Low-tech/no-tech…

Our local makers club, Northumberland Makers, held an open house last weekend to celebrate their grand opening in a new, dedicated location (a pretty cool community space, but that’s another story).

It offers access to many tech tools: 3D printers, tool & die cutters, a soldering station, robotics and much more – but what really struck me was that all of the new technology peacefully (and dare I say enthusiastically) co-existed beside their low-tech offerings such as toy hacking, duct tape crafting and collaborative weaving. Below is my duct tape rose and my son’s creation (“I feel like Sid from Toy Story but not as evil”).

I found this very heartening in light of our library’s choice to narrow the focus on our own makerspace this past school year. We’ve seen many inspiring spaces at school and public libraries, but had to face two important facts:

  • our current skillset, areas of interest and budget lies more in realm of crafting
  • our tech dept is ramping up their student space (3-D printer, rockets, robotics, etc)

And so our Tinker Table was born. It lives at the front of the library (although it makes periodic trips to the Commons), and students can find a new craft or activity each week. While we’ve included Arduino in our arsenal, most offerings involve low- (button maker) or no-tech materials (washi-taped thank you cards).

It’s wonderful to be reminded that while we aim to offer something for everyone, it’s okay not to try to be all things to all patrons. Whew (cue sigh of relief). Off to tinker….

A-musing on magazines

I’ve read the recent email thread on print magazine subscriptions with interest; like many of you, I waffle between wanting to honour this format while aiming to ensure budget dollars are well spent.

I’ve felt particularly guilty as we ordered not 1 but 2 magazine cabinets for our renovated library in 2015 (prognostication not on point). Moving them has helped, but we really need to see more traffic to justify renewing subscriptions.

And then we had a thought. The kids always seem shocked to realize that they can lift the lids to find issues – what if we just left the lids open?  So we did. And they’ve attracted more attention so far this week than they have all year. 

Go figure. Shame it took us so long to figure it out…..

A pledge

 

I am fortunate to be heading to #aisl2018 in Atlanta in a few weeks and as I age become more experienced, I’ve learned to apply greater intention to my professional development. I find it easy to become overwhelmed with all that’s possible, and so aim to be more effective and efficient by setting some goals:

  • As in the past, I’ll focus on bringing 3 action items back for short-term implementation (any more and the whole list gets swamped by daily responsibilities; I’ll review longer term possibilities over the summer)
  • I’ll try a new format for my conference report (in the past, I’ve used Animoto and Canva – always good for me to learn something new)
  • I’ll work on balancing time with long-time colleagues (can’t wait to catch up with my roomie!) and connecting with new librarians

This last one is important. I’ve benefitted enormously from the wisdom and guidance of others, and it’s time to pay it forward. While sometimes in denial about the years flying by, I’ve been around for a while and there’s a new and exciting generation with whom I need to connect. As accountability it the key to whatever success I’ve found (clear to those of you who follow my @bookremarks Instagram account), I’m pledging here to sit on the bus with someone new throughout the conference. And I’ll report back on this at end of April.

Shoe or phone?

 

We cannot be the only school library that likes to have power cords available for use by students in need. Sometimes phone but mostly laptop, requests are frequent and desperate, so we’re happy to help.

Except for the fact that we kept losing them. Despite what I thought were some well thought out practices for tracking these expensive accessories: cataloguing and circulating them, attaching metre-sticks to them, allowing use only at our desk. NOTHING WORKED.

Until we started asking for a shoe or a phone. These seem to be the only 2 things that a student will not leave the library without. We haven’t lost a charger since we started doing this 3 months ago.

(Okay – on one occasion, a Grade 9 boy wandered out minus a shoe but figured it out by end of day and was back with the charger. I call that a win.)

Shining a light

While southern Ontario can hardly be considered the Great White North, we do have cold, dark winter months, so we have a number of initiatives to try and keep student spirits up.

Our administration is enthusiastically supporting a few ‘sleep-ins’ (where classes begin at 10am), our prefects have launched some great events for Spirit Week and our library has been experimenting with light therapy. It kept coming up on my radar through professional journals and social media, as light therapy lamps have been shown to help with lifting mood (and in more formal settings than ours, combatting seasonal depression).  With our library open 11+ supervised hours on most days, it offers a comfortable and supervised location for use of a light therapy lamp.  Before purchase, we consulted with both our Dean of Academic & Student Support and our Director of Health Services, both of whom are in full support.

