My To-Do List

I am so thrilled to be writing this from beautiful New Orleans, where I’m attending the AISL annual conference for the first time! As I bask, I want to share what I’m sure are just the very beginnings of my to-do list for when I head back home.

Doug Johnson Keynote: “Changed but Still Critical: Brick and Mortar School Libraries in the Digital Age”
To summarize, how does the physical space of the school library best serve students when they don’t necessarily have to walk through the doors to access information, or even to get help from a librarian? How can we create a library that students can feel is their “third space?” My to-do list takeaways:

  • Think about time rather than space as a way to “zone” the learning spaces of the library, especially in a small or one-room operation (like mine).
  • Have a positively phrased list (written and posted) of things that are always allowed in the library (e.g., reading, learning about a personal interest, writing a journal or blog post, getting help with a research need, etc.)
  • Promote as much in-library tech support as I am able to offer

2016 Summer Institute Design Dream Team Take 2! Mary Buxton, Marsha Hawkins, Claudette Hovasse, Melinda Holmes, Laura Pearle, and I shared some of the ways (all very different) that we have used what we learned from the 2016 Summer Institute on Design Thinking in Libraries hosted by Katie Archambault. My design thinking project to-do list:

  • Redesign of our resource guides to be easier for students to use
  • Revisit my version of a “Rx for Research” infographic, evaluate it with students and teachers, and share it more widely
  • Offer lessons, tutorials, and other support to our Entrepreneurial Capstone students in organizing information and developing their PLNs

Solid Research or Stuck in a Rut?: One Librarian’s Research on Modern College Readiness
Courtney Lewis presented some results from her absolutely fascinating research on what college librarians have reported as the research skills and tools that incoming first-year students should be familiar with today. My to-do list:

  • Consider introducing other citation tools more frequently used in colleges for some upper-level courses and/or make sure our students are prepared to use the citation tools available in the colleges and universities they attend
  • Choose and use a discovery service
  • During students’ research processes, deliberately emphasize the importance of research as participation in a “global community of scholars”

Thank you so much to all the presenters, conference committee, and hosts!

I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list for the next two days. These are just some of my takeaway items so far – I’m curious to hear what others would put on their to-do lists from these and other sessions. Please share – what’s going on your post-conference action list?

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Mental Illness in YA Fiction

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness (from Two years ago, one of my students, Katherine, began the nation’s first high school chapter of NAMI  as her Signature project (our version of a Capstone).
More about her project here.
Not only is Katherine a passionate mental health advocate, but she is also an avid reader.  She has read a lot of older titles and so I am constantly looking for new young adult fiction dealing with mental health issues that she or her club members might enjoy. This year I have found two titles that I really liked:
From Amazon:
“Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn.”
Written in such a way that even the reader is unable at times to differentiate reality from fantasy, “Challenger Deep” really put me inside the head of a character and allowed me to experience his mental illness in a very meaningful way. This is a quick read (an excellent audio book for teens who enjoy them) and, as always, Schusterman was effective in crafting well developed, highly empathetic characters. Katherine and I highly recommend it.
From Amazon:
“Sixteen-year-old Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she wanders the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she’s finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can’t quite recall. After decades of staying together “for the kids” and building a family on a foundation of lies and domestic violence, Sarah’s parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage. As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original—and yet it still hurts.”
I gave this to Katherine to read over the break so I haven’t gotten her feedback yet, but I really liked this one and read it in a single sitting, on a bus en route to a trip to Boston that I was chaperoning. Know that there are some shocking moments–domestic abuse, substance abuse, etc.–but I think it’s as poignant as “Challenger Deep” and a great choice for older readers interested in books dealing with mental illness.
Can you recommend any other books published in the past year or two that I might pass along to Katherine and/or our NAMI club or that I could use in our Mental Health Awareness month display?
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on Gilligan in the library…

I’m going to just put it out there. This is an awkward subject and an awkward post, but here goes…

Sometimes being a librarian makes me feel like I’m Gilligan stuck on a deserted island. A lot of the time I’m really happy, but there are also times when it can feel isolated and sometimes … lonely.

