Beyond Read-Alike: A Read-Within

As I’m sure many of us are, I am taking advantage of summer’s looser schedule to fit many more books a week into my reading time than I normally am able to. A delight, of course. But, even more delightful – twice in the past week I have had one of my favorite experiences when reading a novel. I don’t know about you, but I get a little frisson of geeky excitement when I am reading a book and the characters read or make reference to a book that I also love, or that I selected for the library collection hoping for a clamorous reception. This doesn’t happen with any old book name-drop. I don’t get a thrill when characters are reading Lord of the Flies in their fictional English class, for example, even though such a reference could help a reader relate to a character. I’m talking about books that are less ubiquitous reads, that a reader might have picked up on their own and now they get to reap the rewards of that choice again. Or, perhaps, something they’ve never heard of but now might be persuaded to pick up after reading the referencing book to get new insight into a character and stay with them longer.  I want my students to experience that same feeling of recognition in a character when a shared taste in literature is revealed. I want them to have that feeling of inclusion, or at least get the joke. If a reader loves one book or the other, its partner could become an easy sell! Anyway, I think it would make a cool display.  I have started making a list of examples when I run across or remember them. Here are a few I have gathered so far, in no particular order:


Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven / We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

In Holding Up the Universe, Libby, formerly housebound, identifies with the main character of her favorite book. After her house is demolished to rescue her, an unknown person sends one of her own copies of the book to the hospital with a life-changing message written inside: “I’m rooting for you.”


Two for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky and Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

In these two books, The Bell Jar is not just casually mentioned; the characters’ engagement with the text plays a central role in the story. Readers may get more from these two novels after or before reading The Bell Jar.


When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead/A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Plenty of middle schoolers love When You Reach Me, but may not have read or otherwise heard of A Wrinkle in Time. The Hope Larsen graphic novel adaptation and upcoming film could help this out the door, too.


The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner/Just Kids by Patti Smith

The three main characters in The Serpent King are shopping in a local bookstore. One of them buys a copy of her favorite book, Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which presumably she already has, just to pretend she’s about to read it for the first time. 


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell / Watchmen by Alan Moore

Eleanor and Park bond over this classic comic book. When I read Eleanor & Park, I also happened to be reading Watchmen for the first time, through sheer coincidence. What?!?

They spoiled the end.


Buck: a Memoir by M. K. Asante / Howl by Allen Ginsburg and On the Road by Jack Kerouac

In his memoir, M. K. Asante relates a story of a teacher who gave him these two books and thereby a voracious love of reading. He mentions several more works and authors that he read next including James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston. Asante visited our school, and students lined up for his book and autograph in droves. If he loved these I think a few students will be more interested in them too. 

Displaying books side-by-side with a well-placed note could bring new attention to some overlooked titles. “Loved The Serpent King? Read Lydia’s favorite book!”

The same interest can be piqued in music, movies, TV shows – any other work of art. I HOPE my students look up unfamiliar songs that are mentioned in books they read. What a wonderful window into the world of a favorite book and sensibility of a favorite character.

What would you add to the list? I know I’m missing some good match-ups!

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Prepping For Fall – A Possible Visiting Author

This past year my school hosted Janet B. Taylor for our visiting author. She is a hard working and talented writer and an even better person. She visited four sections of 8th grade history and also taught a writing workshop for English class students. Once Janet hit our campus she was “on!” She is an incredibly engaging speaker and interacted well with our students throughout her entire 45 minute presentation. She also brought costumes! 🙂 

Additionally, we hosted a Writing Contest for our 8th grade students and Janet developed a fabulous prompt! She then graciously agreed to help judge our Visiting Author Writing Contest. She read the works from the three finalists and provided both glows and grows for the students.

Janet’s first book is Into the Dim. The book is historical fiction centered around the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Here is more information from When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. And she’s alive, though currently trapped in the twelfth century, during the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Passing through the Dim, Hope enters a brutal medieval world of political intrigue, danger, and violence. A place where any serious interference could alter the very course of history. And when she meets a boy whose face is impossibly familiar, she must decide between her mission and her heart—both of which could leave Hope trapped in the past forever.

