Books about books…

Our recent AISL survey asked independent school librarians what they liked to read on this blog. A number of respondents replied that they liked to read about BOOKS! And, well, I love to talk about books – especially books ABOUT books, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite library / book-related reads of the past few months…

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Lit Up by David Denby

New Yorker writer David Denby has written a quite remarkable book on reading, how English is taught in high schools, and how teenagers in the 21st century interact with literature and poetry. Set over the course of a school year, the book investigates teenagers and their relationships with screens, how teachers engage and inspire youth, and what teens are reading versus what they should be reading. The book also inspired an article in the New Yorker – even if you don’t have time to read the full book, take five minutes to read this interesting article.

You Could Look it Up

You Could Look it Up by Jack Lynch

Although we no longer have a reference section in my library (reference works are simply interfiled with other non-fiction materials), I frequently consult the reference works we do have both in print and online, because, well, ‘that’s what librarians do’. This fascinating book by Jack Lynch takes a look at key reference works from the Doomsday Book to Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, as well as some of the more unusual reference works that librarians refer to again and again.

world between two covers

The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe by Ann Morgan

This interesting memoir was inspired by Morgan’s blog: A Year of Reading the World. She decided to read one book from each country around the globe during 2012, setting out to discover new and interesting authors and poets. Her book is a great record of her reading life, but be warned – it will seriously add to your (probably already towering) To-Be-Read pile.

Running the books

Running the Books by Avi Steinberg

It takes a special kind of librarian to run programs for those who are incarcerated. In this fascinating memoir, Steinberg shares his story of being the librarian in a Boston prison. From the inmates he helps complete their high school and college diplomas, to the men who are trying to write their memoirs, to the inmate who wants to pitch a cooking show to a TV network, this book is in-depth look at life in a very different type of library.

Bibliotech

Bibliotech by John Palfrey

Author John Palfrey makes the point that libraries are more important than ever, and that they must step up to bring equality, intellectual freedom and democracy to ordinary people. Referring particularly to the digitization of materials, Palfrey discusses why libraries must be cutting edge in meeting the information needs of the population, especially when “the library is the last free space for the gathering and sharing of knowledge”. None of this is new to librarians, but this slim volume is written in an engaging and passionate style that calls librarians across the world to action.

This is a great book

This is a Great Book by Larry Swartz &  Shelley Stagg Peterson

This book is an excellent collection of classroom and library-ready ideas for librarians and teachers who are looking to help their students enjoy, reflect on, and get as much out of reading as possible. With lesson ideas, journal prompts and ideas for how to make the most of leisure reading and ideas for finding the right novel for the right reader, this book is full of inspiring ideas and activities, even for those of us who have been around for a while and have our own proven methods for getting the right book to the right student, and for raising excitement amongst our readers.

So, if you’re inspired to pick up some professional reading, why not join a group of fellow librarians online to do so?

Change by Design

AISL librarian Dave Wee is running an online book club to discuss Change by Design by Tim Brown,  a book about Design Thinking which is the AISL Summer Institute’s recommended pre-reading selection. Head on over to his website if you’re interested in reading along!

And if you weren’t at the Board Books event at #AISL16LA, consider reading one or both of the following. Each generated lots of discussion!

This book is overdue

This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

Personal Librarian

The Personal Librarian by Richard J. Moniz & Jean Moats (ed.)

Do you have any similar titles to recommend? Please share in the comments below!

Some thoughts on YA…

When I started in my current position thirteen years ago, our young adult section was primarily for students in grades 8 – 10. Now, it’s skewing much younger; our grade six students can regularly be found scouring the shelves for good titles, and our more ‘racy’ material has been pushed up to our adult fiction section. It seems as though every other fiction title that arrives in the library office merits some discussion about where best to place it in the library collection as we grapple with issues of content, suitability and appropriateness. I have a grade 1 – 12 library; defining these individual leveled reading sections is becoming more and more of a challenge.

