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/.


Librarians Being Proactive in “Post-truth” World

Additional  contributers Cathy Rettberg and Erinn Salge

“Child Trafficking Ring Tied to Hillary Clinton Campaign”*

“Russians Hacked Democratic National Committee Emails to Lead Voters To Trump”**

“Miracle Herbal Remedy to Cure Cancer”***

So many of our news stories sound like sensational news. Remember that ice-breaker game two truths and a lie. In today’s media landscape of sharing information rapidly it seems that the ratio has turned to two lies to a truth, and our students are struggling to tell the difference. There has been a flood of fake news, conspiracy theories, and click-bait, etc.; especially in this election cycle, but thankfully there has also been a host of articles drawing attention to the critical need to reveal the lies and teach our students analytical evaluation skills. Many of us in the library world and specifically several librarians in the AISL group have been discussing and sharing ideas about addressing this through our role as information literacy leaders. I am sharing some of the links that have bounced around and some of the lessons we generated to continue to the do the work we always do but in this new context.

In this “Post-Truth” climate we have the potential to reinvigorate our lessons of information literacy, sources awareness, and website evaluation skills. There are several layers of information literacy to delve into around the recent media buzz calling attention to the recent “fake news”; I see an opportunity to collaborate with subject area teachers on topics like identifying bias, analyzing authority, evaluating websites,and fact-checking etc. There is a way to reach every subject area and share the librarian lens of critical and discerning approaches to sources. Here are several links I found valuable in shaping my thoughts on the lesson I delivered last week:

Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world by Joyce Valenza

I refer to Valenza’s work frequently. She frames the complex topic thoroughly and categorically. There are ample examples, great tips for students,and an exhaustive list of resources. The vocabulary list is a great tool to approach a social studies teacher to create collaborative lesson together.

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources by Melissa Zimdars

Consider looking to professors of media studies since it is their concentration and expertise. A local professor of communications tipped me off to this document that went viral on Facebook feeds. Valenza also includes her on her list, but I am drawing attention to it because it helped me fill the gap in current new media tips. It is straightforward and accessible for students to understand. Additionally, another AISL librarian shared a libguide search of college librarians also updating their sites and lessons as well.

Students Need Our Help Detecting Fake News by  Frank W. Baker

This example was posted in Middle Web. It is another variation of the examples above but I like the focus towards the middle school arena to help middle school teachers and librarians scaffold news media literacy to their students. There are numerous more, but Valenza’s site covers many more.

Website Evaluation and News Media Literacy Lessons and Presentation

With the many general discussions about the topics several AISL librarians shared the work that we are doing and gave me permission to share so that we have some specific examples:

I’ll start with mine because I can explain my process with it.

Evaluating Sources: Luck of the Draw or Skilled Play-Lesson by Courtney Walker delivered in a social studies class specifically the 9th grade Global Studies with Mr. Daniel Asad at Shorecrest Preparatory School.

Mr. Asad started the class by referring to the recent Pizzagate situation that had happened over the past weekend. He used this example to show how “fake news” can have dire consequences in extreme cases. This set the stage for me to share the importance of critical analysis skills with web resources. This lesson starts generally with looking at sources on a spectrum of scholarly sources to the sensational. It is not a stand alone lesson on news media literacy, but a retooling of the process of web evaluation with the inclusion of the tips to identify of fake news and current updates. I adapted resources that I had used before along with a current article I came across in Knowledge Quest to put recent fake news proliferation in a broader context of website evaluation. We planned for one class period, but I found us running out of time at the  end of class. We also delved some into bias, click-bait, and conspiracy theories, but only scratched the surface– a follow up lesson is possible to continue the discussion. This is in a document form that was projected and shared with the students. After going over the document and discussing the concepts students were given a checklist sheet which was the “card” they had been dealt. Links to these “cards”/websites is linked on the document underneath the image of the cards. I didn’t have those linked or projected during the lesson- I have only added for others to see the handout and the sliding scale of the websites. I repeatedly stressed that even though we are using these charts that these are not hard fast rules, but tools to filter through the many shades of gray in sources.

Link to Evaluating Sources Lesson

Reporting the News: Is it Real or Fake? Lesson By Cathy Rettberg, Head Librarian, Menlo School Atherton, CA (reprint permission from shared email exchange)

The following example comes from librarian Cathy Rettberg in an email discussion with AISL Librarians about news media literacy. The opening timeline of twitter posts coupled with the number of times the tweet was viewed and shared illustrates the how quickly misinformation is spreading.  Included is her powerpoint and the active lesson her students completed to embody the reporter role and spread their “news.” Make sure you check out their final headlines at the end.

