A Hootenanny in the Library

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

Hootenanny Stations

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.

Hoot off

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.

Community Service

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. 

Creative Corner

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.

Gamification In the Library- Level One

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- https://www.classcraft.com/

Grade Craft-https://www.gradecraft.com/


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.

Gamifying Educators-Websites

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.





Board Games

 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.

Game On

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. 

Building School Libraries Overseas

Service Learning through the Library

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

-Dale Carnegie

There are opportunities for library programs to get involved with the community service initiatives of the schools they serve; especially, with projects that involve literacy and reading. I want to share a service learning model that fosters student initiative and embodies a full school commitment to the service of others.This post complements and relates to the posts from our fellow AISL librarians, Laura Bishop and Maria Falgoust who shared their experience and research with service learning and libraries. I hope my experience adds another example of library programs partnering with community service programs. This year at my school, Berkeley Preparatory School, I was excited to participate in a community service role in which the Jean Ann Cone Library supported the community service of students to build a school library in the Bahamas. The vision statement of Berkeley Preparatory School is: “ Berkeley puts people in the world who make a positive difference,” and the Bahamas Books service project epitomizes the fulfillment of this vision through multiple departments, programs, faculty, and students coming together.


This service learning program was developed over many years, and in my role I am “standing on the shoulders of giants,” of previous librarians, teachers, administrators, board members and students who exemplify the spirit of social responsibility. As a new faculty member, I am gifted with a unique perspective because I have new eyes to admire the scope of this program with the freshly-minted experience of now understanding the details involved. This past February, I and Middle School Community Service Director, Buck Johnson, traveled with nine Middle Division students and eight Upper Division students to Nassau, Bahamas to set-up a library at Yellow Elder Primary School. Over the course of four days the Berkeley students set-up 2,800 books complete with a digital catalog and presented library lessons. While this was my first service trip it was the third school to receive a school library from this program. I want to share the journey that includes Berkeley families, alumni, Parent’s Club, Middle Division and Upper Division community service programs, and the Jean Ann Cone Library that all came together to support and share literacy through the power of libraries in the world beyond our campus.

Student-Driven Service

The impetus of this project started with Berkeley student, Elias Tsavoussis ‘16 noticing a need for more access to books in the Bahamas to address literacy. Elias talked to his parents, peers, and teachers at Berkeley about the ways he could start with a book donation to gather resources for a library. He took his early research and ideas and applied for Berkeley’s 50th Anniversary Service Award, a scholarship award “that honors students who have made a strong commitment to serving his or her community such that the student’s activities make a positive difference in the world.” Elias received the award, and with its grant money, he established a library at Nassau’s Columbus Primary School. From this project, The Berkeley Bahamas Books service initiative began, involving Berkeley’s Middle and Upper Divisions. Since the project’s inception, two more Bahama Books primary-school libraries have been started, both in Nassau. Elias’s siblings, Alexis ’11 and Paul ’13, also developed the non-profit organization Mission: Education Bahamas that aids literacy research, efficacy, and acquiring more grant funding. Their involvement started the Berkeley alumni affiliation with the project that continues to collaborate with our school community and students today. Now Wendy’s, Marco’s Pizza, and Popeye’s in the Bahamas sponsors the Bahamas Books as well.

Sourcing Books

Another important school community event that is integral to the Bahamas Books project is the annual “Share the Love of Reading” book drive that the Berkeley Parent’s Club has been organizing for over 12 years. This project brings the Berkeley community together and gives to local literacy and educational organizations. The scope and reach of this established community book drive enabled a new international outreach to be the next phase of giving; it now serves as a major source of books for the Bahamas Books project among its continued local outlets. This venture illustrates that often our schools have systems and programs already in place, so that libraries and library programs do not have to start with a blank slate, and it gives us another way to collaborate with our school communities. Our Lower Division library, the Rudolph Library, has also been a constant contributor to the collection. Finally, we have also reached out to our local librarian cohort, the Bay Area Association of Independent Schools librarian group to ask for any books they are no longer using in their collections, but are still serviceable.

Library Support

I also want to highlight that because this service project was student-driven at its inception it has continued to have a strong student leadership component where the torch is carried on by Upper Division students.  Most models of service learning and experiential learning stress the importance of student ownership and initiative as an important component to success. Additionally, the Jean Ann Cone library has a strong student library proctor program that serves as another student leadership program at Berkeley. Many of these student library proctors serve as foundational help to the Bahamas Books program. Their library training and daily workings in the library make them the perfect mentors to the Middle Division students that choose this program for their community service focus and other upper division students. Usually two to three student library proctors volunteer to attend the trip to the Bahamas and they are instrumental in the whole group putting together a library in four days.

