Independent School Book Fairs in the Age of Amazon and Marie Kondo

This year our school’s Book Fair theme was “Reading Opens the World.” Our Assistant Director of Development designed a gorgeous logo with a rainbow. The vinyl stickers we created to market the Fair were a huge hit and there has been non-stop requests for kid and teacher-sized t-shirts (which are usually only ordered for the core Book Fair team).

We held two all school assemblies celebrating books that had opened individual doors to the love of reading. The first group to share were faculty and staff. The second assembly featured student volunteers– we finally had to halt the flood of volunteers because so many students felt called to share their favorite books.

We hosted a free wine (delicious and pricey) and cheese party with our local independent bookstore partner to cap off the first day of the Fair. The store stayed open beyond their normal hours to host our families. Out of 200 families, perhaps 20 families showed up.

We held a one-day, pop-up bookstore in the Main Library of our school with copies of forty thoughtfully curated children’s books, picture books, early elementary selections and middle grade fiction. Again it was a small showing of parents and students.

The structure of Fair has evolved since I started working at St. Thomas School, it went from a five day in-school, two day in-store Fair to in-store and on-line (no in-school options that year) to its current iteration, three days online, one day in-store. The changes have been in keeping with our booksellers’ preferences largely driven by economic imperatives. Invested in supporting local bookstores and a range of publishers, we have not partnered with Scholastic.

It is unclear to me that we will make more than $1000.00 when all is said and done. This is separate from the $500 we (the library and parent association team) spent on marketing materials for an event that is popular with less than 1/8 of our families. When I asked my Friends of the Library chair, “Why do you think that some of our families are not interested in coming to our in-school or in-store Fair?” She said, “They don’t want any more clutter in their houses.”

I understand the need for a tidy house filled with items that bring you joy—thank you, Marie Kondo. However as a librarian, I do not consider books clutter. Even though my own house is small, around 1100 square feet (with two adolescent boys, a dog and a husband) there is always room for another book. The majority of books, especially childrens’ books, are filled with wonder and possibility. Reading truly opens the world, splitting it wide enough for readers to explore, observe, and often understand.

The “books as clutter” concept models a world of limited information and circumscribed knowledge. Parents who tell their children that there isn’t room in the house for books are sending the message that reading itself is wasted time. As teachers we know that one of the single most important activities related to academic success is to encourage a young person to read independently. As parents we know that reading together at home, collaboratively and in parallel, promotes long-term connection and empathy.

In our current moment, we must tackle a two-pronged problem: the desire for the immediate, inexpensive, and personalized selections (Amazon) and the desire for a tidy house (Kondo). The School Book Fair as it has existed in past years may continue to evolve, but the importance of having numerous print books in one’s house will remain increasingly critical.

Global Libraries – Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Doors

Do you have an ample multicultural collection as well as enough diverse literature for all the children and young adults who are visiting your libraries?
I recently attended a very informative lecture on this topic by Alicia Long, a librarian and supervisor at State College of Florida, an ALA Spectrum Scholar and ALA Emergng Leader. We need to have a plethora of books on social justice and stories on our shelves that can relate to our audience. Whose voices are missing? We need to have bilingual books in addition to bicultural volumes. The books need to create empathy. We, librarians, are curators of stories. As such, we have the power to influence whose stories are represented in our shelves, whose stories are featured in our programs, and whose stories we recommend and promote. We need to constantly ask ourselves why we have stories about whom and by whom? Whose stories are told in children’s books? Who wrote and illustrated those stories?

As you take time to analyze your own collection try  to think about it using these 3 terms:
Mirrors – books where the reader sees themselves – characters like the reader
Windows – books where the reader sees other worlds – characters not like the reader
Sliding Doors – books where the reader enters that world – the reader gets to live the characters’ experiences.

Here are some charts of diversity in children’s books from 2015 and 2018. As you compare them ask yourself if we are there yet?

Another interesting comparison is “Who tells the story? …”By and about”.

Ask yourself whose voice is missing?

Some of the suggestions that were discussed included the following:

*Instead of Heritage Months (Hispanic, Black Histry, Asian-Pacific, Native American)…

             Include #OwnVoices Books – year long displays and programs

*Instead of bilingual stories…

           Include bilingual and bicultural stories or multilingual and multicultural

*Instead of translated popular and classics…

          Include original stories

Instead of representation only in the collection…

          Include representation in programming, staff, performers, outreach

Instead of being defensive (“I try my best”)…

          Include input from insiders and accept criticism

Follow the experts and insiders (see chart) and award winners like ALA, YMA, and more.

