Comfort Dogs in the Library

Figure 1. Comfort dog and AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate holder Tamar McLean at home. Tamar is a black lab who started life as a Southeastern Guide Dog Puppy in Training.  She was on track to be a guide dog when the pandemic hit and 60 dogs from Southeastern were furloughed.  CD McLean and her husband, who had also been Tamar’s puppy raisers, adopted her back.

Comfort Dogs in the Jean Ann Cone Library

(serving Grades 6-12)

By CD McLean and Courtney Walker

Comfort + Library = Comfort Dogs in the Library

We wanted to give you all an overview of how our dogs in the library program got its start and how it has morphed into something much more complex than what was originally envisioned. So I turned to our Library Director, CD McLean to share the journey of our comfort dog program.

Humble Origins

CD has been the Upper Division librarian at Berkeley Prep School in Tampa, FL for the last 21 years and the library director for 20.  For the first ten of those years, she tried various methods to get the headmaster at the time (Joseph A. Merluzzi) to agree to let her bring her dog to school.  She wrote an opinion piece for the school newspaper on the benefits of dogs at school.  She would email him articles on how literacy improved when children read to dogs.  He was pretty firm in his decision not to have dogs on campus.  

However, one member of the Berkeley Board of Trustees was also on the board of Southeastern Guide Dogs: Bobby Newman. He helped Southeastern start their veteran service dog program and has been a long-time donor to the organization.  At the same time, CD was thinking about how she could incorporate more giving into her and her husband’s lives.  

Years before, she had expressed an interest in Southeastern and becoming a puppy raiser, but her husband said she would never give the puppies back.  So this time, CD gave her husband two choices: become a puppy raiser or go on a medical mission to Haiti.  Fred, who was at heart a dog lover, picked Southeastern. Once they had that decided, between CD bringing in a Southeastern representative and Bobby talking about all the good work Southeastern and their dogs do, it was a pretty easy yes for the headmaster.  

Eleven years and eleven puppies later, CD and Fred had adopted back several of their former puppies.  In particular, Tamar was certified with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and she and Slater have earned their AKC Canine Good Citizen certification.  After eleven years of puppies, CD was looking for something a little calmer. Tamar was an exceptional dog who was on track to make it as a guide dog, according to her trainer. Tamar was well known at school and loved by the students.  She has a special knack for picking out students who might be having a stressful day.

With that in mind, CD decided to propose the idea of a comfort dog at Berkeley. A dog who would be available all the time to students.

Certifications/Qualifications of Handler

CD McLean has been raising and training Southeastern Guide dog puppies for over 10 years. Last year,  CD was inducted into Southeastern’s Puppy Raiser Hall of Fame. For the last two years, she has also been a puppy kindergarten teacher for Southeastern, which involves running a six-week course for new puppy raisers on how to train and socialize their puppies.  In addition, she has been asked by Southeastern to be a dog assessor for their Basic Skills Training Assessment (BSTA) program where guide dog puppies in training are evaluated for readiness before they go back in for training to Southeastern. 

About Tamar and Slater

Tamar was on her way to being a guide dog when the pandemic hit.  She and 59 other dogs were furloughed.  Her trainer told McLean that she was on her way to be a guide dog if not for Covid.  Here is one of the last comments from her trainer on her abilities:

Tamar has made a lot of improvement, especially with her obedience. She is sitting and laying close rather than pulling back to sit or laying out to the side. She is a very trainable dog who loves to learn and loves to do well. She is just a love of a dog…so affectionate and fun!

Slater is also a former Southeastern Guide Dog puppy and spent a year at Berkeley while McLean and her husband were raising him.  He was dropped from consideration for being a guide dog because of anxiety and a dog distraction, but at Berkeley he is able to take away a student’s anxiety just by being cuddled.

Figure 2. An Upper Division Student Chills with Slater.

Tamar is a former guide dog in training, meaning she was on our campus for a year with our students.  Tamar quickly gained a reputation for being very empathetic.  Her favorite thing to do was to walk around the library and pick out the students she thought were stressed.  She would go over and lay down next to them for some belly rubs or, sometimes, if it was convenient, she just climbed right up into their laps.

Figure 3. Ross was having a tough day so Tamar curled up in his lap.

Recommendation from rising senior Kellen Furmaniak:

“Tamar was the sweetest puppy I’ve ever met! It was my first year at Berkeley in 9th grade and I was pretty shy since the Berkeley atmosphere was extremely different than the other ones I had been familiar with. I would spend most afternoons waiting for my Dad in the library while sitting in the bean bags alone, and next thing I knew, I had a round plush cow next to me with Tamar’s happy face and wagging tail pointing straight towards me. I remember how gentle she was with her toy and how she would lean into me when I gave her pets, all while holding that plush. She brought me so much joy in my first year and was the most amazing puppy ever!”

Figure 4. Baby Tamar at a puppy palooza at school.

Tamar has attended three exam week puppy paloozas.  The puppy paloozas were all extremely well attended by grades 9-12.  Counselor Landau said that students asked when the puppies would be back on her Stress Less surveys.

Figure 5. Tamar was a big napper and she often helped stressed out high school students to relax enough to sleep.

Figure 6. Tamar just loves to be loved.

Berkeley graduate Rajshree Chettiyar had this to say about Tamar:

“It is no secret that Mrs. McLean’s guide dog puppies attract a lot of students to the library for lunch or after school playtime. While the pretense of those visits may seem light-hearted, most of these students come to momentarily forget their stress or anxieties relating to school and beyond. Thus, having a designated therapy dog would be so valuable for the Berkeley community who can now confidently walk into Mrs. McLean’s office without feeling like an intrusion or fearing rejection if the puppy has their coat on. Having worked with Mrs. McLean and her guide dogs closely, it is without a doubt that all her puppies are friendly and sweet. Even so, there isn’t a better dog to recruit as a therapy dog than Tamar. Having known Tamar since she was a puppy, she has grown into such a confident and loving dog. She loves pets and gives plenty of kisses but seldom gets over-energetic or rowdy which is an important trait for a therapy dog. Tamar’s composed demeanor makes her a perfect candidate for a therapy dog, especially for students who are not well-acquainted with dogs. Tamar is a very confident and empathetic dog who stays calm and sweet in most situations, but can also show her goofy side when she knows the student is comfortable and happy around her. This duality is priceless in a therapy dog, and with her added experience in the Berkeley community, there is no better candidate for a therapy dog than Tamar.”

About Certification

This fall, Tamar and Slater were tested for the AKC Canine Good Companion Certification (CGC). They both passed on their first try.  The AKC CGC assesses the following things:

  • Being accepting of a nice stranger
  • Sitting politely while being petted
  • Standard grooming and appearance
  • Walking on a leash
  • Being around a crowd
  • Sitting and staying on command
  • Coming when called
  • Reacting suitably to distractions (“Helping Students Deal with Stress and Anxiety”)

In addition to being able to do the above items, Tamar’s temperament was also evaluated at Southeastern.  She was 

  • Able to remain calm in difficult or stressful environments (she has been through several fire drills with no problems)
  • Capable of being around other dogs and/or animals (she is a very dog-friendly dog, she is not distracted by birds, lizards, etc.)
  • React well to distractions (she is calm in the presence of distractions)
  • Isn’t bothered by older adults and younger children (Tamar loves adults, but in particular, she loves all ages of children) (“Helping Students Deal with Stress and Anxiety”)

Tamar has also been certified as a therapy dog with Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD).  

