Changing Patterns

For about the last year or so, I have expected that I might be observing some changing behaviors and movement patterns in our library. Our big news is that the long unused and mysterious lower level of our Carnegie Library has been transformed. It is now a sparkling Innovation Center, the home of our school’s new interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Program. In addition to a super-duper makerspace including 3D printers, laser cutter, CNC machine, poster printer, a kitchen with a PancakeBot (!), a new computer lab and classroom/meeting spaces, we have the more mundane but crucial addition of an elevator for full accessibility to the building and a new stairwell.

As far as I know (please correct me if you can) this is the only Carnegie library on a secondary school campus. The original building follows the model of other Carnegie libraries as conceived by Andrew Carnegie’s assistant James Bertram (Bobinski, 1969), featuring a large circulation desk in the middle of a high-ceilinged room with shelving and reading tables on either side. The first thing a visitor sees upon entering the library is, thus, a librarian.

Exterior of library – there’s the front door.

What you see upon entering the front door. Imagine me sitting at the desk.

Students enter through the front door and climb the staircase to English class.

The second floor houses most of the Upper School English classes. This has been a happy arrangement as far as I’m concerned; almost every Upper School student has had to walk through the front door at least once every day. This makes me very visible and present – I can say “hi,” wish happy birthday, recommend a resource … every student enters the library and may have a moment of interaction with me on a near daily basis.

As part of the renovation of the lower level and the new accessible entrance, there is another way to enter the library space. Students can now enter from a foyer that lets out behind and to the side of where the circulation desk sits in the center of the room, seeing a different view upon entering the library.

New entrance on left, original entrance to right, desk in the center.

View from new stairwell entering library. The images and blurbs tell the history of the library.

The Innovation Center and new entrance have been in use for about two and a half days as of this writing. Contractors are still finishing last touches, and students are still discovering this new space for them. It’s so exciting to be making full use of this gorgeous building in a way that fits so perfectly the library mission. There are so many opportunities for collaboration I can’t even believe it. It’s pretty much what I have hoped that lower level would one day be since I started at Perk eight years ago, and with added accessibility to boot.

Entrance to Innovation Center

Classroom, group meeting, and open work space.

Kitchen, work tables, and machines.

Over the next days, weeks, and months I will be watching, listening, and thinking about these questions:

  • Will the way the students want to use the library change? Does the Innovation Center fit the physical Learning Commons model of the present/future? If so, recognizing that many digital library resources and services will be available from anywhere and embedded in our LMS, including in the Entrepreneurial Program, would the students possibly like their physical library space to be a more traditional reading room?
  • Will noise levels increase or decrease? Does this matter? If so, to whom, and what can be done about it?
  • Will patrons feel welcome when they enter the library from the rear?
  • Is it still the rear if that turns out to be where more folks enter the space?
  • How will the library and Innovation Center spaces fit and work together as a whole? In 2015 I attended ISTE’s annual conference and went to a session lead by Carolyn Foote on Library Design for 1:1 Schools. She brought up NoTosh Lab and their adaptation of Matt Locke’s Six Spaces of Social Media into the Seven Spaces concept of corresponding physical spaces of learning: Secret, Group, Publishing, Performing, Participation, Watching, and Data (NoTosh, 2010). In what ways will the library and Innovation Center together provide these spaces for different types of inquiry-based learning?
  • How can the students see this? Will they be able to articulate it?

It hasn’t even been a week, but I’ve been anticipating the need to be observant and re-evaluate student needs for some time. I foresee opportunities for some design thinking. Thank you Summer Institute 2016!

Has anyone else experienced a change in how students enter or travel through your library? What wisdom can you share?

References

Bobinski, G. S. (1969). Carnegie libraries: Their history and impact on American
public library development. Chicago: ALA.

Foote, C. (Presenter). (2015, June 30). Rethinking library and learning spaces
for 1:1 schools. Lecture presented at ISTE Annual Conference, Philadelphia
Convention Center.

NoTosh. (2010, October 18). The seven spaces of technology in school
environments [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/15945912

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Designing, Tinkering, Succeeding and Failing in the Upper School Maker Space

The very first post that I wrote for Independent Ideas was entitled Staging My Own Intervention and dealt with my overwhelming periodical “situation” (read 50+ years of journals, magazines, and a microfiche collection that would knock your socks off), stored in the basement of my library. Two rooms of it. This is what it looked like:

Bound versions of Time and Life were used occasionally, but believe it or not, ancient issues of Sky and Telescope, the New York Review of Books, and Art News simply wasn’t. The dust was thick. The lighting was weird. The basement was a creepy no man’s land and no one, including me, wanted to spend any more time in that room than was absolutely necessary. I had nothing to lose. I decided to clear the room, preserve the treasures, and to create the school’s first Maker Space.

