on news, opinion, and politics in the library…

This is the story of my library life over the past two weeks…

Social Studies teacher that works with us extensively: “Hey Dave, my kids are wrestling with what the terms left, right, and center mean on the political spectrum and what they mean when we’re talking about news sources and media. Can you work with us on something?”

Me in that moment:

Then, five days later came the moment when I had to begin figuring out how to structure a learning experience on the politics of right, left, and center, and helping 16-year old human beings come to an understanding of center, left, and right sources of news without triggering students or their parents.

Me five days later…

At that point, however, I kind of had no choice, but to get a spine and deal with politics, opinion, news, and a whole lot of personal anxiety and give this thing all a whirl. Here’s what my whirl looked like:

Lesson: Right, Left, and Center: The “Mythical American” Version

Who: IB Global Politics I (HS juniors)

When: Intended time was one 85-min block class period

Objectives:

Materials:

Procedures:

  • Play video and discuss students’ understanding of right, left and center as they apply to the political spectrum of the United States.
  • Discuss lesson/activity objectives.
  • Review class ground rules for civil discourse and mutual respect.
  • Introduce task.
    • In groups of 2-4 select a topic from one of the slides. (In practice, the selection of topics by groups took place “Hunger Games style” so the first group to put their names on a slide got to have the topic.) Groups are also invited to view the topic tab on the Allsides site and choose a topic that has not been included in the original slideshow template.
    • Groups will try to fill out the extreme left, extreme right, and center sections of their slides without looking at the linked articles or searching for position statements in other sources. Emphasis: “This is our BEGINNING understanding about positions on these topics. We will likely have to revise our thoughts as the semester progresses.”
    • After students fill out their draft “belief sections,” they will read through as many left, right, center articles as they were able.
  • Groups will share out information from their slides to the full class. Class will have opportunity to discuss or raise questions.
  • After completing share out by all groups, we will discuss How to Spot 11 Types of Media Bias from the Allsides site.
  • Students explore Ozy and Axios news sites – I chose these sources, particularly, for their very mobile-friendly and teenager-friendly (brief) formats.

Outcomes:

I can honestly say that students were EXTREMELY engaged during the full 85-minute period. Discussion within their groups was rich and thoughtful. I was pleasantly surprised that they committed themselves and spent most of the time they had really digging in and reading though and discussing the linked articles.

Students’ made observations and comments like, “This is SO confusing! This article is from Fox News which is rated center-right, but this article is completely in favor of gun control” which, in turn, lead to some really worthwhile conversations about the nature of media outlets. “Does that make you feel that Fox News might be more balanced than you had anticipated? Have you noticed that there is an Allsides rating for Fox Online News Only and a separate rating for Fox News Opinion?”

In their reading of articles from a variety of sources, students discovered that there was not always a clean alignment of a source’s rating on Allsides and what students expected based on their brainstormed policy position.
This particular group actually revised their initial extreme-left and extreme-right policy positions after reading through some of the articles. These students concluded that both the extreme-left and the extreme-right favored keeping prohibitions on marijuana use in place, but that the sides arrived at their positions through very different lines of reason. They also concluded that CL, C, and CR positions favored legalization of marijuana use, but also came to those policy positions through very diverse lines of reason.

This librarian’s observation: High school students REALLY dislike the “messiness” of our media landscape. Students desire “clean” categorization. They wanted sources rated “left” to contain works that supported policy positions on the left and they wanted the same on the right. I tried to keep it positive, but the message to them ultimately amounted to, “Too bad! Unfortunately, this is the messy world of news and media today. As on-the-verge-of-fully-grown-up citizens and voters, we all need to begin to understand it and understand what that means about how we read, use, and share.”

We also discussed that the Allsides analysis and ratings, themselves, are based on subjective judgements and we identified where we could locate information about Allsides Media Ratings and their methodology and process. Note: I choose to use Allsides with my students for this activity, but Media Bias Factcheck is a site that we also introduce to students.

Ultimately, while 85-minutes is a nice amount of time for a library class, we still ran out of time. For me, the student engagement with the Allsides site and with the sources themselves were well worth the investment of time and I would not have wanted to abbreviate any of the process. I did, however, fail to get to the media literacy content I wanted to address with much depth.

So What – Following Up:

Scheduling limitations didn’t allow us to schedule a follow-up lesson immediately, so I won’t be able to meet up with the three classes for about a week. The upside is that this will give us time to work on a streamlined lesson that focuses specifically on how to identify media bias and have kids do some close reading to see if they can locate indicators of bias in the sources they’re reading.

All in all, it turned out to be a good way to get students engaged in discussions about politics and news and to begin having new literacy conversations with them. It’s a long, slow process because, let’s face it, this stuff is hard!

Hope your school years are off to great starts! Have a great week, all!

Links to Resources:

on savoring summer like you’re 10 again…

Happy summer, all!

This post comes to you a few days late because, honestly, I was in serious need of a month to not think about school, the library, or librarianship and my blog post date came and went without me realizing it.

I think I might have shared this in this space before so apologies if it’s a repeat, but as a kid school was really hard for me. I struggled to learn to read and I was a very late reader. Much to my elementary teachers’ (and my mom’s) credit I always loved school and liked learning. Still, the “work” of school was hard and I was a 10-year old boy. Back in the day when we had, like, 3 over-the-air TV stations through our rabbit ear antennas, the local TV station that my family usually watched for news played this jingle before the news broadcast aired.

On Sunday nights, this jingle always gave me a stomach ache because, invariably, I had lied to my parents and told them that I’d finished all of my homework and calcuations in my head inicated that there was no way I was going to finish all of that homework before the 8:15 start of school on Monday morning. Anyway, 44 years later, all that’s old is new again and that’s my way of saying, “My homework is late because I was too busy having summer vacation fun…” I initially got really stressed about it, but I got a Coke Zero, sat down on the sofa, and watched a great Peruvian movie on Netflix until the feeling went away. Hahaha!!!