I don’t know about you, but as a school librarian, I spend a lot of time in my head. Much of my day is spent thinking about cognitive development and growth. Recently, as I have been working on my AISL Conference presentation on student vlogging I came to realize that much of my excitement over our students’ vlogging is that it is the only place in my information instruction that I address the affective aspects of research in any form or in any way.

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An interesting by product of this process has been that it has forced me to confront affective aspects of my professional life.

Librarianship can sometimes feel like being a castaway on a deserted isle. 

Weird Issue #1: The objective stuff that doesn’t seem to matter to the part of my brain that controls my emotions…

First, let me acknowledge my objective reality. I am in NO WAY, a castaway on Gilligan’s deserted island somewhere. I am very aware of the fact that I am a very lucky librarian with no objective right to complain about things.

Upon graduating from library school I moved to Los Angeles and landed a job that I had no right to land at a middle school with 640 students. By the end of my time there, I was part of a staff of 5 full-time librarians along with a full-time assistant. It was crazy!!!

Fast forward 13 years and I had the incredible good fortunate to land a rarely available job as an independent school librarian in Honolulu. I am now a K-12 librarian. I work with an awesome, dynamic, whirlwind of a librarian, and a great full-time library assistant. I love my job. I love the work. I love my colleagues. I love my kids. I have a supportive administration, and our program and work are valued and embraced by the school community.

Bottom line: I’m incredibly blessed and incredibly lucky. But… (You had to know there was a but coming, right?)

Weird Issue #2: There’s this subjective stuff that seems to matter a whole lot to me even though it shouldn’t… 

In spite of all of the objective things in my favor I can’t seem to get past a definite sense of isolation that sometimes borders on loneliness. It’s weird. I realized isolation/loneliness and a desire to connect was manifesting itself in things like posting WAY too much to the listserv without thinking enough about what I was doing and why I was doing it.

Because it was the only kind of librarianship I knew, I never realized how oddly atypical it was to have four other MLS librarians working in the same space with whom I bounced ideas, brainstormed lessons, co-taught, collaborated, supported, and (yes) complained.

Weird Issue #3: Am I just being a narcissist?

I am one of those librarians who, after helping students research diseases or psychological afflictions, walks away believing that I have all of them. I’ve been reading The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson so I’ve also been wondering if I’m a narcissist, a psychopath, or a sociopath. I’m pretty sure that I’m not a psychopath or sociopath, but the narcissist possibility… Err… concerns me.

[Pauses to allow awkward assertion to dissipate…]


Anyway, the thing is that affective aspects of our lives are subjective to us. By any reasonable person’s objective measure, I’m just whining and being a narcissist.

It’s not a, “not having friends” kind of issue…

Daniel Pink, author of Drive, A Whole New Mind, and To Sell is Human, is one of my favorite follows on Twitter. A week or two ago, he tweeted a link to this:

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Click the image above to go to the full article. It’s a GREAT read!

While it’s a really good read and as an introvert at my core, there’s advice I have actually already applied to my non-librarian life, but I don’t really think that the issue is a “I have no friends…” sense of feeling alone.

It’s more of a:

“I don’t know what percentage of my budget I should be spending on digital resources vs. print and I wish I could just chat about it with other people to see how they think things through, but there’s nobody here to go have lunch with and talk about it” kind of isolated loneliness. [I know that’s not a good sentence, but you get the point]


“I don’t think we can afford to keep all of our ABC-CIO and Facts-on-File history databases, but my social studies teachers are pretty evenly divided about which ones to keep and which ones to cancel so I don’t know what to do. What would you do?” 

It’s that kind of isolation and lonely that I think about when my budget proposal for the next school year is due and I’m lying in bed staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.

