on going with the flow(chart)…

Given the events of recent weeks, above all else, I hope this post finds you and your loved ones safe and in good health.

Though many of you are just getting around to the start of your new school years, here at Mid-Pacific, we’ve been in school for a while now–we are beginning our fifth week of school.

We are a K-12 library program and much of our instruction, particularly instruction with our middle school students, gets heavily loaded into our first weeks of school. We’ve been working extensively with our 8th graders on their Science and Engineering Fair projects.

We’ve been making a concerted effort in our curriculum to give students more opportunities to practice the art of topic selection so we chose to invest a lot of instructional time on the process of selecting a topic for research.

Information Instruction Context – Process to Product…

One of the really tough things about topic selection is how to provide curricular and subject-area context when students choose the topics of study. This year, our middle school is focused on the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals so we used that as a springboard in topic selection.

Students were asked to select 1 or 2 of the UN Sustainable Development goals that spoke to their personal interests and passions, but which also applied in some way to the fields of science and engineering.  Students then went about the process of exploring topics within science and engineering that they might use to design a project that they could tie into their chosen UN Sustainable Development goal.

In what we call our “presearching” process, we had students brainstorm possible topics and questions about those topics. Students then located and read through sources using keywords from our brainstorms and repeated the process a few times over.

In the world of Mid-Pacific, when we are “presearching,” anything and any source is fair game. We don’t bother with citations or using scholarly sources. All we’re trying to do when we are “presearching” is figure out:

  • Do I want to live with this topic for a long time?
    • One topic from now until Thanksgiving is a “long time” for 8th graders…
  • Could I possibly develop a viable 8th grade science and engineering fair project based on budget, safety, scientific ethical guidelines, and whether mom and dad could live with having this project in their homes for a few months?
  • How is this field of study organized and what words do they use to describe things and ideas?
    • What are broader terms and narrower terms?
    • What vocabulary words do experts in that field use?
      • “Windmill” vs. “Wind turbine” vs. “Wind terbine”
    • Did I spell the keywords correctly in Google before I try to search in databases?

It was HARD and it took a big investment of time on the part of our science teachers and the library staff. I went home everyday during the week sweaty and exhausted, but to quote, Annette, one of my amazing science teachers, “We need to do this because the science these kids need to do has to start with ‘How do we know what questions we need to ask?'”

In library lingo, I call that “Defining your information need…”

Information Instruction Context – Getting Granular… 

Once we have an actual research topic, we finally begin the research process and this is when our instruction looks more like a traditional “library lesson.” When we research, sources matter so we begin the more traditional process of searching for content in books/eBooks, database, and in websites.

Our 8th graders are pretty good at finding and using performatted citations from databases. They’re also pretty good at citing books–we teach students to search for citation info in NoodleTools using the ISBN or title. When it comes to citing website content, however… Honestly, we kind of go off the rails a bit so shoring up our website citation work became the focus of instruction for us this time around.

We’ve been trying to build more concepts of coding into our curriculum so we decided to introduce flow charts to students as a way to make their thinking visible as they work through different processes.

We had students flow chart the steps they’d follow to properly cite a website. We are a NoodleTools site so that’s what we teach, but it would work with any other research/citation service. Here’s what it looked like…


Because it was a first introduction to flowcharting, we built it together as a class. After doing one sample together, students used their flowcharts and worked to add a website source to their list of works consulted. While we built the flowchart we chatted about how a website might be analogous to an entire book, while a web page is like citing one article/chapter/section of the book. Matters of “group” or corporate authorship, and all of the other marvelously super exciting stuff that goes into source citation #HeSaidIronically

As they worked, I had a student or two ask about revising their flowcharts to accommodate things like “Date of last update” rather than just publication dates or copyright dates or revising flow charts to accommodate an organization as an author.


The flow charting process took a little while, but I liked that it slowed my students down enough so that they looked at the menu options and read the dialog boxes provided within NoodleTools along with scaffolding the process for subsequent website citations–an emerging skill for most of them. At the end of our first section of classes without any prompting I saw a number of students take pictures of their flow charts, which, with my 8th graders is a decent sign that they found the flowcharting useful! Yay!