I would like to share this powerful quote from Jessamyn West from the USF School of Information, “Understand when you are coming from a position of power and use that power graciously and for good.” We, librarians, have that power….how are we using it?

Some challenges to our readers could be:

  • Read about a character not like you
  • Read a book with a setting not like the one you grew up in
  • Read a book from a genre that you never choose

“All our stories are important and when we share them, we begin to understand each other”…Margarita Engle (2016 Belpre Author Award Acceptance Speech)

Follett Book Fair: Lower School Edition 2019

Follett Truck Arrival: 10:36am Nov 1

I have now been part of school book fairs for 5 years. In that time, I have participated in Main Street Book Fairs, indie bookstore fairs, Scholastic and now Follett.

This year, I made the switch from Scholastic to Follett. After 2 years of dealing with low quality bindings, single-house pub list and tons of junk, I went with Follett this year. I have been pleased thus far with communications, availability of items and quality of bindings.

Before I contacted Follett, I did reach out to two independent bookstores in my area, but they declined to consider a school book fair. During AISL Atlanta 2018, I attended the Librarians, Bookstores, and Community Connections given by the Staff of the Little Shop of Stories and felt well equipped to approach. During this great presentation, they gave suggestions of how to connect with your local bookstore for events. Alas, could not convince my local booksellers of the benefits for all!

Follett solicited me via email in mid-2018 to consider hosting a bookfair in 2019. I had not heard many reviews and figured it would be worth trying at least once. I was able to secure my first choice of dates, and contract was signed. I was really looking forward to offering my students a wide array of new titles as well as not have to deal with boxes of random items ranging from water bottles to tote bags to preschool plastic calendar pointers that came with Scholastic.

Selection of layout in The Bolles School, Ponte Vedra Beach Lower School Campus Library

Highlights:

  • Fall of 2018 Contract signed and sent
  • Spring of 2019 First communications around book fair logistics
  • August 2019 Reached out to Duval County Public Schools to investigate servant leadership opportunities related to our book fair and proceeds
  • August of 2019 First in a series of monthly phone consults with my Follett Book Fair Rep
  • September 2019 Began receiving access to online portal for webinars, helpful PDFs, and images
  • September 2019 Connected with Parkwood Heights Elementary School: we will aim to provide each of their 304 of elementary school students with a birthday book
  • October 2019 Received box of Follett Book Fair promotional materials
  • November 1, 2019 10:36am truck arrived
  • Delivery driver helped move everything to my second floor library using our service elevator
  • 3 parent volunteers arrived at 11am and we were finished setting up by 12:30pm!
  • Cash register set-up super easy and I love the Drop Ship and Complete your Series options!
Interesting display option: four sided cart (I ordered 3 of these)
Traditional wheel-to-open V-shaped cart (I ordered 5 of these)
Wishlist sheets for students: for use on preview day. Includes information about sales tax, what payment options are available, and purchase date and time.

I have developed a system where students visit twice with their class during book fair week. The first visit is a PREVIEW day and the second visit is the PURCHASE day. On Preview Day, students create a wishlist to discuss with their grownups. That way, they can bring home their ideas and feel good about returning for Purchase Day. I remind everyone that purchasing is not ever required, it is just a special bookstore experience within the library.

This year, we aim to provide every student at Parkwood Heights ES with a Birthday Book. I reached out to the Elementary Region Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools to find out about ways we could be servant leaders in our community.

Servant Leadership is part of our learning experience here at Bolles. There are many ways we accomplish this and the Book Fair is one. The proceeds of our book fair are used to support reading and public school libraries in our area. Last year, we boosted 2 elementary school library collections, and in 2017 we assisted a school in Marathon Key, FL which was partially lost to Hurricane Irma. The Library Media Ambassadors assist in communicating this effort to our student body, as well as go on a field trip to meet and read with students at the schools support. Goal being to support literacy everywhere!

I will leave some comments next week about the overall experience! Feel free to leave questions in the comments section below!

Three Cheers for Lower School Book Fairs!

November 15 Debrief:

Our November Follett Book Fair – despite all the negative experiences I have heard about – was really well executed. The EXCELLENT book selection, high quality of materials, strong communication with my rep, and fast delivery of items ordered that were sold out. Fair drop off was at 10:30am the Friday before and pick up was around 9:30am the Monday after. Set up was 45 minutes with 2 volunteers on hand. Take down was the same. The portal for learning (how-to videos, PDFs for advertising, author videos) was accessible, though I gave many development suggestions. My volunteers commented how much “easier” the register system was to use and how nice it was not to have to sort and store JUNK. The pens, erasers, bookmarks and journals that did come with the fair were good quality and really well curated. I have booked my fair for next year!

