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Origin Story V

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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



Origin Story IV

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

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


“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

-Seneca (allegedly- this attribution is disputed)

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

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

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

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

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



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




E-Mail Etiquette: Advice from Shakespeare

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

                                     E-mail inbox



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This subject heading

Smith 2nd period Math Corrections Attached

will get a quicker response than


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

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

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


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

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

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




May the Force be with you!

Leave the flowery poetry to Romeo and Juliet.

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

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

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

Universities and E-mail Etiquette

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

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

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

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

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

E-mail Etiquette (ppt. by Joan Lange)

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



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This is loosely an origin story, though I’ll branch off from there. You’ll note in a minute or less that my origin story couldn’t be more straightforward. Two years after college graduation, I was working in Admissions at the same school I had entered as a freshman ten years prior. I was in the process of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life with the earnestness only possible of someone in their early 20s. I knew I wanted to stay in education, and the school librarian seemed to be the best position in the school. You get to work with pretty much everyone, your days are always different, and the library is often one of the prettiest rooms in the building

When I told people I was going to earn my MLIS, I usually got one of two reactions.

  1. “That makes sense. You’ve always loved to read.” Family remembered me with every series book available to children of the 1980s and 90s: Bobbsey Twins, Tillerman cycle, Encyclopedia Brown, Sleepover Friends, Saddle Club, every iteration of Sweet Valley Kids/Twins/High and The Babysitters’ Club, Narnia, Cleary and Blume by the dozens, Fear Street…I could keep going. I recall a particular affinity for the stories of Barthe Declements and Paula Danziger. Remember Me to Harold Square and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler inspired many a New York scavenger hunt on my part.


  1. “Huh? I didn’t realize they still had libraries. They’ll be obsolete soon.” Much has been written about library naysayers and why they are incorrect, so I’ll just say that libraries are as relevant today as they’ve ever been even if their form looks a bit different. To the first group, please tell me where I can find a job where I get paid to read all day. I’m in!

Fast forward ten years, and we are caught up to the present where I’ve learned that school librarian is pretty much my perfect profession.

Except “librarian” isn’t a profession I can drop off at the end of the day; it’s just my personality. Alyssa has taken the title of Thrifty Grocery Ninja, and I’d like to henceforth be known as an Organizational Wizard.

Some examples from the past week since we are visiting my husband’s family in Washington State where the summer weather is ideal.

  1. I have part of a dresser in the Washington house, and a few years ago I realized that I’d overpack because I didn’t remember what I kept here. 5 minutes making a list on Google Drive solved that issue. I’ve never had to worry about over- (or under-, though that’s seldom my problem) packing since.
  2. I went berry picking this morning with plans of canning this afternoon. For the past three years I’ve kept notes on the process and on who receives the jams afterwards. As with the previous example, it seems so simple and yet I bet I would have let the fruit-pectin mixture boil over if I hadn’t seen, “Fruit-pectin boils FAST and FROTHS. Stir and DON’T leave the pot.” (Sheepishly, I might remember a sticky strawberry stove from last July.)

    236 Bop's News Folders

    organizing day one

  3. Last Friday, my husband’s grandmother brought out a cardboard box of family notes, newspaper clippings, and awards that went from 1923 to 2005. There were some file folders but not a lot of order. And a lot of news clippings! The family has lived in one town for generations and has been prominent in local business, politics, education, and charities. Know what I find super fun? Solving the date mystery by using clues in the article (or the article on the reverse), photos, similar stories in different papers, etc. What year was February 25 on a Thursday roughly in the 1950s? So much of local history still hasn’t been digitized, so while the Internet is a help, you can’t just type in text from articles. There was a visceral YES when I’d find a full paper that was a repeat of a clipping and the year matched my guess. An added benefit is that the materials are dated and sheet protected and organized in a three-inch three-ring binder. Now future generations can easily peruse while seeing the context in which something was written. And the grandmother think I’m an organizational wizard, so I have my first fan!