After our initial efforts, I stuck to structured whole-group instruction with my sections, but my energetic young colleague, Nicole, tried having students first flowchart familiar tasks, then had her students work through the NoodleTools website citation process. They got the concept quickly and I’d consider being more “organic” with my instruction going forward (I’m a bit of a control freak if you haven’t figured that out yet…).


In this example, I liked that students considered the type of shoe then had the logic branch based on the requirement for each type of shoe. It is ultimately, I hope, a tool that we can employ to make students think more systematically about many kinds of decision-making, not just rote processes like citation. It has a lot of potential to serve both as a scaffold for students engaged in new processes or as a formative assessment tool to show us what students understand or are misunderstanding about concepts.

I’m thinking about how we might use similar flowcharting to assess or scaffold students’ understanding on copyright and fair use. One of the things that I like is that flowcharts for a single topic like use of copyrighted images could be relatively simple to reflect a 6th grader’s understanding of copyright and fair use, but could also be quite nuanced and complex to show how a HS junior or senior understands the exact same concept.

Something to keep in mind here is that a lot of this process was us introducing the concept and process of flowcharting by thinking aloud and demonstrating. Ultimately, it will be far more powerful for students to construct the flowcharts themselves. In essence our goal with flowcharting should be to help students to make THEIR THINKING and THEIR DECISION-MAKING visible so that a teacher/librarian/coach can help to either extend students’ thinking or address any misperceptions, misunderstandings or gaps in knowledge. The idea of librarians creating flowcharts for students to consume as end users is far less compelling to me as a school librarian.

It’s all a work in progress so I’m figuring it out as we go along. I’d love to hear about ways you are supporting systems thinking, coding, or ways that you are scaffolding processes like these in your information instruction. Please share what you’re doing!

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Irma, Empathy, and Excelling

***This post is late–I blame Irma, because she’s handy.***

It’s a sign of our super-saturated online life: I read a teaser the other day for an article about empathy and its decline in modern teens, and now I can’t find the full article.  I’m sure it was some kind of discussion of the Michigan Empathy Study (http://bit.ly/1pCWfKf), and this Time article by author Michele Borba looks pretty similar (http://ti.me/2ckQNS0).

Of course there is a lot going on right now to over-fill our brains.  We’re all still reeling from the images of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Texas, and then suddenly Irma is mauling the Leeward Islands and barrelling toward Florida.  For a time it looked like we here in South Carolina were in the crosshairs, though now Irma seems bent on bringing the first tropical storm to America’s heartland.  Chargers in Charlottesville, mudslides in Bangladesh, Barbuda wiped clean, an earthquake in Mexico; it’s a lot to absorb, and after a point we just sort of shut down.

Last Thursday night at our varsity football game we had an athletic wear drive for school teams in Texas, and Friday we had a dress-down day in support of another Texas charity.  Our students and teachers are uniformly kind (even when being able to wear a tee shirt and shorts to school aren’t in the offing).  But I also believe the study; we are all a bit more numb, a bit more removed, than we used to be.

Also last Thursday night, my Godsister* and my nephew reached our house after a 15+-hour drive up from Miami.  I helped unload the car: suitcases hurriedly packed; a cooler of food grabbed from the fridge; a couple of blankets; a guitar; and two paintings from my Godmother’s house.

I hadn’t even thought about these paintings until that moment.  They are interesting in and of themselves, because they were painted by The Highwaymen, a group of African-American painters who created stereotypical tropical scenes to sell on the side of the road or in those strange hotel-lobby sales you see sometimes: palm trees and water in the moonlight, or beach-y sunsets in oranges and pinks, with seagulls in little V-shaped dabs of paint (http://www.floridahighwaymenpaintings.com/).  So they are cool all by themselves, but mostly those paintings represent my Godmother, and her 1960s-era Mackle house on Key Biscayne, and the years spent in and around the place, and people who are gone but who live on not just in our memories, but in the physical space we all shared.  With that under threat, we were simultaneously glad to be together and safe, and stuck in some kind of limbo: what of these not-ultimately-important, but still so-important, things would be left when the wind and water recede?  After witnessing from afar the suffering of others, in other parts of the world, I suddenly had the fear of loss and damage right here on my doorstep.

