on our museum of not-digital sources…

This post is more than a week late, but I was on a break and, honestly, needed to not think about anything library for a while…

Now that I’m back at my desk with my monitor perched atop 4 volumes of the 29th edition Library of Congress Subject Headings in order to help correct my horrendously bad posture that lead to the pinched nerve in my neck I thought I’d share about our effort to begin dialoging with our students about source types in databases.

Bad posture will catch up to you! Take care of your posture, people!

The Problem: Database interfaces are, seemingly, designed for digital immigrants, but our students are digital natives…

When a 14 or 15 year old human searches a library database they typically see something that looks like this…

As a digital immigrant who started life in an analog world and even worked in a library with a bonafide “Reference Room” I have a pretty good idea about the kind of content I’ll get if I click on the Reference, Magazine, Website, or Academic Journals links above. The reality for my 14 and 15 year old frosh and sophomores trying to search more varied databases for the first time is that most of them have never seen, touched, or used a print reference source; virtually none of them have seen, touched, or used an academic journal; and shockingly few of them have seen, touched, or used magazines or newspapers!!! #Gasp #EyesBulgingEmoji #IFeelSoOld

I can wring my hands and clutch my pearls, but that doesn’t go very far in helping my students know what source type link to choose if they want to find specific kinds of information so we decided to try to give our students some basic experiences and knowledge that they all have in common that we can reference as we’re doing more specific research lessons when we see them for project sessions. Thus was born, the Museum of Not-Digital Sources. It was a limited time engagement exhibit presented by the Mid-Pacific Library and all of our frosh and sophomores came through for 40-60 minutes with their English classes.

We fired up Canva and built display cards analogous to informational plaques you might see in a real museum. We use Gale databases heavily so we decided to base most of the language and terminology they might see on the language and terminology typically found in Gale.

Much of the experience hinged on students coming to a broad understanding about the kinds of sources available to them in databases, the characteristics of each type of source, and to think about how they might use types of sources to address varying information needs.

This is a depiction of information SOMEONE in AISL shared with me on the traditional publishing cycle, but I cannot remember who. If it was you, please let me know so I can properly cite this content. #BadLibrarianship

As it turned out, I was away from campus during the week when our museum was up and running so my library partner, Nicole, saw all of the classes. Here’s slideshow of the museum experience as it looked for students.

Of course, no field trip to a museum would be complete without an activity to complete as you make your way through the museum so students completed a scavenger hunt as they went through the museum.

The museum visit wrapped up with students completing a Google Form where they were asked to apply some of what they had learned from the visit.

Click on the image above to view the full Google Form.
Student feedback was quite positive (and they LOVE Mrs. Goff!!!) 😍

Our museum wasn’t the end of our discussion on sources types by any stretch of the imagination. It was just a way for us to get all of our younger high schoolers on the same page with some common knowledge and experiences that we hope to build on going forward.

How are you scaffolding knowledge about source types with your students? We’d love to see what you’re doing!

PS–If you’re considering weeding your reference collection, you might consider keeping a few copies of different types of sources. It’s always nice to have artifacts to use with students!

It might be time to put stuff away, huh? 🤣🤣🤣

on doing what we ask kids to do…

I hope that this post finds you well. This month I decided to try to switch things up, and try something completely different and out of my comfort zone. Nicole, my librarian partner here at Mid-Pacific, has been having 6th graders in our Library and Technology 6 “exploratory experience” course create screencasts to show what they know and have learned. In the spirit of doing what we ask our kids to do, I decided give a screencast a try here.

My post is not intended to be slick, professional, or fancy. It’s just me talking about what we’re trying to do and trying to learn in our library of late. I stumble over my words, look down at my notes much of the time, and… Yeah… Kinda seem like a bit of a confused mess at some points, but I recorded this in one take and we’ve been SUPER BUSY in the the library for the last few weeks so it is what it’s gonna be. Please take this for what it is!!! 🤣🤣🤣.

Hope that someone out there in Libraryland gets something helpful from it!!! 🤞😃🤞

And sorry for my embarrassingly slow talking!!! 🤣🤣🤣

A screencast on what we’ve been trying in our library–warts and all!!! Trying to practice what I preach. A “learning vlog” doesn’t need to be perfect. We just want to communicate what we’re thinking and learning. With that spirit in mind, here’s the vlog. I normally would’ve done this 25 times, but we’ve been busy in the library so I recorded this in one take and now I’m gonna force myself to hit publish. It is, what it is… 🤣🤣🤣

In case you’re interested in what a 6th grade screencast looks like, here’s a pretty amazing screencast from Emma. I’m sharing her work here with Emma’s (and mom’s) permission.

Finding recommended websites in the World Book database.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

on getting by with a LOT of help from my friends…

I can’t believe that it’s time for me to post another blog. We’re in our 7th week of school, here, and instruction has been going great! We’ve had middle and high school classes in for research lessons, book talks, SIFT lessons, copyright discussions, and project-instruction. We now have our youngest K-2 scholars come up to our library for lessons and to browse and borrow so our single library now officially serves students from K-12. Being busy is great! It’s absolutely what we want for our program, but sometimes we’re literally SO BUSY that I LITERALLY don’t have a spare minute to work on other things that a good library program should address.

I Get by with a Lot of Help from My Friends…

I was reflecting today on the unbelievable amount of help and support I get from so many AISL librarians who help me fill out the parts of our programming that I otherwise would just not have the time to do.

Basically, this is me at the moment. The spirit is willing, but… 🤣🤣🤣

Here’s what I mean…

Passive Programming? Why, Yes, I Can Do Passive Programming…

In August, Kate Grantham shared this post on Passive Programming. “When funds or time are in short supply, passive programming is a great way to continue engagement in your library.”