Mission Statement

The mission of Berkeley Preparatory School’s comfort dog program is to offer love and support opportunities for motivational, educational, and/or therapeutic benefits to enhance a student’s quality of life.  

A study at the University of Ottawa found that therapy dogs unequivocally offer love and support to students.  Love was understood as having reciprocal love for dogs and gaining a positive feeling from visiting them.  Support was understood as de-stressing and relaxing from interacting with the dogs and to a much lesser extent with the handlers (Dell, Colleen et al). 

Benefits to Students, Faculty and Staff

Hundreds of universities around the country have launched pet therapy programs for students since 2005, when the first colleges and universities set up programs.

Berkeley’s AP Psychology teacher and clinical psychologist Dr. Michelle Barrett had this to say about having a therapy or emotional support dog (ESD)  on campus for students: 

For me, the most convincing evidence in support for an ESD is how petting these dogs actually brings about physiological changes, particularly when stressed or anxious. Research consistently supports a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure when petting an animal. Even more significant is the documented reduction in cortisol levels (stress hormone) and increase in oxytocin (feel good/social connection hormone). This is really strong evidence that there can be a decrease in stress/anxiety and a mood boost, potentially for depression/loneliness, simply by petting a dog. There are very few interventions that are this simple, fast, and effective.

Some resources she recommends:

Our UD Counselor Tiffany Landau was also supportive of having Tamar on campus for students.  Landau and our other UD counselor Michele Khalife run the Stress Less Week which is the week before Thanksgiving.  It is a week of fun activities such as meditation, yoga, etc. for students to do during lunch to take some of the pressure off of them.  Landau mentioned that there were many responses to her surveys on Stress Less Week where students asked when the puppies would come back for exam stress relief.  McLean has worked with the counselors in prior years to create an event called Puppy Palooza, which is held on the Friday of BRAK week.  BRAK stands for Berkeley Random Acts of Kindness.  This week occurs on the week after Thanksgiving and before final exams.  For puppy palooza, McLean sent an email to area puppy raisers with Southeastern Guide Dogs to come to school on that Friday from 10-2 pm. We also provide them lunch.

Figure 7. Poster advertising the puppies that will be at the Puppy Palooza

Having a dog on campus isn’t just for stress. Inside Higher Ed recently published their analysis of a recent report on at-risk students: 

“College students who were at risk for failing and who spent more time with therapy dogs over the course of a four-week academic stress management program were more likely to experience improvements in their executive functioning skills, such as time management and coping techniques, than students who spent less time interacting with the dogs, found a study published in the American Educational Research Association’s journal, AERA Open.”

“It’s a really powerful finding,” said Patricia Pendry, associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development. “Universities are doing a lot of great work trying to help students succeed academically, especially those who may be at risk due to a history of mental health issues or academic and learning issues. This study shows that traditional stress management approaches aren’t as effective for this population compared with programs that focus on providing opportunities to interact with therapy dogs.”

Yale Law Library was one of the first universities to start a therapy dog program to help with law student stress. The culture of the Yale Law Library is similar to the Jean Ann Cone Library in that the library has a culture of creating community with its users. Like the Cone Library checking out frisbees during sunny days, the Yale law library checks out games and, wait for it, their therapy dog (Aiken; Aiken and Cadmus; Xu; Prihar).

Librarians at the Yale Law Library sought to fit into the architectural concept of the “3rd space:” which is a place where people come, not for the purposes of living (1st space) or working (2nd space), but rather for some other purpose like studying or research, socializing or just enjoying themselves  (Aiken; Aiken and Cadmus; Xu; Prihar).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found that having a dog present in the classroom promotes a positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body. Petting a dog lowers the blood pressure and heart rate. Pet therapy lowers the body’s stress hormones like cortisol and increases oxytocin. It found that a therapy dog session calms students and helps to keep anxiety in check. 

Interacting with a therapy dog has a social catalyst effect which leads to increased stimulation of social behavior. In essence, it helps students develop a greater capacity for empathy. The NIH found that “the presence of a dog in an educational setting seems to support concentration, attention, motivation and relaxation reflecting the reduction of high-stress levels which inhibit effective learning and performance. (Mulvahill)”

Berkeley rising junior Katie Dann certainly found that having a dog at school was a great stress reliever.

I’ve always found relief in being around dogs. After I got my dog in fifth grade, I learned that for me, there was nothing more stress-relieving than just petting and being around her. When I began my freshman year, I was experiencing pretty heavy amounts of stress and anxiety due to the new environment, rigorous work, and social situations. I was extremely lucky to have made a connection with Slater when I did. During my frequent trips to go visit Slater, I always left feeling calmer and more grounded. His comforting snuggles can always make me feel better. I believe that Slater truly is the best dog for an emotional support dog. He can almost tell whenever I’m stressed and he’ll always respond by giving me a couple of kisses or laying his head on my lap and falling asleep. Slater truly has been one of the reasons I am where I am today. Without his support during those tough days, I could have really struggled elsewhere. His constant love and support for everyone he interacts with is why I think Slater would truly be the most perfect emotional support animal.

In the article “Helping Students Deal with Stress and Anxiety,” the author lists the following benefits of having a therapy/comfort dog in your school:

Mental and Emotional Benefits:

  • Lowered anxiety
  • Decreased loneliness
  • Ease in talking about distressing or troubling events
  • Release of happy hormones, such as oxytocin
  • Lowering of stress hormones, such as cortisol
  • Increased socialization
  • Improved connections with others on campus
  • Increased clarity and focus

Physical Benefits

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Slowing of heart rate
  • Slower, more controlled breathing, especially in those with anxiety

Some thoughts on dogs at school from Berkeley History teacher Scott Saposnik:

It has been said that, “dogs are man’s best friend,” and after this past year of enormous and unprecedented challenges, I cannot think of a better example of how our canine friends are always there for us, in good times, and in bad.  Dogs are the living reflections of our best selves: compassionate, giving, loving, loyal, and always eager and ready to lend a hand, or paw, as the case may be. While I know many of my days in the past year at Berkeley have been buoyed by the friendly presence of the dog Hagrid, I also know that I am hardly alone: Many of my fellow colleagues, and many of my students have commented to me about a moment of pure joy they experienced by just having a few quiet moments with the puppy in the library.  I can think of no better way to further the goal of fostering a community that is well, than to embrace the presence of our furry friends, the therapy dogs. 

Figure 8. History teacher Scott Saposnik and Slater.

A study of small southeastern colleges found a reduction of self-reported anxiety and loneliness in 60% of the participants of a therapy dog program.  Additionally, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that students experience stress and anxiety in staggering numbers (“Animal Assisted Therapy”).

  • 30% of students said stress affected their academic performance
  • 41.6% said anxiety was a top concern 
  • 85% told researchers they felt overwhelmed by expectations and demands in the previous academic year

Therapy/comfort dogs can also help students – particularly introverts – with socializing (“Helping Students Deal”). 

“Having a dog to focus on takes some of the anxiety out of having a conversation with someone new,” said Carol O’Saben, a licensed psychologist and pet therapy expert (“Helping Students Deal”).

Essentially, dogs don’t see color, gender, size or shape.  They don’t see grades.  Dogs are good listeners who don’t make judgments.

