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The little things…

Recent blog posts have detailed some visionary work happening in your schools – with my brain busy exploring how I can implement some of these inspired programs, today’s post is simple.

Here are four little (non-library-related) things that kids love about our library:


I’m not kidding. This appliance is the best thing ever – in terms of attracting kids who may not otherwise swing by the library. We added a paper cup dispenser and have been off the races ever since. (Environmental note: cups are compostable but we encourage use of water bottles, and the jugs are refilled through our in-house water system). For maximum impact, we display new materials prominently in this area!

Birthday Board

Inspired by the late Margaret Donnelly (of Crescent School in Toronto), we feature a board noting student birthdays. We know that the kids keep a keen eye on it, because they let us know when we’ve got something (spelling, date) wrong. We get an updated list from Admissions every fall, and once again, take advantage of the traffic by advertising library programs & materials close by. It’s a rare day when I don’t notice a kid surreptitiously checking out his/her name.

Chess Table

Easily the best money we have ever spent in the Library. Not being a player myself, I’m in awe of the spirited competition that breaks out on a regular basis. It’s incredible to see how many kids know how to play chess: we love hearing about how their parent or grandparent taught them to play, and seeing an experienced player teaching a newbie the basics.



With no dedicated instructional space in our temporary location, our large whiteboard went on the only open wall available. The location is not the most useful for class visits, but turned out to be perfect for student use. A question appeared one day – “What inspires you?” – and responses bloomed across the space. We clean it off once it’s full to the point of illegibility, and someone (sometimes us, sometimes a student) puts up another question. Yes, we keep a close eye & monitor the more colourful responses.

My favourite response to this week’s question (“What’s hot / What’s not”):


 What little things in your library keep your students coming back?


Librarians of AISL

Let’s travel down to sunny Florida for another installment of The Librarians of AISL: the Interviews.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences as an Independent School Librarian on The Librarians of AISL: the Interviews, please contact Allison at allison.peters@coloradoacademy.org.



The dreaded ‘web evaluation checklist’

As crocuses emerge from the frozen ground, I too reappear in mid-February after a month and a half of focused freshmen research. The freshmen research project is a keystone of 9th grade, the Western Civ teacher and I co-teach every day and every step, four classes a day Monday through Friday. The research is broken into daily tasks, and success in each task is valued as much as success in the final paper.

Website evaluation is one of these tasks. In 9th grade, students are confident in their web searching abilities. They are also, perhaps, overconfident in their ability to evaluate their sites as worthy of inclusion in their research. Thus, the dreaded ‘web evaluation checklist.’ We have adapted the checklist used by the University of Maryland Libraries: http://www.lib.umd.edu/binaries/content/assets/public/usereducation/evaluating-web-sites-checklist-form.pdf

We first spend a class searching for topics together and reflecting on what we find. We go over authority, accuracy, currency, bias, and coverage. Students are taught to “think about clues that will let them know if a website is good to cite in an academic research paper.” We try to frame our discussion using that specific vocabulary and students get that different levels of evaluation are needed for different purposes.

A pdf means it’s true.

If it’s a soldier’s account, that means it’s unbiased because he was there.20150206_093018

Thus, the web evaluation checklists. There’s no sugar-coating this. The kids hate the checklists. The only selling point is that their completion leads to a A on one of their daily assignments. However, the following year, when teachers are stricter about citing websites, students frequently return to the library to say that they are relieved that they know what they need to evaluate on the page before they begin to take notes.20150209_170047

The sheet can be completed by a diligent student in about two minutes, it’s mainly checkmarks, and the format forces students to click out of their specific page. Sections include: authority and accuracy; purpose and content; currency; and design, organization, and ease of use. Students finish with a one-sentence analysis stating why they think the site is good for research.20150213_105153

While it may seem surprising, we have purposely reverted to paper for the checklists. This serves three purposes. It keeps websites from being the easiest research option since they now involve an extra step that subscription databases do not. It also makes students consider the url and all relevant information because they have to rewrite it, which is more time intensive than copying and pasting. Finally, it gives us a visual for students who like to Google individually for each piece of information that they need. There are always a few students who search for single pieces of evidence, find one source for each, and ultimately end up with 15 sources for a 1700 word paper. When they hand in a stack of sheets, we have a conversation about actually saving time by finding three to five quality sources that will meet almost all of their information needs.20150213_083130

