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What’s up with AP Capstone?

This summer, I had the good fortune to take part in College Board’s weeklong training for their AP Capstone Research course. Like many of you, our school offers the Advanced Placement (AP) programme: we currently offer 15 courses in a variety of subjects. Thanks to the efforts of our very keen Director of Teaching and Learning, Myke Healy, our application to be part of the AP Capstone program was accepted, and we rolled out with the first course (Grade 11 AP Seminar) last year. This year, students from that course will move on to the second course (Grade 12 AP Research), and we’ll welcome new students into Seminar. Those wishing to earn a Capstone diploma take an additional 4 AP courses (in subjects of their choosing).

This programme focuses on allowing students time to develop skills critical to their post-secondary success – so it was no surprise to find that it completely supports so much of what we all aim to do in our libraries every day!

Building skills, not consuming content

  • Time in and out of class is focused on learning and practicing research skills: while the skills aren’t new, the amount of time allotted to ‘playing’ with them was a revelation
  • Sequencing/scaffolding/pacing is key: as time (or lack thereof) is a challenge for all of us, we were encouraged to think strategically about how and when we introduce specific skills
  • The inquiry model (QUEST ) mirrors other models that I’ve used in library instruction (ie. OLA’s Process of Inquiry & Research and the Big6), reinforcing my long-standing belief that this stuff works

Focusing on an area of personal interest

We all know how important choice is to students: I’m still sad thinking about a student saying she would have loved Code Name Verity if it hadn’t been assigned for English…sigh. Capstone students may focus on any area of interest, within or outside of our academic curriculum. Thinking of what students chose to focus on in the Seminar course last year (one looked at the role of women in the history of hip-hop) makes me excited to think about what lies ahead. This also allows for interdisciplinary work, an opportunity for students to stretch themselves, and/or connect with divergent areas of interest.

Connecting with the university experience

While what we offer in all courses should help prepare our students for post-secondary success, there are two areas where I think Capstone will really help them prepare for what lies ahead:

  • Students become thoroughly familiar with scholarly articles: many of our students are required to use scholarly works, but Capstone students will spend a good deal of time looking at the structure and content of scholarly articles (particularly research reports). This exposure should help make them more comfortable accessing and using these sources, in addition to becoming experienced in writing one themselves.
  • The structure requires students to manage an open-ended time frame. College Board has only one deadline: students must submit their research paper and offer their presentation (including oral defense) by April 30th. While Capstone teachers may have ongoing due dates for individual components of this paper (both to ensure that all is on track, and to have grades available for reports), much of the time management is left up to the students.

In addition to allowing us to explore the research process as students will (like playing in a sandbox!), the workshop included time to work with colleagues to build a syllabus and prepare lessons – time very well spent. The experience stirred up my thinking about the student approach to research (being mindful; becoming knowledgeable by being knowledge-able), what it means to be a researcher, and learning to read for research (this last fire was initially lit by the AISL Tampa Board Book). I came out of the week ready and eager to work with our AP Research students, and adjusting my approach to the instruction I provide to other classes. And grateful for having this opportunity.





True Grit: Lessons Learned from a Rescue Tent

Rescue Tent stored safely away

Rescue Tent stored safely away

One of the great pleasures in my professional life is the opportunity to help chaperon the Geology field trip to Death Valley each spring. I am lucky enough to have the support of my school to take one day away from the library to join perhaps 20 students on their 3 day exploration of this amazing  destination, and my years as a biology major (before switching to lit) helps me with supporting the topics explored. I love getting to know the students away from the school environment, and even better, students get to know me in a whole different light. Relationships built during these days spent ‘outside the box’ have been some of the most rewarding of my career.

This past spring saw me once again adventuring alongside our upper schools geology students. Many of these kids had never camped before in their lives. It’s always interesting (surprising? hilarious? astonishing?) to see what students will bring on a camping trip, but this is how you learn, right? Trial and error, and see what happens. This year one enterprising student requested permission to bring his own tent. The teacher, always interested in rewarding initiative, said, sure! On the designated day, we packed ourselves into the bus and headed for adventure.

The first day is filled with roadside stops and explorations, from Vasquez Rocks to Red Rock Canyon to Fossil Falls and over the high deserted passes to Death Valley. We usually arrive just in time for a late dinner, tent setup and sleep.

death valley and library 025

The next 2 days were action-packed, with geology lessons interspersed with adventures, picnics and hikes. Star studded nights, fireside stories, and serious science all jumbled together. Our last night started clear but soon clouds began to build, and so did the wind. Storms in Death Valley tend to be epic, but aren’t uncommon at this time of year so we were all prepared. Students had low profile ‘half-dome’ type tents which weather storms well. There was quite a thunderstorm, complete with near-gale force winds, but we all survived and came away with some great stories.