Proud to Be a Book Pusher!

Written by Patricia DeWinter, Head Librarian at The OakRidge School

I am Head Librarian at a preschool through 12th grade school and always looking for creative ways to feature new books and must reads.  I want to make it as simple and enjoyable as possible for students to find the perfect read. I also want to make the space appealing and welcoming so that they want to come back again and again.

Two summers ago I “genrefied” our middle school fiction collection, but not all of it.  Middle school, grades 5- 8, is my biggest group, with overlapping students in grades 3 – 8 reading at this level, depending on the patron.  I created a “Best Of” display area filled with books and series that have been consistent wins with past and present readers. Categories include Humor, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Scary, Realistic Fiction, Adventure, Sports, Graphic Novels and Mystery.  Student aides helped me move and label all the books (labels came from Demco) and edit records in the catalog.  I have as many books/series as possible facing book cover out, and the rest are alphabetized.

How did I choose which books to feature and which to leave on the shelves?  I did not put Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, and Rick Riordan books in the mix because the students who read these books find them.  I chose books that circulate often, get regular positive feedback from my readers, and/or I really loved. These are the books I want to keep in patron view at all times, and right at my fingertips too when students request recommendations.  When students come in looking for read -alikes – they know where to go whether it’s finding something similar to the Treehouse books by Andy Griffiths or Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  It’s really satisfying for me when a student walks purposefully over to the Humor shelves and after browsing for a bit finds the perfect read.  I also hear a lot of conversations between patrons sharing recommendations. It’s a huge time saver for me which is great since I manage so many grade levels. 

Our library also has a display area for new books, and a Read box.  The new books and Read box include books I am really pushing, and I don’t want to shelve them. Either I need student feedback because the book is hot off the press, or it’s a book that doesn’t circulate, but I am certain will find its audience if I display it front and center.  I’ve determined that often shelved fiction books are overlooked books – though I do peruse the shelves regularly to locate forgotten gems and series that haven’t been moving.

We also have a First to Read Shelf. Students choose a book that hasn’t been read before, if they finish it they get a “First to Read” sticker placed inside the book with their name.  That sticker goes a long way in encouraging many readers to try a new book.  I always ask students if they liked a book they are returning, especially if it’s new to our library.

I’ve also genrefied the teen section, and I am working on lower school displays.  Currently I use a lot of bins, tubs and wire racks to ensure that books for lower school students (grades 1-4) are accessible. I also place multi volume middle school series in tubs to save shelf space.  My students catch on very quickly, navigate the library displays well, and circulation is up so I feel like the system is working.

I try to change out a holiday display table by season or theme.  Currently it’s scary reads, and next month I’ll focus on gratitude.

I pilfer ideas from bookstores, other public and private librarians and would love to hear your best book display ideas.

What kind of source is this?

A website is open in one tab. A journal article is open in another. A newspaper article from a database is open in another one. And, just for good measure, there’s an encyclopedia entry open in yet another tab. Is it any wonder my students have a hard time discerning what type of source they’re looking at?

I assume my students are not alone in struggling to figure out what type of source they’re looking at. This leads to questions when creating citations, of course, but it also creates challenges much earlier in the process. Knowing what type of source you’re looking at is an important part of evaluating sources, especially when it comes to determining if your source is relevant to your information need. 

I started the year working with some of our Senior English classes on research questions inspired by their summer reading book, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. As I worked with the teachers to plan this project we decided this would be a great time to work with students on learning more about different types of sources. We knew we wanted them to look at different types of sources for their research, and be able to talk about why the sources they picked were best suited for their information need. We were also helping that this work with source types would help us lay some groundwork for later assignments. 

I wanted to give students a chance to explore the characteristics of different source types before they started their research. In the past, I’ve tried giving students example sources, but I often found that students either had a hard time moving past the content to look at the qualities of the sources or generalizing what they’d learned to other sources they found. So I decided to take specific sources out of the equation, and give students some time exploring the qualities of different source types.

I created card sorts with some of the different source types we expected students to use for this project. The source types were in blue, and there were 2-4 descriptors printed on red paper. Given the specifics of the assignment, we wanted to focus on exploring different types of news sources. I gave the collections of source types and descriptors to small groups of students, and then they worked together to assign descriptors to source types. This led to great questions as students sorted the sources and descriptions. And since this was my first time trying this out with students, I of course discovered that some of the descriptors I’d chosen fit with multiple source types. This led to great discussions about what sources have in common in addition to what makes them unique.