Reading student analysis of websites help me notice what students value most and what I need to address when teaching website evaluation. The most common weakness is found when I see this answer or one of its variants.20150213_105139

Just because information is needed does not mean it is accurate or authoritative or credible. Sometimes, students are surprisingly honest in their answers as they reconcile their need for a particular piece of information and their distrust of a particular site.20150213_105105

There’s a lot on the web, and the sites that often show up first on results pages are not always the ones that are best for research purposes. We teach better search strategies, and in grade 9, we also force web evaluation. It’s a strategy that meets our needs by requiring students to stop and reflect. It’s one part of our digital citizenship curriculum in middle and upper school. Now I’m curious to hear from you. What lessons have worked well in teaching students about using websites for academic purposes? How do you keep students from limiting themselves to the commercial sites that populate the first page of search results?


on meeting love …

Happy early Valentine’s Day everyone! This isn’t, however, the kind of meeting love to which I refer…

Meetings. Based on the sentiments that find their way into my various social media feeds and on the copious number of hours I spend watching half-hour sitcoms and ‘tween dramedies (Dance Academy from Australia on Netflix … Highly recommended for fans of ‘tween dramedy! LOL!), most people don’t like meetings. Meetings, it seems, are places where good ideas go to get morphed into unworkable plans that make nobody happy.

This is, apparently, how we are supposed to feel about meetings:


I don’t know about you, but as a librarian I LOVE meetings!

WAIT! Please don’t stop reading yet!

As I see it, every meeting with a faculty member is an opportunity to:

  • Help my faculty see the value of the kind of information skills I want to teach.
  • Schedule sessions where we get to book captive audiences to hear about the latest and greatest information products and services coming soon to a library near them (otherwise known as library lessons).
  • Work with teachers to shape assignment requirements in ways that allow for introduction of new skills or tools and/or builds on skills or tools that we have been previously introduced.

Our wonderfully supportive administration recently scheduled a faculty meeting for the library staff to be able to do some professional development with our high school faculty.

We developed our meeting agenda with an eye to achieving four main goals:

  • Introducing our full high school faculty to Libguides.
  • Introducing our full high school faculty to our online course on citation and MLA formatting.
  • Addressing that old misperception common to many of us in independent schools that, “Everything is online now and we have 1:1 devices so we don’t need to have kids work with the librarians anymore…”
  • Booking follow-up meetings with as many teachers and teaching teams as two librarians can possibly book.

Because Mid-Pacific has entered a research partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education focusing on educating students for life in a global society and good amount of time and energy have been invested in this endeavor, global education seemed like a very natural starting point to bring the some of the murkiness of “information literacy” into clear relief for a faculty with broadly differing content-area interests.

Last May, Alan November posted the very thought provoking, Past Google’s First Page: Gauging Students’ Global Search Skills, where he outlined the kind of very sophisticated search strategies that our students will need to be able to think through and execute if they are to be fully information literate citizens of the world. I loved his piece and thought it to be just the kind of content that we should be aiming to teach. I’d be lying, however, if I said that I didn’t find the goal for which he is asking us to aim to be big, scary, and audacious!

Well as it turned out, Mr. November’s search task made for a great jumping off point for discussing search skills and information literacy with a roomful of really smart faculty who (quite reasonably) think that they are, indeed, very good searchers!

We started our meeting by sending our teachers to a Libguide with an assignment:

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.43.25 AM

Click here to go to the Faculty Meeting Libguide.

While our teachers didn’t have enough time to truly complete the research task, they got far enough down the road to be able to discuss the search strategies employed by their groups.  We then took the opportunity to talk about the Libguide platform and then the search strategy presented by Alan November.

If you’re interested, the slideshow to our full meeting is available here:

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.57.15 AM

Click here to go to the full slideshow.

A while ago, I asked the amazing librarians on the AISL list to share some of the projects that they were teaming on with English, Science, and Math teachers. We did our best to pepper our presentations with real-world examples of projects taking place in other independent schools. Teachers LOVED hearing about the project ideas so a huge, “ALOHA!” to all of you who took time to share your wonderful ideas!

