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We’ve just had fall term exams at Mercersburg Academy and I wanted to share a few things that we did to help kids relieve stress. As a boarding school, students are able to come in to the library during the evenings for study hall between 7:00pm and 10:00pm. This makes it even more important to have stress outlets!
Stop. Puzzle Time!
We put a 1000 piece puzzle behind the circulation desk and let the kids go crazy! We had students stopping by Sunday-Wednesday and a few who were determined to finish it before they left for break!
They really enjoyed being in a “restricted area” and it helped break down the boundary that is created by our monster of a desk.
Our library is located across campus from the student center, so students who wanted coffee during evening quiet hours had to sign out of the library and then sign back in after getting it. This year, we tried out having a large carafe of coffee in the Research Commons and the kids loved it! The coffee was available from 7-10pm on the three evenings before full days of exams.
I bought a big roll of bubble wrap and cut it into squares. We put it out by the research desk and let kids pop it to relieve stress. For two of the days it was out, the students were respectful and really enjoyed the bubble wrap.
However, one night during evening quiet hours the bubble wrap was distributed throughout the library and we could hear little “pop! pop! pop!” all night. Definitely not ideal. This one is definitely repeat at your own risk! If you try this at your library, I would suggest having an adult stationed by the bubble wrap at all times to remind the students to be respectful of those who are trying to study.
A perennial favorite for stress relief, coloring books are a great exam week option. We put them out around the library with some colored pencils. The kids seemed to enjoy them, though they didn’t get as much use as in previous years. Perhaps this trend has run its course?
Are there any things that you do to help students de-stress during exams?
Over the last few years, avid and ambitious readers among the students and staff have pitched their book club desires to me. Naturally I’m game, but as our clubs and organizations already are challenged by finding time to meet I admit I’ve been pessimistic about book club success. A handful of times such an effort would result in one meeting and then fizzle out. This year I’m giving it another go, inspired by two things. First is our newly formed Global Diversity Council, comprising students and faculty members and tasked with ensuring “effective diversity engagement, inclusive excellent practices, a multicultural environment and curriculum, equitable activities, and social justice actions.”
The second was a recent well-timed article from Teaching Tolerance, in which Chelsea Tornetto writes:
“A story is often the most effective way to create personal connections between very different people. Reading a novel allows us to see the world through someone else’s eyes, remove the context we are used to and replace it with something new. We are more prepared to accept things beyond our own experiences because we know we are reading a ‘story,’ and yet we also actively search for similarities between our own lives and the lives of the characters. A novel can begin to open students’ minds and shape their hearts, without doing battle against their sense of self.”
While this is something we all know already, evoking Rudine Sims Bishop’s often referenced “windows, sliding doors, and mirrors” metaphor, I read it at the right time. This past summer our faculty and staff read Global Dexterity by Andy Molinsky, and the last line of this quotation points beautifully to the concept of this title; that we can find and should seek ways to effectively engage, identify with, and relate to people who are culturally different from ourselves without compromising our own identities and values. Reading about a fictional yet realistic character’s experiences is a safe way to practice this, which our school community wants and needs to do.
This article reminded me how simple yet powerful a program this could be, and with the right book, the right group to participate in and promote it, and enough (widely publicized) pizza, it could be a success.
This feels a little hard to say, but one of the stumbling blocks our book clubs have faced in the past is perhaps too much student ownership. I think my belief in wanting to give students voice and choice in this type of activity may have deprived them of a valuable experience. Of course I would like student voices heard and student ownership of our selections and discussions, but well-intentioned as our students may be, they, like all of us, just don’t always have time to do “extra” things like prepare, make posters, and successfully book talk an extracurricular novel. Reminder to self – reading promotion, awareness of current publications, and facilitating discussions about literature are my job. Those things aren’t “extra” for me. So maybe, for the students to have a great experience, a little adult (read: librarian) ownership is not such a bad thing.
I went to a GDC meeting last week and shared this idea. Rather than asking for book suggestions from the students, I said “The first book will be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and first meeting will be during lunch on December 13 in the library with pizza. I hope that if we decide to continue the book club that you folks will have some suggestions.” An interested buzz made its way around the room, so that’s good enough to forge ahead.