We all survived, but for that one tent. Remember, Henry had brought his own tent. Turns out it was brand new, huge and … not quite set up properly. The first night was fine, but with the coming of the wind and storm, the dawning of the second day saw the tent largely blown over and a serious mess.

Our main task that morning was to pack up camp and head out of the park, with a few last spots to visit on our way out. The storm had passed by, and on the whole our camp was fairly tidy. We helped students get their gear packed up and organized. Henry’s tent was another problem. It was so thrashed, sodden and muddy as to be a challenge even packing it up. Henry declared it a total loss and was ready to toss it into the camp dumpster.

I found this unacceptable. Blame it on sleep deprivation, or, more likely, my inherent inability to discard perfectly good material just because it is inconvenient; perhaps I was channeling my depression-era mom and her hard-learned thriftiness. At any rate, I was unable to let that tent be added to the landfill. I wrastled that muddy mess into a tarp and loaded it onto the bus for transport home, vowing to Henry to resurrect it.

Throughout the spring,  Henry and I would banter back and forth about the state of the tent. Henry would call out “Hey, Ms. Acedo! How’s the Tent?” and I’d respond that I would see that tent back up on its poles and camping again, come heck or high water. Henry would always express doubt, sure that it was a hopeless case.

During the summer there were a number of tasks on my list, but the tent loomed large. So last week I dug it out of the garage and started work. It was a daunting challenge, but with time, patience and persistence, I got it sorted out. I got the base laid out evenly, and using online instructions from the Coleman site was able to see how the structure was supposed to work. There was dried mud aplenty, but it was ‘good clean Death Valley dirt’ (you could even call it ‘gritty’), easily washed off. Two poles required a minor hardware fix, managed with the help of a neighbor’s drill.  What was once destined for the dumpster turned out to be a very nice 2 room tent, able to sleep 8 people.

tent saved 1 - Copy

Having officially resurrected this tent, it is now our neighborhood Rescue Tent, available for anyone who wants a very cool, large super luxurious tent for car camping; I would not recommend it for backpacking as it weighs perhaps 40 lbs :-) .

I’ve been thinking about why this was such an important issue with me. First, the waste alone is a strong motivation. Connected with that is the idea that a job might be hard, it  might take determination to get it done, but you can end up with a very nice result when patience and persistence are brought to bear.

This is one important lesson for our students. Usually it’s not such a MUDDY lesson, but it boils down to the same thing. Hard work can pay off.

‘Grit’ is a word that is being used more often these days as a quality to be fostered among our students. A recent Edutopia article discusses ‘grit’ as ‘the best measure of success.’  I wanted to be able to show that with time, determination, and a little puzzle-solving, this cool tent didn’t need to add to the burden of our landfills. It lives on as a Rescue Tent for the whole neighborhood. I can’t wait to share the news with Henry!



(a) collect. sing. Formerly: Sand, gravel, small stones. Now: Minute particles of stone or sand, as produced by attrition or disintegration.

5  a. orig. U.S. slang. Firmness or solidity of character; indomitable spirit or pluck; stamina. to be clear grit , hard (etc.) grit : to have genuine spirit or pluck. to be the grit : to be the ‘right sort’, the genuine ‘article’.



ABCs of Google Classroom

This summer I attended a Google Classroom session at the Lausanne Learning Institute in Memphis. Several of the teachers at my high school, Pope John Paul II, are using Google Classroom to enhance instruction and make classroom management more efficient. I decided to “go back to the blackboard” and rethink the delivery of my Digital Citizenship unit to our Freshman students by incorporating features of Google Classroom.

The following are my ABCs of Google Classroom.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 8.19.36 PM


Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 10.08.28 PMis for Adventurous.
Since I do not have my own classroom of students, the six
classes sessions with Freshman Wellness students became
an opportunity to experience Google Classroom as
students engaged in researching the following essential
question of the Digital Citizenship unit:
“How can use of technology affect personal health and the health of others?”

Together we explored, recovered from a few missteps, and learned from peers and other teachers.

Tip: Posted assignments send an automatic e-mail to students with a link.
If you wish to introduce the assignment prior to students viewing the link
in their e-mail, archive the assignment and post it in class, after explaining
the assignment in class.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 10.18.27 PM     is for Building units.

Previously I used LibGuides for all of the database
and website links as well as for class handouts and embedded videos.
With Google Classroom I can still link my LibGuide, but I
can also stack assignments and announcements
with individual due dates (even specifying a time submission deadline).
The varied resources:

1) Google Form (such as a survey on student use of technology);
2) a video on citations from North Carolina State University; or
3) a Google Doc for student note taking.