    235 Bop's News Folders

    organizing day two (not the finished product)

I realize it might just be me and an obsessive attention to detail but I’m hoping there are others. Are there times when your “library skills” have led to a smoother and more productive life outside the library? Happy midsummer!

237 Computers and Libraries 1990s

Plus you come across cool things like this college brochure talking about libraries with the latest technology!


Budget crisis

At the end of the school year I was engaged in the usual tasks (and some not-so-usual ones, as I am moving into a new building this fall and had to vacate my old one), one of which is of course handling renewals for the upcoming school year. Undeniably it is always a little bit painful to have to contemplate fall when I can still taste the frosting on the commencement reception cake, but time marches inexorably on, so those purchase orders must get written.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a librarian who felt he or she had enough in the budget. I did have a mentor once who felt like her budget was pretty comfortable, but she didn’t go so far as to say she couldn’t find a way to spend a little more if she had it. Really, most librarians I know are asked to keep doing more with less, and then still more with still less, and so on. Prices go up, but the budget does not expand to accommodate it, and there is no such thing as Spanx to squeeze all those annual renewals in with no obvious bulges.

Time to get ferocious. I have been called a Grocery Ninja more than once. People standing behind me in line at the supermarket have asked me for tips and hints. I’ve been told I should have a home economy blog. (I don’t need any more deadlines I won’t be able to meet!) So, I am used to tackling thrift like I can get an Olympic medal in it and I decided to take an even firmer approach to the library budget this year. Were there surprising pockets of money lurking around in there that I didn’t consider?

Some of these methods may work for you, and some may not. For example, I’ve always processed my own books, from cataloging to stickering to covering. At a cost of at least a dollar per book depending on the vendor, it’s a savings for me but you may not have the staff or time to devote to it.

So, where else did I get creative? Here goes, with the above caveat in mind:

I had slashed and slashed our periodicals till we had gotten down to about a quarter of the magazine titles we had in print when I started seven years ago. I was careful to poll the faculty each time, and to check if we had access to the titles in our databases. I realize that print and digital are not exact equivalents of each other – there’s just no equal to those New Yorker covers! – but our poetry teacher was surprisingly easygoing about consulting American Poetry Review via database. Then I found a different magazine wholesaler who sold me the exact titles I wanted at a savings of $150 a year. Next, I approached individual departments about purchasing one or two titles out of their own departmental funds if they were very specific in focus. The language department was happy to buy a Spanish magazine, and the history department chipped in for digital access to The Economist. That saved me another $150 or so.

The biggest savings I realized were a happy accident for which I cannot claim credit: EBSCO’s Discovery Service is now available for a consortial purchase through MISBO at a steep discount. With those huge savings in hand, I was able to purchase a streaming online video service for classroom use. Because I will now be getting most of our video resources that way, I won’t need much in my budget for buying DVDs.

And then it occurred to me that I was paying for access to catalog records for A/V materials so I could catalog my own DVDs in-house. If I wasn’t going to catalog more than a few DVDs a year, couldn’t I drop that? I could. That’s another $150 or so.

MISBO, like Sam’s Club or Costco, charges a fee for participation and access to discount buying. In MISBO’s case, it’s a percentage of whatever you order. It turns out that this percentage goes up depending on when you finalize. Note that I said finalize: it means you’ve encumbered the funds but it’s not the same as actually paying the bill, so if it doesn’t match your fiscal cycle dates, you’re still OK. The difference between three percent of your purchase and seven percent of your purchase can be a bundle, so if you can get your shopping cart finalized early, you save quite a bit on those fees.

By the time I was done, I had managed to squeeze about $775 out of a budget that previously had nothing to spare. Not a mountain of cash, but if someone told you that you could have $775, or nothing, what would you take? Yup, me too. “Wow,” said my boss, “you should do everyone’s budget. This is amazing. Can we find enough to get a third story on the new building somehow?”

