Very Important Summer To-Do List

My last day of the (epic, crazy, stressful, pandemic, pivot) school year was June 8th. Like most of the year, that feels like months and yet only seconds ago. I’ve complied a few items on my Very Important Summer To-Do List, and I’d like to share them with you.

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Yes, I’ve already taken a nap! A few actually, so I’d like to consider myself an advanced napper. In fact, just today, I decided to listen to my body and take that nap rather than stress over an errand I can just as easily take care of tomorrow. Speaking of listening to my body, that brings me to my second Very Important Summer To-Do List accomplishment…

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Let’s not pretend we don’t know EXACTLY what I’m talking about here. (And if you actually don’t, please let us in on your secret.) You can see that I’m setting a really high bar for myself here, but I decided that simple is good after this past year we survived. Sometimes just relearning (and ACCEPTING) the basics is where we need to begin in order to reset.

Now here’s one that I’ve never been able to accomplish in the summer, especially not last summer. (Who else was on a million Covid task force committees?) However, a very trusted colleague suggested that I try it. She said that instead of worrying about things I could not control over the summer I should instead focus on “self-care” and the fact that there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be addressed in the fall.

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I plan on adding to my Very Important Summer To-Do List, especially if I find myself falling into old behaviors. For example, I plan on actually eating lunch sitting down and not at a desk. (I know, weird.) What are some things you’d include on a lighthearted Very Important Summer To-Do List?

Whenever your school year ends, I wish you a restful, happy, safe, and healthy summer. We did it!

Personal Pan Pizza & Reading

Do you (or your kids) remember participating in the Pizza Hut reading programs? As I look at the book covers decorating my windows, it occurs to me that I would have earned a boatload of pepperoni.

The reasoning behind this decor is two-fold:

  1. Inspire students to to find new books and see what other people are reading
  2. To remind me what I’ve read (seriously, I cannot keep it straight, nor can I remember who wrote what).

That being said, I am running out of room.

And I’m definitely starting to have trouble seeing out.

You may be asking, why are you using up all your laminating and blocking your view of the library? Well, I want to model reading for pleasure for my students in the hopes that they ALL become enthusiastic readers. (Dream big, amirite?) As I am looking towards next year, I wonder if this is the most effective way to share the books I’ve read. I have seen students standing outside my window with their heads tipped back as if they are attending an air show, so I know it’s being used. I’ve also encouraged fellow faculty and staff to display what they are reading as well. The most frequent question I get is, “Is it okay if it’s not YA?” YES! Sometimes it’s even more meaningful for students to see teachers and staff reading from all genres and age-groups.

How do you share what you are reading with your community? And perhaps more urgently, what do you think I should do when I run out of room?

Edible Book Fest During a Pandemic

One of our favorite events at my school is the Edible Book Fest. (I’m going to pretend it’s not just because we have a HUGE bake sale afterwards of all the amazing entries.)

Definitely not this year!
Sigh. Also not this year.

Clearly, this was not an ideal activity during a pandemic. We certainly couldn’t maintain social distancing throughout the day as the entire school came through the library to look at the entries and then outside to buy them. (You knew that wasn’t going to happen IN the library!)

After brainstorming with amazing English teachers, we came up with the idea that each entry would be a single cupcake and voting would be digital rather than in person. This served two purposes: safety during a pandemic and challenging the students to think more critically in order to distill their ideas onto a single cupcake.

Submissions were digital as well as in person, which gave students the option to photograph their entry before they made the potential entry-destroying trek to school. With their submission, students were able to choose their categories: Most Creative, Most Likely to be Eaten, and Most Edible Author. (Yes, you read that correctly. We gave them the opportunity to make cupcakes that looked like their favorite author!)

A screenshot of our digital voting form using Google Forms

Overall, I am extremely pleased with our pandemic-friendly Edible Book Fest. We learned a few things for next year when, hopefully, we do not need to take as many precautions:

  1. Require a digital submission in order to keep all the entries straight and cuts down on drop-off madness
  2. Offer digital voting for more flexibility
  3. Creating a new category for a cupcake-sized entry since it was so well received
  4. Emphasize critical thinking

One thing we did miss this year was the “Punniest” category, since we were trying to simplify the entire process. However, I did want to leave you with one of our favorite entries from previous years…

Get it? Haha

I’d love to hear some of the ways you successfully adapted programs for pandemic life!