This brought me back around to the headline I had seen earlier in the week, and the talk of empathy and the perception that it has declined.  I also thought of news stories I have seen which have described people witnessing tragic events, and viewing those events, through their smartphones–using them as a lens for their experience, with the unintended secondary consequence of adding an artificial distance between us and what is happening to the other humans around us. The world continues to grow smaller; we witness the minutia of others’ suffering on tiny screens.  It is too easy for us to become inured to what seems distant, whether it is half a world or two states away.

As with everything, balance is key, isn’t it?  The quest for information, images, video of the tragedy-of-the-moment must be counterweighted by challenging ourselves to engage actively and empathetically.  We must learn–and help our students learn–how to juggle the sometimes thorny multiple existences we lead: information seekers, technology users, empathetic humans, watchers and hands-on helpers. As we seek to meet our own standards for educating our students to be not only excellent academicians, but also excellent humans, we must remind ourselves, and our students, of how incredibly small the world has become.  We must find a way to keep ourselves from becoming tone-deaf.  Empathy means gathering clothes and books and donations, and it also means working to keep our antennae finely tuned to what others are experiencing, when so much of the world is reducible to a meme and 140 characters.

*Spellcheck doesn’t like this word–shame on it.  Godsister = the daughter of my Godmother.  A slightly more elegant and Episcopalian version of the Sister from Another Mister.

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Books of Hope and Resilience

“Hope” is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.                                                                                                                                    Emily Dickinson

The natural disasters caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma challenged local residents and people across the nation to respond quickly and compassionately.  As a librarian who finds inspiration and hope in stories, here are reflections on recent events in Houston and suggestions of 3 book themes that illustrate hope and resilience.

Theme 1: Problem Solving Keeps Hope Afloat
Nationwide people responded quickly to solve logistics of supplying help and aid.  The parent organization at my Houston school, Annunciation Orthodox School, set up a SignupGenius to send email alerts for a particular family’s needs, such as cleanup, making meals, picking up laundry, etc.  Most requests were filled within the hour of the email alert, and individual volunteers managed their own signup duty.

Book Suggestions:
What Do You Do with a Problem? by Kobi Yamada
Picture book shows a young child buffeted by the storms of a problem.The child changes the perspective of fear to one of determination, facing the problem as an opportunity to make a difference.

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
A grandmother helps a young girl overcome her fear of a looming thunderstorm by involving her in assembling the ingredients for a “thunder cake.”  In this shared creative activity, the granddaughter’s fears are calmed.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
“I went to sleep dreaming of Malawi, and all the things made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart.”  In the midst of poverty and famine, William
sees the problems of Malawi and invents a solution: a windmill to generate electricity and pump water. Using pictures of a windmill from a donated school textbook (Using Energy) and inventively assembling discarded scraps and a bicycle dynamo generator, William successfully creates the windmill.  Read more on his blog.

Theme 2: Helping Provides Healing
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, huge garbage trucks rolled in from San Antonio and Austin to pick up flood debris; volunteers provided meals, clothing, and shelter; and crews from Louisiana’s Cajun Navy and Tennessee’s first responder teams joined local emergency crews and local residents with boats to rescue stranded flood victims. Images, videos, and shared stories of these amazing efforts inspired us.

Book Suggestions:
The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearshall
“Some angels are like peacocks. Others are less flashy. Like city pigeons. It all depends on the wings.” An angry and emotionally distraught teen, Arthur T. Owens, is assigned to community service with a trash picker, James Hampton. As Arthur helps James assemble this trash into a beautiful artwork, the teen finds hope and healing in his own life and discovers that beauty and angels of hope can be found in unlikely places. (Based on the life of outsider artist James Hampton.)

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
“Perhaps the seeds of redemption lay not just in perseverance, hard work, and rugged individualism. Perhaps they lay in something more fundamental—the simple notion of everyone pitching in and pulling together.” The American Olympic rowing team, competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, discover the importance of “the boat,” the joined efforts and shared love that can overcome impossible odds.

Theme 3: Creating Places of Hope and Refuge
Important to easing distress and fears is the creation of places of hope and refuge. The Houston Convention Center, church halls, family homes, and our schools were just some of the places transformed into shelters for flood victims and families. These temporary havens of safety allowed victims time to rest as they rebuilt their lives.

