on NEW things for a new year…

Happy New Year!

I didn’t have the faintest idea about what I should write about this month. Among this month’s topic possibilities that are pertinent to none of the rest of you:

  • Sleep Number Beds – I got a Sleep Number Bed. It is a ridiculous amount of money for, basically, an air bed, but OMG worth every penny…
  • Family and Brain Drain – My niece and her husband who had lived in Honolulu after finishing graduate school returned to Columbus, OH where they met and bought a beautiful 3000 square foot home in a good school district in Columbus for the price of a fixer upper one bedroom condo in Honolulu. Uncle Dave is both thrilled for them and a little heartbroken at the same time.
  • The Theory of Winter Relativity – We have not had a “bomb cyclone” here in Honolulu, but our students are walking around with parkas and scarves because, you know, it’s winter and some of our daytime highs have been as appallingly low as 74 degrees. Kids aren’t wearing knit caps this week because those only come out when it is 72 or below. We’re not without reason, people…

So anyway, while trying to come up with something to write about when I have to post “next week Wednesday,” I realized that this post actually has to go out on Wednesday, January 10th. Also known as tomorrow!!! So here we are!


As the new year dawns, I find myself most excited about two things that might be pertinent to the rest of you:

Embedded Librarianship – Way back in 2016, Katie Archambault shared an awesome post about her efforts aimed at Personalizing the Library/Research Experience for her students by employing a model of embedded librarianship. It’s taken me a lot longer than hoped to follow her lead, but this semester we will be endeavoring to embed research instruction into three sections of a Junior/Senior English course on the Literature of War and four sections of Junior/Senior IB Global Politics. Teachers of both courses have scheduled their classes into the library for at least one 85 minute block period per week and on those days we will have an opportunities to do both mini-lessons and to schedule individual research appointments and provide personalized research support in 10-15 minute blocks. It is the first opportunity we have had to work with our upper level students that might venture beyond the typical “help them with databases” boilerplate lesson so I am excited to see where our students take us in this pilot!

Unto Us a Library Is Born! – After a LONG gestation. My colleague, Nicole, and I have given birth to a beautiful bouncing baby library! She is currently tiny and a little bit undersized by some measures coming in at about 750+ volumes (and a rather robust few hundred pounds), but she is being well fed and continues to grow at a good clip every month!

Mid-Pacific has a long history as a 7th-12th school, but became a PK-12 school in 2004 when a merger with Epiphany Elementary School was completed. Over time, library services were expanded in the main library for students in grades 3-12, but a model of robust classroom libraries was employed in grades K-2. A year ago, Nicole and I started library services with our Kindergarten classes on two book trucks that we rolled into classrooms. This year, we will continue with K class and will be expanding services to our 4 1st/2nd grade combo classes as well. The collection needed to accommodate the classes made continuing to move the trucks into classrooms for lessons impractical so our wonderful Elementary Principal carved out space where the collection can be housed and where we will deliver our library lessons. The sign on the door still says, “Conference Room,” but just between us… In my mind, it’s now the “K-2 Library.”

In an age where libraries everywhere seem to continually need to work to preserve their spaces for use as libraries, I feel completely blessed to work at a school where people at all levels are helping us find ways to make books, digital resources, and library instruction available to students!

Sometimes I complain about stuff, but the reality is that I work for an incredibly supportive team of administrators and with an incredibly supportive faculty! The School President along with the Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals are all “library people” so if I’m ever complaining even a little, please remind me of that wonderful truth!


We’re a PK-12 school. We service students in 3-12 in our main library, but haven’t had a K-2 lending collection until Monday of this week!


This is our new baby! Our K-2 library (sometimes known as the Elementary School Conference Room), is currently tiny at just over 750 volumes and a few hundred pounds, but she is being nourished well and will continue to grow! We couldn’t be more excited about the new addition to our library family!


And just in case you ever wondered, a fully loaded book truck builds up a LOT of momentum when you’re rolling it down the hill from the main library to the elementary campus!


A tiny librarian rolls a fully loaded book truck down a steep hill. You just don’t see that everyday. Believe me, it is very entertaining! I probably should have helped but I was trying to get a good picture because, you know, I have priorities. Hahaha!

Happy New Year, all!

May 2018 bring with it new eyes, new attitudes, new books, and lots of new library adventures to all! I’d SO love to hear about all that is new (and if it’s “new to you” it is, indeed, “new!”) in your libraries, so please hit comment and share!

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Thinking Like Leonardo

In the “Should it be STEM or STEAM” debate, no one is a better poster child of how Science and Art complement each other than Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo’s journals are filled with close observations of nature and the human body, as well as engineering drawings and notes detailing inventions, such as the precursors to the submarine, tank, and machines of the air.