It took me approximately 2 years to clear the room. I invited departments in to see what magazines they would like for me to keep. I flagged them and started clearing. See those 5 recycling bins? It took about 15 minutes to fill them, 3-4 days to get our super awesome (super busy) housekeeping crew to get them out to the recycling station outside and back again. It was a seriously heavy, dirty, time consuming job. In the meantime, I began lobbying for an assistant with experience in a Maker Space. Enter Caroline, my tech-savvy savior who had worked hard to start a Maker Space with one small empty room, zero budget, and a donated 3D printer. Here’s  a short video about Project e-NABLE she worked on, working with U Albany students to print and assemble 3D printed hands for children in need. I had someone to partner with to continue clearing the room! Not only that, but I had a crafty, jewelry making, sewing, Pinterest rocking, tech savvy partner in crime to help brainstorm supplies, projects, and potential curricular tie-ins. This was a huge leap in the right direction.

In all honesty, I’ve visited a fair number of Maker Spaces now, particularly during AISL annual conference school visits. The concept isn’t a new one. I have seen some intriguing things going on out there–and I have taken hundreds of pictures (Dallas and Tampa librarians, I’m talking to you!). What I haven’t seen in action, though, is an upper school maker space. We had a ton of questions. There was the proverbial “if we build it, will they come?” How can we fit making into an already tight daily schedule? Will teachers shift their pedagogy to implement more project based learning, utilizing the space? Could this be an after school space where students can just come play? Will it be high tech or low tech? How are we going to fund it?! We have no budget for it(!). Does an adult need to be in the space at all times? What if they aren’t responsible about cleaning up after themselves? Or worse, what if someone gets hurt?

We decided to jump in and figure it out as we went (as we go?? We’re still figuring it out…).

Once we got the magazines out, we asked facilities to remove the microfiche reader, old desk, fax machine, and audio cassette cabinets. (Don’t laugh.) We asked them to dismantle most of the shelving and clear out the room. I say most because we left shelving all along the left side of the room to hold supplies and/or for students to leave projects that they are working on in the space, but out of the way. We shifted the treasured magazines into the second room and asked that the center aisle be cleared of shelving in that room as well, so that we can put tables and banker’s lamps in there.

Our director of facilities offered us two cabinets that were being removed from a science classroom, adding casters so that they became a mobile counter top/work space with drawers and cabinets below for storage.

We emptied the microfiche cabinets and gathered donated supplies from our former engineering instructor, now full time Academic Dean, who no longer needed her massive supply of crafting supplies, design thinking supplies (post-its, Sharpies), etc. We labeled the microfiche cabinets using a fun, clean architecture font and loaded them with supplies.

We used a tech grant provided by our public schools to purchase hardware. Here’s what we bought:

  • a new 3D printer manufactured locally and serviced locally (they break more than we would like them to so this was important to us);
  • a Precision CNC Mill (think subtractive engineering rather than additive, like the 3D printer–this thing can carve anything softer than steel. We’re going to use scrap wooden blocks to start with, but dream of carving stone, soap, even chocolate sometime in the future!
  • a Cricut machine for paper cutting (or fabric, foam, felt, etc.)

We added these things to the two original Makerbot printers the school already owned as well as discarded desktop computers so that each piece of equipment could have the necessary software already downloaded.

We invited student volunteers to help us paint/organize/clean/stock the space and a group of loyal freshmen came every week! They used the Cricut to cut out gears to hang from the ceiling and they painted the very 70’s harvest gold, orange, and lime green drawers in the room. They went with a purple for the door. Facilities donated some peg boards and two inexpensive composite boards for us to cover and use as cork boards in the space.

We bought a button maker and at a holiday craft fair, charged students $2 to create buttons (awesome holiday gifts!) using old book pages, decorating images of Emma Willard, our founder, or printing and decorating favorite quotes of their own. We’re using proceeds to buy more supplies for the space.

We’ve created a “Pillar of Fails” to celebrate growth mindset in the space. We talk about encouraging students to take risks and to learn/grow through their failures, but rarely give them a low stakes space for them to do so. The Maker Space is just the space.

We are still putting the finishing touches on the space, but so far have hosted two grand openings: one for faculty/staff (with muffins, coffee, and a tour) and one for students (with cookies, soft drinks, and a design challenge–cotton ball catapults to knock over a stack of dixie cups). The unveiling for parents will take place the week before Valentine’s day. We’re thinking of providing 3D printed heart shaped EW pendants to attach to bookmarks or to bracelets, if jewelry is more their thing.