In her words,“Yesterday I did a lesson in 8th grade. We looked at the Eric Tucker story that was outlined in the NYT, talked about fake news in historical perspective (propaganda), discussed the echo chamber concept, clickbait, how to look at bias in news sites. I had them evaluate news sites by looking at coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline, then place their site on a grid (photo attached). Finally I gave them the “facts” about a made up 8th grade ice cream protest (students walked out, disrupted 6th grade, teachers got angry, MS director came out and smoothed the waters). The students then had to write a news headline about that event in the style of the news website they had investigated. It was fun! And their headlines showed they really understood the concept. It’s so important for each of us to do this with our students, in some way.”

Link to Reporting the News Lesson

“Some of their headlines, if you want to use them:

The Blaze: Childish 8th Grade Protesters Disrupt School Environment for Ice Cream

WSJ: Student Protesters Put on Hold by Middle School Principal

Daily Beast: Students Fight for their Rights!

NYT: Peaceful Protesters and the Battle for Ice Cream”

News Literacy:Truthiness and the truth and everything in between presentation by Erinn Salge Head Librarian Morristown-Beard School (reprint permission from shared email exchange)

Finally, hot off the presses from Erinn Salge. Erinn started the email thread that many of us chimed in on because it was on our radar or we were in the process of designing our own lessons. Just today she shared the powerpoint that she presented to her upper school. While many of us have the example through our email I wanted to also cross-post here for future reference and because it is relevant to the discussion. She has provided both slides and her notes for others to see how she tackled this contemporary topic. She defines some important new terms in news media literacy and has clear steps for students to use to identify false news.

Link to News Literacy Presentation

Link to New Literacy Notes for Presentation

I am grateful to the dedicated librarians that are always seeking ways to inform their staff and students through constant engagement and outreach to their community. And while we have always taught careful inquiry into all kinds of media staying abreast of the new forms and iterations of this skillset and sharing it is vital to our learning communities. I hope this post is just a start, and I invite others to comment and share the ways you have retooled your own lessons. I know there were many others on the email thread as while as others of you in the trenches covering this as we speak. There were rumblings that there may be another post coming up that might scaffold it to a younger audience so that this information might reach all levels of instruction ( Wee might see that real soon?).

Thank you, David Wee, for noticing— in a perfect storm of propaganda, perfidy, and the press just yesterday the Washington Post shared the article, “After Comet Ping Pong and Pizzagate, teachers tackle fake news, about how educators are responding to “fake news.” Because I had shared a snippet of my lesson on Twitter last week a reporter picked up some of my lesson as well as other teachers around the country addressing #fakenews. I am honored, but more importantly thankful that the reporter included a librarian to show how important our role is in fostering critical users of information in our schools and communities.

Here are some of the books I have read to inform me-

Using Sources Effectively: Strengthening Your Writing and Avoiding Plagiarism by Robert A. Harris

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

UnSpun:Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

Additionally, these are some of the articles that I have bookmarked/outlined in Diigo that I am continuing to collect on this topic. Digital Bookmarks on Website Evaluation, News Media Literacy, Fake News

*Revealed as fake news recently known as Pizzagate or Comet Ping Pong because armed man was about to act on this fake news story.

**Still under investigation by the FBI and CIA to verify the truth

***Recent news story in which a man named Adeniji created a fake website and office to collect money on fraudulent claims of a miracle herbal remedy for cancer.

Diversity through Library Makerspaces: An Example of Community Collaboration of Girls in STEAM

photo by M. Murphy

photo by M. Murphy

Many of us in the independent school realm are continually striving to reflect and foster multiple perspectives for our community through diversity initiatives. Past AISL conventions, professional development, and blog posts have featured diversity, equity, and multiculturalism to our collective knowledge. I want this post to be a complimentary bookend to the diversity post Christina McClendon wrote for AISL, “Best Practices for Creating (and Using!) a Diverse YA Collection.” I found the information in her post rich in scope for collection development and useful to my thoughts of creating a well-rounded and represented collection. I would like to delve into how library programming and facilities can also mirror this focus on diversity and equity in our libraries through my experience with makerspaces, STEAM initiatives, and collaboration with the our technology and science departments.