The original definition of Young Adult, in a psychological sense, is someone in the age range 20 – 39. This is not useful for our school library purposes. Internationally, the term is open to debate. In the UK, ‘teen’ covers 12-14 year olds, and YA is for readers aged 14+. Here in North America, teen is a synonym for YA. As the publishing industry, and us mere librarians, grapple with these definitions, one can see how rules can be applied inconsistently to our collections. I also occasionally see references to ‘New Adult’ fiction, and have surmised that this is for college-age readers – YA with an ‘edge’ is how I’ve heard it described. But a lot of the YA we have is pretty edgy. Indeed, I consider ‘edgy’ to be a hallmark of a good YA book…

Our grade 7s ask for ‘realistic fiction’, but happily accept YA level fantasy. Our grade 8s ask for ‘romance’. Our grade 6s ask for teen books. Our grade 10s ask for an ‘easy read’. They all want the same thing. Is it any wonder that publishers are struggling to market these books, and identify a core market? Take, for example, an author such as Rainbow Rowell. Her first novel, Attachments, was marketed as an adult novel, and her second Eleanor and Park was touted as YA fiction. Her other novels, including Landline (maybe more adult than YA?), FanGirl and Carry On could fall in either camp. They have been marketed both ways; indeed, each can claim to be a true cross-over book.

My school is a great reading community, but on the whole, we find that adult readers are resistant to YA. There is little YA on our summer required reading lists (although this is improving), and when students come to the library to ask for a novel for independent study they tell us that it must be a ‘grown-up book’ (i.e. from our adult fiction collection); our English faculty are not YA readers. My fellow librarian and I are working to spread the YA love, but it is something of an uphill battle.

(And where does fanfiction fit in here? Are teens writing the material they want to read? And if so, why hasn’t a publisher jumped on this?)

I like this definition from Michael Cart: ‘…young adult literature has, since the mid-1990’s, come of age as literature – literature that welcomes artistic innovation, experimentation and risk-taking’. Maybe we should stop trying to apply labels, and just let our readers roam free in the stacks. They always manage to find a good book, regardless.

Cohort 21: A year-long PD experience

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This year, I’m taking part in a year-long, embedded PD experience called Cohort 21. Run by two EdTech gurus, and an incredible group of facilitators and coaches, Cohort 21 gives educators in Ontario the chance to examine their practice, discuss pedagogy, learn about new and innovative technology tools, and to make connections across schools.

As well as learning about new ways to use EdTech, and think about how we teach and assess students, as part of my Cohort 21 participation I’m required to develop and research an action plan. It can be on anything related to my practice, from student assessment and feedback, to a new technology tool I’d like to try with my classes to designing an online course. I have decided to focus on our library schedule and booking system, and how I can make it more efficient and accessible to faculty. I’ve written about my library schedule before; I am a paper schedule user. We run a fixed and flexible schedule concurrently in the Lassonde Library, and I’ve found that on the whole, a paper schedule works well for us. We like the opportunity to have conversations with teachers about their classes and assignments when they call in to book time with us, but we know this can be inconvenient for teachers who are used to booking services online. In particular, this year we seem to be trying to keep track of too much; we have two librarians, four potential ‘bookable spaces’ in the library, iPads, and Chromebooks, often all in different places at the same time. This is a week in our booking schedule from November. It’s becoming a little unwieldy.

library_schedule Nov15

My initial thoughts about a new solution for a library schedule can be seen here, on my Cohort 21 blog. During our second Face to Face session, we used the Design Thinking method to think deeply about our action plan topics; you can read how I’m starting to research what solution might be best for us. You can also read a detailed walk-through of the Design Thinking process and my thoughts about a re-designed library schedule here; you’ll see I’m still seeking the ‘answer’ – if, indeed, there is an answer!

(Aside: If you’re interested in Design Thinking, and how you can use it in your library, check out the AISL 2016 Summer Institute.)

