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 https://www.canva.com/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-
I look forward to learning about all your summer adventures.
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
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.
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 PruittWallace. 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!
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.
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.
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
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 Geniallyfor 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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
“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.
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.
At the beginning of the year we added a new event that served as a welcome, an orientation, and a big book event to the 6th grade class; it is the Hootenanny. This idea was a collaboration between the middle division librarian and the 6th grade language arts teachers. The impetus was that all the incoming 6th grade students read the book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen as part of their summer reading. The teachers and the library team wanted to create a fun, informative and bonding experience based on the book and its themes. The language arts teachers knew they wanted to end the event with a viewing of the movie Hoot; so we worked backwards from the movie timeframe to plan out the rest of the program. Since Berkeley Preparatory School is located in Tampa, Florida, this book is a great one to kick start the year and celebrate with a Hootenanny.
Originally, we envisioned that this would be an after school event, but then we were lucky that middle division program created a special schedule that day so that 6th and 7th grades could have special events for class bonding. So we had three hours and twenty minutes to plan the special event for the 6th grade. One of the library’s aims was to share all about the library and what it has to offer, so while the beginning plan was library-centric the whole event became more interdisciplinary when we began to draft the activities that the students would rotate throughout the library.
Snapshot of the schedule
Logistically, we had our four members of the library team and all 6th grade teachers as support for the program. The librarians and language arts teachers facilitated the rotation stations while the other 6th grade teachers rotated with the students. There were 105 students. Groups were quickly formed by preordered colored name tags. I sent out a color-coded schedule of the rotation so that transitions were smooth and timely. I also announced when 1 minute was left in a rotation.
Snapshot of one rotation
While we did not have folk music and dancing like a traditional hootenanny the students did waltz through seven stations of activities. Here is a description of the activities.
A “Battle of the Books” style activity but with the book Hoot. We set-up 10 buzzers so that students could buzz-in their answers to the book Hoot. This is a fun quiz show style activity, but it also served to promote our middle division Battle of the Books team. Berkeley annually hosts a Battle of the Books for Bay Area schools.
Virtual Library Overview
Our collection development and database librarian, gave students an overview of the digital face of the library in our library classroom. Students learned about our digital resources and how to navigate through the library webpage.
We had a special station for students to hear from our Middle Division Service Coordinators about our robust Middle Division Community Service program; we thought this a perfect complement to the theme of activism in the book.
The Digital Lab
We also enlisted our Digital Lab Coordinator to run a design challenge and share about our creative and innovative digital lab which is just a couple of steps away from the library. The Digital Lab is another learning resource for our students and often research projects start in the library, but migrate to the Digital Lab for creating projects based on their research.
Students learned about the creative corner area in the library. We did a simple, artsy book spine creation based on the book My Ideal Bookshelf. Students decorated one book spine of a recent favorite read and then we compiled them all for one of our first bulletin board decorations. This highlighted the area of the library where students can be creative.Now the poster resides in my office.
Pin the Wise Owl Teachers to the Bookshelf
This activity was a spin-off a classic childhood game, but for the specific purpose for our students to learn about our non-fiction section of the library and where each subject area lives. I photoshopped our 6th grade teachers onto the bodies of owls and put magnets on the back. Students in small pairs had to find where that teacher-owl would perch in the stacks. So students got to learn all their teachers and identify where that subject area information would be in the library. After all the owls were placed they walked around and checked all the subject area teachers and the area where books related to their subject live.
Burrowing Book Owls
In this station we wanted our students to get familiar with our fiction collection. We created bookmarks with owls on them to serve as book recommendations. After we explained how to navigate in the fiction section we gave students a burrowing owl bookmark so that they could place it in a book as a recommendation.They browsed the shelves to look at all the fiction books we have. By the end of all the stations there were tons of burrowing owls peeking out of the books. We shared that we would leave these recommendations there for awhile so that can come back to them. We also made special librarian recommendation bookmarks that featured our own pets.
