Celebrating Beloved Illustrators

This past year marked the passing of several beloved children’s book illustrators:
Eric Carle  (June 25, 1929 – May 23, 2021) 
Lois Ehlert (November 9, 1934 – May 25, 2021)
Floyd Cooper (January 8, 1956 – July 16, 2021)

In celebration of beloved illustrators, the following Illustrator Cards provide an overview of accomplishments as well as personal reflections on the contributions to children’s literature by these illustrators. A brief listing of resources also suggest further paths of exploration. You might even engage students in art activities inspired by Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, and Floyd Cooper. What a wonderful way for students to pay tribute to remarkable visual storytellers.

Eric Carle Resources 

Lois Ehlert Resources

Floyd Cooper Resources

Getting to Know You

I love getting to know the print collection of a new library. Does it have familiar titles and authors? Does it have the books I’ve been wanting to read? Does it have books that are new to me? Are there gaps I want to consider filling? Are there things I can learn about the community (and its readers) by getting to know the print collection?

I’ve just started a new job at a school that did not have a librarian on campus during the last school year, meaning the print collection was in need of a little, um, attention. There was evidence of well-intentioned efforts to keep the collection in order, and also evidence that keeping up with shelf maintenance was not a top priority during a most unusual school year (and rightfully so). 

The print collection’s need for a little TLC gave me the perfect way to get to know the collection. At this point in my process I’ve handled pretty much every book in our fiction collection – and created a TBR pile I have no hope of finishing before the summer is over. 

Shelf maintenance is also a good way to get to know your community’s sense of humor 🙂 

This project also gave me some insight into how students use the space the collection is in. There’s one spot that was in particularly rough shape, in large part because of its proximity to two student seating areas. After trying to figure out where the shelving pins may have wandered off to – and consulting with some folks who know the space better than I do – I decided that this might not be an ideal shelving location. 

So now my next project is to decide what to do with this space instead. I need something that won’t get destroyed easily, but that also doesn’t invite climbing. Some kind of (very durable) display? Inspirational quotes? A showcase of student work? I suspect I’ll have to try a few things before I figure out the best way to use this space. Let me know if you have ideas!

Are You a Restless Learner?

Have you ever picked up a book only to discover at some point that you’ve already read it? I keep telling myself I’m going to stay current with my Goodreads account or try to find that small journal I started several years ago to keep track of books I’ve read. The busier I get the more this task sinks to the bottom of my to-do list, but every so often something jolts me back to reality and I know I really have to get more organized with my ‘have read’ list.

I recently picked up A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, a mesmerizing and meditative tale of time and how we inhabit it. It wasn’t until I was close to the end of the book (about 400 pages in) that the scene where Ruth’s dog is missing and turns up under her porch stirred a distant memory and it was then I realized that I had already read this book—probably about seven years ago if my memory serves me well. Lists are great, don’t get me wrong, but I realize if I had kept that list, I probably wouldn’t have reread this book given all the others in my ‘need to read’ pile. But, oh, what I would have missed by not being immersed once again in a book that brought me so much pleasure and that I’d gladly read again.

Book lists aside, I do, however, keep a list of the professional development I attend, mostly because I like to stay abreast of trends in the field of education and librarianship, and a list helps me keep track of gaps in my knowledge and areas I want to revisit. This summer, I’ve found a number of invaluable PD opportunities that are helping me hit my professional goals for the coming year. So here’s what I’ve added to my PD list so far—perhaps you might find them helpful, as well.