Service Dog v. Comfort Dog

A SE Guide Dog puppy in training is considered a service dog. A service dog is trained to help one person in a certain task. As such, its goal is not to provide comfort to many students. A therapy/comfort dog is trained and certified to provide psychological and physiological therapy to individuals or groups of people who are not their handler.  Unlike service and emotional support animals, therapy/comfort animals are encouraged to socialize and interact with other people while on-duty (“Helping Students Deal with Stress and Anxiety”).

Our goal with bringing a comfort dog to Berkeley is to provide daily support to students (especially students in grades 6-12) to help with their stress and anxiety.  A secondary goal would be to build community in the library and be a place where students come to relax and renew.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like?

While  both Slater and Tamar love coming to school and interacting with students and faculty, it is emotionally draining.  That is why we have Tamar come on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Slater comes on Tuesday and Thursday.  That allows both dogs to have some time off to just be a dog.  

Any of the library staff can handle the two comfort dogs.  We have had Tamar go spend the morning in College Counseling when there was a stressful due dates and we anticipated stressed out seniors.  Since we just enacted this comfort dog program, there are many possibilities for how the dogs could be used on campus. 

Since Tamar is particularly adept at helping new students feel more comfortable (see comments by students Kellen and Katie), she and McLean are happy to be incorporated into any programs/meetings/retreats for new students.

Possible Concerns

Fortunately, we have had 11 years, problem-free with having dogs on campus, as we have had a Southeastern Guide Dog puppy in training on campus for the past 11 years.  Additionally, the Middle Division counselor had her personal pet Wells for several years without problems.  Below are some of the concerns that might come up.  In regards to a therapy/comfort dog, the most relevant concerns would be cleanliness, allergies and students/faculty who might have a fear of dogs. 


  1. The library is vacuumed every evening eliminating all pet hair/dander that might result from having the comfort dog in the library.
  2. We provide hand sanitizer for students and faculty to use after a session with the comfort dog. Additionally, we usually have a lint roller, because labs shed constantly. 


  1. Vacuuming every evening will take care of any loose pet dander in the library.
  2. The comfort dog is bathed and groomed regularly.
  3. Hand washing and sanitizer should take care of any dander from a visit with the dog.
  4. If a student is severely allergic to dogs, Mrs McLean won’t bring the dog to their class.  We can also make accommodations for study halls if they let us know the morning they will be stopping by so we can put Tamar in her crate in Mrs. McLean’s office.

Fear of Dogs

  1. “One of the most powerful ways to reshape fearful behavior response is by providing a positive peer behavioral model. Watching children enjoy and safely interact with a dog may encourage a fearful child to give it a try (Mulvahill).”
  2. While Tamar was on campus, we did have a student who was severely afraid of dogs.  McLean did not bring Tamar into the classroom with that student.  She also put Tamar into her crate if the student was in the library. 

Who Else Has a Therapy Dog?

It is hard to get a firm number on how many schools (public and private) have a therapy dog program. According to the Facebook Group School Therapy Dogs, which is a moderated group allowing only handlers at schools to join, their membership list is over 6,000. The table below is just a few of the names of independent and private schools that allow comfort dogs on campus or that have a comfort dog program. The list is not exhaustive.  

Table 1. List of Independent Schools that Have a Comfort Dog.

Independent/Private School Name
St. Paul Academy and Summit School, St. Paul, MN (the director of teaching and learning brings her dog to campus)
Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park, FL (guidance counselor raises therapy dogs and they also bring in therapy dogs during exams)
Marlborough School, Los Angeles, CA (has therapy dog on campus)
Marist School, Atlanta, GA (only use therapy dogs for exam stress)
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, San Juan Capistrano, CA (had therapy dogs on campus after death of a student)
Trinity Episcopal School, New Orleans, LA (therapy dog is in the library)
Roland Park Country School, Baltimore, MD (therapy dog is in the library)
Webb School of Knoxville, Knoxville, TN (various faculty bring their dogs through HABIT, which is a therapy dog program in Tenn. They also bring therapy dogs in during exams.)
Menlo School, Atherton, CA (supports students training service dogs and allows those dogs on campus)

Figure 9. River is Librarian Diane Haneski’s therapy dog that she brings to Marjoried Stoneman Douglass high school every day.

The following list is just a few of the colleges and Universities who have instituted a therapy/comfort dog program for their students.  In addition, half of the 98 universities in Canada have either a permanent therapy dog program or bring therapy dogs on campus at exams.

Table 2. Universities with Comfort Dog Programs.

University Name
Harvard University
Yale Law School
Univ. of Ottawa
University of Connecticut
Occidental College
Fordham university
Pratt Institute
The Rochester Institute of Technology
Tufts University
UC Riverside
California State University, San Bernardino
UC San Diego
La Sierra University in Riverside
Caldwell College
Oberlin College
Mercy College
Miami University
Kent State University
University of Minnesota
University of Northern Colorado
Stetson University
Washington & Jefferson College
University of Central Florida
Drexel University
University of Central Lancashire
University of Iowa
UC Berkeley
Marquette University
Colgate University
University of British Columbia

Works Consulted

Aiken, Julian. “Meet Monty.” Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School, 19 Sept. 2012, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Aiken, Julian, and Femi Cadmus. “Who Let the Dog Out? Implementing a Success Therapy Dog Program in an Academic Law Library.” Trends in Law Library Management and Technology, vol. 21, pp. 13-21, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Anderson, Katherine Terras and Myrna R. Olson. “‘Dog’Gone Crazy Schools: Models for Incorporating Dogs into the School Setting.” Children, Youth and Environments, vol. 20, no. 1, 2010, pp. 318–328. JSTOR, Accessed 20 May 2021.

“Animal-Assisted Therapy: A Creative Solution for College Counseling Centers.” Mindwise Innovations, Riverside Community Care, 2021, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Bell, Allison. “Paws for a Study Break: Running an Animal Assisted Therapy Program at the Gerstein Science Information Centre.” The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, vol. 8, no. 1, 2013, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Dell, Collen Anne, et al. “PAWSing Student Stress: A Pilot Evaluation Study of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program on Three University Campuses in Canada.” Canadian Journal of Counseling and Psychotherapy, vol. 49, no. 4, 2015, pp. 332-59, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Ein, Natalie, et al. “The Effect of Pet Therapy on the Physiological and Subjective Stress Response: A Meta‐analysis.” Stress & Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, vol. 34, no. 4, Oct. 2018, pp. 477–489. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/smi.2812.

“First Day Jitters? Here Are the Best Pets for Anxiety.” Vercida, 14 Jan. 2019, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Green, Ranny. “Pets Can Help Ease Stress.” Dog World, vol. 87, no. 8, Aug. 2002, p. 16. EBSCOhost,,ip,url&db=ulh&AN=6877403&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

“Helping Students Deal with Stress and Anxiety.” Affordable Colleges Online, Red Ventures Company, 6 Apr. 2021, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Lalonde, Rebecca, et al. “PAWS Your Stress: The Student Experience of Therapy Dog Programming.” Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education, vol. 11, no. 2, 2020, pp. 78-90, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Mulvahill, Elizabeth. “Dogs in the Classroom Improve SEL, Cognitive and Even Reading Skills.” We Are Teachers, 25 Oct. 2019, Accessed 20 May 2021.

