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I’m sorry…

While I was updating our hallway bulletin board recently, a student noticed one of the book covers being posted. It was something she’d read and loved, and she was eager to chat about it – so we did. After a few minutes, one of our Senior Leaders (whose office is adjacent to the board), popped her head out to ask what book we were talking about, because our conversation was so interesting she wanted to read the book.

A connection like this makes our day, as does offering readers’ advisory. But recommending a great read to someone who has asked for a suggestion is one thing. Suggesting that someone take a look at a book I think they’d find interesting is another. All of our kids and colleagues are busybusybusy. The many demands on their time are important and worthwhile, but often fill up so much of their schedules that they “don’t have time to read”.

Somewhere along the line, this response has gotten into my head because I find myself apologizing for the mere suggestion that someone carve out time to read for pleasure. It’s got to stop.

Our listserv has been peppered with recent studies about the importance of reading for pleasure, and the panel of college librarians at #aisltampa highlighted the relationship they see between pleasure reading & academic success. We all know that reading reduces stress, increases focus, and expands a reader’s vocabulary, among so many other benefits. I need to put this research into action!

So – for the purposes of accountability, I hereby pledge to you that I will stop apologizing for suggesting that people take time out their busy days to read for pleasure, whether it be chapter of a book, a magazine article, or a blog post. I will help them find the right book for the right time. And I will gently suggest when they may find time to read.

My name is Shelagh and I am not sorry.

 

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Lessons Learned

My thoughts today are about lessons we’ve learned this year in the library. A good library program is always adjusting balance and content, tweaking this, fiddling with that. Today I’m exploring a few important issues, one of which is the vital need to keep learning lessons, no matter how hard — or uncomfortable– it might be to continue being a student of life and libraries.

fish 1

 

1. Fish are wonderfully soothing … until they die.

As we were preparing for our annual Moby Dick All Night Readathon (see my blog post from April 2014 for details of last year’s event), some students wanted to bring in fish as decor, and asked if we could keep them in the library after the  Moby Dick reading was over.  Once we cleared up a few details about care and feeding and summer vacations, I agreed. One Goldfish and one Betta joined the library crowd, first in the ghostly lighting of the Moby Dick reading (below) and then for a ‘forever home near the magazines (above). Turns out, everyone loves fish! They seem to have a definite tranquilizing effect on stressed out students. We have small stools that allow students to shift seating around easily, and it’s fun to see how many kids are able to crowd around the 2 small tanks.

fish 3

The Chief Fish Wranglers soon found out that larger tanks were needed, and specialty items required to keep the fish healthy. They created a Fish Club, had a bake sale and (with the help from Marine Biology teacher) made treks to Petco down the road. A poll was taken to chose names for the fellows, now named officially Melville and Hawthorn (my choice, Fast Fish and Loose Fish, did not prevail). I have been minimally involved, but have enjoyed the process, seeing the students solve problems, and watching the fish thrive.

That is, Melville, the Goldfish, has thrived. Hawthorne, the Betta,  not so much. Tricky fellows, apparently. One student who had kept fish for years was pulled in as consultant. This and that was tried, and we hoped the new heater would do the trick but alas, no. Hawthorne succumbed to his ailments.

There were some tears and hugs, and a long weekend to recover. Today we begin talk about ‘What Next?’  It’s sad, but as they say, life goes on. Melville is very feisty, and continues to be a draw for students intrigued by the glimpse of another world, Under The Sea. For high schoolers facing finals, this has been a really popular stress-buster. It seems that a spot of time ‘chilling with the fishes’ allows students to slow their own life down as well.  It makes a nice partnership with the coloring books we’ve recently added.

1.a. Folks really love the coloring books we’ve recently added!

A student just came up to ask if the coloring books would be back next fall. She’s just finished some work and will be doing a little coloring for awhile. Very restful, she says. I was happy to reassure her that this will be one idea that will continue next year. We allow students to copy pages and work on clipboards, or even (GASP!) to color right in the book. If they get filled up we can get more. Revolutionary, I know! but pretty exciting.

coloring books

 

2. An idea so crazy it actually … didn’t work so well.

At the end of last school year, we tried a pilot program to see what would happen if we allowed students to eat in the library. See my blog of May 19, 2014, to get the details of our trial process and what we found. We polled our librarian colleagues across the nation (and Canada!), collected up everyone’s experiences, and decided to take the plunge.

When school started this year we allowed food in the library as long as mess didn’t become a problem. We increased trash bins and arranged for trash collection by midday, to control the smell and allow for easier cleanup. We also increased our own patrols to remind students that they will need to clean up after each other if this is to work. Even if the mess isn’t yours, you still need to keep the area tidy as you leave.

The main impact of this new program is twofold. There is mess, but not really as much as you’d think. We’ve been keeping a tally  of ‘End of Day Mess’, with location and ‘mess level’ recorded. The bulk of the mess was dry wrappers and water bottles, and the messiest areas tended to rotate around the library. That is, no one particular group was responsible for the mess.