Did you get a “virtual promotion?”

Have you wondered recently if your job description actually reflects what you currently do? I started thinking about this as I was adding additional titles to our streaming services so teachers can show content to our face-to-face and remote students at the same time. We now have two campuses that require library materials: online and physical, which is vastly different than “just having electronic resources.”

My current job title is Director of the Rich Library. This implies that my work is centered in the physical library. I don’t know about you, but that is definitely not the case anymore. We have been face-to-face since August, but I’ve remotely visited classrooms, homes, meetings, conferences, and author festivals. I’ve made it possible for teachers to support their lessons without having to come to the physical library. Our virtual collection ROCKS, and it’s used by students and teachers around the central Florida area as well as on all corners of our 104-acre campus as we attempt to social distance. Clearly, my job in no longer just in the Rich Library.

Distance course isometric Free Vector
Attributed to School vector created by macrovector_official – www.freepik.com

I’d say that my position is now more accurately described as the Director of Library Services. This encompasses the fact that our services have moved beyond the physical space as well as taking into account both physical and virtual collections. I guess the question is: do you work to get your title and job description changed? Which brings up more questions… How important to our profession is it that our duties are accurately described? Does this impact the respect we sometimes struggle with on our campuses?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Our Responsibility

This blog post was going to be something different. But then everything changed.

This weekend I’ve been thinking about the Library Bill of Rights. It was adopted in 1939 and amended several times. I subscribe to this every day as a librarian, and perhaps more importantly, as the Library Director, to protect the rights of all my patrons. Does this mean that sometimes I add materials that make me uncomfortable? Yes!

Why? Because there are patrons at any given time who need that book. The book that made me uncomfortable, whether due to race, religion, sexuality, or more, has the power to save lives. Perhaps for a student who finally sees themself in a book. Perhaps for a person who needed to read those words at the right time.

I am a straight, white, Jewish woman, and there are some perspectives I can never truly understand. However, I will not let that be the reason to keep a book out of a collection. Here are the Library Bill of Rights articles I keep in front of me at all times:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

It is now even more important that we have materials in our collections that are not only inclusive, but also informative. I’m sure you’ve seen a plethora of lists lately of books we need to make sure are in our collections. Can we use this opportunity to add suggestions in the comments?

I hope we all pick up that book that makes us think. Let it open our eyes.

To read the Library Bill of Rights in its entirety, you can see it here.

What’s Working and What Isn’t: Coronavirus Edition

I am a big proponent of experimenting with library programming and services, as failures can teach just as much as successes. In terms of trying new things, nothing has changed with emergency remote learning. Some things work…and some things don’t.

Let’s start with the Good Stuff:

  1. Making screencasts for teachers for specific research needs has been successful using Screencastify.
  2. Creating a Remote Action Plan for the library and communicating it with Administration has been essential. It has cut down on confusion from Admin “what are you really doing from home” and with my Library Clerk “but what should I do from home?”
  3. Offering a link on our OPAC for appointments to do research, find a book, or just chat allows the students to choose how they want contact while we are in the midst of Emergency Remote Learning. I’ve found that I’ve had far more requests to just chat, honestly.
  4. Reaching out to those “library kids” to find out if they want to hang out during lunch in a Google Meet. It’s completely voluntary and has grown over the weeks through word of mouth and our school’s weekly newsletter.
  5. Channeling those librarians on horseback during the Great Depression and delivering books to students…but in my Subaru.
  6. Holding a Library and Tech Dept “coffee break” for faculty and staff who want to see familiar faces. I honestly did not expect anyone to show up, but I have been so surprised at who drops by to just talk about everything and anything.

