractions. 

I recently read how a librarian summed up the year in her library by creating a slide show. I liked the idea of a month to month guide of what happened in the library but decided that I would try an infographic instead of a slide show. We ask our students to create lots of infographics in their science classes when they need to document experiments. First, I tried to create what I wanted with Infogr.am, I am an ambassador for Infogram, so it seemed to me to be the best place to start. I was working happily on my infographic when I realized that I could only upload ten pictures with the free version. Since I had nine months to illustrate and some of the months required multiple pictures, I knew that I needed to try a different tool. 

Working in Infogr.am
I am a big fan of Canva to create graphic designs to add to my social media sites, and I knew that they had recently added a template for infographics. I thought that with Canva  I would be able to add all the pictures that I needed. As you can see below, I started to edit the template, but I did not get very far. It was very slow editing the text, and I was getting extremely frustrated that I could not get the words and pictures that I wanted to add inserted into the template. I am not sure if it was an issue with my Internet connection at home or Canva's server. It was taking way too long to edit, and I didn't want to waste anymore time, so I ditched this effort. 

Canva template 
I was hoping that the third time would be the charm. Often, we give our students a choice of tools to use when they are creating a product. When assigning an infographic, the teachers will suggest Infogram, Easelly,or  Piktochart. I had never used Piktochart, but I had seen some really nice looking work that my students had created using it. Piktochart had a variety of templates, was easy to edit, had easy drag and drop feature for the photos, and did not frustrate me. You can see the results of my efforts embedded below. I am extremely happy with the results which now I can share on multiple platforms.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Author Skype Visits in the Library

Students pose with author, Andrea Cremer, during April 20th  skype visit
The students in my two book groups had the opportunity to Skype with four different authors this past school year. I have been asked before if it is easy to find an author to skype. I always reply that it is, and that I have never paid any of the authors to talk with my students. I had met three of the authors who spoke with us this year face to face, but only one of them did I ask about the possibility of skyping at that time. I usually run all my author skypes the same way. I schedule the event for 30 minutes. I ask the author to talk about themselves and their book/s for the first 10 to 15 minutes, and then I allow the students to ask questions for the second half of the session. The students walk up to speak right into the microphone which allows the author to see who is speaking to them. This also makes it clear who is suppose to ask the next question. Very often the author is willing to talk longer, but I always end after 45 minutes. After that amount of time, the students start asking questions that border on the inappropriate. Even Grabenstein was impressed with wonderful questions that my students asked.

The balloons were to celebrate Mr. Lemoncello's birthday
I was at a library conference where Chris Grabenstein gave a speech during the school librarian's luncheon. His presentation was hilarious, and I knew that the kids in my middle school book group would get a kick out of him. I asked him during the book signing if a skype visit was a possibility. He said to email him about it. It took lots of emails between myself and his assistant to plan the visit and lots of time, too, as we scheduled the skype four months before the date of the event. I was right about the kids liking Grabenstein. They all read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library to be prepared for the skype. It was one of the most successful visits because almost everyone in the group had read the book. Besides reading the book, almost all of them loved, loved, loved the book. I asked the students ahead of time to send me the questions that they wanted to ask. It really was a lot of fun. 



I received an email from Ellen Hopkins' publicist asking if I had received an Advanced Reader's Copy of Hopkins newest book, Rumble. I had met and spoke with Hopkins at two library conferences. I knew that she was happy to engage in conversation with teens. I asked the publicist if it would be possible to schedule a skype. She said that it was. This also took many emails back and forth to work out day and time, but in the end, we scheduled the event during one of my high school book group's regular meetings. I have many of Hopkins books on the shelves of the library. Some of the members of the book group are real fans of Hopkins. I encouraged the students to read one of her books. Unfortunately. the majority of the students did not heed my encouragement of reading one of the author's books before the event. Even though the students did not have a lot of questions, I carried on the conversation and asked questions that I thought would engage the students. It did, but I was disappointed that the students were not as involved as I was.

Student asks Vince Vawter a question

The middle school book group, BRiMS, meets monthly to talk about one title that all members read. I had selected Vince Vawter's The Paperboy for February. One of the students came into the library early in February to ask if there was a sequel. She really needed to know what happened to the characters after the story ended. So we did some investigation and looked at the author's website. I read that he had skyped with several schools, so I sent him an email. I asked if he was available during our scheduled meeting on the last Wednesday of the month during the student's lunch period. He was, and he agreed to talk with us. It was another successful skype because so many of the students had read the book. They had lots of questions for Vawter.

Student asks Andrea Cremer a question
One day I was looking at the skype in the classroom website. Skype was advertising virtual visits with authors for School Library Month in April. I followed the link to see if there was an author with whom I was familiar. I saw that Andrea Cremer was available to talk about The Inventor's Secret. Penguin, her publisher was promoting this skype. I was able to schedule the event during a regular meeting of the high school book group, but the book seemed appropriate for middle school, too, so I invited both book groups to this event. I knew that many of the high school students had mentally checked out of school, especially the seniors, and I figured that there would be plenty of room for the middle school students. The only stipulation from Penguin was that the students either read the book or a 40 page excerpt online so that all attendees would be engaged in the author and the book. If the students were like me, then that excerpt only whetted their appetite for more. Some of the students checked out the book and finished it. The middle school students seemed the most thrilled about talking with author, Cremer, but all attending got something out of the interaction with the author. When Cremer mentioned that there are scenes in New Orleans in book two and three of this series, that really got the students attention.

To see more pictures and read more about the skype visits, open here on the library website.

I have not made any plans yet for skype visits for the next school year, but I will keep my eyes and ears open while reading twitter, reading promotional emails from publishers, reading posts on listservs, and attending author events. You have to be proactive in scheduling skype visits, but once you have had one, you will realize that it is an easy way to connect authors and readers. 
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