We See You #aislsi2019

What a great pleasure it was to attend my first summer institute, put together by the phenomemal team at John Burroughs School in fabulous St Louis!

Our two days together were founded on the importance of acknowledging who we are so that we can participate in conversations about who others are. Having a diverse library collection allows for a wide variety of representation reflecting a range of human identifiers – reflecting diversity of content not equality of numbers.

So much important content was covered, I can’t do it justice here, so I simply offer some nuggets from the valuable presentations, engaging activities, phenomenal panels and all the wonderful ensuing conversations. (Thanks and credits below)

Deep Dive into diversity in the library

Defining diversity

I appreciated learning about “The Big 8” identifiers (most common but not exclusive and can be adapted as relevant), which offer such a useful framework:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Mental & physical ability
  • Socioeconomic status 
  • Race (skin colour)
  • Ethnicity (cultural/geographic background)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion

There was good discussion around the importance of recognizing which identifiers are more visible than others, and how that visibility affects our decision-making.

Representation matters

“That teenage feeling of being social awkward, the strangeness of finding love for the first time, the importance of discovering lifelong passions, and being supported by loving famiies – none of these things are exclusive to white, straight cis people and so should not be relegated to white, straight, cis characters.” – Sadie Trombetta Bustle Jan 31/18

Cue mike drop.

Booth’s work on mirrors, windows, and doors is more relevant than ever. What are my readers looking for? What will they find in our collection, and what won’t they find? 

Student Voices

One of the most amazing parts of #aislsi2019 was a panel of 12 teen readers who spoke with us about why they value representation in our collections. They were honest, articulate, and appreciative of how their librarians support them, as well as being well-read in such a wonderful variety of genres. Everyone listening left with some serious insights and solid recommendations.

It was interesting to hear that their defaults for finding good books are Google searches and asking their librarians for suggestions; they really reinforced my goal to better train my students on meaningful use of our catalogue (and how it differs from our databases). It was also great to hear how much these students appreciated curated lists for different types of representation.

Diversity Audits

I truly appreciated the time to wrestle with the logistics of preparing and performing a diversity audit. It is critical to set a goal that is uniquely relevant to our library, and achievable (it was immediately clear that there are many rabbit holes to be avoided if I want to complete an audit in the foreseeable future). Don’t be afraid to set narrow parameters to keep the audit manageable, and carefully consider the timing of the audit in your school year.

A variety of models were offered:

  • using a print checklist vs using a Google form to populate Google sheets or your own version of one or the other
  • auditing print books by hand vs auditing online (looking at a catalogue records) vs doing an audit of recent book orders

I’m excited by how local and creative I can make this process – loved the suggestion about doing an audit of a book display. I also appreciated the encouragement to start with the end in mind; think about how you’ll want to manipulate your data so that you get the data you want in a format you can use.

Diversity Audit IRL

On Day 2, we had a good chunk of time to test an audit out. We reviewed a great variety of possible goals, and with encouragement to choose a couple specific to us, we set out to independently audit a small group of books (from an available selection of print, or accessing our own through our catalogues).

I chose to audit the first 20 audiobooks in my library’s Overdrive fiction collection. Keeping in mind that this is a VERY subjective process, I chose a very small sample size, and this is my very first time doing this, I share the results in the spirit of collegiality (with a red face and gigantic face palm):

50% feature white male protagonists
30% feature white female protagonists
15% feature female protagonists of colour
15% feature indigenous protagonists
15% feature protagonists with a disability
75% written by white authors (male/female equally represented)
10% written by authors of colour
10% written by indigenous authors
40% offer own voice

I have some work to do, people.

Everyone present was very encouraging, reminding each other to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Engaging in this process will be of benefit to those we serve through our libraries, however imperfect our first kick at the can may be. I truly appreciated doing this in such a judgement-free zone (although found it hard to silence my inner critic).

Thank you to hosts, organizers and presenters Linda Mercer, Jennifer Gosnell, Jennifer Jones, Jennifer Kinney, Jennifer Millikan, Marybeth Huff, Kate Grantham and everyone else who made this happen – it was truly meaningful time together. John Burroughs is a beautiful school and St Louis is an amazing city! #gocardinals

PS: I highly recommend attending SI in the future – it was lovely having post-school time to delve into some amazing PD without being distracted by what was happening back at school 🙂