We used this New York Times article on screen addiction for a class brainstorm
of keyword search terms and to mine data of scholarly journals and research
studies mentioned in the article.

Tip: Plan ahead and you can assemble these assignments in reverse
order so that the first assignment that students need to do appears
at the top of the list. Archive assigments as they are complete to
hide them from student classroom view and to keep the “stream”
of assignments less cluttered.

“B” is also for Backups. Near the end of one class, our electricity
flickered off; fortunately Google Docs and Google Slides save
every few seconds, so little student work was lost.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 10.34.30 PMis for Collection, Comments, and Collaboration.

Collecting and returning student documents online can be
done in seconds. Also, when the student Google Doc or Slides
is collected, it timestamps and freezes the document until you
return it to the student. Teachers have a quick tally of how
many items have been submitted, and by clicking on the
number of “not done,” teachers can view those student names.

Comments feature on Google Docs promotes the revision process
based on feedback from the teacher; guiding student efforts promotes
the writing process and redirects student focus as they look more
closely at research articles. Students can collaborate in real time
with sharing Google Docs and Google Slides. Since students in our
school commute from wide-ranging areas, this collaboration feature
is a bonus. Students do not need to be in the same room, city, or
state to be able to collaborate with a group member.

Tip: Teachers can select a feature that automatically will make a copy
of the document or slide and rename it with the student’s name.
Also, there are several ways to turn in a Google Doc, either by
using the “turn in” button at the top of the Google Doc itself or by
selecting the “turn in” button in Google Classroom.

Final thoughts on Google Classroom

As with any plans to use technology, have a backup plan. Paper
copies are a good safeguard and some students prefer to read and
take notes with pen and pencil and a hard copy of the article, rather
than reading the article online.

Lastly, do not underestimate the power of face time and one-to-one
communication. One of the students’ favorite activities was sharing
stories in small groups at tables regarding technology use. Some
students chose to incorporate these personal stories in their final

Please share your own experiences with “Classroom in the Clouds.”


An Abundance of Resources at the Library of Congress

Down in the south we are already back into our first week of school, and it’s been exciting to return this year immediately (ie. 24 hours!) after a weeklong Institute at the Library of Congress on Teaching with Primary Sources. It’s just like returning from the AISL conference each spring, when every conversation seems to start, “This totally relates to what I just learned…”

Main Reading Room at LoC

I highly recommend the Institute to other librarians, and while information hasn’t been posted for the 2016 season yet, it will be here once it is finalized: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/professionaldevelopment/teacherinstitute/

I’m familiar with professional development that separates teachers and librarians, or for which librarians are ineligible, and I’m happy to report that librarians are embraced here as educational leaders. In our group of 26, about a quarter were librarians and the rest were English, History, Humanities, and elementary teachers. There’s tremendous benefit when teachers and librarians take the time to collaboratively plan lessons.

I have to admit that before this Institute, I was a bit intimidated by the Library of Congress’ website. I knew that there was a lot of information available, but I never felt like I had the time to navigate its resources successfully. With my “playtime” in DC, however, I am much more comfortable searching, especially now that I realize how many resources have already been hand-selected and placed into units by their staff of educators. So, here are five places I’d recommend for you and your faculty to start exploring the Library of Congress online! The next time you’re in DC, I also highly recommend a visit to the architecturally-stunning Jefferson Building with its spectacular main Reading Room and free museum-quality exhibitions.

  1. One of the most interesting discussions that we had was trying to answer the question, “What is a primary source?” Students often think this is cut-and-dry, but discussing the nuances with other teachers was fascinating since sources can be primary or secondary depending on what you are studying. Primary sources are interesting because they are raw materials, not predigested summaries, so the viewer automatically engages in critical thinking: gauging credibility, examining perspective, looking at what’s being said and what’s being left out, and seeing the human side of history. This Primary Source Analysis Tool can be adapted for a variety of sources, and the question marks to the right of “Observe,” “Reflect,” and “Question” will help guide students through the process of analyzing primary sources thoroughly. http://www.loc.gov/teachers/primary-source-analysis-tool/

    Behind the scenes in the card catalog room!

