These are a few of our favourite things….

A few years ago, I had a meeting in a recently-renovated public library: it was a fresh, warm and welcoming space. However, the staff led a tour that was focused what they didn’t like – it was disheartening.

I will not be doing that today.

Today, I’m going to share some of the things we really like about our new space: the second-floor of a building built in 1965, re-opened at end of 2015 after an 18-month renovation.

New windows & HVAC system – they’re not glamorous but having windows that open & close, as well as adjustable thermostats, is beyond stupendous. It has opened up new opportunities, such as having an air-conditioned summer school classroom (our school is beautiful but at 151 years old, does not have central air in all buildings). Plus our paperback covers didn’t curl this summer! (No photos – thermostats turn out to be surprisingly unphotogenic).

Adjacency to our Cirne Commons (named after a generous alumni donor): being on the second floor, I feel like Cinderella every time I come down the steps into this gathering space. We feel so much more a part of  what’s going on. And having a birds-eye view makes it very easy to track specific kids down! View from the top/view from the bottom:

commons2 commons3

Having falling in love with a glass board at the Academy of the Holy Names (#aisltampa2015), we used a gift from our Parents’ Guild to purchase a Visionary Move Mobile Magnetic Glass Whiteboard (4′ h x 3’w model #74950) – sometimes used for teaching, sometimes used for very scientific polls:


In the name of flexibility, we are loving our new classroom tables (Haworth Planes Collaborative Table) – so easy to move and flip up for storage:


The castors on our bookshelves (Ven-Rez Horizon Steel Library shelving) make it easy for just two of us to move them out of the way (even with approx 400 books on each), as we did for some leadership training at the beginning of the year:


Our super awesome custom bookdrop! We had no luck finding just the right one, so went with a plain metal unit from Brodart. One of our parents does graphic design and vinyl imaging – we provided the quotations, she designed/printed/installed:


While we looked at tablet chairs, our designer selected a basic lounge chair along with these cool tables (Steelcase Turnstone Campfire Personal Table) which are wonderfully flexible (ie. can be positioned in different ways and places – the kids really like them):


We’re excited about showing our Ontario colleagues around this wonderful space (along with our also recently spruced-up Junior School library) at our spring meeting!


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Parent communication

Starting my third year at this school, I feel that I have progressively gotten better at keeping parents informed about library events, special projects, checkout procedures, overdue books, and everything else library-related that they would be curious to know. This year, I subscribed to Smore (which I used heavily at my previous middle school but not so much my first two years here), and I plan to use it for everything!

I got back into using this online newsletter tool last year when I created my So you’ve read Harry Potter – what’s next? list. I shared it on my blog and Twitter, but I didn’t email it directly to anyone.

At the beginning of this school year, I knew that I wanted my first newsletter to families to be chock-full of information, yes, but also visually appealing and easy to navigate. I love how simple it is to do this using Smore.


Rather than embedding the newsletter into my blog, I instead emailed the flyer to all of our Lower School families directly from Smore. The advantage to doing it this way is that I could see who opened the email, who clicked on the newsletter, and how long they spent viewing it. When I see that the newsletter has been delivered to 211 email addresses with only 119 of them actually opening it, I can better manage my expectations of how much families really know about the library. I also know that some families have multiple addresses listed, so if one parent has seen it, that’s enough.

We just finished our book fair last week, so I created the following Smore in about 15 minutes to send out to families thanking them for their support. You can see how versatile it is!


While I plan on using Smore heavily for parent communications, I know that I need to diversify my avenues of parent contact. Just standing outside at dismissal time (chaotic as it is!) is a good way to strike up conversations with parents. If they see me, they also might remember something they wanted to share with or ask me.

What ways do you find are most successful in communicating with parents and families? I’m always looking for new ideas!

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Twitter, Blogs and Credibility: How Are You Teaching It?

I admit, there are times when I am standing in front (or at the back) of a classroom and I mention the name of a database that I don’t wonder if 20 pairs of eyes glaze over just a little bit. I worry that I have become that database lady, instead of someone who teaches information literacy.