Sleeping Beauty Syndrome

There is definitely a part of me that wants to be Sleeping Beauty. I want to lie down on the sofa and have people come and take care of me. The thing is, though, that maybe Sleeping Beauty wouldn’t just lie around on a sofa waiting for the prince if she had differently-minded princess pals who might say, “Hey WAKE UP, brush your teeth, and get out there and go slay some dragons yourself!!!”

There’s another part of me that isn’t really so very Sleeping Beauty oriented so I’m not always a shrinking violet or wallflower when it comes to my work.

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I decided a while ago that I would stop behaving like Sleeping Beauty waiting for people to come and say hi. Nicole, my partner here in the library and I invited other Honolulu area independent school librarians over to our space for a social meet and greet. Other librarians in the area have stepped up to host gatherings in their various spaces so we’ve started visiting each others’ libraries for indie librarian chats–once in the fall and once in the spring. Our little mini-network is slowly developing and that’s exciting to see.

What kinds of things do you do to find “your people” and build your librarian pal network?

If you have a vibrant independent school library community in your region, what kinds of things are you doing together? How did you make it come about?


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Teaching Empathy with Primary Sources

“They never saw a child.”
Ruby Bridges

It was my first reading of The Watson’s Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, and I was fascinated by the book’s structure: most of the book is not about Civil Rights, but rather about bullying, and it focuses on childhood scenes that, though depicted with some comic relief, have an undercurrent of humiliation, intimidation, and violence. The young narrator, Kenny, tells the story of his African American family’s decision to drive from their home in Detroit to Birmingham, Alabama so that the bullying, wild behavior of his older brother, Byron, can be reined in. Byron is going to spend the summer with his grandmother in Birmingham; as Byron’s father says, it is hoped that this experience will give Byron a taste of the “real world.” The “real world” is the South of the 1960s, with communities fractured by segregation, protests, and bombings.

This book’s structure of beginning with playground cruelty–the bullying by Byron and his friends–and then showing a societal pattern of discrimination and violence towards a race, caused me to wonder if the author Curtis was helping young readers to relate to childhood cruelty first to try to grasp a much larger issue of society’s cruelty. Working closely with an English teacher, Joanna Hasbell, we decided to build empathy towards a time period that seems remote to these fifth graders, and we would build that empathy by looking at primary sources first to help see the person behind the cruel events. After students used primary sources to make observations and raise questions for further inquiry, they explored a webquest of pre-selected database articles and websites to read background information and make further observations on some of the cultural influences and issues of the 1960s.

Look Closely to Build Empathy

As a class, we began by viewing a photo of young Ruby Bridges, who is pictured walking from a building and being escorted by several men in suits. Fifth graders began looking closely and observing details, such as the men wearing badges and armbands that said “marshall.” One student guessed Ruby was being arrested, but the lack of distress in her demeanor and the number of officers to apprehend one young girl made this an unlikely guess. Students then guessed that these men were protecting her, acting as body guards. Analysis questions from the Library of Congress “Primary Source Analysis Tool”  helped to probe further observations, such as describing the physical setting (students guessed that Ruby was walking from a school building) and reflecting on what was not being shown in the photo (reactions of the crowd who were angered at desegregation of the school).

Their observations and questionings–such as “Were people angry at Ruby and angry about desegregation?”–gave students a direction for further searches to locate photos or articles to support their assumptions. Students also practiced advanced search techniques that would be used in the webquest to locate additional primary source photos or background articles: 1) bound phrase using quotations, such as “Ruby Bridges”; limiting website, such as; and scanning an online article for a particular word or short phrase by using the find command (cmd F on a Mac or cntrl F on a PC).

After practicing the guided inquiry techniques of looking at primary sources, each student examined a different primary source. As they looked at photos of scenes depicting segregated movie houses, protest marches, lunch counter sit-ins, and school stand-offs, students were encouraged to look closely at facial expressions, body language, and wording on buildings and protest signs. They noted, for instance, body language: the photo below depicts white men, arms defiantly crossed, using their bodies to block the doorway of the University of Alabama as Governor Wallace delivered his speech upholding the segregation policy; contrasted with this, an opposing white man stands with his hand on his hip (a federal agent infuriated that Governor Wallace is defying the desegregation laws). In another photo, students contrasted facial expressions of two young protesters: a stern-faced African American marcher and the jeering white man who marches alongside him.  The wording on the two protest signs supports interpretations of the facial expressions.