How to Save Ourselves from Disinformation with The New York Times

This webinar, presented by The New York Times, was short but packed with lots of great examples students, especially older ones, will likely be able to relate to. Of particular interest is the segment, “A Conversation With Former Radicals, Caleb Cain and Caolan Robertson” that starts at 2:51 and addresses radicalization that happens through YouTube. Later in the video, comedian Sarah Silverman talks about her perspective on who to follow for the truth. You can watch the entire webinar here:

NewsLit Camp with CNN and the Wall Street Journal

At the top of my list of research skills to focus on this year will be helping my students develop the skills to discern fact from fiction, understand the role disinformation and misinformation plays in the news landscape, as well as the role journalists and a free press plays in our democracy. I attended two of The News Literacy Project’s #NewsLitCamps and found them incredibly informative. Listening to reporters from CNN and the Wall Street Journal gave me personal insight into the challenges facing journalists and the media in reporting controversial and challenging issues. As part of the #NewsLitCamps, the NLP provides participants with an overwhelming array of resources to help put together a meaningful unit on this topic.

In addition to their outreach programming, they are the creators of Checkology, interactive lessons to test your students’ knowledge and understanding of what makes a source credible. These lessons help students develop skills to evaluate reliable sources and information and allow them (and you) to chart their progress. Last year I used their Checkology platform in my New Student Seminar and found the options to have students either work independently or as a group on their tutorials added to its functionality and allowed me to adapt assignments based on what we were covering or was happening in the news at the time. I’m pleased to see they have added a new lesson on Conspiratorial Thinking. Checkology is free and has lots of wonderful educator resources, including their weekly newsletter, The Sift, to keep you up-to-date on relevant media news along with examples of recent misinformation and resources to get the conversation going with your students.They also will connect you with a journalist for a virtual or in-person visit – check out their Newsroom-to-Classroom resources for more information.

Designing for Equity | The Global Online Academy

While my school will be back fully in person next year, I love the flexibility of creating hybrid lessons that I can use to support all of my students. Last year I took part in GOA’s Design Bootcamp and this year I continued with their free Designing for Equity five-day course. Each day we explored ways to disrupt, design, and discuss key elements essential to equitable design: Community, Content, Assessment, and Grading. We explored first-hand accounts, heard teacher and student voices and discussed ways to create a learning environment where all of our students feel welcome and one that encourages them to feel that they belong. I found the resources on grading for equity challenged me to think about what that assigned number really means—to me and especially to my students. I would encourage anyone who struggles with the concept and process of grading to check out Joe Friedman’s Grading for Equity. Readings from it have encouraged me to think more deeply about my grades and evaluate if they: 1) describe a S’s level of mastery, 2) evaluate Ss based on their knowledge, not their environment, history, or behavior, 3) support hope and a growth mindset, and 4) ‘lift the veil’ on how to succeed. Numbers three and four resonate with me as my goals for my students include helping them develop a sense of agency over their own learning and belief in themselves that they are capable of succeeding. This course left me with an extensive reading list which I plan to add to our Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism guide, so stay tuned if you’re interested in exploring more.

ThinkerAnalytix: How We Argue

The homepage on ThinkerAnalytix says it all:

ThinkerAnalytix has partnered with the Harvard Department of Philosophy to help students develop logical thinking skills through the use of argument mapping using the interactive platform Mindmup Atlas. ThinkerAnalytix offers a subscription-based course which a number of our member independent schools use, but there are also lots of free interactive puzzles/ argument maps (referred to as ‘toy arguments’) that you can use to help students master critical thinking skills, effectively communicate their independently formed ideas, and engage in productive discussions taking into account opposing points of view. This two-day workshop was truly inspiring as the sessions were run by teachers at the middle, secondary and university level who currently incorporate argument mapping into their curriculum. Many of the presenters were philosophy majors or faculty who taught philosophy courses and possessed strong argumentation skills. Listening to them makes me regret not having taken any philosophy courses in college—something all of our students would benefit from, as well. I could also see this being a useful complement to the question formulation technique (QFT) I explored in the Right Question Institute’s course on Teaching Students to Ask their Own Primary Source Questions, which I’ll save for another post.