Our students will be exploring how to think like the Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci in preparation for a writing workshop with Diane Stanley, author of the biographies Leonardo and Michelangelo. Following are a few curricular collaborations that highlight the genius of two Renaissance thinkers and creators, Leonardo and Michelangelo.

Leonardo’s Journals
Librarian Eve Zehavi will guide fourth graders as they discuss quotes from Leonardo’s journals and look closely at his sketches to determine what Leonardo emphasized about the act of thinking and creating.

How do you think like Leonardo?
How do you see like Leonardo?
How do you problem solve like Leonardo?

These are just some of the questions fourth graders will ponder as they reflect on quotes and sketches. Selecting one of Leonardo’s quotes and relating it to journal sketches, students will write a reflective paragraph using the model of “A Quote Sandwich:”

Top Bun of “Quote” Sandwich
(1) introduce the speaker and the quote

The “Meat”
(2) state the quote

Bottom Bun
(3) summarize the quote in your own words and connect to meaning of the quote based on sketches and designs in Leonardo’s journals.

Here is a reflective paragraph example that will be shared with students. Color coding shows parts of the “Quote Sandwich” and an image from Leonardo’s journal is selected to match the quote:

Painting Competition:
Leonardo and Michelangelo’s Battle Scenes

Our sixth graders have been studying the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and have been reading about the ancient artists and engineers who created them. One ancient artist, Scopas, created a famous scene of Amazons battling Greek soldiers, which appears on columns of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.  A history article described Scopas as a “Michelangelo of the Renaissance.”   Discovering this comparison became the impetus to have students compare and contrast this Greek artist’s battle scene with famous battle scenes by Leonardo and Michelangelo.

In one of the most famous painting competitions of the Renaissance, Leonardo and Michelangelo were each challenged to paint a battle scene glorifying the history of Florence. The paintings were to be on opposite walls of the same room of a Florentine republic council chamber. Leonardo was an older, established artist, and Michelangelo was a young, 25-year-old talented sculptor; both artists disliked each other and were very disparaging of each other’s artwork (Isaacson 367).  Author Diane Stanley depicts this painting battle in her two books Leonardo and Michelangelo, and this article from The Guardian will also be shared with our sixth graders.

I collaborated with the history and ELA teachers to develop primary source images and articles so that students can analyze these artworks to discuss comparisons. The history teacher, Cori Beach, will have students connect what they observed earlier in Egyptian art of a Kushite and Nubian battle scenes to the more realistic portrayal of soldiers in battle by the Greek artist Scopas. Donna Baughman, ELA teacher, will guide students to look closely at the artworks and to write in their journals brainstormed action verbs that help describe these battle scenes, such as the following:

Greek figures in the Scopas battle scene “lunging,” “stumbling,”

Expressive face of soldier by Leonardo described as “glaring” and “screaming”

Figures in the Michelangelo battle scene “twisting,” “arms thrusting”

Students will also make a list of transition words and bring these brainstorming journals with them to the writing workshop. Using this structure (adapted from Owl Writing Lab), students will write a comparison/contrast essay during the Writing Workshop with author Diane Stanley:

  • First: discuss how the Scopas battle scene is similar to either Leonardo’s or Michelangelo’s battle scene (and use specific examples and descriptive words).
  • Second: discuss how the Scopas and Renaissance battle scenes are different (and use specific examples and descriptive words).
  • Third: discuss characteristics of Scopas’ style (Hellenistic art) and evolving characteristics in Michelangelo’s or Leonardo’s art style (Renaissance, Humanistic art).

Looking Closely
We are excited to see how our fourth and sixth graders look closely at primary source images and quotes and connect to “Thinking Like Leonardo” and “Thinking Like Michelangelo” in this Writing Workshop. See below for further Leonardo resources to explore:

Treatise on Painting
(Leonardo’s notes on painting assembled and copied by his assistant, Francesco Melzi, and printed in 1651–Leonardo died in 1519)

Math and Science Activities for Leonardo

Math Forum: Leonardo da Vinci Math Activity

Da Vinci: The Genius
(Museum of Science, Boston)

Inventions Activity Quiz

Mirror Writing (Writing Backwards)

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (for adult readers)
Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley
Michelangelo by Diane Stanley

“And the Winner Is…” by Jonathan Jones (discusses the
painting contest between Leonardo and Michangelo)

Bibliography for Images:
Hamburger Low Polygon. Clip Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/186_1628980/1/186_1628980/cite. Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Botanical table by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), drawing 237. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/126_142634/1/126_142634/cite. Accessed 5 Jan 2018.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus: The Amazon Frieze. British Museum.
Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Leonardo, Heads of Warriors, Study. Photo. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/109_223586/1/109_223586/cite. Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Michelangelo. Battle of Cascina. 1504. Fordham Art History.
Fordham University. https://michelangelo.ace.fordham.edu/items/show/12
Accessed 7 Dec 2017.