Janet’s most recent release is Sparks of Light. Here is more information from Amazon: For the first time in her life, Hope Walton has friends . . . and a (maybe) boyfriend. She’s a Viator, a member of a long line of time-traveling ancestors. When the Viators learn of a plan to steal a dangerous device from the inventor Nikola Tesla, only a race into the past can save the natural timeline from utter destruction. Navigating the glitterati of The Gilded Age in 1895 New York City, Hope and her crew will discover that high society can be as deadly as it is beautiful. In this sequel to the dazzling time-travel romance Into the Dim, sacrifice takes on a whole new meaning as Hope and Bran struggle to determine where—or when—they truly belong.

I highly recommend Janet B. Taylor for an author visit to your school since she can work with both history and English classes and is so incredibly engaging with the students. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you!

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on the awesomeness summer…

Happy summer, all!

I hope that this post finds each of you doing whatever it is that allows you reflect on and appreciate all that is going well in your libraries and in your lives, as well as helping you to identify things you’d like to work to strive to improve in your libraries and in your lives in the coming year.

There is an old joke in education that, “The 3 best things about teaching are … June, July, and August.” Now, to be perfectly clear, I truly do love my job, my school, and my work, but come on, you have to admit that getting to have a preview of retired life for a few weeks every year is pretty sweet, right?!?!

The thing is, being lazy isn’t the only thing that I love about summer.

Of Course, There is Fresh Corn!

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Stepping Back and Reflecting – As much as I love my job, my school, and the work that I get to do, one of the best things about working in a school is that summer serves to give me a natural built-in cue that it is time to stop to reflect while giving me the TIME necessary to actually do it!

When it comes to my work, I have a tendency to behave like a squirrel. I want with all my heart to be a thoughtful, reasoned, rational being that is strategically prioritizing my tasks and bringing library awesomeness to the hallowed halls of my institution (It’s Hawaii so they’re actually open breezeways, but you get the point…). The day-to-day reality of my work life, however, is that squirrel-librarian me knows that in the fall I need to make sure students know how to login and use NoodleTools… How to access our databases… What copyright is… What plagiarism is… How to borrow books… That they need to use headphones on their devices in the library and enjoy their food outside…

Squirrels just seem to instinctively know that when the weather starts to cool down, that it’s time to stash nuts and seeds away in a lot of different places. Not being an ACTUAL squirrel, I can’t say with absolute surety that squirrels don’t, in fact, reflect deeply about the type of nuts and seeds they gather and that they don’t very strategically plan precisely where each type of nut and seed should be stored. It looks to me, however, that they just kind of manically run about gathering as much food as possible in the shortest amount of time so that they won’t starve and die when snow is on the ground.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that as soon as school starts in the fall, I’m so busy running around “librarian-ing” that I typically don’t stop and think about whether I’m doing things strategically and rationally. From August to November, I am just so busy that sometimes it just feels like I am trying to get from 7:15 to 4:30 without giving myself a stroke or making anyone cry.

The school-year summer, therefore, delivers the wonderful gift that is a clear demarkation of the end of a school year combined with some time to step back and put my prefrontal cortex into drive.

Travel – I got to do some pretty sweet travel this summer! I spent time in New York City from where I was able to hop the Atlantic and visit Athens, Santorini, and Budapest. Of course, the sites and the food were in and of themselves wonderful, but while I was on the road I realized that I had done school reports on Greece and the Parthenon when I was in the 5th grade and had dreamed of seeing them for myself one day. I had not remembered that back story until I was actually sitting in a restaurant on the roof of my hotel looking up at the Parthenon.

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The experience made me realize that saying that a good library gives a child the world is so much more than a cliched saying. I was that ACTUAL KID growing up on an island in the middle of the Pacific without a whole lot of extra household money, but access to libraries allowed me to dream about seeing a world that, in that particular moment, was impossibly far away. It took over 40 years, but my dream to see the Greek Isles and the Parthenon did, indeed, come true!