If we build it, will they come? So far, the answer is a resounding YES.

The Sophomore class used the Cricut machine to cut puzzle pieces and to glue, glitter, and assemble ornaments for their themed holiday tree on campus. On our first day back from break, biology classes were in the space making 3D models of plant and animal cells. They will be back in a few weeks to create models of the digestive system, utilizing cardboard tubes, bags, and such. Juniors are working on prom posters and our student leaders are creating bulletin board materials down in the space. A houseparent has asked us to brainstorm a re-purposed art project, visiting Goodwill to gather materials to transform in the Maker Space. Our STEAM coordinator has asked us to team teach a unit on soft circuit jewelry making. Those weeks after APs are over? We’ve got them covered!

At this point, the room is open. Sharp tools are locked up and available upon (supervised) request. Our rules are pretty simple: unplug and clean up after yourselves. Let us know if we need to get more of a certain supply. The room’s open when the library is.

This year, we are using the tech grant to purchase the following materials:

Gemma Starter Pack (to make wearable electronics)
Adafruit Beginner LED Sewing Kit
3doodle create pens for rapid prototyping (requested by a geometry teacher)
Littlebits Gizmo/Gadget kit and STEAM student kit) better for older students.

If you’re interested, here are some images I’ve taken of the space:

Are you an Upper School librarian running or contemplating a Maker Space in your library? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below!

 

 

Save

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Library Leadership Council (and Happy Half Birthday Harry Potter!)

This year we started a Library Leadership Council (LLC) for middle school students. Book Club was a huge hit last year, and many of my regulars wanted to do more for the school and for the library.

For our first project, we partnered with community service for our school’s first Post-Halloween Candy Drive. We had all the meetings in the library and used the library as a collection location for all the candy. We also made posters to display around campus and made announcements in chapel. Our goal was to collect 150 lbs., and we easily exceeded our goal! Our students were able to donate candy to Homes for Hope, an organization where students from our school travel to Costa Rica to build homes for those in need. We also donated to area veterans groups for Veterans Day. Additionally, we sent toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss. 🙂

Spurred by their efforts, the LLC wanted to do more! For our next project we made thank you/holiday cards for our community members that work in dining, facilities and security. These people work tremendously hard, but they also work hours and in places where we don’t always get a chance to say thank you in person. We promoted the event by making posters and also made a presentation at a middle school assembly. We then set up a table in the library for a week where students could come and make the cards. Over 100 cards were made, and it was an honor to deliver them to our fellow community members.

These projects not only gave Book Club students more leadership opportunities but they also brought additional students in the library to participate in activities….and hopefully pick up a book or two while they were here. 🙂

In January we are doing something more literary-related and celebrating Harry Potter’s Half Birthday.  We celebrate half birthdays here for our summer student birthdays, so this seemed like a natural fit. We are organizing a writing contest (What would happen if Hermione Granger went to ESD??) and having a half birthday party before school complete with trivia, games and treats. Our Harry Potter Half Birthday celebration was a big hit last year, so we are really looking forward to our event this year!  (Photo from last year!).

Finally, this all started with Book Club last year, and this year students are the leaders of our book club. They select the books that we read, create questions and then facilitate the discussions. The discussions are lively, fun and engaging, and I enjoy seeing what our student leaders can do when you give them the chance. I especially like these types of programs in the library since they are low risk and low cost with additional benefits (reading! Not eating ALL your sugary Halloween candy! Good manners!).

I am encouraged by the participation in the Library Leadership Council, and I hope this allows students to see the library in different ways and lights. My goal is always to get the community in the door, and then I hope that they will be library supporters for life. 🙂 On that note I am definitely interested if you have library groups at your school.  What kind of activities or programs do you offer? We are definitely a grass roots start up and are always looking for innovative ways to connect with our school community. Thank you!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

on the releasing of wolves into your library curriculum…

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Happy New Year! I don’t know about the rest of you, but winter break served as a wonderful time for me to catch my breath, take a break from obsessing about fake news, and READ SOME BOOKS! I hit a … Continue reading

More Galleries | 6 Comments

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.  Voltaire

“Judging a book by its cover” has the negative connotation of shallow perceptions and narrow-mindedness; however, in a recent Design Principles unit, 7th and 8th grade students examined cover art of young adult books to critically evaluate design principles and to brainstorm ideas as they created snowflake-themed posters. This unit was part of an elective class, Literary Magazine, but these ideas could be adapted as a library unit on media literacy, in particular a discussion on how media messages are constructed using a media language with its own rules, thereby supporting the following AASL standard:

2.1.6 Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.