Gamification In the Library- Level One

I have wanted to delve more deeply into gamification in the library. Over the years all of us have incorporating games throughout our programming whether it was staging a scavenger hunt, creating a Kahoot! for a lesson, or even the classic Jeopardy Powerpoint. Several years ago I looked into digital badging as one entry point into adding game features in my library program, but it never came to fruition. At the tail end of this school year I started my gamification research again as a way to recharge and level up the Battle of the Books program that has been going strong at my school, Berkeley Preparatory School. In a way, any schools that have had a Battle of the Books program demonstrated an early form of gamification in the format of a game show. So that is why I thought I could bring in the digital tools readily available to the classic Battle of the Books model to capture the interests of our students today. Students have loved books like Ender’s Game,The Hunger Games, Ready Player One, and more recently Nyxia that have video game elements in the narrative. So I thought I would immerse myself into gamification in education to see how I can merge these elements all together. I have named this iteration of gaming- Ready Reader One: a Battle of the Books Reboot. In this post I will share my research resources and the initial elements I want to incorporate. Disclaimer: I have not built my platform yet, but I hope to use the Google suite of apps to have a leaderboard, digital badges, and boss battles. I plan to write follow up posts on the process and outcomes from this endeavor.

Video Promotion of Ready Reader One

Some Basic Game Elements to Consider

Avatars/Player Stats– Students create their gaming identity and have their own statistics page.

Leaderboard– The central level-up board that pays tribute to video arcade games. This gives students feedback on their status

Quests/Missions-Narrative-based challenges like the webquest of yesteryear or the days of Dungeons and Dragons

Battles/Boss Battles-Setting up a challenge in which students collaborate to defeat a common enemy/beast.

Powers/Tokens– If students achieve a mastery or level they receive a special power or token that helps them get further in the game.

Badges– As students move through tasks that can receive a badge for each level or skill they achieve.

Pre-Existing Game Platforms

The following links are gamification platforms that have built the ecosystem for gaming elements for the classroom. 

Classcraft- https://www.classcraft.com/

Grade Craft-https://www.gradecraft.com/


Classcraft is the industry standard for a full package gamification for a classroom. They have demos and lots of support. Classcraft is robust and full-featured at the onset, but can be modified by the instructor. Rezzly has the basic features you would want to get started in gamification in education; it is simpler than Classcraft. I recently stumbled upon Grade Craft and it also has all the games elements available in a structured, easy to use set-up.

Gamifying Educators-Websites

The following educators are using google sheets to gamify their classrooms. I have decided to follow in their footsteps and build my own platform with Google apps so that I can tailor it specifically to my program. Many of the pre-existing platforms listed above are built for traditional classrooms and are a bit too robust for what I am trying for my program. So I am going to use many of the tips and tricks from the following educators to use more features of the Google apps. I am learning how to make a master sheet and link Google sheets to each other to automate scores on the leaderboard.





Board Games

 I am always thinking about the balance between powering up and powering down. I want my students to be able to excel in the digital realm, but also develop inter/intra personal and introspective skills through off screen activities as well. The act of reading and getting lost in a book and playing a physical board games with classmates will also be integrated in this program. I am going to reuse some classic board games, but create new question cards based on the reading list for the Battle of the Books: Jenga, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, and Battleship are just a few of game reincarnations to go with the book list.

Game On

I am excited to get started on the underlying structure to gamify the Battle of the Books for next year. I am going to start with creating questions in a Google form for each book on the list that will link to the leaderboard. I am also going to create a quest in which students will share about elements of each book to gain additional points. I’ll keep notes on my process to share for my next post. 

Swimming in “Literary Water”

In August, a colleague with whom I’ve worked closely in the Middle School is moving up to the Upper School. I’m thrilled. It’s already been a model of how collaboration should work, from getting feedback on the design of the projects through sharing completed work, with mutual professional respect demonstrated consistently in between. We have been brainstorming books and poems and research for the coming year, and several weeks ago, he sent me this message:


I have a random request.  I need help finding some literary water to swim in.

Lately, I’ve very much been into new music.  Each day I check out Pitchfork, Paste Magazine, Rolling Stone, etc.  I listen to those suggestions on Spotify, form my own connections and tastes, and discover other music as I go along.  What is the literary equivalent for you?

Are there Podcasts, blogs, websites, thinkers, that are having good literary conversations on which I might eavesdrop?  Any suggestions would be more than wonderful. Thanks!

(I’m halfway through They Say/I Say.  It’s great and can’t wait to use it.)

Immediate responses? Awesome ideas? Crickets? Here was my initial response, and after responding, I reached out to a few librarians for their thoughts as well. It’s a great question, and one I’m now honestly surprised I hadn’t been asked before now.