Governor Wallace Refusing African American Students, 1963. (Britannica Image Quest)

Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In, 1960. (Britannica Image Quest)

Some students viewed primary sources that provided insights into how popular culture shaped the society, such as movie posters and photos from 1960s movies: theme of racial conflict (To Kill a Mockingbird); or attitudes toward “pranking” (The Parent Trap); or physical violence viewed humorously (The Three Stooges). Even toys of the 1960s were explored, such as Barbie dolls (idealized “white” beauty) and G.I. Joe dolls (black soldier doll with stereotyped features). Database articles as well as websites provided additional background information.

To Kill a Mockingbird movie poster, 1962. (Britannica Image Quest)

As students began reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, the English teacher asked students to brainstorm words related to the concept of “Mean,” and she used the student responses to make a bulletin board word cloud. Their brainstormed words reflected a growing understanding of the complexity of negative feelings.

An additional opportunity for close observation and building empathy occurred during our school’s author visit with Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales graphic novels use the language of cartoons to dramatize historic moments (often humorously), and Nathan shared with students how primary sources and historical research are combined in his tales. In a writing workshop session with the fifth graders, Nathan asked students to use one of the primary source photos at their table to create a four-frame cartoon. The photograph depicted a Coke machine labeled 6 cents and “Whites Only.” Nathan asked students to pretend that their cartoon characters traveled in a time machine, viewed the Coke machine, and reacted to the “Whites Only” message. Below is one student’s cartoon statement on the nature of freedom in the United States.

See the Child

In a PBS interview with Ruby Bridges, Ruby commented on the angry crowds that gathered as she went to school: “They didn’t see a child. They saw change, and what they thought was being taken from them. They never saw a child.”  In this collaborative project, fifth graders used primary sources to connect with a time period that seemed to them to be very distant. By looking closely, they “saw the child” and used empathy to guide their inquiry-based research, thereby deepening their understanding of the 1960s.

Bibliography for Images

Coke Machine Cartoon. 2017. Used with Permission.

Governor Wallace Refusing African American Students, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 11 June 1963. Britannica Image Quest, Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In. 1960. Britannica Image Quest, Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

Hasbell, Joanna. “Mean” Word Cloud. 2017. Used with Permission.

To Kill a Mockingbird. 1962. Britannica Image Quest, Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

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Pajama Storytime

My students and I have different experiences, or lack thereof, of the public library and its programming. Our student body draws from across nine Georgia counties, which can range from suburban to rural; the libraries are not necessarily a walkable distance or even a quick car ride. In fact, a good deal of my students do not have a public library card, something I did not recognize until we waded through the waters of database access together. As I’ve settled in my role as school librarian, I’ve found myself recreating the public library events that shaped my own childhood into my school library programming. One, most dear to my heart, is pajama storytime. As a child, that nighttime storytime meant a lot: that maybe my dad could come too, that the day would last longer, that my sister and I would get to go out on the town in our matching homemade nightgowns.

In the second year of summer check-out, I decided to add in limited summer hours (I am a 12-month employee) and a nighttime storytime one evening in July to allow for more access to the collection and to provide some resistance to the summer slide. The mission of our lower school library program is to instill a love of learning and to me, limited summer programming creates a sense of safeness and security separate from the social and academic anxiety that can came with the school day. I provide milk and cookies, put on some pjs and my light-up unicorn slippers, and open the doors.