Anyway, now that I have started diving into our Academic Chairs’ read, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, and I finally find myself coming to grips with the end of the gloriousness that is summer vacation, I find myself slowly but surely starting to think about ways to move our students along on the information literacy continuum that don’t make them sigh and role their eyes in my presence

Tip for new HS librarians: I always fail. My high school kids always sigh and role their eyes at me, but I just laugh and tell them, “Hey, do that behind my back! It’s called manners!” and they laugh and play along with the rest of the lesson we’re doing…

While not thinking about school, the library, or librarianship, I seem to spend a lot of time following viral social media mysteries like how a perfectly preserved In-n-Out burger ended up on the streets of NYC; browsing Buzzfeed listicles for 21 items that will change my life for under $15; following the adventures of Barley the golden retriever on his adventures with his parents in Amsterdam; and discovering that people recutting movie trailers depiciting Elf as a horror movie or Harry Potter as a teen comedy is an actual thing!

I found these trailers fascinating! Sometimes the weirdest things bring inspiration, but I have a number of teachers working with students on understanding and employing ethos, logos, and pathos in media and in students’ own work and I’m thinking that it’ll be really interesting have students compare and contrast the original and recut versions of the trailers, then have them deconstruct ads or news segments of their choosing.

That’s, literally, as far as I’ve gotten with this. What would you do with these? Are you teaching ethos, logos, and pathos as part of information literacy instruction? If yes, what are you doing?

Savor the remaining wonderful days of summer, all!

on summer in the library…

School schedules out here in the the middle of the Pacific run a little earlier than is typical for most AISL schools so as I hit the button labeled “Publish..” on this post I am officially on my first day of SUMMER VACATION!!! #Yay!!!

This was actually on my laptop for a while at the end of the year. #WhateverItTakes

I don’t know how the rest of you hold up over the course of a school year, but I was running on fumes there at the end. I could not ask for better kids or faculty to work with here at Mid-Pacific. My faculty is great and kids are respectful and pretty amazing, but for me the end of a school year is still THE END OF A SCHOOL YEAR and as the end of the year approaches I tend to struggle with emotional and mental fatigue more than anything else.

If you are on a more traditional school calendar, take solace in the fact that when I fling the doors of my library open wide and welcome our kids and faculty back for the start of the 2019-2020 school year in early August, most of you will still have a month of vacation left to enjoy! It all evens out in the end!

The two MLIS librarians here are on the same contract as teachers except that we also split our six week summer session to staff the library during our six week summer session. I’ve actually come to enjoy working for a part of the summer. Summer days end at noon and there are fewer students on campus so we have time to take care of tasks that need to be done, but which always get put on a back burner in order to accommodate more pressing needs.

My Summer To-Do List:

  • Unpublish all of our Research and Project Libguides pages – I like to unpublish (but not delete) all of our project libguides pages even if I know that a project will run again in some form in the new school year. Unpublishing requires teachers to contact us when a project is being introduced which allows us to check links, add new resources, delete sources that are no longer relevant, and enter into collaborative discussions with teachers about how we, together, can work to tweak and improve on the the work.
  • Revise the Library’s Website(s) – We will be launching a new learning management system campus-wide in the fall and we anticipate major changes to students’ and teachers’ workflows. We are working on revising our web portals so students and teachers can get from their course or project pages to the tools and content they need from our library sites as seamlessly as possible. As a 1:1 iPad school, we’re focusing on designing specifically to optimize the iPad experience on Library site(s) as that is the way that our kids access our online resources the vast majority of the time.
  • Set-up and Clean-up of NoodleTools Accounts – We need to delete our recent graduates’ accounts, upload account info for new students, and revalidate accounts for returning students.
  • Inventory – It’s inventory… #Sigh
  • Paint Circ Desk with Chalkboard Paint – Primer, paint, rollers, and brushes are in hand. We just haven’t had any time to do the painting.
  • Replace Whiteboards on Carts – We mounted dry erase boards on rolling carts a few years ago. They’ve ghosted over the years so we’re treating ourselves to new boards for the fall!
  • Develop Discipline-Specific Samples of Information Literacy Instruction Concepts and Skills – Our Administration will be asking Department Chairs to schedule us into their department meetings in the fall so we can introduce new resources; remind teachers about resources they may have forgotten; and, hopefully, finding NEW, BETTER, and MORE ways to collaborate with them in the coming year.

That’s my, I’m very sure, incomplete list of things to do this summer. I’d very much like to know, however, what kinds of things are on your list so please hit reply below and let me know!

Have a wonderful, restful, well-deserved summer break, all!

This is, basically, me for the next three days…

on databases that spark joy (and some that don’t)…

A Neat Home…

My house is neat. I don’t like living with a lot of clutter. Reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up brought me joy. The book didn’t spark joy for me because it made my house look better. It sparked joy because it helped me better understand my relationship to the artifacts in my life–specifically, how to let the things cluttering my life go. The Konmari method helped me more consciously curate the artifacts in my home so that most of the things I live with spark joy.

A Tidy Library…

My library is neat. Here at Mid-Pacific, a lot of time and energy has gone into making the most of every square foot of space we have.  We got rid of as much unnecessary furniture as possible, weeded our print collection without mercy, and zoned spaces for defined purposes based on both the physical space and the time of day. As we have progressed through this process, I came to realize that I am not a librarian that is sentimental about books. Books (in whatever format they’re in) have value to me only for the ideas that they bring to life and that they communicate. Beyond that, books as artifacts don’t mean a lot to me so if a book has outdated information in it, I’m happy to see it become an art project. If a book hasn’t circulated, I’m happy to send it off to the Friends of the Library book sale so it can fulfill its destiny as an object to be enjoyed by another person or community.

In the physical world, I’m a proudly organized being. #LooksDown #Hubris

A Hoard of Databases…

When it comes to the digital world… Uhhh… Errr… Ugh… I am a #DigitalHoarder

There… I said it… I am a digital hoarder.

My Google Drives #Alas… My Google Drives (plural) are zones of shame. My email folders (AOL, 2 Yahoo, 2 personal Gmail, and my work email) are the digital equivalents of the very worst episodes of Hoarders: Buried Alive that you’ve ever seen.

When it comes to electron-based artifacts, I struggle with the concept of “throwing things away.” My brain thinks that because digital files are accessed only through a small pane of glass before me, they don’t take up a “space” so my brain thinks, “What’s the harm in keeping these on hand just in case I need them one time in the next 12 months.”