“Pets May Tame High Blood Pressure.” Modern Medicine, vol. 67, no. 12, Dec. 1999, p. 13. EBSCOhost,,ip,url&db=sch&AN=2698159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Prihar, Asha. “The Dog with the Dolphin Smile.” Yale Daily News, Yale, 8 Feb. 2019, Accessed 20 May 2021.

Wood, Emily et al. “The feasibility of brief dog-assisted therapy on university students stress levels: the PAwS study.” Journal of mental health (Abingdon, England) vol. 27,3 (2018): 263-268. doi:10.1080/09638237.2017.1385737

Xu, Qi. “Yale’s Therapy Dog Program Spreads.” Yale Daily News, Yale, 9 Dec. 2015, Accessed 20 May 2021.

A Framework, a Protocol and a Tech tool walk into a library…

While not the opening to a joke, but a learning punchline nevertheless. This summer I attended the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy,co-lead by Renee Hobbs and Julie Coiro from the University of Rhode Island, and I am still processing the wealth of information I received. It was a weeklong intensive focused on digital literacy. While there were participants from different fields a good portion were librarians, and I highly recommend this program for relevant librarian professional development. There is still so much for me to unpack, but for the sake of organization and clarity I chose a few pieces to share.

A framework: 

Personal Digital Inquiry created by Julie Coiro, Elizabeth Dobler, and Karen Pelekis

Permission to Use:
Personal Digital Inquiry Framework image by Julie Coiro, Elizabeth Dobler, and Karen Pelekis in From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K–5, 2019.

Since many of us are educational leaders in our schools when it comes to inquiry learning and processes, finding a new framework is a great way to model to our faculty and students effective and reflective ways of searching, seeking and investigating information.  The second day of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy the theme was how we “guide” our students in the learning process. Julie Coiro presented the keynote that morning on the Personal Digital Inquiry Framework based on the work and book she created with her colleagues Elizabeth Dobler, and Karen Pelekis. The educational model or image above is an entryway into a useful structure for making intentional instructive choices to guide and promote inquiry. So while this is only a brief sampling of the framework from the image above, the philosophy of crafting a culture of inquiry is paramount to the whole framework of Personal Digital Inquiry. It emphasizes that learning  does not take place in a vacuum, but that what each individual (teacher and students )bring to a text or learning situation is vital so there is a relational element to the framework. Delving deeper into the framework Coiro and her colleagues enumerate eight cultural forces to consider when building a culture of inquiry. In fact, the technology component or the “digital” is framed as a reflective choice and not just a straightforward “how-to” component because of the cultural awareness of the personal aspect of the framework. Finally, inquiry is the modi operandi of the framework emerging from core relationships built from awareness of “the personal.” So that while research and inquiry is a messy process it does not have to be anxiety producing because there is always a reflective loop back to the teachers and students modeling, questioning , and sharing their inquiry process together. The presentation and book offer tools like the “Planning Triangle,”  “PDI Self-Reflection Tool, ” and  a companion website to make the theoretical actionable, applicable, and transferable to the everyday classroom. To learn more about the framework with examples and resources, preview the first section of the book, From Curiosity to Deep Learning: Personal Digital Inquiry in Grades K–5 from the Stenhouse website and visit the companion website.

A Protocol: 

the Questions Formation Technique (QFT) developed by the Right Questions Institute

As far back as Socrates in Plato’s Republic modeled probing questions, every teacher education program since has emphasized the importance of crafting questions as vital to knowledge attainment. And while many of us know it is important to our instruction, it is a powerful tool when students can develop quality questions. However, I know from experience it is often relegated to the back corners of our practice when the daily grind of teaching is grinding. As librarians it is also the cornerstone of research instruction as we all have seen firsthand when students form limited questions they get limited results. Often at the beginning of research we prompt students to develop research questions, but due to time constraints of a research project we might not get to delve into the questioning forming process to help students refine and reflect on them. During one of the sessions of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy a presenter shared the Question Formation Technique from the Right Questions Institute. The Right Questions Institute developed a clear, sequential protocol that pauses judgement and slows down answering the question so that time is spent reflecting on the type of question it is and the kind of response it elicits. Some of you may be familiar with QFT from the 2011 book, 

Make Just One Change By Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana from Harvard Education Press; the institute was my first exposure to it. If you are familiar with it, it bears repeating and revisiting because I think it is a simple, yet powerful process that has many uses in research and beyond. Visit the “Teaching+Learning” tab of the Right Questions Institute to see the steps and find examples of the protocol in action. I am grateful that the institute did not just mention it, but had us experience the process through questioning one of our teaching aims in  one of the projects participants were developing. In reflecting with a partner during the session we both agreed it could even be a protocol used in faculty or team meetings.

A Tech tool:

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark icon from website

Another aspect of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy was that every session had a “create to learn” portion. So participants were applying information and tech tools in close proximity to learning a concept. I picked up many tech tools along with best practices, experiential programs,and great news/media literacy resources. To spare everyone from infobesity, I wanted to share one simple, fast, and multi-use tech tool: Adobe Spark. Adobe is known for industry standard creative software for professionals, artists, and educators with rich and complex tools. There have been tech manuals and whole courses dedicated to learning the ins and out of Adobe products. However, Adobe Spark is a nimble, easy-to-use express, design studio. While it looks social media creation heavy; in which, it does have many tools and templates- it offers design applications for graphics, websites, and video. Right now there is Adobe Spark for Education that lets teachers or schools set-up accounts for free. In our session we had 15 minutes to make a quick video with another participant digitally.Collaboration was quick and easy to do remotely or in-person. This creative platform is an easy entry into design elements for research and other learning projects.

I hope to implement and integrate this framework, this protocol, and this tech tool that walked into my library, so that I can follow up with specific, grade level activities to share in future posts. In the meantime, enjoy experimenting with them and please feel free to share a comment if you have used one of these specifically in a library setting.

Gratitude through Graphics

This is officially my first day of summer. My well of words is fairly dry, but I wanted to use this time to ink out a few reflections as all of us embark on a summer of new possibilities. This is the most exhausted and exhilarated I have ever felt at the end of a school year. End-of-the-year meetings, honors nights, and graduation ceremonies in which we begin to gather again closer in form to our former ways; they seemed more poignant, present, and precious. The themes for my year were gratitude and grit while I recognize for many it may have been grief. As we grinded through the year starting with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty it gave way to gratitude and extraordinary grace due to my colleagues and friends weathering the year together. I am forever grateful for all the camaraderie, advice and wisdom we have all exchanged during this time. I wanted to create a summer send off through images as I am tongue-tied at the moment.

The following images I created on Canva. I know many of us use it for library promotion, but I stumbled across a new feature I noticed that I wanted to share. So before we get to the whimsical I also want to share one practical tool. There is now a section of Canva that is for education Signing up for an educator’s account instead of using a personal account allows you to create a class in which you share a code with your students or import through google classroom. Now students can use the design features without having to make their own accounts and you can see their work. One limitation is that it looks like you can make only one class, but the system does allow you to make groups, so if you want to share this with teachers, and they want each of their classes to have a space, making groups for each class is the way to go. I am always looking for ways that students can be creative with projects. Canva for education gives students another angle to make stylish graphics for projects without just google image searching everything.

 And now some crazy canva fun as a collective card to all for finishing the year-

A jarring year. What I want to keep to show my gratitude and what I want to fade in the background.