So, my goal for this year was to do things differently. And it has been working out beautifully.  We have instituted the personal librarian program for 9th graders, which I will get into later in the year when I have more data.  We have also instituted a campaign of joy, which is just something I personally feel is needed on a campus filled with stressed out students and teachers. I have also begun looking at former lessons and trying to make them more interactive. Here is what I did with my Honors Government Crossfire Debate Project. Let me know what you think.

Honors Government Crossfire Debate

In prior years, I would talk about twitter credibility and the verified checkmark.  We would look at a twitter account and talk about credibility.  Then I talk about where they could find good blogs and how to verify an author.  I would end with a tour of the Libguide and the databases they should explore.


This photo was sent four minutes after the bomb blast. It is from a report analyzing fake content on the Boston bombing. (Source:

This year, however, I started with the Boston Marathon Bombing.

After asking the students if they remember the bombing, I talk about how fast the news is now and that breaking news is even faster and that news consumers need to be critical thinkers and evaluators of the news that they consume.  According to an independent report analyzing fake content on Twitter, the first tweet about the bombing occurred within three minutes of the blast and the first photo in four minutes.

According to the report, 29% of the content was rumors or fake content. That’s almost a third of the content.  And they found that people with high social reputation and verified accounts were responsible for spreading some of the fake content.  Now, is this the time to abandon Twitter? No, of course not.  But it is the time to check up on the source that you are using.

When did your source start tweeting?  The day of the bombing?  Are they asking you for money? Are they a charity created the day after the bombing? Do they have five followers or 50,000?

One reason it is important to check on when a twitter source joined and determine how many followers they have and do they post tweets regularly is because during the Boston bombing over 6,000 malicious Twitter accounts were created and later suspended by Twitter.

Why does this happen? Because there are bad people wanting to take advantage of the kindness of good people.  So, check your sources.


Photo from the Analyzing Fake Twitter Report which is an example of why you should always check your sources for length on twitter and focus of tweets.

If you take a look at my prezi you can see how I laid out my talking points.  That’s when we get to the verified accounts at twitter.


Anderson Cooper’s verified personal Twitter account can be found by looking for the blue check after his name. (Source: Twitter.)

The key point to a verified account is that even though you are verified, you may not be credible.  For instance, it may be the real, verified Kim Kardashian, but she isn’t credible on topics of science.  She may or may not be for fashion.  I won’t judge.

The other point on a verified account is that a very small minority of people have verified accounts.  That leaves plenty of credible people out there with no verified check mark but plenty of credibility for you to find.  All you need to do is look for them.  Case in point: Mexico Drug War.


With this search, I just typed in Mexico drug war and the top two people were Sylvia and @puzzleshifter.  Of course, not having a name is a problem in and of itself, which we discussed as a class.  I have the class decide on which person to go look at and they usually choose Sylvia as the more professional of the two.


With this photo, I am asking them to look and think about what other information can they glean from the site?  They should be looking for how many followers she has, for when she joined.  They should notice that her website is listed and that she is a regular tweeter.  If they are really good, someone might mention that her followers might be mined for other sources of information. Then we follow the website to find out more info on her.


After clicking on the about page, I have them scan the page to see if her credentials match the subject in which she claims expertise.  If so, then we have a credible expert.


Then we move on to blogging.

For blogging, we reinforce what we have talked about with Twitter, but we expand it for the blogs.  One source that I found exceptionally helpful in preparing this lesson was: Measuring Social Media Credibility: A Study on a Measure of Blog Credibility.

In essence, I boil it down to

A blogger is considered credible when they are

  • knowledgeable
  • influential
  • passionate
  • transparent
  • reliable

Blog content is considered credible when it is:

  • authentic
  • insightful
  • informative
  • consistent
  • fair
  • focused
  • accurate
  • timely
  • popular

Now that they have an idea of how to think about credibility.  I give them an exercise. I have them get into their debate groups of four people and then I assign them to a group.  Each group has three blogs to evaluate.  They need to decide if the blog would be a good credible expert, someone to use as a primary source (a hobbyist) or is too biased to use.  They have 10 minutes and each group comes to the front to discuss in front of the class and we deconstruct their reasons why.