The Grand Finale-The Film
Finally, after all the stations we had a snack break on the Aye Arboretum which is like a veranda off of the library. Our Sage Dining staff set out cookies, potato chips, and fruit. Then we headed back into the main area of the library to view the film of Hoot on our large whiteboard/projection screen. We shared with students that they could bring pillows and blankets to get comfy on the floor or sit in our available chairs. Soft seating was reserved for the teachers. We all enjoyed the movie version of the book. It was a great way to celebrate reading, the library, activism, creativity, learning and Florida while getting to know each other as a class.
I have wanted to delve more deeply into gamification in the library. Over the years all of us have incorporating games throughout our programming whether it was staging a scavenger hunt, creating a Kahoot! for a lesson, or even the classic Jeopardy Powerpoint. Several years ago I looked into digital badging as one entry point into adding game features in my library program, but it never came to fruition. At the tail end of this school year I started my gamification research again as a way to recharge and level up the Battle of the Books program that has been going strong at my school, Berkeley Preparatory School. In a way, any schools that have had a Battle of the Books program demonstrated an early form of gamification in the format of a game show. So that is why I thought I could bring in the digital tools readily available to the classic Battle of the Books model to capture the interests of our students today. Students have loved books like Ender’s Game,The Hunger Games, Ready Player One, and more recently Nyxia that have video game elements in the narrative. So I thought I would immerse myself into gamification in education to see how I can merge these elements all together. I have named this iteration of gaming- Ready Reader One: a Battle of the Books Reboot. In this post I will share my research resources and the initial elements I want to incorporate. Disclaimer: I have not built my platform yet, but I hope to use the Google suite of apps to have a leaderboard, digital badges, and boss battles. I plan to write follow up posts on the process and outcomes from this endeavor.
Video Promotion of Ready Reader One
Some Basic Game Elements to Consider
Avatars/Player Stats– Students create their gaming identity and have their own statistics page.
Leaderboard– The central level-up board that pays tribute to video arcade games. This gives students feedback on their status
Quests/Missions-Narrative-based challenges like the webquest of yesteryear or the days of Dungeons and Dragons
Battles/Boss Battles-Setting up a challenge in which students collaborate to defeat a common enemy/beast.
Powers/Tokens– If students achieve a mastery or level they receive a special power or token that helps them get further in the game.
Badges– As students move through tasks that can receive a badge for each level or skill they achieve.
Pre-Existing Game Platforms
The following links are gamification platforms that have built the ecosystem for gaming elements for the classroom.
Classcraft is the industry standard for a full package gamification for a classroom. They have demos and lots of support. Classcraft is robust and full-featured at the onset, but can be modified by the instructor. Rezzly has the basic features you would want to get started in gamification in education; it is simpler than Classcraft. I recently stumbled upon Grade Craft and it also has all the games elements available in a structured, easy to use set-up.
The following educators are using google sheets to gamify their classrooms. I have decided to follow in their footsteps and build my own platform with Google apps so that I can tailor it specifically to my program. Many of the pre-existing platforms listed above are built for traditional classrooms and are a bit too robust for what I am trying for my program. So I am going to use many of the tips and tricks from the following educators to use more features of the Google apps. I am learning how to make a master sheet and link Google sheets to each other to automate scores on the leaderboard.
I am always thinking about the balance between powering up and powering down. I want my students to be able to excel in the digital realm, but also develop inter/intra personal and introspective skills through off screen activities as well. The act of reading and getting lost in a book and playing a physical board games with classmates will also be integrated in this program. I am going to reuse some classic board games, but create new question cards based on the reading list for the Battle of the Books: Jenga, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, and Battleship are just a few of game reincarnations to go with the book list.
I am excited to get started on the underlying structure to gamify the Battle of the Books for next year. I am going to start with creating questions in a Google form for each book on the list that will link to the leaderboard. I am also going to create a quest in which students will share about elements of each book to gain additional points. I’ll keep notes on my process to share for my next post.