Based on recommendations from 2 public libraries who’ve had light therapy lamps in use for over a year (and found a floor model more flexible), we chose this model http://northernlighttechnologies.com/sad-light-store/flamingo-floor-lamp  We’ve had ours in use for 3 months now, located beside some of our soft seating. We laminated the information sheet that came with the lamp and keep it immediately adjacent. If we notice that someone has turned it on but doesn’t have the light shining directly on their face, we will suggest they re-position (as per the information sheet).

As the lamp is located near our staff desk, we don’t monitor use, although we do notice who is using it regularly. Interestingly enough, it has been exclusively female students who are taking advantage of this resource in our co-ed school. Recently, I sat down with a female boarding student in Grade 11 who uses the lamp regularly:

  • She heard our announcement about the lamp in chapel, and so sought it out, using it
    while doing work during her spares
  • While she hadn’t used one before, she was familiar with light therapy as her mom uses a lamp at home
  • Rather than use it to lift her mood (as I know is the case for at least 2 other users), she finds that it helps her focus better when studying

While it’s entirely possible that there is a placebo effect for those who use it at less than a therapeutic level (ideally a minimum of 15 min/day, every day or alternate days), the lamp does seem to be providing benefit to some of our users. We will continue promoting it: writing this article has made me realize that I need to add a tab about the lamp on our LibGuides webpage (similar to TPL). This would provide us with an opportunity to direct users to other resources at our school that can help with keeping healthy (food services, housemasters, peer support, health centre, etc).

Now to figure out the gender issue….

A eulogy for our local newspaper

Last fall, I read Cecily Ross’ The lost diaries of Susanna Moodie, a fictionalized journal based on the life of a woman who emigrated to from England to the backwoods of Canada in 1830s.

If that hasn’t put you to sleep, know that I am fascinated by Moodie (and her sister Catharine Parr Traill) for a number of reasons, the greatest of which is that they settled in the area I call home. I often walk by the Cobourg wharf where their ship landed, have made the 10-minute drive into the country to see the historic plaque posted where Moodie first lived, and read the daily paper in which she published her poetry.

But no more – our local paper, published since 1831, has been shuttered. Sad but not surprising; many of the people indignant about the cut hadn’t shown their support with subscription dollars, and advertising revenue has understandably declined along with readership.

What will I miss about having the local paper in our library?

  • Reading coverage of school events (and having someone to ask to cover an event)
  • Learning about students’ & colleagues’ non-school activities in the community
  • Keeping up with obituaries of those who’ve passed in our small town
  • Watching someone complete the crossword or Suduko
  • Having a plethora of newsprint for art teachers in need (she says with partial sarcasm)

I am no Luddite, but felt it important to mark the end of this chapter. I’m curious to see what fate lies ahead for our national papers – one has recently changed formats, and I’ve been surprised to see it being read more frequently in our casual seating area. Coincidence? Temporary halt of the inevitable?

 

Why we chose the Silhouette Cameo 3 cutting machine

Enormous thanks to my colleague, Viola Lyons, for contributing this – as she did the research for the purchase, it made sense that she was the one to comment on the experience.

When we were investigating which machine to buy, it was difficult to find a truly unbiased review. We eventually settled on one of two options: the Cricut Explore Air or the Silhouette Cameo 3.  While we chose the Silhouette, we know of many people very happy with their Cricut.

The main feature that kept coming up in comparisons was the fact that the design studio software for Cameo 3 is more advanced and allows the user to create designs from scratch.  Having the ability to design is an important feature for us since we are providing the use of the machine in part at least to promote creativity.  Cricut has a large library of existing designs to import, and you can subscribe to keep receiving new ones, but it is not possible to create “one of a kind” designs to the same extent. We look forward to exploring this option with members of our sewing club who will create custom iron-on transfers for their creations.

The flip side of that is that there is hardly a review out there that doesn’t mention that the learning curve for the Cameo 3 machine is steeper!  Cricut is promoted as being an easier machine for the beginner to learn on. It has taken some time for us to get up to speed on the Cameo 3, but we’re learning lots and have been pleased with results to date.

Here are some of the factors in our decision-making process:

Material Length: The Cameo 3 enables the user to cut longer lengths of material (up to 10 feet) which is great if you intend to work on larger projects. Cricut can cut up to 24 inches. (We haven’t had need for anything longer at this point, but there is some interest in larger projects such as wall quotes).

Blade settings: The Cameo 3 comes with an autoblade.  This blade will automatically calibrate to the correct setting each time you set up a project. You still need to “tell” the machine what material is being used but it will then do the adjustment for you.  The newest Cricut has a smart set dial which I believe accomplishes essentially the same thing so the difference here is likely quite minimal.