Wishing everyone a relaxing and restorative summer. Only screen time is sunscreen.
Enjoy your journeys through books and safe travels wherever you go this summer.
A wishing all a wonderful walk, hike, or stroll outside finessing your flaneur instincts.
May you spend many hours browsing in bookstores.
Let your creative juices flow.

I look forward to learning about all your summer adventures.

Whimsical Wednesdays in the Library

While I know today is Monday, I want to share about the Whimsical Wednesdays I started hosting in the library for my middle division students. Like many of you, I see the library as a place of creativity as well as productivity and scholarship. I have loved being part of the maker movement and arts integration in libraries. Wherever I am in my career or program, I always want to share my own creative processes. This year as we all acclimated to new norms of navigating a pandemic I saw the opportunity to bring whimsy back to the library.

On Wednesdays after school I host an hour of creative exploration in the creative commons area of the library. I offer a theme or craft exploration for students based on my own creative meanderings and students’ interests. Some of the mediums we explore are journals, scrapbooks, upcycled book arts, book binding, zines and graphics. Actually, over the past couple of years I have tried to start a club or elective based on these concepts, but it did not make traction among my middle division students at the time. The impetus to try again came from a student and their parent asking about activities after school. I realized this as an opportunity to offer this creative hour on the day that I am already designated for staying later. This year our creative area was not open to the general public because of our safety precautions, but hosting Whimsical Wednesdays as a designated time under supervision re-engaged this part of our library.

To kick it off I pulled many of our crafts and art books from the 745s of the stacks along with some of the books from my own stash. These serve to inspire and instruct students to follow their creative whims. I also share my own collages, journaling, and art both in-the-works and finished to emphasize the process over the final product. In my own creative practice I have learned from local creatives. Through Keep St. Pete Lit I attended many intuitive journaling classes that sparked my own creative well. One of my library department’s professional development and mini-retreat activities was taking a bookbinding class together at Print St. Pete Community Letterpress. I have also taken online art and illustration classes from Minneapolis School of Art and Design as well as fallen down the rabbit hole of classes offered by Creative Live and Domestika. Bits and pieces of all of these endeavors are remixed in the Whimsical Wednesdays. I love facilitating a time and space of creativity for my students.

A Few of My Favorites

image by Courtney Walker

I have been heavily inspired by Sabrina Ward Harrison’s art journal Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself, and I show examples of her pages to illustrate expression takes many forms and to let them know not to be afraid to get messy. I have also found that books geared towards creative writing offer prompts that I tell students can take flight in any form of expression. Another of my personal favorites is PoemCrazy by Susan Goldsmith Woolridge; even though it is intended for poetry it can be translated to any medium as well. I let students know that any of the prompts that I offer are suggestions and they can use any form that moves them. The Brooklyn Art Library’s sketchbook project also has many sketchbooks to view online and a program for people to submit a sketchbook to their collection. I learned about them a few years ago when they had their traveling library in town. There are so many more books in this vain to make this a turn key program for busy librarians.

For professional resources, I always turn to The Library as Incubator Project founded by librarians , Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore and Christina Jones (Endres). While the original blog is static now there are still many resources housed there, and they have two books that are great references for librarians. If any of you were at the 2015 AISL Convention in Tampa Bay they were the kick-off speakers and held sessions on The Book to Art Club and The Artist’s Library session. I am also so excited to see them back with AISL programming through the AISL Summer Institute 2021: Incubating Creativity hosted by member Melinda Holmes of the Darlington School on June 21, 2021. I will definitely refill my creative well by attending the online session with them this summer so that my Wednesdays with students stay whimsical.

Amanda Gorman,Youth Poet Laureate, Ignites Interest in Poetry:

How Can Libraries Capitalize on this Renewed Interest in Poetry and Teach about the Role of a Poet Laureate

Poetry has always been elevated language and exulted expression used throughout history for celebratory, solemn, and sacred events. But for too many students poetry has become a textbook anthology studied only in the month of April losing much of its luster for our students and youth. Often it has been placed on a pedestal too high for our students to find it relevant to their lives.

Amanda Gorman in her bolt of yellow has sent shock waves around our nation and beyond for her poise and powerful command of language demonstrated at our nation’s Inauguration. Her arrangement of words, turn of a phrase and internal rhyme was cleverly crafted, and yet, incredibly clear to all types of reader-viewers; a difficult balance to achieve in poetry. Immediately following her performance the media landscape went wild with learning more about her. In our realm School Library Journal posted the following article “Youngest Inaugural Poet in History Impresses. Lesson Plans Available for Amanda Gorman’s ‘The Hill We Climb’”. They also went on to report her upcoming publications are already in the #1 and #2 bestseller positions on Amazon. My own introduction to Amanda Gorman was this past spring during the early days of shelter-in-place because of the pandemic. I saw her performance of “The Miracle of Morning” filmed in the LA Public Library. It was a balm and a pinpoint of light during at a time the world needed it.

Not only is poetry reserved for our highest ceremonies of our government it is reaching the highest levels of our popular culture and sports entertainment venues too as Amanda Gorman was asked to recite a poem at  Super Bowl LV. This is the first time a poet has been asked to perform in the Super Bowl. Poets everywhere are sounding their “barbaric yawps to the world.” I hope this pattern of poetry performance pervades more of our everyday lives with the opportunity for many diverse poet voices to be heard. I think our roles in libraries can celebrate and support poetry as we have always been linked with the poet laureate position.

While many of our library programs do promote and support poetry and poets in April I would like to suggest we capitalize on this renewed interest in poetry now; especially with poetic models like Amanda Gorman. Earlier this year our library staff had already decided to reach out for a visiting poet this year as a writer visit. While Amanda Gorman was actually at the top of the list, but not feasible for us we learn more about the National Youth Poet Laureate program from which she arose. This is a great resource to find more young, energetic, and inspiring poets our students would admire. Each year a youth poet laureate is chosen through a national competition from four regions of the country. While there is one final youth poet chosen there is an anthology compiled of the poets that entered. This is a great place to find fresh young voices that can be examples for our teenage students. Our library assistant contacted the organization to learn about how to invite or host one of these poets in our school. She learned that they will try to connect you with one of the poets that is available for a virtual reading and workshop. The National Youth Poet Laureate program is an initiative originating from Urban Word, a youth literary arts program based in New York. Currently, they have free online workshops for students aged 13-19 and host virtual open mic poetry readings. Much of this reminded me that we can connect these resources with our language arts teachers and our students. We can also inform them of the role poet laureates play throughout our society.

Additionally, research if your state and city has a poet laureate. In the state of Florida, Peter Meinke is our State Poet Laureate. He lives in my city of residence, so I am very familiar with his poems. Students can relate to his imagery because it comes from our natural surroundings. They also see the stature poets play to local municipalities and ceremonies in the role of a poet laureate. I am also lucky that my city, St. Petersburg, Florida has a City Poet Laureate, Helen Pruitt Wallace. Touching base with local poet laureates is another way to connect our students to poetry because they have a model that shows them how their world might be reflected back to them. These poets can show them that poetry is not only personal, but can be communal in how our words shape our shared experiences. Additionally, you may be able to host more than one poet in a year if they are available locally.

