Thursday, April 25, 2013

The News of the Successful School Librarians vs. BESE and Louisiana is Spread

There are have been op-ed pieces, news articles and blogs touting the wonderful job that the school librarians did in rallying the troops to oppose changes that would have opened the door to ridding schools of librarians and libraries.

Here are some links from around the state of Louisiana that you might like to read. Here is a blog post from Robert Mann explaining that librarians and counselors are not an option in schools. The local NPR station, WWNO in New Orleans, reported on the librarians win. Will Sentell of  The Advocate, in Baton Rouge, reported how unusual it is to turn around decisions that lawmakers want to make. This last article is about the state of school librarians across the US and was written by the president of ALA, Maureen Sullivan.

If you want to read my blog post summing up the long process of convincing lawmakers not to mess with school librarians, open the link here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Teens Share Their Thoughts on New YA Books

Last week, SLJTeen published reviews written by members of Bookmarked, the PFTSTA high school book group, for the books that are pictured above. Open here to read these reviews

Thursday, April 18, 2013

BESE Reverses Decision to Amend Bulletin 741 for School Librarians

This is all about school librarians, not just school libraries. Let me start by saying that you could have a school library without a librarian but what would be the point. I am a professional librarian. I have over 20 years of experience, a Master's degree and awards to prove it. The years that I have spent honing my skills could never be replaced by a paraprofessional, clerical, or parent volunteer. You could have those people running a library, but it would not be the same as what a professional can do in managing the library, developing a program, collaborating with administrators and teachers, teaching lessons, providing reader's advisory, planning events to celebrate libraries and literacy, and on and on and on and on. I have no clue why lawmakers and school administrators think that librarians are not indispensable to an exemplary school program. There are numerous studies that have illustrated how students' test scores go up in schools with a certified librarian and easy access to quality library materials. 

Now let's talk about what just happened in Louisiana. The Board of Secondary and Elementary Education (BESE) decided that to achieve school reform, Bulletin 741, the handbook for school administrators, needed to be revised. The idea was to give more flexibility to district and school administrators. Section 1705 about school librarians was slashed from seven guidelines to two and staffing at the secondary level was recommended not required. There are no recommendations or requirements for staffing at the elementary and middle levels. I heard about this in December. I blogged about it in December and encouraged my students, parents and teachers to write letters to BESE in support of school libraries. I had to explain that librarians were not being eliminated, but the revisions allowed administrators a choice to staff or not staff the library. BESE was going to discuss these revisions at the January meeting. Nothing was decided in January. Then due to the outpouring of public comments about these revisions, the revisions were re-revised so that three guidelines were included and principals would be given "the authority to determine how resources and assistance are provided to students." Great, now principals could get rid of their librarians and ask a non-professional to offer assistance at a much cheaper rate. At least, with these additional revisions, staffing at the secondary level would be required. 

Again, we begin writing letters to BESE. The Louisiana Library Association (LLA) and the Louisiana Association of School Librarians  (LASL) were spearheading this campaign and asking all to voice their support of school libraries. I wrote and blogged and students in 7th and 10th grade English classes wrote persuasive letters in preparation for standardized tests. We sent the best letters on to BESE, but we allowed students to take the other side. Some chose it because they thought it was easier to write. 

On April 16th the Academic Goals and Instructional Improvement Committee of BESE met to discuss the proposed changes to Bulletin 741 regarding counselors and librarians. There were members of  LLA and LASL there to speak out about the problems with the proposed revisions. It seems that Mr. Walter Lee of district 4 in northern Louisiana did not understand why there had to be changes to the language concerning counselors and librarians if there were so many members of the public who were opposed to these changes. Superintendent, John White, finally reluctantly agreed to having the original language of the document reinstated. BESE chose to listen to the People. 

You can read all about it here in the Baton Rouge, Advocate. Which explains exactly what happened at the committee meeting. Or you can read about it here in the New Orleans, Times Picayune. Sarah Tan's article in the TP is a little ambiguous. When I initially read it, I couldn't tell if the committee had decided to return to the first set of revisions or return to the original language before any revisions were made, but BESE dropped all revisions. 