And what do you know?  They were engaged, enthusiastic and their analysis was spot on (with a couple of exceptions 8-).  I even learned a few things.

If you would like to see the exercise and my liguide, go to Crossfire Debate Libguide  Let me know what you are doing or if you have helpful tips or ideas below or email me.


Additional resources that were helpful in constructing this lesson:

Heidi Cohen’s Can you separate real from fake content blog post (Oct. 29, 2013)

Heidi Cohen’s 7 Actionable Twitter Tips to build your following (May 30, 2013)

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Reaping What You Sow


Teaching, they say, is a long game – all that work, and then the payoff that eventually comes happens in college or when they’re at their first job. You have to be satisfied knowing you yourself may never actually see the results of your labor. Classroom teachers are sometimes afforded the chance to see lessons they have taught played out during exam time, or to see the light bulb go on when solving for X finally makes sense, but to a large degree teaching is a leap of faith that the seeds you sow now are going to germinate and eventually bear fruit.

This week, I harvested a basketful! As you may know, here at Out-of-Door we are on two campuses very far removed from one another. Our youngsters, PK-5, are on the beautiful island of Siesta Key, and our 6-12 graders are in the shiny new ’burbs of Lakewood Ranch, a full 17 miles inland. To ensure continuity across the program, we meet as a full faculty at least twice a year, and individual departments may meet more frequently than that to smooth out the curriculum and create a rational approach to scaffolding the learning.

At one such meeting a couple of years ago, I found myself in conversation with Sarah Bryan, the fourth and fifth grade history teacher. She was about to launch a project with her fifth grade classes about the Revolutionary War, and she wanted to instill some age-appropriate research and documentation skills in her students. I told her about the wonder that is NoodleTools and she lit up. I further told her that our site license is actually for grades 5-12, so if she wanted her students to use it, they were welcome to do so. But how to effectuate the training? She had never used it herself, and neither had the staff in the Lower School library. Dr. Kelly Rose, our media specialist, and her trusty sidekick, tech teacher Glynis Miller, have been very diligent in teaching the kids that they must find appropriate resources for their projects and cite them correctly. So that groundwork had been laid for me long ago. Asking these two busy colleagues to take on another task when their days are so crushingly full already seemed like punishment, and I absolutely wasn’t going to let Sarah sail that sea alone. And – librarians are waiting with bated breath for this – in no way was I going to pass up this golden opportunity to sing the gospel of correctly formatted Works Cited pages.

So I arranged to take some time out of my upper school schedule, and I went and taught it to fifth grade myself. I got Sarah’s rosters in advance, so I set up all the individual folders for the whole grade, plus a sense of what the project entailed. I put my laptop in my polka dot messenger bag and set off for the swaying palms of Siesta Key one day last December. The fifth graders caught onto NoodleTools right away, and all credit to Sarah – she kept them at it the whole year through. By checking my access logs I was able to see that users had logged in regularly for the rest of the school year. Totally worth the one-day investment for that fact alone, right?

But here’s the coolest part: those fifth graders became sixth graders. And that means that now they’re on my campus. Earlier this week the sixth grade science teacher asked if she could have a research lesson on some science materials in the databases, and could I teach them how to cite those too? Hahahaha, I said to myself. Watch this!

Other than a handful of newbies just joining Out-of-Door this year, every one of those one-time fifth graders from Mrs. Bryan’s class were experienced Noodlers, and after a brief refresher, they all logged right in and starting citing the sources they found from their science research.

This week (September! Mrs. Bryan is ramping up her game!) I went back to fifth grade with my polka-dot messenger bag and Noodled the Revolutionary War again, and next fall I expect exactly the same glorious result – a class full of experienced citers of sources, ready to take on the greater rigor of middle school right away. If that’s not satisfying, I don’t know what is.