Admit You Have a Problem… 

At some point, in order to overcome that which truly is impeding your progress you need to come to grips with the dimensions of your problem. For me, this moment came when I recently met with a class researching the “costs of war” (economic, cultural, societal, etc.). Because of scheduling issues, the class was well into their research by the time I got to hang out with them for a period as they searched and took notes. After 3 reference interviews with students doing “feral” research, it became pretty clear that none of the kids in the class had looked at our World at War database. “Oh my god, I’ve been Googling for two days and it’s ALL here,” indicated that one hint put them on track, but as I chatted with them a number of kids told me that our database page has so many databases that they go to Google because they often don’t know where to start. While I find this pretty disappointing, I also can’t say that I blame my students at all. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I don’t know where to begin a search, I Google. It is familiar and it gets me SOMETHING. My kids are just taking a course of action that makes sense to them at this moment in time. 

Weed Digital Clutter to Make Room for Attention… 

I’ve finally had to come to grips with my wrongheaded notion that digital clutter doesn’t take up “space.” My digital database clutter is taking up all of the available space in the room in my kids’ brains labeled “MY NOVICE RESEARCHER’S ATTENTION ROOM.” By cluttering up the shelves in the attention room and stuffing it with so much stuff (even awesomely fantastic stuff), all my kids can see on the shelves in the Attention Room in their heads is GOOGLE spelled out in bright primary colors. 

Make Sure You’re Solving the Right Problem… 

One of the things that Marie Kondo’s method helped me understand is that my struggles with my clutter weren’t about superficial organizational issues as much as they were about HOW I think about “stuff” in my home—the items gifted to me aren’t the people I love. An object given out of friendship or love has already done its job, it’s expressed friendship, caring , and love. After that, it’s just an object so it’s okay to let it go if it’s no longer sparking joy. My problem wasn’t disorganization, it was attributing emotional value to objects in my home so thinking differently about sentimental attachments to objects helped me to deal with the real issues.

Getting students to use our database content has been an ongoing issue to be solved for years. Over the past few years, our library program has invested a huge amount of energy and allocated a significant chunk of our budget in our effort to get students’ eyeballs on our very expensive digital content. Working to address the challenge lead us to launch Libguides to give students a centralized portal to go to for all things library/information related. We installed EZProxy to streamline the authentication process for students and teachers to access our subscription databases from home. We built project-specific resource guides, and changed our instructional model to better embed instruction on accessing and using our digital content. I can honestly say that each of those tweaks to our library resources and services has helped us move forward in our quest to help students locate, access, and use better quality content. Our forward progress hasn’t ever been as fast or as dramatic as I would like, more evolutionary than revolutionary, but our persistent and consistent efforts have paid positive dividends over time. The thing is, it now feels like we’ve plateaued and in order for us to get unstuck, it’s time to dump all of our digital content out on the bed and find out which ones really still spark joy and which ones have to be moved out of the house.

Dump It all Out on the Bed… 

If you haven’t read Marie Kondo’s book or watched her show on Netflix, one of the things she recommends you do is to take every item in the one category of things and put them all out in one place. You take EVERY ITEM of clothing that you own, put it out on the bed, then hold each item in turn so you can asses if it still “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t spark joy. It needs to go!

Nicole, my partner in the library and I have decided that we’re going to take the next year to dump all of our databases out on the bed and we’re going to handle each database individually to decide whether it continues to spark joy or if it will be put into the bag of things that we need to let go. 

Good Planning Makes for Good Process… 

As we get ready to launch into this process, we’ve pulled all of our database use stats. As a starting point, I calculate the cost of the database per search. As a librarian, I know that cost per search isn’t necessarily a terrific parameter on which to base a decision about keeping or dropping a database, but I’ve found having actual numbers on hand helpful when communicating with administrators and faculty about the need to change a mix of databases. “We’re spending $1020 a year for this database. Because it only got searched 1426 times in the last 12 months at about $0.72 per search, I really think kids would be better served if we invested that $1020 on ________ instead.”

I’m very much a visual learner so I mapped our database subscription renewals so we can see when subscriptions from various vendors need to be renewed.

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I surveyed the AISL list about how all of you might consider and prioritize different factors in your decision-making when you’re deciding to renew or drop databases.

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Finally, we’ve been looking at a a variety of different database offerings that we currently are not offering. We think we’ve found some products that might work better for our students and our curriculum, than our current offerings. We haven’t made any final decisions, but I think we’re going to start subscribing to a new, more general, database that we’ll launch in the fall. As we work our way through projects in the next school year, I’d like to try to see how few databases we can actually get away with recommending to students. It goes against my instincts, but I think that for where my students are, less may be more.

And Don’t Forget to Sell… 

Finally, this process has also made clear to me that, the selling of databases is something that needs to be an ongoing and sustained effort at the forefront of this entire endeavor. As librarians, we work with database day in and day out, but our faculty (even the awesome ones) can easily forget about that perfect database because they may only look at a specific database occasionally and if it is out of sight it will be out of mind. I had a chat about this with our very supportive VP of Academics and she suggested that she ask each department chair to schedule part of a department meeting each fall with us in the library so we will have the opportunity to introduce/review the scope of our database offerings with faculty for their disciplines.

If you’ll be in Boston exploring Revolutionary Possibilities at AISL’s annual conference, please say hi! I’d love to chat about how you’re handling your database offerings! If you won’t be there this year, please hit comment below and share what you’re doing!

That’s all for now. Happy spring everyone!

on information starvation in an information obese world…

There are times when being a school librarian is not good for my emotional well being. I am one of those librarians, for example, who, after helping students research diseases in health classes, goes home and thinks that I have symptoms of every disease that we researched. Admittedly, going home from school and worrying that I might have 12 different diseases probably has less to do with my chosen line of work than my personal emotional tendencies, but the point I’m getting to here is that I tend to see a lot of myself in whatever it is that I read.

A little while ago I came across Drowning in News? Learn How to Swim in Politico Magazine. Me being me, I immediately thought, “OMG… Yes… I’m drowning and I’m suffering from the “information obesity” the article talks about! I need news water wings and I need to go on an information diet!” My search for news water wings and a healthier news diet lead me to Fatigued by the News? Experts Suggest How to Adjust Your Media Diet from the New York Times which discussed ways that different people whose livelihoods were somehow embedded in engagements with large doses of media dealt with the overwhelming deluge of news and media that has become ubiquitous in the lives of adults. One of the most intriguing solutions to “news fatigue” highlighted in the piece was to return to reading a print newspaper because,

“… editors select the top stories and spare him from reading “the incomplete, incremental, second-rate stuff often published online.”

