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,


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!



“We’ll see you soon, mate”

Like you, I’m done. Between the flurry of exams, graduation and end-of-year meetings, my brain is heading into hibernation. It doesn’t help that a ton of my wonderful library nerds graduated this year:

However, a few days spent with colleagues, looking ahead to next year, has been amazingly rejuvenating. I’m still excited about packing up and heading out for a bit, but I’ve already got a little butterfly in my stomach about 2017-18.

Looks like I chose the right career – happy summer all!

How about a high school book fair?

After watching our Junior School (Gr 5-8) Librarian, Sarah Torrible, host 2 very successful book fairs in partnership with Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario, those of us in the Senior School (Gr 9-12) started wondering if we could pull one off in our high school library.

Informal surveying of kids indicated considerable interest, so in the spirit of ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, we booked it for earlier this month. Now that the dust has settled, here’s a bit about how it went…

Blue Heron drove the items to us for set up (I returned the ‘leftovers’ the following weekend). You can see from this photo that some of the kids couldn’t even wait until the boxes were unpacked to start perusing the goods!

It was a ton of fun watching the students’ faces when they came through the doors – “I haven’t been to a book fair since I was in elementary school!”.

Blue Heron and library staff worked together to set up displays, with over 700 items for students & staff to choose from…

We ran the sale for 2 full days, including evenings. Books were charged to account (the bookstore was happy to accommodate cash/credit sales, but we decided to keep it simple and got approval from school admin to allow charging to accounts).

Both student and staff response was very positive:

  • It was lots of fun connecting readers with genres that are less represented in our collection (eg. cookbooks – we have a few and I’ll get more once we get a student kitchen, I’m going to make it happen! –  sold like hotcakes, particularly the new Eat like a Gilmore)
  • The bookstore was thrilled with the number of classics we sold – the Word Cloud Classics in particular did well, selling out the first day
  • Poetry, unsurprisingly, was a big seller – just wish we had more copies of Milk and Honey available for sale
  • It was fun to have book-related merchandise as well – journals, tshirts, jewellery, pillows – although they didn’t sell quite as well as the books
  • Timing the sale near a holiday helps with gift sales (we sold quite a bit for Mother’s Day, but Sarah does even better just before Christmas).

In addition to putting smiles on faces, we ended up with over $400 in bookstore credit to spend on items for our collection. We’ll definitely do this again. As we have such a large boarding population, I think we’ll try to tie it in with a parent weekend. And we’ll definitely add extra staffing, as running the sale while running the library kept us hopping!

One is not the loneliest number….

Shoutout to Shannon Acedo who reminded me of one of the (many) golden nuggets from #aislnola2017: reference to a wonderful fact from Katie Archambault & CD McLean’s presentation, that a 10% increase is “substantial and verifiable..and so can be considered a marker of success” (Acedo, 2017). Please note that Shannon, a thoroughly professional librarian, is still looking into the actual wording, but I think her reflection is more than sufficient for the purpose of this post.

This has been a timely touchstone for me. I tend to judge the success of a program by the sheer number of student participants. Picture me buoyant: “We ran out of the many pages we’d prepared for our blackout poetry event!” Picture me gnashing my teeth: “Fewer kids signed up for our reading marathon this year than last!”

If it were you saying this to me,  I’d tell you to give your head a shake. Quantity is one (often narrow) indicator of value, and there is too much meaning to be found in the other ways we reach kids to be ignored.

I’m over the moon when a program or event really lands – but I will endeavour to also celebrate the minuscule successes:

  • Running a Sunday mindfulness exercise for the one student who shows up
  • Valuing time with the one young man who participates in a pilot community book club
  • Taking time to really listen to the few kids who make it to school bookclub every cycle, shelving my frustration about schedule conflicts that keeps others away

What’s your 10%

Making the case for PD

Add me to the list of those fortunate to have attended #AISLNOLA. But what about those of you who weren’t there? Not because of choice, but because of difficulty convincing your supervisor to invest in this PD opportunity? Here are some tips on making your case for future PD:

Start small  – there can be amazing inspiration in your local or neighbouring communities. Visit some local school libraries, set up a meeting with an academic librarian at a university within a day’s drive, ask public library staff if you could sit in on related PD, host an informal workshop (book talks, display ideas, discussion about a current issue) and invite any or all librarians in your area. Look for online webinars, and if possible, participate with a buddy so that you can discuss and plan afterwards. Laying this foundation could show your supervisor how much you’re invested in PD.