I have chronicled the journey of creating, growing, and sustaining a makerspace at the Shorecrest Preparatory School’s library; and just as our book collections can serve, support, and foster a diverse community I have learned that the creative spaces in our libraries are powerful resources for equity and access to the tools of creativity and innovation. The digital divide has been a common topic in education circles in which there are segments of our society that are without access or are underrepresented in tech and innovation. Libraries of all sizes and scopes are beacons of resources to narrow this divide. As the research and design program has grown at our school through our makerspace and with our collaboration with the technology department I have witnessed how creating a creative space generates a ripple effect in self-efficacy, personal empowerment, and community engagement. I want to share how a focus of STEAM themes and programming grew organically at an individual level, then to curricular level and now has expanded into community partnerships because we updated our resources to include materials and machines for making over the past three years. I am honored that I played a minor supportive role to a collective endeavor initiated by a pair of students. This seems apt to share  today on ADA Lovelace Day-attributed as being the first computer programmer, but has only recently been recognized.

Co-Founders of the Girls' STEAM Club

Co-Founders of the Girls’ STEAM Club

About two years ago two upper school girls noticed that they were one of the few females in the computer programming and robotics class. The pair discussed this and then talked to a few more of their friends and decided to form a club with a diverse group of girls that focused on STEAM for girls. They approached several teachers: our Director of Technology, Dr. Baralt, because she is the leader of STEAM and her exhaustive knowledge of technology; Lisa Peck, a science teacher that heads our medical science program alongside environmental initiatives too. I think they reached out to me because they had seen the development of the makerspace in the library and the outreach our library program was doing to promote innovative and design thinking. I want to stress that because there was a specific creative space and a push to offer different materials of learning in the library the students sought a librarian to join on as one of the mentors. Additionally, our upper school art teacher, Charla Gaglio, rounded this group of mentors to encompass all the areas of creativity and subjects of STEAM. The great part about this grassroots development was that it started to develop at the same time as the national focus on underrepresented groups in tech and commerce through the awareness raised by organizations like Lean In, Code.org, and Girls Who Code.

STEAM Ambassadors lunch meeting for planning

STEAM Ambassadors lunch meeting for planning

In the early stages of setting a mission of the club to encourage and support girls in technology, robotics, and engineering the girls recognized that reaching girls younger than high school would be instrumental in growing the numbers in STEAM fields and classes. So from this focus the high school girls of this club emerged as STEAM ambassadors to the rest of the school. The goal was to share stories of women thriving in STEAM fields and generate activities for middle school girls that give them skills and experience with coding, game design, engineering, and science concepts, etc. As the structure of the club was taking shape a local school had been communicating to Shorecrest about both our robotics program and makerspace program. Dr. Baralt saw the opportunity to share our experience and invite Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg to be a part of our STEAM for girls club. She was instrumental in setting up the logistics of bringing our middle school girls together with the middle girls of Academy Prep while under the guidance of our high school STEAM Ambassadors. The upper school girls were responsible for searching, designing, and delivering the lessons to the middle school girls. For the first couple of sessions the mentor teachers explained lesson development, modeled activities, and helped gather instructional materials, but as the upper school girls gained confidence and experience they began to shape their own lessons. Now in it’s second year once a month the science teacher at Academy Prep, Latasha Seay, brings middle schools girls over after school and collaborates and celebrates STEAM activities with our girls in the library.

Wireframing for Game Design on the iPad

Wireframing for Game Design on the iPad

Electronics and Circuitry

Electronics and Circuitry




This school year in addition to the Girls’ STEAM club using the resources in the library one of the original student founders of the club also saw the opportunity to involve the National Honor Society to do more outreach and service through our makerspace. She contacted PACE Center for Girls in Pinellas whose mission involves,”PACE began as a community response to the lack of female-specific programs for girls involved in the juvenile justice system, at risk of dropping out of school, or facing other serious risks. Since 1997 PACE Pinellas has served more than 1,500 girls by offering them and their families hope and opportunity for a brighter future.” The experience of setting up programs that she learned from Dr. Baralt and the mentors gave her confidence to create more community outreach and reach more girls. I noticed that when she was planning this meeting she only needed a little consulting with me, but then she lead and organized the first activity of paper circuitry activities with a few high school girls in the program along with a different group of girls at our school.