Make Time for Self-Care – During my travels I ate like a pig and still came back better able to wear the skinny pants in my closet than before I had left. A huge part of that is that I did an enormous amount of walking while I was on the road. It made me realize how un-healthily sedentary I have become during the work year. In my previous job, the library’s physical layout along with the fact that it was a middle school library meant that I instinctively (okay, maybe less “instinctively” and more that our program head MADE US!) walked the floor for much of the day just to be sure that nothing in the far back reaches of the building was, literally, on fire. In my current position, I spend long stretches working at my desk or working at the circ desk. My goal for the coming year is to get up and out on the floor and around the campus more.

I also bit the bullet and returned to masters swimming workouts two nights a week. It’s not been pretty, but so far I haven’t barfed or had to be rescued by a lifeguard with the shepard’s hook so I’m claiming those as wins! It’s painful and sometimes a little embarrassing, but I have resolved to not allow my anxiety and fretting about our information literacy instruction get in the way of taking care of my health.

Summer Session Librarianship Can Be Your Friend! – Our school runs a 6-week summer session. Nicole, the librarian I’m fortunate enough to partner with here in our library, and I split the session so she serves as summer librarian for 3 weeks and I do the other half. While not something I was thrilled about to start, working half days for 3 weeks during my summer is something that I have come to value greatly! We do a have some classes, but we also have time to catch up and address things that might otherwise fall through the cracks–those unpleasant, but necessary tasks like cleaning up our Libguides, for example.

This year, we are transitioning our students’ iPads to new filtering software. Being on campus in the summer has allowed me to try out teaching with the filtering system (our filters, as we are running them, IMHO, don’t seem to hamper student work and learning) and iron out some of the kinks that inevitably pop up when bringing systems like this online while I have a limited number of classes and students on campus and have the time to get things figured out before we hit the ground running in the fall.

Library Innovations: Sometimes just changing your environment helps you to understand what the information world is like beyond the K-12 world or even the immediate world of your greater community. While in New York,  I came across one of the most wonderfully intriguing library innovations I’ve seen in a long while. Public libraries in the N.Y. area have worked together to create a “Subway Library.” Subway riders can log onto the MTA wifi service in underground stations and download ebooks and excerpts from ebooks to read on their commutes. Curated content can be browsed in multiple ways including  needs like finding works appropriate for either short rides or longer commutes!


This inspired me to commit to getting material from my collection into places where my students are rather than lurking about like a used car salesman waiting for customers to walk onto my lot. Numerous librarians have shared their pop-up library ideas in this space over the years, so it’s finally time for me to commit to making that happen here!

Best Read So Far This Summer: I have just finished and thoroughly enjoyed, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil. O’Neil examines and explains numerous ways that algorithms and big data affect our everyday lives. As a self-diagnosed math-phobe, I fully expected to dislike the book, but took it up anyway. An amazing read that I’ve recommended to colleagues who teach humanities, math, science, technology, and social justice courses.


That all for now. What have you all been up to? Please hit comment below and share something about your adventures, insights, or recommend some good reads!

Once again, happy summer, all!

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Weaving Literature into Science: Novel Engineering

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.  I wove my webs for you because I liked you….By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
                                                                                    Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte, the spider who saves Wilbur’s life by weaving remarkable words into her web, is the perfect literary analogy for Novel Engineering, a new movement in literacy that seeks to engage students in design thinking and engineering through an integration with works of literature.

Charlotte, as a design thinker, empathizes with and defines Wilbur’s problem (being slaughtered); she then brainstorms a series of words that could be spun in her web to show Wilbur as a remarkable pig. The word “crunchy,” supplied at first by Templeton the Rat, is quickly rejected for more appropriate words, Some Pig! and Charlotte spins her first web prototype. Charlotte continues to test her web prototype by building other webword designs: Terrific, Radiant, and Humble. The end result is that Charlotte solves Wilbur’s problem by saving his life, even as her own life as a spider comes to an end. Her reflection on the engineering process–that by helping Wilbur, “it lifted her life a trifle”–is an inspiring commentary on how good design can better the lives of others.

This summer I attended a Novel Engineering workshop at the STLinSTL
conference hosted by MICDS in St. Louis. The workshop presenters, Christy Moore (MICDS) and Monette DeSimone (City Academy), introduced attendees to Novel Engineering, an initiative that states its objective as follows:

Students use existing classroom literature–stories, novels, and expository texts–as the basis for engineering design challenges that help them identify problems, design realistic solutions, and engage in the Engineering Design Process while reinforcing their literacy skills.