AISL Summer Institute 2021: Incubating Creativity

Last, but definitely not least, my favorite PD this summer was our own AISL Summer Institute 2021: Incubating Creativity hosted by Melinda Holmes at Darlington School, Rome, GA and facilitated by the authors of the book of the same name, Incubating Creativity at Your Library, Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer. While I learned so much from the other PD I did this summer, I think you all can relate to the challenge of being a librarian in a sea of teachers. I’m approaching the learning primarily from the POV of how I can use this knowledge to collaborate with teachers on these skills, while their focus is on how they can incorporate the skills into their curriculum. It’s definitely given me insight into how I might approach future collaborations.

That said, the Summer Institute is great because as colleagues from an academic perspective, we share similar goals to more fully integrate our library program into the curriculum and the academic life of the school. I loved hearing what other folks were doing and appreciated the care that Melinda put into the structure of the day. Although it was virtual, between content sessions we had the opportunity to do stretching with Kate Grantham, slow drawing with Lisa Elchuk, and book art with Michael Jacobs who makes amazing book art for the Darlington School. During the content sessions we explored how we might bring creative programming into our ongoing library programs. I feel blessed to be part of such a creative, committed group of librarians. I’ll leave you with a sampling of some of the brainstorming/planning we accomplished individually and collaboratively.

If, like me, you find yourself having to explain why you’re spending so much of your time off actually enjoying a deep dive into PD this summer, perhaps edX will help—their motto is: “Restless learners change the world” (or at least our little corner of it).

Note: For those of you concerned that all I’m doing is professional development this summer, I would like to put your mind at ease. I have been indulging my newly found love of growing Dahlias, introduced to me by a colleague at work (thanks, Rebecca!). This is my third summer growing them and I’m just beginning to feel like I know what I’m doing. Each year, I learn a little bit more about how to care for them so they can be their best, most beautiful selves. Here are a few blooms from last summer to provide inspiration to my current plants, who hopefully will get the hint and start blooming any week now.

Here’s hoping everyone has a restful, growthful summer!

on attention to intention…

Happy summer, everyone!

I hope that this post finds you spending some of your summer off doing good work like our colleagues Christina and Tasha, traipsing about in the glens and gorges of Ithaca or sighting eagles in Washington. I too, spent three weeks treating my serious case of “tropical island rock fever induced wanderlust” with three weeks on the East Coast by visiting friends and family in New York, Rhode Island, Boston, and Maine that we haven’t been able to see in two years. On the way home from the East Coast, we stopped off and spent a week catching up with friends and former library colleagues in Los Angeles where we lived for 14 years. I know that there are many of you out there excitedly working on initiatives and projects that you want to implement next year, but very honestly, I just haven’t had it in me to think about my library at all for the last four weeks.

Things I have been thinking about instead of my library…

Georgian (the country, not the state 🤣) cheese boats!
Ring Dings!
Dinner with a view!
And maybe a short bike ride…

I’ve been back home here in Honolulu for almost a week now and yesterday I finally mustered the energy to go in and check on the library and pay some bills. It’s really interesting. I initially struggled with burnout pretty significantly during the spring of 2020 when we were in the initial COVID-19 lockdown and we were working completely from home. In October of 2020 we began a lengthy reopening process that saw us bring our PK, 1st, and 2nd graders on campus, then slowly bringing a grade at a time back to school. During this transitional time, middle school and high school faculty were allowed to teach remotely from home or to come to campus and teach remotely from their classrooms or offices. I choose to go to campus and work and teach from my empty library. This experience brought me to the realization that I am a person who is significantly influenced by my physical surroundings. When I was working completely from home my brain thought about the library 24-hours a day. My brain would not stop thinking about work–to the point that it was affecting my sleep. When I was able to return to my library space, the physical separation of my work space and my home space seemed to cue my brain to think about different things in each space. “Oh… We’re here in the library. It’s time to think about that news literacy module that we’re writing” vs. “Oh… I seem to be home now and there’s my bed so I guess I can stop thinking about work stuff and just worry about which of these characters might be Lady Whistledown…”

The experience of the last year and a half has made me realize that I need to pay much closer attention if I want to work with intention so that’s what I’m going to try to do starting right now in the space below. Please know that this is a first draft document…

