An Update on the AISL Mentor Program

“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.”



The Board is thrilled to announce that the Mentor Program is here! In the AISL Membership Survey conducted earlier this year, almost 50% of our membership expressed interest in an AISL Mentor Program. Now, there are 30 participants in the program’s inaugural year. Those 30 mentors and mentees will soon be introduced to their mentor partners to begin a journey together towards some specific goals. Along the way we hope they form professional bonds that will last into the future, beyond this year’s first mentor program.

There is a lot of literature that speaks to the importance of mentoring to help professionals grow in their fields. In a 2011 Harvard Business Review article titled DeMystifying Mentoring, Amy Gallo turns old perspectives of mentoring upside down through case studies. She describes a long-term mentor relationship that started with the question “So what’s your next step?” Sometimes a trigger like that is all we need to push us to work towards addressing the challenges in our libraries.

The AISL Board hopes that our mentor-mentee partnerships will help all participants grow as librarians. In addition, we feel fortunate that all members of AISL can connect and mentor one another through the list-serv, social media, the Annual Conference, and the Summer Institute.

Visit this site to ignite the mentor fire.  For inspiration during the school year, check in with the Independent Ideas blog for updates on how the Mentor Program is progressing.

Allison Peters Jensen, AISL Board Member-at-Large, 2014-2017

Director of Libraries, Lower School Librarian, Colorado Academy, Denver, CO.



To Starting New

IMG_6445This year, our school’s library staff shifted into new roles. That’s why the first word I added to the LS Library’s WOW Word Wall was neophyte.


While experienced librarians, we are beginners together on this new adventure. Our team structure and size is new. We have new responsibilities to learn and attend to while maintaining excellent service to our school community. While we are not new to school, it does feel like we are the new librarians in town as we all get adjusted.  Maybe after we’ve been doing this for a few months I will share more about our journey. In the meantime, I’m going to look forward to AISL’s upcoming Mentor Program. The advice of an experienced AISL colleague seems like just what I need right now!

With all the changes in our department, why not make changes in the library spaces as well? Every year, we like to start fresh in our libraries. We are constantly finding ways to adapt and improve our space to better serve our school communities. In a previous AISL Blog Post, Allie Bronston, our Middle School Librarian, described the new Teaching Lab in Raether Library, which serves the Middle and Upper Divisions. It’s become a very popular spot for classes to meet.

We decided to make some changes in the Lower School Library as well:

Graphic Novels:  The graphic novels have moved each summer for the past few years. They’ve been in cramped space after cramped space. This year, after making a slight shift to the biography section we were able to move the Graphic Novels to a spot where the books –and students- can have a little more elbow room. The new graphic novel area allows a group of students to browse simultaneously and we are finding it is easier to shelve there than ever before!


Board Games:  We’ve had a board game collection for many years. The games are played by happy children on indoor recess days and on special ‘Game Days’ just before winter break and at the end of the school year. We grew tired of taping up the easily crushed cardboard game boxes. Collecting spilled Mastermind pegs grows old after about 10 seconds. Using the popular and reliable resource called Pinterest (!) we found an organization system we liked. The game pieces are in plastic containers with snap lids and the labeled game boards sit beside the game boxes. Genius! I can’t wait to show students our game area at our first Game Day.


Rugs:  We are grateful for the beautiful story time rug that was gifted to us by a teacher who found it to be too big for her classroom.   A larger rug is just what our story time area, the Cozy Corner, needed. We moved the smaller and much loved dragon rug to a quiet reading area and moved the new rug in. Students are shocked to see that the purple dragon has disappeared and then delighted to discover that (Oh Phew!) he just moved.

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Sit S.H.A.R.K.:  Thanks to link shared with me by a fourth grade teacher, I decided to teach our younger students to SIT S.H.A.R.K.  Check out the link and discover a few other tips while you are at it!


Based on the reactions of two first grade students, I might try to make the shark look a little more friendly.

How has your library changed for the new year?





Puppy Tales


In the spring, we welcomed a puppy into our little family.  As we cuddle, house train, walk around the neighborhood, and feed him, characters and moments in children’s literature spring to mind.  Here are some examples:

During an in-house Nathaniel Rateliff dance party, little Honker jumped up and started doing his own little doggy dance.  His puppy dance moves resembled those of Gloria in Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann.  Gloria is the personality-filled pup who dazzles child audiences with her dance moves while Officer Buckle bores them by reciting Safety Rules.


Like most puppies, Honker loves to chew.  Hands, shoe laces, pieces of mulch, sticks, cardboard, and occasionally, his own toys.  Chewy Louie, the title character in the picture book by Howie Schneider, seems to be Honker’s role model.