The following description of the design project may spark ideas for your own students to identify design elements, evaluate how the elements are used for persuasive communication, and create their own products that incorporate effective design.

Collaborative Learning and Discussion
GO! A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd became the textbook for learning about design principles. (This resource text and the initial design activity was the brainchild of my librarian predecessor, Dorcas Hand, and I am grateful to build on her creative lesson.)

Working collaboratively on a Google slides presentation,  each student summarized a design principle from a chapter in the GO! book and chose one image from the book to illustrate the design idea. Using a Google image search of advertisements, students selected a second image.  Book cover art was used as a third example, and in a serendipitous opportunity, our library had just received new young adult novels through donations at our Book Fair. Spreading out these new books on tables, students began to explore cover art that best matched their design principle. Following are a few examples of book covers students selected and shared in a group discussion of effective design (all book cover art from Amazon):

Book:  Twenty Questions for Gloria
Author:  Martyn Bedford
Design Principle:  Cropping

(Landscape image with girl beneath tree is cropped as a silhouette of a girl’s face–Student commented that the tree is positioned to mirror the girl’s brain, suggesting that this book involves psychological intrigue.)

Book: The Skeleton Tree
Author:  Iain Lawrence
Design Principle:  Asymmetry

(Student added a yellow line to the image to point out the asymmetrical design: large, black cliff on the left balanced out by the smaller cliff edge with two figures overlooking an immense wooded valley.)

 

Book:  Towers Falling
Author:  Jewell Parker Rhodes
Design Principle:  Inversion

(Inverted image of twin towers is mirrored in harbor waters with current building, the One World Trade Center, in upper half of image. Young characters in the story are trying to bring meaning to the reflection, memory, of the 9/11 disaster.)

Book:  The Weight of Feathers
Author:  Anna-Marie McLemore
Design Principle:  Vertical/Horizontal

(Horizontal lines add a sense of stability and strength to a design–like the strong horizon line in a landscape.  According to the design textbook, horizontal lines can also be used to suggest seriousness, and the thin lines of the tree limbs reflect the precarious balance of the two young people who fall in love.)

Book:  The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
Author:  Janet Fox
Design Principle:  Light/Dark

(Large, dark mass of the castle threatens danger and the small lit doorway illuminating the children suggests a mysterious adventure awaits.)

 

Book:  Anna and the Swallow Man
Author: Gavriel Savit
Design Principle:  Big and Small

(Journeying/Quest theme of book is emphasized with small image of the walking girl contrasted with large, shadowy wings of the flying bird–Swallow Man–who travels with her.)


Collaborative Poster Design and Discussion

Students used a combination of design principles to create their own poster to advertise for writing and art submissions to our school literary magazine. Beginning with a paper doll pattern and white paper, students cut out their design of a taller student holding the hands of a younger student, which supported our theme of
unity/community participation in the literary magazine.  
These paper dolls were created in a circular pattern, giving the design the appearance of a snowflake.  This link provides sample directions to creating circular paper dolls (snowflakes).  The snowflake image signified the unique aspect of each student’s creative efforts.


Students shared digital photos of their paper snowflake in a Google file so that each student could assemble images as they wished for their final poster design.  Using Google slides to create their  poster (two slides created for an upper and lower half of the poster–joined together after printing in color), students demonstrated wonderful collaboration as they helped each other with newly discovered design approaches, such as 1) cropping snowflakes as a circular shape rather than the square-shaped cropping tool, 2) showing each other how to use gradated colors rather than a solid fill option for shapes, and 3) suggestions on style, size, and weight of type fonts.

Students wrote a reflection paragraph that discussed the following:

  • design principles used in their poster
  • design challenges and how they solved the challenge
  • slogan to encourage creative submissions to the literary magazine
  • intended audience for the poster (whether to hang the poster in the lower school or the middle school)

Resulting posters, like the snowflakes themselves, were uniquely persuasive in their ad messages.  After an animated discussion, students voted whether the posters should be hung in the lower or middle school, and students posted their ads strategically in the two buildings.  As a confirmation of the effectiveness of their ad designs, I had one teacher approach me immediately after we hung the posters with an armful of concrete poetry by her fourth grade students.  Here is a video featuring some of the student poster designs.

Follow-up Activities
In keeping with the theme of the importance of creativity, I shared the story of Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.  Bentley devoted his life to photographing snowflakes, feeling that his work gave people something just as valuable as a “practical” occupation like raising cows.