Processing Books

So how do you process 2,800 books on top of your daily school library and teaching schedule? The answer: Middle Division students. The Berkeley Middle Division has a robust community service program from 6th-8th grade which gives students the foundation to serve others and prepare them for independent community service projects in Upper Division. As the Middle Division Librarian my role is to teach and shepherd a dozen Middle Division students on how to sort, label, process, and catalog library books. There are six dedicated days spread throughout the school year for students to be immersed in a service project. In the Bahamas Book track, the morning is comprised of three and half hours of dedicated work time where we sort, label and catalog the book donations. The afternoon is reserved for all community service groups to return and reflect on the service of the day. I relished this time with my Middle Division students giving them “the behind the scenes” tasks of libraries so they understand the inner workings of their own school library. As we sifted through the books students shared their recollections and memories of the books they checked out from the library when they were in Lower Division. I also believe they developed a new appreciation for the “grunt work” aspects of library by handling 2800 books and packing over 70 boxes. Our Middle Division students also revisited the Lower Division library and made a how-to video about library procedures to share as an instructional tool for schools that have never had a library before. Our students also designed library posters and bookmarks to give the students in the Bahamas the full experience they remember in their library as children. I refer to this group lovingly as my home team because not all of these students travel to the Bahamas, but they are instrumental to preparing the books to be a full functioning school library.

While I am working with the Middle Division students, C.D. McLean, our Library Director and one of our Upper Division librarians, oversees the Upper Division students who signed up to help and go on the trip. She set up weekly lunch meetings so that this group of students could plan and organize the types of library lessons the students would implement upon completion of the library. Students chose relevant books to use for storytimes and library activities in which the librarians reviewed and gave feedback. These Upper Division students also serve as mentors to the Middle Division students who traveled on the trip. I coordinated with the Yellow Elder Primary School principal, Mrs. Armaly, to schedule our students into their classes which involves a full day of engagement with the children of Yellow Elder.

Collaboration and Reciprocity

The day of travel finally arrives. All the hard work culminates in both the Berkeley Preparatory School and the Yellow Elder Primary school coming together to celebrate reading and libraries. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, so our first two days are spent exploring the culture and nature of the Bahamas. We spent a day on the water taking a boat trip to the Exumas where we visited an island of iguanas and stopped on a remote sandbar to fully experience the crystal-clear caribbean waters. Then on Monday we were warmly greeted by the whole Yellow Elder Primary School in a schoolwide convocation. The administrators of the Yellow Elder Primary School read quotes from famous authors about the power of libraries and reading. Then a program of student performances began: students read poems, sang songs, and danced traditional dances. Our trip coordinator, Buck Johnson represented our group and expressed our gratitude for their welcome and expressed our honor in sharing the love of reading with their community. These are the powerful moments of community service: the culture exchange, mutual benefits, and reciprocal learnings that all groups involved experience. We were all moved from this opening day at the Yellow Elder Primary School. The rest of the day we spent setting-up the the library. We broke into groups building furniture, shelving books, and decorating the library. It was a long work day, but the excitement of the children spurred us on. I also had the opportunity meet with librarians in the Bahamas to share and exchange current trends in library programming. Our last day at Yellow Elder was spent engaging with students through literacy and library activities-storytimes, letter recognition crafts, prop making, and games. For me, it was a joy to see my students imparting their own experiences and passions for libraries to this younger generation. Our students remarked about how it gave them a new appreciation for their own library when they saw how excited children are in the realm of a new library. I know it reinvigorated my own view of being a librarian. In reflecting on this whole experience I cannot stop effusing gratitude that I not only get to share the love of reading and research with my fellow librarians and students in the beautiful Jean Ann Cone Library, but that I also get to be part of a compounding effect of sharing the gift and value of libraries to a wider community. I am thankful for the Berkeley Community Service program that included the library program in building a legacy of literacy and encouraging us to make a difference in this Caribbean corner of the world.