Hmmm… Well, it’s still early in my fiscal year so I have some funds, but time is certainly in short supply so passive programming for the win! During the 2018 AISL Conference in Atlanta, organizers had a sample Let’s Stick Together kit that moved from venue to venue during the conference. I was #OBSESSED with the concept and loved sticking my colored pixels to the grid. Anyway, I took Kate’s advice, rolled up my sleeves and ordered some kits. We’ve had Kindergartener’s, middle schoolers, high school seniors, facilities staff, teachers, records office staff stopping in to stick together with us and it has been amazing, fun programming for us! Thank you, Kate!

Banned Books Week Snuck Up on Me…

My partner in the library, Nicole, always puts together great programming for Banned Books Week. However, given the way that library life has recently gone, I really wanted to do my part to expand our community’s engagement with honoring our freedom to read. [As an aside, a few years ago after looking at my Banned Books Week bulletin board where I’d put up pictures of the most commonly banned an challenged books from the previous year, a middle schooler looked at me with concern and asked, “Mr. Wee, why are you banning all of these books?” so now I try to be sure to frame things as “Celebrating our freed-om to read!” 🤣 #Freadom]

While I was being busy being busy, AISL librarians Karyn Silverman and Courtney Lewis incredibly generously shared print-ready quotes on book banning and censorship. I, literally, hit command+P a whole bunch of times, took a stack of printed quotes to our Academic Chairs meeting and asked colleagues to share them out with teachers in their departments that might want to put them up on their doors. The response from our teachers was incredibly heartening!!! I took a walk through one of our buildings and this was what the hall looked like…

I also was approached the next day by a language arts teacher who is considering having students examine the some of the reasons books they know have been challenged. It’s a thought, not a project by any means at this point, but teachers definitely are thinking about and wrestling with censorship and freadom to to read issues in ways I haven’t seen before. Thank you Karyn and Courtney!

I’ll leave things here because… Well… I don’t have time for more, but I just want to say thank you for the generous hearts of AISL librarians. Whether it is the sharing of a sample collection development and challenge policy, advice on what kind of button maker or vinyl cutter to buy, or hosting conferences and summer institutes, you’re always there to lend a hand and help me make it through another day or year.

I’m so very grateful for the community that you are for me.

Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

PS–If you’ve happened upon this post and you’re an independent school librarian who isn’t a member yet, join us here!!! Professionally, it’s the very best $30 investment you’ll ever make! Hope we’ll meet you soon!

on if you give a librarian a library…

How’re your weeks going? The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur. I’m kinda exhausted!

“Why are you exhausted?” you ask?

Well, thanks for asking! I’m exhausted because I’ve been living library life like a character in the Laura Numeroff book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

Cover image of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk…
    • When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw…
      • When he’s finished, he’s likely to ask for a napkin…

Here’s my kind of crazy tale of, If You Give a Librarian a Library…

A few years ago, we gave birth to a library that lived in our elementary building. At the time we weren’t offering any services or library access to our K-2 scholars and teachers so we found a spot in the elementary building, bought books that Kindergarten through 2nd grade humans might love, and and opened for business! I wrote about it here: on new things for a new year…

Our little K-2 remote library collection eventually grew to 8 overflowing trucks, but we eventually ran out of space.

Fast forward 5 years and our amazing little library has outgrown its space. Basically, by the time that our young scholars reach the end of 2nd grade, they’ve just about read their way through the tiny collection and space constraints just would not allow us to continue to build out the collection as needed. Last semester we had the seemingly simple thought, “Hey, let’s have the K-2 classes come up to Kawaiaha’o Library! We’ll be able to continue to build out the K-2 collection and our strong readers will have access to things that they’ll love! It’s going to be so AMAZING!!!”

Me, on the inside at the time…


Our little idea has somehow turned into an epic cascade of problem-solving that involves:

  • Librarians painting a back room that was once a librarian’s office, that became a study room, then became a conference room, then became a closet, then became a swing space for material from our Archives when there was a construction project, and most recently has housed furniture that needed to be stored in order to allow for social distancing in classrooms. What will become the K-2 library room now has a lovely light blue wall! Honestly, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, but I’m pretty stoked at how much less dungeon-like the room feels simply by painting the wall light blue instead of our (kinda depressing) standard institutional grey! 🤣
Adds #HowToPaint to the list of skills that I was not told I would need to develop when I was in library school…
  • My staff weeding and removing 2500 books in our HS oriented nonfiction collection that just has not seen much use in the last few years.
Boxed and ready to go to the Friends of the Library!
Deaccessioning in progress.
Having books on every cart and every available surface in the library gives me anxiety.
  • Shifting and reconfiguring all of the stacks in our nonfiction collection to make them more accessible to 3rd-5th grade sized humans…
  • Boxing significant parts of our middle fiction collection to empty shelving so that facilities crews can move shelves to new places over the summer.
  • Facilities Management Services crews coming in to move shelving and stacks around within our space to help us create age “zones” for our collection.
  • Delivering about 2000ish of the 2500 weeded books to our public library system’s Friends of the Library warehouse 250 books at a time (because that’s how many boxes can fit in a Hyundai Sonata…).
Hello, Friends of the Library!
  • Pushing all of the book trucks up the hill from our elementary building to their new home in the “big library” up on the hill.

Pushing a fully loaded book truck uphill is a surprisingly good workout. On one trip I was huffing and puffing my way up the hill past some students and I hear, “Whoa! good butt workout Mr. Wee!!!” 🤣🤣🤣

To which I had to reply, “I’m old and I don’t do Crossfit sled pushing. Don’t just stand there telling dad jokes, help me push!!!” 🤣🤣🤣

My kids thought I was hilarious, but by the time they were ready to help me push I was at the top of the hill. #Teenagers #Sigh 🤣🤣🤣

I know I sound really, really grumpy (because I am) as this process unfolds, but I know that I will be happy with the result next August when we have everything put back together and we’re up and running. In our last meeting with our K-2 classes I offhandedly mentioned, “This is our last time seeing you here in our mini-library space because next year we’ll get to see all of our K-2 classes in the big library up on the hill!!!”