Finally, do not forget that at our highest echelon of the library world, The Library of Congress,our national librarian, currently Carla Hayden oversees our National Poet Laureate program. The role was originally called “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress” from 1937 to 1986 and the poet chosen treated the role more like a reference librarian role advising the Librarian of Congress about poetry collection development. If you look through the history of this role you will see many notable poets served this role including Robert Frost. Then in 1986 by an act of Congress the name was changed to “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.” Today our poet laureates act more like ambassadors of poetry developing special projects, composing and performing poetry at special events and reaching out to the community to share the power of poetry.

 It is a great time to revisit The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature: Poet Laureate website for rich resources. Our current Poet Laureate is Joy Harjo, she is the first Native American poet to serve. On the left hand side of the page there are links to other great poetry resources. The Poet Laureate Projects page houses the more recents projects these poets are sharing with the nation. Currently Harjo’s project is a media rich mapping of Native American poets called “ Living Nations, Living Words”. I see a great intersection between social studies and poetry with this current exhibit. There are seven other projects that are great sources to share with your English teachers. Another reminder is that the Library of Congress also has a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature which is currently writer, Jason Reynolds. Make sure to follow the blog and podcast “From the Catbird Seat: The official Poetry and Literature” of the Library of Congress to stay up-to-date with all their events and resources. In fact, to come full circle I found a great lesson plan for teaching Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural poem “ The Hill We Climb” by Peter Armenti. Not only does it have a video link and transcript of the poem, but it shares the other classical poets she derived her inspiration from. So this weekend I will be cheering her on along with my home team. Go books! Go Poets!

Digital Interactive Notebooks for Research

I remember using interactive notebooks when I was an English teacher many years ago. I have always personally loved projects in which students construct books as a process to help them construct their knowledge. So my mind drifted back to this idea recently when my English department reached out to me for help with background research for context knowledge before reading a book. The teachers were looking for something different than infographic posters, slide presentations, or videos. So, I looked into a digital version of interactive notebooks and found an abundance of resources.

While this is not a new educational concept, I love to revisit golden oldies and think about how to put a new twist on it. I was drawn to resources that showed how to make templates for a digital notebook using Google Slides as the medium.  I thought this would be a perfect match for conducting background historical research and not a full blown research project. I am working with 7th grade language arts teachers, so I like that interactive notebooks allow educators to design the level of scaffolding research skills. 

There are many tutorials circulating about making digital interactive notebooks, but I found the following one useful by Jessica Wilding of Blended Learning in Texas: Getting Started with Digital Interactive Notebooks. I picked up many new tech tricks to use with the Google Slides environment. My favorite new insight is learning how to use the “master” view to set-up templates and create fixed text and images. This is what makes the digital notebook look, feel and act like a physical notebook or scrapbook. As I played around with it, it reminded me of the old mac software Hyperstudio of putting in icons and active features to make learning more engaging. I know that is a throwback tech reference, but I could not help myself. The great thing about using Google Slides is that students are familiar with it, and they can pick up new tricks in the process of recording their research. Additionally, it shows them how to break out of using Google Slides only for slide presentations as well.

I have also written about creating Hyperdocs with Google Docs, but I see Interactive Notebooks through Google Slides as leveling up a notch because it provides more possibilities for interaction. Working in the “master” view of google slides is like the underlay and then switching to the “normal” view allows students to input or enter text and move around objects and pictures. There are so many fun features you can put in an interactive notebook to simulate manipulatives like in real life. You can also leave a minimal template and let students embellish depending on how much support and guided inquiry you want to provide.

I am in the planning stages of this project, so this is just a preview of a project for after the holiday break. The book 7th grade students are reading is The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. The research is on the Darfur conflict in Sudan during the early 2000s.  Since the story focuses on a character receiving a red pencil I thought the digital notebook concept a nice pairing with the pencil. For the cover design of the notebook, I intentionally embedded African fabrics in a composition book style in which students can choose amongst six designs.

Here is a sneak peak to see the interactive part.

Map Puzzle

I really enjoyed designing the notebook and think there are many more uses that librarians can incorporate into their repertoire. I could see interactive notebooks as a scrapbook for a novel, a book of poems for poetry month, or a reader’s journal over a semester. I am interested in seeing how other librarians are using interactive notebooks as well. Please share any more applications for libraries in the comments.

Revisiting Creative Commons: the 4th Prong to Copyright, Public Domain, and Fair Use

I was recently asked by an administrator to share with our faculty tips about finding images and media for projects so that we can model for our students how to find appropriate and licensed images and media for use. This led me to review, revisit, and revise how I tackle and present concepts of copyright, fair use and Creative Commons licenses. Most academic institutions realize it is important to revisit topics of academic property and intellectual rights with staff every couple of years; if not, annually. In the process of dusting off my own knowledge of the topic and looking at the ways our students and faculty are using media I stumbled upon some new angles to share efficient and relevant ways to find images and media.

It started with a question from a teacher,” Can you share that website that has the ‘free’ images with students?” I am sure many of you have been asked this question and have offered up resources that direct teachers to places to find images labeled “free to use.” While this is one of the most common ways many librarians tackle the complex intersection of copyright, fair use, and creative common license; I specifically and purposefully, have shifted my language away from using the words “free” to “licensed to use” as a slight paradigm shift in this topic. I choose this shift because of the role Creative Commons has emerged over the years for offering ways for creatives, artists, and  content creators to share and take control of how their works are offered for use in our digital landscape. I see CC licenses now as the fourth prong to the discussion of copyright, public domain and fair use. I went down the “rabbit hole” of reviewing my own understanding of these concepts. Then of course, I created a libguide for our faculty built from the previous work of my librarian colleagues with the addition of new perspectives I gathered. In my mind’s eye, I pictured this information as a Venn diagram, albeit in the shape of the square content boxes of libguide construction. I felt renewed in my understanding of how these concepts of attribution and use relate to each other, and I nerded out on how I could convey these complexities to teachers that have limited time; and in this year, of especially strained circumstances, limited bandwidth. I had ten minutes of a “captured audience” in a morning faculty meeting in which to convey this information, so the libguide would need to serve as the follow up resource for anything I did not get to cover in the meeting. Here is my attempt at thoroughness while navigable (click image below to view the libguide).

So needless to say, I did not start the presentation with, “ today, we are going to look at copyright, fair use, and creative commons.” Instead, I shifted to sharing tools they could immediately use as a backdoor to eventually addressing the copyright conversation. Which brings me to the question: have any of you noticed lately that Google image search usage tools are now using Creative Commons Licensing language as a filtering choice? So I showed them how to use the usage tool in a Google image search. Some of you will remember that Google used to have four different filters for searching images, now they have broken down to two: Creative Commons Licenses and Commercial Licenses. Because Google made the switch I could move our faculty and students to the switch too. It gave me the opportunity to discuss what Creative Commons licenses are, and how it relates to copyright. Additionally, Google is linking licensing details and source links to the original work more clearly. By showing them a tool they could use immediately, I captured their attention and many of them found this useful for class projects. I additionally showed them how to find CC licensing information on an image when they are using the internal image insert tool in Google slides as well. The little magnifying glass in the bottom right corner of the images lets your track back to the original images to check on its license for use. The following pictures illustrate the steps.

Google Image Search Usage Tool

Google Slides Internal Image Search

Video Demos

Here is the same information in video form to see the search process.

