Personalizing the Library/Research Experience

I dare say that if we all shared our independent school mission statements,  a theme would emerge offering assurance of a deeply personalized educational experience. We tend to promise smaller class sizes, world class faculty, group and individual advisory programs, a multitude of electives, practicums, and then there are the capstone programs, the plethora of PE options, and team sports.

We as librarians strive to know our kids’ names, their interests, and their reading  preferences so that we can be ready to suggest their next favorite book. We ask for syllabi, we interview teachers about upcoming assignments, we lurk on the school’s LMS to anticipate potential collaborations. [Dave admitted to snooping through cabinets. I will admit to snooping through syllabi. There, I said it.]

We have to know what research topics our teachers are assigning and/or what our kids are interested in so that we can develop the best print + digital collections and so that we can tailor research lessons for the group and their grade level. I’m preaching to the choir, right? Our sincere effort at deep personalization is in many ways these families’ return on investment.

My assistant and I have been discussing ways to deepen our library program’s personalization for the ’16-’17 school year. After reading and discussing The Personal Librarian: Enhancing the Student Experience for the #AISL16LA Board Book social, and then coming home to explore the concept of the embedded librarian, we have decided to pilot two programs starting this summer.

PROGRAM 1: Personal Librarians

Our school serves grades 9-12. My assistant and I will divide the incoming 9th grade class, not alphabetically, but by history class. We will reach out to said students via email (or emailed Youtube video?) this  summer and we’ll introduce ourselves, tell them a little bit about our families (pets, hobbies, strange and unusual tricks?!?!), our roles on campus, and we’ll introduce ourselves as their personal librarian and explain what this means.
[What it means for us: we will reach out to them quarterly, suggest some resources that could help in an upcoming assignment, tell them about some new books we have in the library that they might like to check out before an upcoming break, and we’ll remind them that we’re available for 1:1 appointments any time that they need us. No pressure, no requirements, only demonstrating that we know their names, we’re familiar with their assignments, and we’re hoping to make their lives easier.]

This isn’t really a new idea, is it? It’s just a marketing technique. A marketing technique that we mentioned recently during an admissions speed dating event with prospective parents. Parents whose eyes absolutely lit up when they heard about it. They wanted their own personal librarian! “Why can’t we all have personal librarians?!”, they asked. {Please know that I pointed them in the direction of their local public libraries in that moment.} Anyway, it went over really well. Admissions loves it. It’s another layer of personalization and it’s coming from the LIBRARY. To quote my  kids’ favorite mindless Disney Channel show, “Bam! What?!“.

Oh em gee, this Personal Librarian has pet prairie dogs. Reason no. 1,926,823 why librarians are the most interesting people ever. My intro will NOT be this interesting. However, I’m sort of loving the Youtube intro idea.

PROGRAM  2: Embedded librarians

We are meeting this week with the 9th grade history teachers to discuss just how embedded we might be. Everyone agrees that the one and done research lesson is not working for any of us. We can’t fit all that we need to fit into a single class period, we’re talking like auctioneers, our girls’ eyes are glazing over, and teachers aren’t seeing discernible improvements in their students’ processes or products. We can do better! What we’re proposing is this:

My assistant and I will divide the freshman history courses and we will go with the classes for which we are the girls’ personal librarians. We want to know their names, we want them to know that we are real, non-scary, non-shooshy people. In short, we want to build relationships and trust with our students and we find that that rapport is more easily obtained by regular face to face interaction.  Our school operates on an 8 day rotation with 50 minute periods. Each course gets one grab block per week, giving them a 75 minute meeting. We will use the weekly 9th grade history grab block to work with the girls on research skills, breaking our research lessons into 15 minute “mini-lessons”.

I want to use those mini lessons in two ways: one, to introduce them to the research process slowly and with repetition;  to our library catalog, our physical tools, and to teach them about our digital resources, as well as those critical web evaluation skills. Secondly, I  want to target source literacy.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was totally inspired by Nora Murphy’s #AISL16LA talk about the need for source literacy. I see us creating 15 minute source ‘petting zoo’ opportunities for our freshmen. I’m making notes as we speak on sources that I feel we could introduce in those 15 minute sessions, and homework we could assign to cement search processes of each. Off-hand I can think of print magazines (scholarly & popular) that we could expose the girls to, trade publications,  digital repositories: LOC, PBS, NPR, museum collections, NYPL, the National Archives, etc.

With all of this time spent in the classroom, I feel like we can use bigger chunks of time in the weeks leading up to research projects, quilting the skills together. Asking better questions. Anticipating relevant sources. Building keywords. Mining data. Employing advanced search techniques in the physical and digital worlds. Note taking. Paraphrasing. Citation.