To emphasize the importance of design decisions, I showed students the “turquoise belt” scene from The Devil Wears Prada in which the fashion magazine editor, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), gives a tongue lashing to a young intern (Anne Hathaway) while putting together a fashionable outfit from a vibrantly-colored dress. I had students point out the design decisions that Miranda makes very quickly: 1) color (complimentary colors of orange-red dress with turquoise belt); 2) scale (proportion contrast of the short jacket with the long dress); and 3) bright-colored yellow hat to compliment warm tones of the dress.  One big idea of this scene is that design decisions are not accidental, they are well thought out and follow principles of design.  You can view a clip from the scene and a debate on design industry in this Huffington Post article

Additional Resources

Media Literacy:

AISL blog, “Messages in the Media”

Center for Media Literacy

ACRL Standards
See discussion of “metaliteracy,”  collaborative learning with emerging technologies with an emphasis to “collaborate, produce, and share.”

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The (Un)quiet Library

Our library is not particularly quiet. I’ve aimed to have my students unlearn that pejorative librarian shh; the physical space was recently renovated and rearrange to encourage more interaction. Our library isn’t often quiet and, frankly, it’s not meant to be outside of the areas specifically designated, but one of my primary goals in the library and as the librarian is to share a love and appreciation of silence with the school community.

When I first started working with the youngest students in pre-K and kindergarten, I was not entirely comfortable or confident with rhymes and fingerplays. I was brand new to school librarianship and my nerves were constantly frayed- I had never felt so seen. So I brought something that brought me ease and comfort into our time together: grounding myself in breath. A meditation teacher of mine once related during a talk that people were always telling him to calm down when he was a kid but no one showed him how to calm down. When he said that I heard myself let out one those “me too” sighs. While I aim to give away the experiences that I loved growing up in libraries, I also try to be the adult I needed when I was a kid, someone who modeled the “how tos.”

Three years into this work, elements of mindfulness practice are incorporated throughout the library space and lessons. The seats are backjacks, which can easily be used to practice meditation or to listen to a story, and we begin most Lower School classes with the singing bowl. While I didn’t recognize it when I began this practice, it occurred to me later on that the listening activity was especially effective because our students don’t move on a bell schedule. This wasn’t a regular sound for them so it brought them to the present moment and to their breath. It also created an entryway into a read aloud without an explicit instruction to turn our “listening ears” on. And it comforted me, too. To paraphrase a line heard often in trainings, the librarian sets the temperature for the library and this practice gives me (and my students) the tools to adjust what we come in with.

Having a tangible tool for our opening routine also serves as a jumpoff for honing curiosity and inquiry skills. Over the years I’ve built up a collection of singing bowls. I share these with my students and they lead to questions- from figuring out keywords to search to help decode the language and symbols that adorn some of the bowls (“I know what that symbol means,” a kindergartener told me of a new bowl. “It means happy and sad and love all at once.”) to how our emotions manifest physically.

“Let’s see if we can get the whole library quiet,” a second grader said to me as a group of upper schoolers on break had erupted into our large shared space during the younger kids’ fixed time. The media center and its librarian (me) serves our whole school population, 450 and some odd students from pre-k to 12th grade, in one large, wonderfully light filled room and occasionally the various uses of the space overlap into cacophony. We played the singing bowl and everything outside of the “voice” of the bowl dissipated without a word being said.

What do you do to create and maintain the intended energy of your library?

Further Reading

Kid-friendly Video

Common, Colbie Callait, and Sesame Street. “Belly Breathe with Elmo.” YouTube. PBS, 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 05 Jan. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mZbzDOpylA>.

Picture Books to Spark a Discussion

  1. Burton, LeVar, Susan Schaefer Bernardo, and Courtenay Fletcher. The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. Burbank, CA: Reading Rainbow, 2014. Print.
  2. Llenas, Anna. Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings. New York: Sterling, 2015. Print.
  3. Showers, Paul, and Aliki. The Listening Walk. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Print.
  4. Spinelli, Eileen, and Rosie Winstead. Someday. New York: Dial for Young Readers, 2007. Print.

Benefits of Mindfulness Practice for Educators and Small Activities to Incorporate Into Your Day

  1. 5 Minute Breathing Exercise. Prod. Daringauthenticity. 5 Minute Breathing Exercise. YouTube, 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 5 Jan. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5f5N6YFjvVc>.

This can also be replicated using a Hoberman sphere.