Now I want to talk about the People. That is the grass roots movement that pushed to make sure our elected officials did the right thing. This movement was powered along by LLA and LASL whose members wrote to BESE as well as to the editors of the local newspapers around the state. Many librarians and teachers asked students to write about what they thought were the educational benefits of a school library. I had a parent send me a copy of a beautiful letter that she composed to BESE about school libraries. Letters were sent from all across Louisiana illustrating that all districts were concerned about the implications of the proposed changes. This shows to me that apathy is not where you want to be when an issue that is important to you comes before lawmakers. What is also important to note here, is that both counselors and librarians compose a very small number of the total teaching force in the state. Even with those small numbers, we were able to rally forces to speak up about our role in the schools. When I wrote my letter to BESE, it was not about my small school and the students that I teach, but about all the students who attend public schools in Louisiana. Because every single one of them deserves an excellent education. An education which cannot be adequately provided when pivotal members of the instruction team are not there. Kudos to everyone who helped to win this battle. Though I don't think the fighting is over, librarians need to continue to be advocates for all library programs so all stakeholders understand the crucial role that we play in students' academic lives. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Speaking to Librarians at the National Catholic Educational Association Conference

Houston school children decorated these boots on display
On April 2nd, I did something that I have never done before. I got on a plane at 6:30AM to go to Houston, and by 7PM that night I was back home in New Orleans and getting ready to walk my dog. Back in October, I received a call from the Catholic Librarian Association (CLA) asking if I would speak at their national conference about using digital resources in the library. I was hesitant at first because I have had to be away from school a number of days this year when I spoke at different conferences around the state of Louisiana. When my principal offered her support, I agreed to speak. As I was making my plans to attend, it just seemed too easy to go up for the day because the flight to Houston is less than an hour. 

There was no where to stand in that room without having shadows on my face
The title of my talk was, "Become a 21st Century School Librarian by Harnessing the Internet." In the talk I gave a run down of all the electronic tools I use to promote the library and the library program at PFTSTA. I brought an edited Prezi that freshman, Mark Parfait, created for my talk for the Louisiana Library Association (LLA). At LLA, I gave a 45 minute presentation.. In Houston, I had 75 minutes to talk. I left about 9 minutes for questions at the end. There were approximately 60 librarians who attended my session. I worried that I overwhelmed them, but I got a nice email from one of the attendees who had a couple of questions and was looking for some additional resources. Here is a link to the online resources that I created to go along with my presentation. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

BESE Responds by Editing Revisions to Bulletin 741

Students spoke and BESE listened, sort of. BESE received more letters from students than anyone else in support of school libraries in Louisiana. What a wonderful testament to the librarians who run those libraries. Students know how much they have to lose if their school libraries are shuttered.

Open here to find section 1705 (with the most up to date revisions) of Bulletin 741, the Louisana handbook for school administrators. The sections marked in yellow are the additions that were made after BESE received letters from the public. The first page of this document is in regards to school counselors, scroll down to the second page to read about the school librarians.

Open here to read the summary of public comments that BESE received regarding changes to school counselors and school librarians in Bulletin 741. Again, the counselors are mentioned first, and you must scroll down to read about the responses to the school librarians.

Okay, the librarians did not exactly what they wanted because the new language allows principals to "determine how resources and assistance are provided to students." Which means some principals may decide to hire a teacher rather than keep their librarian. At least the document states that the school must provide students with instruction on how to access and use reference materials which we know can best be delivered by school librarians.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Collaboration Infographic from NCLE and AASL

I am a big fan of infographics. They tell a story quickly with research data, and as a visual learner, they make it easy for me to understand and remember what I am reading. There have been many created recently in the field of education. I haven't made my first one yet, but I certainly like to share them when I find a good one. The following infographic was created by the National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) and was posted on the American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) website

Collaboration is an important component of 21st Century Skills, and librarians are great models for collaboration as you can see below. Also, librarians engage in professional development for lifelong learning and share what they learn with other teachers. I love being part of a profession that values learning beyond the classroom, beyond the school building, beyond the district and so on. Visit AASL, and you can download your own copy of this infographic. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Check Out the Status of Our New School

It has been several months since I have driven by the new school. So last Saturday, I took a ride over there to take some pictures. The trailers in the front of the school that blocked your view as you drove by are now gone. The chain link fence that surrounded the site is gone. The parking lots in the front and the back have been poured, and though there was a semblance of a plastic fence to keep you from walking on the parking lot, it was easy to walk across the parking lot and get a good view of the building. Yes, we are planning to move in and begin the 2013-14 school year in this space. 

Front entrance

Front of the school
The tall tower on the left is going to have the school name

This is the outside of the library

Back of the school

From the street

Friday, April 5, 2013

Winners Announced for Follett Challenge, PFTSTA was Not One of Them

Open here for the Follett Challenge website
I worked so hard on the application and getting votes. I am really sad that we did not win, but I always knew that it was a possibility. Congrats to the six schools who won the Challenge. They seemed to have some awesome programs at their schools. 