If you could use the comments below, I’m interested in hearing what else you think might be appropriate to include in the information literacy/source petting zoo. Are you already doing the personalized or embedded thing? If so, how’s it working for you?

We’re thinking of proposing a session at NOLA to engage in a conversation about personalizing library services.  If you are employing either of the strategies we’re piloting, or if you’re doing something completely different, and might like to apply to co-present, please let me know!

Wishing you all the best as you leave APs and slide into finals. Happy spring, ya’ll!


Barriers to Access

If it is possible for one’s PD cup to run over, mine is. In the past two weeks, I have been to two amazing conferences. First,  NEAISL at the lovely Milton Academy for a one day, action packed conference. Just a few days later, I headed to Los Angeles for the annual AISL conference, where I found myself surrounded, once again, by world class librarians from across the US and Canada, visiting beautiful, innovative library spaces in and around LA. My next thousand blog posts could be reflections on the new ideas that I have come home with, consider yourself warned.

What I thought I  might attempt in this first reflection piece is to identify a common theme that ran through both conferences. It’s about access to information.

NEAISL & Ebsco’s Discovery Service

NEAISL proved that our regional EBSCO rep has been very, very busy of late. Most of us are either-mid trial, in our first year or two with the product, and a few of us are well seasoned, early adopters of the technology.  I don’t refer to EDS here in the ‘to have or not to have’ context, Alyssa did an excellent job in sharing the pros and cons of the program in an earlier post. I do want to share a catchy quote that I heard at NEAISL though. One librarian observed, “Our students don’t care which database their information came from. They only want to access the information quickly, to find valid results that are easy to cite,  rich and varied enough to make their teacher happy, then they’re moving on.” Truth. So yes, I do like Discovery. That isn’t the point of this post, though. The point is ACCESS, with or without Discovery.

Jenny Barrows of the Hopkins School said,  “our students will never find our best materials if we have crappy records”. She and her colleagues believe that our shelves can practically sparkle with a quality, well honed collection, but the reality is that our students are still going through the computer to search for sources. Like all the time. They do not browse. They WILL NOT find our books if they are badly cataloged.

She and her team of 3  began a descriptive catalog project, hoping to increase access points. Read all about it and learn the steps it takes to implement in your own library here.

In essence, bad cataloging blocks our students’ access to information. This is going to take some time, but we need to be as diligent in weeding our records as we are in weeding our shelves. 

Welcome to Katie’s Summer Project Numero Uno. Good times! 

Speaking of cataloging/barriers to access, Liz Gray just shared this thought provoking article via Facebook. Do you check to make sure that your records are politically correct and not potentially offensive to your community?

On a semi-related note, do you think about teenagers’ natural language searching  or do you stick with standardized subject headings?

AISL16 & Access: Source Illiteracy as block to access

How can we access that which we are not aware of?

The next ‘access issue’ that I want to address is one that I thought long and hard about after attending what was easily one of the best conference sessions I have ever experienced. It was given by Nora Murphy of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, and is taken from an article that will soon be published in KQ…be on the lookout! Note: Nora is one of my new librarian sHeros. Check out her amazing library website.

Nora did not present the material as an access-issue, per se. I’m taking liberties with that part, but just go with it for a moment. I think hope that it will make sense in the end.

frog   axolotl




Nora began her presentation by showing us an image of a frog and an axolotl. Frogs are the publications that we are familiar with–magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, etc. (Note: not all of our kids know that these frogs are frogs.) Axolotls are things that resemble frogs, but really aren’t–they could include trade journals, government documents, blogs, and social media.

We as adults and professionals observe, categorize, ask questions. Our students aren’t typically this savvy (or simply have no exposure from which to draw).

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

From the Virtual Library. Used with permission via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Nora argues that we are missing a piece between location & selection of sources.

<——-Source Literacy goes here. This gap gets in the way of research in a serious way.

Source literacy requires knowledge of source types. What it is, where it exists, what it contains, who creates it, and why. Like anything we teach, we have to expose kids repeatedly to sources or they will forget. Nora suggests that we systematically create a bank of knowledge for them to draw on in the future.

She is all about the Source Bank.

Here’s an example she gave:

9th health class asks, “Why isn’t everything in the grocery store organic?”. What sources do you imagine will have relevant information on this topic? They think of some newspapers, a magazine or two, but really they don’t know much and aren’t able to predict what kinds of sources would have good information on farming, the food industry, or current trends.

