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!!

With a Little Help from My Friends

The start of the new calendar year has been hectic indeed.  Our amazing assistant librarian is off on maternity leave, and while a former student library proctor turned library school graduate student is now interning with us, we just don’t have the same amount of help that we did before.

However, we what we do have are the fabulous ideas that you all have given me over the last semester for things to do with our classes. And this blog has been especially valuable to me as Christina and I have been revamping our World History classes and I have been taking on an embedded librarian project in regular US history.

In particular, I thought I would talk about two suggestions that I used and how they turned out and then ask for your thoughts and suggestions.  In my next post I will detail the entire six days of research that we were given for the World History project and how that went and what changes we made, but we are just at the tail end of it and we still need to finish and then take stock and do a lessons learned.

Here are the two lessons that we used from your suggestions:

  1. Virtual Search Results (Or You Are My Search Result! Or or Sit Down!! No, Stand Up!) from Katie Archambault’s post on Boolean Searching
  2. Paraphrasing with Adele (or Katy Perry) by Allie Bronston’s post on the Mini Lesson in 6th Grade Science

Virtual Search Results

I really loved Katie’s description of this exercise and I really enjoyed making my 9th graders act out my google search results.  While I had great fun with my kids doing this exercise, Christina met some resistance with her students on it (mainly eye rolls and some comments about being made to do squats).  Some students felt they were a bit too old to be playing “games.”

Essentially, in the virtual search result, you have your class be the Google search bar and whatever phrase you write on the board, they need to enact by standing up or sitting down if they embody it.  I put the words NARROW, BROADEN, AND, OR on the board and then began.

“If you are a student, stand up.” Faculty sits down.

“AND if you are student and you are wearing shorts stand up.” (Otherwise sit down. 😎

“AND if you have on glasses continue to stand up.” (Continue on until you have one person.)

At this point, we usually have a nice cheer for the one person, and I can make a comment about finding that one amazing article.  I can also say a word or two about how MORE keywords lead to NARROWER search results (point to board) and that you don’t have to use just one or two keywords.  More can be a good thing.

Chart the keywords/search results on board (venn diagram).

Then we move on to OR.

For or, we did eyes.  If you have green eyes, stand up.  Everyone sit down.  If you have brown eyes, stand up.  Then, if you have green eyes OR brown eyes, stand up.  HMMM.  What does the room look like now.  Discuss.

Chart on board with Venn diagram.

Then we had them move on to use their keywords with and/or and do at least three searches in the databases with and/or and bookmark sources that they found interesting.  If they found a source they liked, peruse it and take a note on it.


Way back when I first read Allie’s intriguing post, all she mentioned was that she had used Adele’s song “Hello” to teach paraphrasing to her middle schoolers.  I thought that sounded like great fun.  I also thought it sounded perfect!  Here are my three M’s of paraphrasing (stolen from our alliterative Mr. Ramadan, World History teacher extraordinaire):

  1. Minimal (make it concise)
  2. Mine (put it in your own words)
  3. Meaning (keep the original idea)

I mean, right off the bat, Hello, so easy, right:

Original: Hello

Students: Hi, Yo, Salutations, Greetings

I love that we ALWAYS get salutation as an answer.  Now, less IS more! And I can always say that salutations is not minimal.  It isn’t concise.  Hi or Yo is much better.  Then, you can pair students up and have them do the next couple of lines and then present them to the class.  See if they meet the 3 M’s. I find that Adele’s song is great for ease of use and ability to have two ideas in a line that is easy to identify and paraphrase. We also used Roar by Katy Perry.  I didn’t think it was as successful.  Perhaps with 11th or 12th graders as her concepts were a bit more advanced and she jumps in right away with them. What are your thoughts?  Other songs?

Right now, Christina and I are having a discussion about whether we should have rows for every sentence like you see in the document below or if we should just give them the lyrics and let them have the ability to combine lines naturally.  She feels that line combination might occur more readily without the artificial boundaries imposed by the table.  What are your thoughts?

I would love to have a class paraphrase the whole song and then karaoke it! We quit after the first five lines.  Only so much time in high school.

Paraphrasing Exercise – hello by adele


We also used David Wee’s info on notetaking, but I am going to save that info for my longer post on our actual 6-day unit.  Until then, think about what songs you would use for paraphrasing.  Are you ready to stand up and do a virtual search result? Let me know how it goes.

And most importantly, thank you to Katie, Allie and David and to all of you I just haven’t borrowed from yet.  Don’t worry.  I will soon.  Because we all have something to offer! Make sure you share! Comment!

Twitter, Blogs and Credibility: How Are You Teaching It?

I admit, there are times when I am standing in front (or at the back) of a classroom and I mention the name of a database that I don’t wonder if 20 pairs of eyes glaze over just a little bit. I worry that I have become that database lady, instead of someone who teaches information literacy.

So, my goal for this year was to do things differently. And it has been working out beautifully.  We have instituted the personal librarian program for 9th graders, which I will get into later in the year when I have more data.  We have also instituted a campaign of joy, which is just something I personally feel is needed on a campus filled with stressed out students and teachers. I have also begun looking at former lessons and trying to make them more interactive. Here is what I did with my Honors Government Crossfire Debate Project. Let me know what you think.

