Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Finding Time to Manage the School Library

When I was in library school, I had to take a course called school library management. It was a very straight forward course in terms of what school library management actually meant. What they didn't teach us was how to juggle getting all the management tasks done in between teaching classes, fielding research questions, readers' advisory, running clubs, dealing with technology issues, helping with whatever problem walked through the door, etc. 

Download your own copy of this sign

I have a sign in front of the circulation desk that encourages all who enter to interrupt me. Yes, I really do mean for the students, teachers, administrators, staff, and parents who walk through the doors to talk to me and ask me for help or assistance. That is a big part of my job--to be a support to all members of the school community. Also, a part of my job is to deal with all library resources including print and electronic materials as well as hardware that gets checked in and out of the library. This means that often I am in the midst of trying to complete a task when someone approaches me at my desk. 

On Friday the 20th, I decided to concentrate on getting some of the library management tasks done before the holiday break which began on the 23rd. I was able to get the school set of 30 iPad Mini devices into the library circulation system. I had been planning to do that for weeks. Luckily, I had a student worker helping me on Friday because I gave him the job of renaming the iPads to reflect their barcode number. The renaming took seconds, but I also asked him to update the operating system which was a long and tedious proposition. He will have to finish that after the holidays. I have been working on a book order for several months. I have the money, but I always agonize over my list because money is in short supply. I worry that I might make some bad purchases or miss something important. I finally decided to go with the order that I had, and I have already started a new list so that I can order books in late February, too. I actually think that it is nice to have new books trickle in. That way students will visit the library often looking to see what is new on the shelves. I also like to wait until the ALA book award lists are out so that I can add those to my collection if I don't already have them. After I placed my order, I realized that School Library Journal just announced their top picks for the year. When I looked at the top tens for 2015, I saw that I had some of the titles in my collection, but I would need to add some to my next order. Finally, I wanted to work out the kinks with MackinVIA so that I can share it with my students. 

Find out more about MackinVIA
Sometimes, it is just impossible to get any project fully completed in the library. It is just me serving 550 students and a faculty of 35, though I have one student worker scheduled during 3rd period every day. Very rarely do I have parent volunteers. So it is no surprise that over a year ago I researched creating a MackinVIA account as a portal for all my library resources, but the account had never been opened. I finally did it, and you know--it really didn't take that long. MackinVIA is a free resource from Mackin that provides a portal to all the digital content that the library owns. I understood the process, but I didn't realize how easy it was to get it set up. I had to send in a list of all my library's databases with user names and passwords. I had that list for a sign that I post by the computers in the library. Getting that information took minutes. Then I needed to submit the MARC records for my eBooks of which I have close to 600. I thought that was going to be a difficult chore, but it wasn't. We use Follett's Destiny as our library management software. In Destiny I searched the catalog for all my electronic books, then I just added them to a new resources list. You can easily export the MARC records in a resource list. Mackin houses the links to your resources for free. Mackin migrates your resources to VIA for free the first time. The next time that you add resources, Mackin will charge a fee.The students have a user name and password that they use to access the portal and from there the students can open any of the databases without needing to input user names and passwords again for the various databases. 

The PFTSTA Library MackinVIA

I want to explain the impetus for finally creating the MackinVIA for my library. After the holidays, there is a scheduled librarian meeting for the district. At this meeting a rep from Follett is going to explain Universal Search. When I went to explore Universal Search, I got excited because I thought it could do exactly what MackinVIA does. In theory, you can add all your electronic resources to the search function and access all content right in Destiny. I was unable to do that, so my students can use the Universal Search, but the results will not include all the library's resources. Let me explain the issues. 