There are ancillary benefits, too. This event is informally open to the larger community- I put it on my Facebook page as well as the library’s and encourage the adults and students alike to get the word out. Our Admissions Director notifies ELC, 1st, and 2nd applicants of the storytimes while I always extend an invitation when tours with younger students come through. One night my crowd was primarily potential students and their siblings. Current students got to be experts and teach our guests some of the library’s rituals, like the singing bowl and our steadfast songs and rhymes, and the adults mingled with one another. The summer times have provided a way for new students to ease into the community and gain some comfort in our space.

These are still the early days of this program, a summer event that carried into the school year. I’m looking forward to measuring the success of it with a full year’s worth of data that give me a better sense of the days that work best, the time of year. I’ll likely leave the time unchanged- 6:30 p.m. allows for dinner and also the chance to fall asleep on the car ride home. But, in the meantime, the anecdotal evidence of success is evident: the stormy nights where only two students come through the deep winter darkness have been just as lovely as the evening with a raucous full house.

Having pajama storytime does mean a commitment to a longer day and a dedicated fund for bookish sleepwear. I find, though, that I what I put in I get back tenfold. Programming like this brings me to the core of my primary purpose as a librarian- to give back to others what was so freely given to me.

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The Things I Can Do

Lower School students are buzzing with excitement for our upcoming author visit with Jeff Mack.   Jeff Mack is an author and illustrator of extraordinary picture books and a middle grade chapter book series called Clueless McGee.

First Graders laughed their heads off at Jeff Mack’s picture book story called The Things I Can Do. We read the funny story together and had in-depth discussions about all of the different materials used to create the collage illustrations.  The kids were fascinated to see notebook paper, stickers, popsicle sticks, crayon drawings, duct tape, sticky notes, pencil drawings, and torn paper decorating each page.  They needed to touch the pages to believe that the book was made up of photographs of the collage pieces.  Of the main character’s crayon drawn face, students asked “Did Jeff Mack have a kid draw pictures for him?” Students were advised to save that question for the author and illustrator himself when he visits our school at the end of the month.

Students were thrilled to make their own collage pictures, sharing what they can do.

First graders are talented.

I can drive a tugboat.

I can read.

I can be a hero.

I can dig.

I can eat my French fries.

I can hold a cat.

I can ride a horse.

I can do my own homework.

I can fly.  (This one reminds me of The Little Prince.)

As you can see, kids can do a lot of things.  And the things they can do make me smile.


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Distinguishing evidence from analysis: A student’s perspective on the first step in source evaluation

Sara Zoroufy is a junior and the Research Teaching Assistant for the Castilleja School library. Inspired by Nora Murphy’s work on source literacy, Sara chose to spend this year observing research lessons and unpacking how she and other students think about sources. Her work helps inform lesson planning. Here, she shares an idea she has been contemplating recently.

“CNN reports that the Justice Department found the following statistics…”

During a presentation in our tenth grade government class, this phrase caught my attention. Why would a speaker attribute a statistic to two different sources? I have been thinking about this turn of phrase for a long time, trying to understand precisely why it troubled me. Recently, I realized that students struggle to distinguish factual evidence from a source’s analysis of that evidence. In the example above, the student was having trouble determining what type of information she was citing and which source was responsible for the creation of that information. Without separating evidence from analysis, we can neither evaluate nor properly cite a source. I tried to draw a visual to help myself understand how a source breaks down into these components, which culminated in this flowchart:

Mapping these concepts in this way helped me identify a number of key points in the process of evaluating a source. I began to think that the essential questions that students should initially ask when faced with a particular source are: what is the evidence that is presented, what is the corresponding analysis, and what sources shaped each component?

Asking these questions is the first step in unpacking a source, and the answers are not always immediately clear when students encounter unfamiliar genres of writing. This year, my grade was presented with an excerpt from a Pulitzer prize winning piece of investigative journalism about the diagnosis of black lung in coal miners. We were asked to identify the sources of the statistics in the article. No one was able to locate this information because journalistic convention dictates integrating the names of sources into the text, as opposed to employing parenthetical citations that students use in their own writing. For example, just prior to starting a bullet pointed list of statistical evidence, the article said, “The Center [for Public Integrity] recorded key information about these cases, analyzed [the medical expert’s] reports and testimony, consulted medical literature and interviewed leading doctors.”[1]  Since the students weren’t accustomed to this particular form of citation, many of us responded that no sources were given.