Honors Government Crossfire Debate

In prior years, I would talk about twitter credibility and the verified checkmark.  We would look at a twitter account and talk about credibility.  Then I talk about where they could find good blogs and how to verify an author.  I would end with a tour of the Libguide and the databases they should explore.


This photo was sent four minutes after the bomb blast. It is from a report analyzing fake content on the Boston bombing. (Source:

This year, however, I started with the Boston Marathon Bombing.

After asking the students if they remember the bombing, I talk about how fast the news is now and that breaking news is even faster and that news consumers need to be critical thinkers and evaluators of the news that they consume.  According to an independent report analyzing fake content on Twitter, the first tweet about the bombing occurred within three minutes of the blast and the first photo in four minutes.

According to the report, 29% of the content was rumors or fake content. That’s almost a third of the content.  And they found that people with high social reputation and verified accounts were responsible for spreading some of the fake content.  Now, is this the time to abandon Twitter? No, of course not.  But it is the time to check up on the source that you are using.

When did your source start tweeting?  The day of the bombing?  Are they asking you for money? Are they a charity created the day after the bombing? Do they have five followers or 50,000?

One reason it is important to check on when a twitter source joined and determine how many followers they have and do they post tweets regularly is because during the Boston bombing over 6,000 malicious Twitter accounts were created and later suspended by Twitter.

Why does this happen? Because there are bad people wanting to take advantage of the kindness of good people.  So, check your sources.


Photo from the Analyzing Fake Twitter Report which is an example of why you should always check your sources for length on twitter and focus of tweets.

If you take a look at my prezi you can see how I laid out my talking points.  That’s when we get to the verified accounts at twitter.


Anderson Cooper’s verified personal Twitter account can be found by looking for the blue check after his name. (Source: Twitter.)

The key point to a verified account is that even though you are verified, you may not be credible.  For instance, it may be the real, verified Kim Kardashian, but she isn’t credible on topics of science.  She may or may not be for fashion.  I won’t judge.

The other point on a verified account is that a very small minority of people have verified accounts.  That leaves plenty of credible people out there with no verified check mark but plenty of credibility for you to find.  All you need to do is look for them.  Case in point: Mexico Drug War.


With this search, I just typed in Mexico drug war and the top two people were Sylvia and @puzzleshifter.  Of course, not having a name is a problem in and of itself, which we discussed as a class.  I have the class decide on which person to go look at and they usually choose Sylvia as the more professional of the two.


With this photo, I am asking them to look and think about what other information can they glean from the site?  They should be looking for how many followers she has, for when she joined.  They should notice that her website is listed and that she is a regular tweeter.  If they are really good, someone might mention that her followers might be mined for other sources of information. Then we follow the website to find out more info on her.


After clicking on the about page, I have them scan the page to see if her credentials match the subject in which she claims expertise.  If so, then we have a credible expert.


Then we move on to blogging.

For blogging, we reinforce what we have talked about with Twitter, but we expand it for the blogs.  One source that I found exceptionally helpful in preparing this lesson was: Measuring Social Media Credibility: A Study on a Measure of Blog Credibility.

In essence, I boil it down to

A blogger is considered credible when they are

  • knowledgeable
  • influential
  • passionate
  • transparent
  • reliable

Blog content is considered credible when it is:

  • authentic
  • insightful
  • informative
  • consistent
  • fair
  • focused
  • accurate
  • timely
  • popular

Now that they have an idea of how to think about credibility.  I give them an exercise. I have them get into their debate groups of four people and then I assign them to a group.  Each group has three blogs to evaluate.  They need to decide if the blog would be a good credible expert, someone to use as a primary source (a hobbyist) or is too biased to use.  They have 10 minutes and each group comes to the front to discuss in front of the class and we deconstruct their reasons why.

And what do you know?  They were engaged, enthusiastic and their analysis was spot on (with a couple of exceptions 8-).  I even learned a few things.

If you would like to see the exercise and my liguide, go to Crossfire Debate Libguide  Let me know what you are doing or if you have helpful tips or ideas below or email me.


Additional resources that were helpful in constructing this lesson:

Heidi Cohen’s Can you separate real from fake content blog post (Oct. 29, 2013)

Heidi Cohen’s 7 Actionable Twitter Tips to build your following (May 30, 2013)

Blog Post Postponed: Unforeseen Circumstances

Our usual blogger, Alyssa Mandel, has had some unforeseen family circumstances this summer that have necessitated taking a month off of blogging. We wish her all the best in getting everything taken care of and look forward to hearing from her in the coming month.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is having a restful summer and reading lots of entertaining books!

AISL Blog: What the Future Holds


I have returned from Dallas/Fort Worth with a sense of optimism and a lots and lots of notes to compile into an understandable trip report.  However, my task for today is to blog about the exciting future plans of the Independent Ideas.

At the AISL conference I talked about how Dallas was my 10 year anniversary.  I started AISL in Charlottesville as a newbie and the Dallas conference was what spurred me to become involved. I offered to help with the listserv after the conference and was the tech coordinator for many years after that, before moving onto the Board and eventually being asked to serve as President.