How do we expand their source literacy beyond basic, standard publications?

Here’s another idea for a US History class. Convince their teachers that kids MUST know what an oral history is. It’s critical. Invite the teacher(s) to plan with you, to co-teach, co-assess—a unit, a year long goal, over next 3 years we will x, y, and z, whatever fits your school culture, but knowing that the repetition of a concept is what it takes to place it into long term memory.

9th Create assignment, what is an oral history? Characteristics? Do something with it.

10th grade: Studying the impact of religious, cultural, or racial persecution.

Explore sources that contain oral histories:

  • Holocaust Museum
  • Documents of the American South
  • LOC Civil Rights Project

Create a Digital Sourcebank. She likes Trello because it allows students to annotate (how they used a source, what they thought of it at the time, etc.

Nora is piloting Trello with a few of her students. She showed us an example of a students’ work exploring the China/Tibet Relationship. The student had created columns in her source bank which included: Preliminary/Informal sources (idea generation), Core sources (print and digital), Necessary Bias—she needs to consider, but knows it represents a particular point of view (HOW GREAT IS THAT REALIZATION?!), and finally, Visual Texts. Notice: the student is categorizing her own sources.

The benefit of the source bank being formed early in the research process is that it allows for source assessment EARLY ON, not when the bibliography is turned in.

There are so many wonderful, free resources out there, but if our students haven’t had exposure to a lot of different kinds of publications, frogs and axolotls alike, how can they possibly generate the kind of sophisticated, open source, research that could lead them to relevant results?

If we do not make source knowledge a priority, then aren’t we ourselves, a sort of human barrier to our students’ access?

I’ve hit you with a lot of information here. What are your thoughts? Please comment below. And please, if someone’s comment resonates with you, chime in! The more we can discuss, the better.

Library of Things

It’s interesting to think about how successful programs from the Academic or Public Library world might be applied to the independent school library. There’s the Maker Movement, of course, we have green screens and A/V editing, but one thing that we haven’t talked about yet on Independent Ideas is the ‘Library of Things’ concept. It was Dartmouth’s tool library that caught William Kamkwamba’s attention and convinced him to come study (and tinker) there. The Sacramento Public Library is lending things like sewing machines, Go Pros, board games, and crafting supplies. Others are lending scientific equipment, tools, musical instruments, and wifi hotspots. Check out this excellent NYT article for more.

Last year we purchased two GoPro cameras, head and chest straps, and of course, the beloved selfie stick, and the queue to check them out has never waivered. The swim team uses them to capture underwater footage to use in their end of year awards banquet movie. Class historians take them on retreats to capture live shots on ropes courses, an aspiring filmmaker is using one as part of her Capstone project and they go on field trips where students are studying neighborhoods and conducting interviews. Currently, one is on the Galapagos Spring Break trip, capturing footage of biodiversity that most of us in Troy, NY will never have the chance to see for ourselves.

Blue footed booby anyone?


“Blue Shoes” by Michel is licensed under CC by 2.0.

The other GoPro is strapped to the chest of a girl as she hikes Peru and will likely capture the plunge of her scheduled bungee jump, as well. We may have to take Dramamine before we watch that footage.

Before you ask, I do not have a formal “if you break, lose, or if this is stolen, you will replace this” document that I require students to sign, though I probably should. We talk about the cost to replace and I do email them essentially saying the same and ask them to reply and agree. So technically, I do have something in writing. In fact, there was a sailing incident over the summer with a rogue gust of wind, and a GoPro is at the bottom of a deep lake somewhere.  It was replaced before school began.

I’m not sure how far we will venture onto the “library of stuff” path. With just two of us, there are a lot of pieces to juggle (the GoPro adapters, chargers, memory chips, and accessories alone require much documenting so that we can be sure that we get each complete set back), but we are exploring and it’s fun to think about!

An even easier idea that we are implementing this spring is the “Book Club in a Bag”. Not a new idea, public libraries have been circulating them for years, but we wanted to give it a go. We have created 4 “kits” to encourage pleasure reading, to plant seeds for future book clubs, and to get some really good books into the hands of our students.

To date, we have 4 bags. We have filled them with five copies of the following titles: Dumplin by Julie Murphy, Cutting for Stone by Abraha Verghese, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini. We are including discussion questions to get the group started, recipes or activities inspired by the book, and referring them to any supporting online material. They can use the material or come up with ideas of their own. Each book is numbered using a sticker, but the bag itself is what we’re cataloging. The student who checks out the bag is responsible for returning it as a complete set. We think that this will work especially well because we’re a boarding/day school, but really, I think that this could work in any school! All kids crave autonomy, but upper schoolers are primed to try their independence on for size, with little, if any guidance from adults in their lives.