The second and main takeaway was a surprise to me. The main problem with food in the library isn’t mess. It’s noise. When students are able to eat breakfast, lunch and snacks in the library, then they really start to feel at home in the library. That’s a nice thing in theory, but in practice it involves a lot of sprawling belongings and the general aura of a den or college dorm room. Territory becomes an issue, which some students claiming certain spots, even if they’re not actively there. Behavior also loosens up and noise definitely increases.

We’ve just run this year’s Library Evaluation Survey, and have found out (no big surprise) that most students really liked having the ability to eat food in the library, and most students liked being able to be more casual and a little louder (we got some nice thank you’s for being ‘welcoming’ to sometimes boisterous groups). However, there were a few students who didn’t like the smell and some who didn’t like the added noise.

One of the most memorable lessons I learned in high school was from a Henrik Ibsen play, An Enemy of the People (Thank you Mr. Chaney!).  A town’s livelihood (health spa) was being threatened because the local doctor wanted to close the baths down due to harmful germs. In this case, the majority clamored to silence the doctor and to keep the baths functioning, no matter the risk to the public. Ibsen called this “the tyranny of the majority”. Just because more people are on one side doesn’t mean that side is actually right. It was an intoxicating idea to this idealistic teenager when I read it in 1974, and I am brought to think of it again.

What did Ibsen really mean when he coined the expression”tyranny of the majority”? This got me thinking of “majority rules”, affirmative action and minority rights. Just because ‘most people’ like the food program, is that enough to continue it? Do students have the right to a food free environment if food and accompanying mess and noise bothers them? What if food helps some students work better?
3. We’re all here to learn; students, explicitly, and  teachers, implicitly.
Paradigms shift, generations come and go, Libraries become Media Centers, then Learning Commons then Libraries again. The more we change the more we stay the same. Unless we can embrace change, as well as the “growth mindset” as described by Carol Dweck, so that we are not afraid of failure, we will fail our students. An adventurous approach, with serious examination of ideas new and old,  along with both the ability to try new things and also to admit failure “this time” — this will give us the strength and flexibility to continue our explorations into new ways and approaches, ultimately to keep what works and toss what doesn’t.

I had a twinge of concern that as we evaluate the food issue, we may have to say “It didn’t work out. We need to pull back”. I realized I was worrying about not having ‘succeeded’. But really, the main thing is not to be paralyzed by the worry that something won’t turn out well. If we are, we’ll never try new things. We need to realize our students are having these very same challenges as we are, that we’re all learning lessons alongside one another.

trash 2

As for the food issue, we will continue to evaluate and come up with something brilliant, I know. As my guru the Magic Eight Ball says, ‘More Will Be Revealed”.

 

 

 

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“No harm’s done to history by making it something
someone would want to read.” David McCullough

Digital Timelines provide interactive ways to engage students with history, and examples abound. From contemporary news overviews, such as the Gender Equality Timeline developed by United Nations Women’s Watch to historic archives of presidential speeches, letters, memos, and photos in the National Archives’ Presidential Timeline, timelines demonstrate how the digital experience of history can be enriched with embedded video and audio, primary source documents that expand for closer inspection, and hyperlinks to resources for further investigation.

Presidential Timeline

 

Latin Timeline: Investigating Identity

An opportunity to explore digital timelines arose when a concerned Latin teacher at our high school stated that students needed more historic background on key rulers, events, and historians to bring relevance to translations of classical literature. Our social studies department had transitioned away from teaching Ancient Greece and Rome (focused now on Global Issues), so many of the students in this Latin class were last exposed to this history in their 6th or 7th grade curriculum.

In collaboration with the Latin teacher, we identified events and literary historians for students to research and developed a LibGuide of online resources as well as books on classical writers from the library collection. After sampling the merits of several digital timelines, such as Knight Lab and Time Glider, I chose Tiki Toki because it allowed formatting of BC as well as AD events and the paid subscription ($145.00) allowed collaboration—individual students added items to a class timeline. This screenshot shows how students login to collaborate and organize items by color and category, such as Reign, Event, Historian, Quote.  (View Latin 3 and 4 Advanced Timeline.)

Students were challenged to move beyond assembling a wiki of facts to creating knowledge by 1) analyzing the ruler’s influence on an event (or event on a ruler); 2) identifying traits of the classical writer; and 3) demonstrating how these traits were reflected in their historic writings. The essential question:

How are ideals of Ancient Rome reflected in the historic writings or
how are aspects of Ancient Rome criticized by the historic writer?

Students use the historic voice of the classical historian to illustrate the identity of Ancient Rome (or the idealized identity of Ancient Rome).  Below is a screenshot of the GoogleDoc template for student note taking. In this sample, the student noted that the historian Lucan “had powerful contacts within the Roman empire” and in the “Quote” column, the student used a portion of Lucan’s historic account of the Civil Wars, referring to “Rome’s high race.” This student then evaluated Lucan’s writings for bias toward high-ranking officials and noble classes.

Latin Timeline Note taking

Sometimes students’ investigations led to building connections (historic empathy).  One student discussed the Twelve Tables of Law and made the connection that as these laws were created to define and protect basic human rights, it could be linked to the idea of America defining basic rights in the Declaration of Independence. (See Twelve Tables of Law screenshot.)  However, another student evaluated the Twelve Tables Law on theft and commented that slaves were not treated equally in the law (slaves who were arrested as thieves would be brutally beaten and then hurled from a rock)—leading to further connections with America’s history of unequal treatment for certain groups.