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on what i did on my summer vacation…

As a child so very long ago in the era now known as the “days of yore” my teachers used to ask us to write about what we did over our glorious 3 months of summer vacation. Here at Mid-Pacific our students return in the second week of August so we have been in session for about six weeks, but like delayed coverage of the Olympics in Rio, this post comes to you “plausibly live.” Whatever … Just go with it and pretend we’re all just coming back to school.

What I did On My Most Excellent Summer Vacation

Story and Pictures by Dave Wee

Getting a Running Start into the Summer – My most excellent summer vacation actually started in the two weeks before the end of last school year. After many scheduling hiccups, the head of our high school Social Studies Department gave us an hour of department meeting time to share library resources and discuss information instruction goals. I had been trying to schedule this meeting since returning to campus after the AISL Spring Conference in LA. I returned extremely excited about working to re-vision our information instruction curriculum around the “source literacy” concept that Nora Murphy from Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy presented during her breakout session. For a variety of reasons our meeting didn’t materialize until the second to last week of school, but in the end the timing could not have been better! Presenting our new information literacy instruction goals to our teachers just before they went off on their summers, put our goals at the forefront of their minds just as they went off to do their planning and curriculum development for this school year. I greatly underestimated how much planning our teachers do over the summer!

In this meeting we let teachers know that our goals were to move our information literacy instruction beyond MLA formatting, NoodleTools, and works cited lists and really work more deeply at making source evaluation and source literacy a more authentic part of the learning experience. As part of this transition, we showed teachers a prototype of a student “source literacy bank” that we want to implement going forward, and asked teachers lay a foundation for that endeavor by asking students to build annotated works cited lists rather than our traditional works cited lists as a way to heighten students’ awareness of the importance of source evaluation.



Kupu Hou Academy – Mid-Pacific Institute, where I work, is a PK-12 school that is heavily committed to project-based, deeper learning. As part of that movement, Mid-Pacific sponsors an intensive 4-day workshop to help educators develop actual project-based learning experiences that they will then implement during the next school year. During the first week of June, I had an opportunity to participate in the Kupu Hou Academy experience. While Kupu Hou is open to educators from all over, many of my Mid-Pacific colleagues from the elementary, middle, and high schools attend so it gave me an opportunity to work alongside many of my Mid-Pacific colleagues of all levels and informally (and formally) let my colleagues know… ” We can help you with this part next year! Let’s schedule some library sessions!”

AISL Summer Institute: Design Thinking @ Your Library – After Kupu Hou and a short stint as summer school librarian, I was incredibly fortunate to attend the AISL summer institute that the illustrious Madame President Katie Archambault of The Emma Willard School hosted up in Troy, NY. If you have not yet seized the opportunity to attend one of our colleague-hosted summer institutes, do yourself a favor and just go! All the cool librarians are there! My group, Melinda Holmes, Marsha Hawkins, Stan Burke, and myself, explored the question, “How might we make our information instruction more user-centric?”


Me: Before Design Thinking @ Your Library [GIF courtesy:]

Goodness! Exploring a question like that with three amazing library colleagues was exhausting, but also incredibly helpful! Regretfully, I cannot remember from which teammate it came, but the single most helpful thing that came out of my all of my experiences this summer is that one of the librarians on our team offhandedly said, “I teach that sources are people, not things…”

Think about that, librarians!

“Sources are people, not things…”


In true Ted Talk fashion, when something is incredibly insightful and significant the speaker always says it twice with a pause in between so the audience can think about it.


“Sources are people, not things…”

That statement has actually become one of the linchpins of our source evaluation instruction here at Mid-Pacific! No more acronyms or checklists. We’re now teaching students to be mindful of the fact that since “Sources are people, not things…” before we use content we find in our searching we need to evaluate the creators’ qualifications as an “expert” in relation to the question(s) that we are asking. When you think about it, that’s about 80% of source evaluation in a nutshell!