Oh my goodness!!! The number of faculty/staff parents who have told me in passing in the hall, “My child is SOOOOOOOOO excited that they get to go to Kawaiaha’o Library next year!!!” has been a wonderful surprise.

Surprises like learning how excited young students are to get to borrow books and just come to “the big library” make every bit of the sweat and effort worth all of the sweat and effort! I know I’ll be happy with the outcome in the end, but you know, when you’re in the middle of the process, sometimes you just have to write to your AISL friends to complain. That’s library life… 🤣🤣🤣

Gotta run, another student needs help printing. In the midst of all of this we set up a new printing work flow to make it easier for students to print from their school iPads and personal devices. What i’ve learned from watching numerous middle school and frosh students attempt to tap on the screen of our desktop iMacs is that “how to use a computer mouse” has become a legacy skill!!! 😳😳😳 #IFeelSoOld

But that’s a post for another time!

Happy summer, all!

on school librarians and the daze of our lived lives…

By the time you’re reading this, most of you are likely to be finding your way through one of the amazing sessions making up the 2022 Association of Independent School Librarians Annual Conference. This year’s virtual conference features an incredible variety of topics! As I scan through the schedule, there are sessions on topics as varied as:

  • How to help students ask excellent questions…
  • Supporting DEI in our schools…
  • Supporting the college admissions process…
  • Cultivating a culture of reading…
  • Launching student library boards…

One of the things about being a school librarian is that, though we’re all “librarians,” our lived lives in our libraries can be SO VERY, VERY different than that of our colleagues in other states, countries, or even just a mile down the street.

I think that the uniqueness of our lived lives as librarians is a huge part of what has made librarianship such a very exciting profession for me, but also from time to time that exact uniqueness can sometimes make me feel like I’m the only one out here doing the work that I do… To clarify, I work with a wonderful, enthusiastic young librarian that I hope many of you get to meet in person at an in-person AISL Annual Conference some day, but I hope you get what I mean when I figuratively say, “…feel like I’m the only one out here doing the work that I do…”

Anyway, an AISL colleague recently inquired about librarianship in a project-based learning school. Our colleague asked,

I’m interested to hear from other Upper School librarians about project-based learning. If you work in a school that’s embraced PBL, I’d love to know more about how you’ve integrated it into your work as a librarian. How do you work with/support teachers & classes on project-based learning initiatives? 

I spent my first 14 years as a librarian at a very rigorous, rather traditional independent school in Los Angeles. I was part of a team of 5 MLS librarians at the middle school. Yes, you read that right, there were FIVE MLS librarians and a full-time library assistant that served our middle school. We had a seeming bottomless budget for purchase of resources and the curriculum was extremely consistent and stable. Every teacher who taught 7th grade history taught from the same team lesson plans, did the same research projects, and used the same summative tests and quizzes. We had the great benefit of knowing that every February, every 9th grader would come in with their history classes for an arc of lessons on locating and using primary sources that they’d incorporate into their papers and projects (yeah, no… they were just papers). We had a well developed list of research topics that the 9th graders would cover so we were able to identify topics that proved challenging for students and purchase resources to facilitate students’ success. It was rigorous. It was fun.

8 years ago, my elderly mom had a bad fall and it was time for me to leave “the best job I’d ever have” and move home to Honolulu to help with her care. As luck would have it, I landed here at Mid-Pacific, an amazing preschool to 12th grade progressive school that’s leaned heavily into project-based learning, and I realized that I ended up in a new “best job I’d ever have!” 🤣

Things I’ve learned about librarian-ing in a PBL school:

1) Goodbye “Just in Case” Collection Development – I had to jettison my “just in case” notions of print collection management. In my PBL environment, topics covered and research project assignments change. Every. Single. Year. I don’t have the luxury of knowing that every February the Middle Ages primary source project is going to run so I need to buy more books on the Cluniacs and how the Irish monks preserved literacy in the Middle Ages… Books that I bought for to shore up our print collection for “the food project, next year” sat untouched because the project never returned. The following year, the class had moved on to sound waves… #Alas

2) Think Systems and Frameworks, Not “Library Lessons” – I’ve had to learn to think about framing information literacy instruction in terms of systems and frameworks rather than discrete skills and processes presented in library lessons. Over the years we’ve worked and reworked our “research framework.” Every time it gets reworked, the language becomes less “librarian-ese” and more the language of ordinary humans. If you need a book of supporting documentation, your framework probably isn’t accessible enough for mere mortals who aren’t librarians to use so keep simplifying. Note: Making our stuff simple is REALLY, REALLY hard!!! #Ugh

3) Farewell One-Shot Library Lessons – The one-shot library lesson has pretty much become a thing of the past, here. They don’t work in PBL. If I’m being honest, I kind of doubt that they work in general. #SorryNotSorry #Shrug If we work with your class, we need to expect you to make time to see us 3-5 times over the course of the project because information needs and the skills/processes that kids need to know at different points in the process vary. Having tons of one-shot lessons littering up our instructional calendar means that I work SUPER HARD with no pay off in terms of student learning. It also means that I don’t have space in my schedule to book an arc of 3-5 lessons over 3 weeks with a class where those kids see how the different skills and processes come together in a holistic way and therefore, understand the process and the parts/skills utilized along the way.