Latin Timeline Twelve Tables of Law

Knowledge Creators

Students were proud of the timelines and during class presentations they often commented, “Remember when we read…well this is the event/person they were discussing.” Other students asked, “Will we be able to access these timelines?” With a resounding “yes,” we discussed how they had created a valuable learning tool for their class and for future Latin classes. Students experienced the satisfaction of knowledge creation, which is a hallmark of becoming a 21st century learner.  Brian Mathews, The Ubiquitous Librarian blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education, describes the importance of knowledge creation in his blog “What it Takes to Become a Scholar.”  Mathews describes that the transition from student to scholar happens when a student realizes they have created something new: “The knowledge-creation activity plays into the sense of identity. The overriding theme is that one does not become a ‘scholar’ until they have created something new.”

Future directions

Students’ research time was limited (2 ½ class days), so the added media component was often a YouTube clip posted by History Channel or a short informational movie developed and posted on YouTube by a student (from another US school). Wishing to enrich these timelines with student-created content, we plan to challenge next year’s students to produce their own media content and embed it on the assembled timelines.

Our US History teachers were excited by this idea and adapted it to a 20th century timeline project in which students illustrated key events/people/ideas of the Civil Rights era, Cold War, and Cultural events of the 60s, 70s, etc. (View a sample Space Race event I developed for the US History class.) We also tweaked the location of citations by using the smaller text format of the “Information Box” on the timeline.

New Approaches to Timelines and Literature Connections

This digital timeline project tested the possibilities of how to use historic voices to identify a group of people. However, other educators suggest going beyond a linear timeline—a linear thinking of history–to incorporate multiple perspectives. If your school subscribes to The History Teacher, I encourage you to read this journal article:

Denial, Catherine J. “Atoms, Honeycombs, and Fabric Scraps: Rethinking Timelines in the Undergraduate Classroom.” The History Teacher 46:3 (May 2013): 415-434. Print.

Ms. Denial describes how she challenged her undergraduate students to consider that there is “more than one way to perceive and make order from the past” (418).  Her students devised models of non-linear timelines, such as fabric quilts, that demonstrate how a historian creates a perspective on the past through the selection of certain events, voices, and ideas.

Another idea to engage students in a discussion of historic timelines is to use novels such as Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd; both stories feature characters who use quilts to order a historic narrative.

Please share your experiences with timelines or titles of fictional works that explore historic voices and multiple perspectives of history.

 

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From Kari Dalane; with my apologies

When I posted Kari’s blog, there were errors and I apologize to Kari and all of you as well.  I am reposting the blog and this time, all should be well!  Barbara

 

I was lucky enough to be chosen as a scholarship recipient to this year’s AISL conference in Tampa, Florida. This blog post is a reflection on my experience at the conference and what I took away from it.

 

I landed in Tampa late Tuesday night and took a cab to the hotel to meet my roommate for the conference, Cathy Leverkus, who is the Director of Library and Information Services at The Willows Community School in Los Angeles. The week prior to the conference she sent an email to the listserv looking for a roommate and I thought it would be a good way to keep costs down and meet someone new. This was a great choice. Cathy and I got along right away and it was nice to know someone before the conference started on Wednesday morning.

 

Wednesday was a whirlwind of new: new people, new ideas, and new places. I sat down at breakfast with a group of people I had never met, who quickly put me at ease, and was excited by “The Library as Incubator” keynote. I have since been frequenting their website and have taken inspiration for future projects. I can’t wait to make a poetree for National Poetry Month next year!

 

After the keynote, we all boarded the coach buses, which proved to be think tanks on wheels. I sat with a new person on almost every bus trip during the conference, learning and making friends simultaneously. This first bus trip was when I realized I was in for a different kind of conference — not a run from room to room in a hotel, overload on information, and hardly talk to anyone new kind of conference, like most of the conferences I have been to before. The small number of attendees and the willingness of everyone to open up and share was what made AISL such a unique and worthwhile experience.

 

Our first school visit at Shorecrest Preparatory School also tipped me off about how different this conference would be. I attended a session on makerspaces and then went to look around in the makerspace the presenters had just told me about! This kind of hands-on experience is invaluable. Creating a makerspace in my library is on my to-do list, and I had the chance to explore one and now I have Courtney Walker and Dottie Smay, in her fabulous high heels, to reach out to for advice if (or honestly, when) I need it.

 

I also was happy to learn that we were not overscheduled. During some conferences, I feel totally overwhelmed with the amount of information coming at me in session after session. It was nice to have time to do other things during AISL. After Shorecrest, we visited Sunken Gardens and had time to explore this beautiful local site and relax. This was followed by an afternoon of free time to explore Tampa, which I took full advantage of by thrifting with two new friends. The book board discussion and dinner with a librarian closed out the day beautifully. I was exhausted, and gratefully went to bed early.