My vision for the association is to get our voice, the voice of the independent school librarian, to be heard. I want our independent voice out there in social media and I want our peers to know what we are doing.  In order to do that, we, as independent school librarians, need to be involved with social media. We need to connect with AISL and we need to promote ourselves and our work. I did a survey recently on social media and our involvement in it. Out of 468 members, only 91 responded (the survey results can be found HERE)

Tech evangelist Avinash Kausik tweeted: “Social media is like teen sex. Everyone wants to do it. No one actually knows how.  When finally done, there is surprise it’s not better.” (Claire will be blogging about our book discussion on It’s Complicated and whether we should be in the teens social media world according to Danah Boyd.)



Above is the postcard we handed out at the conference.  It has links to all of our AISL social media links.  If you aren’t already connected to AISL in these venues, please connect.

facebook logo


This link will take you to our AISL facebook site.


pinterest logo

This link will take you to the AISL pinterest boards. We would love for you to add your pins!

twitter logo


We would love for you to follow AISL and tweet us!

Now, as for what is going on with the Independent Ideas blog.  Currently, having the blog on the website is not working for us.  So Claire Hazzard, board member and tech guru,  will be moving the blog to its own website with its own URL.  That will give us a higher profile and better ratings.

Additionally, we will be creating bio pages for each of our bloggers with link backs to their school library pages and blogs.  I’m always interested in finding out more about the writers and the way we are set up now doesn’t allow us to do that.  Having our own blog site will allow us the ability to highlight our writers.

While at the conference, Barbara Share, who is the blog coordinator and moderator, was able to corral some more guest bloggers.  So you will be seeing some new bylines in the coming weeks and months ahead.  If you are at all interested in doing a guest post, please notify Barbara (her info is on the AISL wiki).

The blog, the wiki, our twitter, pinterest and facebook page are all social media outlets, and yes, they can be very labor intensive at times.  But they can also be great ways to promote your program, your library, your students, yourself and what you have accomplished.  Too often we work alone in our libraries for our students and we don’t share the amazing things that we do to help someone find that book, discover the love of reading, solve that problem, research that question, use technology in a certain way, collaborate with teachers.  Next time you do something, don’t just close up shop and go home.  Write it up and send it to me or Barbara Share as a blog post.

Share your stories. We all want to know what’s going on in your library.



What Do Paris, Shakespeare and The Library of Unrequited Love Have to Do with the Learning Commons?

Learning Commons have been on my mind quite a lot lately.  We are in the process of planning a renovation of what we hope will become a Learning Commons (email me if you would like a copy of the planning document I wrote two years ago), so it was with interest that I read the posts on the AISL list that were a semantic debate about the name Learning Commons: What did it mean?  Should schools change the names of their Libraries to Learning Commons? What was a Learning Commons and how did it differentiate itself from a Library?

CD at the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore holding my copy of The Library of Unrequited Love, which I had just purchased.

CD at the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore holding my copy of The Library of Unrequited Love, which I had just purchased.

It was in that mindset that I set off to Paris, with my husband for our Spring Break trip. Now, mind you, I had a lovely time eating chocolate, touring churches and museums, but being a librarian, there are a few Holy Grails that we must go see and one of them is the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore that is opposite the river from Notre Dame. (Although I had received a stern warning NOT to sit on the couches as I would come home with flea bites, as a friend did.  I followed his direction.  No fleas were encountered.)

The cover of The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Devry from

The cover of The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Devry from

I was delighted when on the very big table in the front, I found a delightful novella with the intriguing title of The Library of Unrequited Love by French woman Sophie Devry.  Imagine, if you will, one morning, coming in an hour or more early to unlock the library and set up. You are in charge of the Geography section. It’s in the basement. And there you find a patron, locked in.  He’s been there all night. What would you do?  Our librarian, with such depth of feeling, is compelled to hold forth, rant even (I dare say, she sounds a bit like me on a tear! 😎 to the poor patron as there are security procedures and he can’t escape until opening bell rings, which is hours away anyway.

Right there in Shakespeare and Co., I immediately fell in love. I had a book in my hand and love in my heart.  And I was in Paris.  While reading the book, I found so many questions that relate to us as independent school librarians as well,  and to the broader question of a Learning Commons and what does it all mean.

What Should the Library/Learning Commons Be?

It is the great existential question.  Who are we?  What services should we provide?  Are we to be loud or quiet? The anonymous librarian in The Library of Unrequited Love says, “I’ve heard all your arguments: make the mediatheque a place of pleasure and conviviality in the very heart of the town. Make it less intimidating to go into a library.  Blend culture and pleasure so that culture becomes pleasurable-”  She maintains that government fears the youth might foment revolution and to forestall it, we have to placate them with noisy spaces and multimedia spaces in the library: “Just one more step to take: develop the hi-tech, expand the videotheque, and soon the mediatheque will be a discotheque, it’s bound to happen!…I’ll never let it come to that.”

And yet, we have certain sacred cows we don’t want to give up.

silence sacred cow

A silence sacred cow

There is a certain amount of silence that is expected in a library, but are our libraries, should our libraries ALWAYS be silent. Do they need to be the hushed places of yesterday?

Silent Study Lunches

Or, rather, are other innovative ideas that we can come up with like Ellen Cothran did.  Cothran, librarian at the ( Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, CA  had to come up with some silent study solutions for her Learning Commons Library.  (Her thoughts on Learning Commons and Silent Study Lunches come from an Oct. 2013 AISL listserv discussion. Information on Silent Study Lunches gathered by AISL member Joan Lange and compiled on the AISL wiki, re-edited and presented here by CD McLean.)