“And when I physically turned the last page of the newspaper — such a satisfying moment — I felt as if I’d read enough to be informed for the day,” he said.”

I have been trying, for years, to find ways to build “healthy news consumption” into our information curriculum. I don’t know why, but for a very long time I assumed that although they gamed a lot and spent time on different platforms than I, that students’ digital lives were at their core ultimately similar to my digital life. In retrospect, that was not one of my all time best professional judgements.

Upon returning to school from winter break a few weeks into the partial U.S. Federal Government shutdown, an informal survey of some of our classes indicated that our students were woefully uniformed on the news of the day. While I (and many of the other adults on campus) were living large, gorging to excess, and seeing many of the unhealthy symptoms of information obesity, a significant proportion of the students we teach were suffering from information starvation!

In thinking about how to bring news and current events into our students consciousness without making them information obese I just do not believe it realistic to expect that my students would all seek out print newspapers as suggested by the New York Times article.

I’m Giving Up on News Aggregators…

In thinking about how we might help students develop healthy news diets, I have largely given up on news aggregating apps like Apple News or Flipboard. The algorithms that underpin them seem to have (IMHO) become so good at giving me what I want that I gorge myself with little awareness of how effectively I am protecting my ego and my worldview by confirming my existing biases.

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Newsletters as the New Front Page? 

In looking for ways to help my students find a curated and limited set of stories that might strike the balance between being comprehensive yet not overwhelming, we’re giving the email newsletter subscription a try.

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Click here to view the full Libguides page.

Getting Started…

We asked students to pick a source for news that had a daily email newsletter subscription option and had them subscribe. They absolutely were not limited to the choices provided in our Libguide. It was presented as a “starting point.”

Note: The sampling of sources listed were chosen because they provided content without a paywall and reports in Media Bias Fact Check and Allsides that indicated that the sources largely fell into the center, center-left, or center-right range for bias and/or factual reporting.

Learning How to Read News is Hard…

Something that we had to keep in mind is that learning to read and consume news thoughtfully is a deceptively hard task. Think about it, reading news is like watching a daily soap opera. After a number of weeks, months, or years watching a soap opera if you tune in to an episode of a soap opera on Tuesday you will likely know which characters are telling the truth about the death of the evil banker and which characters are lying to cover their involvement in his murder, but a first time viewer would likely find the storyline rather disjointed and challenging. Introducing students to news takes time and there will be lots of questions that might make you want to sigh and roll your eyes, but which, if you are 14 years old are perfectly legitimate questions.

  • Who is Nancy Pelosi and what does she do?
  • What is the Fed?
  • Why are some parts of the government shut down and not others?
  • How is trade supposed to work when there isn’t a [trade] war?
  • Why are the workers in France so angry?

Getting students to continue to read the news over a sustained period of time is completely dependent on having classroom teachers, like Billie who is piloting this effort with me,  who are committed to investing the time it take to help her students get to the point where they can make enough contextualized meaning from the news they are reading so that it will sustain their interest and drive their news reading habits to continue whether they are an assigned task or not.

Billie has been having her students read their email newsletters, then has them share a story that they are following via Poll Everywhere.

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After the initial listing of articles, students sit in small groups and chat about the stories they’re reading and following, and they’ve been trying to group the stories by relevance or themes as a class. The articles on the board move around based on new information or as they come to new understandings or contexts.

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Next Steps–News Podcasts?

This a pilot effort that we’re just trying to get off the ground. We’ve started with just email newsletters, but our students are also very drawn to non-written forms of media so in the coming weeks we will likely try having them try daily curated news podcasts to see if getting news that way works well for students.

Next Steps–Introduce Logical Fallacies?

As students get their news reading feet under them, I would love to introduce common logical fallacies and have students begin to see they can find any of them in the articles they’re reading.

This is just a beginning. I’m not sure where we end up with this effort, but my hope is that if we can get regular discussion of current events happening in different classes, disciplines, and grade levels we will find ourselves with students who might be better prepared to:

  • Thoughtfully choose research project topics
  • Vote in future elections (about half of our current high school students will be eligible to vote in the next U.S. presidential election)
  • Participate thoughtfully in civic life at all levels
  • Effectively analyze and contextualize the news they read

It’s all a bit daunting and much of this effort’s success lays with the level of buy-in and follow-through of the classroom teachers that partner with us in this endeavor.

#FingersCrossed #Hope

on managing the libr… “SQUIRREL!!!”

This might not pertain to many of the rest of you out there in Libraryland, but as I have been trying to figure out what to write about this month I’ve have come to the realization that the nature of school librarianship as I’m living it seems to have made me into the librarian equivalent of Dug–the dog in the movie Up. In case you don’t know the movie, Dug is a dog capable of conversing with humans, but has this habit…

squirrel

of getting distracted and off-task when a squirrel happens to come into his field of vision. As I’ve tried to figure out what to write this month, I took inventory of a large number projects that we’ve started, none of which have progressed to the point that I thought that I could write a whole post about.

I don’t think that I’m particularly lazy, disorganized, or inefficient in my work, but it seems that in my work here in the library I get started on a project, then my focus gets pulled–just like Dug’s!

So here is an off the top of my head Inventory of Projects and Initiatives That Will Someday Come to Fruition, But for Now… “SQUIRREL!!!”