Leonardo da Vinci. c. 1514. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 31 Aug 2017.  quest.eb.com/search/140_1809909/1/140_1809909/cite. Accessed 7 Dec 2017.

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Holiday Break is for Reading

All through the beginning of this school year, feeling like I was not getting enough time to read what I wanted to read, I quietly chanted (to myself!) “Holiday Break is for Reading; Holiday Break is for Reading; Holiday Break is for Reading…”

With just a few days left of this holiday break, I am happy to say that I have spent time reading similarly to how I did as a child: crashed out on the couch or on my bed during the day and under the covers with a small book light in the wee hours of the night.  It’s been wonderful.

Following is a list of my holiday break books, plus a few gems from the fall.  In no particular order…

Ghost: Track (book 1) by Jason Reynolds

My fifth-grade students have been crazy for this book and book two, Patina.  Now that I have read it, I understand.  Castle Cranshaw, aka Ghost, is a runner.  He has a natural ability for running that he discovered in the most terrifying of circumstances.  Luckily, a local track coach recognizes his talent and takes Ghost under his wing to help him as an athlete and a young man trying to make sense of the world.  The first chapter of this book is so expertly crafted that I closed the book for a few moments before starting chapter two to let the story sink in.   When I get back to school I’ll be after Patina.

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English

I’m not going to lie, I picked this one off the new book shelf because I thought that the cover was an interesting swirl of images.  The story introduces 12-year-old Sophie in Los Angeles in 1965.  Her family is the only African-American family in an all-white neighborhood.  Sophie struggles to find friends, feels uncomfortable and sad about her parent’s rocky marriage, and is dreading the day her older sister leaves for college and leaves her alone.  My favorite character in this book is the family’s new housekeeper.  She seems like a crotchety old woman who has nothing good to say about anything, but as the events in the story unfold and the layers of her character are peeled back, you discover so much more.  Sophie does too.

Greetings from Witness Protection! By Jake Burt

Nicki Demere is a foster kid; an unadoptable (she thinks) pickpocket.  Nicki, along with several other foster kids who have struggled to find permanent homes, is selected to take part in the U.S. Marshall’s witness protection program.  Her task: to move in with a family, assume a new identity, and keep the family safe from the extremely violent mobsters they are hiding from.  Good luck, Nicki!   I picked up this one because the reminded me of a favorite from last year, All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor.  I was not disappointed.

42 is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero by Doreen Rappaport

This is a must read for anyone interested in baseball, Civil Rights, and American Heroes.  I was stunned by all the new facts I learned about Jackie Robinson.  If you haven’t read it yet, the time is now.

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

Does anyone out there make zines anymore?  Malu, the punk-rocking, skateboarding, cilantro-hating, middle school student, is a master zine-maker.  This book is about her first year in a new school that’s 1,000 miles away from the home she’s always known and her punk-rocking Dad.

The Wall of Fame Game: The Magnificent Mya Tibbs (book 2) by Crystal Allen

With Denver’s annual Stock Show starting this week, it was fun to read about a family that’s boot-stompin’ fun.  Mya and her little brother Nugget are worried about how their family will change when their baby sister Macey is born in a few weeks.  Will they get to continue all their gosh-darn-root-tootin’ family traditions?

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is an amazing sequel to the amazing Newbery Honor book The War That Saved My Life.  If you haven’t read these two yet, please put them at the top if your pile!

Beyond the Bright Sea and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk.

I’m a big fan of listening to audio books in the car.  Lauren Wolk is an amazing new talent in the middle grade world.  Her books Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea are two of my all-time favorites and reading them again via audiobook has been a treat.  The beautiful language, deep and complex characters, unexpected plot twists, and profound lessons about life are just as compelling the second time around.


What did you read over the holiday break?





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Preserving Our School’s History


I don’t know how many of us school librarians are checking our email during winter break … for those who are, I apologize for the tardiness of this blog. Of course, I could use the usual excuse that I’m on break, that I had guests visiting, that it’s a crazy time of year, yada, yada, yada … all of which were true, but we’re all busy, so those are not good excuses.


I think that the real reason that I kept procrastinating is that this post was due on December 22nd, which would have been my dad’s 88th birthday. I thought about him all day and that he was the one who encouraged me to attend and then graduate from college (he was the first person in our family to do so and I was the second).


But what I kept thinking about was that he had a great story to tell and now he’s not here to tell it. I should have recorded his oral history or had him write down some of his major accomplishments or his thoughts and dreams.


How many of our independent schools are archiving the school’s history? La Jolla Country Day began in 1926 … the school will celebrate its centennial in eight years yet our Heritage Project was just started three years ago by an employee in development who had no idea that librarians should be part of the process. This former employee said nothing to any of us in the library … she just visited history centers to find out what and how. When I heard through the grapevine that she wanted to start putting our school’s history in some sort of order, I jumped onboard. An interested board member had office space that he let us use for a few months and we took boxes and boxes of papers and photos that had been stored above the gym to the space and started the process of assessing what we had.