Then I sent this poster to Upper School students, faculty, and staff:
Window and Mirrors Book Club
With interest and partnership from the GDC, I think this will go very well. Our library collection holds copies of this particular title in three formats, and the GDC was able to purchase a few copies for students, faculty, and staff to bring home over Thanksgiving break. The books came in yesterday and three copies had already been claimed by 8:30 this morning. I’ll spring for the pizza.
I would love to hear about others’ Windows and Mirrors Book Club successes, stumbles, and book choices. My hypothesis is that we will need to choose very current titles representing diverse identities and experiences, personally invite some folks who might not be paying attention to emails and announcements, and make sure everyone knows about the food.
Recently my 7th grade history teacher approached me about making connections with students around the globe. She wanted students to have global pen pals for an authentic interaction. I immediately started working on the project and began researching possible partners.
Many of the Google searches I created led me to results that may or not be someone pretending to be a global student! Needless to say, I did not want to put our students in harm’s way.
I thought of reputable organizations and soon began researching the George W. Bush Presidential Library. They have a Women’s Initiative program that aims to empower women and children in countries where women do not have as many rights as they do in the United States.
I reached out to the Bush Library and arranged a meeting where we were connected with one of the Women’s Initiative Fellows, Farah. Farah works as a librarian in Tunisia! Working with Farah we were able to communicate with Tunisian students when they were in Farah’s library! Additionally, Farah visited 7th grade history classrooms when she was in the United States as part of her Fellowship program.
These experiences were exceptional, authentic global experiences for our students. The Bush Library has tremendously high standards, so I knew that we were in good, reputable hands. Additionally, all of the educational opportunities were free for our students! Finally, I now have a global library friend all the way across the globe!
Partnering with an area library was a wonderful experience, and I hope to continue to build quality programs with area academic, public and special libraries.
I started my career in education as an elementary classroom teacher. During that time I had the opportunity to teach in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. My favorite grade was 2nd. 7-year olds have this wondrous way of showing you how much of the awesomeness of life you are missing when you view the world through the jaded lenses of old-fartness.
I distinctly remember, for example, looking out across the play field and seeing rain clouds crest over the mountains above our campus and tumble down the valley toward us. I calculated that the rain would arrive just in time to assure us of another day of indoor recess. “Well, that’s just great. Indoor recess, again…” I remember thinking. At the very moment that, that thought crossed my mind, my 2nd graders gathered at the lanai railing, looked out, and someone exclaimed, “Look how BIG the rainbow is!!!” After which we all spent the next few minutes just soaking in the beauty of our Hawaiian rainbow. I remember looking at my kids and thinking, “I can’t believe how lucky I am. I actually get paid to hang out with these people all day!!!”
Flash forward many, many, many years. My youthful old-fartness has progressed into end-of-career old-fartness. An affliction that makes me compelled to tell a listserv of librarians that on the outside my librarian persona is mostly calmly asking students in my crowded library to “Please keep voices conversational,” but in my head I’m thinking, “SHUT UP!!! SHUT UP!!! SHUT UP!!!”
Well, it is in this context that I find myself hosting a practicum student from the MLIS program at the University of Hawaii. Christian Mosher, our amazing practicum student, is a video arts teacher at another independent school in Honolulu. He is completing his final semester of work in the library program’s school librarianship track and is spending ten to twelve hours a week with us in the library. Christian has partnered with us on everything from cataloging, to planning and presenting PD sessions for our faculty, to teaching a variety of library classes for a variety of age groups. I asked if he’d share a bit from his practicum journal about his perspective on his experience as a soon-to-be librarian and he decided that he wanted to share a little about his first day in our library.
This is what librarianship looks like through his not-old-fart eyes…
Today was my first day working with Dave Wee at Mid-Pacific Institute. I engaged in many different activities over the six hours I was there, but I will focus on one specific incident for this post.