We feel lucky that Honker found his home with us.  He seems to also be finding a happy home in our neighborhood, his puppy training class, and even at the veterinarian’s office.  Could Honker could join Tupelo from Tupelo Rides the Rails by Melissa Sweet in the BONEHEADS (Benevolent Order of Nature’s Exalted Hounds Earnest and Doggedly Sublime).  Would Honker be able to sit still long enough to gaze up at the stars with the BONEHEADS to learn about dog astronomy?


If you work with Lower School Students then you have, no doubt, met Hally Tosis, the infamous character in Dav Pilkey’s book Dog Breath!: The Horrible Trouble with Hally Tosis.  Luckily, Honker is not suffering from that ailment.


Honker does not bark often.  When he does bark or yip he sounds like a dog, not a duck or a cat or a pig or a cow.  In that way, he does not have much in common with George, from Bark, George by Jules Feiffer.  Honker does, however, seem to put just about everything he sees in his mouth.  For all we know his belly is full of a duck, a cat, a pig, and a cow.


Dogs needs baths.  That’s just the way it is.  Honker is pretty calm during bath time.  He doesn’t avoid it like Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.


Do you have favorite picture books about dogs?

Following are a few more popular dog books in our Lower School Library:

Little Dog Lost: the true story of a brave dog called Baltic by Monica Carnesi

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio

Dog Days of School by Kelly DiPucchio

Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley

Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest

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Poetrees and Flutterbies

IMG_0428At this time of year we celebrate Spring, Poetry, and Butterflies in the Primary wing of the Lower School.  Many classes read books about the seasons, all classes read and write poems, and our second graders learn about butterflies, each “hatching” a real butterfly from a chrysalis.  To support classroom curriculum, we create a Poetree where first graders write poems about spring to help the Poetree sprout its leaves.  Second graders create their own beautiful butterflies to adorn the Poetree.

How does this happen?

Well, Poetrees need a lot of students to make them grow!  We start by sharing the book Poetrees by Douglas Florian.  The students see the beautiful art, read the poems, and share their own knowledge of trees and poetry.  It is fun to hear the first graders explain what you learn by counting the rings of a tree and their surprise when they learn that a tiny acorn will grow into a big oak tree.  Next, we talk about the season of Spring.  Students explain what happens in Spring with the plants and flowers, what activities they like to do in Spring, and list Spring ‘things’ like mud, frogs, baby birds, and so on.  Next, the students write their own spring poems, starting with a rough draft on lined paper.  When their poems are done, they copy them onto a leaf template and illustrate the poem.  When the leaves are cut out, the Poetree begins to grow.  This project happens over two class periods.

In the last trimester of the year, second graders learn everything you can imagine about butterflies and then visit The Butterfly Pavilion just outside of Denver.  I love connecting to this unit in the library!  We begin our Flutterby lesson by having the students share important and interesting facts they learned about butterflies in our cozy corner.  Then we read together.  There are many butterfly stories to choose from for a read-aloud and one of my favorites is The Beautiful Butterfly: a Folktale from Spain by Judy Sierra and Victoria Chess.  The story is about love, death, grief, and underwear.  Students always love it in the end, even if the *mushy* stuff at the beginning makes some of them groan.  After the story, I show students how to make a colorful butterfly out of two pieces of tissue paper and a pipe cleaner.  It is easy, fun, and helps create a colorful hallway display that is enjoyed by students, teachers, and parents.  This lesson takes one library class period.

The Poetree is an annual event for the primary wing students and they love learning that it is their turn to make the Poetree grow.


Invite More Cuteness to Your Library!

If you’ve ever had a Get Caught Reading! bulletin board in your school, you know what I am talking about. Cuteness!


This year we made it a goal to take pictures of students reading quietly in the library and post them near our library entrance throughout the entire school year. Our efforts started small during the chaotic start to the school year. We snapped a few photos here and there. As the school year got into its groove, we were able to catch students reading often (and teachers too!). Our library mascots were even caught reading in the library.


At a recent Lower School Town Meeting Assembly, our three fifth grade student mentors made it known to the school that it is COOL to Get Caught Reading! in the library. With that simple announcement, a movement began. Quiet reading time became exceptionally quiet. Our students are now spending more time reading, and less time goofing around at the end of each library class. Check-out time often starts with a question, “Ms. Allison, will you catch me reading today?”

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Even our resident Wizard got caught reading.




Mr. Wiggle and No-No-Never-Never

Hello, AISLers!  Welcome to 2016.  Welcome back to school.

Welcome back to Independent Ideas.