Great question! I’ve been thinking about it all day. The first thought I had upon reading this email is, “oh no, I don’t do that! I’m an imposter.” Then I started thinking that I used to do a lot more intentionally but patterns have seeped into my life as a librarian. Let me know if this answer makes sense. With songs, there are so many options. Each one is a 3-5 minute blip on your life and they can approach you as you are doing other things. With playlists created by Spotify after I select a song, much is just background. Seldom do I actually check the artist or title, hence the cliché, background music. Reading is much more engaging, and with novels, engaging for a much longer period of time. I need to choose materials with which I want to interact and with which I want to spend hours. I believe it was Cory Doctorow writing about writing and giving his books away for free. He m—get a sense into my brain—this is me pausing to see if I could actually find what he wrote and if what I remembered matched that—-and one search led to my answer. Or, this answer: “For me — for pretty much every writer — the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity (thanks to Tim O’Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy.”

I do read widely, but I don’t need to read as widely to be knowledgeable as you would to be truly knowledgeable in music. I read approximately 100 books per year. I likely listen to that many songs in a week. My book club, made of teacher readers, sometimes don’t finish the one book assigned within our monthly time limit. So while I think the categories are related, I don’t think that they are as similar as they seem on the surface. My biggest advice is to listen widely—to others, to reviews, to bestseller lists. What people are talking about is what gets read. Perhaps I’ve gotten more cynical as I’ve gotten older, but I think that being published only means you have been published. … The sellers are defining the market. With that in mind, I listen to what others are reading, and I’m lucky that my librarian listserv encourages librarians to have a tagline at the bottom of their email with what they are reading. I also look at the reviews each month in Library Media Connection and School Library Journal. I browse through the New York Times Book Review, and I check out what The Week and People magazine (surprise!) are recommending. I also peruse several library webpages for their recommendations and reading lists, and I keep a list on my phone of items that are recommended to me. It’s often quantity of references to a title or a personal recommendation from someone who knows my taste that moves a title to the top of the list. I do keep track of everything I read on Goodreads (you can find me there through my school email), which is a way that I can look for preferences in my own rating system.

Give thanks to the rain for giving me the time to write this before biking home…let me know if you want me to clarify my thoughts or if you want to continue the conversation.

So for the last month, each time I’ve picked up a book I’ve thought about why I’m reading it. It turns out I had more of an answer than I originally thought, but I’d be curious for others’ takes on the same question. Please share any suggestions below.

As to the three books I’ve most enjoyed this summer, I’d have to say Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Notice and Note, and It’s Trevor Noah. But in the words of my Reading Rainbow childhood, “You don’t have to take my word for it…”

Flipgrid and Scavenger Hunts: engaging students in summer prep sessions

Happy summer vacation!  I hope that you are all enjoying some much needed rest and relaxation in these first few weeks of summer. I know how much I am enjoying having the time with my husband and three month old!

There are times, however, when I find myself ruminating on updates to lessons or projects and making mental notes of new ideas to try next year. One of the biggest introductory sessions that I do is, of course, 9th grade library orientation. I invite our Form III English classes to the library for a two day library orientation, during which they complete a physical scavenger hunt of the library, followed by a virtual scavenger hunt of the library’s website. I always like to try out new activities, but it can be hard to “try” things with 6 classes in one day.

Luckily, for the past few years, I have been teaching a session as part of our “Summer Prep” program. New students attend classes with various teachers, explore the campus, and basically become more familiar with their new space so that the first day is not as overwhelming as it can be. I am happy to have the opportunity to spend time with these students; it gives me a taste of the year to come, and I am able to test out some new ideas for the library orientation.

This year, I am going to change things up just a bit, keeping in mind my goal for the session. Ultimately, I want every student to leave the library feeling not only comfortable enough to come to me to ask questions, receive help on a project, or just chat, but also comfortable enough to know that the library is a safe space for study, group work, and quiet relaxation.

I start the day with a sharing activity. We sit in a circle (who doesn’t love a good circle up activity?), and answer the question “What was the most memorable book you read as a child, and did someone read it with you (mother/father/grandparent etc.)?” I want the students to think back on the happy memories associated with reading and literature. I enjoy hearing what the students loved when they were younger, and it helps us develop our reading relationships. It also helps me remember student names, as I have a specific story associated with each student, thus making them unique in my mind.

Then, we move on to the physical scavenger hunt. In the past, I utilized a simple printed scavenger hunt, directing small groups of students to key spaces around the library. It worked fine; it was just a bit boring for my tastes. I need something to excite the students, and have them more engaged in the process. Enter Flipgrid.

I have used this platform in the past for video book reviews, and students enjoyed sharing their reviews via video (and customizing the video with add-ons and cartoon faces!). Students will visit key areas of the library, and create a 30 second response to a question posted at the section. Here are a few examples of the areas to be visited and questions to be answered:

  • (Biographies): How are the biographies arranged? Locate one biography that you are all interested in reading.
  • (Reference/Quiet Study): What kinds of materials are in the reference section? When do you anticipate needing an area for quiet study?
  • (Nonfiction): What categorization system is used to organize the books in the nonfiction section? Find the 940s. What topic is located in this area?