In the end, the response from our faculty has been amazing! We currently have 107 high school students that have been enrolled in our online course on citation and MLA formatting; we’ve gotten requests to develop Libguides for teachers in Science, English, and MPX (our interdisciplinary program); and we have teachers in Fine Arts, Social Studies, and World Languages who have spoken to us about projects they’d like to develop together in the near future. We’ve got a good number of meetings on the horizon!

I all honesty, putting this meeting together was mentally exhausting, and indeed–truly terrifying. In the end, though, I could not have hoped for a better outcome.

I’ll leave it here because … I’ve got a meeting to get to!



Revisiting the Pop-Up Library

My second Pop-Up - we're growing!

I wrote this post way back in fall of 2013, but since there has been a lot of chatter on the listserv about pop-up libraries as a way to promote new books, I thought I would revisit it. (As well, I should sheepishly admit I am overdue on a blog post and am too mired in some quotidian minutiae to give a new post the attention it deserves, so I am recycling in earnest.) Also, this time of year tends to lend itself to retrospectives, clip shows, and Best-Ofs, so it seems timely. I hope. So, see below for my first Pop-Up Library adventure, and feel free to get in touch about the details of how I made it happen.


I have been installed here for six years and I recently joked that I had my first “normal” year in 2012: my first year was my first year and I was still finishing my last two credits of library school, my second year I was expecting, my third year I had a new baby, my fourth year we renovated, and finally in my fifth year the dust had settled and things were basically predictable. But suddenly what was to be my second “normal” year in a row took a detour: the administration assigned me to be a sixth grade advisor instead of working with my usual crew of juniors or seniors.

There is much greater interaction between advisor and advisees in the middle school, so I was suddenly able to witness the middle school program at very close range. It reinforced what I had long believed to be true: the middle schoolers are my biggest potential consumers of fiction or pleasure reading, but they have the least access to it.

In the lower school division, the students have regular, devoted library time each week. In the high school, students can come in before school, at lunch, during study hall or any free time to peruse the collection and check out materials. In the middle school there is no dedicated library time (yet! That’s another post, I hope) but they are not free to wander into the library by themselves. As well, many of them have confided to me they feel gingerly about entering a library full of “big kids.” What to do? All those glorious young adult titles, desperate to find readers, and an equal number of sad readers bereft of great books. And don’t even get me started on how I feel about the potential future impact on public libraries – isn’t part of our mission to build regular library users into college and beyond?

And thus, the Pop-Up Library. If the middle school can’t come to the library, the library can come to them, I thought. I cannot claim sole credit for this particular stroke of genius – it was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend who is a local college librarian.

So the library popped up in the cafeteria later that very week: I gathered a selection of very hot current books like the Divergent series, James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books, the Theodore Boone novels, a brand-new copy of House of Hades, and an armful of titles for Halloween. I parked these on a book truck, added a laptop and barcode scanner and printed up some colorful signs. I made sure to announce the event at the middle school morning assembly, emailed the faculty to encourage them to remind the kids, and notified the communications department of the photo op for the newsletter.

Restaurant sign holders are great for this - small but effective.

I set myself up in a corner of the dining commons, arranged the books attractively and before I could even sit down, I had customers – happy, smiling, ready-to-read customers. I circulated more books that afternoon than I had in the entire previous week and there was a ripple effect that lasted for several days, since some students asked about this or that book I had not brought, but could check out and deliver at lunch the next day or to a classroom.

This month's theme is Thanksgiving: Colonial America, the Pilgrims, Native Americans, and family activities like cooking and crafts.

It was so successful I repeated it earlier this month with new titles plus Thanksgiving-related books like Witch of Blackbird Pond, some Ann Rinaldi titles and books about Native American lore and history. The kids tell me they are eager to have it every three weeks or so. To prepare, I have invested in a tabletop poster holder, some book-printed fabric for a tablecloth, sign holders and colorful paper to help merchandise the books enticingly.

Feel free to get in touch with specific questions if you’d like to try launching your own Pop-Up Library – it’s easy, fun, and effective.

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Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground

In the school library world, it is important to have a vision. We need a philosophy. Developing curricular support, information literacy lesson plans, and community involvement requires a large chunk of our time. The Big Picture is all-important.