One of my favourite things about Cohort 21 is the people! Collaboration is key in being a successful librarian, and Cohort 21 has allowed me to network and collaborate with teachers outside my school – the members this year teach across all grades and disciplines. There are two librarians taking part this year (me and Jen Weening from Country Day School). A number of librarians have participated in Cohort 21 since it began in 2012 – click on their name to see their action plan and final reflections: Tim Hutton from RSGC, Sara Spencer from The York School and Laura Mustard from St. Clement’s.

When I first joined Cohort 21, I thought it was all about using technology in the classroom; something I’m comfortable with, and love to experiment with. But Cohort 21 is so much more. It’s about being a better teacher, being more responsive to my students and their needs, learning about what is happening in the classroom across the province and being the best teacher I can be. Our third Face to Face session is coming up at the end of January; we’ll be working further on our action plans, and talking about where to go from here.

You may find the following resources useful:

Cohort 21 twitter feed, hashtag: #cohort21
Cohort 21 website, action plans, member blogs

What book taught you most about being a girl?

Registration for the 2016 AISL Conference is filling up fast! Not yet convinced? I am still using an idea I first learned about during the 2008 Toronto conference! It’s become one of our biggest school-wide literary events each year, and is much anticipated by staff and students alike. This year I had my first ‘when is Red Reads?’ query on the second day of school!

At the 2008 conference, Havergal College librarian Tony Nardi shared information about his school’s reading contest, where six book champions battle it out to be crowned winner. The part that particularly appealed to us, as a grade 1-12 school, is that you didn’t have to have read all of the six books in order to participate. One of our English teachers had the vision for the contest for our school, customized it for SCS, and Red Reads was born!

The theme of this year’s contest is ‘The Book That Taught Me Most About Being a Girl’. Members of our community were invited to submit their nominations on paper or electronically, and we were thrilled that we had submissions from grades 2-12 and staff. A team of judges met to whittle down our hundred or so entries to a top six, and these finalists will present at a special assembly on November 17. After this assembly, members of our community will vote for their favourite presentation, and the person who made the most compelling case, to become our ‘Red Reads’ selection for the year. We follow up with another special assembly in January, focusing on the winning book, its message, and author.

Our six finalists this year are:

1) Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, submitted by a grade 10 student

2) I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, submitted by “Justice and Peace”, a grade 6 / staff duo

3) Alexandria of Africa by Eric Walters, submitted by a grade 8 student

4) The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, submitted by a grade 11 group

5) Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, submitted by a grade 6 duo.

6) Life in Motion by Misty Copeland, submitted by a grade 6 student

The benefits to running a program like this are numerous. It allows us to have school-wide reading festival, it is adaptable for a variety of themes, and it is an excellent focus for our senior school book club. It also increases library traffic, and the chatter about books in the halls! The library does a huge amount of support for this program; we use library periods to share information and discuss Red Reads choices when possible.

As a judge (and advisor), I was not allowed to nominate a book, but I have written an SCS Reads blog post on my choice. I’ll update this post once the winner is announced (in early December). I expect it to be a closely-fought contest this year!

For further information, take a look at an article my co-advisor and I wrote in Independent Teacher Magazine about reading at SCS. It’s a few years old now, but it gives a great overview of the reading culture here at St. Clement’s.

UPDATE!: Our winning book was Life in Motion by Misty Copeland. SCS students and staff are encouraged to read the book over the Christmas vacation in preparation for the follow-up assembly in January.

 

 

 

 

My (renewed) middle school focus

This is my first post in over a year. I’ve been away on maternity leave since July 2014, and although I’m pleased to be back, let’s just say that actually coming back to work has been quite an adjustment. At the time of writing (Labor Day), school *still* hasn’t started, so this is more of a ‘this is what’s coming this year’ post. Although I teach grades one through twelve, this year I was asked to blog about the middle division; they are a group I know well! I am also a grade seven homeroom advisor, so I definitely have a renewed middle school focus for this academic session. At my school, middle school refers to grades seven, eight and nine, skewing somewhat older than most US ‘middle schools’. Although we have grades one through twelve in the same building, the jump from grade six (junior school) to seven (middle school) is perceived as huge by the students, even though the students simply move upstairs to the next floor. It’s probably the biggest transition in the school. Grade seven and nine are also key intake years, so the focus in these years for us in the libary is the re-teaching and reinforcing of research and library skills.