Thursday opened with a lovely breakfast overlooking the water at Pier 22 followed by a visit to Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School, where I had the opportunity to discuss teaching research with three other librarians during “The Power of Student Discovery.” I came away with a better sense of how to structure my research curriculum next year.

 

It was nice to get a chance to see The Ringling Museum that afternoon and to have some time to spend on the beach (and grab a few frozen daiquiris with new friends!) at Saint Armand’s circle. Swimming in the hotel pool was a perfect end to the day.

 

The final day of the conference started off with breakfast and some excellent entertainment at Berkeley Prep. The lower division choir practically brought me to tears and reminded me why I am in this profession in the first place. Working with young people who are full of promise and hope, who are so innocent and vulnerable, who make you smile and sometimes drive you nuts — they are the reason our school libraries exist.

 

I attended the Capstone Project Poster Session and was blown away by what the kids had managed to do, especially considering the fact that this was the first group to complete the program. I am hoping to create a capstone project at my own school and now have some ideas of how to get going and C.D. McLean to reach out to for advice.

 

It was a treat to hear author William Durbin speak during our delicious lunch at Columbia Restaurant. I loved hearing about the key role research plays in his writing process and was inspired to give writing a go myself during summer vacation. The afternoon writing session led by author Adrian Fogelin at Saint Mary’s Episcopal Day School further emboldened me. I also teach English and took away a wealth of things to try with my students from her presentation.

 

The closing Skip Anthony Dinner provided the perfect end to the conference and highlighted the most enjoyable aspect of it for me, and I think the biggest reason people return year after year: meeting and spending time with some wonderful people who share your passion. Dedicated, energetic, inspiring, supportive… I could go on and on. I work with faculty and students in my school every day and they are also wonderful people, but sometimes I feel a bit isolated as the only librarian on campus. I made real connections with others in my profession at this conference. I have already been in touch with several people I met and feel more connected to the independent school librarian community.

 

The conference was a time to recharge professionally, to reassess, rethink, and renew. I came away revitalized and ready to implement many of the ideas I learned about through formal sessions and informal conversations. AISL Tampa 2015 was the best conference I have ever been to.

 

I’d like to thank AISL for offering the scholarship, the scholarship committee, and the conference planning committee, who did an excellent job. I hope I am able to make it to L.A. next year!

 

Kari Dalane

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On Upper School Students Leaving the Nest

One of my favorite days post-conference is the day when I get to test a new idea on my community. Sometimes these ideas come from “big” presentations, keynotes, workshops and such. Sometimes they come from bus rides or a mealtime conversation. Oftentimes they come from a pajama-clad late night conversation with my roommate. Today, thanks to roommate and librarian extraordinare, Shelagh Straughan, I got to put a new idea into practice and it was so much fun!

Shelagh calls her work with seniors “Graduate Guidance”. She works with them en masse during their “guidance period”, a time built into their schedule that is used for college counseling and such, which becomes free time once college acceptances and commitments have been made. I don’t have such a period, but I do have a two-day senior retreat where our girls go as a class to sleep in cabins and to participate in real-life workshops–everything from changing a tire to cooking to budgeting in college. Before I throw my hat in for a coveted retreat slot, I decided to test Shelagh’s exercise on my Senior English class this morning.

It’s all about transitioning from our smaller space, collection, and program to the grand world of university libraries. It’s a new way of thinking about librarians as subject specialists, about physical libraries spread throughout campus, each with unique attributes and study environments, many focused on a specific discipline. It’s teaching them about the human floaties that they will use in the ‘information tsunami’, librarians who will happily help them explore massive print & digital collections to find the best sources. It’s also a new world of paying for things!! CHA-CHING! To print, to make copies, for late fees.  For some, it’s a shift from Dewey to LC. It’s a world of chat reference,  study spaces in varying shapes, sizes, and in close proximity to caffeine; there are innovative information commons spaces, loft desks, presentation practice spaces and more! Exciting stuff!!

I love that it’s a real, candid conversation about the future.  I especially love Shelagh’s suggestion that I set it up so that the conversation continues with regular feedback from a select group about what they’ve found once they arrived at college–what they were well prepared for, what they wish they had known, and what advice they can offer future seniors. I added on a request for  some library design reconnaissance.  Girls have promised to send me pictures of cool furniture, space design, etc. for my idea book. :)

Shelagh graciously emailed me her materials.

Here’s how I spun it:

1. I asked my students to read this article before class. Pointers to the bathroom, really people?

2. I tweaked Shelagh’s slides to fit my audience (had to remove those crazy Canadian spellings 😉 ).

This is my presentation, merged with Shelagh’s.

3. Following the discussion, I distributed this  handout. Students examine their own university library’s web site, or if they were undecided or planning a Gap year, they looked at several universities of interest. This generated tons of good discussion! So much good conversation that we are continuing this into our next class!

Conclusion: This was an excellent exercise. At one point, I noticed that my students were looking a bit ‘deer in headlights’. I asked them what was wrong. They said that it made this next chapter “feel more real than it has before”. Like, this is really happening and they need to get ready for it. We talked a lot about all the adventures that await them, of the abundance of support that will be provided to help them learn about new resources, of the fun in checking out innovative spaces, seeking out study nooks that feel right for them.