 This is a regular search conducted in Destiny
I like the fact that I can add my databases to Universal Search by myself. You open the Catalog tab and open the Search Setup listed on the left. From there, you open the Enriched Content Searches tab. Under this tab are listed all the possible databases that you can add to Universal Search. There are even some great free database sites to add. The biggest problem is that some of the databases that my library subscribes to are not listed. I have purchased Britannica Encyclopedia Academic Edition. It is not available. The district has purchased a set of databases from Gale. Some of the databases that we own are listed but not all of them. This means that my students cannot use Universal Search as a one stop shop. I called Follett to find out if those databases could be added. I was told that if the resources is not listed, then it cannot be added to Universal Search. That truly bummed me out. 
A Universal Search in Destiny

If I want a true one stop shop for all digital resources, the students have to use MackinVIA. Now it is ready to share with my students and the rest of the librarians in my district. We shall see if the students like the idea of the portal or if they continue to use the set up that we have had in place for years. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Channeling Hogwarts during Homecoming Week

I am not that big on wearing costumes. Okay, you need to understand that I am a New Orleans native, and I grew up wearing costumes for Mardi Gras. Half of the closet in my guest bedroom is devoted to costumes. I just am not interested anymore in getting into uncomfortable and unbecoming attire. For homecoming week this year, the students developed a theme of the day and wore clothes that fit the theme. Teachers were encouraged to join in the fun. I skipped all but Friday. On Friday, students were asked to select a favorite character from a book, movie, or tv show. As librarian, I felt that the gauntlet was thrown, and I needed to become a character from one of my favorite series for the day. 

I dug through my closet and found that Professor Trewlawney and I could work together. The outfit is one that is in my closet, not the costume closet, but it was the wig that made the whole ensemble work. I had round glasses to wear over my real ones that also helped make the transformation. I was pleased that so many students could guess who I was. Some knew that I was a professor from Hogwarts but wasn't sure of my name. Others knew immediately my name. That made for a very entertaining day. There were Hogwarts' students wandering the halls of PFTSTA on Friday, too. Find more pics from the day below.
Friends from the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw Houses at Hogwarts

Trying to get to class on time

Dueling with our wands in the library
Madam Pince was none to happy with us

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Book Fair is Coming!!

Some students and I worked together to create a short video promoting some of the books that we will have at next week's book fair. It was fun and very easy to put together. I made the pictures in PowerPoint, and then I downloaded them individually in a jpeg format. That way the pictures were easy to add to the video. I used Windows Live MovieMaker to piece together the pictures and the video clips. I was able to edit the clips within MovieMaker, too. I am happy with the four and a half minute outcome. I have asked the middle school study hall teachers to show the video on Friday.

In the video you will hear the students talk about A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen, This Side of Home by Renee Watson, and The Zodiac Legacy by Stan Lee. 

Book Fair 2015 Student Book Talks from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bookmarked and Geoff Herbach Share Some Laughs

On Monday, October 26th, the members of Bookmarked were treated to a skype visit with author Geoff Herbach. He, like Jen Calonita, is published by Sourcebooks. I took advantage of the publisher's offer of free skype visits for libraries and classrooms as long as you purchase some of the authors' books. I chose Geoff Herbach for the high school book group because we seem to have so many female authors at school. Though the group is made up of a majority of girls, I figured all of the students would enjoy talking to Geoff. I was right. 

He speaks without a filter, and the students loved his humor and willingness to address anything that they threw at him. Since he began the skype visit with a story about his son and puberty, one of the older girls asked him if he had difficulties during his own puberty. He told them that being a teenager was not easy for him. All agreed that it is not easy for anyone. 

Another student asked him what was up with two of his books: Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders and Gabe Johnson Takes Over. They seemed the same, but they weren't. It just so happened that his publisher made an executive decision. Because some librarians complained that students wouldn't want to be caught reading a book with a title that begins with fat boy, the publisher changed the title for the paperback edition. In very teeny tiny print on the Gabe Johnson edition, you can see that it says the book is also known by another name. Geoff has had readers who were angry because they bought both books when they thought the books were different. It seems that Geoff likes the original title best, and in this case, it was out of the author's hands. The students liked the original title best, too. 