Students had been instructed to pinpoint the evidence in the article and label it with an “E” and to identify and label its sources with an “S.” As I sat with Tasha Bergson-Michelson, our instructional librarian, and considered my flowchart in relation to the lesson, we realized that the instruction had skipped over several crucial steps in the process of identifying the evidence. This experience made it clear that identifying the sources of evidence can be confusing, and that simply telling students to exercise that skill was not effective. Rather, the development of this skill requires explicit instruction and opportunities to focus on practicing it.

Once we’ve identified the source’s evidence and where it came from, we are able to further evaluate it. Depending on the type of evidence, we can investigate its quality and veracity in different ways–reading the methodology behind a study or poll, for example, or comparing the details of anecdotal evidence across various sources. Another factor to take into consideration is the original publication venue of the evidence itself. Recognizing the background of the publication adds to our understanding of the ethos of the evidence, as well as the sponsor’s motivation for collecting the evidence.

After examining the evidence, we can begin to consider the analysis of that evidence. The analysis reflects the perspective of the author and the publication in which it appears. Often, students stop their investigation into a source once they have determined its bias or perspective, but that is only the beginning. The real importance lies in the source’s purpose–why and how that perspective is being argued. Our history department uses the acronym SOAPA–Subject, Occasion, Author, Purpose, and Audience–to remind us to critically evaluate each aspect of a source.[2] This strategy has been particularly helpful in reminding us to think about the author’s purpose and how it shapes the analysis of their evidence.

I find it useful to think of every source, be it a journal article or a photograph, as an essay that selects and interprets evidence to support its thesis, but that comparison is not necessarily intuitive. This idea that all sources make an argument is easily overlooked, especially when we students are presented with historical documents which we sometimes subconsciously perceive as pure fact. In our 8th grade science classes, students first encounter the idea that nonfiction can be analyzed like literature. The lesson teaches students to consider the language of a source to determine what argument the author is making and what they want the audience to think, feel, or do.

Differentiating between evidence and analysis is the first step in considering the three essential questions: what is the evidence that is presented, what is the corresponding analysis, and what sources shaped each component? Answering these questions helps us understand:

  • Sources make arguments using evidence and analysis.
  • Evidence tells us what the source is using to make its argument.
  • Evaluating the origin and quality of the evidence contributes to our understanding of the strength of the argument.
  • Critically evaluating the publication venue of the source itself helps us recognize the perspective the analysis will try to validate.
  • Doing a close reading of the analysis in the source gives us insight into the author’s intention in making the argument.

In the case of the quote that started this whole journey, knowing that the evidence came from the Department of Justice and the analysis from CNN allows students to draw on any credibility offered by the DOJ’s statisticians and CNN’s popularity as a source of reporting. The students themselves attain credibility by demonstrating that their thinking is based upon rigorous sources.


  1. Chris Hamby, Brian Ross, and Matthew Mosk, “Breathless and Burdened: Dying from black lung, buried by law and medicine,” The Center for Public Integrity, last modified October 30, 2013, accessed March 2, 2017.
  2. The College Board recommends a similar version, SOAPSTone, for its history APs.


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Uncle Sam — err, the AISL Board — wants you!

If your school is anything like mine, one of the values we strive to instill in our students is community service, or volunteerism. Not just to pad a college or university resume, but a genuine investment of time in an activity that benefits others. My term as AISL president is drawing to a close, and it occurs to me that as independent school librarians, AISL offers us a unique opportunity to serve our North American library community. This service can take many forms—being active on the listserv, sharing resources, acting as a mentor, etc.—but it can also be through serving on the AISL Board …

… and as luck would have it, there are three vacancies for Member-at-Large positions on the AISL Board this spring!