“We’ve recently had a dramatic improvement in our “how do we act in the library?” conundrum.  Perhaps these changes have helped, or perhaps it’s the phase of the moon!  Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • After-school is silent/quiet study beginning 15 minutes after dismissal—3:15
  • Silent Study Lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Big, red, full-length paper signs on both doors of the library remind students during lunch (little signs DO NOT work).  Kids who want quiet (that number is growing) look forward to it and say, “oh, yea!”  Kids who don’t want silent study know the schedule and hang out elsewhere.
  • I believe it’s important for the kids to understand that the Library Learning Commons is, above all, flexible.  That means lots of freedom to learn.”

Additionally, Elisabeth Abarbanel,, of Brentwood School in Los Angeles, California shared Silent Tuesday Lunches, inspired by Ellen Cothran’s AISL listserv discussion.

“Inspired by Ellen Cothran’s silent lunches, we just tried our first “Silent Tuesday Lunch.” We informally talked about it with the kids, who seemed excited by the idea, we announced it at assembly, reminded them, and finally did it! We had some happy studying students! (O)ne senior girl exclaimed, in a whisper, “This is amazing – you are a genius!”

We are a big one room library, which is a very popular hang out spot. The student lounge is often a bit empty, while the library is always bustling. The students say they like being with a lot of people from different grades, and they just like being in the friendly library. We love that, but it does get loud for kids who need quiet to focus.

The plan is to have four Silent Tuesday Lunches then send a survey to the students asking if they liked them, if they want to keep doing it, if they want to add Thursdays. There was total buy-in today – nobody tried to ruin our experiment.

I was happy to offer them the quiet. They can go to the student lounge for louder work.”

It seems like a great compromise and one that both schools and students are happy with.  It will be interesting to hear how the experiment goes in the future.

 The Idea of Zones

Image map of the Pingree School's Learning Commons' Layout.

Image map of the Pingree School’s Learning Commons’ Layout.

Meghan O’Neill, is the Learning Commons Director ( at Pingree School, in S. Hamilton, MA. You can find a lot of amazing information about their center and about learning commons in general at Pingree Learning Commons.  O’Neill says that Pingree serves an Upper School population (grades 9-12) of 330 students, co-ed, day school, going 1-1 for next year.  Also, Pingree just hosted the Learning in Commons  Conference and welcomed over 175 librarians, educators, administrators, and tech specialists from across the United States.

You begin to see a big difference  when you look at the furniture groupings in the image map.  As the anonymous librarian in The Library of Unrequited Love put it “Listen, you might meet someone on the way to the cinema, or the restaurant, or the swimming pool, or a cafe, looking happy, that’s normal. But have you ever heard people in the street saying things like “I’m going to spend the day in the library, yippee!”” How are we going to change that mindset? It starts with letting go of QUIET all the time, everywhere.  It continues with comfortable,  furniture. For Pingree, they have divided up their spaces:

Learning Commons Spaces

You can see in the image map that these spaces will all have different levels of noise attached to them.  Sofas and couches and group study allow for conversational level to low levels of sound, while the Quiet Library area is the one area for quiet study.

  • The Hub: an innovative space for teaching, learning, and collaboration. Read a news story about The Hub here.
  • Quiet Library: our quiet area for study and research.
  • Group Study Room: a conference room for teamwork and meetings.
  • Pond Room: an open area for participatory learning.
  • Harte Room: a reading room that houses our special collections.

Our plan had different zones and noise levels as well.  And our student council was firm on the idea that individual study carrels be in the design mix.

What about the Books?

I’ve always believed that it isn’t what you read, it’s that you are reading.  However, the recent study by the researchers at the New School in New York City finds that reading literary fiction may improve one’s ability to identify the emotional state of someone which would lead to empathy.  Reading genre fiction did not have the same uptick in one’s ability. And where does our friend the anonymous librarian stand on this issue of books in the library? She is firmly on the side of the reader.  “In this arena, they have a part to play. Either they’re cowards and take the side of the mountain of books, or they bravely help the worried reader.” In this quote she is talking specifically about the overwhelming amount of books printed and published and essentially, “the dead will eat up the living” if we aren’t careful and don’t weed.  But she is also on the side of the general reader too.

“I see them, the thought police of the library, I’ve seen the way they talk to the readers.  They hit them over the head with “You must read this, or that”.

The Learning Commons Library WILL have books.  Teens are still reading print books.  The same amount of teens (75%) who read a print book last year, read a print book this year.  The rate is steady and ebook ownership is climbing.  Print isn’t going anywhere.  We have to have ebooks, we have to have print. And I am not going to back down and force my 8th grade boy into literary fiction if he is reading Scientific American or Gamer or graphic novels.

 Nicholas Jackson, Head Librarian (, at Morristown-Beard, says they have connected their writing center and the library. In addition, they have weeded about half the print collection (mainly because the items were old, not used, & out of date). They cut the stacks in half, making the entire library visible from the circulations desk. Also, they removed some stacks and made room for sitting, group space, and studying.  

What Is the Answer?