It was early on in the day and I had just completed a walking tour of the campus. Dave and I were discussing the upcoming schedule for the day on the main floor in the library when the other librarian, Nicole Goff, walked a young boy up to us. He had already received assistance at the reception desk. A small slip of paper had the Dewey call number of 952 on it. Dave and I were asked to assist the young boy with locating the exact book. I observed how Dave handled the situation and eventually I stepped in and helped too. First, the call numbers were prominently posted on the ends of the shelves, so Dave asked the boy to find the 900’s. This boy may have been 10 or 11 years old. He found the right shelf and all three of us walked down the aisle. The young boy was looking all over for 952 when Dave reminded him that we read from top to bottom and from left to right. The boy organized his searching this way and found the 952 call number. Then a discussion was started about why the boy was looking for a specific book. David asked questions like what class is this for? And who is your teacher? The boy answered and we narrowed down the topic to Japanese Festivals. An awesome tip that was given to the boy was to look at the books to the left and to the right of the book that he located. Dave brought down five or six books for the boy to look through. Again, a search strategy was explained to the boy when David mentioned that oftentimes books have a table-of-contents in the front. The boy located the table-of-contents and went on to find the chapter on festivals. David and I flipped through a few books as well. A suggestion was made by Dave that the boy should be able to read and understand the content in the books. Those five or six books were narrowed down to three and the boy was sent on his way to check them out at the circulation clerk.
This impacted me because it was the very first experience that made me feel like a real librarian. Those that know me know that I am very passionate about integrating 21st century skills into library curriculum. This incident put me into a position that I never really evvisioned myself in. My assumption is that many LIS students do hope, desire, and envision themselves assisting patrons in the stacks. That hasn’t been the case for me; until now. The way that David interacted with the young boy was something that I now see myself doing. The satisfaction that the boy had when he left with three useful books is now something that I can strive to achieve when I assist students in the future.
The best standard to fit this incident would be Standard 3: Information and Knowledge. The specific element would be 3.1: Efficient and ethical information-seeking behavior. The young boy needed had a specific information need and David and I were able to help him locate it. What was exemplary was the fact that David modeled for the young boy how to locate the book on his own and how to locate other relevant books that would have similar or better information for him. This was also a collaborative effort as the boy was first assisted by the other librarian, then handed off to us, and then sent to the circulation clerk to complete the checkout of the books.
Like it was with my 7-year olds, sometimes I get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of doing school librarianship, that I don’t stop to take a moment and savor just how incredibly lucky we are to do what we do in our libraries every single day. Thank you, Christian, for reminding me to slow down and savor the joyous moments.
And please join me in congratulating Christian for PASSING HIS ORALS last week!
Our profession is in good hands…
This year, new school construction provided opportunities for our middle school library.
A library office and workspace disappeared to create a hallway connecting the new lower school building to the middle school building. It felt like the old adage…”it’s not like we’re losing a daughter, we’re gaining a son.” The equation for the new library design might be the following:
new library spaces (hallway) + increased traffic (both lower and middle school students) =
literacy education opportunities
Installing large whiteboard Idea Walls along one side of this new hallway was a design that quickly took shape, but with every new opportunity is a challenge:
How do you prevent the Idea Wall from becoming a static space–a glorified bulletin board–and instead create a public space that ignites ideas, promotes discussions, encourages interactions, and makes visible a culture of learning in the school community? Here are a few ways the library has launched the Idea Wall.
Opening the Doors to Imagination
We began with a themed slogan at the top of the Idea Wall,
“Open the Doors to … Imagination,”
and Alice in Wonderland illustrations by Tenniel framed one large panel of the Idea Wall. Our school community was invited to write the titles of their favorites books featuring magical portals or doors as an important part of the storyline. We also had a Literary Door contest. Students, faculty, administrators, and even visiting alumni had fun adding the title of their favorite books to the Idea Wall.
Exploring an Author’s Book
October’s Idea Wall theme was created by students in the Literary Magazine class to help promote our Book Fair Author, Allan Wolf, who wrote a novel in verse about the sinking of the Titanic, The Watch that Ends the Night. Students used the rich back matter of this book to create a “match-the-statistics” on survivors in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd classes, as well as write the names of countries of those on board the fated ship (these country names were written in a wave-like pattern beneath the ship). Blue-toned post-it notes featured the names of people and quotes, and viewers were invited to match the person’s name to the poem excerpt that described this character’s point of view. A final section of the Titanic Idea Wall featured a poem from the book and invited students to find words that showed onomatopoeia as well as words and phrases that used analogy or vivid language.