The current AISL Board will be changing in March as people complete their terms of office and either transition off the Board, or move into new positions, freeing up these three Member-at-Large positions.

Here’s the scoop as of March 2017 – put faces to names:

Katie Archambault will become President for a two-year term (2017-2019)

Renee Chevallier is assuming the Treasurer position for a three-year term (2017-2020), following in the footsteps of Jean Bruce, who has done an excellent job of keeping AISL legally compliant, vibrant, and in the black

Phoebe Warmack is moving into the Secretary role vacated by Katie

Christina Pommer remains Technology Director for a three-year term (2016-2019)

Sandy Gray will become Past-President for one year, assisting Katie until spring 2018, when a President-Elect will be determined by the Board to assist Katie in her second year as president

Allison Peters Jensen is completing her three-year term as a Member-at-Large.  Allison was the mastermind behind the “welcome Bingo” initiative at recent annual conferences, and took the lead to implement the Board’s new Mentorship Program.

And many of you know Jean Bruce, last year’s Marky Award winner and outgoing Board Treasurer, who has worked tirelessly to ensure the long-term success of this association. Not only is Jean an inspiring colleague, she’s done a great deal on the Board well beyond her scope as Treasurer, and we are all the beneficiaries of her vision. A “yuge” thanks, Jean – what will you do with all your free time?!?

So, what exactly does a Member-at-Large do on the AISL Board? This person assumes responsibility for an initiative (liaison with the planners of the Summer Institute or the Annual Conference, coordinator of the Board’s new Mentorship Program, or manager of the annual Affordability Scholarship for first-time conference attendees) and maintains contact with the constituents and the Board via email. S/he also contributes to the success of all Board initiatives as needed.

Most of our work is conducted via email, occasionally by phone, although we hope to leverage technology common to our schools (and not blocked on campus!) to meet virtually as needed in future. The entire AISL Board meets only once a year, at the annual conference, where attendance is mandatory: to serve on the Board, you are expected to attend the annual conference and Board meeting each year during your term of office.

A Member-at-Large serves a three-year term, with the option of assuming the role of President, Treasurer, Secretary or Technology Director. (No pressure!)

Those of us who have served on the AISL Board over the years recognize that our work is largely invisible to the membership, but it is critical nevertheless. Without dedicated Board members and volunteers, our association would have no website, no wiki, no blog, no social media, no membership renewals, no platform for conference and Summer Institute registration, no Affordability Scholarships, no Mentorship program – you get the picture.

So please consider applying for one of the three vacant Member-at-Large positions on the AISL Board. It’s a great way to give back to our larger library community, contribute to the ongoing success of our association, make new friends, and have some fun. Really. FUN!

If you are interested in joining the AISL Board, please send an email to and provide the following details:

1. Name
2. Title & School / Location
3. AISL experience / conference attendance
4. Activities you lead/participate in at your school
5. Highlights of accomplishments
6. Why you would like to join the AISL Board.

If you are attending the annual conference in New Orleans next month, please seek out any one of us if you have questions about serving on the Board. We’re happy to share our experiences.

Deadline to apply is Friday, April 15th. The Board will reach a decision by the end of April so we can welcome new members before the summer break.

And hold onto this thought … we stand on the shoulders of giants.

The success of AISL today is a direct result of the vision and hard work of founding members, a series of dedicated Board members over the years, and our general membership.

The AISL Board is looking to add three new members – we hope you will consider joining us! Grow professionally, have some fun, and model the volunteering commitment for your students – it takes a village to build a thriving library community!

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A storyteller

Last week, Canada lost one of its most beloved storytellers: writer & broadcaster Stuart McLean, host of the seemingly perennial Vinyl Café , passed away leaving quite a legacy. For decades, people from all across our country – from small hamlets on our east and west coasts, through urban centres to remote Northern villages – were connected through the telling of his stories, and his sharing of their own.

Despite being a fan for years, listening on weekly radio and attending live shows when possible, I’ve been surprised by my depth of emotion; reading tributes and comments from others, I know that am not alone.