I imagine that this activity will take a bit longer than the simple printed version, but hopefully requiring the students to engage as a group will not only help them get to know the library but also one another. Click HERE to check out an example of the google form.

Our final activity will be a virtual library scavenger hunt. I have always used a Google Form for this, and it is an individual activity. The goal is to have students engage with and navigate through the library website, so that they are more comfortable when using it for class projects or research.

I may or may not have enough time for all of these activities during the summer prep lesson, so, like all good librarians, I plan on being flexible and guiding the kids throughout. Reflecting back on the lesson will provide me with valuable information on what worked and what didn’t, and how I can adapt the session to fit in a class period or two, and with smaller groups of students. If, after reviewing my ideas, you have any recommendations or suggestions, please send them my way! I am always eager for feedback, and happy to hear from my fellow independent school librarians. Now get back to your summer reading!

Summer Reading on Reading

In this season of free voluntary reading a-plenty (hallelujah!) I have recently had some collaborative brainstorming sessions on piloting a new reading project with colleagues who, like me, feel concerned and motivated to continue to build our school’s culture of reading. Inspired thus, I just reread Stephen D. Krashen’s The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research, which has started me down a happy rabbit hole of reading about reading. This has helped me rediscover some excellent advice for professional practice and affirmations of why we do some things we do.

Sometimes (what I consider to be) the most engaging and creative parts of this job are the things that have trouble making their way into daily library life; things like enticing, timely, and thoughtful displays, eye-catching promotional bulletin boards, and book talks. Revisiting and recommitting to the power of reading and its role in education is exciting, and helps focus my own summer work; thereby re-engaging through some deep fun.

AASL’s Position Statement on the School Librarian’s Role in Reading currently comes with a disclaimer of sorts, indicating that the statement is currently under review to align with the new National School Library Standards. Be that as it may, it’s pretty good as is and I don’t imagine the gist will change much. The last bullet point reads as follows: “Along with classroom and reading specialist colleagues, school librarians provide and participate in continual professional development in reading that reflects current research in the area of reading instruction and promotion.”

[Hey, look, I have all these books about reading! Let’s read them, shall we?]

Here’s what I’ve revisited in the last few days:

Bernadowski, C., & Kolencik, P. L. (2010). Research-based reading strategies in the library for adolescent learners. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited.

Farwell, S. M., & Teger, N. L. (2012). Supporting reading in grades 6-12: A guide. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. D. (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research (2nd ed.). Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2016). The purpose of education, free voluntary reading, and dealing with the impact of poverty. School Libraries Worldwide, 22(1), 1+. Retrieved from Academic OneFile database.

Miller, D. (2015, February 8). I’ve got research. Yes, I do. I’ve got research. How about you? [Blog post]. Retrieved from The Book Whisperer website: https://bookwhisperer.com/2015/02/08/ive-got-research-yes-i-do-ive-got-research-how-about-you/

Miller, D. (2019). If kids can’t read what they want in the summer, when can they? School Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=if-kids-cant-read-what-they-want-in-the-Summer-when-can-they

Richardson, J. (2014). Maryanne Wolf: Balance technology and deep reading to create biliterate children. The Phi Delta Kappan, 96(3), 14-19. Retrieved  from JSTOR database.

Questions I have:

  • If, according to Krashen, direct vocabulary teaching is less efficient than reading, how can research/library specific vocabulary best be acquired, especially for ELLS?
  • While I hope that our learners consider the school library to be a comfortable place conducive to free voluntary reading, students can’t spend all of their reading time there. Do we as a boarding school create or even allow space in our schedule and facilities for reading?
  • Extrinsic motivation is generally considered to send children the wrong message about why we read, however, is this also true for young adults? Or adults? Could the kitsch factor of badges, buttons, and leaderboards actually serve to encourage older readers to join the “literacy club” (Krashen, 2004, p. 130)?
  • Serving our English Language Learners is an issue often on my mind, and about which I’ve written before. Krashen and others point to the importance of engaging in one’s first language as well as the learned language. Should I be providing more pleasure reading material in my students’ home languages? I’m thinking yes.
  • It may be that some of our students, for a variety of possible reasons, have not had the experience as younger children of being read to often by a caring adult. Is there a way with older students to recapture a connection between feeling safe and cared for with story and language acquisition, or do we just need to hold that as a piece of our students’ social-emotional learning?