I’m interested to hear if you’re into the ‘Library of Things’. Has your school tried the Human Library concept? What are you circulating (other than books, laptops, or eReaders)? Please comment below so that we can all benefit from your wisdom and exerience!

Embracing Fanfiction

When talking books with a group of seniors before winter break, one of the girls said, “My friends don’t think that I’m a reader, but I actually read all the time! It’s Fanfiction. They don’t think that counts, but it totally does! I read hundreds of pages a week, actually.”

Apparently, I have been living under a rock.

O.k. so maybe not completely under a rock. I have heard tale of certain infamous Twilight Fanfiction that came in various shades of…poorly written mega-bestselling material. But the Fanfic this student was referring to, and that of which her group of friends began passionately extolling on, was not about that  business. It’s an entire world…a world made of fandoms. Have you seen sites like this?


Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 8.57.39 PM


They LOVE IT. In our five minute conversation, I heard about story lines inspired by characters from books, television series, and video games. I heard that some of it is poorly written, some is gratuitous R rated material that they deem me too young and innocent to read :), but according to these girls, some of it is really, really good (and addictive). They’re reading. A lot.  And some of them are contributing their writing. I want to know more. Quite honestly, I want to know about what they’re reading, from comics to the Classics.  If I try their suggestions, I feel like they will be more open to trying mine.

So, what to do?

Acknowledge it.

Discuss it as a community. If this group of five is this into it, who else can contribute to the conversation?

Encourage them to create some of their own?

After reading this School Library Journal  Guest Post by Christopher Shamburg… When the Lit Hits the Fan in Teacher Education, I’ve decided to add a unit on Fanfiction this week in my senior English elective (I blogged about this class last year). However,  I think it’s something that we could all do as librarians. Perhaps an all school program, a collaboration with your English department, a fun activity for your book club, or an after school activity?

Per Shamburg’s recommendation, I’ve done a bit of research into the history of Fanfiction. I can’t wait to talk to my students about Shakespeare in particular. And then there’s Fanfiction of biblical proportions. “Paradise Lost” anyone? This could (and is) an entire course at universities. Lacking a degree in literature, I know that will touch on the proverbial tip of the iceberg, but I think that it will be a fun way to engage with texts in a new way.

I’m looking forward to hearing what influences my students have noticed in works that they have read. I read March by Geraldine Brooks years ago and liked it, yet I didn’t know the word “Fanfiction” then. I just thought, “Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, Little Women style”.


Think about these Fanfic writing prompts (offered again by Shamburg):

·      Alternate Perspective—the story is told from the point of view of another character. For example, what would the Cinderella story be like if the stepmother told it? (Or maybe the father from Little Women?)

·      Missing Scenes—scenes that are not in the original story, but would make sense in it.

·      Alternate Universe—a major character or event in a story is changed, and a “What If…” scenario ensues.

·      Alternate Realities—characters from one story enter the world of another story.

·      Sequels—the story that happens after the original story.

·      Prequels—the story before the original story.

·      Self Insert—the story is rewritten with an avatar (representation of the author). For example, what would a Harry Potter adventure be like if you were in the story?

(Shamburg, 2008, 2009)

I’m going to ask them to choose one of the above scenarios, to adopt their author’s tone and writing style as much as possible, and to add a Fanfic chapter to their story. I might even ask them to weave together all four books that they read throughout the semester for a final creative writing exercise. How fun would that be ?!

Are any of you members of a Fandom that you’d care to share?

Is anyone doing anything with Fanfiction at school? If so, I would love to hear about it. Please use the comment section to share your ideas with us all!

Break’s coming…are you ready?

In years past, I have prepared for the upcoming winter break by creating my own “Eighth Wonder of the World”, aka ” The Great Wall Of Break Reads”, by lining the wall around the fireplace pit in the center of my library with good books.


The rest of the collection is upstairs in tall stacks so there isn’t a ton of room for book displays. It works in that it puts the book covers in girls’ faces. They see the glossy print books and are reminded that they will soon have ample time in which to veg out and read. It’s good! English teachers have brought their classes in to “shop”, have asked me to book talk the wall, and it’s given me the chance to promote Overdrive, too, if there’s a lot of competition over individual titles.

Downside: it only reaches those who enter the library. While I would like to claim that 100% of our students spend their days in our space, it’s simply not so.