Aaaaand, here’s the stuff that sounded really good in theory but didn’t work out so well:

  1. Scavenger Hunt and Baking Contest – Yeah, the kids just weren’t interested. With everything else they are doing for school, at home, etc., they didn’t want anything else to do. It was also really hard to get ingredients, and if a student was able to get ingredients, it was hard to keep their family members from eating it before the “judging.”
  2. Open library hours – No one showed up. It seems the students would rather schedule individual meetings at specific times.
  3. Expecting students to remember how to do things we’ve discussed 1,000 times while sheltering at home. Let’s face it, no one’s brain is working the same right now.
  4. The perfect work space – Hahaha, really? I don’t know about you, but I keep shifting all over the house trying to find the perfect combination of comfort, WiFi, light, and less distractions between my husband working from home, my daughter’s online schooling, and my DOG.
  5. A work day just like being at school – I can hardly type this while keeping a straight face. Thinking I would have a regimented and organized work day with online learning was a pipe dream. Between virtual meetings, webinars, etc., I’ve decided that I’m simply going to work when I can, BUT making sure I do have an “end” to my work day. I certainly struggled with this during those first weeks thinking I needed to be connected to my computer 24/7 in order to meet the needs of my school community.
  6. Sleeping – Please tell me I am not the only one having trouble with this. Let me know if you’ve got any tried-and-true tips!

I think the hardest part about working from home while sheltering in place is that some days are amazing and I feel totally accomplished, while the very next day finds me staring out the window just wishing I could use my best “library bouncer” voice to remind kids they can’t run in the library. (You know which ones I’m talking about.) The reality is, this is what we do. We adjust, we change, and we pivot to make sure we are providing the necessary services for our patrons. We can do this!

It’s About Purpose

As we get closer to the end of the year, increasingly frayed nerves, and AP testing, I again try to come up with a meaningful plan of what to do with the students that teachers randomly send to the library during their class time. You know the ones: perhaps they are known as “troublemakers,” or perhaps it is just entire classes who have completed their AP testing and now the teacher doesn’t know what to do with them. In the past when I have questioned such decisions (because the teacher certainly does not come to the library with them or provide a project…or notice), the teacher explains, “Well, they said they wanted to come to the library.”

Um, yeah. Of course they did. (Wouldn’t you rather be in the library, relatively unsupervised, with nothing specific to accomplish?) This year, however, I want to be intentional with purpose. What is the purpose of a teacher sending a student (or their entire class) to the library: for them to work on a project or for the teacher to get a break? What is the purpose of the library during the time when the students trickle in: academic, student union, etc.?

I’ve decided my best course of action, besides asking the Principals to request that teachers keep their students in their classrooms, is to clarify a teacher’s purpose when/if they send an unsupervised class to the library. For example, do they need the students to work on a project and therefore need my help? It’s a complicated dichotomy: I love helping students, and I always want them to feel welcome. However, I also do not want other faculty to view the library as “free babysitting.” Otherwise, I end up with all the AP classes, yearbook, photography, orchestra, etc. classes all in here at the same time without their instructor or a defined purpose.

Has anyone else tackled this issue? (I hope it’s not just me.) What did you do?

I’ll let you know how it goes…

No time for bonbons

Since I started blogging for AISL, there have been some months when my entry is 100% planned and outlined, and other months when a topic bubbles to the surface because it needs to be addressed. This is one of those “bubbling” months.

Have you ever had a colleague who truly doesn’t understand what you do and thinks you sit back eating bonbons and reading books all day? I’m sure we have all had to address that person. This week, though, I had an interaction that I just can’t shake. It was implied that their job as a classroom teacher was so much more important to the students and that they couldn’t just “get up whenever they want to get lunch,” etc.

While you digest that, let me ask: do you even remember getting time for lunch? I don’t. Lunch happens to be the busiest time of the day in a school library, because that’s the time when students have the freedom to visit the library. Most of the time I am frantically eating right at the circulation desk while answering all kinds of questions from the students and faculty. Let us not forget that my eating does not go unnoticed by students as they ask why I am allowed to eat in the library and they can’t. Lol.

You and I know how much work goes into getting our education and/or experience. We know the challenging task of organizing an entire library, curating a collection, evaluating sources and databases, making sure said databases actually work, teaching classes, answering reference questions, helping students find that *perfect* book, advising teachers, attending countless meetings, maintaining the privacy of patron accounts, etc. (often without an assistant or clerk). Each of us has that special capacity in our brain where we can compartmentalize and cross-reference questions and answers in a blink of an eye in the midst of controlled chaos. But I am preaching to the choir here.

Especially since I am still processing this particular encounter, I suppose my question is this: What do you do when a coworker doesn’t understand your position?

