Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Changing Role of School Librarians

I love being a school librarian. It is absolutely the best job in a school. I am going to date myself here, but I have been teaching for 31 years. I have been a librarian for two thirds of my career. For a little over half of that I worked in an elementary library, and now I have been in a 6th-12th grade setting since 2003.

When I began in the library in 1991, I was lucky to have inherited an automated system. I never had to worry about those pesky cards in the back of the books. I did have a card catalog and for several years kept it up to date because I had no computers for the students. It was a great day when I could rid the library of that monster piece of furniture.
Even with little technology, I loved the role that I played of finding the right book for the right kid and sharing stories in puppet and song form for the little ones. Finding information in the old days was hard because I never had a huge materials budget. I was always looking on the shelf at outdated books that had no information on what the student wanted. Having information at your fingertips now is a revolution that I embrace. 

After attending Alan November's Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference last year I learned how to use Twitter to build a Professional Learning Network (PLN). This year I got to attend the American Library Association annual conference, but I could not go to BLC. That was okay because with Twitter I could follow the #BLC12 hashtag to find out what was new and cutting edge.

One of the tidbits that I read that peaked my interest was from Beth Swantz (@betswan) to Brian Mull of November Learning (@BrianMullNL). Beth stated that Brian proposed that we need to start rethinking school libraries and the way that they are used. Okay, I agree with that but what does it actually mean? So I asked Beth via Twitter what she thought Brian meant. Now she came back with her take on it, but I loved her list. This is what her spin of the new improved librarian needs to do: curate, guide, listen, dream, take risks and lead without fear. To me that is a very powerful list. I am going to try and list some examples of how I do all of those things in my school library.

As a librarian, curating has been what I have done since I began in the profession. I would carefully select all the print materials that I purchased and put on the shelves in the library. I always have wanted to meet the needs of my patrons both students and teachers. So I would make sure to have the fun reads as well as the books to support the curriculum. Now, I still purchase print materials for the school library, but my curating goes so much further than just purchasing new books. I have created a large reference section of electronic materials. I have purchased several iPod Touch devices and put apps and  books on those devices for my students to utilize in school. I have begun to collect useful websites for student and teacher use that I curate on the library website, in Livebinders and Wikis and in tools such as Delicious. The cool part about this type of curation is that these links are available to a much larger community than my school. I can share with librarians everywhere, and I also can find digital materials curated by other librarians that me or my students can find useful. What a change from librarian to the students in just one building to being a librarian to all students everywhere. All these collective brains working together can turn out amazing resources.

Guiding students to the appropriate materials for a project has been a part of a librarian's role forever. Now, not only do we need to be guides to the print materials, but we also need to guide to electronic and digital materials that the library owns as well as digital material that is available for free on the Internet. We must act as guides to both the teachers and the students in the building. I imagine myself like Sacagawea who guided Lewis and Clark through their explorations. They wanted to see the West but did not have a clue how to get there. Librarians must find out where our patrons want to go and help them get there. It may be through a new technology tool, an electronic book or even an old-fashioned non-fiction book sitting on the shelf. We can help them figure out the means to their ends.

I try to be a good listener. How can I curate materials if I don't know what someone is seeking? How can I guide someone if I don't understand where they want to go? Listening is a key element to being a good librarian. I remember in library school learning how to conduct a reference interview. The librarian asks a number of questions to clarify what the patron needs and why they need it, then the librarian can guide the patron to the appropriate materials. This role is not new, but it is as important as it ever was.

I am always trying to find ways to improve the library and the services that it provides. A lot of my new ideas are dreams. There might not always be money for innovation or space for innovation or personnel to initiate the innovation, but it never hurts to dream. My mind is a constant whir, and I try to keep my fingers on the pulse of what others are doing to innovate in their libraries. This year I dream about students reading more for pleasure than they have ever read before. My circulation statistics have dropped over the last few years, but my collection has improved. Students may be reading on their own devices, but I am dreaming of a way that I can document their reading habits and help improve those habits along the way.

I am willing to fall on my face. I am willing to fail. I will take risks because I understand that failure is an option. I have run a very successful book group for my high school students since 2007. I decided this year that I should run one for my middle school students as well. I was going to select one book a month and interested students in grades 6-8 could join the hour long discussion. I had no clue if the students were interested, and I did not know if they could talk about one book for an hour. It was a huge success. You can read all about BRiMS here.