Video Tour

Related Links

Mission: Educate Bahamas

This year-Bahamas Local news story

Previous years- The Nassau Guardian news story

The Bahamas Weekly news story

Hashtag a Genre

Often we are called to share our knowledge of genres with language arts classes. This year our 8th Grade English classes were embarking on a unit of genre study. They were to learn about some specific genres, read and analyze them in class, and then write their own story that uses the conventions of their chosen genre. They came to the library for a genre focused session and to get a book that would inform their understanding. My goal was to give the students more tools for finding books on their own, but through the lens of genres. I had done the genre game earlier in the year with 6th graders, so I wanted to do something different. I reflected on this generation of “digital-natives,” so I thought I would anchor the lesson around the symbol and function of the hashtag.

Click on the image to get your own copy of this graphic organizer.

So I created a graphic organizer that is a large hashtag. Each square had a category to capture about a genre the students were studying. At the beginning of class I posed the question of what is a hashtag and how does it function in our current media landscape. Students quickly shared how it serves as a grouping mechanism to identify similar concepts. I then used the hashtag as an analogy to how genres have been functioning in the literary and library world much like the hashtag of the current instagram generation. I then passed out the graphic organizer and randomly gave students one genre to go into depth about. There were a couple of questions students could answer on the graphic organizer to activate their prior knowledge before I showed them some tools we have in our catalog and online databases. This helped me see what they already knew about genres.

I also had a simple Libguide that I had created to guide the process. The first content box on the Libguide had some links to genre definitions. These websites helped students find out about the characteristics and elements of genres. I modeled how to look these up and then write the information on the hashtag graphic organizer. To complete the other areas like “notable authors” and “example titles” I showed students how to use our subscription to Novelist Plus. I demonstrated to them that you can look up books by genres to get ideas and recommendations for reading. So they spent some time working through Novelist Plus and writing down examples. I also showed them how Novelist Plus cross-references with our catalog, so they would know if we had that book in our collection. After students completed their hashtag graphic organizer I made a quick matrix on the board so that we could share the characteristics of each genre that way students had exposure to the major conventions of each genre. Then students had time to explore the shelves in the library and apply their new skills of finding books by genre.

Getting Campy in the Library


Starting a new school year is like setting off on a expansive hiking expedition. Many of us are in our prepping stage: getting out our dusty gear, charting and mapping our course, and acquiring new skills for the journey. In the realm of research and information literacy we serve as guides to our faculty and students touring them through the current media landscape. Additionally, many of us strive to create a space where students can find shelter and learn new independent skills. Recreation, restoration and reflection—essentially, we all want our students to “camp out” in our libraries.

This is the metaphor we are embarking on in the Jean Ann Cone Library at Berkeley Preparatory School this year. We are getting campy in the library. We have pitched some tents, gathered gear, and planted a paper forest. It is fun to physically construct displays, but it also serves the purpose of tethering the mind to a focus for the beginning of the year. While we hope to allure and delight our students when they see this first display it helps us convey important concepts we want to provide our students.

The Expedition Team

While this conceit has the librarian as the guide for students in the camping metaphor it can emphasis the importance of a team integration to a successful summit. One of my favorite aspects of being a librarian is working alongside the core subject teacher, the technology department, and other specialists to show students that their guidance comes from different sources and that it is a team effort. This in turn models collaboration for them when they have group projects. Additionally, the whole library staff is another part of the expedition and support team. I am lucky to have a creative and supportive team around me sharing in ideas and tasks. Students know we are all here to help them.

Maps and Navigation Instruments

“Don’t lose sight of the forest through the trees,” an apt cliche for describing the complex process of research. As librarians we are tasked with breaking down the cognitive load of this multifaceted process. Our maps take the shape of our standards and curriculum guides. At our library we are in the process of looking at the new AASL standards to reflect on our program and incorporate new educational trends to our current program. Pedagogical models like “guided inquiry” underpin the scaffolding of information literacy that bolster student inquiry so students do not feel like they are lost in the dark.

Librarians have a keen sense of direction in the information world and our analog compasses now have a digital GPS counterpart. From websites and databases to apps and “smart” devices there are many tools and gadgets at our disposal. Analogous to our readers advisory many of us also impart a “users” advisory by recommending new apps, software and interactive websites. I always like to review AASL’s Best Tools for Teaching list to peruse new tools I can tinker with and share. A Libguide or library website becomes the virtual campsite for digital adventures in which we chart the course for the learning task.