It was a fast-paced thirty minutes filled with lots of laughter. You can't beat that in the library. I want to thank Geoff for sharing some of his time with us, and Sourcebooks for making it all possible. Visit the library website for more pictures and information about the day. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Highlights for Teen READ Week 2015

When the 2015-16 school year opened, PFTSTA had a growth spurt of 100 more students than last year. These additional students meant that the cafeteria could no longer fit the students in two lunch periods. Now there are three separate lunches. The library opens for the 6th and 7th graders lunch period at 11:00 and concludes at 1:07 when the 8th graders report to fourth period. I wasn't sure how this would play out for Teen READ Week (TRW) because the members of the high school book group always ran the events held during both lunches. The high school students are in third period when the little ones have their lunch. I decided that it was important for me to simplify this year, and in the end, I had helpers from both the middle school book group and the high school book group.It worked out that I did have the extra pairs of hands that I sorely needed. Also, I lost  a day of celebration when the students had no school on Monday due to the day of professional development and parent conferences. Even with these limitations, it was a busy and fun-filled week with lots of visitors in the library. 

The theme this year was Get Away at your library. We took that to mean books about characters who had to travel. We always start off the week with some kind of video. This year we saw episode 20 from the first season of The Twilight Zone. It seemed appropriate because it was about three astronauts who ended up on an asteroid when their ship malfunctioned. All they want to do is go back home to Earth. There is a twist at the end, per usual, that the students did not predict. With the outer space theme, the treats served for the day were Milky Way bars and Starburst candies for those who don't eat chocolate. 

The next day the students played the guessing game that we have every year. The questions are always tweaked to fit the theme of TRW. Usually, we play the game every day. I have students who run the game, while I supervise the other scheduled activity. Instead for this year, I scheduled the game for only two days. On Wednesday, we called it Winning Wednesday. Students could ask a friend for help in answering the question. All winners won a small candy as a prize. On Friday, we called it Two-fer Friday. Students who could not answer the first question could pick a second one in hopes that they could answer that one. This game is always a favorite, and students will continue pulling clues even though they have already won their prize. 

Reading a clue for the guessing game

Student worker running the guessing game

There is always a craft day planned during TRW. With the Get Away theme, I found wrapping paper with maps on them. The students created woven bookmarks out of the paper or woven bracelets. There was a bit of a learning curve, but there were several students who figured out the pattern quickly, and I tapped them to help the others. We ended up spending two days on this because the kids enjoyed it so much. I had plenty of supplies, so it was not an issue. 

Students followed printed instructions
One of the helpers
The cart kept all materials and supplies organized

Students were asked to guess the number of Earth covered chocolates. Some used the mathematical formulas for volume to calculate the number, others weighed the jar, and others just took a shot in the dark. There were 533 candies in the jar, and the winner got to take home a third of the chocolate. 

Guess the number of candies

Taking a guess

I do charge fines for overdue books, though there is a two day grace period. During TRW, I forgive fines for all overdue books returned during the week. Having the fines erased is a good incentive to return the books. I didn't count the number of books returned that were overdue, but it was a significant number--probably around fifty. 

During the week, I asked students to recommend a book for their classmates. 

I also have a bookmark contest during TRW where the entries must fit the theme for the year. All entries are not due until the middle of next week. I give students over two weeks to work on their entries. Though, I don't get a large number of entries, what I don't get in quantity, I get in quality.

Finished woven bracelet 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Presentation on the Research Process for Middle and High School Students

Early this past week, one of our science teachers, who was suffering with a terrible case of laryngitis, talked to me about a presentation that she was suppose to make to the faculty at a local Catholic school on Monday, the 19th. She initially agreed because she thought that she was just talking to the science department about preparing students for the engineering and science fair, but then they asked her to talk to the whole faculty about the research process. She knew that I would be a better fit than she would for that. Also, she really did not have a voice to be able to speak to an entire faculty. With her help, I was able to put together this presentation in two days. That is a record for me because I always agonize over how to organize the information and what exactly needs to be included. When you go through the slides, you will find that I have inserted live links on the slides with screenshots, so you can see the actual resources that I created for the students. I have even included a link to the MLA rubric. I wanted this presentation to be able to stand on its own. I am proud of what I have created, and now I have another presentation under my belt that I can share at a conference. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Snapshot of PFTSTA Library in Animoto

PFTSTA holds an open house for prospective students every fall. I like to have a special video running in the library for this event. 