  • The Silhouette Cameo Plan –  At last year’s conference in Atlanta, I mentioned that I was thinking of getting a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine thing-y to Rivka Genessen. If you’ve never met her, Rivka’s brand of quiet enthusiasm can kind of suck you in and be rather persuasive. During our conversation she said, “Oh, you’ll LOOOOOVE it…” (in the way that I talk about buttercream frosting to other people), at least three times, so upon returning to school I purchased one for our library with my well intentioned plan to learn to use it over the summer. dug2The Silhouette Cameo Squirrel – As it turned out, my summer got consumed by EBSCO Discovery set-up and an EZ-Proxy software upgrade that went sideways and broke access to most of our databases. I finally had a day not too long ago to play with the machine and got it figured out. I LOOOOOVE it!!! But … I needed to order supplies to be able to try some of the vinyl decal signage that I want to make for the library. Believe me, the pictures of our signage are gonna look GREAT in my post in May! 🙄
  • The Mobile Shelving Plan – My under-sized library space does a LOT of work for our school community. We have library classes for students from 3rd-12th grade in our space. We have kids in every look and cranny in the building before school, after school, and during periods throughout the day. We saw pictures of GORGEOUS library stacks on wheels shared by AISL librarians and though, “If we put our high school fiction on mobile stacks, we would be able to move them out of the way to give us more space when classes use the library for presentations of learning for their parents and members of the community!”  dug2The Mobile Shelving Squirrel – As it turns out, a double-sided shelf unit that is 4-feet long and 42-inches high costs approximately $1,300 to purchase and just about $1,200 to have shipped to Honolulu. To make our shelving dreams come true (because, you see, if you don’t have a dream, you can never have a dream come true…) we figured out that we could build mobile fiction shelves out of wire carts from Costco. They’re available locally and we can construct two 4-foot long double-sided shelving units for about $187 a piece! It does mean, however, purchasing two shelf units at a time from Costco (they’re LARGE and I can only fit 2 in my car at a time), ordering other needed parts online, and putting the carts together. Believe me, though, the pictures of our mobile shelves are gonna look GREAT in my post in May! 🙄
  • The Newsletters and News Podcast Plans – I’ve been looking for ways for us to help our students develop better news reading habits. Many of the kids in our school community are not regular news readers so we need to find some structured ways to bring more current events into their consciousness. We are a 1:1 iPad school and over the years I have encouraged the adoption of Flipboard as a platform for news with very limited success with a handful of teachers. Earlier this year I came across How to Stop Your Brain’s Addition to Bad News on Fastcompany. Realistically, reading a print paper is just not going to fly with my students here, but perhaps subscribing to email newsletters or subscriptions to news oriented podcasts (since some of our classes are having students produce podcasts of their own) might be a way for us to make some headway. dug2The Newsletters and News Podcast Squirrel – Good tools and good plans have nowhere to go without the right teachers building them into the right projects. As it turned out, one of our teachers who introduced podcasting to her classes earlier this year asked if we could work with her classes to research and prepare for a series of debates–IT’S PERFECT, except that we won’t be working with her classes until we get back to school in January. Believe me, I’m hoping that I’ll have some great results and outcomes to share in a post in May! 🙄

I could go on, but that’s probably enough to give you a feel for my big picture. We have a lot of fun and exciting things happening, but it sure would be nice to feel like I’ve actually FINISHED one of them.

We started our school year ’18-’19 in the first week of August. As of today, we have 3 more days of instruction and 3 days of exams to end our first semester and begin our winter break!

Wishing each of you…

squirrel

… Sorry, got distracted … a wonderful holiday season and a restful winter break!

on the long road to understanding “truth”…

Last month I blogged about introducing our faculty to a source evaluation strategy that we hoped was easy and nimble enough that they might actually employ it with kids — on growing information literate humans… We asked faculty to beta test our initial 4-move process and to suggest ways to make the process more applicable and/or student-friendly.

Drafting a Process…

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We presented the model itself along with a quick 9-min explanation of the process with examples.

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Dutifully taking the feedback from faculty and incorporating it into our process…

A Final (for Now) Daft of Our “Evaluating While Searching” Process… 

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Our “final for now” draft. We were unable to resolve the debate over “reputable” vs. “reliable” so we punted and used both. The troubling term “reading laterally” became “investigate the source.”

Taking the Process Out for a Drive… 

We tried an initial roll out of our “Evaluating While Searching” process with a section of juniors and seniors in an IB Environmental Science class, and 3 sections of frosh in our interdisciplinary MPX program. Our MPX students are studying aspects of clean water and water rights so we pulled some sample sources together.

As our students, increasingly, turn to video rather than text sources for information, we watched an “Explainer” video piece from Vox Media about water in Flint, MI, and asked students to do some investigating of Vox Media by searching Wikipedia, the media bias ratings of Allsides, the reports from Mediabiasfactcheck.com, and freeform Googling. We discussed the fact that any ratings were subjective and that sometimes ratings between the sources might conflict, but that at least there is some information about the methodologies that Allsides and Mediabiasfactcheck use. Students discovered that not all sources were rated by the tools, and teachers and librarians discovered that many frosh do not know what it means to be politically “left or right” in the United States.

We gave our frosh some additional guided practice in small groups using other sources from our Google search and had them share their findings with their peers. Our discussion lead to some “aha” moments about bias.  Many of our frosh had not considererd, for example, that sometimes a source has a bias because of what they choose to report on or choose not to report on, but what they publish can be high in factual reporting. Our discussion also helped some come to a more nuanced understanding of the term “bias.” The US Center for Disease Control might be seen as having a bias that favors vaccination, but we can probably have a good deal of confidence that content on the CDC’s website is scientifically sound.

Part II – Source Literacy… 

We sent a request out to our local library association listserv asking if any academic libraries had journals and trade journals that they were discarding and could give us. The second half of the lesson entailed taking our stack peer reviewed journals, trade journals, and general periodicals and asking the class to sort them into three stacks. They could use any criteria they wanted except for the physical size of the artifact. Every section of frosh sorted first by topic. “This stack is about science. This stack is history. This stack is culture.” We talked about that being a very useful strategy since that’s how librarians and databases classify content as well–that’s why we search a science database for science sources!

We then asked them to sort by reading level. We got, “This stack is easy. This stack is boring. This stack is super boring.” As it happens, “super boring” things tend to be peer reviewed journals. “Boring” things tend to be trade journals, and “easy” things tend to be general periodicals. This exercise served as a really useful touch stone for kids as we did some searching and sorting in our databases. “Masterfile Complete has a mix of all of these kinds of sources, but the mix leans toward easy and boring with a little super boring mixed in. Academic Search Complete is almost all super boring stuff, but that’s really good to know because when you’re juniors and seniors you will need to search for those sources for sure!”

We had students take a close look at what kind of content we could find in each category of source and talked about expertise.

What Happened… 

I recently got to see some frosh source annotations. While they were not perfect, I was really encouraged because some of the thinking showed, I believe, that our students are beginning to look at sources in context and in concert with other sources they are finding!

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Sample of a pretty nice (IMHO) frosh annotation!

Though this is very much the beginning stages of this rollout, I am excited to finally feel like we are on a path that’s seems to be providing some of the scaffolding our students need to use sources more effectively!