I also seek personal tools to improve my own practice and productivity. To help me stay organized this year I am adding two apps used in combination to my repertoire: Swipes and Forest. Swipes is a elegantly designed to-do list app in which you either swipe right for a completed task and left for an uncompleted one to schedule. It helps me take action for the things I need to get done. Once I’ve decided on an action I use the Forest app to help me focus solely on that task and to clear distractions. Forest uses a fun premise to help you ban multitasking. You set an internal timer for a task and the app grows a tree. The more focused you stay the more trees for your virtual forest and eventually you get credits to buy real trees for reforestation efforts. You can’t get campier than that in an app. The beginning of the year is a great time to try new apps and build new habits so that you can share your discoveries with others if you find them useful.

Mile Markers

To see the distances covered builds confidence and courage for more challenging tasks. Just as classroom teachers mark progress librarians also have assessment tools for students to check their growth in research. These go beyond simple number counts of circulation and database usage. Our research checklists and templates give students ways to reflect on their learning process. Scheduling research consultations give a more nuanced feedback to the complexity of research work. For our own growth when we are able to make multiple visits and check ins with classes we can see our own patterns of influence in the learning experience for students.

Campfires and Star Gazing

Finally, it is the most rewarding aspect of librarianship-building community and wonder. It is the small acts of kindness and welcoming that creates the campfire moments in the library. Knowing a student’s favorite genre and hand picking a book for him or her. Involving student choice or leadership roles in the library fosters bonds. Creating creative corners or makerspaces expands the types of intellectual work students can do in the library. Our upper school librarians share treats with a class at random times surprising and delighting the students. These offerings show students a different side of librarians; their fun and thoughtful spirits.

Many students are drawn to the aesthetics of a library. All those spines lined on the shelf offer endless opportunities for wonder in our world; whether, it be a history book that delves into new found fascination with a time period or the next book in a fantasy series. I am always in awe when I walk into any library. All the books on the shelf capturing the broad spectrum of human knowledge is both humbling and sublime. It is like star gazing at the constellations of our collective conscious; but here, they are always in arms reach.

“Hygge” in the Library


Image from Little Book Of Hygge

I love the uncluttered calendar and idle days of summer. There is time for traveling to new places and cultures, bingeing on books, and expanding interests and hobbies. While I cherish the possibilities of the open day, the open road, and the open book I still have the thoughts about library spaces and programming. There is time for reflection and forging forward with giddy anticipation for improvements and new implementations for the next school year. I recently stumbled upon a wisp of a book with a wealth of wisdom that immediately resonated with my philosophy of the library as the heart of the school-The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.



This book succinctly summarizes a Danish way of life that explains how and why they have the highest rates of happiness in the world.  With many of us traveling to new cultures and countries either physically or metaphorically through books I thought looking at our libraries through the lens of another culture a fitting summer exploration. Through research and experience the author Wiking attributes Danish happiness to the complete embrace of “hygge.” I am sure there are some ideas lost in translation, but the way Wiking frames the philosophy of hygge aligns with the many aims library programs have as an inviting, and welcoming place for students and faculty. There is something wonderful in the state of Denmark that we can apply to our library programs.

Image from Little Book of Hygge

What is Hygge?

The word “hygge” comes from the Norwegian word meaning “well-being.” Some speculate that the word is also related to the word “hug” from the earlier version “hugge”which is also from that region. It could also come from the Old Norse “hygga” which means “to comfort.” There is also the Old English word “hycgan” which means “to think and consider.”  According to the author, hygge is more about atmosphere and experience than tangible things. Some refer to it as a “coziness of the soul.” Others describe it as “cozy togetherness.” All these meanings remind me of how many of us try to create a similar feeling and presence in our spaces. One of the unspoken but palpable aspects of libraries is that is is a refuge for people. This factor is often overlooked by outsiders or administrators that are only data-driven because it is hard to quantify. I am sharing about hygge to say it is not just the hushed tones that some seek when they enter a library; it is the community commons libraries offer. Embracing hygge can help us explicitly develop an environment and culture to serve to our students. Here are some key points of hygge and ways libraries can enhance their services incorporating it.

Atmosphere and Comfort

Much of the discussion of hygge centers around cultivating a space that fosters comfort and contentment. This part of hygge reminds me of the ways good design in library spaces can generate more use from patrons. In some ways the list of recommendations to build hygge sounds similar to the best features libraries have always exhibited: small nooks for reading and contemplation, abundant warm light,  comfortable seating and natural materials like wood. Traditionally in hygge, candles have been the favored light source for both the illumination and the warmth it creates. While this is not practical or safe for libraries incorporating natural lights whether through windows or lights and lamps heightens the feeling of hygge. I think about the regal reading rooms of the New York Public library as an example many libraries emulate.