I go back to the anonymous librarian at The Library of Unrequited Love,”Yes, indeed, you can accomplish great things if you’re a librarian…like Mummy, the library gives you a magic kiss and everything’s better…I can tell you, there’s nothing the library can’t cure.”

Whether we are a Library or a Learning Commons, whether we are quiet all the time or we choose to have quiet zones, as librarians we create a space that serves the needs of our students, our faculty and staff.  That means providing them the tools, the materials, the space, and most importantly, the expertise. We are the experts. We can accomplish great things no matter what name is on the building.


Other Learning Commons Schools

Flintridge Preparatory School, La Canada, CA

Susan Hodge is the head librarian at Flintridge Preparatory School ( The new library was completed in September of 2007. The two-story library complex is situated in the center of campus and includes a computer lab, a classroom for seminars, meeting rooms, space for individual and group study, and a college counseling suite.

Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana, CA

Mater Dei’s  Library and Learning Commons has a technology hub with an iPad help counter, study rooms with movable tables and whiteboards, and updated library collection and online catalog, a recordable classroom ad a Media:Scape for group collaboration. 

My colleague Joan Lange gathered the following info for the AISL wiki:

Chatham Hall School in Chatham, VA

Carolyn Stenzel, (, from Chatham Hall School in Chatham, VA has documented her library’s transformation to a Learning Commons. You can view the photos here.

Harvard-Westlake Upper School in Studio City, CA

Shannon Acedo,, from Harvard-Westlake Upper School in Studio City, CA shares Tips on Creating a 21st century Library.  You can also view photos of her library’s transformation.

The Sullivan Center

David Wee, from Harvard-Westlake Middle School in Los Angeles, CA shares the following about The Sullivan Center:

“The Sullivan Center, a Iolani School in Honolulu, is truly a maker-space and learning commons, but in a full context.  The library is one part of a larger center for innovation and learning–quite amazing!”

Story and photos of The Sullivan Center.

Libguides: My Most Favorite Tool

I have a favorite tool.  I know I shouldn’t, but there are tools that I like more than others.  I find them more helpful.  They seem to be just a bit more easy to work with.  And frankly, they may be more responsive.

Noodletools has always been that way. And I have always loved Libguides as well.

Libguides Logo from Springshare
Libguides Logo from Springshare

What is Libguides? Well, it is on online pathfinder, sort of an old school bibliographic pathfinder.  Think of the old library with all those sheets of colored paper with columns of information on how to find things for Chemistry, Business, or even Fairy Tales. You name it and a librarian made a pathfinder, put some clip art on it and ran it off on colored paper. Well, Libguides is the new and improved bibliographic pathfinder.  But it is so much more as well.

At Berkeley Preparatory School in the Jean Ann Cone Library, we use it for all of our classes and some of our clubs, as well.  We are completely electronic in grades 6-12, when it comes to library course material.  All of the information about our projects can be found on Libguides with duplicates of some teacher material on Edline.

Step 1. Create a Style Guide

We did have a few problems when we first got started with Libguides.  One was settling on a style guide to use for all of our classes so that students would get familiar with where to find information.  That took a while.  We also needed to have a common look and feel that blended with the school’s colors.  We made sure to use the accepted school logo.  We sat down as a department and decided on how we were going to lay out the pages for our classes. The way the pages are arranged is the same: Project Details (or Class Name), Databases and Websites, Books and Ebooks, Works Cited and Passwords.  There may be additional pages, such as Primary Sources, etc., depending upon the class and the assignment, but that is the basic layout.  

It’s important to talk about what you want on the page.  Are there differences in the way your kids search?  Do you definitely want them to contact you?  Do you always want your contact info on the right hand side of the password page? Do you want all pages to be two columns?  Now is the time to have those conversations.  Bring some kids in and have some conversations with them.  Have them draw out what a great Libguide page looks like to them.

Step 2. Set Up a Template

Last year, we took an online seminar by Springshare and heard about a redesign and had another meeting where we decided to incorporate more graphics into our Libguides.  We also wanted to create a template to get our links from, as recommended by the amazing librarian, David Wee.  Wee suggests having one Libguide where you store all of your links to your databases and links you use frequently.  Then reuse those links out to your class Libguides, don’t copy them, that way, when you change your template, those changes are populated out through all of your classes.  It makes thing much easier.

This fact was brought home to us in real time this year when we did a switch over to EZproxy logins.  We needed to add the EZproxy address to the frontend of every database link we had.  I had mistakenly copied some links into a Libguide rather than pulling them in.  What a bother!  And what a hassle for the kids.  Never again.

Step 3. Make Use of Surveys

Are you really making full use of Libguides?  I wasn’t.  Christina showed me that Libguides has a powerful survey feature and I LOVE it.  If you haven’t tried it, do it!  You might find yourself addicted.  But be warned.  Making a meaningful survey is harder than it looks.  I suggest that you do a couple of things:

  1. Make the survey open the day that you make it, otherwise you can’t see it to test it.
  2. Take the survey to test it.  That way you can find grammatical and spelling errors and things that just sound wrong.
  3. Think about what questions are essential to be answered.
  4. Don’t make your survey too long.  20 questions max.  They are kids!