  1. If you are looking for lesson plans in a variety of disciplines that utilize primary sources, check out this Lesson Plans page. More of the lessons are for Middle and High school courses, but they are well thought-out, and they provide all materials in one convenient location. There’s a huge variety, everything from The New England Fishing Industry to Baseball, Race Relations, and Jackie Robinson and Natural Disasters: Nature’s Fury. http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/lessons/
  1. Similarly, if you want the primary source materials for a lesson idea that you have, the Primary Source Sets might be a better bet. Topics include subjects commonly studied in school, like the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, and the Wright Brothers. The education team has worked to choose resources in a variety of formats, so you might find letters, government documents, advertisements, pictures, music files, videos, maps, and more. I personally love that the oral histories have a pdf transcript with their record, so you can specifically target the minutes of the presentation that are relevant to the subject at hand—a big time-saver in lesson prep! http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/
  1. Chronicling America is a fun way to explore newspapers from 1836-1922 (oh how I sometimes lament copyright limitations) in their original typesetting. It’s fun to look at layouts and to compare coverage of topics from different papers. There are many filtering options to target your results, and the site scans all text for your search terms, not just the headlines, and highlights results. I’ve enjoyed looking for the small town where my school is located and seeing what was written in the news a century ago. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ 

Primary sources from the Rosa Parks collection

  1. This last one isn’t a Library of Congress resource per se, but it’s a strategy that the facilitators employed as we completed each activity. Instead of telling us what to do, we completed activities as though we were the students. Time was built in after every activity for reflection; we contemplated the strategies the facilitators used and how we felt as students in the learning process. This reflection helped us think critically about the lesson, both the content and the structure. For years, I have been a huge fan of Harvard’s Project Zero Visible Thinking routines. Using these, students are more comfortable with the process of learning and expressing what’s going on in their minds. http://www.pz.gse.harvard.edu/visible_thinking.php

Sneak preview of the “secret tunnels” that connect the buildings. :)

This is the tip of the iceberg, and I’m happy to provide more information about any materials of interest. If you have any resources to share about primary sources or about amazing professional development experiences, please share below!

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Spicing Up Book Promotion

There is a certain magic that happens when you find just the right book for a patron, isn’t there? For me, it’s that look in their eyes when they pass by in the hall, stopping in their tracks and greeting me with an enthusiastic, “Oh my goodness, I’m at the part where _____!” or “I read until 2 a.m. and I am so tired but oh wow, it was so worth it.” It’s one of those pinch me, I’m getting paid to do this, moments for me.

This year, I hope to spice up my matchmaking attempts. I’m going to share a few ideas here and I hope that you will add to the list using the comments below!

  • Promote Peer Readers’ Advisory.
    In my last library, I started a blog dedicated to book reviews. To generate student reviews, I created a competition between English classes–the class with the largest percentage of participation, creating well-written, *usable*, original reviews (added after a student copied/pasted one from Goodreads–a teachable moment ;-))–with the winning class getting a donut party from a local shop. Dunkin’ might have done the trick, but supporting local business is awesome and those donuts were a-maz-ing. I got approximately 80 good reviews a year employing the donut bribe…ahem, I mean competition.This activity allows you to teach the elements of a good review, to boost student confidence when you email them to say “your review has been selected to feature on the blog this week!”, and  really is effective in inspiring your community to talk about books. I also encouraged all adults in the community to write reviews to share their love of reading with our students. So easy. You can post as often as you like, write a few reviews yourself, your communications department can share the site with alums, prospective families, etc. You could easily do this with book trailers, podcasts or other promotional materials.
  • Student Volunteers
    If you are short on tasks and long on your list of student volunteers, why not give them the autonomy of creating and maintaining a reading campaign? READ posters, book displays with index card reviews (a la independent book stores), Flickr Photo Streams of friends “caught reading” around campus, creative assembly announcements maybe?
  • Pop Up Library
    Where will the pop up library appear next? A lunch table? In a dorm alcove? In an unused classroom? Outside the college counseling office? You could promote new books, particular genres, beach reads before breaks, Overdrive titles and downloading instruction. Use social media to share where you’re set up, sort of like the floating food truck phenomenon that happens in bigger cities. Bring an iPad with the Destiny app and check out to students on the spot!
  • Speed Dating
    I was so inspired by the brilliant Sarah Kresberg of the Allen Stevenson School, who used this speed dating program to promote reading in her community, I hope to replicate some version of this in my school this year. I asked Sarah to share her program details here, so that we might all benefit from it. Thanks Sarah!
    The goal: to introduce teachers to some of the best and most appealing books published over the past three years and encourage them to read some of them
    Age groups: we offered three simultaneous sessions – Teachers of K-3, 4-6, 7-9. Everyone from those divisions came, no matter their subject area.
    Team:We have three librarians (Liz Storch- Upper School, Bonnie Tucker – Lower School and me in the Middle School) so each one ran a session with our library associate (Pilar Okeson who has now left) taking care of a lot of the set up.
    Timing: a faculty meeting during Allen-Stevenson Book Week in November.
    Promotion: since attendance was compulsory we didn’t have to do much but we did make large posters to place at the entrance of each session. We also made book marks on our theme to give at the end (hopefully inside a book that they were checking out!)
    The hook: since it is speed dating we adopted a valentine theme. When teachers entered they were offered Prosecco and sparkling water in plastic champagne glasses. We baked shortbread hearts, made chocolate dipped strawberries and scattered hershey’s kisses and rose petals. We also played music. We stood around eating, drinking and chatting for about twenty minutes before beginning which put everyone in a great mood!
    The activity: We put together large tables and placed a clipboard, worksheet and pencil (red, naturally) at each table. The worksheet listed all the titles that were included in the speed dating, with three columns next to the titles. The columns were headed ‘Love at First Sight’, ‘Worth a Second Look’, ‘Not My Type’. I went over ways you can evaluate a book quickly (examine cover, read blurb, read Library of Congress summary, start reading the first page etc.)
    We handed each teacher a book. The teacher had 90 seconds to examine the book and put a check mark in the column to indicate their interest in the reading the book. At the end of the 90 seconds I directed them to pass the book to their left.
    The outcome: (This is the what happened in the Middle School session I was running)
    Everyone loved it. So much so that they suggested that I run one for parents (I ended up doing one for middle school parents in February). After a while the teachers wanted to take a break to talk about ideas they had had while doing the activity. After talking we decided that we would have each faculty member sponsor a  different summer reading book, offering book discussion groups on the first day back to school this September. We didn’t get many check outs that day although a few teachers did come back to check out books another day. I would have liked to have seen more books circulate. However what we mainly achieved was an increased awareness of newer children’s literature. Also, those teachers who are really into children’s books were able to share their enthusiasm with other teachers. It was great hearing teachers of music, science etc. talk about the books so that it doesn’t seem like solely the domain of the librarian. I was trying to get across that there is so much great children’s literature out there, and our boys would love to see their teachers reading some of them. If they see kid lit on a teacher’s desk they are going to start a conversation about it.