The book delves into foods and beverages with example recipes too. This made me think of the current trend libraries are moving towards with softened restrictions on food and drink in areas of the library, or adding cafes and food prep areas much like the bookstores in the last decade.  This also fits with activities librarians plan that include food. I have noticed several AISL members share creative events they developed that had a hygge element through the comfort of food. It is also important to note that as many libraries move towards the learning commons model and open plan models that we do not lose the incorporation of smaller spaces, nooks, study carrels, and study rooms. The Danish relish smaller group settings and spaces for more contemplative activities. I notice in my own library that many students gravitate to the nooks and crannies of a library to get their work done; it offers a respite from the designs in classrooms where students are expected to perform and execute in a larger group setting.

Togetherness and Equality

A positive side of the trend towards learning commons within libraries settings is that it acknowledges that we are social creatures. The other most important factor of hygge is happiness together. Spaces that allow common areas for collaborative work embody the social side of hygge. Fostering areas in the library where students can have a meeting of the minds or work on a puzzle together are more examples of hygge in action. Makerspaces, fab labs, and collaborative zones are another iteration of creating spaces that encourage social interactions of students for a common cause or problem. Equality is an important element in hygge. Wiking points out that Danes exhibit “relaxed thoughtfulness” where nobody takes center stage or dominants the conversation in a group.  These communal spaces help students develop healthy social-academic interactions. Many librarians have shared their stories of successfully balancing these communal areas with the quieter zones to fully exemplify hygge in the the library.

“The art of hygge is therefore also the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people,” I found this quotation to be the most important as I try to embrace hygge in my outreach to colleagues and faculty. This reminds me to continually build relationships with teachers over time and that informal and smaller meetings are just a powerful as scheduled professional development. It also reminds me to invite others into the library to collaborate on creative projects. I found it intriguing that Danes say the best number for hygge is three to four people. I will keep this number in mind when embarking on new initiatives. Additionally, simplicity and presence of mind are cornerstones to happiness together.

While many of the actions and advice I shared are not all new; looking at them through a new cultural lens can help improve and reinvigorate our current programs and spread happiness and joy in the process.

Finally, here are a few of my favorite hygge makers from the book-

Image from Little Book Of Hygge

1. Taking a break and reading a book
2. Nibbling on high quality chocolates
3. Going into nature
4. Taking your dog to work
5. Bringing out the board games



Wiking, Meik. The Little Book of Hygge:Danish Secrets to Happiness. Penguin, 2017.

Our Beautiful Balancing Act of Place and Program:


A contemplative post to celebrate libraries in their fullest glory and realistic struggles

Mirror Lake Library- A Carnegie Library

San Diego Public Library with a makerspace







It is National Library Week- I want to spend this post celebrating and contemplating our shared love of libraries and our roles as school librarians through the lens of both exuberant and tough love. We get to touch the lives of students and staff whether through a book recommendation or a new technological device. Our programs are academic, social-emotional, extra-curricular and everything in-between. Our spaces are communal, contemplative, and creative. As stewards of the library we are jacks-of-all-trades, wear many different hats; and sometimes, we are the leaders of a three-ringed circus. Dare I say, we are the unicorns of the educational world; practical and magical. But I would also like to dispel myths and misunderstandings frequently perpetuated from outside sources and share questions that I grapple with tenderly and doggedly daily.

Since we are keen purveyors of media and news I have noticed a repeated pattern of news coverage of libraries that shape people’s perceptions of our roles that many of you have probably also noticed. Headlines that shoutout “are libraries dying” or some iteration of that, but then the rest of the article extols the virtues and vital services we offer and the innovation transformations taking place. So, those that do not read beyond the titles are not picking up the positive press. So while the majority of article shows a fuller picture- the “If it Bleeds, It Leads”  title approach undercuts the support they offer. Some of our stakeholders, administrators, and patrons in their busy lives only remember the misleading lead. On the flip-side, have any of you noticed the new decorating trend for restaurants and co-working spaces to look like a traditional library- they are intuitively seeking the quieter side of libraries. Imitation is the sincerest form flattery. The world of commerce and interior decorating are turning to libraries for space inspiration and ambiance recognizing that many people love the structure and architecture of libraries with all the positive associations and purposes of them. Yet, the direction that actual library design is going moves towards a futuristic aesthetic. I feel both of these circumstances fall prey to the “either/or” fallacy in the classical argument; a faulty reasoning that states that there are only two extreme solutions that are possible.