Other downside: I’m still up to my neck in shelving after this year’s “Researchmageddon”. Anyone who says the print book is dead should come visit after the final drafts of fall research papers are turned in. I’m being conservative in how many more books I pull. I think it’s called “Shelving PTSD”. It’s a thing, I promise.

So where can we go to reach 100% of them, to increase our odds of checkout and decrease the things we take back and shelve?

We head to the dining hall, that’s where!

The day before Thanksgiving break, my assistant and I carted over armloads of books that we were prepared to talk, new and classic alike, and set them up on a table outside the dining hall, where every student would pass. We brought two laptops with barcode scanners and made a quick banner out of butcher paper that read “POP UP LIBRARY! Get your break reading here!!”.

There was a line, friends, a line! We checked books out to students and adults alike.  We  talked books with girls we had never talked books with before. We learned about their lives, we learned about some big time competition we didn’t even realize was competition…fan fiction. [More on this in a future blog post. Stay tuned.] We invited them to write reviews for our library blog when we returned from break. When all was said and done, we checked out all but a few of the books we had taken over and had very little to carry back. I only found one book in lost and found later.  🙂 All in all, I’d call it a success!

I’m thinking of moving the pop up library around campus and making it into a hashtag game, sort of like the food truck phenomenon. We’ll definitely do it again Thursday and Friday this week, but we’re open to other ideas too! What do you do to promote break reading at your school?

Also, if you haven’t already read “I’ll Give You the Sun”, stop what you’re doing and grab it for your own break reading. Best YA book I’ve read in a long time.

Wishing you all a restorative winter break and a happy, healthy 2016!

Plagiarism in a Digital Age

On October 29th, the New York Times published an article by Lionel Anderson and Katherine Schulten entitled Understanding Plagiarism in a Digital Age. If you haven’t read it yet, please, leave this blog post right now and take a moment to do so. I’ll wait.

Close Up of the thinker


This is me waiting patiently, just thinking…


Alright, you’re back. What did you think?

When an English colleague brought the article to my attention, I thought, “EUREKA! A good upper school blog topic! Let’s see how other librarians react to and/or are already handling this!” It is an ongoing conversation in my world and I would imagine it is in yours as well. We want to do it better. Maybe you can help?

Stating the obvious:

We are all dealing with busy, busy teens living in a digital age where one can copy and paste faster than one can actually say the words “copy and paste”. We mash up songs and retweet the ideas that resonate with us. We truly are a part of a sharing culture.  Shmoop and Spark have become verbs describing pre-class reading to prepare for a literary discussion, with or without an accompanying quiz. Can original thought survive such preparation, or are others’ words becoming the “barbs” that Anderson and Schulten refer to in the article?

What if you’re working with a multi-cultural population with different notions of intellectual ownership? If these students plan on attending American universities, isn’t it our responsibility to teach them the American rules of attribution?

I want to know how we can step down from the proverbial soapbox and speak to our upper school students like the young adults that they are. To stop preaching and scare tactics to engage with them in a genuine conversation that will instill the wisdom and the skills to read, to engage with a text, to synthesize, and to attribute. How do we weave this into our school culture, not just for a few minutes when handing out an assignment or during a Noodletools intro during a library visit? We need more.

This isn’t a new question, I know. I’m culling research to share with the committee I’m on and holy wow, there’s a lot out there on it. Information overloadddddd!!!!! I can read all of that, but I want to hear tried and true: what’s working for you and  your school?

Does your school have something like the ‘Plagiarism Learning Lab’ concept mentioned in the article?

Do you lead the conversation or is it another department, like English or history?

Do you work plagiarism discussion into other areas of school life, like advisory conversations, an opening week seminar, or your senior retreat?

What are you doing to address plagiarism in the digital age?

Adding some STEAM to your library program

Over the summer, I attended the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools conference entitled From STEM to STEAM: Girls’ Schools Leading the Way,  held at the gorgeous St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, VA. A colleague and I did a 20 minute “speed dating”  presentation on our school’s capstone program, which began in large part due to the interesting work our students were doing in their STEM internships and Advanced Arts projects.

It was a really good conference, but there was a gap for me. I didn’t meet a lot of librarians there nor were there any library-specific sessions. There were some tangential offerings that I found useful (notes here), but it made me wonder, where is the STEAM in our libraries?


Shorecrest Makerspace visit, AISL 2015.


Can I ask this, though? Who among you is an UPPER SCHOOL with a thriving Maker Space? I was blown away with Dottie and Courtney’s program at Shorecrest during last year’s annual conference, but I want to see one of that caliber flowing through the life of an upper school library. I don’t mean next door to or across campus, I would love to see one built within the books, old school and new school seamlessly meshed. Does such a place exist? If so, can you please comment below so that I can put in a PD request to come visit you?