   2. Kamenetz, Anya. “When Teachers Take A Breath, Students Can Bloom.” NPR. NPR, 19 Aug. 2016. Web. 05 Jan. 2017. <http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/08/19/488866975/when-teachers-take-a-breath-students-can-bloom>.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mice On Ice, or what to do when you need to occupy first grade students who are consumed with upcoming holidays

Just before our holiday break I was finishing up a unit on Beginning Readers with first grade.  We needed a read aloud and fun activity that would feature Beginning Readers and keep our young students busy in those last restless hours before vacation.

I chose a book from the Holiday House series ‘I Like to Read‘, called Mice on Ice by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley.  This series of books features picture books with simple vocabulary.  Even the students whose reading skills are more advanced enjoy the stories and wonderful illustrations.

The collage style illustrations of this particular title leap off the page and beg for the students to start creating.  Our library assistant used Microsoft Word’s shape options to draw the outline of a picture that looked very similar to this colorful image.

Students cut, tore, and crumbled construction paper to create their own cats.  First graders prefer the glue sticks that glide on purple and dry clear.  Yes, they had a discussion about the best glue sticks.

Most students named their cats.

Question: Why is the name Bob so funny and so popular with these kids?

MEOW!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Year’s resolutions?

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you, but I’m always excited by the dawn of a new year – the prospect of all the possibilities that lie ahead when I’m fresh off New Year’s celebrations and still in my jammies.  So I admit to a great sense of optimism, and although I don’t usually set resolutions for myself (experience is a good teacher), I have for the past few months been puzzling over how to revitalize one aspect of my work life:  research lessons.  Like Katie Archambault and others who have blogged and posted to the listserv about their quest for engaging students in the research process, I’ve seen glazed faces in class and have been seeking inspiration.

And I stumbled onto something in one of the two AISL Board Books that we’ve selected for 2017.  Dive into Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie (2016) offers a refreshing way to shift mindsets around teaching and learning from the old ‘sage on the stage’ paradigm where the power resides with the teacher, to a ‘student-driven’ learning model.  I am only halfway through reading this book, but I am inspired by the possibilities it offers to help transform students from passive to active learners.

Obviously, if you are a classroom teacher like the author, you have the freedom to be the change agent in your class(es).  As a school librarian, to realize this transformation will require a new level of collaboration with teachers at my school (grades 7-12), and it will begin with me selling this idea to a couple of forward-thinking colleagues who just may share my enthusiasm for this new approach.

MacKenzie’s book is readable, not too long (120 pages) and is designed to share the formula for transitioning from a traditional teaching model to a culture of inquiry.  Over the years, we’ve talked about Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL), but I haven’t seen many great examples in practice. When MacKenzie defined the Inquiry Teacher as a “teacher, coach, facilitator, networker, shoulder-to-lean-on”, I began to see my role in this process.  By chapter five, where the Types of Student Inquiry are outlined (structured, controlled, guided, free inquiry), the scope and sequence and logical progression from typical assignments to the ultimate goal of free inquiry were clear: eureka!

Best of all, in sharing this book with my teaching colleagues, the role of school librarians and the library learning commons are considered integral to the inquiry process: no fanfare, just acknowledgement. The new normal.  So by promoting this book, I can also demonstrate the legitimacy of collaboration for the benefit of students.  While this will be a no-brainer to some of our colleagues, it will be a revelation to others!

When discussing the Pillars of Inquiry in chapter 7, the fourth—Take on a New Challenge—resonated with me.  So I guess my New Year’s resolutions are: first, to finish reading Dive Into Inquiry, and second, to figure out how to inspire a few teachers to tackle this exciting new challenge with me to begin changing the landscape of learning at our school.

But wait, there’s more!  The second AISL Board Book also promises to be an interesting read (honesty compels me to admit I’ve only cracked the cover at this point) Born Digital: How children grow up in a digital age by John G. Palfrey and Urs Gasser.  There’s been some buzz about this revised and expanded edition of the book on the listserv over the past year, and the AISL Board thought it would offer an alternative to a hands-on approach to tackling an issue.

 

Instead, this book offers an insightful, sociological portrait of the first generation of children who were born into and raised in the digital world.  They are coming of age and reshaping the world in their image, they’ve been in our classrooms and libraries, and it would be great to understand them, the digital present, and the way the digital future may unfold based on their experiences.  The issues explored in this book—privacy concerns, the psychological effects of information overload, and larger ethical issues arising from the fact that young people’s social interactions, friendships and civic activities are now mediated by digital technologies—promise to make fascinating reading.

So today, while still enjoying some R&R, before we return to our busy schools and libraries, I resolve to read both of these books, and invite you to join me and embrace professional development as part of our resolutions for the New Year.  If you are attending the annual conference in New Orleans this March, we hope you will join us to discuss one or both of these books; we will blog responses so that all AISL members can join the conversation.