They were so excited about images of collaborative group spaces and the concept of the information commons. They were affirmed to acknowledge  the pieces that they already know–Libguides, LC, printing, scanning, ILL. They were excited to learn about all the ways that they can reach out–they liked the ability to chat, to request items via a much larger ILL consortium, and to access course reserves. Some noticed exciting features such as a text reference feature, a college library that offered to edit students’ papers(?!), and more going on at their respective schools.

Again, a big shout out and “thank you!” to Shelagh, who humors my incessant late night talking at AISL conferences, and to the presenter at AISL Nashville who inspired her to create this program.

Now tell me, Upper School Librarians, do you offer a similar program at your school? I would love to learn more! It’s been a long time since I used a university library. What else do you share with your students?

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Intro from Phoebe Warmack –

Last October the Board of Directors of AISL was pleased to announce the first offering of the AISL Annual Conference Affordability Scholarship.  It was double the pleasure, thanks to the funding of a generous donor and association member, to in this inaugural year be able to offer two affordability scholarships.  These scholarships each provided a stipend of up to US $1,000.00, designed to provide 100% conference registration with the remaining balance to be applied as reimbursement toward documented travel and lodging expenses to defray the cost of attending the recipient’s first AISL annual conference.  We received great response to this first affordability scholarship offering and, after reviewing all applications, selected two librarians for receipt of the available grants.

I was excited, proud, and appropriately nervous to be a part of this selection process.  We are a group of accomplished professionals and I can assure you no decision was made lightly or easily!  We were thrilled to offer scholarships to Jennifer Falvey, of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School and Kari Delane, of Hillside School.  The scholarship committee asked on the application form that the recipient submit a brief report of their conference experience to the AISL Board of Directors.  During our meeting in Tampa (thanks again, Tampa librarians!), we decided we would much prefer a write up as a post on the AISL Independent Ideas blog.  It is my honor this week to introduce the first of these reflections which I know you will enjoy reading.  I hope it will rekindle the “first time” memories of those of us who have frequented AISL conference venues and, as well, that it will provide those of you who have not yet attended an AISL conference that extra impetus to apply for the affordability scholarship next fall!  Looking forward to seeing you all in LA!

THANK YOU!!!

Phoebe

From Kari DeLane –

I was lucky enough to be chosen as a scholarship recipient to this year’s AISL conference in Tampa, Florida. This blog post is a reflection on my experience at the conference and what I took away from it.

I landed in Tampa late Tuesday night and took a cab to the hotel to meet my roommate for the conference, Cathy Leverkus, who is the Director of Library and Information Services at The Willows Community School in Los Angeles. The week prior to the conference she sent an email to the listserv looking for a roommate and I thought it would be a good way to keep costs down and meet someone new. This was a great choice. Cathy and I got along right away and it was nice to know someone before the conference started on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday was a whirlwind of new: new people, new ideas, and new places. I sat down at breakfast with a group of people I had never met, who quickly put me at ease, and was excited by “The Library as Incubator” keynote. I have since been frequenting their website and have taken inspiration for future projects. I can’t wait to make a poetree for National Poetry Month next year!

After the keynote, we all boarded the coach buses, which proved to be think tanks on wheels. I sat with a new person on almost every bus trip during the conference, learning and making friends simultaneously. This first bus trip was when I realized I was in for a different kind of conference — not a run from room to room in a hotel, overload on information, and hardly talk to anyone new kind of conference, like most of the conferences I have been to before. The small number of attendees and the willingness of everyone to open up and share was what made AISL such a unique and worthwhile experience.

Our first school visit at Shorecrest Preparatory School also tipped me off about how different this conference would be. I attended a session on makerspaces and then went to look around in the makerspace the presenters had just told me about! This kind of hands-on experience is invaluable. Creating a makerspace in my library is on my to-do list, and I had the chance to explore one and now I have Courtney Walker and Dottie Smay, in her fabulous high heels, to reach out to for advice if (or honestly, when) I need it.

I also was happy to learn that we were not overscheduled. During some conferences, I feel totally overwhelmed with the amount of information coming at me in session after session. It was nice to have time to do other things during AISL. After Shorecrest, we visited Sunken Gardens and had time to explore this beautiful local site and relax. This was followed by an afternoon of free time to explore Tampa, which I took full advantage of by thrifting with two new friends. The book board discussion and dinner with a librarian closed out the day beautifully. I was exhausted, and gratefully went to bed early.

Thursday opened with a lovely breakfast overlooking the water at Pier 22 followed by a visit to Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School, where I had the opportunity to discuss teaching research with three other librarians during “The Power of Student Discovery.” I came away with a better sense of how to structure my research curriculum next year.

It was nice to get a chance to see The Ringling Museum that afternoon and to have some time to spend on the beach (and grab a few frozen daiquiris with new friends!) at Saint Armand’s circle. Swimming in the hotel pool was a perfect end to the day.

The final day of the conference started off with breakfast and some excellent entertainment at Berkeley Prep. The lower division choir practically brought me to tears and reminded me why I am in this profession in the first place. Working with young people who are full of promise and hope, who are so innocent and vulnerable, who make you smile and sometimes drive you nuts — they are the reason our school libraries exist.