Book Suggestions:
Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack
In the segregated South of the 1950s, a young girl looks forward to a trip to go “Someplace Special.”  Passing benches marked “Whites Only” and riding in the back of a segregated bus, the young Tricia Ann arrives at her “special” place, the Nashville Public Library that bears the sign “All are Welcome.”

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
In 1911, a fourteen-year-old girl, Joan, flees from her cruel father and the bleak future of farm life. Seeking a new life in Baltimore, Joan is stranded on the streets of a strange city until a kind man invites Joan to work for his Jewish family as a hired girl.  What follows is a series of funny and charming misadventures as Joan, with her Catholic upbringing, blends her life and future goals with this compassionate Jewish family.

Please share your favorite books of hope and resilience. Thank you for using stories to lift spirits of those in distress.

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A Day in the Life of a Middle School Librarian

We all know that librarians wear many hats. For some this can be a bit confusing; however, I love all of the hats that I get to wear during a day in my library.


I start my morning in a “circulation” cap as our girls use the library to finish last minute homework, catch up on last night’s Netflix binge, or attempt to wake up with some breakfast from our in-house café. Our book drop fills up and the day begins in our 5th-12th grade library and learning commons.


Time to don the “research ranch” hat and “digital literacy” derby. My 6th-grade research workshop course can be a bit like taming wild horses. It is an opportunity for my students to discuss upcoming research projects, evaluate sources, argue the importance of acknowledgment and citation, as well as, dip their toes into some digital literacy activities. I enjoy helping to guide their reins as they learn to jump through the hoops of navigating research.


During their rotating free period, my 5th-8th grade Library Leaders can be seen in the library. Beyond wearing the “point-person” pillbox myself, my Leaders dress in the hats of responsibility. They reshelve and organize books, pick up and clean the learning commons space, and even design library displays and announcements. This week’s announcement was about Library Card Sign Up month, which had me wearing a Wonder Woman headdress- concealing my true identity!


Thankfully, there is lunch in this story. Of course, it is accompanied by the Pop-Up Library pom-pom hat! Themed for each month- this week the Pop-Up includes books that follow our school theme of Courage, Character, and Kindness. I set up the Pop-Up just outside the dining hall so that students can browse after eating.


My middle schoolers do not have scheduled library classes. So after buckling on my “brainstorming” hat, I have found monthly times to meet with each grade for Book Talks or themed activities to promote circulation and reading for fun. Today, I coordinated some Musical Books for my 5th graders. They enjoyed reading for three minutes, then when the music played passing the books until the music stopped, and they had a new book to read. Almost all of the 5th graders checked out a book afterward.


While I love all of my hats, I’m lucky to be able to show off my “secret talent” sombrero during my Book Art course.

We discussed the great importance of the crane in Japanese culture and introduced the belief that one thousand paper cranes can grant the heart’s deepest wish. The first cranes they made were crumpled, lumpy, and not at all resembling the graceful bird. One student even frustratedly suggested that we make seagulls instead because clearly, that is what she had created. But these girls encouraged, helped, and coached each other through the instructions and one by one paper cranes began to emerge from the recycled book pages.

Our paper crane making project was coupled with the sound of the audiobook Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. As the story took its course, my students were becoming more proficient at paper crane making and commented about feeling as if they too were helping Sadako create cranes. Although the story was a sad one, my students talked with each other about how making the cranes allowed them to feel at peace.


Time to go home! Just kidding- today after school I sport my athletics cap as JV Golf coach!

While from time to time I don’t have to quick-change into all of my hats, I really enjoy how busy my life as a Middle School Book Wizard- I mean- Librarian can be! 

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Leadership. Libraries.

Thanks to the Independent Ideas blog written by AISL member Ellen Back last fall, four AISL-ers were inspired to attend Library Leadership in the Digital Age at Harvard University last March.  Despite the cold weather and the seemingly endless assigned reading, we gathered mid-March for three days of intensive study and discussion of libraries, librarianship, and leadership in our evolving communities and this fast paced digital age.