A rep for Creative Learning Systems recently visited my school to speak with our STEAM team lead. She passed the packet along knowing that it would excite me. Spoiler alert: it did. Did you watch the video?! I will wake up at the crack of dawn in late October and drive down to Orange, NJ  to see a public high school class using their Smart Lab, to talk with the kids and with the teachers and managers of the space.  There is no way that I can afford something like this, but I love the concept and I want to think about incorporating it within our library space. If not piece by piece, then maybe a pitch to development to take on the road at some point.

So here are my questions for YOU.

Should existing curriculum drive space/tool design or is it an “if you build it, they will come” situation?

Are you doing a low tech version of this successfully in your upper school?

If so…

Who manages your space?

Who cleans up–students, teacher whose class is using the space, or library staff?

If it’s not a maker space that ties into STEAM, what is your tie in? [Other than your awesome collection development skills, that is.]

If you were going to present at a STEAM conference, what would you present?

I am literally at the edge of my seat, waiting to hear your response. 🙂

Have a great day!

Spicing Up Book Promotion

There is a certain magic that happens when you find just the right book for a patron, isn’t there? For me, it’s that look in their eyes when they pass by in the hall, stopping in their tracks and greeting me with an enthusiastic, “Oh my goodness, I’m at the part where _____!” or “I read until 2 a.m. and I am so tired but oh wow, it was so worth it.” It’s one of those pinch me, I’m getting paid to do this, moments for me.

This year, I hope to spice up my matchmaking attempts. I’m going to share a few ideas here and I hope that you will add to the list using the comments below!

  • Promote Peer Readers’ Advisory.
    In my last library, I started a blog dedicated to book reviews. To generate student reviews, I created a competition between English classes–the class with the largest percentage of participation, creating well-written, *usable*, original reviews (added after a student copied/pasted one from Goodreads–a teachable moment ;-))–with the winning class getting a donut party from a local shop. Dunkin’ might have done the trick, but supporting local business is awesome and those donuts were a-maz-ing. I got approximately 80 good reviews a year employing the donut bribe…ahem, I mean competition.This activity allows you to teach the elements of a good review, to boost student confidence when you email them to say “your review has been selected to feature on the blog this week!”, and  really is effective in inspiring your community to talk about books. I also encouraged all adults in the community to write reviews to share their love of reading with our students. So easy. You can post as often as you like, write a few reviews yourself, your communications department can share the site with alums, prospective families, etc. You could easily do this with book trailers, podcasts or other promotional materials.
  • Student Volunteers
    If you are short on tasks and long on your list of student volunteers, why not give them the autonomy of creating and maintaining a reading campaign? READ posters, book displays with index card reviews (a la independent book stores), Flickr Photo Streams of friends “caught reading” around campus, creative assembly announcements maybe?
  • Pop Up Library
    Where will the pop up library appear next? A lunch table? In a dorm alcove? In an unused classroom? Outside the college counseling office? You could promote new books, particular genres, beach reads before breaks, Overdrive titles and downloading instruction. Use social media to share where you’re set up, sort of like the floating food truck phenomenon that happens in bigger cities. Bring an iPad with the Destiny app and check out to students on the spot!
  • Speed Dating
    I was so inspired by the brilliant Sarah Kresberg of the Allen Stevenson School, who used this speed dating program to promote reading in her community, I hope to replicate some version of this in my school this year. I asked Sarah to share her program details here, so that we might all benefit from it. Thanks Sarah!
    The goal: to introduce teachers to some of the best and most appealing books published over the past three years and encourage them to read some of them
    Age groups: we offered three simultaneous sessions – Teachers of K-3, 4-6, 7-9. Everyone from those divisions came, no matter their subject area.
    Team:We have three librarians (Liz Storch- Upper School, Bonnie Tucker – Lower School and me in the Middle School) so each one ran a session with our library associate (Pilar Okeson who has now left) taking care of a lot of the set up.
    Timing: a faculty meeting during Allen-Stevenson Book Week in November.
    Promotion: since attendance was compulsory we didn’t have to do much but we did make large posters to place at the entrance of each session. We also made book marks on our theme to give at the end (hopefully inside a book that they were checking out!)
    The hook: since it is speed dating we adopted a valentine theme. When teachers entered they were offered Prosecco and sparkling water in plastic champagne glasses. We baked shortbread hearts, made chocolate dipped strawberries and scattered hershey’s kisses and rose petals. We also played music. We stood around eating, drinking and chatting for about twenty minutes before beginning which put everyone in a great mood!
    The activity: We put together large tables and placed a clipboard, worksheet and pencil (red, naturally) at each table. The worksheet listed all the titles that were included in the speed dating, with three columns next to the titles. The columns were headed ‘Love at First Sight’, ‘Worth a Second Look’, ‘Not My Type’. I went over ways you can evaluate a book quickly (examine cover, read blurb, read Library of Congress summary, start reading the first page etc.)
    We handed each teacher a book. The teacher had 90 seconds to examine the book and put a check mark in the column to indicate their interest in the reading the book. At the end of the 90 seconds I directed them to pass the book to their left.
    The outcome: (This is the what happened in the Middle School session I was running)
    Everyone loved it. So much so that they suggested that I run one for parents (I ended up doing one for middle school parents in February). After a while the teachers wanted to take a break to talk about ideas they had had while doing the activity. After talking we decided that we would have each faculty member sponsor a  different summer reading book, offering book discussion groups on the first day back to school this September. We didn’t get many check outs that day although a few teachers did come back to check out books another day. I would have liked to have seen more books circulate. However what we mainly achieved was an increased awareness of newer children’s literature. Also, those teachers who are really into children’s books were able to share their enthusiasm with other teachers. It was great hearing teachers of music, science etc. talk about the books so that it doesn’t seem like solely the domain of the librarian. I was trying to get across that there is so much great children’s literature out there, and our boys would love to see their teachers reading some of them. If they see kid lit on a teacher’s desk they are going to start a conversation about it.