The workshop immersed attendees in the Novel Engineering process. We listened to the children’s book Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! and defined the problem to solve: a farmer’s garden is being eaten by hungry rabbits.

Working in teams of two to three, we used a Novel Engineering planning sheet to state the problem; identify the client (either the farmer or the rabbit); suggest a plan; and sketch an initial design.


Selecting an assortment of materials–such as paper cups, clay, tongue depressors, straws, and tape–we constructed our design.  My team chose the farmer as our client, and we built a hydroponic device designed to keep the growing plants at a height unreachable by the hungry rabbits. After making a rough sketch, the design had to be tweaked so that the support stilts would securely hold the hydroponic structure (a triangular base of tongue depressors held the cone-shaped hydroponic device the best).

We revised our plan and sketched the new design and finished assembling the device (note in the photo that we also built pipes and a water tank to supply water to the hydroponic plants). Each team then presented their engineered solution (some teams chose the rabbits as clients and created catapult devices to assist the rabbits in quick entry to the garden food). Below is an example of the Novel Engineering planning sheet.

The Novel Engineering process could be easily adapted in a library setting, and it addresses several AASL standards:

1.2.5 Demonstrating adaptability by changing the inquiry focus.
1.2.6 Questions and display emotional resilience by persisting in information             searching despite challenges.

This project could be further enriched by requiring students to research background for their design, such as what types of hydroponic devices are currently being used. The conference presenters videotaped their students as they presented their engineered designs; the engagement and enthusiasm of the students was very apparent.

Below are a few resources as you consider weaving literature and the sciences in Novel Engineering.

Novel Engineering Suggested Book List and Activities

TED Talk by Amos Winter (shows refining a design to meet a client’s needs:
an inexpensive, all terrain wheel chair that works in wind and sand)

Crash Course Kids:  What is an Engineer?

Crash Course Kids:  The Engineering Process


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What’s Cookin’?

Summer is a great time to take a break from rushed weeknight dinners and spend some time in the kitchen, with my cookbooks.  I’ve been diving into my cookbook collection to prepare favorite dishes and to try some new recipes.  When our garden is ready, I’ll choose recipes featuring home grown tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and radishes.

Yesterday, for a holiday barbecue, I made a pasta salad with sun-dried tomatoes, green olives, and arugula.  The recipe was from one of my most favorite and reliable cookbooks, The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook published by America’s Test Kitchen.

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

What are you cooking this summer?

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Dear Twitter friends, You make me better.

A few nights ago, I was stuck with some serious insomnia. I know I shouldn’t have my phone on in bed, especially if I can’t sleep, but I have a nervous twitch that makes me check my email/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter on a continuous loop throughout the day. (This is me admitting I have a problem.) So, here I was at 2am, scrolling through what I missed on Twitter that day, and I discovered a few of my new friends were participating in a #g2great chat. I had no idea what that was, but from their responses, it looked right up my alley!

It turned out that author Chris Lehman was guest hosting this chat, using his book ENERGIZE Research Reading & Writing as the catalyst for discussion. Goodness me, the discussion was so good that I ordered myself a copy of the book right then and wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before! I had so many ideas of how to turn research right on its head in our 3rd/4th grade classes next year — from throwing out note-taking uniformity to promoting student choice in topics (yeah, we’re still not there yet…) to explicitly teaching students to THINK about their nonfiction reading (an ongoing struggle). I AM energized, and I can’t wait to dig into this book! Thank you, Twitter!

But I do have to wait. See, a couple months ago, some Twitter friends were going bananas over Disrupting Thinking: Why HOW We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Robert E Probst. This was along the same time I was taking the Visible Thinking class by Project Zero, so there was a bit of overlap between folks reading and doing both. Over and over again, I would see book quotes and sketch notes and exclamations of genius and adoration for this book.