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Me: After Design Thinking @ Your Library [GIF Courtesy:

Coming Full Circle and Back-to-School – We have been fortunate to have frosh Social Studies/Humanities teachers get on board and they are giving us an opportunity to present this basic framework for source evaluation to all of our frosh before they begin their first major research projects this year. We’re now well on our way to rolling this out as an 85-minute block period lesson this quarter.

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Click here to view our source evaluation activity lesson plan.

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Posters that we send back to class with our teachers and students.

So that is what I did over my summer vacation. I absolutely love my job and love my colleagues! I get to come to work at a place where classroom teachers, our administrators, our educational technology teachers, and our IT services staff all work to make learning happen. It really is a WONDERFUL THING!

This is good because … alas … My 5 quick picks tickets failed to win me the enormous Powerball Lottery jackpot this summer…

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Welcome back to school, everyone!


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“Escape the Room” with Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-12-15-53-amLike a happy reunion with a childhood friend, re-reading a classic children’s book provides an opportunity to celebrate fond memories while also making new connections. An opportunity arose to reconnect with the 1968 Newbery winner, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as I planned for a summer reading book discussion with a group of fifth graders.

In E.L. Konigsburg’s humorous tale, two siblings, Claudia and Jamie, decide to run away from home and hide in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. While there, the children discover a mystery surrounding an angel statue that could possibly be the creation of Renaissance artist Michelangelo.

The museum purchased the statue for a few hundred dollars from the estate of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and a trail of clues leads the children to her home. Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler challenges the children to solve the mystery by finding proof in her extensive file cabinets; she sets a time limit of one hour to find the correct file, while secreting herself away to observe their attempts.

img_1810-1As I read this scene, it reminded me of the popular “Escape the Room” games and recent initiatives by libraries and educators to adapt this format—see Derek Murphy’s blog
describing the Escape Room created at the State Library of Western Australia as well as School Library Journal’s article, “Breakout EDU Brings ‘Escape Room’ Strategy to the Classroom.”  I decided to immerse the students in their own “Escape the Room” challenge: students would locate clues to solve an art mystery surrounding Michelangelo’s rival, the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci.

img_1807Before beginning the mystery game, the students and I read together the section describing Claudia’s and Jamie’s strategies for searching (From the Mixed-up Files, 140-146). Jamie starts frantically pulling open file drawers, but Claudia stops him, saying there is a better way.

We discussed how Claudia’s approach–thinking about how information is organized and making a list of possible words for the search–are techniques used by effective library researchers.


Leonardo da Vinci “mirror writing.” Students used a mirror to read reverse writing and find the combination number for the lock.

Divided into three groups and given a time limit of 15 minutes, students

1) read their art masterpiece clue
2) listed keywords for searching
3) looked in one corresponding drawer
(drawers labeled alphabetically)

Each group could only retrieve a file folder if it was labeled as matching their art masterpiece clue. (Interestingly, all three groups were frustrated by their first search attempt—students showed persistence in re-reading their clues and evaluating potential keywords).  If the correct file folder was located, it provided one number, part of a combination to a lock on the file cabinet drawer.

Once all three mysteries were solved, the students used their numbers to open the combination lock to find the missing Mona Lisa painting. I placed an iPad in this drawer for extra gamification. An art puzzle app on the iPad challenged students to put together the mixed-up image of the Mona Lisa.

Students enthusiastically collaborated on this activity, problem-solving and trying new strategies as first attempts floundered.
This GoogleDoc provides the art images and clues, if you would like to sample an “Escape the Room” adventure.  Let the Games Begin!

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Art Exhibition: Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration

Over this Labor Day weekend, my family and I ventured out to the Brandywine River Museum of Art to see the exhibit Get the Picture! Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration. This exhibit featured the illustrative work of eight notable picture book illustrators: Sophie Blackall, Bryan Collier, Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, Jon Klassen, Melissa Sweet, David Wiesner and Mo Willems. Seeing artwork from books I remember reading to my daughters and those I currently share with my students in an exhibit space, enabled me to appreciate the illustrations more fully. The collection of work curated by H. Nichols B. Clark, former director and chief curator of the Eric Carle Museum of the Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, was a phenomenal representation of the high caliber artwork made accessible through so many of the picture books in our school library collections.