But, as Napoleon knew, an army marches on its stomach (an image I always found distracting). Lines of supply are sine qua non, and a starving army isn’t going anywhere. A library ‘marches’ on its resources. To make the vision become a reality a library needs books, databases, and other useful resources, available and at hand when needed. Uncounted minuscule details lay the foundation of library success in bringing the Big Picture to life.

We spend serious amounts of time and money keeping our resources up to date and available. Even that task is colored by our vision and philosophy, and so it should be. With our efforts to stay on top of 21st century library issues, much of that time and money is spent on managing databases, ebook bundles, and consortium pricing of e-resources, among other exciting e-topics.

In making sure that all our resources are available, we at Harvard-Westlake’s Upper School Library have been addressing a chore that, frankly, we’ve put off as long as we could. Recent revisions to our inventory procedures gave us a more complete picture of items– primarily print books– marked ‘Lost’, and so in preparation for this season’s research projects we launched a coordinated effort to clean up the catalog and replace lost items as needed.

We have always kept up with newly published titles, but have not spent as much time on older titles that have been lost. I can think of few topics more mundane, and in a library where there is no end of tasks to do, this one kept falling to the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, it got to the point where the number of ‘Lost’ titles was enough to muddy the waters and make it unclear what resources were available. The time had come to clear this up. Carpe Diem!

To say it was a daunting chore is an understatement. I pulled the list of titles missing longer than 18 months, went through and marked those we could simply delete from the catalog, and those we should reorder. Putting a priority on the titles to be reordered, I pulled those cards from the shelf-list. Yes– we still have a shelf-list, subject of an annual debate about keeping it or not, but for this project it was actually helpful in clearing up some bibliographic snarls.

A good school library exists primarily to support the curriculum. In our case most of our formal research projects occur through the History department. All sophomores choose from the same list of  35 topics. This is good for us as it allows us to build a collection to support these topics. Our History teachers are wonderful to work with; the departmental philosophy reflects the firm belief that a strong grounding in traditional research skills is key to academic success. Our students are required to use a variety of resources, in a variety of formats.

Because our students are required to really dig deep, we have a strong collection of history books. Some of these titles are new, some are older. Our students do a lot of work in the stacks. Our collection of e-resources is rich, and is another tool for our students’ use, but many of the standard titles and texts are available in print only. In addition, a strong majority of our students prefer to work with print books, even if that title is available both in print and digitally.

Ordering replacements for over a hundred lost titles was an eye-opening experience. I was surprised at the number of relatively recent titles — published within the last 10 years– that were NOT available as a new title from our primary vendor, Ingram.  I ended up ordering perhaps half of these titles from Ingram and half from Amazon, with most of the Amazon titles listed as “used”. There were a handful that were not available in any form.

As all these books came in, the cataloging procedures caused their own headaches. Slowly we developed a streamlined workflow that got the books out on the shelves in good time to be available for classes. At the same time the catalog got a serious cleaning, with a good sweeping out of old records for titles we no longer have, and upgrades to records we kept.

As we finish this project up, I am surprised at how good it feels. Like weeding the garden, like having one’s teeth cleaned, I wouldn’t call this a ‘fun’ process but it is most definitely satisfying. Lessons learned:

  • Some recent titles aren’t available from standard vendors, and some lost books aren’t available from anyone, in any format. Not everything can be replaced.
  • When reviewing lost titles, we sometimes found that updated editions or other new publications were available to replace them. This is a useful double check for our regular “new publications” selection process.
  • The bulk of our lost titles were from areas used for history research, prompting a useful review of our holdings in these much-used sections.

While we school librarians spend much of our time with our head in the clouds, pondering important philosophical issues of vision and purpose, and wrestling with big-issue topics, we need to keep our feet planted firmly on the ground in order to make our vision a reality. A good librarian is able to do both with equal flair. Occasionally I’ll hear from administrators about the importance of a librarian having vision, but I would suggest it’s important for a librarian to have both vision and a strong grasp of practicalities. Head in the clouds, feet on the ground, and you’re good to go.