4) Librarians Shouldn’t Be Teaching All the InfoLit – I know that this one might ruffle some feathers. I used to think “Maybe I shouldn’t say this,” but yeah, I seem to have reached an age where when I think that sometimes I just figure, “Whatevers… Let’s see what happens…” Hahaha! So here goes, I’ve adopted the philosophy that it is my job to be sure that good information literacy and research skills are being taught—NOT to teach all the information literacy and research skills on campus. That is just not gonna happen in a preschool-12 school of 1400 students with 2 librarians… More importantly, that’s JUST NOT HOW LITERACIES DEVELOP. You’ll never develop information literate young adults on 6 library lesson a year. Our job is to teach the teachers (and that’s usually in the form of library lessons). You watch me do this for 2 periods and you teach it in your 3rd and 4th periods. Teach your teachers how to fish. Going forward, when teachers have learned your research process and strategies they’ll design better research projects and assignments. Most importantly, teachers just have many, many thousands more opportunities to teach and reinforce the concepts, skills, and dispositions that further students’ information literacy development than I will EVER get to have with students as a school librarian. 🤷🏻‍♂️ If we ever hope to have an information literate voting public, librarians need as many friends as we can get! We need everybody to be teaching good information literacy skills, habits, and dispositions.

5) Hello PRESEARCHING and TOPIC EXPLORATION – Make presearching and topic exploration A VERY BIG FEATURE of the “research process” work that you do. In authentic PBL, students typically should be posing the questions for exploration, but… How do you know what to ask? How do you know what to explore with regard to the civil rights movement if you haven’t explored and had a good amount of time to “get the lay of the land.” You will likely end up with 20 projects on Rosa Park because she’s one of the only civil rights figure that a 9th grader might know… 

6a) Talk to Us, People!!! – Insist on CONVERSATIONS about project design EARLY in planning process. Teachers think they know what resources we have, but they don’t know what they don’t know. Sometimes I use those conversations to buy ebooks we need “just in time” (see #1) or sometimes those conversations allow us to let a teacher know, “Yeah, this is impossible to research given what we have and your requirements…” -OR- “Yeah, your 10th graders aren’t going to have success with Academic Search Complete so let’s do this…”

6b) Keep Talking to Us, People!!! – In the project design conversation, keep taking your teachers back to BROAD ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS. Some of my teachers want to throw out a list of 30 topics and have kids pick one and research it. “I’m doing “deeper learning,” but how, then, does the kid doing research on Farm Bureau programs during the depression learn about the other 29 topics? If they don’t go back to the bigger essential question, then that’s not “deeper learning” it’s just “myopic learning.” Good PBL builds in lots of opportunities to share out across a cohort FORMATIVELY. When I’ve seen GREAT PBL, teachers find ways to have student integrate the work shared by their peers into their final pieces. In the case of the class researching government programs of the Great Depression, students shared their initial research

Anyway, that’s the stuff that just is off the top of my head.

I’d love to chat with any of you you there who are librarian-ing in a PBL leaning school. What have you learned? What works for you?

That’s it for this month. I hope that we’ll cross paths in a breakout room sometime in the next few days (or on an email thread)!

Have a great #AISL22 Conference everyone!

on goals for twenty-twenty, too

It is a new year and my name just popped up on the blogging calendar so I guess it is time for a new post. Now, for most of my 57 years on this planet new years has been a time for me to wipe the slate clean, purge my emotional (and actual) clutter, and lurch enthusiastically into the new year with clear eyes and a fresh new attitude.

Honestly, though, this year I’m struggling a bit. I don’t want to be, as can be my wont, Mr. Davey Downer, but at the same time sitting down at my laptop and tapping out a super optimistic, “Our library is so awesome!!! Life is so awesome!!! We’re doing so awesome!!!” would probably just read, to many, as another #ToxicallyPositive #HowToBeAnEDUCelebrity post.

In the words of Charles Munger, “The first rule of a happy life is low expectations. That’s one you can easily arrange. And if you have unrealistic expectations, you’re going to be miserable all your life.”

So… In the year 2022 which, to me, is feeling a little more twenty-twenty, too… than I’d hoped here’s the short skinny on our immediate and medium term goals for the new year…

1 Fling the Windows of the Library Open Every Morning!

I got a little ahead of my self at the end of last year and thought that things in Libraryland (and, well, across the land…) would be returning to normal “early in the new year!” #Yay! Now that those dreams have been dashed by the Omicron variant, I’ve had to reset my mindset. Disappointing as it may be (to me, but hey, I’m pretty sure it’s disappointing to everyone on the planet…), when I work at it I can find things that help me to find my new equilibrium.

I am blessed to work in a library with old-school windows that ACTUALLY OPEN!!! I am blessed to live in a place where it is 73º outside on this January 6th so as soon as I get into the library in the morning, my first order of business is to fling open the windows of the library! #VentilationIsOurFriend!

On good mornings, I imagine myself singing to the wildlife like Cinderella, but on other days I just grunt and try to get it done quickly so that I can get my cup of coffee. #PandemicLifeHasItsUpsAndDowns

My library assistant wasn’t super pleased, yesterday, when the bird flew in and hung out in the library, but you know life is trade offs and sometimes we just gotta look over, see that there’s a bird in the library, shrug twice, and then write about it on Twitter. #WhatchaGonnaDo?

Mask on. Windows Open. Coffee in hand. Let the day begin!!! LOL!

2 Upgrade our Masks…

If you and your library staff haven’t “upgraded” from cloth masks yet, you might consider making a change. I started wearing KN95 masks about a year ago. There are, apparently, quite a few counterfeit masks that don’t truly meet the KN95 (or similar) standard. Here’s the thing, sometimes knowing how to SEARCH and EVALUATE aren’t truly enough to know with certainty that the masks you purchase are the real deal, but all we can do is look for recommended manufacturers from typically reliable sources and do the best we can. #RealLifeIsHard

While we’re at it. If you are having trouble wearing your KN95 all day, you might want to look into getting ear saving mask extenders. There are many options and types. I’ve tried many. I like extenders that are adjustable and that are made of elastic fabric. I’ve found that they have the added benefit of allowing me to pull my masks more securely to my face so, I’m hoping, that it helps create a better fit for my masks as well.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2022-01-05-at-2.30.37-PM.png

3 Build Weighing of Arguments into the Curriculum…

On the curriculum front, we’ll be looking to build weighing arguments into our curriculum. In the first semester, we pushed really hard on systematically introducing SIFT to all of our frosh and as many 10th-12th graders as we were able to reach. SIFT is great for on-the-fly, quick-and-dirty, real-world source evaluation, but IT’S JUST THE START of good source evaluation. I’ve come to believe that our content area teaching faculty do a really good job with the teaching of deep reading strategies in their various content areas, but sometimes students need some explicit scaffolding/frameworks that we can use to activate the appropriate strategies in a given context.