The exhibit materials were grouped by artist, which provided the perfect platform for drawing comparisons. The museum also utilized iPads for an interactive exploration of David Weisner’s illustrations. This dynamic use of technology created a hot spot for the youngest museum goers. Films made with each of the artists discussing an aspect of the creative process were streaming in the gallery, and are available through the Brandywine’s site about the exhibit. I would highly recommend using any one of these videos in conjunction with a read aloud of one of the illustrator’s books to show students how they choose various media and how artists accomplish research for specific illustrations. Check out Jon Klassen’s video which captures his process of using atypical materials to draw a dog!

Get the Picture! Exhibit

Exhibit attendees reading books by the authors featured in Get the Picture!

The lasting lesson for me from this exhibit is to keep looking critically at the books we select. There are so many new styles and techniques emerging in the books we read to students, as well as a limitless crop of new talented artists rethinking the art of stories. Barbara Elleman provides a framework for picture book art evaluation where she stresses that we actually look at picture books with a multifaceted perspective: “with the lens of an artist, the needs of a librarian, and the appetite of a child.” After viewing the exhibit and reflecting on this helpful summary of how we engage with illustration, I plan to reinvigorate our class discussions about the illustrations in books we read together. My aim will be to have my students critically think about illustrations and how they add to a story, especially through recognition and analysis of artistic techniques utilized in picture books. I know that these questions will stimulate our discussions and provide students with an opportunity to showcase their visual observations and understanding.

This is a page from the exhibit guest book which reads, "I love knuffle bunny and pigeon books."

This is a page from the exhibit guest book which reads, “I love knuffle bunny and pigeon books.”

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To Starting New

IMG_6445This year, our school’s library staff shifted into new roles. That’s why the first word I added to the LS Library’s WOW Word Wall was neophyte.


While experienced librarians, we are beginners together on this new adventure. Our team structure and size is new. We have new responsibilities to learn and attend to while maintaining excellent service to our school community. While we are not new to school, it does feel like we are the new librarians in town as we all get adjusted.  Maybe after we’ve been doing this for a few months I will share more about our journey. In the meantime, I’m going to look forward to AISL’s upcoming Mentor Program. The advice of an experienced AISL colleague seems like just what I need right now!

With all the changes in our department, why not make changes in the library spaces as well? Every year, we like to start fresh in our libraries. We are constantly finding ways to adapt and improve our space to better serve our school communities. In a previous AISL Blog Post, Allie Bronston, our Middle School Librarian, described the new Teaching Lab in Raether Library, which serves the Middle and Upper Divisions. It’s become a very popular spot for classes to meet.

We decided to make some changes in the Lower School Library as well:

Graphic Novels:  The graphic novels have moved each summer for the past few years. They’ve been in cramped space after cramped space. This year, after making a slight shift to the biography section we were able to move the Graphic Novels to a spot where the books –and students- can have a little more elbow room. The new graphic novel area allows a group of students to browse simultaneously and we are finding it is easier to shelve there than ever before!


Board Games:  We’ve had a board game collection for many years. The games are played by happy children on indoor recess days and on special ‘Game Days’ just before winter break and at the end of the school year. We grew tired of taping up the easily crushed cardboard game boxes. Collecting spilled Mastermind pegs grows old after about 10 seconds. Using the popular and reliable resource called Pinterest (!) we found an organization system we liked. The game pieces are in plastic containers with snap lids and the labeled game boards sit beside the game boxes. Genius! I can’t wait to show students our game area at our first Game Day.


Rugs:  We are grateful for the beautiful story time rug that was gifted to us by a teacher who found it to be too big for her classroom.   A larger rug is just what our story time area, the Cozy Corner, needed. We moved the smaller and much loved dragon rug to a quiet reading area and moved the new rug in. Students are shocked to see that the purple dragon has disappeared and then delighted to discover that (Oh Phew!) he just moved.