It’s been a LONG TIME COMING!

This is Kind of Exhausting, but It Beats Giving Up… 

My father-in-law used to say, “Growing old is not always easy, but it sure beats the alternative…”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m finding teaching source evaluation in today’s information ecosystem and political climate really, really tough and fraught with challenges that feel like pitfalls. I venture on, however, because I fear that if we don’t help students develop trust in something, that they will learn not to be skeptical, but rather cynical of all that is out there. When one is skeptical one still has reasons to continue to seek “small-t” truth and come to an understanding that a reasonable person would consider to be truth. When one is cynical, seeking understanding is a fool’s errand because everyone lies. Everyone deceieves. Everyone is the same…

I don’t believe that everyone producing information, content, and doing scientific research studies is the same. I still think it is worth my effort to seek truth. Walter Cronkite is dead so perhaps I won’t ever again find the “big-T” kind of truth that I believed he was sharing with me on the news at six-o-clock when I was a child. I still, though, believe that many small-t truths from different sources and places can bring me to an understanding that is pretty close to “truth” The world isn’t black and white and the world is not simple for those who aren’t simplistic. Sometimes I hate that, but mostly I’m learning to be okay with it.

So with that I ask… What are you doing that’s been working for you? I can use all the help I can get.

 

on growing information literate humans…

Growing information literate human beings is really hard. I’m just going to put that out there. Over the last few years the information landscape has changed so rapidly, that for the last 4 or 5 years, despite my sincere commitment and diligent efforts, I haven’t confidently known how to help students and teachers successfully navigate the yellow brick road to information literacyland.

A little Historical Context…

Our library program has the truly good fortune to be given a high school faculty meeting each year for which we get to develop and present “library programming” for our high school faculty. While I am grateful for the vote of confidence and commitment that this shows from our Administration, I can also honestly say that these sessions have proven to be the most sweat and terror inducing 50 minutes of each of the 4 school years since I arrived here at Mid-Pacific.

I’m not the Michael Jordan of librarianship. I am NOT the person you want to give the ball to, to take the final shot at the buzzer to win the the big homecoming game. Put me under pressure and I choke like the poor nameless guy in the gray Imperial military uniform who has displeased Darth Vader by foolishly letting the rag tag band of Rebels escape to fight another day. Not pretty, but you get the picture…

Year 1–Research as a Process… 

In my first year here at Mid-Pacific, we determined that there would be great benefit if all of our faculty understood research as a process so we set about planning a to embed that concept in our faculty members’ minds and practice.

Mid-Pacific embraces active, constructivist, student-centered learning. If active learning is how students learn best, why should faculty learning look any differently? With this philosophy in mind, faculty meetings here rarely involve presenters standing in front of the auditorium telling us about a concept or a new program for long periods of time so in our faculty library presentation we set out to engage our faculty with an activity intended to develop individual and group understandings of research as a process.

Embracing Constructivist Learning–Put Teachers to Work!

We had teachers sit in small groups. Each group was given 6 large Post-it notes and asked to document the steps they would follow to accomplish a research or information gathering task.

It was a long time ago, now, but I believe the prompt was something along the lines of,

“You need to buy a new car. You need to gather the information necessary to buy the right car for you. What 6 steps would you follow to find the information you need to be successful?”

I think we had 2-3 similar prompts that groups could choose and we also gave groups the option to choose in information task of their own creation. We then had each group put their steps up on a board and we clustered like-steps from various groups together. Unsurprisingly, the steps developed from most groups aligned fairly easily with steps of the Big6 and we as a faculty began the process of “co-constructing” our understanding of research as process.

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WAAAAAY back in SY ’15-’16

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We’ve since re-revised our research process language.

I find walking around and engaging with small groups of teachers puts me far more at ease than when I am required to play the role of “expert” at the front of the room. Perhaps even more significant, however, is the messaging that this process communicates to our faculty. Engaging this way says to our faculty,

“This isn’t ‘the library’s’ process. This is Mid-Pacific’s process. This is what you, as a good adult learner, already intuitively do. This process isn’t the exclusive purview of the library, and therefore the sole responsibility of the library staff. Rather, it is something we should ALL be teaching in our courses and projects, and by using common language across disciplines, we can activate and leverage students’ previous experiences with research tasks.”

Year 2–Driving Engagement with Sources…

The following year, we addressed the idea that students were probably not engaging as deeply with sources as we all hoped to see. Out of that faculty meeting, grew the practice of asking students to submit annotated works cited lists rather just a list of works cited which was our norm. The very skeletal annotation format that came out of that meeting eventually gave way to adoption of the OPVL citation format encouraged by the International Baccalaureate Program, and as of this year OPVL annotated works cited lists are being required in grades 9-12.

Our annotation format. Origin: Where is this source from? Purpose: What is the author/creator’s purpose for publishing the content? Value: What is the value of this source to me as a learner for this particular research project? Limitation: In what ways might this source be limited? (Perhaps in its perspective, scope, or age…).

Year 3–Source Evaluation, Part II (Alternative Title: That Time We put the Horse Before the Cart)…

Last year, we had our faculty work through a source evaluation process by having them take articles on the vaccination debate and place them on a coordinate grid as they saw fit. Our hope was that the technique for visibly showing our understanding of a source’s “perspective” (we’re trying to avoid using the term bias because it is proving to be too loaded a term for our students) might “become a thing,” but alas, while we got good feedback, I think the process involved too much time and preparation for the idea to scale beyond a handful of our most committed “information literacy” oriented teachers.

Year 4–Source Evaluation, Part I (Alternate Title: What We Hope is the Missing Keystone Piece of our Source Evaluation Efforts)…

We have been struggling to come up with a scalable instructional model for source evaluation that our content-area faculty might be able to use with students in the course of their everyday work.

Over the summer, we stumbled upon Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by Michael Caulfield in which he presents a “4-move” process for fact checking web sources. We were intrigued because it gave us a potential model for source evaluation that seemed effective, yet “light, quick, nimble, and fast” enough that we believed that it might be applicable at scale beyond a dedicated “library lesson.” We worked with his process and decided that our particular population of students would likely find more success with Caulfield’s 4-Moves if we changed the order of two of the steps, so we built a prototype flow chart and decided that we’d have our high school faculty beta test the process to see if it might meet their needs.