So, I shared a stack of professional books at our last staff meeting, highlighting this one, saying that it was at the top of my to-read pile and hey, would anyone like to join me? Crickets. But a few days later, a teacher asked me if I wanted to do a summer book club with Disrupting Thinking — woo! We had our first meeting today, just three of us crazy teachers working on summer break, and it was great. Our conversations flowed from the topics in the book (we read the first third and will meet again two more times) to our own practice to possibilities for the future. I only wish we had taken notes! But again, thank you, Twitter friends, for inspiring this connection and growth opportunity.

There are definitely times when I need to unplug and just be. And there are times when it is so hard to be in a constantly evolving community, especially when I’m running low on time, energy, or effort. But when I’m up for it, when I want to be inspired or challenged, I turn to my carefully curated community of teachers and librarians on Twitter because I know that they’ll make me better. I hope I do the same every now and then!

Are you one of the awesome people I follow? Follow me @nataliesap on Twitter and @cfslslibrary on Instagram, and I’ll follow you back. 🙂

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Using Design Thinking to Re-imagine the Library by Lorrie Culver

I wonder (as I teach the book Wonder to fifth graders during summer school) how many of us independent school librarians work at schools that just don’t seem to know where the library fits within the hierarchy of the school.

I’ve now worked in the library at La Jolla Country Day for ten years. For the first several years, the library was under the supervision of the assistant head for curriculum. Four years ago the board chose not to renew the contracts for the head of school or for our supervisor, the assistant head. They instead hired an interim head for the new school year. While the interim was on campus, we worked under her and then under our respective divisions (lower, middle and upper schools). When our current head of school came on board three years ago, we worked directly for him. Then this past school year, several employees were elevated to assistant heads. We now work for the Assistant Head for Innovation and Design. For the upcoming school year (finally), a new Assistant Head in charge of Curriculum was hired (actually the Middle School Head was promoted). I asked for the library to be put under her umbrella and was not completely turned down … I was just told that it wouldn’t happen for the upcoming school year. Sigh…

So, what is it like working for an engineer whose focus is to expand the robotics, coding and virtual reality programs? We librarians have been tasked with “re-imagining the library.” At first, I was resistant as our library had just been renovated during the interim head’s tenure … and, as has happened with other school libraries, we were only “consulted” at the end of the process. The renovations were really a construct for the board … they wanted the library to be more “welcoming,” i.e., a lounge for students to hang out, eat and play video games while others were trying to study. So my feeling was that the school was not going to shell out more money even if we came up with some really great “re-imagining” ideas.

However, we librarians set to work and interviewed students, teachers and parents and asked each how they used the library. The interviews with students were the most illuminating. Evidently, certain areas of the library were designated for seniors and were seen and be seen areas. Also, the stairs were used to evade deans and to play hide-and-seek.

Each librarian was also asked to use pro grow funds to visit museums and specialty libraries  and to see how they curate their collections and utilize their space. We held meetings and over the course of the school year, came up with three insight statements and problem statements.

Research and library skills are not being consistently taught across campus because teachers and students may not understand the value of good research, resources are complex and unintuitive, or teachers are unaware of the librarian’s skills, expertise and mobility.

PROBLEM STATEMENT 1: How might we create a better understanding of the value of good research, reduce the complexity and increase the usability of our resources throughout the campus while increasing the awareness of the librarians and their skills, expertise and mobility?

There is an unclear culture in the library that allows for varying and often times conflicting activities creating an unwelcome environment for the current minority because of a lack of well-designated and planned spaces.

How might we create a clear culture in the library that allows for a range of concurrent activities while creating a welcoming environment and improving the usability of our space?

The library is being utilized for many other services beyond research and reader’s advisory because of open hours, centralized location and proximity to other services such as IT.

How might we support the variety of needs of our community beyond our core competencies that have been so far met in an ad hoc manner?

So, after working on our re-imagining project for the 2016/2017 school year, we are still in the planning phases. Also, to be clear, even though our school serves students from age 3 through grade twelve, much of our discussion focused on our middle and upper school library. Our lower school library is in the same building but separated by floors (the lower school library is on the ground floor and the middle/upper school library is on the second floor).