Teens Like New Books From Established Authors

Find the reviews here
All three teen reviews in this edition of SLJTeen were written for books by established authors. Many of the teens have favorite authors that they will read regardless of the quality of the book, but it is nice to hear that the students enjoyed these books by Sarah Dessen, Francesca Lia Block and Jaclyn Moriarity. Click here to read the reviews.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Students Don't Want to Lose Their School Libraries

In December, I posted some letters that students wrote telling BESE what they thought about the revisions to Bulletin 741 that would allow school administrators to eliminate school libraries. BESE is planning to talk about this issue at their next meeting. Some of the teachers decided to give an assignment that would combine preparation for standardized testing and writing a letter to BESE. The students were given a writing prompt to write a persuasive letter explaining why they want to keep their school libraries opened with a certified librarian at the helm. All of the students wrote a letter. Some even chose to take the other side. They thought is would be easier to argue even if they did not agree with it. I am going to mail some of the best letters to BESE, but I wanted to share a couple with you. These students were really thoughtful with their responses, and believe that the school librarian and library offer them a better education. 

April 2, 2013
Dear BESE Members:
A librarian’s job is to encourage students and expand their learning. Libraries are a place where students can come and learn of their own free will and explore independently. Libraries provide a place for students to read and relax on school and are an encouraging environment for them. Although they may be costly, libraries are an invaluable trove of information and they are a safe haven for students. Librarians are specialized teachers that are there to help students stay updated with the real world and technological advancements.

Many say that librarians are not necessary because teachers could teach the same material in the classroom, and they would not have to be paid extra. Although some teachers are able to show students sources and programs that librarians show, many are either not informed about these or they do not have time in their lesson plan. Librarians are usually always on hand to help students, whether it be finding a source for a project or figuring out how to use a new program. Our librarian is frequently showing us new databases, how to use a new piece of technology or how to use a new application that will make studying easier. Our librarian helps us keep up to date with the latest technology that we otherwise would not have known about.

Librarians not only teach the students new things, they also teach the teachers. Librarians are available to cooperate with teachers and provide help on topics. Our school librarian frequently cooperates with the teachers so that she can show them new programs and applications that will be useful in the classroom and provide a stimulant for learning. By presenting information learned while researching for a project in new way students will be more interested than making a classic poster board or PowerPoint presentation.

Libraries provide new opportunities for students to expand their knowledge. Libraries are full of informational books that students use for projects, essays, or just because they are interested and want to know more about a topic.  By encouraging students to read librarians encourage them to learn and embrace new things and seek knowledge on their own. A librarian will also encourage students to participate in extracurricular activities that improve their academic status and confidence. Our school has received many awards from poetry contests, writing contests, and other extra curriculum that students have been encouraged to participate in by our librarian.

Libraries are also a place for students to come and relax on school campus. In a quiet environment students can pick up a fiction book and be transported into a whole new world of magic, dragons,  and noble knights off to save a princess. Although many argue that fiction books are “time wasters” and not useful at all, fiction provides a stress reliever for many students. Without libraries many students from lower income families would not have access to these books and materials. Fiction books provide a healthy way for students to have fun in school and outside of school too. Instead of going home and playing video games, students will be excited to open their books and find out the fate of the hero in the next chapter. By providing books we provide a way for students to enjoy themselves productively.

Although money is very tight in many school systems and space is an issue, without libraries students will be lacking valuable knowledge and experiences that will be useful later in life. Libraries are a fun and healthy place for students to grow intellectually and are a stress reliever for students. By keeping libraries in school we keep opportunities for teachers and students to try new things and stay up to date with the modern world. In my opinion, libraries pay for themselves in the expanse of students’ and teachers’ learning.

Grayce Mores
7th Grade Student
Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy

April 2, 2013
Dear members of BESE:
Many a time I have found myself at the school library’s doors, going through to the treasure chest of books nesting themselves in each overcrowded shelf. Our librarian, Ms. Kahn, is a kind, exuberant woman with a wide array of knowledge concerning both technology and books. I don’t know what we would do without her- she is always introducing us to new technology for the classrooms and homework. Librarians like her, helpful and tech-savvy, are why I am against Bulletin 741.