IMG_6441      IMG_6443

Sit S.H.A.R.K.:  Thanks to link shared with me by a fourth grade teacher, I decided to teach our younger students to SIT S.H.A.R.K.  Check out the link and discover a few other tips while you are at it!


Based on the reactions of two first grade students, I might try to make the shark look a little more friendly.

How has your library changed for the new year?





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On Taking Matters Into Our Own Hands: A Grassroots Approach to Remodeling Library Spaces

Colorado Academy is a PreK-12 campus, and I work as the Middle School Librarian in the library that serves our 6th-12th graders. The building was completely scraped and rebuilt in 1998, and it’s a lovely, large space with big windows and lots of natural light. But, as I imagine many of you can empathize with, the furniture and the design of the space is a bit “20th century,” despite the fact that the work our students and faculty are doing in the library is very much anchored in more innovative and collaborative 21st century skills. While our library is somewhere on the list for updates on our campus in the next five (?) years or so, it understandably falls behind our un-air-conditioned theater building from the 1970s and several other more pressing projects. So, while we wait patiently for more large-scale improvements, last year we decided to completely shift one of the spaces in our library on a shoestring budget in an effort to better meet the needs of our community. I unfortunately don’t have any “before” shots as this was a last-minute, get-it-together-in-the-week-before-students-arrive kind of late summer project, but I want to share the results in the hopes that they might empower some of you to make the same type of grassroots changes to your spaces.

Last August, our Middle School Principal asked our former Director of Libraries if we needed any extra whiteboards for the library. A shipment for the Middle School had arrived with six too many rolling whiteboards, and rather than go through the lengthy process of returning them, he was trying to find someone who needed or wanted the extras. We happily made a new home for them in the library, which is where our grassroots remodel process began.


The whiteboards shown in the photo above seemed conducive to helping to create a design thinking-type learning space, and we used them to create a makeshift (but flexible) wall around a previously underused area in the library.


We already had a mobile smart board that we moved into the space, but we realized that the old-school furniture we had didn’t quite strike the tone we were going for. We didn’t have the budget for any new purchases, so our solution was to ask our wonderful and accommodating Operations department to put rolling casters on the table legs in order to make the space more flexible, which they were happy to do. Once the rolling casters were on, we used whiteboard paint (which we purchased at Home Depot) on top of a white primer to create dry erase surfaces for the tables. We did the painting work ourselves, and although the primer required several coats, it was a relatively easy process that only took a few days.


We kept the older chairs that were already in the space, and our Operations department agreed to replace the dim overhead lighting with brighter fixtures. Once the lighting was finished, we wrapped up this quick and cheap “renovation” that has been more impactful than we could have imagined.

Faculty members LOVE reserving what we now call the Teaching Lab for classes–whether they need a change of energy or pace or are working on something that could benefit from a more flexible space than a traditional classroom, we now have more classes meeting in the library than ever before. I’ve seen fabulously inventive configurations of tables and chairs, and I get a special thrill when I walk through the Teaching Lab after a class and see evidence of incredible brainstorms left behind on our dry erase tables and rolling whiteboards. It’s also been wonderful to have a bright, shiny space for my own instruction, which used to happen in a much smaller and darker room in a back corner of the library.
While I admittedly look forward to that day in the future when our space gets the go-ahead for a more comprehensive overhaul, it’s been empowering to realize that a DIY facelift can also do the trick in a pinch. How about you all? Any genius grassroots remodel hacks to share?

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Advocacy & AISL: what can you do?

Tooting your own horn is tough. Many think it is bragging, but in our library world, it’s required!

On an individual level, it’s more about sharing information, and making folks aware of what your library program is accomplishing within your school community. On a regional, national, or international level—yea, AISL!—it is sharing success stories with colleagues and best practices within our larger communities.

Please take a moment … and join the AISL Board on reflecting how we can better advocate for ourselves in our individual schools, as well as collectively promote our profession, grow our competencies, and raise awareness with educators and administrators on the value of our work.