During the year I was on leave, grade seven and eight students at my school started an Integrated Studies program. As this continues this year, I am really looking forward to working with these teachers and new curriculum. The middle school curriculum has always been very cross-disciplinary, and this new approach lends itself particularly well to inquiry and  21st century learning.  I’ve had already had some great conversations about assignments and learning opportunities with my colleagues, and my assistant librarian is reading zombie YA fiction in preparation for a unit about settlements. Who could fail to be inspired?

This year we also have dedicated library periods for most of our middle school students, to focus on literacy, reading promotion, and book selection. I will be offering some great opportunities to our middle schoolers, such as the chance to participate in Kids’ Lit Quiz (a worldwide competition which tests participants on their knowledge of children’s literature), and Red Reads, our annual books and reading contest, similar to Battle of the Books (watch this space for more on this later in the year). I’m the staff advisor for Anime Club, a co-curricular group that’s popular with middle schoolers. We will also participate in Red Maple, which is a province-wide reading award for students in grades seven through nine, showcasing the best of Canadian fiction and non-fiction for younger teens. We’ll also be bringing the pop-up library (aka the library cart and an iPad) along to the middle school floor at lunchtime for book sign out and reading promotion. It promises to be a busy year!

 

#aisltampa15

Everyone has their favourite social media channels for keeping up to date with news and professional issues. I am a Twitter devotee, I’m starting to experiment with Instagram, and I admit to a slight addiction to Pinterest. So where can you find AISL on the web? And how can you use social media to follow the fun at the AISL 2015 conference in Tampa?

Facebook:
Find Independent Ideas blog posts, interesting articles, pictures and conference news here.

Twitter:
Twitter is great for short, interesting links. AISL tweets using the hashtags #aisl, #aislibrarians, #aislblog, and for the duration of the Tampa conference, #aisltampa2015.

YouTube:
Follow our YouTube channel for lots of great multimedia resources! You can see the stars of our Librarians of AISL series, and during the Tampa conference you’ll be able to see footage of each day’s events.

Pinterest:
Our dedicated and enthusiastic pinners are continuously adding new pins to the AISL boards, including Book Displays, Library Ideas, Plagiarism Tools and Ideas, and Books Librarians Love. If you’d like to pin to these boards, you need to add yourself as a pinner. More information on how to do this will be sent to the AISL list. The boards are a great source of inspiration!

Instagram:
New for Spring 2015 is the AISL instagram account. Add your pictures using the hashtags #aisl, #aislibrarians, #aislblog, and for the duration of the Tampa conference, #aisltampa2015. We’d love to see and share your pictures of the conference!

I won’t be attending the conference this year, so am looking forward to experiencing the full AISL conference via social media. Also note that session materials and handouts will be posted to the wiki, so if you’ve not signed up to access our useful wiki, please do so before the conference begins!

Have fun in Tampa, and remember to use #aisltampa15!

 

Summer reading…

There have been many insightful posts on Independent Ideas this year; I have learned so much from our colleagues at schools across North America. This is my last AISL blog post for a while; I’m heading off for a one year maternity leave (Hazzard#2 is due in late June), and before I leave I wanted to talk about something close to the hearts of many librarians…

What are YOU planning to read this summer?

Like so many of you, I am a voracious reader, and plan my summer reading from about mid-April onwards. I’ll share a couple of titles I’m planning to read this year below, and invite you to add your own recommendations in the comments section…

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon

I have read nothing but good reviews of this book. Solomon focuses on all our different types of children, from those with disabilities, to prodigies, to children of rape, to transgender children and on. When I picked up my copy at the bookstore, one of the blurbs on the back suggested it was ‘required reading for all parents and teachers’.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

It won many prizes this year, and it’s about 800 pages long. Too heavy for my daily commute, but perfect summer reading. It’s a murder mystery, set in 19th century New Zealand, and everyone I know who has read it has loved it.