I am grateful for the faculty I work with and learn from in a symbiotic relationship. They were attentive and receptive to the information I shared. Several of them immediately sent me an email thanking me for the useful information. Several 6th grade language arts teachers invited me to do a mini-lesson of these searching for “images license to use”  with their classes. Additionally, a math teacher shared that they were adding this process to one of their presentation assignments in which students would add photo credits and attributions on all images in their slides. This made my librarian heart sing that our sixth graders were starting on the pathway to proper photo attribution in creative projects; normally, a skill introduced in later grades.

I am always reminded that when we have to teach a concept to others we learn and retain more ourselves. I am thankful that my administration always loops the library program into faculty information sessions. I have learned more and refreshed my view of copyright, fair use, and now Creative Commons. I have even started to license my own content with the CC nomenclature. The following post is licensed under .


While many of us in education are used to the pendulum of educational trends and practices swinging back and forth; in this decade the new mode of operation is the pivot. As many of us prepare for the new school year amidst the continued confusion of the health crisis, social upheaval, and financial downturn our normal pre-planning routine once comforting seems insufficient. However; in this new age of anxiety, I see librarians’ honed expertise and intellectual instincts sharpen to focus their skills and passion to connect with students and convey knowledge and learning in all available platforms at their disposal. In the spring we were all thrust into an educational pivot.The summer has afforded a time of reflection more than restoration, but as I move forward this school year my aim is to find poise in the pivot.

The word “pivot” has proliferated through all our news media to describe the most common action in this time of upheaval. Revisiting the meaning and function of the word in our language can give us clues to embracing poise in the pivot. In mechanical terms a pivot is a shaft or pin that supports something as it turns. A fundamental move in basketball, “A pivot is when a player maintains one foot having contact with the ground without changing its position on the floor and utilizes the other foot to rotate their body to improve position…(1)” In business and data organization the pivot table is one of the most powerful functions, “The “pivot” part of a pivot table stems from the fact that you can rotate (or pivot) the data in the table in order to view it from a different perspective. To be clear, you’re not adding to, subtracting from… you’re simply reorganizing the data so you can reveal useful information from it.(2)”

Common to all of these definitions is there are two parts to the pivot. The anchoring, supporting entity and the shift or redirection. I see the foundations of our discipline as librarians as the anchor. The culture of inquiry, intellectual curiosity, and scholarly pursuits grounds us and has stood the test of time while our playful attitude to try new things, tinker with new technologies, and experiment with new programming is our pivot point. In a way we have been perfecting our pivot all along. Think of the average day for a librarian where a combination of the following is the norm: collection development, reader advisory, collaborative teaching, space design, digital curation, web design, student engagement, information literacy, storytime, book clubs etc. In these uncertain times our pivots may be swifter with sharper angles but we can set up systems to insure the smoothest transitions. 

Consider some of these pivot moves whether on campus, blended or fully virtual.

As we may be scaling back on our physical collections and limiting physical access due to social  distancing recommendations our digital resources and applications continue to offer support to our students and teachers

Promote databases to teachers as supplemental resources– often library databases are only used for independent student research, but many schools in face-to-face settings are minimizing print materials to avoid locker crowding. This is a great time to reach out to your faculty to share that library database articles could be great lesson source material, plus it models information literacy. I have noticed most major database companies have added a “send to google drive” feature. You could show or make a movie for your faculty and make it easy for them to add to their own digital resources. These resources can be seamlessly integrated to a blended or virtual classroom.

Level up your Google Apps usage– so many schools are using Google Apps and students and teachers are comfortable and accomplished with it. Make time to check out new features or try features you have never used before. While Docs, and Slides are the mainstays Google draw is underutilized and has lots of potential for graphic organizers, infographics, digital posters presentations, doodle sketches for understanding. Have you seen the new Jamboard app added to the fleet of apps?It is basically a digital whiteboard that has the same great collaboration features as the rest of Google apps. As an instructor you can use it just like a whiteboard to instruct the whole class, and you can also add sticky notes, and images. You can allow students to also edit and contribute or maybe this is the new group collaboration tool when you cannot have students put heads together at a table- let them collaborate digitally in the classroom or from home. In blended learning this could be a way you capture an in class session and pass it on digitally to those that need it. Have you seen the new Collections app? It is an in-suite curation tool with good search memory. It is like Wakelet, but within the G suite. This could be used for a great lesson on web searching, evaluating, and organizing sources. Also good for any setting live or pixelated. Google news has been around, but I like the “Fact Check” and “Beyond the Headlines” panels on the right if news-media literacy is in your program this could be useful. Google has also added a Podcast app. Some of the teachers at my school have students create podcasts. A great way to teach it is to have them listen to notable and grade-level appropriate podcasts. This is also a nice media format change for online learning to focus on auditory instead of visual information.This app categorizes podcasts and you can subscribe to ones for your own enjoyment. So keep googling google apps.

Sprinkle in some new websites, interactives, and outsider apps like glitter (sparingly, but with sparkle)

Every year about this time I revisit AASL’s Best Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning. I make a point to try at least two of the resources they share. I try it with my own curriculum. I use my fellow librarians as guinea pigs. Then I consider which teachers, subjects, and projects that would pair well. Over time I have amassed quite a repertoire of tools. 

Flipgrid has been featured in many educator resource articles as it is easy to use, makes quick videos manageable and helps community/culture building in a blended or digital setting. If you have any presentation projects and have to shift into digital mode this is an easy transition. This is a great platform for booktalks in the library.

I recently used Genially for a robust digital arcade for Battle of the Books (more details in a future post). It is a great tool for adding interactive elements to websites. I solely used the gamification set they had. It has great professional graphics and ready made templates. These could be a great exit ticket game in a live class. This is an easy way to add engagement in online environments. This does not collect or share data results, so most of the tools are more for student self-check.

The one I want to try this year is Parlay. While I have not field tested it I have explored it this summer. I am drawn to this app because it is actually designed for different settings: live or online. It is a platform for discussions, so programs that use the Harkness model or Socratic seminars could use this to orchestrate, digitize, and data collect during a class discussion. I was impressed with the data a teacher could analyze to democratize the voices in a class.

Don’t forget about some of the golden oldies 

Every year about this time I revisit AASL’s Best Apps & Websites for Teaching & Learning Archive. I look back at websites I had wanted to try, but never got a chance to dabble. I also use this time to expand my knowledge on the tried and true platforms and websites I use every year.

Libguides, our industry standard, or the library version of a LMS is the container for all our digital resources. The beginning of the year I take time to review past libguides to edit and tweak for dead links, layout and design improvements or new resources to add. I also try new features from Libwizard or embed some of the above mentioned resources to integrate into a libguide. 

Our school continually uses Noodletools as a research platform and citation management tool. I noticed a recent facelift in the program with some layout tweaks. At the beginning of the year I make a point to reach out to new teachers to help integrate into their course if they have not used it before.

Years ago I signed up for Diigo, and I still use it as my own online bookmarker. The other feature that I have also loved is the highlighting and annotating features. As a former reading coach, I still think we need to model and apply print reading strategies to digital texts and this program allows this.

There are so many more, but I have to also be mindful of my own creation of infobesity. Finally, more than any of these tools I really think our ability to possess poise in a pivot is our personal touch with others. I mostly use the above mentions as curricular conversation starters, but more than these are my care and connection with my colleagues. Often listening is more effective than an online offering.

I wish all patience, presence, and poise in the great pivot we are all making this year.