This is, exactly, what SIFT does. Our students know how to search. Our students know strategies for learning about the person/organization that’s posted something online. When they’re looking for statistics on the percentages of people vaccinated in the hotel industry in Hawaii for a class activity, they don’t always think to apply that knowledge on-the-fly in that moment so it helps if a teacher can shorthand the strategies with, “Where’s that statistic from? Did you SIFT the source?”

I’m noticing that we need a similar scaffold or framework for the weighing of arguments so that students can better contextualize the data and arguments that they come across as they search. In debate classes, we call this “weighing the debate.” The Middle School Public Debate program teaches has a nice streamlined framework that works well:

  • Magnitude: Severity of the impact.
  • Scope: How many people an impact effects.
  • Probability: How likely an impact is to actually occur.

But there are other sources, like this one from the University of Texas at Austin that bring more nuance to the task:

I’m honestly not quite sure where to go with this, but that’s the goal for the next few weeks.

I hope that this post finds you well! I’d love to hear about your goals for the new year. Please hit the leave a reply button below and let us know!

So… With Charles Munger’s advice in mind, here’s to wishing each of you a Better Than Ambivalent New Year!!! #Yay!!! #LOL!!!

on source type struggles…

Helping kids understand source types is hard.

When I’m trying to teach kids about types of sources and what they do, I find myself feeling like more and more of an information dinosaur with each passing year. My reality is that the vast majority of my students’ research is digital. But… I’m a “librarian of a certain age” and my first instinct is to draw analogies to the print collection. When I’m working with kids I often want to use examples like, “These are like ‘World Book Encyclopedia’ type articles…” then realize that there is a very high likelihood that not a single student the class has ever actually used a print version of the World Book. #SoOld

Over time, I’ve learned to substitute web native equivalents to help students build mental models of source types that might be useful in their database searches. “If I imagine my perfect source right now, it probably looks like a Wikipedia article and in ‘database language’ they’d call that a reference source so let’s click on that reference link and see what we find.”

Increasingly, however, we’ve been finding that students just don’t have adequate mental models of source types to help them grow as online researchers. What follows is my messy, messy in-process of figuring stuff out efforts to help students build mental models for the information they inquire. #UnderConstruction

Putting a Tool Kit Together…

We emailed community college and university libraries in our area to see if anyone had copies of trade or academic journals that they were weeding and would share with us. We gathered two class sets worth of materials (we have two librarians and sometimes both of us are doing research lessons at the same time) and labeled magazine for a general audience with green stickers, trade/professional journals with orange stickers, and academic/scholarly journals with a yellow sticker.

When we’re working with classes we’ll typically have students take a sample of each type so they can thumb through each and maybe look through a neighbor’s. As someone who grew up (50 years ago) in a home that got, probably more than a dozen magazines a month, it’s wild to me that some of my kids seemingly very, very little experience with actual print periodicals. I’ve found that having these artifacts has been incredibly helpful for students! Sometimes #PhysicalArtifactsMatter

I’ve Given Up on Known Sources First As My Default…

Another vestigial tail I’ve had to shed because I’m old is that I clung to the idea that research always should go from print sources to database sources to web sources–in that order. In the perfect controlled world of my fantasies, this is great in theory. As a school librarian at a school with a heavy emphasis on project-based learning, a small print collection that serves 3rd-12th graders, and where projects and topics change every year, emphasizing print first just does not work for purely pragmatic reasons that are completely out of my control. Rather than die on that hill, we’ve worked on emphasizing SIFT source evaluation across the board and chosen to figure out how to arrive at instruction that fits the process our teachers and students actually use to do research rather than trying to impose my process on their assignments and projects. #NoFrozen #LetItGo

What This Looks Like When the Rubber Meets the Road…

When I’m doing a research lesson, I typically have students grab one copy of a source from each category. We have kids look through periodicals for a general audience and have them point out typical features. “There are colored pictures… It’s pretty understandable… Some are about lots of topics, but some are, like about one thing like surfing…

I then have them look at scholarly journals. “Looks super boring… Why is this only in black and white? Is this even English? …” #GottaLoveHSKids #Hahaha At this point, I like to ask the teacher to explain peer review and/or scholarly journals as they apply to their field/subject.

The last category we tackle are trade/professional publications.

Once students have some familiarity with types of print serials, we chat about who typically creates the content for each category and how each type of source might be helpful at different points in their research process.

Some on-the-fly white board notes from a class discussion on source types.

How It’s Going

We’ve got a ways to go, but I’ve been happy with the progress we’ve made by moving in this direction. One of the HAPPIEST outcomes has been that by giving students side-by-side samples of different source types, most come to an understanding that just because your assignment sheet requires “at least two citations from scholarly sources” that short circuiting the process and just searching for a peer reviewed journal article without doing the other foundational research is going to be a largely futile endeavor because if you can’t understand the concepts or vocabulary you end up with sources that are relevant, but not pertinent–they may was well be written in Greek… #Grin

A second, welcomed outcome has been that once they know that different types of print sources exist, showing students how to limit database search results by type actually makes some sense to them. By giving students reference points for “this is a magazine, but this is a trade publication, and this is a peer reviewed article” they seem much more able to parse the slight variations of source type labels used in different databases.

Again, it’s all messy and ugly and “in-process.”

I’d love so much to hear about how you are teaching source types and searching. Please hit the reply button below and share what you’re doing!