I have really tried to embrace leadership over the last couple of years. I have suggested that our school start a Twitter feed and broadcast weekly on Ustream. I have conducted many inservices for our faculty on various technology tools that I think would work well in the classroom. I also serve on faculty committees that have to do with curriculum and instruction. This fall I will be traveling around the state of Louisiana to talk to other librarians about teacher and librarian collaboration.

That's it for me, but I would love to hear from others about how they have adapted the old ways with the new ways of being a school librarian. Add your ideas to the comments section below.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Awards are Awesome

Click here to download the entire program
I have already blogged about the awesome award that I won from the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association. The official photographs were released last week, so I want to post them here as I like to use this blog as my professional portfolio. On June 25, 2012, I was given the 2012 Information Technology Pathfinder Award at the secondary level. The picture above shows the cover of the program from the event. The picture below is the program page from the IT Pathfinder award. I won the secondary division of the program. This amazing librarian from Minnesota, Sally Mays, won the elementary division. It was an honor to win with Sally. She is so dynamic. I love meeting librarians with energy like hers. 

Click on the picture to enlarge it for easy reading

Each award presented at the ceremony was sponsored by a different vendor. Follett Software Company sponsored the IT Pathfinder Award. However, it was Chris Schubert, Director of Marketing at BWI/Follett Library Resources who is pictured below with me as I receive the award. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bookmarked Members Review Upcoming YA Titles Part 2

The members of Bookmarked, the high school library book group, are at again. They have been reading and writing all summer long. Please open here to read their newest reviews of the young adult literature that resonates with them. 

This group of teens will have reviews printed twice a month for the next year. You can find the archives of all the issues right here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

100 Things Kids Would Miss without School Librarians

Okay, I try to stay on top of things, but somehow missed this list. Last May, as Nancy Everhart (at the time she was president of AASL) was finishing her Vision Tour of excellent school libraries around the country, she announced 100 things that students would miss if school librarians were eliminated from schools. As I read this list, I see so many of the activities that I do day in and day out in the library at Patrick Taylor Academy. I decided to post the list here so I will remember it, but also for others who might have missed this last year just like I did. Besides, we need to be reminded why we are so important to a school's culture.

100 Things Kids Will Miss If they don’t have a School Librarian in their School
Released by Dr. Nancy Everhart (everhart@fsu.edu) Past President, American Association of School Librarians (AASL) May 19, 2011

Books that are professionally selected to meet school and personal needs.
Equitable access to computers and other forms of technology.
Someone to talk to and someone who listens – the school librarian.
A place to get help when they need it.
A place to assemble with their friends openly.
Learning experiences that are enhanced through teacher/librarian collaboration.
How to evaluate information.
How to create information.
How to share information with others.
How to self-assess their work.
Project-based learning and the critical thinking skills it teaches them.
A place where the school culture is fostered and thrives.
A recommendation for a book that is suited to their interest.
A recommendation on what to read next.
Having stories read to them.
Respect for intellectual property.
A place to practice safe and ethical behaviors.
A librarian who doesn't judge a student because he/she takes out a book they enjoy reading.
A place to solve problems.
A place to use their imagination.
Book clubs.
Special programs and speakers.
Author visits.
Video chats with authors and experts.
Reading contests and prizes.
Instruction in how to use statewide databases.
Resources that align with the curriculum.
Acquiring 21st century skills.
Learning confidence.
Book fairs.
A quiet place to learn.
One-on-one instruction.
A safe forum to explore new ideas.
The opportunity to borrow digital cameras, recorders, and laptops.
The ability to experiment with and master new technology.
Materials matched to their learning style.
Accepting learning as a life skill, not just an academic necessity.
The potential for higher standardized test scores.
Citing sources correctly.
Using information ethically.
Creating READ posters.
Creating book trailers.
Preparation for college.
Summer reading lists and programs.
Borrowing materials on interlibrary loan from public and college libraries.
Having resources available for school projects at the public library because the school librarian collaborated with them.
Cloud computing.
Learning to be a good digital citizen.
Poetry slams.
Battle of the books.
Digital literacy.
Time during homeroom, during lunch, during the school day, and after school to work on projects when they have no other access to computers.
Quality control.
A place to visit that is open, friendly, attractive, and a safe haven.
Additional resources for their classrooms.
In-depth exploration of a topic.
A knowledgeable, interested adult with whom to discuss books.
A library website that offers access 24–7 to an online catalog, selected electronic resources, databases, and curriculum-related websites.
Synthesizing information from diverse perspectives.
Writing a thesis statement or a critical question.
Reflecting on the information-seeking process.
Developing teamwork.
Responding to literature.
Using social media websites and tools (i.e., blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) safely and responsibly.
Assistance and guidance in completing homework assignments Recommending books to their friends.
Help with history fair, science fair projects. A place to "shop" for free.
A place to practice decision-making skills.
The library, like the cafeteria and the gym, are places where all students (crossing grade levels and ability levels) mingle with one another.
Opportunities for meaningful student leadership A program that always differentiates to teach, support, and enrich.
A conduit for information to increase efficiency in the entire building.
Teachers who have had exposure to instructional support and collaboration.
Access to subscription databases, including time-saving instruction on which databases are appropriate for particular projects;
Technology expertise and instruction on software and web applications for writing, collaboration and presentation.
A connection between the outside world and the classroom.
The ability to construct and defend arguments E-readers.
Resources that will broaden their global perspective A smile of genuine pleasure for coming through the door.
Going beyond academic requirements.
Organizing personal knowledge.
Responding to literature.
Adapting to new situations.
Developing personal productivity.
Celebrating reading.
Celebrating learning.
A place to display their work both physically and virtually.
A place where the digital divide doesn’t exist.
A place to use their imaginations.
Learning the implications of a digital footprint.
Making recommendations for books that are followed.
Teachers who extend learning experiences beyond the classroom.
How to search efficiently and effectively.
Respect for copyright and intellectual property.
Helping other students.
A place to study without grades.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What I Learned at Ed Camp LA Part II