Note, the one piece that she omits is her donning of a rock-star-sassy-leather-pant-clad-librarian outfit for the program–not all of us could pull this off, but hey, wouldn’t it be fun trying? :)

These are but a few ideas for going beyond the traditional book display to promote books and reading. What do you plan to do to spice up book promotion in your library this year?


Books: Still A Love of Mine (And Many of Yours!)

In reading the origin stories over the summer, I notice how many of us entered the profession through a love of reading. For Allison Peters Jensen it was Ramona Quimby. Claire Hazzard was a vociferous series reader. For Rivka Genesen, a family history of library visits. Barbara Share was at the library as a child. Kate Hammond had a “right place, right time” experience. Katherine Smith Patin rounds out the group, proving that there are many avenues to librarianship.

Making Reading a Priority

For me, reading feels as vital as eating. I try to keep my reading diet varied —a little junk food now and then, and hearty, mind-feeding fare. Like everyone, my job with middle school and high school students has become more enmeshed in technology. I look at database usage and consider what to switch up. Teach search strategies, ethical use and information skills. Review DVDs and check out new apps. Experiment with ways to communicate with colleagues and how to make library interactions flow more smoothly. Continue to think about how ebooks fit into our library and curriculum. I read about the user experience, design thinking and collaboration. And yet, as the Trinity Valley School mission contains phrases like “wide, constructive interests,”  “fulfillment at college” and “intelligent citizenship” I feel reading is a key, and modeling a love of reading is an important part of my job

Four Books Currently On My Mind

I start many more books that I finish. Time is short, and many times I am reading to get a flavor of the book, looking for titles to suggest to other readers. These four are currently in my mind.

Go_Set_a_WatchmanGo Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. It will have a place in our library, if for no other reason than it is by Harper Lee. If you wonder about the true story (if there is a single “truth”) behind its publication, her publisher says they will “speak candidly” about the subject at a webinar on August 19.

newt's emeraldNewt’s Emerald by Garth Nix. Spunky heroine, ye olden days, bits of magic. Nix started this book about 25 years ago, but it is just now coming out in hardcover via HarperCollins’ Katherine Tegen imprint. Easy to recommend to those who enjoyed Etiquitte and Espionage and Y.S. Lee’s The Agency series. Due out in October.

TBlackthorn Keyhe Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. This debut author hits the nail on the head with this tale of an apothecary’s apprentice and his adventures in London. Suggest to those who liked The Accidental Highwayman, The Hunchback Assignments and Jackaby. Due out in September.

Boys Who Challenged HitlerThe Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose. World War II continues to fascinate students and adults . This story focuses on Danish high school students who stood up in resistance to the Germans. Hoose makes the story accessible to ‘tween readers, with enough meat for older teens as well.