Accreditation (2.0)

I don’t know how many of you grew up going to private schools, but I have strong memories of the process of accreditation back from when I was a student. Teachers were nervous. Visitors watched our classes. Rumors flew that the school could be shut down.

Now that I’m on the adult side of the equation, accreditation is much less mysterious. Sure the process is stressful, but it’s ultimately helpful for us to reflect on and clarify our goals. I think it’s good for students to know that experts are examining how we operate; many didn’t realize that we voluntarily work with accrediting organizations (for us, FCIS, SAIS, FKC, and SACS) to demonstrate that we are meeting our mission. For this most recent visit, which concluded six days ago, we began preparing in earnest January of 2014. Our headmaster likened the experience to when visitors come to your house for dinner. Even though they won’t leave the kitchen, when you’re setting up, you’re fluffing the pillows in the bedroom and lighting candles there. That analogy totally worked for me.

In the libraries, we caught up on all sorts of tasks. We revamped our Policies and Procedures Manual. We updated the organization of the library’s electronic subscriptions webpage. We completed a thorough inventory and subsequent weeding. We expanded the Lower School library into an adjacent former computer lab. We felt pretty much ready for anything.

Except this form, which was the only information specifically requested from the libraries. (Perhaps I should clarify that this was the five-year check up visit, not the full one. However, with all of the information other departments were asked to provide, this still seems sparse.)

 Number of librarians:_____                            Number of clerks: _____

 Amount spent on books and periodicals: _____

Average monthly circulation of books: _____

Number of volumes: _____     Number of subscriptions: _____

Number of volumes per student: _____         

Number of volumes added last year: _____

Seating Capacity in library: _____

 Please tell me that some of you are cringing a bit right now. This isn’t the 1950’s. We’re a 1-to-1 iPad school. I don’t think that my print circulation statistics or the number of seats in my library hold the key to the success of my library program. In fact, I don’t even think they shed light on that success. I dutifully filled out the form, and with it, I included the following information to the school’s accreditation chairs.

 This is the type of document that makes me realize how much libraries have changed in the past few decades! Collection numbers aren’t representative of the library as much as how we are teaching students to wade through resources available to them in whatever format they find most beneficial. For example, our EBSCO database subscription contains digital access to thousands of magazines through its databases, but that isn’t reflected in our total number of periodicals. My circulation numbers are lower because we often reserve shelves of books for in-class use so students aren’t hoarding books that have a few pages on a subject when all members of a class are researching similar topics. (What about when students take pictures of pages with their iPads instead of checking out books?) Even items like library seating are less helpful when you’re working with a preschool population! :) I think that our number of volumes per student is going to be lower than some schools because we’re a younger school, but we do seem to be doing pretty well overall.

So I’ve been thinking about questions that are imperative for libraries today. I understand the need to keep everything easy to browse, but I think a narrative approach (one paragraph short answer) would provide more substantive answers. Fun questions like:

How do you balance digital and print resources in your collection?

Describe a time when you collaborated to teach library skills.

How do you respond when people say libraries aren’t necessary because of the Internet?

 These are just some ideas I’ve been throwing around half seriously. I’m sure anything that was used officially would need to be more quantitative, but we’re more than our measurements. :) Think about it before your next accreditation year. What do you think needs to be part of a library accreditation in the years 2015 and beyond? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Oh yes, the books!

Do you ever feel so busy juggling your <insert a thousand library related duties here> along with ‘big projects’, faculty meetings, team meetings, committee meetings, collaborative meetings, research lessons, EMAIL, Libguide design, and oh yes, working with students, teaching classes, and other various non-library related school responsibilities that sometimes you look longingly at the cart of new books that you’ve  purchased, knowing you won’t get to many of them until summertime?

This comes to mind:

I drew a line in the sand for myself a month ago. It might have been around the time that reeeeeaaallly cold temperatures arrived and I went into hibernation, I’m not sure, but I basically said “no more putting the kids to bed and escaping into mindless Netflix, no more half-hearted attempts at professional journals when I’ve been neck deep in the issues all day long. Nope, I’m escaping into the books.”

I’ve read three books in three weeks, people. I’m in heaven. I thought I would share them with you here and then maybe you’ll reciprocate with some good reads of your own?