In the workshop we examined what librarianship was, what it is becoming, and how we, as leaders in our field, can influence the direction our libraries take and drive our libraries to meet the needs of the people we currently serve and want to serve.  There is nothing like sitting in a room of librarians who work in schools, universities, and public libraries, to share concerns, philosophies of the profession, and ideas for moving forward.  It was what I might call a library heaven of sorts, expertly lead by professional educators from Harvard, Jim Neal, President of ALA, the revered Carla Hayden, Librarian of CongressDavid Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and many other leaders in the field.  In describing the experience, Mr. Ferriero may have put it best when he called our time together an “intellectual spa.”

I’ve been reading and rereading my notes from the three days of presentations and discussions and gathered some take aways to share.  More important than my list of fairly practical ideas, was the assurance that my gut instinct of how we need to move swiftly to meet the needs of our ever-changing school communities is on target.  The Library Leadership workshop gave me permission to move forward with things that I’ve been thinking about and that my department has been talking about.

  • As library leaders it is easy to get caught up in the day to day business of our schools. We also need to take time to reflect and get to know ourselves as librarians and as leaders.
  • Libraries are: people, place, holdings, and platform.
  • Be AGILE in our use of space, transporting our practice into the classroom, and being active and visible in the community.
  • How can we, the librarians, define who we are rather than allowing the community to ‘know’ us with preconceived stereotypes?
  • We need to work with what we have now while simultaneously developing and creating our future libraries.

Colleagues, what are your big picture questions and ideas?


ps.  Oh, and this: one of my favorite moments ever, ever in my life, meeting Carla Hayden.

If you have the opportunity to attend Library Leadership in the Digital Age, you will not be disappointed.  It was an amazing experience.

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A Warm Welcome to the 17-18 School Year

As I watch the news and see the messiness of life, fires and floods,  political clashes and rising nuclear tensions, I’m concentrating on the things that I have control of. I’m working at being intentional in my gratitude for all that is right in my very small slice of the world. For my own good health and that of my children, well enough to beat each other senseless every day of our summer vacation.  For loving friends, an abundance of books, good wine (see statement re: healthy children),  for a supportive spouse, challenging job, excellent colleagues, curious students, and for you, my dear friends of AISL.

I’m grateful to this community, for the depth and breadth of knowledge that you so freely share, for your words of encouragement, your generous hearts, for the fun times we’ve shared and the fun times to come (I’m lookin’ at you Hotlanta!). On behalf of the AISL Board of Trustees, I wish you a most excellent 17-18 school year and I challenge you too to live this year with an attitude of gratitude.

Before we look too far ahead, let’s first take a moment to congratulate Caroline Bartels for her successful Summer Institute. Fourteen librarians came from far and near the Big Apple to discuss All School Read programs, to benefit from Caroline’s wisdom and, among other things, to learn from fellow AISL’er Nancy Florio. The response has been so very positive. Thank you, Caroline, for hosting! Attendees left feeling invigorated and inspired which, to me, is the mark of a successful institute. Read Laura Bishop’s awesome account of the program here.

SI2018 takes us back to the West Coast! Be on the lookout for communication from Cathy Leverkus and Sarah Davis for what I know will be another excellent offering.

I want to give you a brief look at the year ahead and call to your attention some things that the Board has in the works:

April 18-20 AISL Atlanta: Making Connections

Led by the intrepid Melinda Holmes, the ATL planning committee has got their act together and is planning a fantastic few days of PD for us. Their call for session proposals just ended. Hope you got yours in. 🙂

Affordability Scholarship

A HUGE thank you to Phoebe Warmack for her astute handling of the Board’s Affordability Scholarship program these past two years. Remember that this scholarship, in the amount of US $1,000.00,  provides 100% conference registration with the remaining balance to be applied as reimbursement toward documented travel and lodging expenses to defray the cost of attending the recipient’s first AISL annual conference. She hands the baton to new Member at Large Barbara Share. Barbara will work with the Atlanta planners to announce the scholarships in conjunction with registration opening.

Mentorship Program

Continuing in that vein, I want to say “thank you” to Allison Peters Jensen, who spearheaded our first ever Mentorship program in 16-17. In case you were already in vacation mode and missed it, check out her June 6th year in review. Thank you, Allison, and thank you to all of our participants! New Member at Large Kate Patin will put her own spin on the program this year. Go Kate go!