I am officially reclaiming our headlines so that libraries are an “and” not an “or.” This false dichotomy has been plaguing the understanding of our programs and space that you are either a quiet, traditional library or you are a buzzing, cutting edge learning space. Why can’t we have we have both. I want both. I try to accomplish both; and I know through this organization, many of you do too. Instead of swinging wildly on the pendulum of trends represented in  “either/or” thinking, I prefer that we move to the rhythm of a metronome where we set the pace- ticking back and forth in equal measure-contemplation and collaboration, introspection and expression, solitude and camaraderie, traditional and contemporary, print and digital, etc. How do we influence, convey, educate stakeholders outside of our library world- our administrators, teachers, and students that we as experts in this domain continue to contemplate the uses and purposes of our spaces that we can honor and improve the best of our heritage and embrace new ideas, mediums, and space usage as well. To listen equally to our veteran and venerable librarians and our riveting, rule-breaking rookie librarians and every librarian in-between?

I find solace and inspiration in our AISL and greater librarian community. When you share a new way you restructured a research project you are adding the “and” back in. When you share how you restocked recycled items to your makerspace you are adding the “and” back in. When you share about “big literary events” productions you are adding the “and” back in. When you share how you defined a quiet space and collaborative space you are adding the “and” back in. I also find immeasurable support and ideas about how to balance the spectrum of our roles through the annual AISL Convention. I had never been to a convention before with an equal balance of program sharing and exploring many physical libraries- a marriage of program and place.  I now conduct my own library-tourism based on the AISL convention when I travel. I am so excited to learn how we all balance program and place next week in Atlanta. These narratives are the primary sources so important to share the broad and all-encompassing value we add to our communities. I send my gratitude to your multitudes of library forms. Happy National Library Week!


Hyper Docs for Hyper Connectivity: a librarian and teacher collaboration for information literacy

As librarians many of us maintain websites, course management sites, or libguides so that the library resources are accessible to our school population within the systems they currently use, but I am always wondering how frequently they are used outside our presence. So every time I receive a request for collaboration with a teacher I always want to learn the media, apps, and programs they are using so that I can adopt the protocols the students are immersed in to make the experience is as seamless as possible. Recently, a 5th grade science teacher remarked about how her students struggle when they do internet searches for topics in her science program. So we talked about ways to help this age group be more independent when searching online. We knew we wanted to provide students with a plan and approach that they can revisited and reuse.  I had mentioned to her that I had developed a checklist and document to help older student navigating the infobesity of the internet, but that I wanted to scaffold a similar guide for younger students for the continuity of the research program. Through this process I learned from her that she uses HyperDocs with students continuously as they work through the concepts in her course. She shared a example one with me. So I could develop research and information literacy concept in the medium most useful to the processes of the daily classroom.  

So what is a HyperDoc?

Selene Willis, the teacher I was collaborating with, described that it is a guided practice in digital form. She operates her class in an inquiry process so the HyperDocs she designs become the living, breathing “textbook” of the course. She shares which document they need to work on that day. It contains directions, links, and response tasks.  The students go to multiple sources online to learn the science concepts they need, but in a scaffolded way. I want to be clear that it is not an old worksheet dressed up and on display on a shiny screen; it is actually adaptive to the pace and focus of class. With mindful design they steer students in higher level thinking processes. Incorporating HyperDocs works wells for our middle school because we are a Google app school with a one-to-one iPad program at that level. She designs them in Google Docs, but the students import them through their Notability app so they can draw, doodle, as well as type answers. I loved witnessing this parallel process with the research process I share with students. In fact, the concept should be familiar to librarians because for years we have been masters of sharing links. Even before learning this terminology, I reflected that I had been doing an iteration of this with the Google Docs I share with students anyway. Which lead me to ask?

So what makes HyperDocs different from our Libguides and shared Google Docs?

One major difference I observed from Selene’s example is the design layout. Great attention is made to the readability and graphical interface of the document. I also noticed that Willis choreographs the engagement into the HyperDocs; directions, clarifications at the onset, individual inquiry into the links and reading material, and then a whole class return to sharing understandings. So I was excited to adapt some of my own approaches to this medium and process.

Crafting a Library HyperDoc

In tailoring my online research checklist to a 5th grade audience I wanted to use graphics that 5th graders relate to in their daily lives. I notice that the game four square is still alive and well in middle school as it was for me. This lead me to a new phrasing I use with middle schoolers to help them with search terms and the early parts of research. I used the image of a four square court as the area for them to generate the search terms before ever going to a website or database link. And I tell them to four-square their search terms.