I started with two National Book Award finalists:Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The most beautifully written dystopian book I believe I’ve ever read. The premise is this: set in the present day United States, an absolutely deadly, fast moving flu has wiped out over 99% of the world population. The entire infrastructure has collapsed: there is no gasoline, no electricity, no medicine, no security. A troop of traveling Shakespearean actors and musicians makes a loop through a region, risking much, honoring the Star Trek quote that dons the side of their makeshift caravan, Because Survival is Insufficient. This is a survival story and so would be most appropriate for mature middle schoolers or high schoolers, but it’s a good one that I highly recommend.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. If you or your students are fans of historic fiction, this is your book! Written in alternating perspectives, it’s the story of Marie-Laure, the French daughter of the locksmith of the Museum of Natural History, who has gone blind at a young age and whose natural curiosity is in itself a thing of wonder. You then get to know a German orphan named Werner whose gift at assembling radios and deciphering radio frequencies gains the attention of German officials as Hitler begins his quest for world domination. The story weaves together like a beautiful, albeit tragic wartime tapestry.

It’s quite clear why both of these books were nominated for the NBA. They are excellent. Now onto my third book, which I’m honestly still reeling from. It’s not for the faint of heart, so consider yourself warned.

It’s An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Ms. Gay is coming to visit our school this spring so I purchased both of her highly acclaimed books (Bad Feminist, a collection of witty, culturally and politically charged essays is her other).  Our faculty book club selected the novel as our February read so I went ahead and read it over the weekend. I knew from the blurb that it would be tough: an affluent woman of Haitian descent, living in Miami, living a pretty idyllic life with her loving husband and adorable baby boy, goes to visit her parents back in Haiti. As they leave the family compound to go spend a day on the beach, three SUVs pull up with masked armed men, the wife is kidnapped, and a mighty ransom is demanded. Her father refuses to pay and the ultimate stand-off begins, one in which some pretty graphic torture scenes take place and Mireille does her best to survive with her sanity intact.

If you have a strong fortitude, I say read it. It’s brilliantly written, the character development is superb, there are some really interesting relationships, and the tension is palpable when you experience the desperation that abject poverty brings. My blinders were removed regarding how routine kidnapping is in other parts of the world and this story, the good and the bad, is going to stick with me for a very long time, I can already tell. All marks of a good book in my opinion.

So now I ask you, what books have you read lately that you would suggest? Ready, set, comment below!


Design Thinking in the Library

The onset of the internet ushered in us into the Information Age. Now the with access to unlimited information, video tutorials combined with new personal fabrication machines (3D printers  and laser cutters) we are now entering the Innovation Age. Co-working facilities, fab labs and makerspaces are popping up in cities all over offering a place to create and collaborate to spark new businesses and industries. Our libraries can parallel this real-world trend by assisting and promoting a framework of creative thinking through the design thinking model with or without a dedicated makerspace.

As the focus on creativity and innovation in education increases, libraries can bring design-thinking into their programs. Librarians can implement design thinking into their programming to advance creative thinking alongside the critical thinking for our schools supporting the pedagogy and curriculum of project-based learning and STEM/STEAM initiatives of recent years. Fast Company defines it as, “the methodology commonly referred to as design thinking is a proven and repeatable problem-solving protocol that any business, or profession can employ to achieve extraordinary results.*” There are different variations of the design thinking model, but generally in falls into 5 categories:


  1. Discovering or Defining a problem
  2. Ideating or Brainstorming approaches
  3. Prototyping and Tinkering
  4. Test, Analyze and Refine
  5. Feedback loop and User-Studies

The transition to adding a design-thinking approach should be easy for librarians as we have taught research frameworks like “The Big 6” and “Guided Inquiry” and other methods to simplify and organize the complex processes of research.  Now librarians can help teachers experiment with the design process for their next creative project with students. An easy entry point with the curriculum would be outreach to capstone programs and project-based learning. Offer sessions on each step of the process as students work through their design problems. Employ the same questioning skills you used with the reference interview in traditional research, but with the new focus of looking at the form and function of what the student trying to achieve. An added benefit of incorporating design thinking in your regular programming is that there is organic, on-the-spot research, so you can continue to reinforce research skills. Additionally, the librarian can help the teacher focus on documentation throughout the creative process by referring to Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks and others as examples. The documentation is not formal like MLA or APA, etc, but it underpins the necessary skills of documenting the progress of a major work. Take it a step further by suggesting students create an “Instructable” in which they share the steps of their creative process in a public forum in which effective documentation is a core competency.