New Webinar Series

Beginning this month, we’ll begin a monthly webinar series, alternating between a product/tool of interest and hearing from a member with a particular passion or expertise. I put out the call for input and 54 of you answered. Thank you!  I’ll be in touch with those you requested ‘more of’ (past bloggers, conference presenters, etc.) to see if they’re willing to share and will let you know once I have a schedule worked out. We’ll alternate start times and will record every webinar for those of you with time zone or scheduling conflicts so that you can watch at your leisure.

Mark your calendar for the kick off event:

AISL Exclusive Webinar: Improving Student Research with Credo
Tuesday, September 19th at 12:00 PM EDT

Discover how Credo can help your school meet students’ research needs and teach valuable information literacy skills through a combination of innovative technology and
great reference content. Channel Manager Lara Kraft will provide a tour of SEEK, Credo’s one-stop exploratory search platform and SKILL Modules, Credo’s information literacy instruction modules as well as demonstrate how these products can impact college readiness and student learning outcomes. Join us to find out why School Library Journal calls the SKILL Modules “well-organized,” “adaptable,” and “intuitive.” AISL members also qualify for special discounted pricing, to be announced during the webinar.

Register for the webinar Here.

On this Labor Day, I think it fitting to wish you an excellent school year. Don’t work too hard. Live a life full of gratitude for blessings large and small. And if you see me coming with three Tasmanian devil children tussling around my ankles, save yourself man! Run! Back to work (and school!) we go! Thank you teachers!

Have a great year, ya’ll!

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Plus there was Google cardboard swag

I’m halfway through a 2-day Google for Education conference (EdTech Team Eastern Ontario), the goal being to ensure that I’m as on top of my game as possible when school resumes after Labour Day for those of us up North.

Wonderfully, I’ve found that many key basics hold true and I’m not as much of a dinosaur as I thought!  Equally as wonderful, I’m picking up some awesome shortcuts. For example, when sharing a Google doc with students, replacing the ‘/edit’ at end of URL with ‘/copy’ prompts students to make a copy (thereby preventing overwriting of data).

Remembering how it can be tricky to put my finger on specific PD resources once the school year is in full swing, I organized the presentation slides for easy access in future. All presenters welcomed non-commercial use of their materials, so please help yourself: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B0_CuGu2bGqaWkJfOGFOZUhTMms

I highly recommend Session 3 – we love making posters and other promotional materials but aren’t trained in graphic design, so I was curious to know what was possible beyond Canva (which remains awesome). This presentation offered simple tips and tricks using Google Slides (just change page setup to 8.5×11 if you intend to print) with lots of time to try them out – I’m excited about walking through these slides with my library team!

(Folder will be updated with slides from presentations I attend today)

Back to the Google cardboard…which is more fun than should be legal,


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Solar Eclipse 2017

Sorry, no post today! Because, this.

from the mountains in Salem, SC (photo by my husband, Kevin Harvey)


Whether you watched it on TV or went out to see it in person, I hope you were able to witness today’s solar eclipse! It was absolutely one of the greatest things I have experienced. Already making plans for 2024!

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So many books to order …

Yesterday I was frantically cleaning out some of my old files, making displays, just trying to ready the library for the start of the new school year and the return of our lovely students (it’s a new school year – they are all lovely)! I’d been excitedly ordering new books when I stopped and thought … we’ve been ordering (print) books the same way for years. Are we maximizing our book budget? Our students range in age from three to eighteen. Our lower school (through grade 4) has the least number of students but they check out more books than the other two divisions combined (which makes sense for a host of reasons), so we generally buy more books for the lower school. However, that collection is fairly complete (although we could use newer non-fiction). Besides ordering and buying for our students, we also try to serve the needs of our faculty/staff and parents. I’ve been expanding our professional growth collection. Plus, besides buying popular YA titles and books to support the curriculum, we’ve been adding diversity and inclusivity books. So, which division/area deserves the lion’s share of our book budget? What is right/fair?