Newly appearing on the to-read pile:

Baye, A., Inns, A., Lake, C., & Slavin, R. E. (2019). A synthesis of quantitative research on reading programs for secondary students.Reading Research Quarterly, 54(2), 133-166. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.229

Beers, G. K., & Probst, R. E. (2017). Disrupting thinking: Why how we read matters. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Merga, M. K. (2019). Reading engagement for tweens and teens: What would make them read more? Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO.

Miller, D., & Anderson, J. (2013). The book whisperer: Awakening the inner reader in every child.

Miller, D., & Kelley, S. (2013). Reading in the wild: The book whisperer’s keys to cultivating lifelong reading habits. John Wiley & Sons.

Ross, C. S., MacKechnie, L., & Rothbauer, P. M. (2018). Reading still matters: What the research reveals about reading, libraries, and community. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO.

Wolf, M., & Stoodley, C. J. (2018). Reader, come home: The reading brain in a digital world. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.

What are your favorite sources on reading?

Engage to Prevent Plagiarism

Engagement is about a sense of purpose and a desire to explore. Plagiarism is a perfect example of no student engagement.

Patti Ezell, Instructional Coach for Annunciation Orthodox School

Plagiarism is a topic too often addressed after the fact, when uncomfortable conversations between faculty, students, and parents puzzle over the issue of what went wrong. This summer I am curating resources to support discussions with faculty and students about how to prevent plagiarism. Increasing student engagement may be one of the keys to promoting thoughtful scholarship, integrity, and ethical use of information. Below is an annotated list of books, articles, and videos that may spark ideas for you on the topic of preventing plagiarism. I invite you to add to this list and share strategies that have proved helpful at your schools.

Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques by Laura Hennessey DeSena (National Council of Teachers of English, 2007). I became aware of DeSena’s book through an NCTE webinar, and I was immediately drawn to her approach that emphasizes student interaction with primary sources first in the research process. For literature teachers, the primary source would be the text itself (novel, poem, etc); for history teachers, primary sources can be a range of artifacts, photos, and documents of the time period. DeSena encourages student exploration of ideas in free writing and notes from the primary source text before any secondary scholarly criticism is read. Students develop an authentic voice as they discover their own wonderings, puzzlements, and insights that can be supported by the primary source itself and later expanded upon by secondary sources. (See chapter 4 of this book for a discussion of engaging students in the research process.)

Plagiarism: Why It Happens, How to Prevent It by Barry Gilmore (Heinemann, 2008)
Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students by Barry Gilmore (Heinemann, 2009)
Both of these books present examples of student and teacher comments on the topic of plagiarism, examples of plagiarized writing that can be used to prompt discussions, and Top Ten tips from student and educator perspectives on how to prevent plagiarism. On one Top Ten list, Gilmore echoes the importance of student voice and ownership: “Make the assignment personal. Try to make the assignments important to you…(by putting) your own spin on them” (Plagiarism: Why It Happens, viii). In addition, in chapter 6 of this book Gilmore suggests that teachers should examine the types of assignment and assessments to promote student analysis and original writing rather than summarizing or information telling.

“Power Lesson: Note-Taking Stations” by Peg Grafwallner and Abby Felten (Cult of Pedagogy.com, December 16, 2018)
Instructional coach Grafwallner and a high school chemistry teacher Felten used the classroom textbook as an opportunity for students to practice note-taking. Students cycled through 15 min. stations and followed templates to practice Cornell notes, graphic organizer, concept map, and annotation. Student feedback was positive on these brief station immersions in note taking, and Felten discovered that students continued to use the note-taking styles in later class assignments, often discerning which note-taking style would work best for the type of information.

“How One Professor Made Her Assignments More Relevant” by Beckie Supiano (The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 21, 2019)
Tanya Martini, professor of psychology at Brock University, Ontario, described how she broke through student apathy and pushback by making more explicit for the students the types of real-world skills they could develop through the assignments.

“Engaging Teen Writers Through Authentic Tasks” by Heather Wolpert-Gawron (Educational Leadership, May 2019) Role playing, choice, and multi-genre writing are some of the strategies used to engage teen writers through authentic tasks.

“When Do We Give Credit?” Purdue Owl Writing Lab provides clarification on general knowledge versus information that requires citation.

“Tips to Avoid Plagiarizing Someone Else’s Work” EBSCO’s three-part infographic provides an overview of sites to avoid when researching, work habits that can lead to plagiarism, and when to provide credit for sources.

This is Not a Chair (The Chipstone Foundation) This video demonstrates how primary sources (chairs from various time periods) can prompt close looking and analysis and can encourage student reflections and starting points for further research on topics as various as culture, societal structures, environment, and slavery.