I use the same background every year. I just update the pictures and make sure that all students in the pictures are still attending PFTSTA. I created a PowerPoint with the background, text and images. When I select save as, I save the slides all at once as jpeg images. PowerPoint automatically downloads all the pictures into one file folder. That means it only takes a few clicks to upload the pictures into Animoto to create the videos. It is easy to get an educator account in Animoto to make videos that are longer than 90 seconds. As an educator you can create student accounts under your teacher account so the students can make longer videos, also. With the educator account, users won't get the Animoto watermark on each picture, just a logo at the end of the video. So easy and fast to do. I like the results.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Teen Read Week 2015 is Around the Corner

You too can TRAVEL to unknown lands through books
Teen Read Week October 20th—23th

Text Box: Look What’s Happening @ PFTSTA Library for TRW 2015
1. Annual Library Book Mark Contest: Two winners, one from middle school and one from high school, will receive a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card, and their bookmark reproduced to give away to the PFTSTA community. You can visit the library for a hard copy or open here: to print out from the web.
All bookmarks are due in the library by Wednesday, October 29th at 2:30PM. 

2. Now showing in your libraryVisit the common area outside the library at lunch on Tuesday the 20th to watch “Elegy,” an episode of the television show The Twilight Zone. In this episode, three astronauts find that their rocket has landed on a very strange but Earth-like planet. A treat will be served.

3. Travel Guessing GameOn Wednesday the 21st and Friday the 23rd during Teen Read Week, you can visit the library to get a clue about a character from a book or movie who has traveled far from home. If you answer correctly you will receive a prize. If you miss one, you will have a chance to try again.

4. Get Crafty: When you visit the library on Thursday the 22nd. Create a woven paper bracelet: or bookmark: out of maps. The instructions and materials will be provided for you.

5. Fine Forgiveness Week: You may return any overdue book/s during Teen Read Week without having to pay a fine. 

6. Guess the Number in the Jar: See if you can figure out how many chocolate Earth balls are in the jar. To win, your answer must be closest to the correct number without going over. Guess the correct number of chocolates in the jar and win a coloring book and colored pencils and some of the candy. The second and third place winners will each win an Earth ball and some of the candy.

7. Vote for Teen’s Top Ten: Members of Bookmarked helped nominate books for Teen’s Top Ten. Now you can help select the top ten. Vote for up to 3 of your favorite books from 2014 here: Voting ends Oct 24th.

By Mouh2jijel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Where Reading and the Web Collide

I presented twice
This past Saturday I traveled to Lafayette, LA to present at the first ever LASL Fall Summit. In the past, the Louisiana school librarians had a mid-winter conference. It was always scheduled in late January or February every other year, but even in Louisiana, the weather could get in the way during the winter. Fog and ice could make it difficult for people to travel the state to attend a one day conference. In 2014, I got half-way to Lafayette and had to turn around because the fog made it impossible to cross the Atchafalaya Basin that lay between me and my destination. 
Why did Susan cut off my hand? I do have another one.

The attendees in the first session
My presentation was entitled, "Where Reading and the Web Collide." My focus was to give websites and apps that librarians, teachers, parents, and students could use to enhance the reading experience. Even though I only serve students in grades 6th-12th, I tailored this talk to K-12 because there are always more elementary librarians at these conferences than those who serve older kids. Many of the sites could be used for all ages, but I did sprinkle in some sites that are age specific, You do not need to be in a school to find these sites helpful, public librarians could use them too.  I also tried something a little different this time. I like to use Wikispaces to create my resources page for my presentations because I can add links with text. Since I was only going to share links for this presentation, I decided to use Symbaloo. I have embedded the Symbaloo for you below. I grouped the links in the Symbaloo by the main topics that I covered in my talk: book recommendations, series help, connecting readers on social media, connecting with authors, apps for reading, and lastly, sharing and creating book trailers. 

I hope that you can find these sites helpful to you with your students in your library. If you have any questions, leave a comment below, and I will get back to you. 

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. 
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