What are some of the books that have stuck with you this summer?


Origin Story VI

Welcome back to our summer series of Origin Stories.

Reading the Origin Stories posted this summer I notice that we all have a lot in common regarding love of reading, teaching, sharing, and well, reading!  My origin story fits right in with those themes.


When I was in elementary school the children’s librarian at my public library introduced me to Ramona Quimby and I became a reader for life.  Ramona spoke to me.  After that I read everything that Mrs. Neth gave me except for The Yearling (that cover looked SO boring!), and I gave recommendations to all my friends.  My BFF Shawna and I acted out Frog and Toad stories on our patio.  I set my alarm clock so I could read before school and I pretended that I was scared of the dark so my Mom would leave the hallway light on and then I could sneakily read late at night.  I read in the car, at church, and I always brought a book to sleepovers because I would usually wake up before everyone else and needed something to do.  My Dad let me check out as many books as I wanted every week as long as I checked out two biographies from the Childhood of Famous Americans series.  The phrase ‘born to read’ defines my childhood.

My family moved three times while I was in middle and high school.  During those years reading got me through times when I hadn’t made many friends and it provided an avenue for making friends.  Like many students, my independent reading took a dip in high school because of all the required reading.  My favorite assigned books were A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and Night by Wiesel.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t find time to read my share of juicy teen romances.

Fast-forward to college. I started as an education major but those darn early morning classes conflicted with my social life.   I switched majors to study what I really loved, French language and literature. My parents were supportive but always said, “You need a skill.”  I continued taking classes in French literature, sociology, religious studies, history, dance, and so many other things.  You have to love a liberal arts education!  In my junior year I secured a coveted job at the college library.  Wow.  I was perhaps the only student who looked forward to my shifts at the library shelving or shifting books and circulating materials. Then I learned that being a librarian is a job that requires a Masters Degree.  This was news to me and news I was very excited about.  When the librarians noticed that I enjoyed my job, they suggested an Independent Study in the College Archives and at the Reference Desk.  In the Archives I organized and cataloged (with a lot of help) papers from a local family’s attic collection of historical documents.  For the Reference Department I did surveys with students about using the then new online databases and wrote guides to help students through the murky waters of online searching.  My best friend remembers that at the end of the all-nighter when I was writing my analysis of the Library Independent Study experience, that I was crying tears of joy about the importance of libraries in the lives of ordinary people.  Yes, it was a long night, but that idea is one that continues to motivate me today.

When it came time to apply to graduate school, I was determined that it would be in Boston.  That is where my college mentor had gone and I wanted to follow in her footsteps at Simmons College.  I shed tears of joy when I was accepted into their Graduate School of Library and Information Science.  My parents were so thrilled that I had decided to go back to school and “get a skill” that they may have shed tears of their own.

Towards the end of graduate school I had my sights set on moving to Colorado and working with children. I was hired at a public library just outside of Denver and worked there for 10 years as a Children’s and Teen Services Librarian.  Almost five years ago now I started at Colorado Academy as the Lower School Librarian.  While there are things that I miss about the public library (mostly the element of crazy) there are things I love about being in a school.  Being the Lower School librarian is a wonderful adventure every day.  I enjoy seeing the kids grow from year-to-year, collaborating with teachers, being a part of the school community, and participating on AISL.

At Colorado Academy our Lower School library mascots are a stuffed animal dog named Ramona Quimby and a pet rock named Henry Huggins.  Thank you Mrs. Neth, Beverly Cleary, and many others for inspiring me as a reader and now as a librarian.





Origin Story V

Welcome back to the Independent Ideas summer series, Origin Stories.

Today, Claire Hazzard, from St. Clement’s School in Toronto, shares how she found librarianship.


Like most other AISL librarians, I’ve always loved to read. I was the kid who always had a book (or four) on the go; I’d devour series voraciously, I’d borrow countless volumes from the local public library, and I volunteered in my high school library. Yet actually becoming a librarian never really occurred to me until I was in university. My final year research project (I studied Geology at the University of Keele) was a mapping exercise in the Conwy area of North Wales.  Back on campus, I started my secondary research and was immediately drawn into the world of old maps, spending vast amounts of time in the map library, and realizing that curating a collection like this was what I might want to do.

At this time, students applying to postgraduate MLS programs in the UK were required to have completed some practical work in a library. Many universities ran graduate training programs, and I was lucky to be hired to work at King’s College, part of the University of London. This placement was a wonderful introduction to the world of libraries. I worked in four different branches across the service, experienced all facets of the library world (user education, periodicals, electronic resource management roll out, acquisitions, cataloging, book repair to name but a few), and was lucky enough to be actively involved in a new build project that saw six smaller libraries move and merge to one central location. King’s also allowed trainees to continue working part-time whilst completing a Masters in Librarianship; I took my MA part-time over two years at the University of North London (now London Met). How I loved Library School – lectures about classification, theory of knowledge, and Ranganathan’s Five Laws, field trips to the British Library, and sitting in the King’s courtyard reading academic papers at lunchtime, discussing library issues with King’s friends who were also studying part-time.