How to Spot a Liar (Pamela Meyer) Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, demonstrates in this TED talk how persons telling lies can be spotted, but also stresses that “lying is a cooperative act.” It is important that we have the “difficult conversations” with those who lie so that we can emphasize, “Hey, my world, our world, it’s going to be an honest one. My world is going to be one where truth is strengthened and falsehood is recognized and marginalized.”

“Research: An Exciting Quest or a Labor of Hercules?” (Joan Lange)
The first few slides of this presentation that I created in 2011 contains a “research-style quiz” themed to matching your style to Greek Heroes or Monsters. Work habits can lead to plagiarism. Remainder of presentation offers some suggestions to avoid plagiarism.

What’ll Be?

Maybe it’s because summer vacation is tantalizingly close, or maybe it’s the warmer weather, but I sure could go for a cold adult beverage. Anyone else? As I considered my libation choices, I realized, through a conversation with my office mate and work spouse, Beth, that our library is, in many ways, not unlike a bar…minus the alcohol. Those beverages are, at least for now, still not allowed in the library.


Our circulation desk – like yours, perhaps – is situated near the front door. When we’re stationed behind its high counter, we are in prime position to greet our patrons. We have a trivia desk calendar, which people stop at regularly and predictably. When patrons come in, they look around, see who’s where, and decide where to gather. Sometimes it’s up at one of the counters, sometimes it’s a more secluded table in the back, or a table by the windows, well suited for people watching. There are certain patrons who come in at certain times of the day. We have our morning crew who are often in their seats before we arrive (students have keycard access during off hours – ask me about that if you’re curious how that works). Students come in when they have an hour to kill or don’t feel like going back to their dorms. Others roll in after their last classes, eager to take a breather after a full day. And, of course, there are our night owls, who seem to only wander in after the sun has set. There are many (too many?) parallels between the local tavern and the local library.

Being Alone. Together.

If the library feels like a favorite corner bar, that makes us librarians the bartenders. Patrons come in, often not sure what they feel like having. They ask us for a suggestion. Sometimes they’re not in the mood for certain offerings. Sometimes they feel like something different, something new. Sometimes we barkeeps not only serve patrons their usuals, but are asked to surprise them with something fresh or with a classic. Sometimes they see something that someone else enjoyed and ask for the same. And don’t you know, we sometimes have some featured items, the specials of the day or the week or the choice selection of the bartender, our signature go tos. But there’s more than just what’s on the menu.

The Specials

We all know the trope: the melancholy soul, down on his or her luck, who wanders into the pub. The bartender wanders over, mops off the bar, pours a drink and asks, “What’s the trouble, pal?” And wouldn’t you know it, the same sort of thing happens in our office all the time. In our library – maybe as in your library – the librarians’ office is just behind the circulation desk. There are two large panes of glass that lend us zero privacy, but invite people to join us. We are fortunate to have two comfortable wicker rattan chairs, which invite people to come in a chat. And come in they do. They come in, sit with a sigh. Beth or I will then begin our therapy session. What’s the trouble, pal? And we hear it all, the woes, the tribulations, and the struggles. And it’s not just the trials we hear; we are also often the place to come when there’s big news to announce or an event to celebrate. We offer sage advice and attentive ears, and, invariably are thanked for our confidentiality, excellent listening skills, and our kindness.

When it’s all said and done, we know all the information, but we keep secrets a secret and share what we’re able. This is what a good bartender does and it’s what a good librarian does. We are the neighborhood gathering spot. After all:

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came

Some bars from TV shows are below, but what bars from literature would you put on a list?

Cheers – Cheers
Three’s Company – Regal Beagle
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Paddy’s Pub
How I Met Your Mother – MacLaren’s
True Blood – Merlotte’s
Simpson’s – Moe’s

And now, It’s Closing Time

AISL Conference First-Timer – A Few Thoughts and a Thank You!

This spring I attended my very first AISL conference in Boston. This amazing experience was made possible by the AISL Conference Affordability Scholarship I received. I definitely cannot overstate my surprise upon receiving an email informing me that I would be receiving one of the scholarships and therefore would be able to attend the conference in Boston! I spent the months in the interim excited to learn more about the sessions and activities that would be happening. I had read comments about previous conferences and understood that this would be a smaller conference and that I would get an opportunity to visit various schools, too. As the only librarian at my school and the only librarian in my region with a school like ours, I rarely have opportunities to get to be a “colleague” in that way except through the AISL listserv.

And how easily we librarians fell right into chatting in the same language and sharing ideas! From the time I arrived in Boston and got to the hotel, we all began chatting in the elevator even before our opening breakfast on Wednesday morning.