Anything by Jennifer Brown

On a fellow librarian’s recommendation I have just read Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown. It’s about a girl called Ashleigh who sends a naked selfie of herself to her boyfriend – and her boyfriend forwards it on, and those people forward it on… It’s about the implications of social media, privacy, consequences, teens, and is terrifying and compelling. I had never read anything by Brown before but am looking forward to devouring her backlist – up next: The Hate List.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

I’m cheating here a little bit because I’ve actually just finished reading this book. It’s wonderful – a great memoir for teens. High school sophomore van Wagenen uses a 1950s guide to style and beauty throughout her eighth grade year to enhance her life. From embracing pearls to making a commitment to sit next to someone different at lunch time, this is a lovely look at the life of a girl who is just a little bit different (and a lot like the teen girls we know). The book is full of Maya’s tips, and even as adults, we would do well to live by these small tidbits of advice…

Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives! A World without World War I by Richard Ned Lebow

I love alternate histories. One of my favourite novels is Fatherland by Robert Harris (set in Berlin in 1964 after a German World War II victory), and I just finished reading Dominion by C.J. Sansom (if Germany had won the Second World War from a British perspective). Lebow takes a look at how the world would be different if there had been no assassination, and no subsequent war in 1914.

Will I get to all these? I hope so! You can follow my reading life on Twitter, and I’m on Library Thing!

Happy reading, all!

AISL 2014 Board Book: It’s Complicated by danah boyd

The 2nd annual AISL Board Book social took place on Thursday, April 24. Although it had been a busy and full day, many Dallas conference attendees joined the board for food and drinks, and took the opportunity to discuss the 2014 Board Book selection It’s Complicated by danah boyd. 2013’s event was a great success; in Baltimore we discussed I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did by Lori Andrews, which covered similar topics to boyd’s book.

It’s Complicated is an in-depth look at teens, and how they use the internet: their social media choices, their different personalities in different contexts online, their perception of privacy, and their interaction with their peers in an online (and offline) context. The book was generally well received by attendees, who felt they were seeing these issues on a day-to-day basis in their libraries and schools. The author, danah boyd, is a well-respected academic whose research focuses on how young people use social media as part of their everyday practice. It’s Complicated is based primarily on interviews boyd undertook with teens about their social media behaviours.

Attendees discussed a series of questions put together for the group by CD McLean (AISL president) such as:

  • What does social media add to the quality of teens’ social lives, and what does it take away?
  • What do you think about the idea that teens are more ‘digital naives’ as sociologist Hargittai calls them, than ‘digital natives’?
  • What do you think of the quote by Mark Zuckerberg, “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity”?
  • Have we as adults become socially rude? Culturally rude? How do you define privacy?
  • Have teens redefined the nature of privacy online?
  • How do we as faculty judge teens?
  • Parental rights versus privacy / child rights. Where do you stand on this? Where does your school stand on this?

Thanks to my tablemates (Brenda Ferrell, Amy Cunningham, Tricia deWinter, and Joan Tweedie) for the interesting discussion! Although we didn’t always stay on topic, we had a fascinating conversation about teens, privacy, school social media use policies and the digital footprint / shadow that many of our students are creating.

Please consider joining us for next year’s Board Books Discussion at the 2015 Tampa conference. If you read any titles between now and then that you think would make for great discussion with AISL conference attendees, let us know!

Freedom to Read Week – a lower school perspective

 

FTRW-2014-clipart-5x2-thumb-1February 23 – March 1, 2014 is Freedom to Read Week in Canada. This annual event, which highlights issues of censorship, intellectual freedom and book banning, is an excellent chance to initiate a discussion with students about the books they read and why they choose to read them. The US has an equivalent, Banned Books Week, which takes place every September.