As we hoped, this lesson also helped us lay the groundwork for future research. Several classes are now working on a literary analysis of Hamlet, using academic journals to support their arguments. As we introduced the research project, we were able to talk with students about the qualities of academic sources in a more nuanced way, and students had a better understanding of why academic journals were particularly suited to their research task. 

My hope is to start doing some of this source exploration with younger students, so we can build on those understandings as students move through their academic careers, as well as developing their own definitions and descriptions of source types. 

A Hootenanny in the Library

At the beginning of the year we added a new event that served as a welcome, an orientation, and a big book event to the 6th grade class; it is the Hootenanny. This idea was a collaboration between the middle division librarian and the 6th grade language arts teachers. The impetus was that all the incoming 6th grade students read the book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen as part of their summer reading. The teachers and the library team wanted to create a fun, informative and bonding experience based on the book and its themes. The language arts teachers knew they wanted to end the event with a viewing of the movie Hoot; so we worked backwards from the movie timeframe to plan out the rest of the program. Since Berkeley Preparatory School is located in Tampa, Florida, this book is a great one to kick start the year and celebrate with a Hootenanny.

Originally, we envisioned that this would be an after school event, but then we were lucky that middle division program created a special schedule that day so that 6th and 7th grades could have special events for class bonding. So we had three hours and twenty minutes to plan the special event for the 6th grade. One of the library’s aims was to share all about the library and what it has to offer, so while the beginning plan was library-centric the whole event became more interdisciplinary when we began to draft the activities that the students would rotate throughout the library. 

Snapshot of the schedule

Logistically, we had our four members of the library team and all 6th grade teachers as support for the program. The librarians and language arts teachers facilitated the rotation stations while the other 6th grade teachers rotated with the students.  There were 105 students. Groups were quickly formed by preordered colored name tags. I sent out a color-coded schedule of the rotation so that transitions were smooth and timely. I also announced when 1 minute was left in a rotation.

Snapshot of one rotation

Hootenanny Stations

While we did not have folk music and dancing like a traditional hootenanny the students did waltz through seven stations of activities. Here is a description of the activities.

Hoot off

A “Battle of the Books” style activity but with the book Hoot. We set-up 10 buzzers so that students could buzz-in their answers to the book Hoot. This is a fun quiz show style activity, but it also served to promote our middle division Battle of the Books team. Berkeley annually hosts a Battle of the Books for Bay Area schools.

Virtual Library Overview

Our collection development and database librarian, gave students an overview of the digital face of the library in our library classroom. Students learned about our digital resources and how to navigate through the library webpage.

Community Service

We had a special station for students to hear from our Middle Division Service Coordinators about our robust Middle Division Community Service program; we thought this a perfect complement to the theme of activism in the book.

The Digital Lab

We also enlisted our Digital Lab Coordinator to run a design challenge and share about our creative and innovative digital lab which is just a couple of steps away from the library. The Digital Lab is another learning resource for our students and often research projects start in the library, but migrate to the Digital Lab for creating projects based on their research. 

Creative Corner

Students learned about the creative corner area in the library. We did a simple, artsy book spine creation based on the book My Ideal Bookshelf. Students decorated one book spine of a recent favorite read and then we compiled them all for one of our first bulletin board decorations. This highlighted the area of the library where students can be creative.Now the poster resides in my office.

Pin the Wise Owl Teachers to the Bookshelf

This activity was a spin-off a classic childhood game, but for the specific purpose for our students to learn about our non-fiction section of the library and where each subject area lives. I photoshopped our 6th grade teachers onto the bodies of owls and put magnets on the back. Students in small pairs had to find where that teacher-owl would perch in the stacks. So students got to learn all their teachers and identify where that subject area information would be in the library. After all the owls were placed they walked around and checked all the subject area teachers and the area where books related to their subject live. 

Burrowing Book Owls

In this station we wanted our students to get familiar with our fiction collection. We created bookmarks with owls on them to serve as book recommendations. After we explained how to navigate in the fiction section we gave students a burrowing owl bookmark so that they could place it in a book as a recommendation.They browsed the shelves to look at all the fiction books we have. By the end of all the stations there were tons of burrowing owls peeking out of the books. We shared that we would leave these recommendations there for awhile so that can come back to them. We also made special librarian recommendation bookmarks that featured our own pets.