Note, the one piece that she omits is her donning of a rock-star-sassy-leather-pant-clad-librarian outfit for the program–not all of us could pull this off, but hey, wouldn’t it be fun trying? 🙂

These are but a few ideas for going beyond the traditional book display to promote books and reading. What do you plan to do to spice up book promotion in your library this year?

Ode to a 12 Month Employee

I thought about how to title this post as I walked home for lunch…some of my other thoughts included “Pros and Cons of working during the summer”, and “Hello <hellooo, hellooo> is there anybody out there <out there, out there>??!.

So yes, I’m still walking home for lunch. Then back to work. Most of you, I hope, will be alerted of this new blog post from your poolside seat, or perhaps working in your garden, sweat on your brow, or your phone will buzz in your pocket as you push your child on a swing, or as you sit catching up with a long neglected friend over coffee, or <gasp!> maybe you’re reading a good book?

I say good for you, 10 month employee, good. for. you.

I am only a teeny bit jealous.

You see, there are things to get done in my world. Things that I simply can’t find time to do during the school year. Here are a few of my major tasks to complete over the next 6 weeks:

  • Go through the thousands of books donated to me by faculty moving homes, offices, by those retiring or simply those purging their shelves at the end of the year. I’ll keep the things we need and sell the rest through Thriftbooks, splitting shipping and proceeds. I’m saving up to fund stage 1 of a Learning Lab concept that I’m excited to try out here. More on that in a future post. Anyway, books are stacked everywhere. It’s insane.
  • Complete inventory of print collection. Disclosure: has not been done since 2010. I’m going in. This could be interesting. If you don’t hear from me in a week, someone call for help.
  • Weed like crazy.
  • Add weeded books to aforementioned boxes of books headed for resale.
  • Migrate to Libguide 2.0. Loved the posts about pulling old content and reposting updated material as needed during new school year. Have decided not to spend tons of time mulling over migration and losing content. I’m just ripping off the bandaid and migrating, fixing as I go next year.
  • Creating curriculum for Sophomore Advising Program. While I have you, are any of you lead class advisors? Do you work with Sophomores? Care to share any big advising program successes?
  • Create a playbook of mini research lessons for teachers to choose from next year, a la carte if you will.
  • Replace dinosaur self check-out computer with iPad station. Has anyone already done this? Do you have a mount that you prefer that allows the camera to be used to scan barcodes using the Follett App?
  • Create as much newsletter content as possible so that I can adhere to my bi-monthly newsletter goal (swallowed last year by putting out fires continuously). Database profiles, good books I’m reading this summer (YES, 10 monthers, I am still reading. So far, “Saint Anything”, “The Attachments”, and I’m just finishing up “The Red Tent”…all very good reads), cool apps for education, blogs to follow, that sort of thing.

You get the picture.  You know what the weirdest part is? I’m pretty o.k. with this. Granted, we are spending mucho dinero on summer camps for 3 kids and there is a ton of fun stuff to do in this area in the summer months which will have to wait for the weekends, and I *completely get* that doing non-work related things is totally necessary for recharging one’s battery (soul??).