I attended the Capstone Project Poster Session and was blown away by what the kids had managed to do, especially considering the fact that this was the first group to complete the program. I am hoping to create a capstone project at my own school and now have some ideas of how to get going and C.D. McLean to reach out to for advice.

It was a treat to hear author William Durbin speak during our delicious lunch at Columbia Restaurant. I loved hearing about the

I’d like to thank AISL for offering the scholarship,

the scholarship committee, and the conference planning committee, who did an excellent job.

key role research plays in his writing process and was inspired to give writing a go myself during summer vacation. The afternoon writing session led by author Adrian Fogelin at Saint Mary’s Episcopal Day School further emboldened me. I also teach English and took away a wealth of things to try with my students from her presentation.

The closing Skip Anthony Dinner provided the perfect end to the conference and highlighted the most enjoyable aspect of it for me, and I think the biggest reason people return year after year: meeting and spending time with some wonderful people who share your passion. Dedicated, energetic, inspiring, supportive… I could go on and on. I work with faculty and students in my school every day and they are also wonderful people, but sometimes I feel a bit isolated as the only librarian on campus. I made real connections with others in my profession at this conference. I have already been in touch with several people I met and feel more connected to the independent school librarian community.

The conference was a time to recharge professionally, to reassess, rethink, and renew. I came away revitalized and ready to implement many of the ideas I learned about through formal sessions and informal conversations. AISL Tampa 2015 was the best conference I have ever been to. I hope I am able to make it to L.A. next year!

 

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on librarian super powers…

As of today, we are exactly one week out from the end of classes for middle schoolers and the start of our high school exam period–the end is in sight! Goodness, what a year it has been!

A year ago at this time, I was comfortably winding down the school year [Cue Looney Tunes cartoon of the opening of the William Tell Overture here] in the middle school library job I had held for 14 wonderful years, and working diligently on the list of eateries that I wanted to visit during my summer trip to New York City. It was comfortable. It was routine. It had a rhythm to it that I had come to know and love. It was…wonderful.

Well, by some kind of divine intervention, between May of 2014 and May of 2015, I landed a job as a librarian at a progressive school in my hometown. It has been wonderful and amazing, but it has also been a lot of change! I don’t know about you, but for me change is uncomfortable. My cognitive side wants change, but my emotional side engages in a lot of kicking and screaming before accepting any kind of major change. Well, I got a new job, sold a home, and moved back to a city that I hadn’t lived in for 15 years. That’s a lot of change…

Professionally, one of the most interesting changes for me as a librarian in this whole process has been my move from a wonderful school with a rather traditional curriculum to a wonderful school with a decidedly progressive curriculum. For those reading this that are not librarians, it’s pretty much an open secret that librarians have super powers. The thing is, though, sometimes when we move to new places some of our best librarian super powers aren’t as effective so we have to get new ones and we have to learn to use our existing librarian super powers in different ways. That is, basically, what happened to me.  Here are just two examples.

Adapted Super Power #1 – Note Taking:

As a middle school librarian in a curriculum context where there was quite a bit of uniformity, I got used to the idea that teaching all of our 7th graders to take electronic notes in NoodleTools on their laptops was just something we did at the beginning of each school year. In our library that hosts instruction for students in 3rd through 12th grades, I’ve had to learn to embrace a set of “note taking concepts” rather than specific methodologies. As a 1:1 iPad site, I first endeavored to teach students a specific note card format using paper note cards (Unfortunately, we haven’t found an incredibly fantastic work flow for digital note taking that works well with iPads yet.), but in our learning culture which leans heavily toward project-based learning, it became clear that no single note taking work flow was going to meet the needs of all of our teachers and students.

We have begun stressing what we see as the things that research note taking fundamentally need to do. A good note taking process in any format should:

  • Allow you to trace any specific fact or quote to a particular source
  • Allow you to manipulate disparate facts and content so you can engage in the REAL WORK of analysis and synthesis
  • Provide you with enough context so that you are consistently engaged in the culture of academic documentation and growing the habits of academic integrity

It sounds fancy, but what it amounts to is teaching students and teachers to include source information in their notes and/or getting teachers to collect drafts and notes along with students’ final artifacts. Instructionally, it looks like this:

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Or like this clip from one of my fantastic teachers’ assignment instructions:

Teacher's note taking instructions to students.

Teacher’s note taking instructions to students.

Adapted Super Power #2 – Building “Your Collection”

In the last year, I have come to the realization that “my collection” is anything that is available to me rather than things that my school owns. If the world were a perfect place, every school library would have unlimited amounts of space and hundreds of bars of gold hidden behind the drywall in the library workroom to use to fund the purchase of stuff to fill the space. Much to my chagrin the world isn’t perfect. Our print collection is rather small for a school of our size. We provide access to good digital content, but we don’t have the physical space to expand our print collection. I have learned this year, though, that sometimes living in an imperfect world is actually an opportunity in disguise. In some ways, not having an extensive print collection has meant that our faculty has learned to capitalize on community resources! Yay for resourceful faculty! In addition to the University of Hawaii library that I posted about earlier this year, some of my teachers do amazing jobs of incorporating as many community resources as they can find.