And, as probably happens too frequently, the employee retired, the office space was no longer available and after a few old photographs of the school’s founder were used for publicity, the boxes went back into storage.


However, interest had been generated as people started talking about 10 years, then nine, now only eight until 2026 and the Parents’ Association put moneys aside to spend on a now-named Heritage Project. Also, fortuitously for the library, we hired an assistant (now our middle school librarian) with not just an archiving class or two under his belt (like me) but actual archiving experience.


There are some schools in AISL (mostly older and on the East Coast) that have their history online, accessible through their school’s website. There are even a few, fortunate schools that have a dedicated archivist on staff (lucky) but many of our schools are probably in similar situations to ours … the school is old enough that much will be lost unless we make preservation a priority. We recently lost a major benefactor to our school … she lived close by and was accessible to interview … but now it’s too late. We have a new theater tech teacher who wanted to line the walls leading to the theater with photos of past drama productions but all of the photos we could find were from recent productions. The teacher ended up scanning photos from yearbooks but the quality wasn’t great.


Speaking of yearbooks, we need to ensure that we have copies from every year. The science dept. wanted to give a yearbook to a retiring teacher from the first year that she taught at the school (1998). The only copy available was one that I had in the library and, as the yearbook adviser, I loved their idea for a retirement gift! The other upper school teachers all signed her old yearbook … only a handful were pictured with her (obviously many had moved on) but she enjoyed it nevertheless. We also need to ensure that we are preserving our newer, digital school activities. I’ve asked our yearbook rep if we could get a digital copy of this year’s yearbook, but so far no luck. Does anyone work with a yearbook company that will provide a reasonably priced digital copy?


So I just want to end with a plea that our schools start taking their histories seriously and not to forget to keep digital back-ups of current school happenings. So, Happy 2018 to all! May we enjoy the present, be curious about the future and preserve our past!














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A eulogy for our local newspaper

Last fall, I read Cecily Ross’ The lost diaries of Susanna Moodie, a fictionalized journal based on the life of a woman who emigrated to from England to the backwoods of Canada in 1830s.

If that hasn’t put you to sleep, know that I am fascinated by Moodie (and her sister Catharine Parr Traill) for a number of reasons, the greatest of which is that they settled in the area I call home. I often walk by the Cobourg wharf where their ship landed, have made the 10-minute drive into the country to see the historic plaque posted where Moodie first lived, and read the daily paper in which she published her poetry.

But no more – our local paper, published since 1831, has been shuttered. Sad but not surprising; many of the people indignant about the cut hadn’t shown their support with subscription dollars, and advertising revenue has understandably declined along with readership.

What will I miss about having the local paper in our library?

  • Reading coverage of school events (and having someone to ask to cover an event)
  • Learning about students’ & colleagues’ non-school activities in the community
  • Keeping up with obituaries of those who’ve passed in our small town
  • Watching someone complete the crossword or Suduko
  • Having a plethora of newsprint for art teachers in need (she says with partial sarcasm)

I am no Luddite, but felt it important to mark the end of this chapter. I’m curious to see what fate lies ahead for our national papers – one has recently changed formats, and I’ve been surprised to see it being read more frequently in our casual seating area. Coincidence? Temporary halt of the inevitable?


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And Time Keeps Marching On

“AHA moments” result from random encounters. One of my advisees recently surprised me with this as a Christmas gift.  

It’s shiny, hand-decorated with sparkly bits, much lighter than you’d imagine, and made from her home 3d printer. Her home 3d printer. She received it last year for Christmas, and apparently the model retails for approximately $250 dollars. I think that’s proportionately—and maybe even in real money—less than the black and white paper printer I had in college. How times have changed.

What struck me, however was not the gift itself. It was the normalness of all of this for her.

When I was in elementary school, my dad bought an AppleIIGS computer. I was obsessed. And despite the bad rap that some computer games have, my parents knew what they were doing. The only games I remember playing in the early years were “Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego” and “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.” Those games and also “The Print Shop.” If there was a birthday/yard sale/dinner menu happening, you can bet there was an accompanying card/banner/sign. For those of you unfamiliar with “The Print Shop,” it was a software package that “provided libraries of clip-art and templates through a simple interface to build signs, posters and banners with household dot matrix printers.” My grandparents were always thrilled to receive a card designed by me and printed in color on our very own home printer that could be counted on to screechingly and consistently print one page per minute. For me, nothing seemed strange about having a home printer producing cards. They never imagined home computers would become ubiquitous.

Side note-Since librarians like finding answers, I remembered that we had a dot-matrix printer but I didn’t know the name for the type of paper with the perforated borders and the little holes. Wikipedia to the rescue with the answer of continuous form paper.  I also got other keywords like fan-fold paper, burst paper, and tractor-feed paper. This is exactly what we want to model for our kids for starting-level research, right? So often I see searches thwarted prematurely when students don’t have the background knowledge to get to the search terms they need for the subject they are researching. But that’s fodder for another post…

Tying this back to schools, most changes are more subtle. Rolling in quietly like waves year after year, our roles shift a little each fall with technological innovations. Barring that aha moment, I don’t think about the ways that school librarianship has changed since I entered the field in 2005. But in ways large and small, librarianship has a different shape. Consider—

  • Changing search strategies. Google has gotten much better at anticipating searches and providing information directly in their search engine. A few years ago, we barely had tabs and content didn’t automatically synch across devices. As an iPad school, I love that I can airdrop materials right to students’ devices.
  • Learning Management Systems that automatically give the librarian access to all course materials and assignments, as well as student progress and grades. (I never miss the feeling of co-teaching a research lesson after being handed the assignment instructions as the class walked into the library.)
  • Google Drive, Libguides and other options for easily sharing information and collaborating in the cloud. It’s so easy to create and share. The burden has shifted to organization.
  • Free Amazon two-day shipping for items needed immediately for projects.
  • The ease of finding MARC records online for items that need to be cataloged. (See above)
  • Federated search engines, imperfect though they may be, that make it easier for students to use the databases that libraries purchase, and to find and cite the information they need.
  • The rise of visual search, especially in student presentation preparation, from image matching and location recognition, to sortability options for the ideal image.
  • Author Skype sessions that are less costly than in-person visits and the new AISL webinar series that lets us learn from our inspirational colleagues outside of the time and space constraints of the annual conference.
  • Conversations around the terms libraries, learning commons, and maker spaces. The fact that we need to specify the need for quiet spaces in our bustling collaborative spaces is a world away from the shhhing librarian.
  • SMARTPHONES- ie. the ubiquity of the Internet.  Need I say more?

There is always hand-wringing about new technologies. But there’s also the potential for positive momentum. We’re continually recalibrating towards a new normal. Since we’ve all entered the fields in different years and even decades, I’d love to hear your perspectives on the specific technologies that have changed schooling and your role in librarianing. Just some food for thought this holiday season, and I hope everyone enjoys their semester breaks.

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A New Direction for a Conference Staple

A New Direction for a Conference Staple

The Board Book Social has been a key component of the annual AISL conference for a number of years now. I have to admit that when the initial gathering was announced and the preparations were being put in place, I had no plans to attend as I thought there would be discussion of books enjoyed by toddlers (Board Books!) Of course, eventually I came to understand the social as a great opportunity to discuss books of professional reading in a relaxed setting with colleagues. There was always lovely food and liquid refreshments as well. Many of the conversations and much of the networking that has taken place at these events has been beneficial to the attendees. In recent years, though, the members of our AISL Board have noticed somewhat of a downturn in participation. This seems like the right time to explore a new direction for book selection and for the social.

Initially, one title was selected by the board members for discussion at the social. Later the line-up expanded to two titles with attendees choosing to read and discuss either. All of the titles selected to date have focused on topics of interest to information professionals, especially those engaged in working with young people, and the membership at large has been canvassed for suggestions. This year, we would like to propose a bit of a change. The idea is to expand the scope of the selected title or titles to include trending fiction and non-fiction titles of interest to librarians working with any level of students. In the interest of evolution, we are reaching out to you, the membership, and especially those who will be in attendance at AISL in Atlanta in April. We ask that you submit titles for consideration. In so doing, you would also be expressing your willingness to lead discussion of that book.  Once we have received a healthy number of submissions, we will poll the conference registrants to gauge interest. With this design we hope to offer opportunities for discussion that would be engaging for all. The social will continue to feature light appetizers and beverages.

We hope that the submissions run the gamut from serious professional development titles to interesting non-fiction to up-and-coming fiction so that everyone can find a title to their liking. This event offers a wonderful opportunity to mingle with and get to know other conference attendees in a relaxed setting. If this piques your interest you can submit a title to Board member, Renee Chevallier at rchevallier@ursulinedallas.org. The Board Book Social itself will take place on Wednesday evening following the events of the day. We aim to make this a must-do at the conference!

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on why there’s no time to present like the present…

I hope this post finds you festively preparing your winter break reading lists! I am currently forcing myself to finish My Brilliant [Zzzzz…] Friend by Elena Ferante for our Faculty Book Club meet-up in January (Sorry, I dozed just thinking about it for a moment there. Not really my cup ‘o tea as you might’ve guessed. Hahaha!). Offered here only for purposes of entertainment and not intended to be recommendations of these titles in any way, shape, or form, my winter break reading list includes:

If I did not love my job as much as I so thoroughly love mine, I would know that as of today two days of instruction and three days of exams stand between me and the start of winter break. Since I love my job so much, however, all that I know is that I have just 5 days to joyously continue adding contents notes to the catalog records for books in our Hawaiiana collection with a song in my heart before my administration forces us to shut down the library for two weeks and two days… #Alas I won’t be able to joyously work on enriching our catalog records for two whole weeks! #Sigh



On Presenting

This month I have conference presentations on my mind. I’m just going to say it. If you are a school librarian you need to present about what you know, and what you do. For a librarian, what we know and do everyday is simply… What we know and what we do everyday in the course of doing our jobs. For most of our colleagues and administrators, however,  what we know and do everyday is a mystery. When it comes to being a school librarian, being a mystery is NOT a good thing.

I actually presented quite sparingly for most of my life as a librarian, but participating in the professional community beyond the bounds of our institution is a significant part of the DNA of the school culture here at Mid-Pacific. When I moved here it became quite evident that my colleagues, including our administrators, made time to write for publication, shared “the Mid-Pacific story” on social media, and presented at conferences.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 8.00.44 AM

Good advice from Twitter!

If you’re anything like me as you are reading this, you’re thinking, “I’m a practicing school librarian. I don’t make a living giving speeches. Seriously, I’m just trying to figure out how to help my students understand that The Economist, Reason Magazine, and The National Review cover topics from different perspectives…” If that is you, then I’m here to tell you that YOU DO have important knowledge to share!

As a “non-expert,” taking the dive into presenting at a conference can feel incredibly uncomfortable and weird. Over the last few years, however, I’ve learned that the benefits gained are well worth the effort that it takes to dive in and learn swim in that particular pool of awkwardness.

Some Thoughts on Presenting in no Particular Order…

You Know Stuff that Other People will Find Amazing –  When I first started submitting conference proposals, it typically felt weirdly uncomfortable because I didn’t feel like I was an expert on anything. My reality is that I am a practicing school librarian that tries to figure out how to teach what I need to teach. What I’ve come to realize is that some of the best presentations I’ve ever attended at conferences were presented by practicing educators who were “just figuring stuff out” for themselves, but who were willing to share their work with a broader audience. Putting quotation marks around a phrase in a Google search is “everyday stuff” to us as librarians, but it is magic to someone who doesn’t know how to phrase search. Imagine where education could be if teachers and librarians could learn from the collective wisdom of others rather than figuring most of it out on our own!

Promote School Librarianship – School librarianship has a marketing problem. We do a lot of good work, but when English or biology teachers retire, rarely to never is there a question that the position should be filled with a qualified English teacher or biology teacher. Librarians do not enjoy the same privilege. We need to be better at explicitly sharing the value add that our programs bring to our respective institutions. Presenting at conferences is a good way to educate non-librarians about the value of school libraries.

Stamp a Due Date on Reflection – One of my biggest challenges as a librarian is the never-ending, open-ended nature of so much of our work. Weeding a collection is never really done. Catalog records are never completely cleaned up. There are always additional notes to add to records that will give students better keyword searching access points to books in the Hawaiiana collection. When the task has no end and I don’t have clear markers of progress, I tend to get discouraged and unmotivated. I’ve learned to use conference presentations as a way to impose deadlines for reflection on myself. Two or three times a year when I have to have something cogent to say about some aspect of my programming I am forced to think deeply about what’s working and what isn’t. In the end, the value to my own programming and emotional well-being is greater than the value given to anyone in an audience I might address.

Forced Analysis – I typically propose presentations either on something that I’m doing or that I want to do in the near future. When forced to synthesize my thoughts into a coherent 45-60 minute form for an audience, I’m forced to look closely at why what I do works or why what I tried to do didn’t work. In the throes of day-to-day survival in the library, when I make time to reflect, I’m often surprised at how much instruction I deliver out of habit rather than because it makes sound pedagogical sense. Putting a presentation together about what I’m teaching drives me to do analysis that goes below the surface.

Telling Your School’s Story is Good Business – I don’t know about you, but I like having a good medical plan, making a decent wage, and having a well funded 403b retirement plan. We don’t always think of it so, but an independent school is a business and telling your school’s story–making the good work you do known to people beyond your school community, is good for business. A school with full enrollment has a far better chance of having a well funded library than one that doesn’t have full enrollment.

Build Your PLN – Every time I present, I meet people interested in the in kind of pedagogy I want to practice or I meet people wrestling with the same kinds of issues I’m wrestling with in my work. Presenting has proven to be one of the very best ways of developing a robust PLN around!

The Presenters’ mindset… (Things I do to Take the Pressure Off!)

Remember that You’re Not Selling Yourself as an “Expert” – When you present, share your context as a practicing librarian and let people know that you don’t see yourself as an “expert.” Educational audiences will be extremely supportive.

Put the “Rule of Two Feet” in Play – The second or third slide in any presentation that I do typically puts the “rule of two feet” in play. Adopted from EdCamp-style unconference gatherings, the rule of two feet is that if what I am presenting isn’t useful or relevant or helpful to you, please feel completely free to get up on your two feet and venture forth to make the best use of your time by finding another session that will provide what you need. In return, I PROMISE to not be offended or hurt by the action. Professional development opportunities for teachers and librarians are rare. Why should any of us sit through  sessions that don’t help us move us forward as educators. A presentation that is perfect for participant A might be totally irrelevant to participant B and we should all be okay with that. When the rule of two feet is in play, I figure that people who stay are getting something useful and I can stop worrying and get on with things.

Start with Strangers – This one is probably a little counter-intuitive, but I find it far easier to present to anonymous strangers than to people that I know. In terms of feeling pressure as a presenter, the toughest audience I ever face is my own faculty. I always make an effort to present at my best, but if I bomb in front of an audience of people from other schools, I’m highly unlikely to ever see them again. If I bomb in front of my own faculty, I lose a lot of hard-earned credibility so I tend to feel the pressure a lot more even though objectively the audience is completely supportive and completely friendly.

Consider Presenting at General Education Conferences – Some of my first conference presentations took place at California Association of Independent Schools conferences where I was presenting to educators who were not librarians. Audiences at events like these are always friendly and seeking the kinds of knowledge and skills that librarians have to offer, yet they’re very unlikely to know more about any library related topic than an AISL librarian. An audience like that might be a great place to start if you have reservations. If you’re looking for a great presentation opportunity, the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools co-sponsors the wonderful Schools of the Future Conference here in Honolulu every fall. I would SO LOVE to see AISL presenters at next year’s conference!

Edited, 12/13/17, 7:45AM, HST.

Get a Little Help from Your Friends! – Almost forgot to include one of the most important things about presenting. Get a little help from your friends! Back in October, I was struggling horribly with a presentation for the Schools of the Future Conference so I turned to fellow AISL librarians Tasha Bergson-Michelson and Christina Pommer who very graciously looked at my dumpster fire of a presentation (we’re talking almost 80 slides for an hour-long preso…) and helped me get my head around that which was really pertinent and that which had to be sent to the cutting room floor. Sometimes you just need someone who will tell you, “Uh, you have a full day’s worth of stuff here and that’s all well and good, but since you have 60 minutes, YOU REALLY NEED TO EDIT…” in the kindest way possible. Ask for help! We’re librarians, we LIVE to help, right?!?!? Hahaha!



Always take a selfie with your audience and post it to social media because, you know, otherwise it doesn’t really count as having actually occurred. LOL!

Happy holidays, all!

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#freedomforgirls: a Library and Dance collaboration

Something real is happening in our 6th-grade dance classes. Inspired by the hashtag #freedomforgirls and Beyonce’s Facebook post sharing Global Goals’ new music video to her own song “Freedom”, our girls have taken real-world issues and turned their paraphrased research into paraphrased dance.

The end of the music video challenges the viewer to help in fighting for a series of “global goals” by the year 2030 and our girls jumped and pirouetted at the chance to try. Working in groups to create pieces that raise awareness about an issue, the girls are using their dances as a call to action.

The International Day of the Girl music video cycles through many shocking facts that surprised and confused the girls.

Are these facts true?

How did we not know this was happening?

How can we spread this information?

The first question was one that prompted the dance teacher, Lisa Yanofsky, to ask for my help to co-teach two of her classes, and we held our first ever dance/research class in the dance studio. The librarian’s presence in the dance studio was met with some confused and concerned faces; but as I reminded the students of our digital resource tools, it was great to watch their faces as they made the connection that they could use the tools in ANY subject or situation, not just history or science research.

As they delved into our databases, researching injustice against girls, our girls began to ask and answer more and more questions. Learning that girls who are forced into marriage as a child don’t have beautiful elegant white dress weddings as they imagined but instead are overpowered and not free to have thought or education (“Is this the beginning”). Discovering that, at least, one member of their group of four could experience domestic violence in her lifetime (Cloos).


Realizing that the gender wage gap affects everyone, even female soccer teams (Das). Attempting to understand the difference between education as a right and as a privilege and who is helping protect the right (“Girls Education Network Launch”). Primarily using Gale databases, our girls collected facts and figures they believe would be impactful to their audience. All ideas that they never imagined researching in “dance class”.

During our next dance/research session, they worked independently to paraphrase their facts and develop an opinion based on each fact. The next step was to take that research directly into the creation of their movements. Literally moving the paraphrased fact into a paraphrased motion. Listening to them plan out their movements was really wonderful and seeing facts of 1 in 4 become visual ideas and movements was fascinating. The girls connecting that they could show the weakness of policy changes by becoming weak in their movements was something I have never experience in a research paper.