One of the hardest things of all was reading through all of the sessions offered and deciding on the ones I would attend. How to choose?? Since we are building a new library, I knew that the session at Philips Academy on building and moving your library would be an important one for me. Emily and Ella presented so much great information about the new library at Nobles, and then there were questions and comments from a number of the librarians in attendance at the session about their own experiences. Later in the week, we got to visit Nobles and actually see the new library after a wonderful lunch and Endless Thread podcast presentation there. This kind of experience is so invaluable as we absorbed ideas everywhere we went.

Even riding on the bus from place to place became a time to meet new people and chat about our experiences in our own libraries. I sat with different people on most of my bus rides and really enjoyed those conversations. We had such interesting, information-packed sessions….but then also had time for things like a tour of the Boston Public Library and a tea-infused literary cocktail (Tequila Mockingbird, anyone??) So often conferences involve packing in as many sessions and as much information as possible, leaving little time to actually interact in a meaningful way with other attendees. Having dinner with other librarians was also a lot of fun and it was so interesting to hear about things they are working on or want to do in their libraries and to directly relate so much of what I saw to things I could come back and implement in my own library.

The sessions I attended were also fantastic. Being able to visit other schools and to have a session I selected also include seeing a library space or makerspace or to see the kinds of art or projects being created in each school really added to the information being presented. I attended sessions on Breakout Boxes and Visible Research, both of which gave me ideas that I could use immediately. My session at Inly School on Empowering Students as Junior Librarians shared some great ideas being implemented by Sara Spencer, a librarian from Canada who I am now following on Twitter. it was so interesting to see how different each library was, what kinds of things were being implemented in each one, and to have an opportunity to look around and absorb and take some photos to remind myself of the feel of each space.

The Skip Anthony dinner on Friday evening was the perfect bookend (see what I did there?) to the conference, as we all gathered together for a lovely dinner, fabulous desserts, more conversation with new librarian friends, and a wonderful talk given by Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked. He spoke about radical generosity and about how life itself is the most wonderful of fairy tales.

I am so grateful for the opportunities the AISL Conference Affordability Scholarship provided for me. I rarely have the opportunity to attend conferences, so this was a particular treat – an opportunity to meet other independent school librarians and to recharge professionally and to absorb lots of new ideas along the way. This AISL conference in Boston was the best conference I have ever attended, and now I have the information to make a case at my school for funding for future AISL conferences, too, as I have begun using and sharing some of the ideas I gathered while there! Thank you!

on summer in the library…

School schedules out here in the the middle of the Pacific run a little earlier than is typical for most AISL schools so as I hit the button labeled “Publish..” on this post I am officially on my first day of SUMMER VACATION!!! #Yay!!!

This was actually on my laptop for a while at the end of the year. #WhateverItTakes

I don’t know how the rest of you hold up over the course of a school year, but I was running on fumes there at the end. I could not ask for better kids or faculty to work with here at Mid-Pacific. My faculty is great and kids are respectful and pretty amazing, but for me the end of a school year is still THE END OF A SCHOOL YEAR and as the end of the year approaches I tend to struggle with emotional and mental fatigue more than anything else.

If you are on a more traditional school calendar, take solace in the fact that when I fling the doors of my library open wide and welcome our kids and faculty back for the start of the 2019-2020 school year in early August, most of you will still have a month of vacation left to enjoy! It all evens out in the end!

The two MLIS librarians here are on the same contract as teachers except that we also split our six week summer session to staff the library during our six week summer session. I’ve actually come to enjoy working for a part of the summer. Summer days end at noon and there are fewer students on campus so we have time to take care of tasks that need to be done, but which always get put on a back burner in order to accommodate more pressing needs.

My Summer To-Do List:

  • Unpublish all of our Research and Project Libguides pages – I like to unpublish (but not delete) all of our project libguides pages even if I know that a project will run again in some form in the new school year. Unpublishing requires teachers to contact us when a project is being introduced which allows us to check links, add new resources, delete sources that are no longer relevant, and enter into collaborative discussions with teachers about how we, together, can work to tweak and improve on the the work.
  • Revise the Library’s Website(s) – We will be launching a new learning management system campus-wide in the fall and we anticipate major changes to students’ and teachers’ workflows. We are working on revising our web portals so students and teachers can get from their course or project pages to the tools and content they need from our library sites as seamlessly as possible. As a 1:1 iPad school, we’re focusing on designing specifically to optimize the iPad experience on Library site(s) as that is the way that our kids access our online resources the vast majority of the time.
  • Set-up and Clean-up of NoodleTools Accounts – We need to delete our recent graduates’ accounts, upload account info for new students, and revalidate accounts for returning students.
  • Inventory – It’s inventory… #Sigh
  • Paint Circ Desk with Chalkboard Paint – Primer, paint, rollers, and brushes are in hand. We just haven’t had any time to do the painting.
  • Replace Whiteboards on Carts – We mounted dry erase boards on rolling carts a few years ago. They’ve ghosted over the years so we’re treating ourselves to new boards for the fall!
  • Develop Discipline-Specific Samples of Information Literacy Instruction Concepts and Skills – Our Administration will be asking Department Chairs to schedule us into their department meetings in the fall so we can introduce new resources; remind teachers about resources they may have forgotten; and, hopefully, finding NEW, BETTER, and MORE ways to collaborate with them in the coming year.