The students fill the boxes with search terms and check off the list. My next checkboxes make them think about where they go online prior to them going there. This is one of the best features of a HyperDoc because you can build in habits of mind or nudge them into behaviors of good research strategy. Another reason to adopt similar formats of teachers is that now students have this process in with their daily work and links back to the school library page .

Since I had been working with fact-checking in the upper school I wanted to parse it down and start introducing it to younger students. So I put a fact-checking machine in the HyperDoc at a level that I thought would make sense for 5th grade students. I also was able to give them specific fact-checking sites for science.

Finally, the rest of my session with the students was having them use the library page with databases for their age group and add information to their HyperDoc. Ms. Willis was excited to know about some of the resources that would work for her students. I was happy share the digital resources the library has that pair nicely with their HyperDocs. I think the students were more receptive to my tips because it was in a procedure and format they recognize. While it is faster to share a regular Google Doc for library lessons I found that thinking through the imagery for the HyperDoc heightened my awareness of how students approach research.

Resources  on HyperDocs

Hyperdoc Handbook


Librarians using HyperDocs– In researching for this article I stumbled on these librarians that have written about HyperDocs in a library setting.




Search Alouds: Showing Not and Telling the Search Process

When I have the opportunity to work with students within the the core subjects I attempt to make research sessions active for students. I have noticed from the past when I was doing most of the talking and pointing out resources eyes would glaze over, and I knew the tricks and tips were fleeting for them. So I decided to borrow a pedagogical process I used when I was a reading coach helping secondary students breakdown the complex process of reading by retooling the “think aloud” as a “search aloud.” A “think aloud” is sharing the often hidden mental process of academic work by talking out loud the steps. Many teachers intuitively model “think alouds” within their teaching, but I want to draw attention to how useful it is to be intentional and explicit with sharing aloud cognitive processes; especially, as it pertains to seeking information in research.  I think many teachers assume students have searching skills, but students have limited exposure to hearing and seeing the process in action. As librarians when we get the opportunity to “search aloud” with students we can share explicitly our pathways and processes; all our years of training in searching for information. This method can be adjusted at all grade levels; just adopt the level of language for the age group you are addressing.

An example of this recently was when I was working with a 11th grade English class on searching skills. Additionally, with the “search aloud” modeling I created a template chart with search tasks so that the students were active in searching and had a blueprint to the searching process related to my “search aloud” examples. I modified ideas I found from the book, Teaching Google Scholar: A Practical Guide for Librarians by Paige Alfonzo.  I created a comparative chart for searches on general Google, Google Scholar, and then our database JSTOR  using the search queries from the book. So, instead of me telling them which site would get them to accurate information most efficiently- the process of them going through each site with the same search terms let the students see for themselves. Then the students share their searches aloud and talk about their observations (see image below). Overwhelmingly, they were more excited about using Google Scholar in conjunction with the JSTOR database when they witnessed the search results in comparison.

Search task questions based on chart in Teaching Google Scholar by Paige Alfonzo

Another example of creating an active “search aloud” exercise  I did with 9th graders in a social studies class. The 9th grade social studies program wanted uniform lessons and research skills across three classes of different teachers.  So I had created a library resource page specifically for 9th grade with history links embedded. But I wanted the students to be active in using the page and not just me point and clicking through it. So I devised a simple What-If game through a basic slide presentation. I gave them a search query conditional on a slide and the students had to look for the library website route that would get them there. I had them use old-school whiteboard slates to share their search process out to all. By doing this I could quickly see misguidance; and in some cases, other pathways I had not intended. I could then share a “search aloud” when they were wrong and quickly move away from a long repetitive knowledge lecture. A variation on this could be sharing their iPads or laptop screens through airplay too. I noticed that the students were much more engaged than when I would be directing from the front the whole time.


Click on image to go to slides of What If…

Students showing markerboard answers

I have also shared with teachers to do “search alouds” with their students when they have an article or website that are using in class. This is just as simple as remarking on why they are using the sources. Who the authority is in the subject matter. One of the upper school English teachers links JSTOR articles as examples, so I told him that is great way of modeling research for students. It reinforces the work we do them in our library sessions. I find “search alouds” to be a nice complement to the times when we do need to explain through lecture or when we are in reference question mode. I hope to continue to increase my discussions with students on the process of searching for information when there is an opportunity.  Like the writing adage says, “show, don’t tell,” in order to get an invested reader. Or in this case an invested researcher through sharing the search process out loud.