Plan ahead – review notes from previous conference sessions  to create a ‘big-picture’ of how relevant and valuable it has proven to be for many in the past. This prep work will also help you pull together a proposal in advance so that you’re prepared for registration (as some with limited numbers, eg. AISL, fill up very quickly!). Plant the seed well in advance (share details of the opportunity, note upcoming date, give heads-up you’ll be making a proposal).

Be budget conscious – be creative in coming up with a plan that shows you are keeping an eye on costs (share a room – post on listserv if you aren’t aware of anyone needing a roommate, choose less expensive flights, stick within school-set expenses for meals or offer to cover some yourself if you can).

Make your dedication evident – visiting libraries when travelling for pleasure, or scheduling PD during breaks to eliminate the need for coverage (if that’s an issue) shows your passion and commitment.

Ask for help – many of us have shared our reports/photos/experiences with colleagues & administrators at other schools, in the hope that their librarians will be giving a chance to take part.

Always follow up – tying all PD experiences to action items, demonstrating the direct impact on your library program and services, shows the return on the investment.

Hoping to see you at a future conference,


A storyteller

Last week, Canada lost one of its most beloved storytellers: writer & broadcaster Stuart McLean, host of the seemingly perennial Vinyl Café , passed away leaving quite a legacy. For decades, people from all across our country – from small hamlets on our east and west coasts, through urban centres to remote Northern villages – were connected through the telling of his stories, and his sharing of their own.

Despite being a fan for years, listening on weekly radio and attending live shows when possible, I’ve been surprised by my depth of emotion; reading tributes and comments from others, I know that am not alone.

Such is the power of story-telling. None of you need to be convinced of this, but it is a keen reminder for me to not to shy away from acknowledging its critical role in connecting people with the written word – so here are some action items for me:

  • Continue to enjoy building a story of summer reading, working with Celeste Porche of Metairie, LA to prepare our presentation for AISL NOLA (can’t wait to meet you in person, Celeste!)
  • Read a picture book aloud at my next Bigside Books meeting (probably Lane Smith’s It’s a Book, so great for high school kids)
  • Incorporate some short stories and spoken word poetry into a boys’ book club that I run outside of school – I’m thinking Stuart, Shane Koyczan, Humble the Poet – recommendations welcome!

Side note: Jess Milton, Stuart’s ‘long-suffering’ (his words) producer, noted in an interview after his passing that Stuart was surprisingly quiet off-stage, often focused on listening to others’ stories. As someone privileged to work with teens, this is an excellent reminder of what a speaker offered at a recent TABS conference – “the listening is the helping.”

Strength and fortitude

Anyone else in the January doldrums?

While the calendar tells me that we’re just back from the holidays, it feels like energy is low and spirits are lagging. It can be easy to get caught up in it – which makes it all the more delightful to find something like this (from a recent grad) in my mailbox:

“These people don’t know how to cite things!” Her indignant tone makes me laugh every time I read it: it’s messages like this one that help me to stay the course and remember that as long as I ensure that what I’m teaching is current and relevant, it’s okay that my darling students occasionally roll their eyes at citation review, or groan when we discuss the importance of keywords.

I know I’m not alone, so strength & fortitude, my friends!

PS. I’m lucky that this former advisee reached out of her own accord. As I mentioned in a previous post, don’t hesitate to specifically ask Gr 12s to get in touch with you next year if they find what you taught them landed (or even more importantly, didn’t) at university or college – or life. You can even request their non-school email addresses for this purpose before they leave 🙂

Thank goodness for grads…

Like many of you, we have wonderfully supportive alumni. Ours celebrate their connection with our school is many ways: while the financial support of successful old boys & old girls is tremendously appreciated, there are smaller but still significant ways that others contribute.

One such way is how I lean on many of our recent grads as touchstones for library programming. As you well know, it is critical that the skills we foster be relevant to their lives beyond our walls, and I am in regular contact with quite a few to keep what we do with library instruction in line with what is required of them at university.

The most recent example is not specific to the library. I have the good fortune to be teaching a section of AP Capstone Research this year and am running into an issue with students not meeting deadlines, and not requesting extensions properly.

A quick text to some grads gave me a plethora of real-world examples, which I will share with my class today:

  • First year Arts > one prof offers an automatic grace period of one week, after which late work results in a zero
  • Second year Engineering > extensions must be requested 1 week in advance (her class recently mixed up a deadline and ended up writing and submitting incomplete papers in a 5-hour period because they couldn’t request an extension at that point)
  • Fourth year Arts > one prof deducts 2-5% for every day late, another is more flexible because “he doesn’t want you to fail the course”

Far from a scientific study, but I hope these quick and timely examples will help some useful context for a serious conversation with my students – fingers crossed.