Such is the power of story-telling. None of you need to be convinced of this, but it is a keen reminder for me to not to shy away from acknowledging its critical role in connecting people with the written word – so here are some action items for me:

  • Continue to enjoy building a story of summer reading, working with Celeste Porche of Metairie, LA to prepare our presentation for AISL NOLA (can’t wait to meet you in person, Celeste!)
  • Read a picture book aloud at my next Bigside Books meeting (probably Lane Smith’s It’s a Book, so great for high school kids)
  • Incorporate some short stories and spoken word poetry into a boys’ book club that I run outside of school – I’m thinking Stuart, Shane Koyczan, Humble the Poet – recommendations welcome!

Side note: Jess Milton, Stuart’s ‘long-suffering’ (his words) producer, noted in an interview after his passing that Stuart was surprisingly quiet off-stage, often focused on listening to others’ stories. As someone privileged to work with teens, this is an excellent reminder of what a speaker offered at a recent TABS conference – “the listening is the helping.”

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Shelfie Challenge

This year, my 3rd/4th grade team of teachers decided to change up the way they were teaching technology. Our two classes function independently of each other, but they have been yearning for some joint planning time as well as opportunities for collaboration. From this, our tech rotations were born.

The Logistics

We have two full-time teachers per mixed class of 3rd/4th grade students, with a little over 60 students total. Add me into the mix, and now we have five teachers to teach separate technology rotations. Don’t get me wrong, we use technology in a variety of ways all day long, but these rotations would focus on specific skills – video making, coding, typing practice, Google Slideshows, and library searching. We decided to mix and match the classes, splitting up students by grade level. Each cluster of students (named for our state’s lakes and rivers) would travel together through the five rotations, for five weeks at a time, meeting once a week for 45 minutes per class.

Library Detectives 

Because this was decided early in the school year, and I had yet to wrap my head around what a “library/technology class” would actually look like, I have been using this time to try out different lessons and styles of teaching. I wish I could say that I have a systematic process of trying out and evaluating my lessons, but right now, I’m just getting a feel for things. My loose theme for the class is library detectives because we are searching for clues to get us to certain resources. We are learning how to navigate the library’s website, how to search the catalog, and how to search our online databases. 

As I write this, I am feeling better about my approach to the class (thank you, self-reflection!). My initial fears or worries about teaching these skills were heavy –

  • Do I really need to spend time teaching students how to search the catalog?
  • How will teaching these skills in isolation help students in any way?
  • Can I make this class into a meaningful inquiry project instead of jumping from one skill to another week after week?

That last question still nags at me – if you have ideas, please do share! But I feel better because I know that we are creating meaningful inquiry experiences for students during their science and social studies project time in class. I am still collaborating with teachers during those projects, so essentially, we are building upon the skills that I introduce in this tech rotation. Or at least that’s my justification for now!

Shelfie Challenge

That was a long way of introducing last week’s lesson – the Shelfie Challenge! We recently switched over to the Follett Destiny catalog from Alexandria, so I used this *brand new shiny thing!* to get students excited about using the catalog to search for books (many of my students are avid library users, so they already have favorite sections of the library).

Inspired by @gogauthia on Twitter, I created a bingo board of books to search for, then sent students off with iPads to search the library catalog for the books and take a selfie with their finds. 

Though it felt a little chaotic at the time, kids were excitedly running (eek!) about the library trying to find books – this is good! They were practicing using the catalog, exploring different areas of the library, and searching for books they may not have even known we had (a couple students found books to check out, too).

Since this is my only fixed class in a completely flexible schedule, I am (slowly) embracing the opportunity to teach library skills in isolation to these curious and voracious readers. I still struggle with the philosophical and pedagogical implications of teaching these skills this way, but for now, I’m learning and growing just as my students are.

As I embark on the journey of creating an information skills framework for our Lower School, I would be happy to learn how other schools are approaching this topic! Am I way off base here? 

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