Happy Wednesday, all!

on SIFTing, SIFTing, and SIFTing…

I’m feeling a little self-conscious about the how much I know I have become “one-note Davey” when it comes to talking about what we’re focusing on instructionally in the information literacy, media literacy, research instruction space. To be completely honest it is literally almost all we’ve done instructionally since we started our ’21-’22 school year in the second week of August.

Apologies in advance if you’ve read previous things I’ve shared about Michael Caulfield’s SIFT methodology for checking online sources. If you have, you might want to skip down a few paragraphs.

What is SIFT?Michael Caulfield, Director of Blended and Networked Learning at Washington State University Vancouver, developed a magically simple four-step process for quickly evaluating and contextualizing online sources. The SIFT method, takes techniques and strategies commonly used by professional fact checkers and puts them together in a format simple enough that my 9th graders to learn and successfully apply in a 45-60 minute stand-alone lesson!

Never Waste a Good Crisis – Misinformation/Disinformation has always been with us, but events and the discourse of the last few years seems to have made teachers i work with acutely aware of the need to explicitly teach students skills, strategies, and dispositions needed to discern reputable sources from their less reputable cousins. Living in a new golden age of misinformation isn’t exactly something any of us would wish for but the reality on the ground is that, this is where we are so as librarians it would be a tragedy to waste a crisis foisted upon us.

During the first week of school, I sent versions of the following email to every teacher in our science department.

For the time being SIFT has, temporarily, become the entirety of our high school research curriculum. We have now introduced SIFT to almost every 9th grader through their science classes, and we’ve also had a chance to introduce SIFT to 6 or 7 jr/sr science classes as well (we piloted SIFT for the first time at the end of last year so our older students never got it). If you are just beginning your school year, DON’T WAIT!!!! Approach your science teachers before they get too deep into their content! The storm of misinformation around vaccines and masking has made science teachers very willing partners on infolit instruction! We’ve also found that working with these classes on SIFT has helped us to start collaborative conversations with teachers on other projects and skills they’d like to work together on!

Science teacher: “I really wish our kids could learn APA for science. Why do we have to use MLA?”

Me: “Uh… We don’t only have to use MLA! Nobody ever asked. LET’S DO IT!”

Science teacher: “And when we do that, can you help us with how to use databases?”

What Does all this SIFTing Instruction Look Like? – I use 4 introductory videos that Michael Caulfield created for CIVIX, a non-partisan group based in Canada, and posted to the Ctrl-F channel on Youtube. They’re embedded in a Libguides page and we watch the first two (very short) videos. We give students a sample sources to SIFT and simply have students try the strategies and techniques that have been introduced. When student(s) come to a conclusion we debrief and share the methods and strategies the students tried that helped them find success.

When it seems like the class is comfortable with the tools and strategies, we watch the second two videos and continue with practice samples.

Keep if Fast. Keep it Simple! – The sample sources that we have kids SIFT are meant to be easy to investigate, but I’ve tried to pick examples of sources that let us raise issues and strategies that I want kids to remember.

This sample using the publication Undark is a good starting point that says, “See, you can do this. It’s easy and it’s fast, but it works so it’s worth the investment of 90 seconds BEFORE you read the article!”

This sample using Goop allows us to talk about expertise. “So Gwyneth Paltrow is an Academy Award winning actor, if you were looking for information about becoming a successful actor would she probably be a well qualified source? Does expertise apply across different fields or domains? What do you think of this?”

Interestingly, I’ve had three different students talk about Dr. Fauci being an expert in diseases and vaccines, but maybe not baseball… Hahaha!!!

Being Transparent and a Little Humble Doesn’t Hurt – In the midst of teaching this lesson news broke about the owner of the Snopes site admitting to committing plagiarism. As Michael Caulfield recommends Snopes as a source for reliable, fact-checking, I decided to bring the issue up head on and have honest conversations with students about citation, attribution, and trust. I tell them honestly that I still use and trust Snopes because I have a long history with the site and I’ve checked enough of their stories over time that continue to believe in the integrity of their work as a whole, yet it is frustrating that i now feel the need to have this conversation with students when talking about using Snopes–and that if they don’t feel comfortable with the recommendation that, that is very legitimate and they should use other sites instead.

When students look at the Wikipedia article on the New York Post, they tend to conclude that it is a less than credible tabloid and therefore the story itself must be misinformation. I find that this is a good opportunity to show students the Google News tab where they quickly see that multiple news outlets that they know have reported the same story. This allows us to talk about how the SIFT process often actually doesn’t give us a black and white answer and THAT’S OK because what we are actually seeking as we SIFT is how to place this source IN CONTEXT. Understanding and using what a source has to offer in an appropriate context is also why we typically don’t want to rely too heavily on any single source.

SIFT is a Start, Not an End — Our juniors and seniors pick up on SIFT very quickly. We do some of the same exercises and cover the same ground as with our 9th graders, but with the juniors and seniors we use it as an opportunity to point out how better online journalism or open web sources typically link to the scholarly work that supports claims being made. “Trace those sources as close to their original context as you can get and typically try to cite the source that is the furthest up the chain.”

Reception from Kids — Feedback from students has been amazingly positive. Where there used to be a lot of frustrated eye rolling and heavy sighing from the last row (and sometimes the middle and first rows, too. LOL!!!). I’ve had students tell me, “I can use this!” As I see it, we can teach perfect techniques and strategies for source evaluation, citation, and annotation, but if kids just won’t use them unless they’re coerced to do so for points, we’re not really teaching source evaluation for a real world and for kids’ real lives.

When they leave us as graduates, I want my kids to have the information literacy knowledge, skills, dispositions, and habits necessary for them to thrive in a world of networked information.

  • How do I weigh the risks and benefits of a vaccine?
  • What are the costs and benefits of this policy on greenhouse gas emissions?
  • Is this policy change likely to do what its proponents say it will do and whose hypothesis is more likely to be correct based on their experience and/or expertise?
  • Which candidate running in the next election is most likely to represent the positions that I value?