This is Part II of a two part series about what I learned after attending the New Orleans unconference, Ed Camp on Saturday, July 7th at Trinity School. The day was divided into fourths, and I described the first two sessions in Part I. In this post, I will describe what I learned in the second two sessions.

For session three, I began by having a long conversation with Valerie Burton. She teaches high school English in my district and is one of the organizers of Ed Camp. I really liked her energy and focus. I can imagine being a student in her class. I think that it would be amazing, though don't ask me to go back to being 17 again, that would be a nightmare. She told me a story of her principal walking into her classroom as the students were using their phones to post on their blogs. She was unable to get the mobile laptop lab for class that day, but she wanted to stick to her lesson plan. She knew that it was  against the school policy for the students to be using their phones during the school day, but it was important for them to write. At first, the principal was put out with her having the students use their phones in class, but Valerie can be quite convincing. With the rationale for why the students needed to use their devices for class out of her mouth in a nano-second, the principal moved on. I like Valerie's attitude of do first and ask for forgiveness later and wish she was at my school so we could collaborate. Yes, I know it could be done with social media, but sometimes working face to face is the best.

Then I went to the end of Paula Naugle's talk on Skype. I have done lots of skyping with authors in the library at Patrick Taylor, so there was little new information here for me. The one topic that I wanted to hear and missed, was her explanation of a mystery Skype. I walked in on the tail end of that conversation. Most of Paula's Skype buddies, she met through Twitter. She did explain that if you want to do a video chat with multiple sites at the same time, you need to use Google hang out. I have not used it yet, so I am not sure how it works, but I am always willing to try something new. Paula also described how she used the Oreo Project with her students in math. It seemed like a lot of fun when she skyped with another class of students also trying to stack the most Oreo cookies as possible. Great elementary activity. Just google Oreo project, and you will get the idea. 

As an aside, someone mentioned a new video chatting website called Spree Cast. No one had used it yet, so it sounds like a site that we need to check out. 

For the last session of the day, I headed to the Google Apps session by my friend, Tinashe Blanchet. Tinashe and I worked across the hall from each other at Patrick Taylor for three years before she chose to move to a new school. She taught math, but we talked technology all the time. We try to keep up with each other the best we can, and I always learn something when I talk to her. Her brain runs a mile a minute, and it is amazing how she seems to be on the cutting edge for what might work well with the students. In April, she went to London to become a Google Certified Teacher. 