After graduating I wasn’t sure what area of librarianship I wanted to enter, and it was at a time in Britain when library jobs were rather scarce. I took a couple of short contract jobs, one in a hospital library, and one helping a university research group archive and organize their information. And then I moved to Canada, when my husband was offered a job in Toronto.

On arrival in Canada, I took some short-term administrative work to help pay the bills whilst I looked for my dream job. That short term position was at St. Clement’s School, in the guidance department. The same year, the school’s long-standing and much-loved librarian retired. I applied for the position, and here I am, twelve years and two maternity leaves later. Throughout my career I have benefited from being in the right place at the right time; you really don’t ever know what is around the corner.

I love my job. Most days I can’t get from the library to the school office to pick up the mail without six people asking me what I’m reading, and sharing their own reading picks. My inner reader is in heaven. And I still have at least four books on the go at any given time…


Need a refresher on Ranganathan’s Five Laws?  Click here.

We are still collecting Origin Stories and would love to hear from you.  If you would like to share yours (500 words or less) please send it to Allison Peters Jensen at allison.peters@coloradoacademy.org



Origin Story IV

Welcome back to the Independent Ideas Summer Series, Origin Stories.

Today we will head down to Georgia to meet Rivka Genesen from the Heritage School.


“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

-Seneca (allegedly- this attribution is disputed)

On an ordinary Saturday in March of 2014 I was set to meet my sister at a panel discussion at the 92nd St Y celebrating the 50th anniversary of Harriet the Spy. Her route from Brooklyn was filled with all the usual weekend reroutes so I saved her a seat and waited. Surreptitiously I didn’t have a book with me so when the woman a row ahead started talking to me I had no escape and neither did the woman one seat over. She asked us both about ourselves and then wandered off. But the woman in my row and I kept talking- she was a teacher in Georgia with a full weekend of cultural events in front of her and I was finishing up my thesis and my last classes for my MLS at Queens College. Her school’s long-time librarian was retiring at the end of the year. Would you ever consider leaving New York? she asked. Well, yes, I said even though I wasn’t sure what that meant. She wrote all of her contact information down on a hotel stationery and passed it to me. I carry that piece of paper in my wallet now, a reminder that all great things have come when I haven’t seen them coming. I’d like to say I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t emailed her and everything that came afterward hadn’t happened exactly the way it did. But I can.

I was so worn out by the time I met Marianne Richardson that Saturday that I didn’t know to be nervous or to expect anything. At that point I was taking my vacation days from my job as an Associate Editor of the Norton Critical Editions to go to Rikers Island with the New York Public Library and to do fieldwork for classes with incarcerated youth; additionally one or two Sundays a month I would take the bus to Teaneck, New Jersey to cover the Children’s Desk at the public library. When I met the woman who would become my guide to Georgia, to The Heritage School, to being, fully and finally, a librarian and a teacher, I was in full surrender mode.

In the summers, my mother, the daughter of a librarian, would pack us all in the car and we would set off for adventures. The common strand that wove all the summers together was the library- close by and far away, beautiful chaos ordered, a deep sigh after a long day. So it was unsurprising to find myself at the library the summer between sophomore and junior years of high school with newly obtained working papers, ready to go. I always knew you’d end up here, the recently retired head of the department said to me as I sat on the floor of the Children’s Department in front of the 600s shelf reading. I spent Sundays, vacation days, and summers there for the next 14 years. I grew older, the world grew bigger, Harry Potter went from being embargoed to a part of the childhood canon, I went from reading books published by W.W. Norton to making them.

The plan had been to become a public librarian- I didn’t know to want anything more or less. But in the latter part of my studies for an MLS I ended up in the wonderful Reading Motivation Techniques for Children & Adolescents class with Donna Rosenblum and doing fieldwork with Anne Lotito-Schuh (then a consultant for Literacy for Incarcerated Teens, she supported volunteers and brought library programming to smaller Passages Academy library sites). Sitting with Anne at lunch one day we both agreed that I’d find some way to be a school librarian. Watching her taught me that the library was a place, but that the librarian was not tethered to it and that being a librarian was a way of being, a resource in and of itself.