If we are to heed the call to advocacy at our individual schools, perhaps writing a year-end report or a welcome back report that outlines our accomplishments for the past year would fit the bill. Arranging a meeting with school administrators to establish goals for the coming year is one way to raise awareness; another is to present to faculty on a new product or service, tech tidbit, collaboration project, etc. You know the drill, but you may not have made this a priority before. Why not consider it this year?


As an association, AISL is committed to better serve its members. In our membership survey earlier this year, many of you indicated that there would be value in having AISL advocate for solo colleagues who feel isolated at their schools, and raise consciousness with administrators and heads of independent schools in general. If only AISL could advocate for our profession, establish guidelines for realistic staffing in libraries, budget recommendations, etc….

Well, here’s our chance. But first, you have to recognize that AISL is not a well-staffed entity in the cloud: we are all AISL. Our association is managed by teams of volunteers (for example, the Board, the conference planning team, the Summer Institute organizers), but we ALL play important parts in the success of our profession. Any one of us can grab an idea and run with it, sharing for the benefit of all. But we will have to toot our horns along the way, collaborating and sharing—something we know that librarians are good at 🙂

Lily Tomlin quote, via Tumblr and Buzzfeed

Lily Tomlin quote, via Tumblr and Buzzfeed

So, the first two questions we are posing are:

1. How can AISL advocate for our libraries and librarians?

2. How are you willing to help advance these initiatives?


At our AISL annual Board meeting in Los Angeles, we agreed that the creation of a Communications Committee would be a good way to launch this advocacy initiative.  CD Mclean has agreed to chair this committee (thanks for your boundless energy and enthusiasm, CD!). When originally proposed, the thought was that this committee would encourage AISL members to get involved in presenting at local and national conferences (like AASL, ALA, Internet Librarian, etc.) and share this info on our AISL website. This committee would also handle the public relations and marketing of published articles written by our membership, as well as encourage AISL members to get involved in action research, writing and presenting results at future conferences as well as for publication.

Does the Communications Committee interest you? CD will need a person to take charge of the publications calendar (much like Barbara Share does with the AISL blog), periodically touching base with writers to see if they are on track to meet deadlines, etc.

The Communications Committee may also need an editor/facilitator to review writers’ submissions and manage the submissions process – does this interest you?

Next Questions: Is there a topic, product or service you’d like to explore? Would you like to collaborate with other AISL members as part of your research, and share your findings? Or publish to our AISL blog, “Independent Ideas”? Or create a video to upload to the AISL YouTube channel?

As one example, Katie Archambault at Emma Willard and CD Mclean at Berkeley Prep are currently implementing “personal librarian” programs at their schools. (Remember one of the PD books we read for our AISL Board Book social in L.A., The Personal Librarian by Richard Moniz?) They will share their experiences at the AISL New Orleans conference next March, allowing us to replicate their success.


We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, initiate a listserv post, contact an AISL Board member or CD Mclean, or share advocacy initiatives you’ve recently undertaken. Here are a few ideas to start the conversation:

* The annual AASL Conference is held in June, but their RFP comes out in October: What are you doing in your independent school library that meets their criteria? You don’t have to do it alone. Ask a friend or two to join you for a panel discussion of the topic and ensure that you look at AASL’s rubric so that you can meet their requirements.

* What other conferences do you attend: local conferences, or Internet Librarian — can you present there and then post your presentations on the website?

* NAIS: For several years we have debated the value in AISL raising its profile with the NAIS community (heads and administrators). Would this be helpful to you? Would you like to collaborate with others to submit a session for presentation at their conference? Or would you like to work on submitting an article for an upcoming issue of “Independent School”?

The sky is the limit! Well, honestly, the time and energy we all have to commit to these advocacy initiatives are what will limit us. The AISL Board is committed to advocacy, and will support our new Communications Committee or other initiatives—but only if you want us to, and are willing to contribute to their success.

So tell us! Share your thoughts and ideas, let’s get inspired, and let’s get tooting!

Cheers!  Sandy Gray & CD Mclean

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