Works Cited

Alfonso, Paige. Teaching Google Scholar: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Adobe Digital  Editions ed., Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016, https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442243583/Teaching-Google-Scholar-A-Practical-Guide-for-Librarians

Fighting Fake News-International Fact-Checking Day on the Horizon


Library at the Poynter Institute photo credit: Tom Cawthon

Many of us in AISL have shared our lessons and experiences about how we are addressing research and information literacy in the face of the fake news media buzz. I wanted to revisit the topic again because of the ongoing development of this story. I want to reiterate that I see it as an opportunity for librarians demonstrate leadership as information literacy experts and bridge the gap of media studies that is often lacking at the secondary level.

With the recent examples of fake news that has been revealed the term is being thrown around casually in the media. I fear we may be too cavalier in its use. Again this gives us a strong reason to continue to work with teachers to teach source evaluation critically. There have been cases of politicians, talk radio hosts, and news/opinion shows crying out fake news when they dislike a news story. So just as we teach students to affirm the credibility of sources we also must teach students to discredit claims of fake news that are actually real. There has been an undermining of trust in many of our traditional media sources, but if we teach students healthy skepticism and give them the tools of critical analysis they will be empowered to make informed decisions and not take any statement or story at face value. Since my last post, “Librarians Being Proactive in “Post-truth” World” and David Wee’s follow up resource list post I have continued to follow and collect resources in this ongoing focus on fake news.

Through a triangulation of the many resources one organization appears frequently. Many articles point to Politfact.org operated by the Tampa Bay Times which has received a Pulitzer prize for its work on fact-checking U.S. politics. The common denominator to Politifact and the Tampa Bay Times is the Poynter Institute which is a worldwide leader in media studies and educating professional reporters which also happens to be in my backyard of St. Petersburg, FL. Recently, Facebook has turned to the Poynter Institute for consultation on addressing fake news in social media. With this world renowned resource in my hometown I could not help but reach out to them to see if some of their expertise could be useful to secondary education.

I reached out to some of the professors and affiliates at Poynter and several responded. Through email they shared that many of them had been thinking about how some of their work could reach a younger audience since most of their work is with working reporters or college students studying journalism. I was then able to meet Alexios Mantzarlis because he was actively working on a lesson on fact-checking to share with high school level students. I was excited to share how at the secondary level many librarians are teaching about source credibility and fact-checking since there are not mainstream media classes at the high school level. Alexios Mantzarlis’s expertise is in international fact-checking. He informed me that he and other professional fact-checkers along with the following organizations from around the world including PolitiFact, Channel 4, Chequeado, Pagella Politica, the American Press Institute are organizing an International Fact-Checking Day to be on April 2nd, 2017. I wanted to share the outline of the day since it pertains to many of the conversations we have had about teaching information literacy. Here is an overview of the day:

  1. A lesson plan on fact-checking for high school teachers. Recent studies indicate that high school students are digitally native but still largely unable to evaluate whether sources of information online are factual or biased. The lesson plan will be downloadable and translated in as many languages as we are able to reach.
  2. A factcheckathon exhorting readers to flag fake stories on Facebook. The IFCN will populate a list of debunked fake viral stories and encourage Facebook users to flag them as fake through the new flagging procedure announced by the social network in December. The hope is both to harness the power of the crowd to ‘clean up’ the social network and engender an attitude of intolerance towards verifiably false posts aiming to deceive. Given the new studies from Reddit, it would be interesting to see if we can do something there, too.
  3. A “hoax-off” among top debunked claims. We will collect some of the most notable false claims and fake news debunked around the world from fact-checkers and host an interactive game to elect the worst hoax of the past year.
  4. A map of global activities. Poynter will be encouraging the more than 100 fact-checking organizations that are active around the world to organize events promoting fact-checking and verification in formats appropriate to their political and societal contexts. We will list all such events on an interactive map on our site that will help market the events and encourage people to attend.

This is a great way to outreach with your teachers to continue to teach research skills. Since this has a global perspective the day also fits with global studies and Model United Nations programs at your school. I am constantly looking for ways to collaborate with my faculty and a sanctioned day like International Fact-Check Day adds credibility to my outreach. The international fact check day website is now live at http://www.factcheckingday.com/.