In the highly complex world of networked information that we now finder ourselves navigating, two of the most valuable “commodities” individuals have to invest are our attention and our trust. Until recently, I feel like I haven’t been able to find a way to very effectively help students understand how to discern where and how to invest their attention and their trust. With our work on SIFT I am starting to feel like the pieces are coming together. We certainly have a way to go, but SIFT feels, to me, like we’ve taken a solid first step in the right direction! I hope you’ll give it some consideration in the work that you’re doing!

Happy new school year, everyone!

on attention to intention…

Happy summer, everyone!

I hope that this post finds you spending some of your summer off doing good work like our colleagues Christina and Tasha, traipsing about in the glens and gorges of Ithaca or sighting eagles in Washington. I too, spent three weeks treating my serious case of “tropical island rock fever induced wanderlust” with three weeks on the East Coast by visiting friends and family in New York, Rhode Island, Boston, and Maine that we haven’t been able to see in two years. On the way home from the East Coast, we stopped off and spent a week catching up with friends and former library colleagues in Los Angeles where we lived for 14 years. I know that there are many of you out there excitedly working on initiatives and projects that you want to implement next year, but very honestly, I just haven’t had it in me to think about my library at all for the last four weeks.

Things I have been thinking about instead of my library…

Georgian (the country, not the state 🤣) cheese boats!
Ring Dings!
Dinner with a view!
And maybe a short bike ride…

I’ve been back home here in Honolulu for almost a week now and yesterday I finally mustered the energy to go in and check on the library and pay some bills. It’s really interesting. I initially struggled with burnout pretty significantly during the spring of 2020 when we were in the initial COVID-19 lockdown and we were working completely from home. In October of 2020 we began a lengthy reopening process that saw us bring our PK, 1st, and 2nd graders on campus, then slowly bringing a grade at a time back to school. During this transitional time, middle school and high school faculty were allowed to teach remotely from home or to come to campus and teach remotely from their classrooms or offices. I choose to go to campus and work and teach from my empty library. This experience brought me to the realization that I am a person who is significantly influenced by my physical surroundings. When I was working completely from home my brain thought about the library 24-hours a day. My brain would not stop thinking about work–to the point that it was affecting my sleep. When I was able to return to my library space, the physical separation of my work space and my home space seemed to cue my brain to think about different things in each space. “Oh… We’re here in the library. It’s time to think about that news literacy module that we’re writing” vs. “Oh… I seem to be home now and there’s my bed so I guess I can stop thinking about work stuff and just worry about which of these characters might be Lady Whistledown…”

The experience of the last year and a half has made me realize that I need to pay much closer attention if I want to work with intention so that’s what I’m going to try to do starting right now in the space below. Please know that this is a first draft document…

Things I want to do with intention…

  • Reset our Library Culture–I think we had a pretty good pre-pandemic library culture going in our physical library space. We typically were bulging at the seams with kids in the space before and after school, and we had a good number of kids in our space every period of every day. That being said, sometimes I think that we tipped further toward “student lounge” than I sometimes desired. While I was perfectly fine with the balance of work to socializing ratio we had going most of the time, I’d like to work to reset the culture in the space so that we’re pretty loose before and after school, but work on being a little tighter on the “this is a space for relatively quiet work, reflection, and contemplation” during the middle of the day. The fact that our space as been virtually closed to drop in access by students for a year and half is actually a pretty rare opportunity to reset our school communities’ perceptions and expectations for the library as a place. I don’t want to squander that!
  • Build on “The Library is an Instructional Department” Mindset–Let’s be real, the pandemic has been hard and painful, but a silver lining in this experience has been that many more of our faculty colleagues have begun to see that the “Mid-Pacific Library” is ACTUALLY just as much an instructional program as it is a physical space. This is a mindset shift that I’ve worked to instill since I got to Mid-Pacific 7 years ago, but having an opportunity to able to work with teachers and their classes both synchronously and asynchronously WITHOUT A PHYSICAL LIBRARY SPACE seems to finally have helped a significant number of faculty let go of their pre-pandemic notions of what the “library” is; what the “library” has to offer; and what librarians know and can do! I’m hoping that we can continue to foster the new collaborations that emerged over the last year and a half and that these new “willing partners” will bring some of their friends along for the ride as well!
  • Lead the Way on “Non-Discipline Specific Concepts and Competencies”–Over the last year and a half, teachers’ reality ALL OVER THE WORLD, has been that they just have not been able to teach all the content, skills, and competencies that they thought they were teaching in a pre-pandemic world. Going virtual, virtually overnight and then having to teach cohorts of kids that were socially distanced with some learning from home, etc. really forced teachers to ask themselves WHAT REALLY MATTERS in what I’m teaching. I’ve started asking our academic curriculum chairs’ group and other teachers we’ve collaborated with, “So, when your students are 35 and perhaps working in a field that might not be directly related to your subject what concepts, competencies/skills do you want them to remember from this course/project?” What I’m finding is that the resulting discussions have frequently produced opportunities for us to collaborate on instruction in the information literacy, media literacy, and news literacy spaces that seemingly weren’t as available to us in the past. I’m hoping to keep this question on the front burner with our academic curriculum chairs’ group in the coming year.

I’m sure there’s a lot more, but that’s what I’ve got for now. I’d love to hear what you hope to do with intention in the upcoming year. Please his reply and share what you’re thinking in the comments below!

Have a safe, restorative, AND WONDERFUL rest of the summer, all!


PS–Something I suppose I’m not super intentional about is that someday I’d like to have six pack abs, but… Alas… Carbs are SO DELICIOUS!!! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

on my love affair with libguides, but feeling the need to have a wandering eye…

I’ve been a Libguides user for YEARS and I must say…

I ❤️ Libguides

I also know that I’m not alone. WAY BACK in 2014, CD McLean posted Libguides: My Most Favorite Tool.