For one, they offer great technology training to both students and teachers. While teachers may know their way around a computer, they are not specially trained like librarians are. I often find myself bored, halfway to dozing off, as my teachers struggles with the computer- whether it be the projector, computer error, or human mistake, something always seems to go wrong. This is why we need librarians- they help with our mistakes, especially when teachers can’t. Librarians are available all the school day, unlike teachers, who have classes. Librarians can solve problems when our teachers are busy or don’t know how to solve said problems. They don’t only solve problems- librarians also integrate new, and old, technology into our everyday lives. They implement new tools into the classroom and help teachers learn how to use the new technology.

Being a librarian isn’t all about technology; it is also about reading- that’s what libraries are for! Librarians encourage us to read with a wide array of books and knowledge about literature. They can help us find books we’re interested, leading us to the worlds we get entranced in and swept up by. With the selection of books offered and the help of a genre-savvy librarian, students get more exposure to books they will enjoy. The library offers a great place to enjoy, read, and devour these books- it is a quiet place where anyone and everyone is welcome. The library is a haven away from loud, obnoxious students and instead a quiet sanctuary to engross one’s self in a novel- whether it be sci-fi, fantasy, realistic fiction, historical fiction, or non-fiction.

When quiet time is over, however, the library can be a fun place for extra-curricular activities. For example, our school has an annual ‘Teen Tech Week’ in the library. During Teen Tech Week, Ms. Kahn had an activity every day during lunch for a week. Activities included poem writing, book sharing- we each brought a favorite book of ours and gave a little summary of what it was about-, and even an interview with an author. Activities like this are what attract people to the library like termites to wood, each bite taken out of the wood a book taken off the shelf(unlike the termites, however, students usually return the books). These fun-filled activities encourage learning and offer a break from the classroom, while still offering education at the same time as fun.

The fun activities, quiet reading environment, and helpful technology tutorials are why I am against Bulletin 741. Giving principals the ability to take away libraries will be disastrous if they choose to do so. I can’t imagine school without my cheerful, helpful librarian. She offers so much to the school, whether it is by helping teachers sort out their technology issues or recommending a good book or two(or five).
Holly Wilkinson
7th grade student
Patrick Taylor Science and Technology Academy

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Winning a Chance to Attend ALA 2013 in Chicago

Last year, I had such a good time attending the ALA Annual conference away from home that I knew I wanted to go again. I just didn't know how I was going to fund the conference and a summer vacation. So when EBSCO and ALA announced in the fall about a scholarship to attend ALA Annual, I wrote 250 words on how attending ALA would contribute to my professional development. I found out a couple of weeks ago that I had won. I didn't want to post here until ALA announced it. Which they did yesterday. Open this link to read the press release about the seven winners. I am the only school librarian. The only stipulation for this scholarship is that we attend the EBSCO breakfast on Sunday, otherwise I can schedule my time at the conference any way that I want. I have never been to Chicago so I am not only thrilled about the conference but also thrilled about seeing Chicago. My husband is going with me, and we are going to stay an extra day so that I can actually visit a museum or take an architectural tour. Thanks EBSCO for giving me this wonderful opportunity.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Have You Written Your Letter to BESE?

Below is the letter that I wrote to Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) asking them not to revise Bulletin 741 which would allow school administrators to eliminate school libraries. Please write your own letter and let them know how you feel. All letters must be received in the Baton Rouge office by April 8th. 

BESE Members
Attn: Heather Cope, Executive Director 
Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Box 94064
Capitol Station
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9064

March 31, 2013

Dear BESE members, 

I have been teaching in Louisiana schools for over 30 years, and I have been a librarian for two thirds of my teaching career. I am a nationally award winning school librarian who is as viable today in the classroom as I was when I began my career. It really saddens me that it has been a continuous fight at the local level and now the state level to keep school librarians in the schools. Yes, in a sense that fight is helping me to keep the job that I love so much. However, the reason that I find my job so rewarding is all the ways that I support student learning throughout my school in all content areas and at all grade levels. Librarians are one of the few school level teachers who have an impact on every student in the building year after year after year. I know that what I do matters to student achievement. 

Studies have proven time and again that a school with a full-time certified school librarian and abundant library resources has students who score higher on standardized tests. This is not even dependent on socio-economic background of the students. You can read an article about the Pennsylvania School Library Study of 2011 in the March 2013 edition of School Library Journal here: This study like many before it illustrate how school libraries help our K-12 students be successful. 

Please read the article mentioned above so you can see the data supporting the importance of school libraries. I am asking you not to revise section 1705 of Bulletin 741 and giving school administrators the option to decide whether to staff and maintain school libraries. It is important to insure that every student in a public school in Louisiana gets a quality education. Without school libraries, our students cannot receive the education that they deserve. 

Sincerely yours, 
Elizabeth Kahn

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