Talking with my sister the other day, I said something along the lines of I’m so glad I found what I am meant to do. Oh, but we all knew, she responded. I get now that I didn’t come to this a minute before I was meant to, each zig-zag and mile travelled meaningful to arrive here. Every day I find myself using the sum of my experience in big and small ways- that I get to be the person who hands the right book to the right person at the right time, who gets to help a student arrive at the best question rather than the right answer, and then watch that student grow is not even something I dreamed properly.



We are still collecting Origin Stories and would love to hear from you.  If you would like to share yours (500 words or less) please send it to Allison Peters Jensen at allison.peters@coloradoacademy.org




E-Mail Etiquette: Advice from Shakespeare

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Here is a box we open everyday, but do not greet the overflowing contents with the same exuberance as opening a Christmas gift:

                                     E-mail inbox



Image by John Taylor[1] Derivative work: Fred the Oyster (National Portrait Gallery[1]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Even with popular social tools of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and texting,   e-mail remains an important tool of communication at school and in the workplace.

Teaching students how to craft an effective e-mail, one that builds rather than sabotages communication, is an important 21st Century skill.

Who better to turn to for e-mail etiquette than the Bard and his timeless wisdom?

Following are the top five tips Shakespeare might have given on e-mail etiquette.



1. To E-mail or not to E-mail: that is the question. (inspired by Hamlet 1.1)

Before composing e-mails, decide if e-mail is the best way to communicate.
If the communication involves a conflict or a complex issue, a face-to-face meeting or a phone conversation might be the best way to discuss the issue.

Hearing the person’s tone of voice and observing body language benefits communication and can prevent misunderstanding. It is difficult to evaluate tone in e-mails.

2. For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.  (Romeo and Juliet 1.4)

Has a situation really got your blood boiling? If so, better to wait on e-mailing and allow time for reflection on how to respond in a courteous way.

E-mails are sent instantaneously with a click and they become a permanent correspondence, which can be saved or forwarded to others. “Flaming,” incendiary messages, often lead to explosive responses, and it is a better strategy to maneuver around Internet battlefields.

3. Brevity is the soul of wit.  (Hamlet 2.90)

The subject heading of the e-mail should be brief and specific to the topic of the e-mail. E-mail users quickly glance through the string of items in their inboxes and well-crafted subject headings will merit a quicker response.

This subject heading

Smith 2nd period Math Corrections Attached

will get a quicker response than


Also, avoid using all capitals in e-mails, it has the appearance of yelling.

4.  Speak plain and to the purpose like an honest man.  (Much Ado About Nothing 3.18-19)
The main body of the e-mail text should be brief and well structured.

  • Use a topic sentence structure in your paragraphs with the most important statement first in the e-mail.
  • If several questions or points are discussed in the e-mail, aid the quickly scanning eyes of your reader by separating points with a space and perhaps with number or bullet points.
  • Always reread your e-mail before sending to check spelling, grammar, and correct formatting of any attachments (check with teachers to know formats they will accept for attachments).


Remember to consider tone of your e-mail. Be courteous, and if e-mailing a teacher, college, or employer, use a professional tone.

Always evaluate the wording of your e-mail: Is it humor, sarcasm, or downright vindictiveness? Even an emoticon cannot take back poorly chosen wording—the sting of the statement can linger.

5.  Parting is such sweet sorrow. (Romeo and Juliet2.184)




May the Force be with you!

Leave the flowery poetry to Romeo and Juliet.

When considering how to sign off in your e-mail, think about your audience.

A simple “Thank you” may be all that is needed if a request was being made in the e-mail or you could end the e-mail with a statement such as “Enjoy your weekend” or “Looking forward to the school musical.”

The important thing to remember with e-mails sent to faculty, colleges, or employers is to use your school e-mail (not a personal e-mail address—mineblaster@hotmail.com) and avoid any sign offs that include silly names or aliases (Hotshot, Mad Warrior, etc.). Maintain a professional tone.

Universities and E-mail Etiquette

Many universities include “E-mail Etiquette” as part of their online style manuals.

These sites were consulted for this blog, and they may be of interest to you for
further browsing.

“Email Etiquette.” OWL Online Writing Lab. Purdue University. 2015. Web.
1 Jul. 2015. <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/694/01/>.

Schall, Joe. “E-mail Etiquette.” Style for Students Online. The Pennsylvania
State University. 2015. Web. 1 Jul. 2015.

The below link is a presentation I created for our freshman on the topic of E-mail Etiquette.  It may provide ideas for discussion with your students.  Looking forward to your thoughts on encouraging students in the art of E-mail Etiquette.

E-mail Etiquette (ppt. by Joan Lange)

E-mail image:
By Google (https://code.google.com/p/noto/) [Apache License 2.0 (http://www.apache.org/ licenses/LICENSE-2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.



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