The Grand Finale-The Film

Finally, after all the stations we had a snack break on the Aye Arboretum which is like a veranda off of the library. Our Sage Dining staff set out cookies, potato chips, and fruit. Then we headed back into the main area of the library to view the film of Hoot on our large whiteboard/projection screen. We shared with students that they could bring pillows and blankets to get comfy on the floor or sit in our available chairs. Soft seating was reserved for the teachers. We all enjoyed the movie version of the book. It was a great way to celebrate reading, the library, activism, creativity, learning and Florida while getting to know each other as a class.

Conference Takeaways? Make that Takeaway.

As a librarian who finally earned her first pair of glasses this past April, I was thrilled to hit “submit” on my registration for AISL Houston Seeing Clearly 2020. We know there is a reason AISL conferences fill up quickly; we learn so much from each other throughout the week. Based on AISL member feedback, the conference is intentionally small, letting a local planning committee create a unique experience in keeping with the character of their region and schools. This personal touch lets attendees visit schools and see behind the scenes at other libraries, and it provides a mobility that would be impossible on a much larger scale. I always return with lists of ideas and pages of notes. Some get accomplished and some enter my “someday maybe” file. But what if I instead flip the script to the ONE takeaway that turned out to be the most meaningful from any given year? My list is not what I would have expected boarding the plane heading back to TPA each spring, and yet it represents the ideas I’ve returned to repeatedly and the changes I’ve made to my own practice. Since you all are so awesome, this was a nearly impossible task! If this post sparks any ideas from your own experiences, I’d love to hear them below.

Boston 2019 – Conferences have many moments that are planned – speakers, tours, workshops – but sometimes one of the most powerful moments occur because of the unforeseen. When there was a bus delay in Boston, the fabulously fashionable Ellen Cothran revamped her presentation into a pop-up session on Harkness discussions through some sort of alchemy in a lobby at Andover. She had everyone engaged and even handed out notes and captured her audience on the fly. I’ve tried to model her energy and enthusiasm for letting learning bubble up naturally. Proctoring PSATs, walking to a performance of Romeo and Juliet, and waiting for the microwave are all possibilities to have a pop-up session with students and faculty.

Atlanta 2018 – I can totally see why Constance Vidor won a Sara Jaffarian Award for her work on turning the library into a museum with interactive exhibits. I shared the webinar with my Middle School history faculty as a way we could broaden research outcomes to reach more learners. However, here is the line from my own handwritten notes that I remember most directly as an AHA moment. “20 craft packets with black paper, sharp pencils, gold/silver sharpies, and hand out. 6 straight lines drawn on paper so it is neat. Make it easy for them.” It seems so obvious, but I needed to have that level of granularity. It might seem easy for me to say that advisors should ask students to use pencils to complete a task, but compliance will feel easier if I hand them the pencils. Thinking back to Takeaway Boston, handing out pencils is an untraditional opportunity for conversation. Win-win!

New Orleans 2017 – While I always enjoy the keynote speakers, in New Orleans Doug Johnson provided the most memorable lesson of the conference. When he spoke about building library support with little tweaks to make administrators your allies, I listened. Of particular note were three items. 1. Be seen outside your the library. 2. Don’t call it “my library” but “our library” and advocate for library users, not for library goals. 3. Principals hate surprises, whether the surprises are good or bad. If there is something innovative that is happening in the library, your administrators should hear about it from you, not from a parent on the soccer field. It allows them to speak knowledgeably about the library programming and puts them in the position to support you. This directive to share positives has been key in building support outside my walls.

Los Angeles 2016 – Talk about “unknown unknowns.” Until Nora Murphy’s eye-opening presentation on frogs and axolotls, otherwise known as source literacy, I had been happy that teachers at my school knew how to direct students towards database usage. But we fell far short of teaching source literacy for untraditional or subject-specific sources, like photo archives, trade publications, or policy briefs. We don’t let our students take the shortcut of relying on mythical universal expertise; we know this is subject-specific. Thinking about where we encounter sources in our daily lives and how this differs by discipline has led to thoughtful discussions with department chairs about what quality sources look like in different disciplines. My students had been too quick to assume neutrality and authority in sources they encountered, and this session gave me the vocabulary to add nuance to our research program. I have since sought out Nora’s presentation for her insights and humor.  

Tampa 2015 – Conference planning is hard work. Much more time is spent focusing on raising money, building bus routes, writing bus scripts, determining meal plans for many varieties of diets, and coordinating breakout rooms than you would think. Five years later, I needed to look through my folder to remember the programming, compared with many memories of logistics. If you’re heading to Houston and see someone with a Conference Planner tag, thank them for all the weekends and evenings they devoted to set the stage for you to learn. Team Houston, there is a subset of AISL librarians that you’ll join on April 3. When talking with this esteemed group, you’ll never take the AISL conference for granted again.