Earlier this school year I asked you, the experts in the field, for ideas on how to augment my first grade unit on book care.  That unit ended just before the holiday break and I am excited to report back to you with the results of the newly designed lesson.

In November, I shared Mr. Wiggle’s Book by Paula M. Craig with the three first grade classes.  They loved Mr. Wiggle (“Is he a worm or a caterpillar?” was a topic of debate) and it gave us a lot to talk about.  Then I showed them the No-No-Never-Never box suggested to me by an AISL librarian.  The idea is described here at Elementary Library Routines.  The box is filled with pets (stuffies), scissors, hole punchers, snack food, bottled water, tape, and a number of other things that we want to keep away from library books.  The first graders loved the No-No-Never-Never box so much that they ask to see it every time they enter the library!

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In the following weeks we read more stories about taking care of our books.  Read it, Don’t Eat It! by Ian Shoenherr is a popular title in this genre.  In addition the students love The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers, especially when the incredible boy throws up!  I also threw in a favorite, Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson.  A joy of this unit is that every single book in the library with a torn page, water damage, slight discoloration, or a peeling barcode, is brought to our attention for immediate fixing.  The first graders want all books to get treated nicely!

In mid-December, we did a quick reread of Mr. Wiggle’s Book.  The students recapped all the things we need to remember about taking care of our library books.  The next step was to educate others with a hallway display.  First graders made posters advertising ways to care for library books.

Enjoy the photos of first grade posters.  They make me smile!

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Thanks for all of your excellent suggestions.  They provided some first grade fun!

“I thought you were a nice Librarian”

That’s what one student said as I wrapped up a surprise lesson on plagiarism. In truth, I try to be a pretty nice librarian and like all of us, I hold students accountable to high expectations. To perform research well and honestly, the students need to meet a particular set of high expectations regarding resources used, note-taking, writing thoughts in one’s own words, and creating a bibliography.

Of course, we must teach students the ins-and-outs of honest research to be able to hold them accountable to the standards.  One of my biggest challenges in the Lower School library program is teaching 4th and 5th grade students about plagiarism and giving them the tools they need to avoid it. The fairly dry topic can be confusing, challenging, and sometimes boring to teach and learn about, especially for Lower School students.   In addition, I find it to be a topic that alarms students and gets them worrying, as one student told me about “that time in first grade that I copied a paragraph of a Magic Tree House book for a report.”  It took awhile to convince this student, a 4th grader, that he would not be punished for his use of the text in 1st grade.

As a nice librarian (I hope!) who truly cares about student learning experiences, I made it my mission this year to add some sugar and spice to my first trimester lessons on plagiarism.

My first stop on this journey was a visit to the tried and true resources available from Common Sense Media. The technology teacher and I have been collaborating around the Common Sense Media curriculum for three years and are happy with the dynamic, attention getting, and thought provoking lessons they provide. The lesson geared towards Lower School students, Whose is it, Anyway? is one I’ve used in the past with success and decided to give it another go with 4th grade. The discussion based lesson introduces students to the idea of giving credit to others for use of their original work by analyzing times the students have created original work. This year I spread the topic over two class periods and gave students more time for class discussion. Slowing the subject down provided a much richer discussion than in previous years.

Since that lesson, the 4th graders have begun a research project on the Revolutionary War. With the discussion of plagiarism, copyright, and ownership of thoughts and ideas behind us, the importance of creating a bibliography became a natural next step for the students. I feel as though a foundation has been laid and that we will have rich conversations and practice around the subject in the future.

For 5th grade, I wanted something that would zap, zing, pop, and wow the students. We laid groundwork around the topics of copyright and plagiarism last year and I felt ready to blow their minds with a lesson that would get them thinking deeply about the choices they make in the research process. I wanted to turn their thinking caps up to eleven.

To inspire myself, I pored over the Common Sense Media materials and searched the Internet for ideas. When I found the video posted by Bob Sprankle called “What Does Plagiarism Look Like?”, I knew that my search was over. Once you watch it, you will know what I mean.

Energized by Mr. Sprankle’s unique approach and with the help two wonderful colleagues, I staged a scene where the students caught me in the act of plagiarizing.  I started class by telling them I had an essay due in one hour for my college class.   The students watched me find an article online, copy and paste it into a Word document, change the author and a few other words, save it in my files, and then email the essay to my professor.  In very subtle ways, my library assistant prompted some of the student conversation, drawing in the distracted (whispering with friends) students, while I repeatedly asked the students to “quiet down for just a few minutes while I finish an essay due this morning for my college class.” In all three 5th grade classes and at varying speeds, the students recognized what I was doing, warned me of the serious consequences, advised me on how to proceed with my professor, and all the while, gasped in shock and horror that their librarian would commit such a dishonest act. One student did say “I thought you were a nice librarian and then I saw you plagiarizing.  I didn’t know what to think.”  When we revealed the trick to students, many were shocked and a few said they suspected it all along. Either way, the discussions that followed were insightful and provocative. My high expectations of the students were met and then some.