I’ll let you know how that goes. Excuse me. I have to get back to clipping coupons.


Origin Story III

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

Today we will head down south to visit Katherine Smith Patin at the Isidore Newman School in Louisiana.


My job came from the grocery store.   I was just out of school with a degree in European history and a few education classes, lots of bills, and no plans. I temped in a bank, then tried selling French antiques, and concluded ultimately that I really, really missed school. I had an aunt who taught history at Isidore Newman in New Orleans, so I told her I might like a career in education. Within a week she ran into the school’s librarian in Dorignac’s, which is the type of grocery where you see everyone from celebrity chefs to your beloved first grade teacher. Mr. Prescott had a colleague who was retiring after thirty years. He was dreading the interview process, and figured I was worth a try. And since I was young (28,) I probably had the bonus feature of knowing about computers. The school administrators were less encouraging. Few know what library work entails, so after a smattering of questions they moved on, in some desperation, to my thesis, which was on the unfortunate topic of the anti-alcohol movement in fin-de-siecle France. The fact that I could speak confidently about absinthe and home distillery was no endorsement. They asked what I was reading. Flustered, I told them the truth. Thank goodness it was not David Sedaris, or even the civilized but unscholarly domestic fiction of Rosamunde Pilcher that I had binge-read in mental exhaustion after I finished school. It was a biography called The Aristocrats, by Stella Tillyard. I remember feeling embarrassed, as if I’d been caught in my underpants. There was silence, and then, “So you’re still reading history?” Feeling incurably dull and wondering how anything on my bedside table could be wrong (this was before Fifty Shades of Gray) I was passed on to the headmaster. We had a lovely discussion about my reverence for the teaching profession. My first day at Newman was Wednesday, July 1, 1998.

I know all schools have great kids, but Newman had so many of them. Verbally adept, clever, and playful—they did not fit the stereotypes of my high school experience. Newman is a place where the blonde cheerleader scores a perfect SAT, the football player sings in the chorus, and the gamer with the screen tan is a champion debater. Achievement is a state of mind, and the unknown is not frightening, but full of potential. In that spirit I started working on my MLIS in 2006. I did it because I thought I should. It’s the only “certification” we have. But who knew there were ethics in librarianship—controversy even! Censorship and equal access mean different things in different libraries. At Newman no one draws a Muumuu on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, but the independent school world is busily debating whether print or digital media is more conducive to learning. I like to think that I am helping kids find helpful resources in the most convenient formats for them. Somehow, along the line, being a librarian stopped being a job and became more of a mission.


Don’t be shy!

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


Speaking Picture Book

Working as a farm hand at my friend’s farm last week brought out the picture book in me. Daily I would be reminded of the dialogue, plot, or illustrations of farm-themed picture books. It occurred to me that perhaps it is possible to speak ‘picture book’. Does thinking in ‘picture book’ mean fluency in some strange children’s librarian literary language? I’m not certain.

Take, for example, the morning that my friend and I were fixing the door to the chook house where the layer chickens live safely from predators. While drilling a hole for the new latch I felt something attacking my shorts. Alas, it was a goat chewing on the pocket buttons. Immediately I thought of To Market, To Market by Anne Miranda and illustrated by Janet Stevens. A shopper goes to market and all the animals she brings home create havoc in her home, including a goat with an appetite.

On my first full day at the farm there was a tornado warning that spurred a flurry of activity. Most importantly, we had to secure the animals. With palpitating heart I worked through the chores thinking about Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long. Otis, the little red tractor, leads all the farm animals, even the bully of a bull, to safety when a tornado hits the farm. We were extremely lucky that the tornado passed around the farm. Unfortunately, it did hit surrounding towns.

Image result for pig in the pond

Visiting the large pet pig on the farm is a daily treat. She is enormous, friendly, and very polite at mealtime. When the sun heated up and the days became steamy, this pig would lay in a massive mud puddle. Oh, how I smiled thinking about The Pig in the Pond by Martin Waddell. One of my favorite stories! If you are familiar with the story, you will be glad to know that NO, I did not remove my clothes and jump into the puddle beside the pig!