Again it’s not always the skills but mindsets that have had a lasting influence. I’m better for our camaraderie, and I thank all AISL members for that!

AAAAH! Or, A(p)A A(nnot)A(ted) (Bibliograp)H(ies)!

I can remember, with some fondness in hindsight, the first and maybe only annotated bibliography I was assigned as a high school student. It was for Biology, and I was probably a senior because I am pretty sure that I drove myself to a semi-distant branch of the county public library system in order to access their periodical room. The topic was genetically modified tomatoes, as I recall. I spent a few hours there finding articles, taking notes, recording citations, maybe making some photocopies. This was a memorable experience because 1) I drove myself somewhere for scholarly purposes and felt awesome; 2) I figured out how to find and use periodicals in a library; 3) I never forgot what an annotated bibliography was and how it could be valuable in a research process. Writing those annotations made me take a deeper and more critical look at the sources I found and exercise some metacognition in the process.

Even though I had to drive to a public library (not even my local branch – and how did I even know where it was without GPS?), figure out where the back issues of these magazines were, spend hours combing through bound periodicals, find coins for photocopies, and create APA citations by hand, I think it was easier than the task before my Scientific Research and Design students. While they can, in theory, complete the entire assignment from their seat in the classroom or library, the sense of ease and convenience we are lulled into by online databases, Google Scholar, and citation managers has led to lessons in source evaluation that have to be reviewed many times in many ways. 

I know I am not the first among us to bring this up, not even on this blog, but it is a challenge for our students to understand what a journal is when every information source they gather is found the same way – through structuring a search query (with varying levels of expertise) either in a library database or an Internet search engine. I can tell them that they need to find scholarly, scientific articles, but when we’ve done such a good job teaching students to evaluate web-based sources using the CRAAP test or similar, there’s another leap from judging a source to be current, reliable, authoritative, and accurate to judging what qualifies as a scientific paper. Even checking the “peer-reviewed” box in the result limiters doesn’t always do the trick – we still see book reviews and news articles coming from academic journals. And how to distinguish an open access journal from a website, especially when that online open access journal isn’t really a periodical? I wish I had reread Dave Wee’s post including the  “super boring, boring, and easy”  source literacy exercise a few weeks ago instead of just now. 

Lesson for me: check the blog and the listserv archives before introducing a concept to students, even if I think I’ve got it covered. This assignment has been a good reminder for me that even though I think I am going slowly and taking time with each phase of the research process, there are some things on which I need to provide more direct instruction. For one, the annotation. 

I have worked with classes on annotated citations, but not always been the one to evaluate them. I’ve created embeddable slideshows for teachers and resource guides on the subject, all with great tutorials and tips from university libraries and writing centers. Nevertheless, while noticing that some students were having a hard time understanding that the annotation is not just a summary or rephrasing of an abstract, I heard this coming out of my mouth, and saw hands reaching for pens: 

Your APA annotation should tell your reader WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY,  and HOW.

This was a shorthand way of getting at the elements of an analytical/critical annotation.

Who – how can you assess the authors’ authority and expertise? What are their credentials and affiliations?

What – what sort of investigation is reported on here? Is this a review of the literature? An article on original research? A meta-analysis? What are the authors’ conclusions?

When – is this work current? Does that matter? Has much research been done since publication?

Where – where was the article published and where did you find it?

Why – what is the purpose of the investigation (or, what is the authors’ research question)? Why is it useful to you?

How – what was the authors’ methodology? How does this work fit with the literature, and your own work?

This is, in my opinion, actually a little bit of a stretch, but the familiar “who, what, when, where, why, how” starters seemed to help some students to take a more evaluative and critical view of the sources that had made their way into those NoodleTools projects. 

Some favorite reads this year…

I don’t know about you, but the chilly fall air that has finally arrived in Pittsburgh makes me want to spend a Saturday afternoon curled up with a good book and a delicious cup of tea (hot toddy, anyone?!). Managing a six month old doesn’t really allow for much reading time, but I have been able to sit back and relax during naptime on Saturdays (laundry be darned!). 

As a librarian, I feel that it is important that we take time to inhale a good book- our love of reading is probably what brought most of us to this honorable profession. And we should acknowledge that love and share our favorites. I also like to write about what I read, so that I can clearly articulate my thoughts when recommending titles to students and colleagues. So, I am taking some time and space here to share my favorites thus far this year. Please take some time to share yours in the comments. Here goes!