A Tale of Two Librarians in the Roaring Twenties

I always feel recharged when I am in the company of my fellow librarians. I am inspired, humbled, and enlightened by our collective endeavors to seek and share truth, cherish and foster reading, and empower our patrons on their own journeys of knowledge whether it be for an assignment, entertainment and escape, or for a breakthrough in self-development. In these times of multiple crises and layers of turmoil I turn to my instincts as a librarian for both comfort and understanding. I have noticed that many of us in the library and publishing industry have responded to the current events of the continued injustices visited upon the Black community by compiling resources and sharing book lists about antiracism, racism and social justice. I am heartened by the overwhelming response of the public and the social media realm to seek and share these resources as reigniting the conversation about justice, equal rights and human rights. In this profession we have consistently discussed, and disseminated the importance of multiculturalism, representation, and diversity. Librarians often are at the forefront and early adopters of ideas, programs, and language that continue to promote inclusion from all voices as witnessed by concepts like #ownvoice and the “windows” and “mirrors” as a reader perspective framing device. I have learned from many of you that have written posts, compiled book lists, and held workshops how you are reflecting on diversity and conducting diversity audits of your collections. 

And for this I am grateful and enriched by this tradition and like many of you, I am using this summertime to delve into self-education and research related to diversity in libraries.There are so many lists circulating currently by writers representing #ownvoice sharing about anti-racism and injustice; I am reading these to share with my patrons, but for this forum I want revisit the history of libraries and share figures that have inspired and informed me in the field of library studies. I want to highlight two librarians that have come to my attention in the last couple of years.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Portrait of Regina Andrews” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1940.

I have always had a fascination with the 1920s, and it is not only from this year 2020 as its centennial counterpart. Through my social media algorithms I stumbled on the following article, “The Librarian at the Nexus of the Harlem Renaissance.” My interest was immediately piqued. I had always wondered about the role individual librarians may have played in historical and cultural events. Regina Anderson Andrews was the librarian at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Her story struck a chord with me because of her avocation for the role of a librarian. She not only managed the daily duties as a 9-to-5 public librarian, she hosted a literary salon with the luminary artists and writers of the day. One of my favorite authors, Zora Neale Hurston, was mentioned as one of the working artists crashing at her place.  She was also part of this creative class as she wrote and produced plays that captured and gave voice to African American stories. The book Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian by Ethelene Whitmire further explains the career, hardships, and impact of Mrs. Andrew’s work. She also reached the stature as the first African American supervising librarian in the New York Public Library system. I admire her life’s focus on, “ the use of books as our strongest means of promoting intercultural understanding.” She was known for her library programming called “Family Night” in which she invited great thinkers and writers from differing backgrounds to share their perspectives and stories to serve her diverse and immigrant population. The book also does a thorough job of showing influential figures in the library world that I found illuminating as a springboard for further study. I consider her a model I try to emulate in my own life and work. (See more primary documents about her from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division-Digital Collections)

Clarence H. White, American, 1871–1925
Belle da Costa Greene, 1911
Platinum print
image: 23.8 x 17.1 cm (9 3/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
mat: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.8 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/2 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum. The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

On one of my afternoon commutes from work I was listening to the Annotated podcast produced by Bookriot when the story, The World’s Most Glamorous Librarian mesmerized me. I was introduced to Belle da Costa Greene, “the most glamorous and influential librarian in early 20th Century America, who kept a life-long secret that could have ended her career.” She was the librarian for J. Pierpont Morgan, an American financier during the Gilded Age. She acquired and curated his renown collection of illuminated texts, historical documents as well as notable British and American writers’ first editions and journals for over 40 years. According to recent articles and research she had wit, allure and mystic surrounding her story because she was truly a self-made woman. She tweaked her name and evaded specific questions about her heritage. She eschewed her father’s prominence as the first African American man to graduate from Harvard in order to evade a race label. In the book An Illuminated Life: Belle da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege historian Heidi Ardizzone Ph.D. fashions a portrait of this enigmatic intellect and her impact on New York’s high society. She is quoted as saying,“Just because I am a librarian doesn’t mean I have to dress like one.” She also defied the societal expectations of women. Her self-contrived story gives us a snapshot of the construct and constraint of race at that time, and we are still grappling with it today.

More information about about Belle

Belle da Costa Greene, the Morgan’s First Librarian and Director

The Mysterious Woman Behind J.P. Morgan’s Library

Long Time Passing

They are more than flapper librarians, but unflappable women that defied the social constructions that surrounded them. I am honored to be in the same field as these two, and I will continue to read and research the many other influential librarians from diverse backgrounds to see the fuller picture of our history. 

The following resources have lists of other Black librarians throughout our history for further study.


Honoring African American Librarians

Pointing Out Citation Information

magnetized citation information arrows

“Where is the ‘quick cite?’ ” is a refrain I often hear when some of my middle division students are searching for information on websites. While the repetition of this question might lead to mild annoyance; underneath it all, I experience a bit of librarian glee because I know the circumstances that lead students to this question. The reason our students repeatedly look and ask for the “quick cite” is because they are well trained to use library databases in conjunction with Noodletools. Students learn early that databases are not only a reservoir of credible sources, but that they provide formatted citation information, a “quick cite,” ready for an easy grab as prompted by Noodletools. At Berkeley Preparatory School we have an array of databases that the library hosts for students. There is buy-in from our administrators and consistent reinforcement from our teachers to use the library databases and digital resources. So when students venture outside these resources on the open internet they are confronted with the reality that most websites do not have a nicely formatted citation ready for import into their Noodletools work area. They are horrified that they must enter each discrete piece of citation detail for each website. The trials and tribulations of our digital natives led me to observe that they struggle to find the source information from websites to complete a proper citation.

In devising a lesson I wanted to build skill development in recognizing the parts of a website source, but in a tangible way to engage students. I wanted to avoid “the stand deliver” method in which I talk at them and their eyes glaze over. So I made magnetized arrows of the parts of a citation. Since we are a school that uses Noodletools, I showed them how the fields in the Noodletools source citation maker match the arrows I had created. I find it is important to explicitly show them how concepts line up or match between systems and approaches and not assume it will translate naturally for students. I reminded students where they can find all the pieces of information to give proper credit, and how Noodletools helps guide that collection of data for websites when they are searching in environments outside our databases.

Pointing arrows in conjunction with Noodletools

Then I modeled searching on websites in which I had chosen a topic similar to the ones they were researching. Students were looking for current articles to prepare an argument to defend. I used the arrows and lined them up on the board pointing to where citation information is on a webpage. After a few fields I even asked students where I should place them. Then on the next website projected I handed out the arrows to students, so they had to get up and move to the board to apply it themselves. Then we checked it as a whole class and discussed patterns we noticed with websites, i.e.,how sometimes there was only a copyright date and no day and month data. We also commented on corporate and institutional authors when there was no individual author. Then another website was projected and another group of students visited the board to interact with the webpage. The students enjoyed moving around and using the arrows to demonstrate their understanding. I found I could get quick feedback of how much a class understood where this information resides on a webpage.

Then students were researching independently on websites. Students still raised their hands to get help finding where the information for a citation was, but I found they were seeking confirmation more than needing me to point it out. I could refer back to the examples we used earlier and ask them questions to help them answer their own questions. Students learned that there is rarely a “quick cite” when they are using websites, but they demonstrated more confidence in completing a “slow cite.” I felt better knowing that my students could navigate and credit sources more accurately regardless of the environment in which they were seeking.