Health and happiness to you as we “dive into” a New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mombrarian

Well, as usual I’m a bit late with this, but I can’t say if anyone is more or less inclined to read it on the 25th than the 23rd. I sincerely hope, actually, that all my peers in school libraryland are taking a well-deserved rest and reading something unrelated to work!

If you’re not, however, this is for you. As a matter of fact, it’s about what and how librarians read and model reading behavior, sort of.

I started library school in 2003, in a graduate program at the University of South Florida that was already at that time almost 100 percent online, but required appearing in person periodically at a rate of about once every month or so. During these class meetings I noticed many of my schoolmates sorted themselves into categories with portmanteau-style titles. (In retrospect, maybe this is a form of taxonomy? Like they were giving themselves their own Dewey classes or subheadings?) It made sense that we were tracked into classes based on career goals: medical librarianship, law, business, reference, elementary school, etc. but these particular titles went well past that. Some were cute, some were puzzling, some seemed unnecessary, but it ramped up to the point where I started to see custom T-shirts. I’m not kidding. Here are some examples I spotted.

Cybrarian: I confess I flinched a bit when I heard this, as it made me think of the Borg. In 2003 this may have felt cutting-edge, but given the shape contemporary librarianship has taken I hope we are safely past the point where this is a useful designation. (Unless of course we really are all replaced by robots.)

Guybrarian: It’s true, women are a majority in this profession, but just as there are male nurses who are still just called “nurses,” I’m not sure I can condone this either. Since I’m a woman, perhaps I’m underqualified to judge. Men, opine in the comments below!

Gaybrarian: I guess it would depend on your subject specialization.

That’s just a sample, but it brings me to today’s subject, however circuitously: Mombrarian. Feel free to swap in Dadbrarian, Auntbrarian, LegalGuardianbrarian, Neighborbrarian, etc.

I have two children, both boys, aged 10 and 6. I get this a lot: “Wow, your kids must be supersmart! Do they read, like, all the time? I bet they do. Have they read all the books in the library already?”

Sigh. A year or two ago I realized my children spend way too much time staring at screens and I hate it. As I have admitted here before, I love TV. I LOVE IT. But, I also love to read (duh!) and I have found that both types of media have contributed to what I hope is my overall cultural literacy, so I don’t think television is the menace to society some people make it out to be.

When I was a child I caught my mother reading all the time, and we went to the library often. It was quite close to my house, so as I got older I was allowed to walk there by myself and bring home anything I could carry. I was a very regular patron at that library till I graduated high school, and I visited when I was home from college too. How, I wondered, could I instill that in my own children? Here are two perfect little patrons-to-be, ready to be molded into the ideal library users, and I had somehow failed them. Don’t get me wrong: we made regular visits to the public library, the older one helps me shelve in my library sometimes, we take the little one to story time. And yet, every time we’d enter the local branch, they bypassed all the books and made a beeline for the computers.

I’m also teaching the older one to cook, like really cook, with knives and a hot stove and all the dangerous awesome things, as my mother did with me. And one night when we were making eggplant Parmesan together, it hit me. I wasn’t modeling good library behavior, not really. I prefer to read fiction on my iPhone, but what my children see is Mommy staring at a screen. Thus, in the interest of their growth and development I have mostly taken myself back to paper books. Furthermore, I had tried introducing them to books I thought they would like – I am rather vain about my skill in matching books to readers – or things I hoped they would like, because I loved them as a girl, and I just wasn’t getting it right. Rather than base my suggestions on what I as their mother wanted them to embrace, I actually did the good old judgment-free patron interview with both of my kids. It worked. Older Boy is racing through all the James Patterson middle school books, because he loves to read things in a series just like I do, and Younger Boy has read every book in the local branch about insects and snakes because he wants to be the world’s first entomologist/herpetologist.

We’re on vacation now in Cincinnati visiting my husband’s family, and before we left I had developed a nagging question about religion I just couldn’t answer with any database to which I had access. Not only is one of the world’s finest classics libraries located at my other alma mater, the University of Cincinnati; it is also the site of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. This city is like a library jackpot for a seeker of anything related to ancient philosophy or religion. I spent two days researching in the Klau Library and I finally had my answer. And here’s a second Hanukkah miracle: the boys came to visit me there, and read some children’s books together from the fourth floor at while I worked, without asking where the computers were.

It is this Mombrarian’s hope that as they grow older they will also develop nagging questions with no easy answers, and that their first instinct will take them to whichever is the best library for the task: it may yet be full of paper books, or it may be full of helpful Cybrarians.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Wanna Be a Librarian?