Our students study the Internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Our teachers take them down to do some of their research in the Archives of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. Students LOVE the experience. WWII and the history of the internment experience in Hawaii comes alive for them in a way that it would never happen in just databases or in books accessed from campus. As one young man put it, “We should do this for every project!”

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Diving into what one student called “real primary sources.”

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Scholars, Japanese Cultural Center volunteers, and their great teacher, Ms. Davis, (kneeling in the front row, right) at large!

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Topics and student-generated thesis statements were emailed to the Japanese Cultural Center’s reference librarian ahead of time and volunteers helped students locate relevant artifacts.

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Cross-generational learning was a wonderful serendipity for our students as well!

While I cannot take any credit for the idea or the trip as it was completely planned and arranged by their teacher, Ms. Davis, I’ve elected to take the idea of community-based resources as “collection” as one of the librarian super powers I will employ going forward. Mostly, I think, that means taking the idea and promoting its implementation with other teachers and/or seeking out the resources. We’re hoping, for example, to work with our photo teacher to get over to do some research in the amazing photography collection at Hamilton Library next year!

It’s been an amazing year! In all honesty, I’ve felt “uncomfortable” in the process of change for the entire year and I’m exhausted. In the end, though, I’ve discovered a few more librarian super powers and as we plan to work much more extensively with our middle school teachers and students next year, I’m hoping that the learning of my best librarian super powers is still to come.

It’s time for me to sign off for the summer, but before I go I would really like to thank all of you super powered librarians for sharing your time, energy, and wisdom with me in various ways. I hope your students and your teachers know how lucky they are! After all, their librarians have super powers! It isn’t going to get much better than that! LOL!

Aloha!

dave

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Celebrating Mother’s Day with Picture Books

As a mother and a Librarian, I used Mother’s Day as a focal point for my classes this week. Rather than read books explicitly about mothers for my youngest students, I chose to focus on books that portray moms in much the same way my students observe them. From my own experience as a mother, I adore the portrayal of Olivia’s mom in the series by Ian Falconer. Olivia’s mother can be seen sitting building a sand castle with her daughter or reading to Olivia before bed. She is busy attending to her children throughout the narrative and that is something very appealing for the children that read these books. Another book where I love the way the mother is drawn is in Jack Ezra Keat’s The Snowy Day. Peter spends the day alone exploring the snowy world outside his apartment but at the end the day when he comes home, his mother is there to peel off his wet clothing and hear all about his adventures!  Finally, I really appreciate the Mama llama in Llama Llama, Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. In this witty book written in rhyme, Llama Llama starts to fret about being alone in the dark after Mama has tucked him in! I love the opportunity this narrative provides for me to explain what a phone looked like when it was attached to the wall with a spiral cord attached to the receiver!

Llama Llama, Red Pajama

princess and the peas

Another theme that I explored in the picture books I selected this week were narratives in books without a mother figure in them. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke and The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart were enjoyed by all. Both stories portray very spunky protagonists and craft a storyline where there is a breakdown in understanding between father and daughter. In the end everything is rectified, but the books serve as a good reminder that not every child has both a mother and father.

treelady

Using the theme of “mother earth,” I also sought to include depictions of women in picture books who cared for our earth. The titles I selected were Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, and The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins. In each of these books the central figure is a woman that does something to make a lasting and significant difference on the environment. My students made connections about the way their own mothers care for them and how these women cared for the earth in much the same way through their nurturing, dedication, and patience.

mothershouse

In Our Mothers House by Patricia Polacco is a wonderful book to engage the class in a discussion about what is the essential component of a family. How does our own family compare to that of the one portrayed in this book where two mothers have adopted three children?  Students are able to articulate the characteristics essential to be able to raise a family of strong, independent children. And the students never fail to comment to how much love is expressed in the images of this family!

the-Giving-Tree

Whenever possible, I seek to work poetry into any lesson that I can with students. Reading poetry aloud provides a platform to discuss the author’s economy of language and symbolism used when dissecting the text. How could mother’s day pass without a look at The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? For my students in third and fourth grade they are typically surprised by this book. It is such a sharp departure from the humorous poetry he made his signature, but it never fails to inspire the students to talk.  And the conversation from our discussion is rich – does “the tree” symbolize a parent? How do we treat the people who love us unconditionally? What do we really need to be happy?

Finally, as the day came to a close in my own home, I had my daughters listen to The Lanyard by Billy Collins. If you have a poem or picture book that you love reading for Mother’s Day, please share it so we can all add it to our list or resources on this topic!

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Picture Book Fun

In the spring when library curriculum collaborations with teachers are coming to a close, I enjoy getting back to stories.  That’s not to say it isn’t always about stories.  However, there are times in the middle of a research project when students are begging me “to just read a story to them in the cozy corner.”  There are times in the middle of a bibliography lesson when the millionth student tells me that she can’t find the copyright date that I want to escape to the cozy corner too!