I have used questions adapted from TRAILS for a 9th grade class to evaluate their digital literacy skills.  I have also used a Libguide survey to query the whole upper school during advisory (almost 300 responses) about their thoughts on a recent all-school convocation speaker and film festival we had.  Our students are rarely given a voice and this was a new experience for them.  Granted, there were many silly responses and some very negative ones, but there were enough thoughtful responses to make the exercise useful.

Step 4. Beg, Borrow and Steal! 😎

Yes, steal.  Well, not really.  The nice thing about Libguides is that it tells you when people are using your work.  I have one Libguide that a lot of people seem to really like: My Libguide on our Model UN club.  It’s fairly detailed, has lots of links and gets used by the kids for research.  Please feel free to use it for your Model UN club if you have one.  I’m constantly updating and changing things around, so it is always in flux. When someone wants to use it, they usually send me an email asking to use it.  I reply back, “Sure.”  When they just take it, Libguides sends me an email saying someone is using my Libguides.  Annoying, but still flattering in a way.  Better to give people a head’s up.

Search the entire Libguide community. There is an amazing wealth of knowledge out there.  Use it! Don’t reinvent the wheel.  You can also link to people’s pages directly.  Here is an example where I have done that: US History Primary Sources. That’s a nice option too.  The first tab is mine, the red tabs are another librarians. Those pages are maintained by the librarian who created them.

I also take the interior content from boxes and credit the librarian who came up with content. It was, after all, their research. It is only fair to credit their hard work. It is a nice community.  Play nice.

 Step 5. Break Outside the Libguide Box

Libguides is a librarian tool, but we don’t hoard it.  This year we actively pursued teachers and got them to create Libguide class pages.  We had several sign up for sessions with us on how to create a page (Biology, Genetics, English and Music), but Biology was the only one who actually kept the Libguide going and active.  Baby steps!

We also had some teachers willing to step outside the box and try Libguides as a new type of assessment tool.  One English teacher is using it with her 9th graders as an online magazine.  Each student has editing privileges and can put up their own stories on a features page (Sports, Food, Technology, etc.). So far, the teacher has been very pleased.  It is password protected or I would share it with you.

Last year we used it in 11th grade English to comment on books.  That was a less successful venture.  This year, Libguides has a class discussion page, which is blog-like.  The biology teacher will be using that feature later this semester.

In Conclusion

We’ve had some successes.  We’ve had some  failures, but overall, the ease of use and functionality of Libguides is so amazing that I love this tool.  I would love for you to take a look at our Libguides.  We aren’t perfect by any means.  Currently, we are looking at our template and testing our template to see if it needs to be tweaked. We think that the current format might make the page too long for the Middle Division students and they might be unwilling to scroll down.  We prepared two nearly identical pages for World History (one with graphics and one without) to get a sense of if the graphics and layout were affecting clickthroughs.  We’ll have more data in a week or two.

We will have a final talk at the end of the year and make some changes as a team then.  Until then, if you have some suggestions for what works, what you like or don’t like, please let us know.  We would love to hear from you!

 Jean Ann Cone Library Libguide Home Page


Independent School Librarians and Common Core: What Are We Doing?

Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standard Banner (from government source)

Common Core State Standard Banner (from government source)

Happy Holidays!  I don’t imagine anyone will look at this today,  but perhaps sometime this week…I decided to take a look at Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for today’s post and see how it was being used in the independent school library.

Independent Schools and CCSS

There are several librarians like Marianna McKim, Head Librarian at Kimball Union Academy, who said, “We are not officially using common core, but I am incorporating some of the ideas into our curriculum planning.”  And that seems to be a common theme in the independent school milieu in general: look at what’s going on, evaluate it, and then take what is good and use just what you need.  There is an abhorrence in the independence school world for being forced into a particular lock-step program. Hence the name independent!

Flowcharts and Brochures and CCSS

Joan Tukey, librarian at Notre Dame Academy, recently updated school brochures to reflect where Common Core skills were being used. You can see her work at the following link: Joan Tukey’s work on Common Core in her school

Webinars and CCSS

Margaret P. Simmons, Library Media Specialist at the June Shelton School, offered the advice to independent school librarians who are seeking to know more about Common Core that they listen to the Common Core and Text Types: What Should Students Be Reading? Webinar

“I just listened to this webinar. It is so powerful! ” Simmons said in an email.

Libguides and CCSS

Joan Lange, librarian at Pope John Paul II High School, has done quite a bit of work on Common Core State Standards.  She has created some very good libguides, complete with powerpoints and links to other materials of note and is now working on another related project.  Her first libguide is general dealing with the standards in an overview way. You can find the libguide here: LibGuide:  Common Core State Standards (General Resources).  This libguide also includes a powerpoint by Lange’s  Science Dept. Chair illustrating how Common Core relates to Next Generation Science Standards. Her second libguide is history related and deals with teaching primary sources: LibGuide: Teaching with Primary Sources (History).  This libguide includes a powerpoint that she created illustrating the research process with primary sources as the starting point.  It is brilliant! I highly recommend that you take a look at it.

Lange’s next project is creating a Common Core bookcase of literary nonfiction works, across all disciplines.  This bookcase will be in her Professional Development and Audiovisual area.  She is hoping that prominent display will encourage conversations with teachers on how some of these short excerpts can be incorporated in their curriculum and connect with CCSS.