Don’t get me wrong. We love the autonomy of curating our own collection … Ingram has offered to help but we feel like we know our own “community” best … it’s just that there are always more great books than we can possibly buy … I was looking through Kirkus this morning. Of course, I’m drawn to books (with starred reviews) about current events … but their relevance is fleeting, so their shelf life is short. Last year I tried dividing up our budget into thirds with another $1000 reserved for pro grow books (our lower school library does have a source of additional funding through restricted funds) I’m sure others divide their budget in different ways. A certain dollar amount is allotted for non-fiction or reference, for example, or the budget may be divided by whether the books support the curriculum or are bestsellers. However, given the data that supports the reading of literary fiction, are we contributing to the dumbing down of reading by ordering so many popular young adult titles? Not that young adult books by their definition are not literary, but we all know that many of the most popular books would not be classified as “literature.” I’m sure that we’re not the only library that has greatly reduced our print reference collection (online encyclopedias are great and include access to outside websites). We rarely buy reference material but children’s non-fiction and biography has gotten so much better – there’s lots to choose from (as an aside, if you serve lower school children, Chris Eliopolous, illustrator of Brad Meltzer’s biography series “Ordinary People Change the World,” engaged our children completely with his presentation).  www.chriseliopoulos.com/

How much of our book budget should be allotted to eBooks and eAudiobooks? We buy eBooks through Overdrive. So far the check-outs have been minimal compared to print, and with electronic resources so much more expensive per item, it’s been tough. This year, though, we are joining an Overdrive consortium (thank you, Los Angeles-are ISLE), so our students will have access to a much larger collection. We’re hoping that will help drive an increase in interest and circulation.

And, maybe, to twist a Shakespearean quote, all of this is much ado about nothing. Perhaps there is no right or wrong answer. Our circulation statistics show that our students check out fewer books as they navigate through middle school, with my upper school “reading for pleasure” statistics lower than I’d like them to be. Maybe I should concentrate my efforts into “handing” more books directly to students. In fact, I think I’ll begin my new efforts on Monday. After all, it’s a new school year … I’ll take advantage of everyone’s enthusiasm ….before it wanes.

Happy New School Year, Everyone!

by Lorrie Culver, Library Coordinator, La Jolla Country Day School

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The EdCamp Model for Professional Summer Reading

Our 2016-17 school theme was “Re-imagine” and the division directors thought it would be fun to reimagine our professional development reading for the summer. In past years, all directors sponsored a book of interest. Teachers chose any of the five books and attended a discussion led by the director during our preseason week. Fairly standard procedure, and it worked well.

Based on the success of our EdCamp professional development day last January, they decided to try a similar approach to summer reading. At EdCamp events, participants create an agenda on the spot and lead impromptu sessions based on areas of shared interest, need or expertise.



For summer reading, this meant that teachers could choose to read any book they felt would help them develop professionally. From the directors:

Summer is around the corner and with that comes our annual summer reading request. We’ve Re-Imagined for this summer and are going with an entirely different approach.

Being that our EdCamp Professional Development Day was such a hit, we’re going with an EdCamp Books  where everyone has his/her own choice of book to ignite their passions.

Your job is to choose a book you’ve never read before and return in August ready to share what the book meant to you, how it might affect your teaching, your daily interactions, etc.

We will keep a list on a Google Doc, so please add your information as soon as you decide the book you’ll read.

Some of you may join others in reading the same book.

However, we are hoping for some outside of the box books and thinkers that will introduce us to a variety of books and insight into our colleagues’ passions and interests.

Happy Summer and Happy Reading!

Basically the Google sheet populated itself over the summer

Based on feedback from teachers throughout the summer and following yesterday’s discussions, I’d say that EdCamp-style summer reading was an unqualified success. There was some slight initial trepidation from a few teachers about choosing the “right” book, but that passed pretty quickly. The libraries recommended books to those who asked, and most teachers got recommendations from colleagues or chose books they had been wanting to read already. It’s nice to have an excuse…

We met in predetermined but random groups, and discussions formed organically. In my group, we found some themes common to our reading and offered the best tips from what we had learned. The hour flew by, and I made a note of several teachers with whom I’d like to continue the conversation in the coming weeks.

Summer reading is something like a fingerprint for each school with each program varying based on the school’s personality. If you have success stories of your own or questions about what we tried, please write them in the comments below.

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