I chose this recent winner of the National Book Award for Fiction as the first title for our Faculty/Staff book club, and it was the perfect choice! It is not only brief, but captivating, and easily devoured by a busy teacher at the beginning of the school year. So many aspects lend themselves to marvelous discussion, and you will find yourself pondering over The Friend for days to come. 

I read this title on a whim after seeing it listed as available on Overdrive, and am seriously glad that I gave it a try. I had not read anything by Emily Giffin, and was skeptical; however, I was immediately caught up in the story. The plot is particularly relevant to independent school librarians. A young scholarship student, who happens to be the daughter of an immigrant from Brazil, becomes the target of a cyber bullying scandal at a prestigious private school in Nashville. The story is told from alternating points of view: the father of the girl, the mother of the alleged perpetrator, and the girl herself. The story moves quickly and appeals to mature teens as well as adults, and would provide for excellent discussion for a faculty book club- which is why I’m considering it as an option for a future meeting!

I realize I am probably late to the game on this one (heh, see what I did there?). It has been recommended to me many times over. It took a student request to read it for our student book club for me to finally pick up the copy, loaned to me by my older brother, that had been languishing on our shelves for months. I did game occasionally with my brothers when young, and reading about the fight for the ultimate prize in the gaming world brought back many happy memories of epic battles and cheering on my brothers after my character saw the words “GAME OVER” on the screen. Reading Ready Player One, you will hope the game never ends.

I absolutely love Lisa See, and she continues to highlight, at least for me, previously unknown yet fascinating stories in the Asian world. While reading about this group of female divers from a small island near Korea, I was continually surprised and challenged by their lives. The role reversals for men and women were fascinating- the men cared for children while the women dove into the chilly waters day after day for coveted sea creatures. The relationships are complicated and real, and the characters experience a diverse range of emotions as war ravages their home. This is a riveting story, and I once again anticipate See’s next novel.

Knowing how our country functions politically and socially, this story was not as surprising as it should have been but still angering nonetheless. It is, quite plainly, abhorent how hard it is for some people to simply exist in our society. Because I was reading this when my son was two months old, and Land has a young child herself, I fought to check my feelings of being overwhelmed at times myself, conceptualizing all of the support I have and the lack of help for so many. This will be my go-to memoir to recommend for the foreseeable future.

I don’t typically read short stories, but this popped up on Overdrive when I was scrolling through available titles. I was pleasantly surprised and instantly intrigued by the various stories that ranged from a young single mother trying to interview a movie star to a couple whose honeymoon is invaded by the wife’s high school mean girl. Curtis Sittenfield’s talent shines through in each story, and I eagerly await her next short story installment. 

So what have you read lately? I am always on the hunt for my next great read, and I look forward to suggestions from my fellow librarians. Happy reading!

Student Voice and Preventing Plagiarism

An earlier AISL blog, “Engage to Prevent Plagiarism,” discussed resources and strategies to prevent plagiarism.  Encouraging students to engage with their topics and add their own voice was suggested by several authors as a method to prevent plagiarism (DeSena; Gilmore). One of my library objectives for this school year was to address the issue of plagiarism by guiding students to develop strategies and skills while also making the activities engaging for students and relevant to the curriculum. The following Preventing Plagiarism activity was a first step in helping students to make connections with ideas of others and to allow their own voices to be heard.

Engage with a Controversial News Story

Rather than confront students with a lecture on plagiarism, I collaborated with classroom teachers to connect a topical news story to their curriculum so that students could practice effective note taking and paraphrasing and be challenged to put their own spin on controversial topics.  Eighth graders in US History explored the Harriet Tubman $20 bill controversy.

Seventh grade ELA students examined an article on cloning (“Barbra Streisand Explains Why I Cloned My Dogs”) and compared motivations with ethical issues in their class novel The House of the Scorpion. (Streisand used a Texas company for the cloning procedure, so this made the news story more pertinent with our Texas students.)

Reasons and Examples of Plagiarism

After explaining that students would use the news story to practice paraphrasing to glean important ideas, we discussed the definition of plagiarism and the importance of respecting the words and ideas of others. In groups, students used “Think — Pair — Share” to identify the top three reasons students plagiarize.