For our lucky primary students, it is the story time of year.  We are escaping to the cozy corner for picture book sharing, story discussion, and activities to accompany the books.  With stories, we reinforce lessons on kindness, courage, and grit that have been woven into our curriculum units this year.

In recent weeks the primary grades have enjoyed:

 Boy + Bot by Dan Yaccarino

T.L.C. by M H Clark

The Great Lollipop Caper by Dan Krall

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Our activities have included tearing up paper to make “perfect” square pictures, guided drawing, inventing new lollipop flavors while tasting capers (some say “blech” and some say “yum!”), and writing and illustrating books promising a little T.L.C. to someone special.  It’s been a blast!

This week, first grade students read and discussed The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts.  If you haven’t read this picture book yet, here’s a synopsis:  Sally McCabe is the smallest girl in the smallest grade.  No one notices her at all.  Yet Sally has a knack for noticing everything.  In the author’s words, “Sally was paying super extra special attention.”  One day in the cafeteria, Sally stands up for those who are being mistreated and unnoticed at school.  She speaks up and lets her voice be heard, and her voice is not the smallest voice in the smallest grade grade.  Students and teachers take notice.  In that moment she makes a change in the world.

We had a serious and candid discussion about bullying, kindness, and speaking up for others.  The first graders had a lot to say about things they notice or experience that make them happy or sad.  They could easily walk in the shoes of Sally, or someone who’s been picked on, or someone who’s helped others.  The students wanted to share their thoughts on how they can make a change in the world.  For this activity, I stuck to the oldest method out there: drawing and writing their ideas.

Following are some of our favorite examples with the text typed underneath the picture.

IMG_0505 If somebody is alone say do you want to play.

IMG_0506 If I see somebody getting bullied I will ask them to stop.

IMG_0508Ignore someone if they say something mean.

IMG_0507I can help the earth by picking up trash.

IMG_0509I can hold the door more.

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I do not like it when people treat books badly.  What I’m going to do is to  strictly say stop.

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I will tell them to stop nicely but if they do not stop I will say it more serious and serious and when they stop I will help the person who got hurt.

IMG_0512I saw someone cut in line at lunch!  So I said stop!!! and he did.

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People have been hurting dogs and puppies.  I want to save those dogs and puppies.

These are examples of why I adore working with first grade students.  And to be as candid as a first grader, I love the end of the school year!

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What are you doing with students as the school year comes to a close?

 

 

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Impressions of a Newbie; My First AISL Conference

Flamingos of a Feather: AISL Tampa 2015

By: Selene Athas

When I registered for my first AISL conference back in October, I had no idea what to expect. New to the school librarian’s world and new to the world of independent schools, I eagerly anticipated my conference experience with nervousness and excitement. Today, as I sit at my desk in the middle school library at Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School, I find myself daydreaming and reflecting upon my amazing 3 days and 4 nights at AISL Tampa 2015. Aside from the amazing learning and collaborating that took place, what stands out most are the stories I heard from my many conversations with librarians from all over North America.

The bingo card that was in my welcome packet forced me to introduce myself to complete strangers so that I could find out which librarian appeared on Jeopardy!® or which media specialist is the mother of two sets of twins. I don’t think I would have been so bold as to ask these questions on my own, but since it was for a prize and I am extremely competitive, I was on a mission!

While conversing with each person, it was comforting to know that most of the people I spoke with did not necessarily start out in life wanting to be a librarian. I think I had a latent desire to become one from an early age, but somehow, my path in life took many unexpected twists and turns. One commonality I discovered was that keynote speaker Laura Damon-Moore (with whom I fortuitously shared a shuttle to the hotel) also studied theatre in her undergraduate years, and went on to be a successful public librarian, author, and speaker! I spent way too many years looking back and regretting my intense focus on theatre (and not taking enough “real” classes, which I later had to do to become a teacher/librarian), but finally my choices have become more legitimized as I discover myriad interdisciplinary relationships and how librarianship is at the heart of virtually every other profession.

Listening to Chris Bashinelli’s world view and the advice he gave to the young people in attendance empowered me to go back to my school with my own mission to emphasize experiences and relationships rather than the acquisition of material goods. How fitting it was to hear from someone who gave up a life seemingly filled with glamour and celebrity to travel the world and create meaningful connections with people of other cultures. He emphasized the importance deep listening –without judgment – and a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zones. Hearing these words validated something within me as I contemplated my own journey towards librarianship.

Everyone I encountered displayed true passion for the acquisition of knowledge, and it was clear how all of us know how important it is to develop literate members of society. From conversations about books to board games, we are all birds of a feather (or, since we were in Florida…flamingos), flocking together to learn more so we can do more for our students. I felt deep connections with my new colleagues, as if I had known them for many years. I felt welcomed, valued, and a part of an interdependent group of top-notch professionals.

Refreshed, renewed, and filled with inspiration, I know I can gaze around my library and incorporate many ideas I acquired along my #AISLTampa2015 journey. The final message I took away was this: everyone needs a librarian, and it feels good to be needed. We build the future.

 

Ms. Selene Athas

Media Specialist

Middle School/Preschool/Kindergarten

Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School

 

 

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