I highly recommend viewing Bob Sprankle’s video if you haven’t already. The trick lesson is one that can be done with Lower, Middle, and Upper School students to spark conversation and set the stage for future learning about plagiarism. For particulars on how we pulled off the trick at Colorado Academy, please contact me at



“Common Sense Media.” Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media Inc., 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2015. <>.

Sprankle, Bob. “Copyright and Plagiarism with 3rd and 4th Graders.” bit by bit. WordPress, 21 Mar. 2014. Web. 1 Nov. 2015. <>.

These Go To 11. YouTube. Youtube, 11 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Nov. 2015. <>.

“Whose Is It, Anyway? (3-5).” Common Sense Education. Common Sense Media Inc., 2015. Web. 1 Nov. 2015. <>.


Origin Story VI

Welcome back to our summer series of Origin Stories.

Reading the Origin Stories posted this summer I notice that we all have a lot in common regarding love of reading, teaching, sharing, and well, reading!  My origin story fits right in with those themes.


When I was in elementary school the children’s librarian at my public library introduced me to Ramona Quimby and I became a reader for life.  Ramona spoke to me.  After that I read everything that Mrs. Neth gave me except for The Yearling (that cover looked SO boring!), and I gave recommendations to all my friends.  My BFF Shawna and I acted out Frog and Toad stories on our patio.  I set my alarm clock so I could read before school and I pretended that I was scared of the dark so my Mom would leave the hallway light on and then I could sneakily read late at night.  I read in the car, at church, and I always brought a book to sleepovers because I would usually wake up before everyone else and needed something to do.  My Dad let me check out as many books as I wanted every week as long as I checked out two biographies from the Childhood of Famous Americans series.  The phrase ‘born to read’ defines my childhood.

My family moved three times while I was in middle and high school.  During those years reading got me through times when I hadn’t made many friends and it provided an avenue for making friends.  Like many students, my independent reading took a dip in high school because of all the required reading.  My favorite assigned books were A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and Night by Wiesel.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t find time to read my share of juicy teen romances.

Fast-forward to college. I started as an education major but those darn early morning classes conflicted with my social life.   I switched majors to study what I really loved, French language and literature. My parents were supportive but always said, “You need a skill.”  I continued taking classes in French literature, sociology, religious studies, history, dance, and so many other things.  You have to love a liberal arts education!  In my junior year I secured a coveted job at the college library.  Wow.  I was perhaps the only student who looked forward to my shifts at the library shelving or shifting books and circulating materials. Then I learned that being a librarian is a job that requires a Masters Degree.  This was news to me and news I was very excited about.  When the librarians noticed that I enjoyed my job, they suggested an Independent Study in the College Archives and at the Reference Desk.  In the Archives I organized and cataloged (with a lot of help) papers from a local family’s attic collection of historical documents.  For the Reference Department I did surveys with students about using the then new online databases and wrote guides to help students through the murky waters of online searching.  My best friend remembers that at the end of the all-nighter when I was writing my analysis of the Library Independent Study experience, that I was crying tears of joy about the importance of libraries in the lives of ordinary people.  Yes, it was a long night, but that idea is one that continues to motivate me today.

When it came time to apply to graduate school, I was determined that it would be in Boston.  That is where my college mentor had gone and I wanted to follow in her footsteps at Simmons College.  I shed tears of joy when I was accepted into their Graduate School of Library and Information Science.  My parents were so thrilled that I had decided to go back to school and “get a skill” that they may have shed tears of their own.

Towards the end of graduate school I had my sights set on moving to Colorado and working with children. I was hired at a public library just outside of Denver and worked there for 10 years as a Children’s and Teen Services Librarian.  Almost five years ago now I started at Colorado Academy as the Lower School Librarian.  While there are things that I miss about the public library (mostly the element of crazy) there are things I love about being in a school.  Being the Lower School librarian is a wonderful adventure every day.  I enjoy seeing the kids grow from year-to-year, collaborating with teachers, being a part of the school community, and participating on AISL.

At Colorado Academy our Lower School library mascots are a stuffed animal dog named Ramona Quimby and a pet rock named Henry Huggins.  Thank you Mrs. Neth, Beverly Cleary, and many others for inspiring me as a reader and now as a librarian.




Origin Story V

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Origin Story IV

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

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


“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

-Seneca (allegedly- this attribution is disputed)

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

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

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

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

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



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