Bernard Most’s cow stories, The Cow That Went OINK and Cock-A-Doodle-Moo! are story time favorites that played over and over again in my imagination as I watched the cows on the farm. The cows at this farm do not speak anything except cow. Moooooooo!


The dogs. Oh how I love the dogs on this farm. Again, I think of the Stevens sisters, and their book Find a Cow Now! The farm dogs love to herd the animals (any animals). They also love to play fetch and I am talking about serious games of fetch. Neither of the dogs is as destructive as the black pup in Chewy Louie by Howie Schneider, but I thought of Chewy Louie because of the intensity of the farm dogs and their determination to play fetch constantly. Chewy Louie is one focused dog.


Other books that paraded through my thoughts while at the farm were Margaret Wise Brown’s Big Red Barn illustrated by Felicia Bond, Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker, Moo, Baa, La La La by the amazing Sandra Boynton, and Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin.

Not only did I find my mind to be a festival of picture books related to the farm, I found myself thinking “that would make a great picture book story!” When one of the dogs was herding the guinea hens that roam the farm I was ready to start writing. However, I was in the vegetable garden and my hands were covered in mud and holding a spade. There was also story potential when I saw a goat lying peacefully in a little red wagon or when it was pouring rain and the dogs were like wet mops. At feeding time a chicken flew up and on to my friend’s back, hoping to get its share of the feed first. And when we were repairing a gate and one of the many farm cats climbed up onto this same friend’s shoulders and then on top of her head, I could have written that cat’s tail (tale).

There were stories to be found in almost every minute of the farm day.

Do you speak picture book?  Do you think in picture books?

Do you have a favorite farm animal picture book?










Library UX

“Every decision we make affects how people experience the library. Let’s make sure we’re creating improvements”. ~ Schmidt, A. and A. Etches. (2014). Useful, usable, desirable: applying user design experience to your library. ALA TechSource.

This book caught my eye while at a May meeting of CIS librarians (those of us working in independent schools in Ontario) – shout out to library staff at Crescent School in Toronto for sharing this and other great resources with us.

I’m finding it fascinating, and with summer here and more time to think big, I thought I’d share some ideas that seem particularly relevant to me, and hopefully to you, in terms of library user experience (UX):


“Staff members are friendly and genuinely want to help”

I will soon be looking to replace an experienced and engaged colleague upon her retirement. This book reminded me of one of her best qualities – she really likes the students! I recognize the importance of library qualifications and expertise but when filling the position, will want to balance this with genuine interest in our 450 students from 30+ countries.

This section also noted how we all can become ‘entrenched & territorial” about what we do – great reminder for me to never shy away from re-examining how we offer library services. Schmidt and Etches offer a neat idea: place a whiteboard and marker by the exit, asking “Did you get the help you needed today?” Terrifying and exciting to think of what we might discover…


Service standards should be consistent across all platforms

We connect with our users in many ways – in person, by phone, over email, through chat, and online, including website and social media. This allows for great opportunity, but also the peril of an inconsistent and frustrating user experience.

Schmidt and Etches suggest that we find someone who’s never used our library, and ask them to run through a certain scenario (find the catalogue, put an item on hold, return an item). Include scenarios that bring them to our physical space, as well as our online presence. If possible, unobtrusively observe them. Afterwards, ask them about their experiences, about what was helpful and what was confusing.

This “journey mapping” should allow us to better understand the different ways in which people complete the same task, and what we can do to improve it. Implement what we can and test again!


Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Perhaps the rest of you are more aware of font guidelines, but I found this very useful:

  • Serif (eg. Times, Garamond) is good for blocks of text for long-form reading
  • Sans serif (eg. Arial, Verdana) is better for signs, headlines, reading on screen
  • Pick two (perhaps one serif and one sans) and stick with them alone
    • If only using one (which can be ‘unrestful & difficult to parse’), choose Helvetica

The book also pointed out how unprofessional hastily-prepared signs can look (“taped-up paper signs make us sad”) – guilty as charged! Instructional signs often highlight something that could be better designed for more intuitive use (eg. self-check machine). And overall, we should check that signs pass the “tone test” to help create a positive user experience. For example:

 Absolutely no cell phone use in the Library

Polite use of cell phones is encouraged


Watch your language!

 Yep – with all of our library acronyms and jargon, we’re the worst. I don’t even recognize all of the terminology, so how can I expect my students to keep up? Schmidt & Etches remind us that even words such as “database, catalog, reference, EBSCO” mean little to our users.

The only contention I would make here is that this book is applicable to all (including public) libraries, and I do see value in using terms that our students will encounter at college/university (eg. database). However, I will endeavour to keep the user experience in mind when choosing my words.


And more….

Tweaking your web design and navigation? Designing marketing materials? Trying to come up with a new colour scheme for your space? For 164 pages, this book is an amazingly engaging and accessible read, with useful examples and practical ideas, many of which can be easily implemented.

 *This message brought to you by a librarian who is not receiving any financial kick-back for her enthusiastic endorsement of this product.


Postcard from La Jolla and the AISL Summer Institute


Listening to Dr. Regina Ballad discuss Women and the Bible.

We’re midway through this year’s Summer Institute, hosted by Sarah Lucy at The Bishop’s School here in lovely La Jolla. This summer’s theme is Collaboration, specifically with the teachers we work with throughout the year. Phrases from the prospectus include ‘intellectual enrichment’, ‘building enhanced relationships with teachers and the subjects’, and ‘deep thinking’. This summer’s focus will be on developing a connection with some of the topics our teachers present in order to increase our effectiveness when we work with our teachers. When we have a better understanding of a topic, we are able to be more effective in our work with both teachers and students. That’s the thinking, anyway, and I can already see that it’s spot on.

Jen Reading and Marsha Hawkings adding CO2 to water to see Ph balance alter. Session on Climate Change.

Jen Reading and Marsha Hawkins adding CO2 to water to see Ph balance alter. Session on Climate Change.

Yesterday we were privileged to participate in focused sessions on Shakespeare, Beethoven, Chaucer and Poetry in World War I presented by master teachers from the Bishop’s faculty. Each session was distinct and (in theory) independent from the others, but as we librarians know, everything is connected. Beethoven’s 9th symphony’s role as a paean to Peace echoed through the poetry of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen. Thinking of new ways to present scenes from Coriolanis or Twelfth Night connected down the centuries with the ways Chaucer came to write his Canterbury Tales. Climate Change, Global Markets, George Washington and Women in the Bible are the other sessions covered at this institute. Two parts to this brings rewards. The ideas that spring forth about how to work with teachers connected to these subjects are exciting, but also– the personal inspiration of my own exposure to these amazing topics is surprisingly rewarding. To be able to have the time to be a student and to learn– it seems like a real indulgence. But stepping back from my inner guilty conscience, I can see that this time spent on immersing myself in these topics is a very useful exercise which will enhance my ability to work effectively with our teachers and students. It just happens to be, in addition, exciting and deeply satisfying. As you can see, I am working hard on trying not to feel guilty.

Bishop's School teacher presenting on the Global Economy.

Bishop’s School teacher presenting on the Global Economy.

As we continue with our sessions, I am very grateful for the opportunity to feed the intellectual curiosity that I have perhaps let lie fallow in the decades since college. With all the librarians here there is a wonderful synergy flowing throughout the conference, with tasty box lunches out on the terrace, at dinners and breakfasts and on quiet conversational walks through the delightful village of La Jolla. We are able to discuss these issues that are of personal interest, and -wouldn’t you know- we often end up figuring out how these issues would fit into our projects and curricula.  That’s education for you!