Things I want to do with intention…

  • Reset our Library Culture–I think we had a pretty good pre-pandemic library culture going in our physical library space. We typically were bulging at the seams with kids in the space before and after school, and we had a good number of kids in our space every period of every day. That being said, sometimes I think that we tipped further toward “student lounge” than I sometimes desired. While I was perfectly fine with the balance of work to socializing ratio we had going most of the time, I’d like to work to reset the culture in the space so that we’re pretty loose before and after school, but work on being a little tighter on the “this is a space for relatively quiet work, reflection, and contemplation” during the middle of the day. The fact that our space as been virtually closed to drop in access by students for a year and half is actually a pretty rare opportunity to reset our school communities’ perceptions and expectations for the library as a place. I don’t want to squander that!
  • Build on “The Library is an Instructional Department” Mindset–Let’s be real, the pandemic has been hard and painful, but a silver lining in this experience has been that many more of our faculty colleagues have begun to see that the “Mid-Pacific Library” is ACTUALLY just as much an instructional program as it is a physical space. This is a mindset shift that I’ve worked to instill since I got to Mid-Pacific 7 years ago, but having an opportunity to able to work with teachers and their classes both synchronously and asynchronously WITHOUT A PHYSICAL LIBRARY SPACE seems to finally have helped a significant number of faculty let go of their pre-pandemic notions of what the “library” is; what the “library” has to offer; and what librarians know and can do! I’m hoping that we can continue to foster the new collaborations that emerged over the last year and a half and that these new “willing partners” will bring some of their friends along for the ride as well!
  • Lead the Way on “Non-Discipline Specific Concepts and Competencies”–Over the last year and a half, teachers’ reality ALL OVER THE WORLD, has been that they just have not been able to teach all the content, skills, and competencies that they thought they were teaching in a pre-pandemic world. Going virtual, virtually overnight and then having to teach cohorts of kids that were socially distanced with some learning from home, etc. really forced teachers to ask themselves WHAT REALLY MATTERS in what I’m teaching. I’ve started asking our academic curriculum chairs’ group and other teachers we’ve collaborated with, “So, when your students are 35 and perhaps working in a field that might not be directly related to your subject what concepts, competencies/skills do you want them to remember from this course/project?” What I’m finding is that the resulting discussions have frequently produced opportunities for us to collaborate on instruction in the information literacy, media literacy, and news literacy spaces that seemingly weren’t as available to us in the past. I’m hoping to keep this question on the front burner with our academic curriculum chairs’ group in the coming year.

I’m sure there’s a lot more, but that’s what I’ve got for now. I’d love to hear what you hope to do with intention in the upcoming year. Please his reply and share what you’re thinking in the comments below!

Have a safe, restorative, AND WONDERFUL rest of the summer, all!


PS–Something I suppose I’m not super intentional about is that someday I’d like to have six pack abs, but… Alas… Carbs are SO DELICIOUS!!! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Wonder-ful Google?

While camping this past week, a last-minute trip for much-needed nature, I spent a lot of hikes revisiting a question that’s been in the back of my mind for years. The landscape around Ithaca is famous for gorges and waterfalls. Straight from the Visitors’ Bureau…

Truth in advertising

Because of some camper maintenance issues, this trip was being reimagined and rebooked with about ONE DAY’S notice. Like many librarians, I’m a planner. And like many librarians, I’m a savvy searcher. Between tourism websites, travel blogs, and review sites, you can know seemingly everything about a place before you lock the doors to leave your home. But how does that change your expectations about the experience?

My working theory is that it shifts the baseline of expectation. If I’ve researched a trail, or a campground, or a restaurant, and know in detail the terrain, view or most recommended dish, that expectation is now my baseline, leaving me less room for serendipitous discoveries. When instead, I only research the outlines – for instance so I don’t get caught without a place to stay over 4th of July weekend – my days feel more full of wonder. More wonderful? Instead of checking off a mental box that I completed the task I set out to do, I’m constantly asking myself what’s next — what’s over that hill or around that corner?