As a library that serves students in grades one through twelve, we try to initiate grade appropriate discussions with our students about the issues highlighted by Freedom to Read Week. As the focus of my posts on this blog is Lower School, I will give some examples of activities we have shared with our younger students. Interestingly, some of our best discussions over the years have been with grade seven and eight students; they are generally widely read, and are starting to become aware of media influences and how they as teens are influenced by issues in the wider world.

Our library technician puts together a display of ‘banned books’ a week or so before Freedom to Read week, and as our younger students study the display, I initiate informal conversations about why certain books might be banned. The example of And Tango Makes Three is always a great conversation starter; our school mascot is the penguin, and this book is much-loved in our library. When our junior classes stop by for their regular library period, I share some observations I’ve made about their comments about banned books (Harry Potter is also a good conversation starter!), discuss issues of censorship and selection, and give examples of how books have been separated from readers throughout history. I also share information about the challenges we’ve had in our own library (one serious, and a couple of more informal over the past ten years or so). We discuss how the library should tackle such challenges, with options ranging from pulling the book from the shelf and banning it outright, to having a discussion with the challenger, to ignoring the complaint altogether. We usually arrive at a consensus, which generally matches the challenge policy document we have, although we always have a few students who would like to ignore any and all challenges…

I am lucky to be teaching in a community that is open to us having these discussions with elementary age children. While it may not work in every school library, the chance to have these fascinating discussions with our youngest readers offers a real insight into their reading lives, and their consumption of media. We often broaden our discussion to chat about censorship in movies and on the internet, using our school internet filter as an example, and discuss issues around student safety and access to information. It’s always an interesting week!

Keeping up with new resources!

Keeping up with the thousands of resources that are published each year is a challenge! As we run a library that serves students in grades 1 through 12, as well as staff, it can be difficult to keep up with new books, additions to series, new formats, as well as changes to the curriculum that demand new print and online resources.

There are a number of print and online sources that I use to stay up to date about new releases, and items that should be in our collection. Here are a couple of my favourites:

PRINT:

H.W. Wilson’s Core Collection

We subscribe to the Children’s edition, the Middle and Junior High edition and the High School edition. These are wonderful resources, which list recommended books by Dewey number, as well as fiction for different age groups. The recommendations are always excellent, and I use the volumes frequently. Updates come once a year for each of the editions, so I am always able to see what has been recently published in a certain area. This resource is also available online, but I far prefer the print version, which I can annotate, add sticky notes to, and photocopy to distribute to faculty. There are a couple of drawbacks to this source, however; sometimes the books they list are out of print or difficult to find, and it has a US focus (although, obviously, that is not quite such an issue for many readers of this blog). If a Canadian version were available, I would be thrilled!

Quill & Quire

Quill & Quire is ‘Canada’s magazine of book news and reviews.’ Published monthly, it features publishing industry news, and reviews for all ages. Their reviews of children’s books are particularly good.

Resource Links

Resource Links is published six times a year, and focuses solely on Canadian resources, both fiction and non-fiction. All of the reviewers are librarians; the reviews are informative, and always contain useful information about age-appropriateness / potential issues associated with a source. Resource Links also regularly publishes lists of award winning books from across Canada, so is a good source for staying up to date with popular material. Resource Links also reviews French materials, so if you are looking to build your French language collection, it is a good place to start.

Booklist

I find Booklist superb for adult fiction and non-fiction, but less good for children’s books. They always review unusual books, however, and I do often one or two excellent recommendations in every issue.

ONLINE:

We all have our favourite Kids Lit and YA Lit bloggers; here are a few that I subscribe to via my Feedly reader:

Kids Lit:

A Fuse #8 production

CanLit for Little Canadians

A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

100 Scope Notes

YA Lit:

Reading Rants

Chasing Ray

Teen Lit Rocks

Stacked

Other excellent sources of book recommendations are our students (who are well-read and vocal about it!), browsing at the bookstore, booktalks at our regional library group meetings, awards announcements, meetings with vendors etc etc. It’s not surprising that it’s difficult to keep up!

What are your favourite sources for book recommendations? And are there any you avoid?