SPS Tech Director, SPS Science teacher, APC Science teacher

SPS Tech Director, SPS Science teacher, APC Science teacher

My role as a librarian in all this is was as a host space, resource collector, and subtle support. In many ways this program borrows from the ways public libraries offer programs and resources to their communities. It is a joy to see all the girls together being creative, curious, and empowered with new knowledge. Honestly, programs like this in which students lead the inquiry are the epitome of what library strive to attain: self-sufficiency and efficacy. On the days when I am struggling with the balance of all the realms of librarianship: collection development, reader advisory, research and information literacy instruction while sustaining a makerspace the experience of being a part of Girls’ STEAM club affirms my goals as a librarian. I feel as equally empowered as the girls do.

Through this process I have learned of some sites and organizations that support girls and other underrepresented groups in STEAM:

Girls Who Code


Ada Lovelace Day

Black Girls Code

Black Nerd Problems

Blacks In Technology

Latina Geeks

10 Inspiring Women in Tech from Asia and the Middle East

Sylvia’s Super Awesome Maker Show

Project H

Out In Tech

Start Out

Lesbians Who Tech

Additionally, here are a few businesses that were founded by women that supply resources for tech and makerspaces-

Adafruit founded by Limor Fried

Littebits founded by Ayah Bdeir

I also want to highlight a program that brings together all STEAM elements but is anchored with the author Octavia Butler. I loved how sci-fi literature was added with the arts and tech so  natural integration for libraries.   The Octavia Project

Finally, this story is just one example of library programming and facilities supporting diversity and inclusion. I would love to hear how other libraries may be supporting diversity, affinity groups and service organizations. I would like to learn more ways of reaching and supporting many different voices.


Libraries and Museums- A Perfect Partnering

Photo credit: Tim Arruda

Photo credit: Tim Arruda

Photo credit: Tim Arruda

Photo credit: Tim Arruda

Libraries and museums share similar DNA; public institutions holding artifacts of human knowledge and creations.  In fact, many MLIS programs cover both library science and museum studies since both are in the business of information just in different formats. So it is no surprise that our museums can be great allies for the work we do with our students. Museums with their troves of primary sources can expand a student’s understanding of history in an engaging, multi-disciplinary way. Librarians can show concepts of scholarship, documentation, archiving, and displaying information through museum experiences. I recently had the opportunity to help organize a museum field experience in collaboration with the social justice studies of our upper school teachers.

The field trip experience was a collaboration between the Florida Holocaust Museum and artist Ya La’ford, who uses installation murals as a creative space to hold storytelling events. In the museum, students saw photographs, artifacts and documents about both the Holocaust in Europe and the Civil Rights movement in America. In addition to The Florida Holocaust Museum permanent collection, they viewed the special exhibits “This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement” and “Beaches, Benches and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay”.

Students headed to the mural site, the tunnel adjacent to Tropicana Field which travels under First Avenue, for “Blue Sunnel”, a storytelling series featuring a panel of speakers focused on gratitude, creativity and perseverance. The panelists were Holocaust survivor Jerry Rawicki, artist and philanthropist Beth Morean, and City Council member Amy Foster – all organized by artist Ya La’ford. The site itself is a transformative 85-foot, blue lighted tunnel, wrapped floor to ceiling in hand painted geometric lines paralleling the rise and fall of the sun on St. Petersburg. Students see what the artifacts and photographs mean when there is a person to give a first-hand experience about it. Image, narrative and conversation converge in a new context for the students.

Back at school students followed up with reading and discussions. This type of educational experience lets student see librarians in another light as a person that can connect them to people and places in their community. They can see that research and documentation can take a creative shape that impacts their community and larger world. I also found that students were seeking out more books and information about both time periods because the multi-layered presentation piqued their curiosity to learn more. One of the English teachers shared that some students want to collect donations and write thank you letters so that these stories are continued to be told. The whole experience reminded me of the poignant resources we all have in our communities and how we can build partnerships to broaden learning resources beyond our shelves. Even if we cannot all attend a field trip it made me think about how the librarian can facilitate learning liaisons like these.

Museums as learning media ideas:

  • Find out what museum field trips your school might already do and share resources or offer a mini-lesson as either formative or summative learning experiences connected to the event.
  • Volunteer as a chaperone for school field trips.
  • Investigate local museums and following their social media for changing exhibits that correlate with your school’s curriculum to share with your staff.
  • Consider virtual field trips if you are not able leave your library- share with your art and social studies teachers the Google Cultural Institute which aggregates collections from museums, cultural centers and libraries from around the world. The Smithsonian Museum has educator resources and Smithsonian X 3D captures artifacts in 3D form.

Creative Loafing published a recent article about the event- if you would like to see more details-http://m.cltampa.com/artbreaker/archives/2015/11/20/light-in-the-tunnel.