Here are some tips for using Google Apps that you might not know. You can use the Google translator in Google chat, so if you needed to speak with a parent who doesn't speak English you can get some help communicating. To accomplish this, you will need to add a translation bot to your chat. Use the link in the previous sentence to learn how to add the bot. I use Bit.ly to shorten URLs, but Tinashe recommended using Goo.gl instead. By using this tool, you will get a shortened URL, a QR code, statistics for the link, and one of the features that I really like is the small preview of the website that you get on the right so you know that you have the correct link. Also, if you are always logged into Google, then every time you open Goo.gl, you will have access to your shortened links. Okay, Tinashe, even though I am a Bit.ly fan, I will try it. She talked about using Google Docs which is going to soon be called Google Drive, so it can be used for storage of all your documents. Anyway, if you select tools in the menu bar and open research, then you can search Google as you work on your document. Yes, this could lead to plagiarism, but I see it as a way for students to use a dictionary or thesaurus quickly as they write. I have never been a fan of Google Sites. It is ugly, and I want a website to have a little pizzazz. Tinashe suggested using Sites to create an attractive dashboard with links to sites that you recommend to teachers or to students. It looked great, but I don't know if I have a need for it. 

So that is it, and we made it to 4PM. A long day, but I definitely got some tips and tricks that I will be using this year. Thanks to all the facilitators for putting together an awesome day of professional development. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What I Learned at Ed Camp LA Part I

Yesterday, I attended Ed Camp in New Orleans. It is an unconference that educators have created around the United States to teach each other best practices for using technology tools in the classroom K-12. This was the second annual event in New Orleans. I could not attend last year and was excited to go this year.

Okay, I am going to first vent here because I think this could be improved for next year. The beginning of the event in the morning was sooooo slow. I was getting restless and thought the day was going to be a waste because I arrived at 8:15, and the first session did not begin until 10AM. That is just too much time for sitting without a focus. If you ask me to come out on a Saturday in July, I want to be brought on board from the minute I walk in the door. I think that the two take-aways that we wrote to guide the sessions for the day should have been collected the minute that we walked in the door. The planning for the day could have been done much faster. I am just not good at sitting. The other problem I found was that many attendees were so unfamiliar with all the 21st century tools that many of us are already using. I have been blogging and tweeting since 2009. I skype. I create videos for a flipped classroom. I have a website for my library. I am ready to move to the next level, whatever that may be, and there are so many who are still far behind.

Enough complaining, now I want to share what I did learn. That way I can use this blog post as my notes for the day. I took notes in Evernote on a borrowed iPad. Then I just logged into the web version of Evernote to pull everything up on my computer. I just love that. Easy.

The first session I attended was on Twitter with facilitator Paula Naugle. She is a fourth grade teacher in my district, and I knew of her and the amazing connections that she has made on Twitter. She moderates #4thchat once a week. She gave the basics on twitter which were certainly familiar to me. However, she reminded me of something that I want to remember when teaching newbies to use Twitter. You do not have to join Twitter to lurk, read posts and learn from all the amazing teachers using Twitter for their Professional Learning Network (PLN). You can just type in the URL: www.twitter.com/search and a search box will come up. You can search by person, but using hashtags will probably get you more of where you want to go. I have been using Cybrary Man's list of hashtags for awhile. However, Brian Mull from November Learning took the list and shortened it for the most important education hashtags to follow. Also, if you are interested in following discussions about the Common Core State Standards, and everybody is talking Common Core these days. Here are three hashtags to follow on Twitter: #CommonCore, #CCSS and #CCchat.

For the next session, only a couple of people stayed in the room. Brian Mull was going to share social bookmarking. I am a very active user of Delicious, but he wanted to show me some features of Diigo that might be useful in the classroom. You can install a Diigolet on your iPhone or iPad so that you can save links on the go. You can also save links in Diigo and Delicious at the same time, and I can import my links that I already have into Diigo. I have to make sure that my tags would also import because without the tags, it would be hard to search the links that I have saved. If you want students in a group or a class to share links, the teacher or the student can create a unique tag that each person uses when they save a link. Like: PFTSTASSFair. That way they can search the tag name to pull up everyone's links. Teachers can also create groups, so students could contribute links to a group Diigo account. If you go to: Diigo.com/education, then teachers can get an education account and add students to Diigo. There are many public Diigo groups that you can join. So if there is a topic that you want to follow or you need to study a topic for an assignment, then you might find a group that is collecting links that might be useful for you.