Technology,  Apps and CCSS

At the Berkeley Preparatory School we have started looking at CCSS in our Lower Division, where they are currently going grade by grade and looking at the Common Core skills and then comparing them to our Berkeley Identified Skills (BIS).  In the library in particular, we are looking at the American Association of School Librarians Learning Standards and Common Core Crosswalk and then adding our BIS skills in a third column.  Kathleen Edwards, our lower division librarian, is leading the charge on this effort.  We have taken the crosswalk and eliminated all the other skills except for the library related ones, making it a little easier to use.  We’ve broken the files down by grade level (k-12).  I will be posting those files in the AISL wiki.  If you are an AISL member, please go to AISL WIKI.  If you aren’t a member and are an independent school librarian, membership is only $25/year.  Or if you are a librarian who would just like the files,  comment below and if I receive enough requests, I will post all the documents here! (You could also link to us, as we would love to continue the conversation with you! 😎

Last year, Christina Arcuri, our collection development and upper/middle librarian, went to a YALSA conference where she learned about an app called Subtext. We talked about it and how cool it was, as it could allow a whole class to annotate a book together and share those annotations with each other.  And, it does much more than that:

  • You can create documents and convert them to an ePub format and then review them all together as a class for peer editing and review.
  • You can leave your own notes in the class text for students.
  • You have access to books and articles in Google play (free and pay), over 3 million and they do volume discounting.

However, at the time she saw it, our school was not doing iPads and I promptly forgot it.  But now, we have implemented iPads, albeit in a slow manner. Since one of the core items about CCSS is its inclusion of technology, this app seems like the perfect tool for how librarians can help faculty include instructional technology into the classroom.

This holiday break, Christina and I will be testing it out with a group of English faculty to see if we can use it even though we do not have a classroom set of iPads for upper division.  We are hoping that the browser version they are beta testing is robust enough. There is not a mobile app at this time. We might be able to borrow the middle division iPad classroom set in a pinch!  Or request a set of iPads for upper next year. If you are considering CCSS, I recommend that you check out Subtext, especially as they are exploring a browser version. Go to if you want to try it.


This is just a taste of what is going on in the independent school library with CCSSs. Please follow the blog and comment if you want to be a part of the conversation.  Let us know what you are doing and what you have found to be successful.  If you have found a great app, please share it.

If you want to get started, here are some articles I found useful.  Paige’s article had some great links. And I hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxing holiday break!

  1. Cravey, Nancy. “Finding Inspiration in the Common Core.” Knowledge Quest. 42.1 2013 18-22 Advanced Placement Source.
  2. Jaeger, Paige. “We Don’t Live in  a Multiple-Choice World: Inquiry and the Common Core.” Library Media Connection. Jan/Feb 2012 10-12. [Note: Paige has some really good resources!]
  3. Fontichiaro, Kristin. “When Research Is Part of the Test.” School Library Monthly. 30.3 2013  53.
  4. Morris, Rebecca. “Find Where You Fit in the Common Core, or the Time I Forgot about Librarians and Reading.” Teacher Librarian. 39.5 2012 Advanced Placement Source.



What Type of Labrador Are You? How Will That Affect Your Collaboration Partners?

Have you been trying to collaborate and it just isn’t working?  Afraid it is too involved? Are you actively collaborating and need a fresh new approach?  If you have had any of these questions, you might want to considering thinking about labradors.

That’s right.  Labrador retrievers.  Collaboration is as easy as thinking about what kind of lab you are yellow, chocolate or black.

Yellow Labs

Now, the legend goes that yellow labs are known for their docility.  Calm strength in the face of adversity, these labs deal with a multitude of strange and bewildering audiences with a straight face and placid demeanor. Never one to let a small child go without a lick, or let a a tail or ear tug happen without turning and giving a kiss in return.  This dog has the patience of Job.

If you were to count yourself a yellow lab type, you would be the one who would ask that grumpy teacher to try a new technology and when they snapped and said, “Are you out of your freaking mind?” You would smile and say, “Think about it. Perhaps we could talk after spring break.  When things calm down for you.  Here’s a cookie.”

Yellow labs are never thwarted.  They preserver. They have alternative plans.  As my mother-in-law used to say, they have something saved away for a rainy day.  In other words, you are very, very sneaky and hide those plans with a very calm exterior.  Good work, yellow lab!

Chocolate Labs

The chocolate lab is known for his craziness.  Rarely slowing down, they go, go, go until they collapse.  These labs will often dress in costume and are famous for crazy antics. They are the ones who concoct grand schemes and run out on the bleeding edge.  Does any of this sound familiar to you?  You might be a chocolate lab.

The danger for chocolate labs is in getting caught up in the toys (technology) and becoming obsessive. Librarians who might be chocolate labs could  lose focus on the collaboration. The joy is working on project with a partner who loves the technology as much as you do, but who wants to create a unit and an assessment that makes sense for the students. The technology is only a tool. Start slow chocolate labs, you may be overwhelming to some shy souls. Let your successes speak for themselves.  Let your partners sing your praises.  Perhaps, take up the suggestion of our blogger Katie Archambault in her post Marketing 101 and create a digital newsletter to announce what is going on in your library.