Thanks to Sarah Lucy for organizing this amazing Summer Institute, and thanks to Linda Mercer for being the brains behind the development of AISL’s Summer Institute in the first place. Next year the Institute is being organized by Katie Archambault to be held at the Emma Willard School. Watch for details and don’t miss this opportunity to get your AISL fix in the middle of the summer, when there is a little bit more time for reflection and regeneration.





Ode to a 12 Month Employee

I thought about how to title this post as I walked home for lunch…some of my other thoughts included “Pros and Cons of working during the summer”, and “Hello <hellooo, hellooo> is there anybody out there <out there, out there>??!.

So yes, I’m still walking home for lunch. Then back to work. Most of you, I hope, will be alerted of this new blog post from your poolside seat, or perhaps working in your garden, sweat on your brow, or your phone will buzz in your pocket as you push your child on a swing, or as you sit catching up with a long neglected friend over coffee, or <gasp!> maybe you’re reading a good book?

I say good for you, 10 month employee, good. for. you.

I am only a teeny bit jealous.

You see, there are things to get done in my world. Things that I simply can’t find time to do during the school year. Here are a few of my major tasks to complete over the next 6 weeks:

  • Go through the thousands of books donated to me by faculty moving homes, offices, by those retiring or simply those purging their shelves at the end of the year. I’ll keep the things we need and sell the rest through Thriftbooks, splitting shipping and proceeds. I’m saving up to fund stage 1 of a Learning Lab concept that I’m excited to try out here. More on that in a future post. Anyway, books are stacked everywhere. It’s insane.
  • Complete inventory of print collection. Disclosure: has not been done since 2010. I’m going in. This could be interesting. If you don’t hear from me in a week, someone call for help.
  • Weed like crazy.
  • Add weeded books to aforementioned boxes of books headed for resale.
  • Migrate to Libguide 2.0. Loved the posts about pulling old content and reposting updated material as needed during new school year. Have decided not to spend tons of time mulling over migration and losing content. I’m just ripping off the bandaid and migrating, fixing as I go next year.
  • Creating curriculum for Sophomore Advising Program. While I have you, are any of you lead class advisors? Do you work with Sophomores? Care to share any big advising program successes?
  • Create a playbook of mini research lessons for teachers to choose from next year, a la carte if you will.
  • Replace dinosaur self check-out computer with iPad station. Has anyone already done this? Do you have a mount that you prefer that allows the camera to be used to scan barcodes using the Follett App?
  • Create as much newsletter content as possible so that I can adhere to my bi-monthly newsletter goal (swallowed last year by putting out fires continuously). Database profiles, good books I’m reading this summer (YES, 10 monthers, I am still reading. So far, “Saint Anything”, “The Attachments”, and I’m just finishing up “The Red Tent”…all very good reads), cool apps for education, blogs to follow, that sort of thing.

You get the picture.  You know what the weirdest part is? I’m pretty o.k. with this. Granted, we are spending mucho dinero on summer camps for 3 kids and there is a ton of fun stuff to do in this area in the summer months which will have to wait for the weekends, and I *completely get* that doing non-work related things is totally necessary for recharging one’s battery (soul??).

It’s also really, really nice to check things off the work to-do list to give professional peace of mind, and to run an effective library program during the school year. Especially for the solo-librarian. If I had a team to divide the to-do list with, I don’t think that I would find the summer months as necessary as they are. That makes me a little sad to type, but it’s the truth.

I’m a loud librarian and it’s creepily quiet in here. By August, I’m going to be be standing outside waving people in.  I thrive on the life and activity that my students provide in the space, but it’s also really nice to wear shorts and flip flops, to blast my favorite Pandora station, and to just get *stuff* done.

And can I just tell you how much I’m looking forward to a 3 week southern adventure with my children later this summer? I will be leaving my laptop at home.

Time to get back to it. I hope you enjoy whatever it is YOU are doing this summer.