November’s Idea Wall was also designed by the Literary Magazine students. Using the door theme again, fifteen door images were selected by the students (using Britannica Image Quest) and the students wrote writing prompts for each image. The school community was encouraged to select a door image that makes them curious, and write a poem, descriptive paragraph, or short story based on the writing prompt. The Literary Magazine editors will judge the entries, and winners will enjoy a pizza lunch with our January writing workshop author, Diane Stanley, as well as have the writing piece published in the Literary Magazine. Below is one example of an imaginative doorway image and writing prompt.
Thinking about Thinking
The second whiteboard panel along the library hallway invites viewers to “Think about Thinking.” The first installation was titled “Thinking Fast and Slow,” and professional books were displayed tied to this theme: Making Thinking Visible, The Shallows, and I Read It But I Don’t Get It.
A Venn diagram and laptop screen graphics encouraged viewers to add their experiences of when they think fast/think slow when using print sources or the internet. Though this first installation did not get interaction from students, fellow teachers liked having a space to highlight metacognition and thinking strategies. This year our faculty meets once a week in PLC groups, and one of the PLC groups reserved the Idea Wall in October to display an interactive Growth Mindset board and also displayed fiction and nonfiction books themed to “grit” and “growth mindset.” It was wonderful to have this Idea Wall space spearheaded by other faculty, and I anticipate that the PLC groups will take turns highlighting their learning on this portion of the Idea Wall. This also provides a great way to showcase our professional book collection to teachers!
New Directions for the Idea Wall
Modular furniture has been ordered for the library hallway opposite the Idea Wall, and I envision that this will make the space even more inviting for students. Faculty have been encouraged to reserve the wall space if they wish to brainstorm ideas connected to their curriculum, and once a few initiators try this out, I think more faculty and students will take advantage of using this space.
I look forward to hearing how your school incorporates Idea Walls to ignite ideas.
This past summer I attended STLinSTL hosted by MICDS, and educator Lynn Mittler’s session on Design Thinking provided the following resources:
Design Thinking for Educators
This free Design Thinking toolkit includes Map Frameworks (maps to group thinking/data, as an alternative to a Venn Diagram).
Resources and workshops on Design Thinking
Creating Cultures of Thinking, by Ron Ritchhart
Britannica Image Quest Citation:
Nanniebots. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. quest.eb.com/search/132_1304503/1/132_1304503/cite. Accessed 12 Sep 2017.
We started the year with How to Read a Story by Kate Messner and Mark Siegel.
We love the new flexible furniture in our library instruction area.
We are partnering with our local Independent book store, Tattered Cover, to host our first on-campus All School Book Fair.
After a successful Faculty Summer Reading Program we started a small book exchange in our mailroom.
My current professional reading.
Oh, and Captain Underpants showed up for Halloween.
Enormous thanks to my colleague, Viola Lyons, for contributing this – as she did the research for the purchase, it made sense that she was the one to comment on the experience.
When we were investigating which machine to buy, it was difficult to find a truly unbiased review. We eventually settled on one of two options: the Cricut Explore Air or the Silhouette Cameo 3. While we chose the Silhouette, we know of many people very happy with their Cricut.
The main feature that kept coming up in comparisons was the fact that the design studio software for Cameo 3 is more advanced and allows the user to create designs from scratch. Having the ability to design is an important feature for us since we are providing the use of the machine in part at least to promote creativity. Cricut has a large library of existing designs to import, and you can subscribe to keep receiving new ones, but it is not possible to create “one of a kind” designs to the same extent. We look forward to exploring this option with members of our sewing club who will create custom iron-on transfers for their creations.
The flip side of that is that there is hardly a review out there that doesn’t mention that the learning curve for the Cameo 3 machine is steeper! Cricut is promoted as being an easier machine for the beginner to learn on. It has taken some time for us to get up to speed on the Cameo 3, but we’re learning lots and have been pleased with results to date.
Here are some of the factors in our decision-making process:
Material Length: The Cameo 3 enables the user to cut longer lengths of material (up to 10 feet) which is great if you intend to work on larger projects. Cricut can cut up to 24 inches. (We haven’t had need for anything longer at this point, but there is some interest in larger projects such as wall quotes).