Black Lab

Now, the black lab is supposedly the most versatile of the labs.  Calm, yet able to mix it up when she wants.  This lab may have it all: the ability to manage technology to run with the tech dogs and still have the calm demeanor to pacify the rough crowd. Black labs are able to see the forest for the trees.  They are both zany and solemn.

And yet, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the color. If I have discovered anything in my five years as a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs, it is that each dog is an individual.  Just like each one of you.  You may think you are shy or no good at playacting, but it simply isn’t true.  You may think that only certain types of people are good at collaboration and you aren’t, and that it isn’t true either.  Everyone CAN be good at collaboration.  Collaboration is like a marriage. It takes work.

And just like that first date, it might be rocky and you might think, “He is not going to work out.” And then suddenly, there you are at a national conference presenting together.  True collaboration in action!

Collaboration Models

How did I get from labs to collaboration models?  That started when I began reading AISL member Joan Lange’s book on collaboration, Collaborative Models for Librarian and Teacher Partnerships, and I learned that collaboration is a more rich process than I ever imagined.  The highest level of collaboration is, in fact, where the librarian works with her colleague to jointly plan, teach and assess the unit (Kymes, Gillean).  I’ve had that experience a couple of times, but it is not the usual one.  And I imagine it is also not your usual experience either.  That’s why I was heartened to find out that collaboration included:

  • Coordination: Minimal involvement, little to no preplanning.  For example, this would be like the blogs I helped the French teachers set up for the classes so that they could have online journals. Very last minute and quick, and I have no further involvement.
  • Cooperation: Teacher requests involvement, but limited; separate and independent objectives/teaching.  For example, this would be similar to having a request in advance from the freshman biology teacher to teach her how to use Libguides.  In addition to teaching her how to use and set up a class site, she also asked for a resource page on wolves in Yellowstone.  I gathered all the online resources and directions to print resources and put the page together for her on her site.
  • Integrated instruction: Teacher and librarian formally plan and integrate lesson together. For example, this would be like the one unit class I developed with the AP Language, AP Government teachers on Media Bias in the 24 News Cycle.  We developed the curriculum, the objectives and the assessments together.  It was lovely.
  • Integrated curriculum: Administration gives time and support to a scaffold that encourages integrated curriculum and lesson planning across all grade levels (Horman, Glampe, Sanken, et al.) I haven’t seen this, but now that our school has an assistant headmaster who will be in charge of curriculum across the divisions, this is the goal.  If you have this currently happening at your school, please comment!

It all counts. Whether you are there in the classroom with the teacher teaching or whether you helped gather the resources, it counts as collaboration.  Think of it as stair steps, without necessarily being hierarcical.  What I mean by that is that providing resource assistance is not demeaning.  It is useful and helpful and you should do it.  Working with faculty on integrated instruction is amazing.  Can you do that for every class?  No.  Pick and choose what you want to do.

If you are interested, I can talk next month about how to choose a collaboration partner.  Let me know!

And by the way, I’m a reformed chocolate lab!

Welcome to the New AISL Community Blog

Hello School Librarians,

You may be wondering why I didn’t address this post to Independent School Librarians, since this is the Community Blog of the Association of Independent School Librarians (AISL).  I did it purposely because I know that as a librarian who teaches in a preK to 12 school, what I do has implications that resonate for other school librarians whether that library is in a public, private, charter or perhaps, alien school. (Ah, what the big eyed aliens could teach us about information literacy!)

But I digress, my purpose in creating a community blog is to create a community of voices.  A common place to share your thoughts and ideas about school libraries: preK through 12. To that end, our blog will be organized in the following way:

Week one (the first week of the month)

  • Lower Division (AKA Primary School, AKA pre-k to 5th grade): Our amazing bloggers are Lower Division librarians and will be blogging about all Lower Division topics.  These happy (there may be some tears as I understand that happens in Lower!) posts may include reviews, teaching plans, ideas for bulletin boards, you name it.  Please feel free to comment on their blogs and to suggest new topics.  We would LOVE it if you would link to our blog, if you find it useful and entertaining.

Week two (the second week of the month)

  • Middle Division (AKA Middle School, AKA 6th grade to 8th Grade): Our bloggers are Middle Division librarians and will be all about the Middle Division experience!  How could this not be the most interesting week? Ha!  I mean, aren’t middle schoolers the most fascinating? Read about books, what works in the classroom and what they are doing in the library. Again, link to us if you find the blog interesting.

Week three (the third week of the month)

  • Upper Division (AKA High School, AKA 9th grade to 12th grade): OH MY! These bloggers have it going on!  They will be sharing their stories from the trenches on how to entertain teens, keep them quiet and teach them how to be digital citizens of the world.  You don’t want to miss that, do you?

Week four (Yep, we have a fourth week of the month!)

  • Technology and Renovations.   You were probably wondering what the heck were we going to do in week 4, weren’t you?  There is so much going on with ebooks, renovations, information commons, you name it, that we could do a whole blog just on this topic, but we want you to come back for more than just these items.

Please join us on our conversational journey!  It begins Monday, Nov. 4th, 2013 with our first Lower Division post. Don’t miss it.

Be a part of the conversation.


CD McLean, Library Dept. Chair at Berkeley Preparatory School

President 2013-2015

Association of Independent School Librarians



AISL serves independent school librarians in the United States and internationally.  If you are interested in becoming a member, go to