Here’s what we did with our faculty last Wednesday…

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We quickly talked about the “why” and why this process mattered.

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We presented the model itself along with a quick 9-min explanation of the process with examples.

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We gave the faculty their task and set them to work.

After my partner librarian, Nicole, gave a brief overview of the process, we tried one together as a whole group. Looking at this article from Nature. Because we were “16 year olds” we’d never heard of the source so we decided we needed to read laterally and searched [Wikipedia Nature] where we found out that it is one of the world’s most widely cited scientific journals.

 

Informal feedback from our faculty on our session and activity has been quite positive. A few let us know that the activity itself was helpful to them for their personal knowledge and awareness as USERS of information, and we got some good formal feedback about the process as well!

A sampling of feedback from our groups of high school teachers.

Next Steps?

As soon as we have a moment, our plan is to take all of the feedback from the faculty working groups and weigh which changes we think we might incorporate into our 4-Move process itself and/or changes that we might decide to make to the document (which we envision as an 11X17 poster in each classroom). Our initial thoughts are that some of the feedback such as changing “read laterally” to some other more student-friendly term will get a lot of consideration while other feedback is primarily useful for us to consider instructionally (defining terms clearly, etc.) as we eventually roll this process out to students.

Once we have gotten our ducks in a row on the library side, I will likely seek 5-10 minutes at a future faculty meeting in order to update our faculty on how their feedback has either been incorporated into changes to the process or document(s), or how their feedback will inform our instruction as we roll the process out to students.

Some statements from faculty such as, “If you use databases, sources are already vetted” indicate that we still have some conceptual information literacy professional development to do, so we plan to work with individual department chairs to find time when we might get some department meeting time to deliver more discipline-specific professional development for our teachers in some key departments.

This Seems Really Hard and Fuzzy So What’s the Payoff?

In the bigger picture we are coming to realize that we have to get students to think about source evaluation in two main phases.

Phase 1 – When you are initially selecting sources from a results list, you should be able to very quickly apply the 4-Moves to help you choose what appear to be your most promising sources.

Phase 2 -Once you have chosen sources, you need need to slow way down and carefully apply the kind of “close reading” strategies that are employed in the X-Y “perspective” activity that we did with our faculty last year. Does the author’s evidence adequately support their claim? Are the studies cited scientifically sound? Is the sample size for the study adequate? What is the author’s primary purpose for publishing this work? …

In a broad sense both kinds of source evaluation thinking need to become part of the “always on” mental models that students employ as they do anything from find the best video gaming hacks to the policy positions they will choose to support as soon-to-be voters.

For us here at Mid-Pacific in the shorter term, we have started requiring students from 9-12th to turn in OPVL formatted annotated works cited lists. The annotation requirement is not an end in itself as much as it is a scaffold that we are employing to “encourage” students to practice the thinking that goes into both phases of source evaluation. To my mind, the information gleaned while executing the 4-moves help to inform students about a source’s origin and, perhaps, purpose; deep/close reading that is done when they engage in activities like placing their sources on a continuum or in a coordinate grid should inform both the source’s purpose and limitation; and I would hope that students would be evaluating a source’s value to them as learners throughout the research process.

Final thoughts…

Growing information literate humans is hard. We’re struggling to figure out the best paths forward, but we hope that little-by-little and step-by-step, we’re slowly but surely identifying skills and mental models that need to be in place for our students to successfully engage with a universe of information that has grown to be incredibly complex and challenging.

We need all the help that we can get and we’d be so grateful to hear about strategies you are trying with your students. Please hit comment below and share some of them!

on projects that get us started…

First and foremost, while this blog is about independent school librarianship, I’d be remiss if I did not begin by saying that I am keeping everyone who may be in the path of Hurricane Florence in my thoughts. May you, your loved ones, your neighbors, and your communities be safe through it all.

Advice coming from our neighbors on the Hawaiian islands affected by Hurricane Lane is to be sure to take pictures and/or video of both the exteriors and interiors of your homes (including flooring) that you may be able to use as support documentation to show the condition of your property and its contents before the storm should you need to file claims with insurance carriers.

This Month’s Post on High School Projects to Start the Year… 

For those of you following more typical school calendars and not doing hurricane prep, welcome back to school!

As I tap this blog post out on my laptop, here in the Central Pacific, we find ourselves in the midst of our fifth week of school. Yes, that’s right! While most of you were out lounging poolside, hiking the Appalachian Trail (Looking at you, Tara Vito!), or doing whatever it is that is your joy of summer, I got to have my first library classes with the class of 2031–you read that right… #NotaTypo; we had two hurricane days (no snow days in the Central Pacific, but we do have hurricane days from time to time); and we’ve had the chance to work with our frosh Mid-Pacific eXploratory classes on a world civilizations project.

The Project in a Nutshell…

Working in groups, students are creating role playing games based on exploration and research that they are doing on ancient civilizations–ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, Babylonia, the Shang Dynasty, the Indus River Valley, and the Aztec Empire. The development of each groups’ game is a step in their broader project-based learning on the essential question: How is water or the access to it a reflection of a fair and equitable society? 

Planning for Collaboration…

We are incredibly fortunate to work with a cadre of teachers who purposefully build collaborative teaching time into their projects and create opportunities for us to team with them as they work with their students. Rather than have students read chapters in textbooks or deliver content about ancient civilizations in a series of lectures, Mr. Cheever and Mr. Falk elected to have students collaboratively gather information about their assigned civilizations.

  • Our Desired Outcomes:
    • Social Studies: Students will understand the framework for GRAPES: Geography, Religion, Arts, Politics, Economics, and Social.
    • Information Instruction:
      • Any fact in notes has to be linked to a specific source
      • Students will be introduced to and use a variety of library sources

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Library session goals

In collaboration with us in the library, Mr. Falk and Mr. Cheever included a requirement that students’ notes needed to include notes from at least 5 different library sources.

There are Times When Collaboration Feels Like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and You Crash and Burn, but Sometimes That’s Just How It Goes…

My partner librarian, Nicole, built a Libguide and our first section of Frosh came to the library to work on the project. I tried having students read Wikipedia pages for their civilizations with the intention of having students then generate keyword search terms. It was a horrendous failure and I crashed and burned REALLY BADLY. Fortunately, Mr. Falk had enough faith to bring his class back the next day and we re-launched our work with a little more structure and  a lot more success.