Reasons most frequently identified included laziness, procrastination, concern over grades, and confusion about how to paraphrase and how to cite. This student brainstormed list was compared with a “Top Ten” list from Barry Gilmore’s book, Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students (Heinemann 2009). Two items on Gilmore’s list that were missing in our students’ brainstorming were noteworthy: Student Culture and School Culture. We discussed the importance of creating a culture of learning in which ethical behavior is promoted and valued (both by students and educators/administrators) and the importance of students adding their own voices to the scholarly dialogue.

In order to show how the consequences of plagiarism and unethical behavior can escalate, we discussed that cases of plagiarism result in 1) teacher/parent conferencing and re-doing a project in the middle school; 2) impacting grades in high school; and 3) possible expulsion in college if a student is found to have plagiarized. In the business world, plagiarism could mean the loss of career. An example of a college student accused of plagiarizing is Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan, whose novel was accused of having plagiarized passages from another YA author’s novel; Kaavya lost a $500,000.00 two-book contract and movie deal. Jayson Blair is an example of a plagiarist in the business world; this New York Times journalist resigned after being accused of inventing interviews and posting over 37 plagiarized stories. (One of Blair’s fabricated interviews concerned a Texas family grieving their soldier son, so this struck a chord with our Texas students.)

To transition to the Preventing Plagiarism activity, students viewed the video Citation: A Very Brief Introduction (Library of North Carolina State University). The video animation illustrates how ideas build upon multiple sources: entering into a dialogue with multiple ideas allows students to make their own connections.


Make Connections with Multiple Viewpoints

The Preventing Plagiarism activity to evaluate the controversial news stories was adapted from a “Paraphrase Practice” activity in Barry Gilmore’s book, Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students. During this activity, students

  • used the first two paragraphs of the new story to write a general summary
  • looked closely to identify an important sentence;
  • circled three to four important words to write a paraphrased sentence
  • and located one more important quote in the article to practice introducing a direct quote and citing with an in-text citation.

As eighth grade students read the NYT article to select their quote, they weighed multiple viewpoints. Was the decision to delay the Tubman $20 bill driven by 1) anti-counterfeiting safeguards (viewpoint of treasury secretary); 2) race and culture (viewpoint of Democratic Senator); or political correctness (viewpoint of President Donald Trump)? Students worked in groups of two so that they could talk aloud and tweak their paraphrased sentences (making sure the sentences were in their own words).  Eighth graders shared their sentences aloud, and we noted how individual student voices were evident in the results.

Seventh grade students followed the same paraphrase activity as eighth grade, but they used the NYT article about Streisand’s decision to clone her dog. Students then were challenged to look closely at quotes from a chapter in The House of the Scorpion to write a comparison/contrast paragraph discussing motivations of the character El Patron for cloning the boy, Matt.  Sentence stems were provided to aid students’ discussion:

Reflection on the Preventing Plagiarism Activity

As a short introduction to strategies for paraphrasing and citing sources, this lesson was successful.  This forty-five minute class did not allow for additional activities, but eighth graders could be challenged to research further the historical background of Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson as they weigh the question of “What do we value as we decide who is featured on U.S. currency?”  The seventh grade teacher suggested a Socratic discussion could be a follow-up activity as students discuss further the character motivations and ethics of cloning. This Preventing Plagiarism activity promoted interesting insights from students and provided an opportunity for students to listen to their peers and appreciate how each used a similar source of information and added their own voice.

Bibliography

Barry, Dan, et al. “Correcting the Record: Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception.” New York Times, 11 May 2003, www.nytimes.com/2003/05/11/us/correcting-the-record-times-reporter-who-resigned-leaves-long-trail-of-deception.html. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.

“Citation: A Very Brief Introduction.” YouTube, uploaded by Libncsu, North Carolina State University, 23 July 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMhMuVvXCVw. Accessed 25 Aug. 2019.

DeSena, Laura Hennessey. Preventing Plagiarism. National Council of Teachers of English, 2007.

Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.

Gilmore, Barry. Preventing Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students. Heinemann, 2009.

Holt, Karen. “‘How Opal Mehta Got Kissed,’ Then Got Pulled.” Interview by Melissa Block. NPR, 28 Apr. 2006, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5369768. Accessed 6 Oct. 2019.

Streisand, Barbra. “Barbra Streisand Explains: Why I Cloned My Dog.” New York Times, 2 Mar. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/style/barbra-streisand-cloned-her-dog.html. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.

Zhou, David. “Student’s Novel Faces Plagiarism Controversy.” The Harvard Crimson, 23 Apr. 2006, www.thecrimson.com/article/2006/4/23/students-novel-faces-plagiarism-controversy-beditors/. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.