It’s good to know that we are not alone here.

Getting Ready for Banned Books Week

As we returned from our impromptu break from school (thanks, Dorian), I needed to get myself back into the vortex of the school year which quickly became a realization of “OMG, Banned Books Week is coming up!” Even though I feel in the weeds, exposing students to the reality of banned or challenged books is worth putting other things aside. It is especially relevant now, in light of the recent banning of the Harry Potter books by a Catholic school in Tennessee. (I mean, is it 1999 again?)

I’ve done various activities in the past, and I’m in the process of collecting inspiration from other librarians on Twitter and other social media outlets. Boy, you guys have some good ideas! I especially liked the one from Anne Campbell Bucci who put paper bags over books with the reason why they were banned handwritten across the front. The students lift the bag to discover the identity of the book. I am definitely adding this activity, although the idea of writing “pornographic” as a reason why a book was banned terrifies me. Perhaps I’ll use “sexually offensive” instead? (Oh my, this should be interesting.)

Since I’ve been mining ideas from other people, I figured I’d share my favorite one so far. Last year, we shredded the first page from books that had been banned or challenged (no, I made photocopies first. I didn’t rip up the books!) and put the pieces in glass mason jars. We made a poster of the book covers for the kids to choose from and they had to guess which book was in which jar using only the random words they could find. First, the students had a great time shaking up the jars and trying to peer into them. Second, the poster with photos of book covers began more conversations about why a book had been banned and where exactly could they find it in the library. My circulation increased dramatically.

I love it when students ask questions or try to figure out why a book has been banned or challenged. I think this ties into why I want to try Ms. Bucci’s idea of the paper bags, because the kids will need to work backward from the reason to the title. I can’t wait to find out how many titles they come up with for each particular accusation.

While the visual of covered books (and the idea of a contest) will bring students to the library, another way we get their attention is by faculty and staff wearing Banned Books Week t-shirts on a specific day during the week. We also love being able to wear a t-shirt since normally we are required to dress up.

Now that I’m completely excited about Banned Books Week (and my budgets and receipts are on the back burner, oops #sorrynotsorry), I hope this will inspire others who may feel bogged down to find the energy and excitement to plan for the upcoming BBW this September 22-28. Please post your ideas below to help inspire others!

The Good, the Bad, and the Unexpected: Adding the Tech Department to the Library (Part 1)

At the beginning of last year, the Director of the Tech Department and I decided that we could enhance the student experience by bringing the Tech Help Desk into the library. I mean, what could be better? It would be a one-stop shop to provide tech and information help to our students. Everyone was on board. Almost one year later we have realized this change. (Yes, you read that right. It’s taken almost a year.) I wanted to share our experience with you in case you were considering a change in your library.

The Good:

  1. We created a streamlined experience for the students to cut down on time away from class and the separation of resources.
  2. It has been very helpful to join two departments. The influx of knowledge and expertise has been invaluable to us.
  3. The Circulation Desk/Support Spot is now the place for checking out books, helping with research queries, checking out loaner laptops, and getting tech questions answered.
  4. There are more printing opportunities for the students with shorter lines for each resource.
  5. We do not have to reroute questions from one department to another since we are both located in the same space.

The Bad:

  1. Space was a bigger issue than we originally anticipated. Before the move, we took many measurements and made detailed plans, but we were still taken by surprise. Needless to say, we feel like we are playing Tetris.
  2. We do not have a silent library. The tech department is used to a more quiet space. Work flow and ease of communication are being impacted during the library’s busiest times.

The Unexpected:

  1. We are still trying to figure out how the collaboration between the two departments will be the most effective. It has been challenging at times to determine who should take the lead on certain decisions and procedures.
  2. Rebranding the Circulation Desk as a multifunctional resource is ongoing. The entire community needs to adjust to the change, which includes addressing the way “it’s always been done” and the way that it needs to be done now to best serve our users. Breaking tradition and changing routines is always hard.
  3. We expected the need to mesh several diverse personalities and work styles, but the transition of the work space along with culture shift has made the contrast more apparent.

All told, we count this move as a success. The students are being served more efficiently, which was the main purpose behind the transition. Part 2 will follow next month, when we’ve had a chance to settle in to the new year. Wish us luck!