Blade settings: The Cameo 3 comes with an autoblade. This blade will automatically calibrate to the correct setting each time you set up a project. You still need to “tell” the machine what material is being used but it will then do the adjustment for you. The newest Cricut has a smart set dial which I believe accomplishes essentially the same thing so the difference here is likely quite minimal.
Cutting Force and Materials: Both machines will cut over 100 types of material and so far we haven’t been limited with the Cameo. However, some Cricut fans claim that the Cricut has a greater cutting force and is able to cut materials such as cork or leather – the Cameo is not designed to cut these thicker materials.
Precision: Some posts claim that the Cricut cuts with more precision. For our purposes, I don’t think this will be an issue. Everything that we have created with the Cameo, including some very intricate pieces, has been expertly cut and meets our needs.
PixScan Technology: One feature which we have not explored is PixScan technology. This feature is only available on the Cameo3 and enables the user to scan and cut preprinted images. We’re not quite there yet!
So far, we are delighted to have it – we are able to whip up letters and shapes for bulletin boards and displays with ease and we are looking forward to using it in our makerspace for personalizing water bottles, laptops and other creative endeavours.
I thought that I would have all sorts of wonderful insights into our “Library Re-imagining Project Using Design Thinking” by now … but we are still slogging along … the project, begun before the start of the last school year … is still a work in process. So I thought that I would just kvetch about the usual …
I wonder how many librarians ask other school departments for assistance but are told that everyone else is busy (the implication being that librarians have free time)? I asked for library signage. Our middle/upper school library also houses IT and the Learning Resource Center but they’re not very visible. Everyone comes to our circulation desk and expects the librarians to know where the IT techs or Learning Resource tutors are (and even whether they’re in their offices or not). I asked Innovation and Design to make us a sign directing people to IT or LRC. Design students have a 3-D printer and make signs for Reception and Admissions. However, they told me to ask Communications. I asked Communications. They said to ask Operations or to design a sign and have one made. I don’t know about you but if I knew how to make a sign that hangs down from our ceiling, I would have made one.
One of our IT techs was out and about in the library the other day when I was in the back office (it’s a glass room, visible to all in the library). He came in to tell me that a student needed help. So I came out to assist the student. What did he need help with? IT issues with his laptop!
Librarians, in my experience, try to accommodate students and faculty whenever we possibly can. We are loathe to say that we can’t help because we’re wonderful people, of course, but also because we worry about staff cutbacks or loss of library space (one of our study rooms is now a counseling office). Other departments don’t feel that pressure. We had a recent meeting with our head of school. He questioned our faculty status due to the fact that we don’t grade students (never mind the fact that classroom teachers all have free periods and time off for grading while we are supervising their little darlins’). He didn’t understand why faculty status is vital to us but persuading classroom teachers to use us for research skills is hard enough … if we lose that designation, would they use us even less?
Then I started looking at the library and librarians from other points of view. We need to be better, I think, at selling ourselves – showing our value. For some reason there is this persistent (mis)perception that librarians sit around all day reading (which sounds heavenly but I don’t even have time to read professional journals – I take them home to read). We spend a lot of time supervising and assisting students with their laptops. We place book orders, get those books in the catalog and on the shelves, weed outdated books, provide all sorts of resources both print and online, help with citations, etc. but … so many of those activities are done behind the scenes. So I’m trying to do more displays … sending emails to teachers and students when new books come in. I recently set up a Book Nook at the upper school … to “remind” everyone of the library every time they are in the US office.
And I wholeheartedly agree with those on the listserv who said that we should have our own library website (maybe we can persuade Communications to allow us to take ownership of the library page of our school’s website). We also plan on showcasing our resources at the next Professional Development day as many teachers don’t know of our online resources, including eBooks and online periodicals. We need to self-advocate. I’m sure there are many more ideas on how we can “prove our value.” I look forward to the day when no one says “I want to be a librarian so I can read all day.”
November is one of those months that’s filled to the brim with reading and writing celebrations — from NaNoWriMo to National American Indian Heritage Month to Picture Book Month, and all of the other celebrations cleverly packed into this children’s activity calendar by Matthew Winner. It’s not like you have to look hard to find a reason to celebrate books and reading. Books are great, yeah!