I am going to end here when I headed out to lunch to get a yummy New Orleans po boy sandwich from Parasol's. I will talk about the afternoon sessions in Part II that will be posted tomorrow.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Winning the AASL Information Technology Pathfinder Award was Awesome

I have lots more to share about the 2012 ALA annual conference.

One of the ultimate highlights for me was winning the Information Technology Pathfinder Award from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). This award is given to two librarians, one at the elementary level and the other at  the secondary level for their innovative approaches to information technology in the school library.

On the first night that I arrived in Anaheim, I am walking through the exhibit hall and see a familiar name, Sally Mays, on the name tag of the person walking by me. Sally was the elementary division winner of the IT Pathfinder Award. We jumped up and down together a bit and shared what winning this award has done for us and our libraries. Both of us were blown away when we received the news that we had won. Unfortunately, we didn't meet up again until the award ceremony on Monday morning, but through social media we should be able to keep in touch.

This is the first award ceremony that my husband was able to attend. Thanks to him, I have a recording of my acceptance speech. Click the play button below to view.

AASL award acceptance speech from Elizabeth Kahn on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Meeting Many Authors at ALA Annual 2012

I had a blast at ALA. I was kept busy from the time that I landed on Friday, June 22nd until I left for my vacation on Tuesday, June 26th. I began my Anaheim adventure by having lunch with a former student who I had not seen since she graduated high school in 2003. She was in first grade when I first became a librarian, and now at 28 she hopes to illustrate children's picture books. I sure hope that she can find a way to fulfill her dream and maybe some day I will be standing in line for her to sign her book at ALA.

One of the things that I like to do most at ALA is get some face to face time with many of the authors that I enjoy reading. It was really cool that I got to meet three authors with whom the students at Patrick Taylor had communicated with through Skype. Here are some of the authors that I had a chance to meet. All of them were delightful and took the time to chat with me. 

On the first night I went to a dinner hosted by Penguin for three dystopian queens: Ally Condie who wrote the Match trilogy, Marie Lu author of the Legend trilogy and first time author, Jessica Khoury, who's book Origin comes out in September.

I have read Matched and Crossed and loved the world that Condie created. Yes, it has one of those love triangles that seem so ubiquitous these days, but it is a well written story and the characters ring true. I liked the first one better, but I will be in line to buy Reached as soon as it is released in November. I read Lu's Legend in anticipation of meeting her. I liked the two points of view from June and Day. What I didn't like was the light green ink used for Day. It was so hard to read in low light. Luckily in Prodigy, which I read on the plane ride home, they used blue ink for Day which was much easier on the eyes. Prodigy won't be released until January of 2013, so it is going to be a long time before I find out what happens in the third and last installment. I am waiting for Origin to arrive in the box that I shipped home, but I am anxious to see what this newcomer has to offer. 

In the exhibit hall there were signings all day every day by authors and illustrators of books for children, young adults, and adults. One of the first authors that I met was Janet Tashjian. She wrote the wonderful Larry series, but her newest book is called, For What it's Worth. I just happened to read it before going to Anaheim. The main character in the book, Quinn, is the exact age that I was in 1971. So all the music and popular culture references were very familiar to me. 

This is Michael Grant. He wrote the Gone series that so many of the Taylor kids have gone crazy over. His newest work is BZRK. Check out the website for the book here

Pseudonymous Bosch, pen name of author, wrote the Secret series, a humorous mystery adventure series perfect for middle school readers. 

I have been a Deb Caletti fan for years now. Her Honey, Baby, Sweetheart is one of my favorite realistic fiction stories. Her newest title, The Story of Us, is also in the box that I shipped home. I didn't want to carry a hard back on the plane. I really enjoyed chatting with Deb. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, but I hope that she makes a trek south sometime so she can visit Patrick Taylor. I know that the kids would really enjoy meeting her. 

As I turned the corner in the exhibit hall, I found the artist's alley. I was so surprised to see Cecil Castellucci manning her own table. She had skyped with Bookmarked in March. I loved having the opportunity to meet someone face to face who I met via Skype. I got a signed copy of her new book for the library, Year of the Beasts.

In May, BRiMS, skyped with author, Sherry Shahan. I knew that she lived in southern California and asked if she was going to be at ALA. We met up at a party hosted by Random House. She was delightful and offered to skype with Bookmarked to talk about her young adult title, Purple Daze

There were so many more authors with whom I got to chat, but I think this gives you an idea of my ALA experience. 

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