Rock City vs. Rock City

Scenario One: Hold a map in your hands and walk towards a dot listed “Rock City.” (And question whether you want to walk on the “Rattlesnake Trail” to get there…)
Scenario Two: Google AllTrails and see it has a 4.5 star rating from 158 people who have included 248 photos. Officially, “Rock City Trail is a 1.4 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Morgantown, West Virginia that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round.” Begin reading or listening to hundreds of reviews. Know the exact moment you reach Rock City and where to take an iconic selfie.

Entrance to Rock City. Found sans Internet

This past year was draining on all of us. While we faced uncertainty about big-picture questions related to the virus and the United States, we also faced a lot of monotony in our day-to-day lives. While seated at my desk in the library, my fingers can access just about anything the Internet can provide. On slippery rocks, however, my focus is more immediately careful foot placement. This past week, I walked by waterfall after waterfall with little knowledge about which was more famous or tallest or featured in a movie (or that there was—surprise— another waterfall). And I had no cell service between the cliffside walls to get that information, so instead of staring at the screen in my hands, I broadened my view to the moss and eddies and rock striations. Just yesterday, the Gorge Trail led to the Bear Trail and the end of the park map. In real life, there was a sign for a lake. Which led to a picnic glen. A lake trail. A heron gliding over a marsh I hadn’t known was there a minute before. A question from the only other hiking group about whether this was a good place to swim. (Ummm…not sure I’m your girl for that info, but go for it if you want.) In-the-moment decision making about whether thunder indicated an imminent or distant storm.

Benefit of trails in glens and gorges is almost constant shade

A half line from Robert Frost kept popping into my head: “Yet knowing how way leads on to way.” Yes, I doubted I’d be back this way again. On this path. In this weather. In this mindset. In writing this, I remember that I had actually planned to start the aforementioned hike with the rim trail and end in the gorge and only switched because of an off-hand comment a few days previously about how waterfalls look bigger when you are looking up at them. The unexpected lake wouldn’t have been obvious if I had chosen that route.

“Yet knowing how way leads onto way,” how similar to my online life. Alltrails.com to weather.com to reserveamerica.com one day while other serpentine web searches might start on the same trail at Buttermilk Falls and end – in as much as searches ever end – with a search for the country where pancakes originated.

This scale is what I’ve been missing from my local trails

Since I usually have my phone at my fingertips, ready to answer any question I might ask, I forget how rejuvenating it can be to have time for unanswered questions. Long uninterrupted conversations that aren’t being fact-checked in real time. Learning to anticipate waterfalls because of the ways they affect all five senses, not because I’ve been following directions from a website. Most of the time, I love that the Internet provides an outlet for my curiosity and all the answers I could seek. But perhaps there is a corollary to more predictable travel planning in that novelty is harder to grasp, limiting awe.

Wherever you are this summer, I hope that you are getting what you need for a fall reset. After all the disruptions to the last school year, I’m counting on libraries being busier than ever as people appreciate being able to gather together in larger spaces again.

Kudos conundrum

At our 2021 (virtual) Speech Day last week, our head prefects were very kind to mention me in their graduating address:

“Mrs Straughan can find any book on the library shelves and is the only person who can fix the library printer”.

Sigh. So kind but so concerning.

My initial reaction was a feeling of appreciation followed quickly by a melodramatic “I’m SO glad I went to grad school to have this kind of impact on the upcoming generation!” with eyeroll accompaniment. All to myself of course.

However, like you, much of my time is spend fostering effective search skills, guiding through citation, recommending great books, sourcing elusive information – why didn’t they mention any of that?

But what if I looked at it differently? What if I applied a Seth-Godin-like perspective?