Cutting Force and Materials:  Both machines will cut over 100 types of material and so far we haven’t been limited with the Cameo.  However, some Cricut fans claim that the Cricut has a greater cutting force and is able to cut materials such as cork or leather – the Cameo is not designed to cut these thicker materials.

Precision:  Some posts claim that the Cricut cuts with more precision. For our purposes, I don’t think this will be an issue.  Everything that we have created with the Cameo, including some very intricate pieces, has been expertly cut and meets our needs.

PixScan Technology: One feature which we have not explored is PixScan technology.  This feature is only available on the Cameo3 and enables the user to scan and cut preprinted images.  We’re not quite there yet!

So far, we are delighted to have it – we are able to whip up letters and shapes for bulletin boards and displays with ease and we are looking forward to using it in our makerspace for personalizing water bottles, laptops and other creative endeavours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Button button, who’s got the button?

As part of our low-tech makerspace, we recently purchased a button maker. (An informal poll indicated that kids were more likely to make and wear smaller buttons, so we went with the 1″ model).

This week is the first time we’ve made it available: with our Terry Fox run scheduled for tomorrow, we invited students and staff to stop by the Library and make a button in memory of someone they’ve lost to cancer:

Of course I neglected to take a photo of all the students in action, so here is a shot of when we cleaned it up after the morning break rush:

It’s been very well received, and we look forward to using it with groups (our Gay Straight Alliance has already made a request), as well as for reading promotion.

 

Plus there was Google cardboard swag

I’m halfway through a 2-day Google for Education conference (EdTech Team Eastern Ontario), the goal being to ensure that I’m as on top of my game as possible when school resumes after Labour Day for those of us up North.

Wonderfully, I’ve found that many key basics hold true and I’m not as much of a dinosaur as I thought!  Equally as wonderful, I’m picking up some awesome shortcuts. For example, when sharing a Google doc with students, replacing the ‘/edit’ at end of URL with ‘/copy’ prompts students to make a copy (thereby preventing overwriting of data).

Remembering how it can be tricky to put my finger on specific PD resources once the school year is in full swing, I organized the presentation slides for easy access in future. All presenters welcomed non-commercial use of their materials, so please help yourself: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B0_CuGu2bGqaWkJfOGFOZUhTMms

I highly recommend Session 3 – we love making posters and other promotional materials but aren’t trained in graphic design, so I was curious to know what was possible beyond Canva (which remains awesome). This presentation offered simple tips and tricks using Google Slides (just change page setup to 8.5×11 if you intend to print) with lots of time to try them out – I’m excited about walking through these slides with my library team!

(Folder will be updated with slides from presentations I attend today)

Back to the Google cardboard…which is more fun than should be legal,

Shelagh

Playing book fairy

(Warning: I’ll be library-nerding hard here, it being a safe space to do so 🙂 )

Oh, the thrill of connecting a reader with just the right book, at just the right time! I particularly enjoy making a literal connection; this could be placing a book in a reader’s hands (although a member of my library team brought back an interesting tidbit from our provincial conference, about how to find greater success by not holding a book when talking about it, but placing it on a table/bookshelf, allowing for something akin to transfer of ownership to the reader…fascinating! But I digress…)

Making a literal connection could also be following up on a conversation over the lunch table or by email, by placing a book in a school mailbox, or on a reader’s desk.

As I’m on and off campus throughout the summer, I like to keep this going when opportunity allows. Sometimes I’m dropping things off for people who live/work on campus, sometimes I’m bringing things to people who live near me (we’re in a small town, and I’m lucky to live close to quite a few colleagues)

I had 2 deliveries this morning:

  • A teacher has finished reading Narnia to his kids and was curious about Percy Jackson, so I gave him the first 2 Olympians. He also likes Michael Lewis, and we didn’t have The Undoing Project – I’d ordered it, it recently arrived, so it’s in there too.
  • I ran into a colleague in the park yesterday, which gave me a chance to tell him that I was disappointed about being off my game when he asked me for some summer reading suggestions at the very tail-end of the school year…my brain was fried by then. Based on his reading interests, two books had come to mind, and bumping into him reminded me to get them to him – The Mandibles and The Art of Fielding.

Note the ziploc bags, also doubled-up with plastic bags on this misty morning.

This is strictly for fun, when my schedule allows, not onerous in any way – and I’ve found people to be so appreciative. I’ve also found it a good motivator for getting myself out for a walk!