We highlight all kinds of literature throughout the year with our displays, our recommendations, and our bulletin boards. While I usually weave nonfiction books into my displays, they’re not generally the ones that get a ton of love, especially when sitting side by side with a bright and shiny story. So, I’m skipping the calendar and focusing my November on celebrating nonfiction books in the library. Because there are TONS of kids who LOVE to read nonfiction, but they don’t get to share that love as easily as our fiction readers do. I’m still in the planning stages of what this will look like, but here are some ideas so far…
Created for my first through fourth grade students (and teachers), here’s a nonfiction reading bingo-style card. I’ll share it with classes early next week and hope that I get some participation! Feel free to copy and adapt for your school.
I also created a Nonfiction Read-Alouds list on Destiny (click Lower School > Resource Lists > Nonfiction Read-alouds), most of which will be on my window display. These books have been published in the last few years and lend well to classroom read-alouds. I’ll share these books with staff in a newsletter later this week and hopefully get them on board with Nonfiction November, too.
Other ideas floating around in my brain include a Question of the Week for students to research, an interactive poster on what students are curious about and want to learn more about, and nonfiction booktalks to our older classes. Not sure if time is on my side, but I’m going to give it a try! How do you celebrate nonfiction reading in your school? Is Nonfiction November in your future?
Happy reading (and fact-checking!),
Remember the last time that you heard a speaker who challenged your thinking and perhaps made you question your role in your profession? Sometimes, like with professor Eric Mazur who keynoted FCIS a few years ago, I didn’t even realize I was paying attention until I noticed how often I was changing my lessons to match his ideals. Recently, the county library system sponsored David Lankes, Director of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science. His talk was “Mostly True: A Knowledge Organization in an Age of Alternative Facts.”
Abstract: Communities need the public library now more than ever. In an era when neighbors are more divided than ever, and even the nature of truth and facts are in question, how do librarians best serve their community? This presentation makes the argument that our communities do not need more information literacy, a greater emphasis on quality information, or a neutral institution. Rather our communities need trusted partners helping weave together common understandings of events and priorities.
You can watch the entire presentation here with audio and slides at https://davidlankes.org/?p=9237.
Lankes believes that public libraries are safe places to explore dangerous ideas and that librarians must change their mindset from serving the community to being part of the community. We should work off of emotional intelligence (EQ) and not just facts.
He talked about the difference in the statements “How can I help you?” and “What are you interested in today?” The first implies that we are serving patrons, and the second gives them ownership over their interests. Get out from behind the reference desk.
Basically, the setup of the talk was that our field’s response to the current news situation has been three-fold: information literacy, promotion of quality, and neutrality. He disputed that this was the best response and asked listeners to instead worry less about “truth.” All information is contextual. Instead of thinking about information, we should think about knowledge. Knowledge is social. It’s about trust. “Trust doesn’t come from neutrality but from consistency.” Lankes believes that there has been a rise in credibility by reliability rather than authority. This makes sense to me as so-called experts are called into question by those in authority, and people find sources that confirm their own biases. There isn’t always an objective “truth.”
In particular, in relation to school libraries, he questioned the information literacy courses that we teach and value. This is difficult for me. I love teaching information literacy skills, and I think that they are valuable for our students. In fact, I’m still not sure that I buy his argument. Lankes said that some of the fake news controversy that we’ve been confronting over the last year is a result of such courses. Information literacy training leads to greater confidence in one’s ability to evaluate information, but not necessarily greater ability. This struck a chord with me. I’ve seen it with my own students. His other reason is that “every tool we give to evaluate is one people can use to manipulate.” There are marketers and political analysts who will utilize what information literacy courses teach to make their sites seem more legitimate or more neutral. When making websites, these individuals will make sure that it appears to pass the CRAP test or whatever checklist your school uses. This is true, but there has to be an answer in how to teach students to be more effective information consumers who can interact critically with sources across the ideological spectrum.
This is a paradigm shift for librarians. Even if we don’t agree wholeheartedly, it’s important to have conversations about information literacy and librarian neutrality. Thoughts?