I hope I’m preaching to the choir here! As members of AISL, most of you are currently employed in school libraries and have successfully navigated the hiring process. When I first applied to an independent school, the whole process opened the door to a mysterious, and intimidating, world.

Recruiting agency profile?
Multiple conference calls? (This was a pre-Skype era.)
A fly-down to see the school?
Dinner with administrators?
Eight hours on campus meeting seemingly everyone?
And I didn’t even teach a sample class…

I think it was probably helpful that I wasn’t anticipating the intensity of the hiring process and thus was able to experience each step with fresh eyes and optimism.

I have since been through the process on the other side frequently, and that’s definitely the preferable side. If you aren’t part of the hiring process for new faculty, you might want to ask if that’s a possibility. I have fifteen to thirty minutes with most Upper School faculty candidates, and while I have minimal say in the final hiring decisions, I think the time is well worth it. It gives the impression to candidates that there is an expectation of library collaboration, and candidates are quick to share their best collaboration stories with me. It’s professionally invigorating.

But, hiring for a librarian is both invigorating and stressful. I’ve just finished a midyear  hiring process and am ready to turn over the lower school library to an energetic and experienced librarian and refocus my attention on my library.  I thought this could be a break from our fascinating recent discussions on digital and news literacies before most people begin thinking about the spring hiring cycle. These are my observations from what I’ve seen over the past decade in the field.

  • Details matter in your application. Apply with the correct title of the position that’s been advertised. It’s important for librarians to be detail-oriented, and it shows me that you’re more likely to have read the expectations for the position itself. While it seems small, it might matter to the school if you are applying for the position of middle school media specialist, director of the learning center, or research librarian.
  • Along the same lines, apply in the format requested, whether it’s an email to the librarian or a phone call to human resources. Institutions have processes for hiring and applications sent to the wrong place may get loss in the process. It’s appropriate to check in once if you want to make sure your information has been received, but you probably don’t want to contact the school more frequently than they are contacting you.
  • Don’t just include a resume but also a cover letter or email explaining your background and interest in the position in narrative form. It helps you stand out to the school when they can hear your voice telling stories about your experiences and your values.
  • Only claim expertise in areas where you have expertise. While it might seem obvious, it’s easy in the moment to pretend you’ve used a system you’ve only heard mentioned in passing. It’s much worse to feign knowledge at first only to flail on a more-detailed follow-up question. No one is expected to know everything and we can probably teach the school’s course management system or Koha or Google Sheets or libguides.
  • Be cautious how you ask about money. Independent schools operate individually and quite differently from public schools, and each school has a unique culture around salary. If you ask too early or too often, it may stand out to the people interviewing you, even if they have no say in those decisions. Likewise, holidays and days off.
  • Do your homework on the schools where you are interviewing; research them online. If you’ve been working as a librarian, share stories about what you’ve done, but don’t start every sentence, “At my last school…” Be open to creating new traditions that fit the school where you are interviewing. Think about non-Googleable questions for when you are, inevitably, asked if you have questions for your interviewer.
  • Be yourself! Independent schools value that individuality and spend their marketing dollars sharing what’s unique about their offerings. It’s helpful to know if you’ll fit into the school culture, especially as librarians who pride ourselves on working well with others.
  • If you are invited for an interview, be on time, be yourself (again), show curiosity about the people interviewing you, and get a copy of the interview schedule if possible. Show kindness to everyone you meet, from the receptionist to the lunch staff to the individuals who are officially meeting with you. You want to leave a positive impression on everyone who interacts with you. If it fits your personality, it can’t hurt to have samples of past work with you as examples if anyone asks Also, a water bottle is a good idea.
  • Thank you notes still make a difference! Paper or electronic, no one will ever fault you for being too polite. If you were able to get a schedule, you’ll have the list of people who interviewed you. Otherwise, the headmaster, principal, or person who set up the interview are all good choices.

Just like we’ve been telling our seniors all month as college admissions decisions arrive, keep your options open. There isn’t one “perfect fit;” there are a lot of matches that will work. If you are someone looking for your first library job or hoping to relocate this spring, good luck! If you are someone with an open position, happy hiring!

Other suggestions, especially for boarding schools, large schools, or specialized positions, welcomed below. Also, something that greatly interests me is whether people still believe there is a standardized resume format. I’ve seen documents ranging from one to four pages, in bullet and narrative format, listing schooling and not. As someone who has stuck with the format she learned as an undergraduate, is anyone willing to share their thoughts on resume structure in 2017?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment