A (Humbling) Look at My Attitude

In a recent post, Jennifer Falvey outlined her top ten sacred cows. Library fines were one of them. Overdue fines have popped up as a topic for discussion in this blog over the past few years. In Dec. 2104, I posted: Overdues: Overdone on the topic. I felt overdues served a purpose in:

  • helping children learn to be responsible
  • encouraging the timely return of books
  • shortening the time past due books stayed out
  • decreasing time spend sending emails/letters/phone calls by attaching a consequence to overdue books
  • modeling the real world “late fee” policies of most businesses and public libraries

My Change in Attitude

Last year, at the encouragement of my librarian colleague, we decided to stop collecting fines for the second half of the school year, to see what happened. My biggest change was a change in attitude. It is painful to admit, but (apparently!) I have a judgmental streak. The “right” way to use the library is to borrow and return on time, right?  I was able to find a shift in attitude, that allows me to be more on the side of reader-helping-reader (“Let’s get the book back, so other readers can enjoy it”) and doing the right thing, not because of a fine, but because it is the right thing to do.

Random observations

(Our library serves about our 640 students in grades 5-12):

  • Updates to our checkout software (Destiny) allowed me to set an automated “Courtesy Reminder” that goes out two days before a book is due. This has helped students get in front of an overdue, by renewing a book or turning it in.
  • The fine amount (10 cents/day) was insignificant as a motivating factor
  • The fine amount (10 cents/day) was too low to replace lost books
  • Students rarely have pocket change on them
  • I didn’t like not following through on a consequence (“Your fine is 40 cents”), yet who wants to tell a 6th grade parent, paying thousands for tuition, that their child should bring 40 cents to school? I also didn’t like chasing down older students for minimal amounts, yet deleting money owed without consequence felt like it sent the wrong message.
  • I think both parent and student feel the importance of the situation more when they receive a note re: $20 replacement cost, versus getting a reminder that there is a late book with 50 cents or $1.20 due.

Quick Question and Answer:

Are more books past due? It’s about the same.

Do I spend more or less time chasing late books? It’s about the same. I no longer personalize emails with the amount due—I email a weekly past due reminder via the BCC field.  If I get no response after two emails, I make a phone call or send an individualized third email with cc: to parent email. This is about 3-8 students per week.

Would I advocate a return to assessing overdue fines? No. Although I think “no fines” does cushion children slightly from reality, I think there are other ways I can model and encourage responsibility.

I appreciate having a forum to share thoughts and challenges with members of the AISL community. Thank you for all making this a safe space to talk about moments of growth as well as sharing ideas and successes!

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on exploring emerging information formats… [edited]

For a long time, one of my favorite sayings has been, “It takes a village to raise a child…”

I have been thinking a lot about that in our library programming of late. When push comes to shove, our reality is that,

“It takes a village to raise children to be information literate…” 

PersepolisI recently got an inquiry from an English teacher asking whether the library could recommend a documentary about the Iranian Revolution that she could show her class before their reading of Persepolis.

I dutifully sent a query to the trusty AISL Listserv asking for help and our international coterie of the world’s finest librarians responded with wonderful recommendations (as you ALWAYS do).

Amongst the other excellent recommendations came a recommendation from the one and only Debbie Abilock who replied,

Hi David,

Games (vs. documentary) don’t always have enough learning to warrant the time they take but I’ve been more interested in 1979 Revolution: Black Friday https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_Revolution:Black_Friday created by an Iranian team based on documentary filmmaking style.  (You’ll have to play it and determine suitability for your students.)



Intrigued, I forwarded Debbie’s reply to Kerri, the English teacher; Brian G., our Director of Educational Technology; and Brian D., our Chief Innovation Officer. Within the week, the Brians had Kerri set up with a school account in Steam so she could evaluate whether the game was appropriate to her needs.

If, like me you are not a gamer and have never heard of Steam, here’s a short introduction to the platform.

At this point, one of our amazing technology specialists, Tony J., who is an avid gamer got looped into the process for support and to lend his particular expertise to the effort.

Once the ever-growing team looking into “gaming as information platform/information experience” decided that it was worth trying with Kerri’s students, Kathy W., the head of the high school English Department agreed to fund the purchase of a class set of licenses for Revolution 1979: Black Friday

Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 2.32.38 PM.png

Click here for a video preview via Steam

That is, INDEED, the effort of an entire village! Anywhere along the line, a single person saying, “No! Do we really want kids wasting time gaming in class?” could have shut the entire endeavor down, but I’m incredibly blessed to work with colleagues eager to explore new possibilities!

Mr. G. and Ms. S. introduce the gaming experience to the class.

Game time!

“I just need to let you know that you WILL die in the game…”

The gaming experience is imperfect if we look at it purely as an “information platform,” but thinking about the possibilities available to us beyond the book, the website, the database, and the video is truly exciting!

In concert with the gaming experience, students in Kerri’s class watched some teacher-selected documentaries, and read some teacher-selected articles. It was my hope that 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, would be a way to unlock and develop students’ empathy that they would then bring to their reading of Persepolis. It worked in some ways and fell a short in others.

Here is a sampling of some of Kerri’s students’ reflections:

“The video game was a pretty engaging activity for me. It was enjoyable despite my doubts about it. Usually a game or movie that tries extra hard to be educational will lose its entertaining factor, but that wasn’t really the case. It was a little clunky but it was nice to get into the perspective of someone in the Iranian revolution. I thought the idea was done well. Being a photographer in game, they incorporated real life photographs with historical context to show what it really was like. The game helped me understand viewpoints of the people that I could not experience from the book or the documentary. I ended up enjoying the story and found myself wanting to continue…”

~~ Anthony

“The video game was a helpful way to develop empathy for people fighting in Iran. One crucial factor that emphasized this was the possibility that you could die at any moment if you choose to do or say anything wrong. Additionally, the video game put the living conditions into perspective by having decent animations and real pictures. A down side, though, was that there were a lot of dead moments, where I felt like there was too much narrative and not enough choice for the player. Maybe the game could allow the person playing the game to type a response instead of clicking on the few options given. There could also be an opportunity to watch a video instead of just pictures….”

~~ Kristin

I’d like to start by saying that I love Telltale games. Their games are incredible experiences of which the choices feel like your own and shape the individual you become, and the outcome of the story. The game we played was obviously based off of Telltale’s style of storytelling, and that’s where my first major criticism comes in. In any sort of design or art, if your goal is to mimic the works of another, you’re only going to make a worse imitation of the original, and that really was present through the game. Every aspect of the game took a jab at the Telltale-style, from multiple-choice dialogue to quick-time events to small sub-games such as developing the photos and taking pictures, but none of them felt really enjoyable. I believe this is because there was a disconnect from the main character and the player. One of the first things that I noticed was that a lot of dialogue did not matter. The responses from other characters were pre-set. Regardless of what you said, you would get the same response, giving the illusion of choice. This made some audio strange. In an attempt to make proper response to all dialogue choices, some of the responses really didn’t make sense and just left me confused. There were also some issues in execution in terms of their attempts to have us learn about the revolution itself. Instead of incorporating facts into the game itself, they gave them as extras unlocked by taking pictures. I didn’t read the extras, I probably wouldn’t have if I played the game all the way through. The point of games is to engage the player into the story and the world, and while this was definitely a better than average attempt than most, it just wasn’t quite there.

~~ Max

Clearly, the experience wasn’t perfect, but the response from students was positive as a whole. As I see it, gaming as an educational information platform is in it’s infancy. At this point it has all the potential in the world to be something AMAZING, TRANSFORMATIVE, and to do much good in the educational world!

… Or it could become yet another great idea with great potential that grows up and achieves nothing other than being famous for being famous. Alas…

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to this beautiful young idea as the aghast-ability [that’s for you Jennifer Falvey!] is almost too much to bear!

In many ways, this exploration has left me with more questions than answers. Some of my initial emerging questions of gaming as an information platform include:

  • How does the immersive feel of the gaming experience change users’ engagement with content?
  • Did the gaming experience drive engagement with the content in a way that couldn’t be achieved with other formats (books, articles, video…) or is this just putting lipstick on a pig?
  • How do we get users to evaluate the content without ruining the gaming experience itself?
    • If part of the power of gaming is feeling immersed in an experience, does that make us suspend critical thinking and healthy skepticism?
  • How does one evaluate gaming content as a “source?”
    • What do the game developers want me to think?
    • What do the game developers want me to feel?
    • What do the game developers want me to believe?
    • What do the game developers want me to do?

I suspect that we will begin to see more efforts and products like 1979 Revolution coming to the market going forward. There, clearly, is so much more for us to watch for and to learn.

In the end, this endeavor into gaming as an information experience has left us with a promising initial “proof of concept.” Both our digital media arts teacher and the visual arts teacher who has students exploring sequential storytelling have also expressed interest in exploring the possibilities the platform presents.

It does, indeed, take a village to raise information literate children. It is truly amazing to work daily with so many villagers who are so very willing to share in our work!

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Tech and Tornadoes

Severe Weather and 10 Sacred Cows

Well, I had planned to write my next post about our school’s experiment with a Tech-Free Day this week; a day, our Headmaster explained, to “examine both the benefits and costs of technology in education and daily life.” But since the weather-people chose that day to predict a possible reenactment of Twister in our area, we postponed the experiment (because we needed our technology to communicate in case of severe weather dangers; point taken, Mother Nature).  But thinking about our (already, in less than a generation) certainty that we *must* have our technology available all the time, and the accompanying belief that high-tech is always better than low-tech (more on that next time), also made me wonder about other assumptions we adhere to rather blindly.

Below are the top-10 sacred cows (mine and others’) I am challenging in my library between the end of this year and the beginning of the next. What are yours? And might you ultimately agree with the idea (falsely attributed to Mark Twain*) that “sacred cows make the best hamburgers”?
Library Sacred Cows (in ascending order of aghast-ability [I made that word up]):

10) Whispering
9) Stamping every book inside front & back covers and on page 51 (?!) with School/Library name
8) Keeping old prize-winners just because they are prize-winners
7) Print encyclopedias
6) Security tags in books and beeping gates at the doors
5) Drink (and Food!) in the Library
4) The concept that audio books don’t count as “real” books
3) The concept that graphic novels don’t count as “real” books
2) Setting limits on the number of books children can check out
and–drumroll please–here’s the hamburger I’d like to serve up first:
#1) Fines for overdue books

You will notice that I did not include the Dewey Decimal system in my bovine lineup. I still like my sacred cows grouped by subject classification (but that is a topic for another day).
*Thank you, Garson O’Toole. You may have heard about his site on NPR this week. Quote Investigator (http://quoteinvestigator.com/) is devoted to tracking down the real people behind mis-attributed well-known quotes. He has a new book out as well: Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations.

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Need a Chair for Goldilocks?…Who Are You Going to Call???

We called on the Kindergarten students to help solve this problem. After reading the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears“, students were asked to design and build the perfect chair that Goldilocks would be able to sit on comfortably. Since there were three different size Goldilocks dolls of course, (small, medium, and large), the students had choices to what size chair they would design. The first step was the Design stage, where all the students came in small groups to the makerspace and created their chairs on the whiteboard table

In order to save their masterpieces, photos were taken of their creation and they were signed by the individual students. The next stage was the Making stage, where the children actually made their furniture using any materials they found in the makerspace. These included wood, cardboard, toilet and toweling paper rolls, duct tape, pom-poms, feathers, stones, ribbons, straws, brads, all size boxes, popcycle sticks, pipe cleaners, washi tape, tile pieces, jewels, jewelry, and different kinds of clay. As their works were created, the students continually tested their chairs to see if they passed the test of supporting the weight of their chosen Goldilocks doll. If their first model failed to pass this test, then the students would go back to the re-design stage of their prototype. This is a very important part of any design project. Asking questions like, “What works?” “What doesn’t work?” “What can be improved?”
It was just amazing what the results were and the proof is in these pictures. All of the final projects are now on display in the media center for everyone to admire. As of this writing, there are also three chairs still in the “production” stage.

In addition to this design project, extensions can be done to include designing a bed for the Princess and the Pea, a bed for Goldilocks, or a bridge for the Trolls in Three Billy Goat Gruff. Fairy tales are just one way you can take your students on a remarkable journey way beyond the storyline….into the world of creating and designing.

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Horace Mann Book Day, Thursday April 6th: A preview of this year’s Summer Institute

For 23 years, the Horace Mann School in the Bronx, NY, has hosted our Book Day, a day each spring when the school community — students, faculty, parents, and alumni — along with a host of guest speakers turn our attention to exploring the issues and themes raised in a single book. Classes in our Upper Division for our  740 students and 150 faculty members are cancelled for the day so that students and faculty can give their full attention to the day’s proceedings. The day is an exploration of one work through interdisciplinary workshops, discussions, art and theater pieces, and larger assemblies. This year the school is tackling the very raw emotions and personal narrative in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Books in recent years have included Chris Bojhalian’s novel of the Armenian Genocide, The Sandcastle Girls; E.L. Doctorow’s The March; Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Oliver Sacks’ work, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. All of the students in the Upper Division have read Coates’ book and teachers have been incorporating the title into their curriculum throughout the year.

In several of the past Book Days we were able to invite the author of the selection to join us for the day.  Last year, Chris Bohjalian, along with the director of the upcoming movie of “The Sandcastle Girls,” joined us for the whole day to discuss the Armenian Genocide and other genocides in the 20th and 21st centuries. In 2009 Ann Patchett joined us to discuss her novel Bel Canto and started us off on a day-long adventure exploring terrorism, translation, hostage crises, the diplomacy of chess, and a wide variety of other topics. In 2008, E. L. Doctorow joined us for a brilliant exploration of life at the turn of the century in the United States in Ragtime; he was supposed to join us for The March in 2015 but he fell ill and historian Eric Foner stepped in to take his place. In 2007 we read both plays that comprise Angels in America, and we were joined by Tony Kushner as our keynote speaker for the event. In 2004 Tim O’Brien joined us as the keynote speaker for the opening assembly for his book The Things They Carried, and Walter Cronkite and Reuven Frank, former president of NBC Nightly News during the Vietnam War — and both grandparents of students at Horace Mann –, joined us at the closing assembly to discuss the role of the media during war.

Book Day consists of an opening assembly at 8:45 in which a student musical or acting piece is followed by a keynote speaker. This year we are being joined by Dr. Jelani Cobb for the keynote address. Dr. Cobb is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and was featured recently in the Academy Award-nominated documentary feature, “The 13th.” The assembly is followed by four breakout sessions, which are 55 minutes in length, with an hour lunch breaking up the day. The workshops run up to the closing assembly at 3:00. This year’s closing assembly will feature an original rap song about Between the World and Me; students in our HM Stomp dance troupe; and one of our own alumni from the Class of 2008 — Chidi Akusobi — reflecting on his American Dream and the journey he has traveled from arriving in the U.S. as a two-year-old from Nigeria through his recent work in epidemiology and infectious diseases.

Here is a link to this year’s Book Day — Between the World and Me. And think about how you might be able to bring a program like Book Day to your own school. This year’s AISL Summer Institute, hosted by Horace Mann School, will focus on this idea of “one school, one book.” The dates of the Summer Institute are June 27-29, with the check in on the evening of June 27, followed by two full days of program planning and sessions on the nuts and bolts of putting together a similar type day that makes sense for your school.

To register for the Summer Institute, please click on this link. You’ll find the full schedule of the day and what to expect to get from the two days of workshops and discussions. If you have any questions about the Summer Institute, please feel free to email me at Caroline_Bartels@horacemann.org.

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The 2017 Recipient of the Annual Marky Award Is … Dave Wee.

The Marky Award was inspired by founding member Mark Hillsamer, the librarian at St. Albans School, Washington DC for 36 years. Mark helped to establish AISL in 1987 and fostered its growth for 14 years. It very well may have been “Mark’s smiling face, soothing voice, and wry sense of humor”  that kept the organization going during those years.  Walter DeMelle formally announced Mark’s retirement at the Skip Anthony Lecture Banquet in 2001 and presented Mark with a special gift: a mask from Thailand of a lovely lady who holds her index finger gently to her lips in a familiar shushing gesture.

The Marky Award has been given annually since 2002, honoring AISL members who have made a significant contribution to the organization over a long period of time.  A mounted replica of Mark’s gift is given to the winner to be displayed in his or her library until the next conference, together with a small unpainted replica of the mask for the honoree to keep.  The honoree is chosen by the past Marky winners, and is presented with the award at the annual Skip Anthony banquet.

What follows is the speech from the evening of the Skip Anthony Dinner in New Orleans aboard the Creole Queen on Friday, March 24th, 2017.  

Good evening. I am Milly Rawlings, and I am presenting the Marky Award tonight. Jean Bruce would be this year’s presenter if she were here, but she left on Tuesday because of a death in the family.

Karen Gray received the award before Jean and Diane Neary before Karen, and I received it before Diane. We’ve dug deep here for me to present this year’s award, but, as the most recent recipient here, I am delighted to step in for Jean.

I want to make this presentation a bit differently than we have in the past.  The presenter usually gives information about the recipient and then announces the person’s name at the end.  I would like to announce the recipient first and then read what this person’s colleagues sent to me, because I could not find a way to paraphrase the lovely things they wrote.  What they wrote explains perfectly why the Committee selected this person as the recipient of this year’s Marky Award.

It gives me tremendous pleasure to present the Marky Award to Dave Wee.

CD McLean holds the Marky Award on Dave Wee's right as Dave waits to hear the end of Milly's speech.

CD McLean holds the Marky Award on Dave Wee’s right as Dave waits to hear the end of Milly’s speech.

Susan Kallock at Harvard-Westlake School says this about Dave:

Dave Wee came to Harvard-Westlake fresh out of library school (Sept 2001) leaving his home state of Hawaii to settle into LA and the independent school system.  He used to joke that I had taken such a risk when choosing him for the position – he was new to the field and he couldn’t catalog to save his life.  Coming to us with a background in education, he was able to apply this knowledge in many areas inside and outside of the library.  I had the honor of watching him grow into a confident and very skilled school librarian.

Dave became my go to curriculum guy.  He was the one approaching departments and talking to them about possible research projects or suggesting sources that the library had to offer.  He was the one to take on mapping out all of the research projects to see if we were covering all of the information-seeking skills our students needed.  He played a major role in developing lessons for our ever changing Library and Technology 7 course, helping to keep the course current with the changes in technology and the needs of our students.  He worked closely with the communication and debate teachers to introduce them to and encourage them to use the resources of the library.  At one point he designed a lesson that was so well received that they wanted to tape him teaching it so that it could be used over and over again.

Dave’s passion for helping his students make connections lead him to become a faculty leader of the debate team. He not only guided his students in the art of presenting a well-supported argument but also helped them discover new resources and guided them in the evaluation and organization of the information gathered.   Dave is a passionate teacher and is eager to help his students learn and grow.  He celebrates their successes and supports them in overcoming their defeats.

Dave is not someone who likes to sit still.  He may not always be physically moving but his mind is always working.  He is constantly consuming information.  Whether he is reading or watching TV he is taking it all in.  The amount of information that he is able to track and organize is amazing.  I used Dave as my filter.  I figured if he was telling me about an article he read or emailing the latest tech in education trend I should pay attention.  It also didn’t hurt to have a recommendation or two for something entertaining.  All of AISL can attest to his knowledge, his problem solving abilities and his eagerness to share what he has learned or discovered along the way.  He wants to share so much that when he first started at HW he had to take a timer to class to make sure that he stopped talking in order to give the students enough time to actually search for resources.

There is also the fun side of Dave.  He loves to travel and has ventured to many places around the world.  He loves to eat – I saw his tweet of the alligator po’boy that he had the other night in NO.  I’ve had a lot of meals with him and I don’t think there is anything that he doesn’t like.  He has a good sense of humor and can be a bit mischievous.  He often cracks himself up.  His laughter is genuine and comes from deep down inside.  He and one of our other librarians were crowned the Waldorf and Statler (hecklers from the Muppet Show) of the library.  Together they would sit at the circ desk and “heckle” students as they came in.

Dave Wee was well respected at Harvard-Westlake as a colleague and as a friend.  His departure saddened us all.  I am glad that the opportunity presented itself for him to step into a position of leadership and make the desired move home to be with family.  I am glad that he has found a school that has allowed him to spread his wings, a school that supports his educational philosophy, a school that is allowing him to grow even more as a librarian, as a teacher and as a valued colleague.

From Nicole Geoff at Mid-Pacific Institute:

The man is ALWAYS connected. He blogs, he tweets, he … does whatever other verbs are out there related to social media. I’ve never met anyone as media-savvy as Dave.

Besides the virtual world, Dave is pretty savvy in the real one, too. 🙂 He’s made quite a few of my wishlist dreams come true, from making a board game and coloring station in the library to brainstorming ideas for expo-marker walls and chalkboard paint desks throughout the library.

It’s pretty cool having him around: while I am a “let’s-make-do-with-what-we-have” sort of person, Dave is very much a “what-can-we-do-to-get-more” kind of guy. He’s definitely rocked our world, and we are the better for it.

Please join all of AISL in our warm congratulations to our well deserving colleague Dave Wee! Please put your virtual hands together!!

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Making the case for PD

Add me to the list of those fortunate to have attended #AISLNOLA. But what about those of you who weren’t there? Not because of choice, but because of difficulty convincing your supervisor to invest in this PD opportunity? Here are some tips on making your case for future PD:

Start small  – there can be amazing inspiration in your local or neighbouring communities. Visit some local school libraries, set up a meeting with an academic librarian at a university within a day’s drive, ask public library staff if you could sit in on related PD, host an informal workshop (book talks, display ideas, discussion about a current issue) and invite any or all librarians in your area. Look for online webinars, and if possible, participate with a buddy so that you can discuss and plan afterwards. Laying this foundation could show your supervisor how much you’re invested in PD.

Plan ahead – review notes from previous conference sessions  to create a ‘big-picture’ of how relevant and valuable it has proven to be for many in the past. This prep work will also help you pull together a proposal in advance so that you’re prepared for registration (as some with limited numbers, eg. AISL, fill up very quickly!). Plant the seed well in advance (share details of the opportunity, note upcoming date, give heads-up you’ll be making a proposal).

Be budget conscious – be creative in coming up with a plan that shows you are keeping an eye on costs (share a room – post on listserv if you aren’t aware of anyone needing a roommate, choose less expensive flights, stick within school-set expenses for meals or offer to cover some yourself if you can).

Make your dedication evident – visiting libraries when travelling for pleasure, or scheduling PD during breaks to eliminate the need for coverage (if that’s an issue) shows your passion and commitment.

Ask for help – many of us have shared our reports/photos/experiences with colleagues & administrators at other schools, in the hope that their librarians will be giving a chance to take part.

Always follow up – tying all PD experiences to action items, demonstrating the direct impact on your library program and services, shows the return on the investment.

Hoping to see you at a future conference,


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My To-Do List

I am so thrilled to be writing this from beautiful New Orleans, where I’m attending the AISL annual conference for the first time! As I bask, I want to share what I’m sure are just the very beginnings of my to-do list for when I head back home.

Doug Johnson Keynote: “Changed but Still Critical: Brick and Mortar School Libraries in the Digital Age”
To summarize, how does the physical space of the school library best serve students when they don’t necessarily have to walk through the doors to access information, or even to get help from a librarian? How can we create a library that students can feel is their “third space?” My to-do list takeaways:

  • Think about time rather than space as a way to “zone” the learning spaces of the library, especially in a small or one-room operation (like mine).
  • Have a positively phrased list (written and posted) of things that are always allowed in the library (e.g., reading, learning about a personal interest, writing a journal or blog post, getting help with a research need, etc.)
  • Promote as much in-library tech support as I am able to offer

2016 Summer Institute Design Dream Team Take 2! Mary Buxton, Marsha Hawkins, Claudette Hovasse, Melinda Holmes, Laura Pearle, and I shared some of the ways (all very different) that we have used what we learned from the 2016 Summer Institute on Design Thinking in Libraries hosted by Katie Archambault. My design thinking project to-do list:

  • Redesign of our resource guides to be easier for students to use
  • Revisit my version of a “Rx for Research” infographic, evaluate it with students and teachers, and share it more widely
  • Offer lessons, tutorials, and other support to our Entrepreneurial Capstone students in organizing information and developing their PLNs

Solid Research or Stuck in a Rut?: One Librarian’s Research on Modern College Readiness
Courtney Lewis presented some results from her absolutely fascinating research on what college librarians have reported as the research skills and tools that incoming first-year students should be familiar with today. My to-do list:

  • Consider introducing other citation tools more frequently used in colleges for some upper-level courses and/or make sure our students are prepared to use the citation tools available in the colleges and universities they attend
  • Choose and use a discovery service
  • During students’ research processes, deliberately emphasize the importance of research as participation in a “global community of scholars”

Thank you so much to all the presenters, conference committee, and hosts!

I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list for the next two days. These are just some of my takeaway items so far – I’m curious to hear what others would put on their to-do lists from these and other sessions. Please share – what’s going on your post-conference action list?

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Mental Illness in YA Fiction

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness (from http://www.nami.org). Two years ago, one of my students, Katherine, began the nation’s first high school chapter of NAMI  as her Signature project (our version of a Capstone).
More about her project here.
Not only is Katherine a passionate mental health advocate, but she is also an avid reader.  She has read a lot of older titles and so I am constantly looking for new young adult fiction dealing with mental health issues that she or her club members might enjoy. This year I have found two titles that I really liked:
From Amazon:
“Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.
Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.
Caden Bosch is torn.”
Written in such a way that even the reader is unable at times to differentiate reality from fantasy, “Challenger Deep” really put me inside the head of a character and allowed me to experience his mental illness in a very meaningful way. This is a quick read (an excellent audio book for teens who enjoy them) and, as always, Schusterman was effective in crafting well developed, highly empathetic characters. Katherine and I highly recommend it.
From Amazon:
“Sixteen-year-old Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she wanders the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she’s finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can’t quite recall. After decades of staying together “for the kids” and building a family on a foundation of lies and domestic violence, Sarah’s parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage. As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original—and yet it still hurts.”
I gave this to Katherine to read over the break so I haven’t gotten her feedback yet, but I really liked this one and read it in a single sitting, on a bus en route to a trip to Boston that I was chaperoning. Know that there are some shocking moments–domestic abuse, substance abuse, etc.–but I think it’s as poignant as “Challenger Deep” and a great choice for older readers interested in books dealing with mental illness.
Can you recommend any other books published in the past year or two that I might pass along to Katherine and/or our NAMI club or that I could use in our Mental Health Awareness month display?
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on Gilligan in the library…

I’m going to just put it out there. This is an awkward subject and an awkward post, but here goes…

Sometimes being a librarian makes me feel like I’m Gilligan stuck on a deserted island. A lot of the time I’m really happy, but there are also times when it can feel isolated and sometimes … lonely.

I don’t know about you, but as a school librarian, I spend a lot of time in my head. Much of my day is spent thinking about cognitive development and growth. Recently, as I have been working on my AISL Conference presentation on student vlogging I came to realize that much of my excitement over our students’ vlogging is that it is the only place in my information instruction that I address the affective aspects of research in any form or in any way.

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An interesting by product of this process has been that it has forced me to confront affective aspects of my professional life.

Librarianship can sometimes feel like being a castaway on a deserted isle. 

Weird Issue #1: The objective stuff that doesn’t seem to matter to the part of my brain that controls my emotions…

First, let me acknowledge my objective reality. I am in NO WAY, a castaway on Gilligan’s deserted island somewhere. I am very aware of the fact that I am a very lucky librarian with no objective right to complain about things.

Upon graduating from library school I moved to Los Angeles and landed a job that I had no right to land at a middle school with 640 students. By the end of my time there, I was part of a staff of 5 full-time librarians along with a full-time assistant. It was crazy!!!

Fast forward 13 years and I had the incredible good fortunate to land a rarely available job as an independent school librarian in Honolulu. I am now a K-12 librarian. I work with an awesome, dynamic, whirlwind of a librarian, and a great full-time library assistant. I love my job. I love the work. I love my colleagues. I love my kids. I have a supportive administration, and our program and work are valued and embraced by the school community.

Bottom line: I’m incredibly blessed and incredibly lucky. But… (You had to know there was a but coming, right?)

Weird Issue #2: There’s this subjective stuff that seems to matter a whole lot to me even though it shouldn’t… 

In spite of all of the objective things in my favor I can’t seem to get past a definite sense of isolation that sometimes borders on loneliness. It’s weird. I realized isolation/loneliness and a desire to connect was manifesting itself in things like posting WAY too much to the listserv without thinking enough about what I was doing and why I was doing it.

Because it was the only kind of librarianship I knew, I never realized how oddly atypical it was to have four other MLS librarians working in the same space with whom I bounced ideas, brainstormed lessons, co-taught, collaborated, supported, and (yes) complained.

Weird Issue #3: Am I just being a narcissist?

I am one of those librarians who, after helping students research diseases or psychological afflictions, walks away believing that I have all of them. I’ve been reading The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson so I’ve also been wondering if I’m a narcissist, a psychopath, or a sociopath. I’m pretty sure that I’m not a psychopath or sociopath, but the narcissist possibility… Err… concerns me.

[Pauses to allow awkward assertion to dissipate…]


Anyway, the thing is that affective aspects of our lives are subjective to us. By any reasonable person’s objective measure, I’m just whining and being a narcissist.

It’s not a, “not having friends” kind of issue…

Daniel Pink, author of Drive, A Whole New Mind, and To Sell is Human, is one of my favorite follows on Twitter. A week or two ago, he tweeted a link to this:

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Click the image above to go to the full article. It’s a GREAT read!

While it’s a really good read and as an introvert at my core, there’s advice I have actually already applied to my non-librarian life, but I don’t really think that the issue is a “I have no friends…” sense of feeling alone.

It’s more of a:

“I don’t know what percentage of my budget I should be spending on digital resources vs. print and I wish I could just chat about it with other people to see how they think things through, but there’s nobody here to go have lunch with and talk about it” kind of isolated loneliness. [I know that’s not a good sentence, but you get the point]


“I don’t think we can afford to keep all of our ABC-CIO and Facts-on-File history databases, but my social studies teachers are pretty evenly divided about which ones to keep and which ones to cancel so I don’t know what to do. What would you do?” 

It’s that kind of isolation and lonely that I think about when my budget proposal for the next school year is due and I’m lying in bed staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.

Sleeping Beauty Syndrome

There is definitely a part of me that wants to be Sleeping Beauty. I want to lie down on the sofa and have people come and take care of me. The thing is, though, that maybe Sleeping Beauty wouldn’t just lie around on a sofa waiting for the prince if she had differently-minded princess pals who might say, “Hey WAKE UP, brush your teeth, and get out there and go slay some dragons yourself!!!”

There’s another part of me that isn’t really so very Sleeping Beauty oriented so I’m not always a shrinking violet or wallflower when it comes to my work.

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I decided a while ago that I would stop behaving like Sleeping Beauty waiting for people to come and say hi. Nicole, my partner here in the library and I invited other Honolulu area independent school librarians over to our space for a social meet and greet. Other librarians in the area have stepped up to host gatherings in their various spaces so we’ve started visiting each others’ libraries for indie librarian chats–once in the fall and once in the spring. Our little mini-network is slowly developing and that’s exciting to see.

What kinds of things do you do to find “your people” and build your librarian pal network?

If you have a vibrant independent school library community in your region, what kinds of things are you doing together? How did you make it come about?


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