“Mrs Straughan can find any book on the library shelves” may mean that DDC remains a mysterious code for my students.  So, do I do a better job at de-coding OR do I finally get over my lack of confidence about  “bookstoreifying” our collection? Keeping DDC for retrieval purposes while re-organizing in a way that makes sense to students, with MUCH better signage?

“…and is the only person who can fix the library printer” may mean that as much as I value my education and champion my professional expertise, sometimes what matters to a frantic student is that I am able to do a small technical task quickly at a time when it really matters to them. Hopefully with a reassuring smile on my face.

Let 21-22 find me immersed in a reorganization plan with more patience for that darn printer and less inclination for eye-rolling.

Another encouragement to rest….

For those of you who know me, you are about to experience a thing I never thought would happen: I am not in a mood to think, write, or talk about research. I am sure this state is temporary, and I did have a plan for this post, but I am fortunate enough to be someplace where I spent many happy hours in childhood, so I’ll share the images that inspire me at the moment (though it may not be scientifically correct):

Be like these eagles…

Cattle Point Lighthouse, San Juan Island, WA

…when you find a place with a good view….

… stop and enjoy it.

Reuben Tarte County Park, San Juan Island, WA

Promise to have library-related content next time, but for now … wishing you joy however you find it.

Gamify Media Literacy

Imagine this…

  • A set of biodegradable building bricks for sustainable building designs.
  • An ecology doll with its own binoculars, kayak, nature journal, and packet of native plant seeds.
  • A board game in which you advance ahead not by acquiring the most money or property, but instead by performing actions that help the environment.

Are these the latest educational toys in your local store? No, at least, not yet.
These are just some of the imaginative toys and games envisioned by sixth graders during a media literacy project. As a culminating activity in a Literacy Skills class, students used design techniques to create their own marketing ad for a proposed educational game or toy.

Students began the project by looking closely at Media Messages to evaluate how media uses a special language (special techniques) to persuade an audience.
Iconic ads such as
Wolverine “Got Milk” and
McDonald’s “You So Want One”
provided discussions of camera angles,
text placement,  slogans, color choices,
as well as use of celebrities.

Subliminal messages (underlying messages) were examined in the video commercials for Door Dash “The Neighborhood” and Sodastream. Door Dash’s message suggested that they keep neighborhood businesses thriving while Sodastream’s message projected that their customers would save the Earth’s environment.

Students also examined Barbie and Lego marketing campaigns; in a webquest they compared and contrasted how each company was targeting a particular audience. Barbie ads sought to empower young girls to explore careers with the “You Can Be Anything” campaign, and their “Fashionistas” line of dolls widened their appeal to diverse individuals as well as different body types. Lego marketing ads promoted imagination and creativity and suggested that building with Legos encouraged problem solving and resiliency, preparing youth for careers in engineering and science. After viewing these examples of marketing ads and evaluating how these ads target audiences, students were challenged to create their own marketing ad to be pitched to a professional client.

The G.R.A.S.P.S. Performance Task Assessment tool was used to set up the Marketing Ad design challenge. (G.R.A.S.P.S. was recommended in a Jay McTighe workshop that I had previously attended–McTighe is known for collaboration with Grant Wiggins on “Backward Design.”)

G–Goal: Create a persuasive marketing ad to promote an educational toy or game

R–Role: Marketing Ad Designer

A–Target Audience:
Choice A: Individuals interested in ecology or caring for the environment
Choice B: Individuals interested in Creative Writing

Choice A:
In a marketing ad presentation (through Zoom) you need to convince an Ecologist that your toy/game will promote a career in ecology or heighten interest in caring for the environment. (I arranged for Ecologist Suzanne Simpson, Director of the Bayou Land Conservancy in Houston to Zoom with students to be our expert Ecologist client.)

Choice B:
In a marketing ad presentation (through Zoom) you need to convince a published poet your toy/game will promote a career in writing or heighten an interest in poetry. (I arranged for poet Allan Wolf to Zoom with students to be our expert Poet client.)