What This Looks Like in Our Library…

Students set up their collaborative note taking document. All 4 students in each group took notes in a single document, but each student was required to find 3 facts per GRAPES category and use 5 different library sources.

They looked a little more excited about the work at other points in time. I promise! LOL!

Teacher-created note taking template.

Students’ “notes in progress…”

Teacher and Librarian collaboration Points of discussion on note taking:

  • Notes in their own words or copy/paste?
    • Because this is an initial project and the synthesis step is to use these facts to inform the development of a game rather than a written work. Copy/paste is okay.
    • Notes in their own words and/or in quotations for direct quotes will be introduced in a project down the road when synthesis could more easily lead to citation issues.

Library Day #1: Research in Databases…

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Project database page

Teacher and Librarian Points of discussion on databases:

  • Britannica School and World Book were treated like other databases for this project. They are “offset” here because in future projects they will get phased out. “In high school, we no longer cite tertiary sources like Britannica, World Book, or Wikipedia in our academic work…”
  • We typically prefer to start with print books and ebooks before moving to research in databases. We couldn’t start our research in this order because we had two hurricane days and we couldn’t order our ebooks from Gale. When we got back to school, we were really busy and couldn’t get the order in. When Mr. Wee finally got around to placing the ebook order, he miscalculated the time difference between HST and EST and Gale was closed for Labor Day weekend. Basically, we didn’t have access to the eBooks we needed on the first day of the project and we didn’t have enough print resources for an entire class to use at the same time. #LastMinuteLibrarian #Fail

Library Day 2: eBooks and Books…

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Gale ebook sub-collection for the project

Click on the image above to view the un-pretty, but “good enough to get the job done” slideshow that I used with the class.

Getting Meta with the Research Process… 

While much of the work (as our projects often are) in our library lesson time was location & access and note taking heavy, we also always want to incorporate some “meta-discussion” on our research process and use of information so students begin building mental maps about the research process.

On day two, we took some time to discuss the metacognitive framework of the research process.

We charted what students had done (green) in the research process so far. We looked forward to the synthesis step that they’ll be doing as they begin the process of designing their games (blue). We added the arrows in red which Mr. Cheever pointed out is the “re” in research. As we do synthesis, we typically identify new information needs that must be addressed–learning and researching is a continually recursive process.

Developing Literacies is a LONG Game…

Research on Babylon uncovered An Eyewitness To Mighty Ancient Babylon by Herodotus. Mr. Cheever paused their work to have a short discussion with the class on how, as learners in a connected world, we MAKE MEANING and come to OUR OWN understanding of our world from the information we find. “We don’t have video, photos, and we can’t interview an ancient Babylonian ourselves so how do we know what is ‘true’?”

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Primary sources

A recent Quartz article, “A Philosopher of Truth Says We’re not Living in a “Post-truth” World After All,” discusses how, in our connected world, the struggle we have in helping our students arrive at “truth with a capital T.” The article’s conclusion, if I’m reading it correctly, is that we have to learn to be comfortable with “understandings” of the world that are based, not on a big T truth, but rather on many small truths that we triangulate and contextualize to come to a thoughtful “understanding.”

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Our library program’s aspirational learner profile

As Mr. Cheever had his discussion with his class, I thought back to the “learner profile” to which our library program aspires, and I thought, “In terms of information literacy instruction, THIS MOMENT RIGHT NOW, is the point of all that collaboration, resource management, note taking template building, Libguide creation, scheduling, and all the rest of the frustrating things we endure to make programming happen! THIS MOMENT RIGHT NOW IS WHAT THAT IS ALL FOR, AND WHAT WE WANT TO HAPPEN!

Are our 14-year old frosh independently “information literate” as a result of this one project and that one discussion? Of course not because building an information literate human being is a long game and we won’t get there with a single step, but it’s a start that made me smile as I walked to my car at the end of the day, for sure!

At the end of what has been an exhausting first month of school, I must say that one thing for which I feel so incredibly grateful is that I get to work with teachers that let us play this long game with them!

Happy new school year, all!

on savoring our days of summer and books…

I hope this post finds you savoring your final days or weeks of summer. The Hawaii school year, however, starts very early and public school students across the state are returning to school today. Here at Mid-Pacific, we will have new students and high school frosh on campus on Friday and the ’18-’19 school year officially gets underway on Monday!

I very successfully savored my final days of summer. In fact, I was so successful with my “savoring” that I have been running around like a mad man addressing all of the start-of-the-year tasks that need to be done in a library that I didn’t take care of because I was successfully savoring…

Anyway, that is a long way of telling you that this post is really short because when I am in savoring mode my time management and executive function skills revert to those of a middle school boy (and not even a really academically successful middle school boy… Just a barely passing, shake your head, “Wait, what?”, middle school boy).

Anyway, over the last few days, there has been a really wonderful AISL listserv thread about building a culture of reading with students. Wonderful ideas have been shared, but it occurred to me that it would be wonderful to foster a culture of reading with my faculty as well. A few years ago Katie Archambault shared a post on how she runs her faculty book club. I followed her template and have run a very informal faculty book club for the past two years, but I hoped to add something else to our mix.

This summer I read and completely loved, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Dan Coyle.  Though written for an audience focused on business leadership, I found the book extremely accessible and easily adaptable to the needs of classroom teachers working to get cohorts/classes of students to work well together or perhaps to administrators, department chairs, or librarians working to get teams of teachers collaborating successfully.

I thought the book aligned so well with our school culture and the philosophy of learning and teaching that we try to foster, that I decided that it would be a worthwhile investment to try to just release the book into the wilds of the Mid-Pacific community and to see what organically emerges.

My original copy of the book will get cataloged and added to our collection, but I ordered 7 additional copies of the book and affixed a book plate in front of each with the following instructions:

I’ve chatted up the book and dropped them into the hands of people around campus to whom I thought the book might resonate. I simply asked them to give it a read, clarified the information already on the book plate, and left the rest of to them. After just three days, I’ve gotten positive feedback from two of them.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

Enjoy and savor the rest of your summer days! Though you might want to savor your days just a little bit less than I savored mine so you won’t find yourself waking up in the middle of the night writing reminders to yourselves down on Post-it notes that you keep next to your bed…

#Sigh… #Hahaha!!!