The library will look different when students return as we are trying out a few changes based on our insights. We will no longer allow all food – just covered drinks. We also are looking into Ebsco’s Discovery Streaming. Our students definitely have to click too many times to access our databases now. One last change is that we have eliminated most of our desktop computers. We have a BYOD policy and we found that students were using the large screens of the desktops to play games … loudly and with other students.

We will continue our re-imagining meetings in the fall and monitor how the changes affect the students and their use of the library. I’ll also post a follow-up blog.
Happy Summer all!

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“We’ll see you soon, mate”

Like you, I’m done. Between the flurry of exams, graduation and end-of-year meetings, my brain is heading into hibernation. It doesn’t help that a ton of my wonderful library nerds graduated this year:

However, a few days spent with colleagues, looking ahead to next year, has been amazingly rejuvenating. I’m still excited about packing up and heading out for a bit, but I’ve already got a little butterfly in my stomach about 2017-18.

Looks like I chose the right career – happy summer all!

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[New Tech] Killed the [Old Tech] Star

Placing myself firmly in the Retro club:

330px-Buggles_Video_Killed_the_Radio_Star image

image:; video:

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

There have been many discussions of the virtues/dangers of tech-enhanced learning (and living).  One of the most interesting players on the field is the Waldorf School of Orange County which, according to several articles, eschews technology of all types while educating the children of quite a few Silicon Valley bigwigs ( for one article, among many).

Yet most schools across the country have embraced technology-enhanced learning, and efforts continue to provide all students access to what we hope will be transformational technology.  At our school, we have very thoughtfully rolled out 1:1 technology over a number of years; at this point, we provide classroom sets of iPads to our younger grades, 1:1 at-school devices to 3rd and 4th graders, byod iPads to middle schoolers (5th-8th), and byod laptops to upper schoolers (9-12).  They are all used in myriad ways over the course of the year—from keeping track of assignments, to taking tests, to creating interactive projects, to (inevitably) endless selfies.

So what do you do after you have fully integrated tech into your learning program?  You try turning it all off!   Seriously, though, part of being a responsive and effective learning community is continuously evaluating the effectiveness of your teaching and learning tools.  Hence: Tech-Free Day.

Nothing to See Here

The original day scheduled for the event, as you may or may not remember, turned out to be one of those Spring-with-a-chance-of-Tornadoes sort of days, so we rescheduled for April 19th.

The [insert technical invention here] Will be the End of Civilization

The day was designed, as Head of School Chris Hinchey said, “[to] help students and adults step back and gain perspective on their media habits and set goals for healthy habits moving forward.”  With this goal in mind, we undertook a busy spring-semester Wednesday without using tech of any kind (yep, not even FitBits).  That evening, the school partnered with another local school to show Screenagers, a powerful documentary about the effects of screen time on young people ( –highly recommend).  No homework was assigned, and families were encouraged to remain tech-free through the evening at home as well.

A sampling of comments after the day:


“What I like about no-tech day is that it is relaxing.  You can just sit back, relax, and read books. This is a good idea because you get to have social interaction with other people, not just look at your phone all day…. This day was fun but kind of hard for me because I have never done this before.”

“At first, I thought no-tech day was awful, then I realized that I was wrong. It actually feels kinda good to put down the phone or iPad, not worry about Instagram or Facebook, and go outside and play.”


“I walked away realizing exactly how much I depend on devices to connect with you, colleagues, my children, and my husband. In reflecting, I also recognize that I am guilty of not always being present with my family, because my device is very distracting.”

“It was very hard not to send emails the minute I thought of something. It felt like I was behind or avoiding tasks that needed to be done, but I just kept a list. I did enjoy not feeling obligated to READ emails sent to me!”

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the adults on campus were the ones who found it the most difficult to disconnect for the day.  Full disclosure: at one point, two of my daughter’s friends caught me holed up in the drama room, sending an email that *had* to go out that day. (Busted!)

So what was my takeaway from going tech-free?  (Other than the fact that it makes me very grumpy when I can’t use my Starbucks app to have my flat white waiting for me on the way to school)?

The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Silly, or, I See Your Pencil, and I Raise You a Laptop!