P–Performance and purpose:
Use media language techniques to create a marketing ad to persuade an expert that your educational toy/game will promote career interest or heighten interest in the topic of the toy/game.

S–Standards and Criteria for success:
Marketing ad effectively uses images, color design, layout design, slogan, and additional text, celebrity, or media to make a persuasive ad. The design should feature a front box design with image and slogan and the design should also show a back of the box design that discusses the educational goal of the game or toy.

Oral presentation through Zoom to a professional expert. The presentation should clearly present the merits of your envisioned toy/game and its educational goal.

Creating a prototype of the toy/game is an option (but not required). The marketing ad and the oral presentation should clearly present the vision of the product.

The Market Ad designs showed a wide range of creative ideas.
Here is a comparison of two doll ad designs, one for an ecology client and one for a poet client:

Feedback from Clients
Ecologist Suzanne Simpson gave the following observation as she viewed students’ ecology games and toys:

“I never wanted to play with dolls when I was young. I was interested in nature. I wish I had these ecology-themed games and toys when I was growing up to encourage me in the career of being an ecologist.”

Poet Allan Wolf was impressed by the choice of Amanda Gorman as a featured doll and the theme of “dreaming big” to achieve her goal to be a poet. These students envisioned a line of Dream Dolls that were “imperfectly perfect.” He also enjoyed other students’ ideas for a creative writing poetry kit and a poetry trivia game–students even stumped poet Allan Wolf on one of the poetry trivia questions.

Not all student groups were able to present to the professional clients; however, all groups presented their marketing ads to their fellow classmates. The follow-up questions and suggestions from their peers provided thoughtful discussions on how the prototype ideas could be improved. This project was a fascinating opportunity for students to use their media literacy skills to design a persuasive Marketing Ad. The presentations to a targeted audience honed their communication skills and encouraged students to be receptive to feedback on their designs. Looking closely and evaluating media messages is a valuable 21st century skill, and this Marketing Ad project provided a challenging way to explore these goals.

Image Bibliography:
Amanda Gorman photo from
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

created using Canva

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…

created using Canva

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.

created using Canva

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!

The campsite rule for libraries

Well, it’s the end of the year. I think. Like everything else this year, the end of the school year doesn’t feel quite normal. Adding to my sense of disequilbrium is the fact that I’m leaving my school this year (for another independent school library job – I’m not going that far!). So in addition to wrapping up this year (as well as a few things that never really got wrapped up at the end of last year…), I’m getting my library ready for a new director to take over.

This is my fourth library job, and walking into a new library is always… an experience. Sometimes you find detailed notes and information, and sometimes all you have to go on are a bunch of unlabeled keys (why are there always so many unlabeled keys?). We all know the ins and out of our libraries well, but all of our libraries will outlive us. What will someone else discover when they come into your library? Will they be able to take it over, or will they be doing a scavenger hunt? Will they sing your praises or curse your name?

Luckily I have two kindred spirits, Laura Pearle and Courtney Lewis, who enjoy thinking and talking about this almost as much as I do. A few years ago I joked with Laura that I wanted to do a presentation called “You’ve Inherited a Dumpster Fire. Now What?” While I haven’t presented that exact program, Laura, Courtney and I have presented a few times (including at AISL Boston) about the “What If Scenario” and recently recoded our presentation as a webinar for the Independent School Section of AASL (it’s free!). You can also find links to everything we presented here.

I try and follow the campsite rule when leaving a library: leave it better than I found it. And the beauty of many of these things is that they make the campsite a lot nicer while you’re still in it. As I’ve gone through and organized files for this transition, I’ve been reflecting on how helpful some of these documents have been – and kicking myself for not keeping some of them in better shape. But I know that the new library director will have what she needs to quickly get her bearings, and will also have some historical context for the program she’s taking over.

Setting all this step up is one of those big tasks that is easily broken down into small tasks. It may be that you can put some of these things into place as you wrap up this year or start next year. At the very least, start by labeling some of those keys.