I think the folks over at their parent company, Springshare, call them, “Lib [like liberty] guides,” but I don’t care and with my kids I’ve always referred to them “L-eye-b guides” since they’re guides to the library. I’ve heard other librarians argue that we should call them “research guides” since the platform branding really isn’t the concept we’re shooting for in our information skills instruction and that makes TOTAL SENSE, but I don’t care so I still call them “L-eye-b guides.”

Really, though, you know it’s been a long year. Let’s just all smile and agree to say it my way… Thanks for your cooperation! LOL!

If you’re not a Libguides user, no worries, it’s not all that complicated. At its most basic the Libguides platform is really just a really good and rather elegant web authoring and hosting platform. I think the reason that I’ve been so taken with Libguides over the years, though, is that it’s web authoring software that behaves like it was designed by librarians for librarians–the tools are tailored for librarians to very quickly and IMHO pretty intuitively organize content and resources the way that librarians want to organize content and resources.

A week or two ago librarian extraordinaire, Matt Ball, asked how people organized their database offerings to help students select the most appropriate database for their information need. The thread that transpired led to an interesting discussion that surfaced some really fascinating factors that librarians consider when creating the digital portal to their library’s resources and services. Things that people appeared to weigh as they organized resources for their students seemed to include:

  • What is your student population like?
  • At what grades or age groups is your site aimed?
  • Are all of your students Academic Search Complete or JSTOR power researchers or do you need to meet a broader range of research needs?
  • Are you a laptop school? iPad school? Other?
  • Is your curriculum structured and consistent where you know that middle ages primary source project is going to be launching in February so you can plan or are your students’ projects completely different from year-to-year?

Clearly, there were many more, but you get the idea. What I found fascinating was that librarians in the discussion indicated that they were having a lot of success with the A to Z database list feature in Libguides. As a librarian, I find this feature so freaking elegant! I LOVE it! But, alas, after I set it up, my kids found it bewildering and just wouldn’t use it.

We ended up using a more graphic approach to organizing our databases. Kids generally just wouldn’t read the scope notes and other text so I just got rid of all of it. It looks like here at Mid-Pacific we will be returning to all face-to-face instruction next fall so we’ll probably stick with our current database organization, but our icon only format only works if you have in-class face time with kids so they’ve been introduced to searching in Gale in Context: High School–otherwise known as that “pretty purple icon that’s probably a pretty good place to start almost any search” ahead of time.

I supposed this is all just a very long winded way of explaining, that as much as I love Libguides, I’m not really sure that I’m using enough of their elegantly powerful tools to justify my annual subscription costs. My program is decently funded, but I don’t have the luxury of a bottomless budget bucket and I’m finding that emerging digital resources like Sora for our eBooks and digital streaming databases that I’m think are becoming a new necessity are really forcing me to find efficiencies in my spending so I can stretching my budget as far as it can possibly go. Over the past two or three years I’ve thought long and hard about whether I can do what we’re doing on Libguides with Google Sites, Weebly, or other service. Each year, I’ve chosen to stay with my Libguides, but I’m finding it harder and harder.

Factors I’ve weighed in deciding to stay with Libguides or head off in a new direction:

I work with an younger librarian who is an amazing, talented, excellent, and hugely creative partner in the library, but I’m also a huge control freak. Our Libguides templates give us each flexibility to build research guides for classes with our own style, but keeps the look and feel on our site as a whole, consistent enough that no matter where you are on our site, you know you’re at the Mid-Pacific Library. .

We originally created “admin guides” that housed all of our main resources. When we were building project-specific research guides, we placed “linked boxes” on the new research guide. That new offspring box continued to be live linked to its parent on our admin page. When a database icon or URL got updated, replacing the new icon on the admin guide parent box automatically updates the icon on all of the offspring boxes everywhere else on our site. It’s elegant and saved us time which was hugely helpful when you’re a 2 librarian department in a PK-12 school with 1500+ students.

That being said, as time went on I found that as a 1:1 iPad school, our students seem to prefer a single long page that they scroll with most of the information in fewer boxes (Libguides boxes rearranged themselves and move around a page in a way that can be confusing when on a mobile device). That, combined with our move toward more icon and graphics dependent design lead to me doing far more “copying” of database buttons than use of linked boxes. I’m guessing there are better work flows to achieve what I do, but the result is that my work flow has negated the elegant linked box, parent box/offspring box capability of Libguides. When I last had to do a global update of some URLs, I was able to make do with a find/replace search from the admin page, but even now, I’m not super sure that I caught ALL of the necessary URLs that needed updating.

If I really had to, I know I could put together a simplified and probably a little more static web presence for my library. I’m just barely comfortable enough with HTML that I can make minor tweaks and get a page to do what I want it to do. That said, I think it would take more time and there would be some trade offs that wouldn’t kill me, but that I just really would prefer to not have to deal with if possible.

In the end, I think that I’ve continued to ante up the pretty significant subscription renewal because I am comfortable with the platform and I can get resources put together quickly with minimal thinking/learning as far as the authoring platform is concerned. I, honestly, don’t think that that is a wrong or a poor decision. It just, however, troubles me because those extra few hundred dollars mean fewer print books that get added to our K-2 collection or our MS/HS collection. Maybe I just need to get over the guilt and say, “It costs more, but I’m worth it! It’s OK to spend money on myself once in a while!” #LOL but also #Sigh

So that’s it… I’m still in love with Libguides, but I have wandering eye just to be sure it continues to be the right tool for my particular school’s needs.

How to you build your library’s web presence? If you’ve got a cost effective way to make stuff look good that you find works well, I’d REALLY love to hear (and see, so please share links to your library pages) about how you’re handling things! I love my Libguides, but I’ve got wandering eyes! 😉

PS–I’d love to see links to any and all Libguides alternatives, but if you’re a Libguides user, I’d love to see how you organize your resources too! Please hit reply and share a link to your site below!