I would respond to the Waldorf School (look at their video—they knit: it’s very cool: the way I respond to the occasional visitor who comes into the library and asks why we still have books:  Progress doesn’t mean throwing out what came before.  We didn’t throw away bicycles when we invented cars–we just added more choices for getting the errands done.

Being mindful about our use of technology (ok—about everything) is a great way to stay grounded in our ever faster-moving world.  Going forward, I am going to be talking with my coworkers and my family about Tech Awareness, even more than Tech Free (because, Me Hiding in Drama Room).

Here are some ideas I have stolen discovered:

  • Tech Tracking: keep a log of tech time–device/app or function/time spent—for a day (or a week)
  • Device-Free Dinners: my kids still like to do “Highs and Lows” of the day
  • Connected Tech: use technology to connect with your family and friends: watch a movie and discuss; read the same book on your devices and discuss; write a song/create a stop-action video with your kids; create a book trailer for your book club [you DO belong to a book club, right? If not, FaceTime your friends and start one!].
  • Teen Tech Talk: talk to your teen (or tween, or third-grader) about the tech in their lives. What is their favorite tech tool?  How does it enhance their lives (ironic tone/air quotes not allowed)?

Ultimately, going tech-free for a day gave us (me) the chance to evaluate the role technology plays in our (my) daily teaching, learning and communicating.  My teenagers tell me that I too often stare at my lap when we are together.  As the mom of soon-to-be-fledged young adults, that is insanely stupid.  My kids still want to talk to me!  Put down the phone!





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Review: AISL’s First Mentor Program

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”
― Robert Frost

At the close of the school year, it is important to reflect on the months gone by: the challenging, the good, and the great.  I’ve been reflecting on AISL’s first Mentor Program and I asked the mentor partners to share their reflections as well.

However, I need to begin at the beginning with a big Thank You from the AISL Board to those who took a chance on this first year of mentoring with AISL.  In last year’s AISL Members Survey, it became clear that AISL members were interested in a program that would help new and experienced librarians who were facing a challenge or needed coaching to achieve a professional goal.  As a result, we developed a program that paired librarians to work together on specific goals and challenges.  The results of the program were mixed and gave us a lot of great information to use in the program’s improvement for next year.  We are excited for year two if the AISL Mentor Program.

Following are some of the survey results, as reported by about half of the Mentor Program participants:

  • 57% felt that they were well matched with their partners
  • 70% of partners used email to communicate
  • 33% communicated with their partners sporadically
  • 44% communicated only a few times over the course of the program
  • 37% created action plans
  • 62% of mentor partners communicated informally, sharing goals, experiences, advice, and ideas
  • 66% of respondents recommended that next year the program have more structure

Here are some of the great things we heard about the experience of working with a mentor partner:

  • meeting someone new
  • having benefited from some wonderful mentoring, I was grateful for an opportunity to ‘pass it on’
  • feeling that I had something to contribute
  • being encouraged to stay on task
  • making a new professional friend
  • bouncing ideas off of someone outside my school
  • hearing about someone’s progress towards goals

Here are some suggestions for improvement:

  • more structure
  • offer tools for creating a concrete action plan
  • send mentor partners powerful questions & challenges every month
  • create a hashtag for partners to share experiences
  • create a gathering for mentor partners at the AISL conference

Well, AISL Mentor Program partners, we are listening!  Your comments are essential to the development of our mentoring initiative.

As the organizer of the Mentor Program, the feedback on the survey resonated with me.  There were clear indications that the free-for-all format of the program was a little too loosey-goosey for many.  It can be hard enough to get all of our work done in our libraries every day, let alone prioritizing a program with no set structure or deadline. One participant bravely admitted that she had “failure to launch” and it was related to the open nature of the program.

Ideas for next year’s AISL Mentor Program are currently bouncing back and forth between myself and Kate Patin, the new Board-Member-at-Large and incoming facilitator of the Mentor Program.  We are talking about ways to create a structured program that is balanced with plenty of free-form space for partners to work together to meet goals.  There may also be new ways for members to connect around specific issues.  Stay tuned for more opportunities to help us help you through the AISL Mentor Program.  Your participation and ideas are vital to the growth of this new program.

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