The library with the access to all disciplines of knowledge is a great place to incorporate creative thinking processes. Modeling design thinking in your program can invigorate your teaching practice as an added tool in your teaching toolbox.  Offering your skills and time as a teaching-partner on PBL teams within your school makes you a linchpin in your organization. Have fun and enjoy the creative process with your patrons by offering design challenges in your library alongside reading initiatives. If you are looking for more about design thinking the following resources can help you dive deeper into design.


Design Thinking Comes to Independent Schools by Peter Gow

Recasting Teachers and Students as Designers by Mindshift

Iterating and Ideating: Teachers Think Like Designer by Tina Barseghian

Putting Power In the Hands of Kids Through Design Thinking by Tina Barseghian

What Does ‘Design Thinking’ Look Like in School? by Katrina Schwartz

Design Thinking for Educators by IDEO

Scaffolding Creativity Through Design Thinking by Mindy Ahrens

How to Apply Design Thinking in Class, Step By Step by Mindshift

*Design Thinking…What is That? by Fast Company




Reading Statistics

In fall 2014, several AISL librarians shared lists of their libraries’ top-circulated books. The lists were particularly interesting because while the titles were indicative of the types of collections curated by the AISL librarians, the lists included a number of common titles. So when Renaissance Learning released the 2015 edition of its What are Kids Reading and Why it Matters report, I eagerly got to work to see how those lists compared to the reading tastes and habits reflected by the independent schools’ circulation lists. I should note that our school does not use the Accelerated Reader program, but the Renaissance Learning (RL) report was mentioned by several media outlets, and I felt it was worth reading. I believe it is vital for librarians to cast a wide net when seeking new influences and benchmarking performance.

The data source for the RL report is the Accelerated Reader database, which includes book reading records for more than 9.8 million students in grades 1-12. The Accelerated Reader program is used in 31,363 schools nationwide, the students in which read approximately 330 million books during the 2013-2014 school year. The lists of books published in the report represent the most popular selections delineated by grade and gender. Below are a few items that may be of interest from the report.

  • Students in grades 2 and 3 read the most books, and students in grades 11 and 12 read the fewest
  • On average, girls read 3.8 million words by grade 12, whereas boys read 3.0 million words by the same grade
  • The average number of words read by a student in each school year peaks around grade 6 at 436,000 words and then decreases to the low 300,000’s by the end of high school.

The report repeatedly emphasizes a connection between academic achievement and independent reading practice. Supplemented throughout with essays by prominent children’s authors such as Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Andrew Clements, the report provides excellent discussion of why robust collections and their use matter to our students. Moreover, the rationale for reading and its multilayered benefits for students could be used to encourage faculty members to assign more independent reading.

The study states that the students who set reading goals for themselves through the Accelerated Reader database read more difficult books and read for more time on a daily basis than their peers who did not set goals. How might this outcome of goal setting help us to redefine projects so that our students may push themselves in their own achievement?

An entry in the report that especially resonated with me was written by Dr. Christine King Farris, author of My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Farris describes reading as the gateway to “emotional and intellectual expansion” while growing up in a segregated society. Dr. Farris provides anecdotal evidence that reading empowered and motivated her and her brother. She notes that Dr. King learned about Mahatma Gandhi and his unwavering devotion to the practice of nonviolence through books. Perhaps the greatest example of the influence of reading on Dr. Farris and her brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that, understanding the positive power for change that books hold, they both eventually became authors!

At root, the What Kids are Reading report provides a framework for comparison of reading programs in our own schools. It also provides a basis for comparison of overall reading habits. Do you observe a peak in the amount students read in sixth grade or is reading truly sustained throughout high school? If you work in a co-ed environment, do you note differences in the amount read by boys and girls?  In my own library, the second and third grade students, as the report would predict, are circulating the most books. My challenge now is not to sit back and corroborate the data, but to help promote reading in the other grades to match that of my most voracious readers!