I would love to do more projects that move researching outside of the core subject and into passion-based projects. If it wasn’t for Lisa’s project ideas and invitation into her dance studio, I would not have experienced this amazing project. The girls are still working hard to perfect and complete their dance but I hope you enjoy this short sneak peek of their #freedomforgirls dances.


Work cited
Cloos, Rhonda. “Domestic Abuse.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health, edited by Laurie J. Fundukian, vol. 1, Gale, 2013, pp. 256-258. Global Issues in Contextlink.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2760500075/GIC?u=lnoca_hb&xid=5037e6f7. Accessed 1 Dec. 2017.
Das, Andrew. “Female stars accuse U.S. Soccer of unfair pay; 5 players file suit, saying women’s team earns less despite a better record.” International New York Times, 1 Apr. 2016. Global Issues in Contextlink.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A447947119/GIC?u=lnoca_hb&xid=ed64bd3b. Accessed 1 Dec. 2017.
“Girls’ Education Network Launched [press release].” Africa News Service, 12 June 2017. Global Issues in Contextlink.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A495426699/GIC?u=lnoca_hb&xid=a65835d6. Accessed 1 Dec. 2017.
“Is this the beginning of the end of child marriage?” CNN Wire, 16 June 2015. Kids InfoBitslink.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A430185596/ITKE?u=lnoca_hb&sid=ITKE&xid=c5d0b2a1. Accessed 1 Dec. 2017.
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My Philosophy of K-2 Library

Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas.
That’s what they’re made for! Now I want you to go out there
and enjoy yourself, and yes, enjoy your philosophy of life, too.
They don’t come along every day. Look out! There’s a big one…

John Ashbery, My Philosophy of Life

As soon as my working papers were signed, I began as a page in the children’s department of my town’s library (I remained in their books in some role until I moved to Georgia in July 2014). On Wednesday nights the librarian on the desk would let me read once I’d gotten the books shelved and the shelves edged. For about a year I read the same book every night from 8-9. It was The Favorite Poem Project by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz and I began to build my personal canon. John Ashbery was among the poets in Wednesday book. In the intervening years, I’ve come back to his poems again and again, often when a phrase pops in my thoughts in his words, not mine. I found myself going to another favorite, My Philosophy of Life, a few weeks back when a colleague addressed a group email to the “elementary library braintrust.” The request was simple, “ideas, insights, and thoughts” on developing their school’s K-2 library collection and curriculum. Where to start? What was our own experience?” I balked. First: Why would anyone think I had wisdom to share? Then: Could I write what was true? The email response I sent is below (modified slightly):

“I’m going to out myself here- I don’t do formal lessons with my pre-K3 through 2nd grade. All my fixed classes for pre-k3-4th grade are 30 minutes total and I am unwilling to give up check-out each week. My first year I aligned all my storytimes with what they were studying in class and kept a fastidious spreadsheet of my lessons. The same for the years thereafter. As I began to put together my whole school curriculum and scope and sequence, I came to the place the philosophy I have now for my lower school classes: no formal lessons- my only goal is instill a love of learning and reading, a love that serve as the solid foundation to build the skills and tools and ethics to harness their curiosity in middle and upper school. The library is where my students experience choice and I feel strongly (though I’ve never voiced it until now) that that is my (the library’s) primary purpose and concept for them to engage with. It is a “class” where they do not get grades and they can learn about whatever they would like. For the little ones, this is where they get to choose and I want there to be as much joy in this as possible. On December 1st, my 3 year old class checked out books for the first time and hugged them for the walk down the hill to their building. One among them updates me on the state of her library book every time I see her (“I am taking good care of it.”). This photo below, this is my philosophy of lower school lessons.

Initially I typed this draft as a reply-all, because I would like to engage in a larger conversation about this. But then, my pride jumped it in- I don’t have my words down on this, on what I believe. I would say though that my background is children’s services in a large suburban public library (14 years) and college academic book publishing (8 years). While I completed an additional “media specialist” certificate since I started as a school librarian, I’ve never been a classroom teacher (the AP Research seminar and a middle school “library” elective are the first graded I’ve taught/wrote syllabi for). I kept this in my drafts for a week and then finally thought, Well, not sending it isn’t going to make how I feel untrue and it will give me a weird feeling of shame. Reassurance, a solid “me, too,” often what I’m looking for. This sense of hands flailing AM I DOING THIS RIGHT (this is the best visual I have of what I’m feeling as the oldest person in the room at any given moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ0i5Ede8V4)

I’d be interested in the responses you’ve gotten. I wonder too if some of what you need is what I need too: to be gentle with myself and my expectations of how to measure success. To me, when I read your note, I simply thought of how great it was to have the services and the desire to be more and better rather than that the number of books was appalling. This is always easier said to someone else than done for myself.”

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