It’s also really, really nice to check things off the work to-do list to give professional peace of mind, and to run an effective library program during the school year. Especially for the solo-librarian. If I had a team to divide the to-do list with, I don’t think that I would find the summer months as necessary as they are. That makes me a little sad to type, but it’s the truth.

I’m a loud librarian and it’s creepily quiet in here. By August, I’m going to be be standing outside waving people in.  I thrive on the life and activity that my students provide in the space, but it’s also really nice to wear shorts and flip flops, to blast my favorite Pandora station, and to just get *stuff* done.

And can I just tell you how much I’m looking forward to a 3 week southern adventure with my children later this summer? I will be leaving my laptop at home.

Time to get back to it. I hope you enjoy whatever it is YOU are doing this summer.

On Upper School Students Leaving the Nest

One of my favorite days post-conference is the day when I get to test a new idea on my community. Sometimes these ideas come from “big” presentations, keynotes, workshops and such. Sometimes they come from bus rides or a mealtime conversation. Oftentimes they come from a pajama-clad late night conversation with my roommate. Today, thanks to roommate and librarian extraordinare, Shelagh Straughan, I got to put a new idea into practice and it was so much fun!

Shelagh calls her work with seniors “Graduate Guidance”. She works with them en masse during their “guidance period”, a time built into their schedule that is used for college counseling and such, which becomes free time once college acceptances and commitments have been made. I don’t have such a period, but I do have a two-day senior retreat where our girls go as a class to sleep in cabins and to participate in real-life workshops–everything from changing a tire to cooking to budgeting in college. Before I throw my hat in for a coveted retreat slot, I decided to test Shelagh’s exercise on my Senior English class this morning.

It’s all about transitioning from our smaller space, collection, and program to the grand world of university libraries. It’s a new way of thinking about librarians as subject specialists, about physical libraries spread throughout campus, each with unique attributes and study environments, many focused on a specific discipline. It’s teaching them about the human floaties that they will use in the ‘information tsunami’, librarians who will happily help them explore massive print & digital collections to find the best sources. It’s also a new world of paying for things!! CHA-CHING! To print, to make copies, for late fees.  For some, it’s a shift from Dewey to LC. It’s a world of chat reference,  study spaces in varying shapes, sizes, and in close proximity to caffeine; there are innovative information commons spaces, loft desks, presentation practice spaces and more! Exciting stuff!!

I love that it’s a real, candid conversation about the future.  I especially love Shelagh’s suggestion that I set it up so that the conversation continues with regular feedback from a select group about what they’ve found once they arrived at college–what they were well prepared for, what they wish they had known, and what advice they can offer future seniors. I added on a request for  some library design reconnaissance.  Girls have promised to send me pictures of cool furniture, space design, etc. for my idea book. 🙂

Shelagh graciously emailed me her materials.

Here’s how I spun it:

1. I asked my students to read this article before class. Pointers to the bathroom, really people?

2. I tweaked Shelagh’s slides to fit my audience (had to remove those crazy Canadian spellings 😉 ).

This is my presentation, merged with Shelagh’s.

3. Following the discussion, I distributed this  handout. Students examine their own university library’s web site, or if they were undecided or planning a Gap year, they looked at several universities of interest. This generated tons of good discussion! So much good conversation that we are continuing this into our next class!

Conclusion: This was an excellent exercise. At one point, I noticed that my students were looking a bit ‘deer in headlights’. I asked them what was wrong. They said that it made this next chapter “feel more real than it has before”. Like, this is really happening and they need to get ready for it. We talked a lot about all the adventures that await them, of the abundance of support that will be provided to help them learn about new resources, of the fun in checking out innovative spaces, seeking out study nooks that feel right for them.

They were so excited about images of collaborative group spaces and the concept of the information commons. They were affirmed to acknowledge  the pieces that they already know–Libguides, LC, printing, scanning, ILL. They were excited to learn about all the ways that they can reach out–they liked the ability to chat, to request items via a much larger ILL consortium, and to access course reserves. Some noticed exciting features such as a text reference feature, a college library that offered to edit students’ papers(?!), and more going on at their respective schools.

Again, a big shout out and “thank you!” to Shelagh, who humors my incessant late night talking at AISL conferences, and to the presenter at AISL Nashville who inspired her to create this program.

Now tell me, Upper School Librarians, do you offer a similar program at your school? I would love to learn more! It’s been a long time since I used a university library. What else do you share with your students?