That’s my, I’m very sure, incomplete list of things to do this summer. I’d very much like to know, however, what kinds of things are on your list so please hit reply below and let me know!

Have a wonderful, restful, well-deserved summer break, all!

This is, basically, me for the next three days…

Building School Libraries Overseas

Service Learning through the Library

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

-Dale Carnegie

There are opportunities for library programs to get involved with the community service initiatives of the schools they serve; especially, with projects that involve literacy and reading. I want to share a service learning model that fosters student initiative and embodies a full school commitment to the service of others.This post complements and relates to the posts from our fellow AISL librarians, Laura Bishop and Maria Falgoust who shared their experience and research with service learning and libraries. I hope my experience adds another example of library programs partnering with community service programs. This year at my school, Berkeley Preparatory School, I was excited to participate in a community service role in which the Jean Ann Cone Library supported the community service of students to build a school library in the Bahamas. The vision statement of Berkeley Preparatory School is: “ Berkeley puts people in the world who make a positive difference,” and the Bahamas Books service project epitomizes the fulfillment of this vision through multiple departments, programs, faculty, and students coming together.


This service learning program was developed over many years, and in my role I am “standing on the shoulders of giants,” of previous librarians, teachers, administrators, board members and students who exemplify the spirit of social responsibility. As a new faculty member, I am gifted with a unique perspective because I have new eyes to admire the scope of this program with the freshly-minted experience of now understanding the details involved. This past February, I and Middle School Community Service Director, Buck Johnson, traveled with nine Middle Division students and eight Upper Division students to Nassau, Bahamas to set-up a library at Yellow Elder Primary School. Over the course of four days the Berkeley students set-up 2,800 books complete with a digital catalog and presented library lessons. While this was my first service trip it was the third school to receive a school library from this program. I want to share the journey that includes Berkeley families, alumni, Parent’s Club, Middle Division and Upper Division community service programs, and the Jean Ann Cone Library that all came together to support and share literacy through the power of libraries in the world beyond our campus.

Student-Driven Service

The impetus of this project started with Berkeley student, Elias Tsavoussis ‘16 noticing a need for more access to books in the Bahamas to address literacy. Elias talked to his parents, peers, and teachers at Berkeley about the ways he could start with a book donation to gather resources for a library. He took his early research and ideas and applied for Berkeley’s 50th Anniversary Service Award, a scholarship award “that honors students who have made a strong commitment to serving his or her community such that the student’s activities make a positive difference in the world.” Elias received the award, and with its grant money, he established a library at Nassau’s Columbus Primary School. From this project, The Berkeley Bahamas Books service initiative began, involving Berkeley’s Middle and Upper Divisions. Since the project’s inception, two more Bahama Books primary-school libraries have been started, both in Nassau. Elias’s siblings, Alexis ’11 and Paul ’13, also developed the non-profit organization Mission: Education Bahamas that aids literacy research, efficacy, and acquiring more grant funding. Their involvement started the Berkeley alumni affiliation with the project that continues to collaborate with our school community and students today. Now Wendy’s, Marco’s Pizza, and Popeye’s in the Bahamas sponsors the Bahamas Books as well.

Sourcing Books

Another important school community event that is integral to the Bahamas Books project is the annual “Share the Love of Reading” book drive that the Berkeley Parent’s Club has been organizing for over 12 years. This project brings the Berkeley community together and gives to local literacy and educational organizations. The scope and reach of this established community book drive enabled a new international outreach to be the next phase of giving; it now serves as a major source of books for the Bahamas Books project among its continued local outlets. This venture illustrates that often our schools have systems and programs already in place, so that libraries and library programs do not have to start with a blank slate, and it gives us another way to collaborate with our school communities. Our Lower Division library, the Rudolph Library, has also been a constant contributor to the collection. Finally, we have also reached out to our local librarian cohort, the Bay Area Association of Independent Schools librarian group to ask for any books they are no longer using in their collections, but are still serviceable.

Library Support

I also want to highlight that because this service project was student-driven at its inception it has continued to have a strong student leadership component where the torch is carried on by Upper Division students.  Most models of service learning and experiential learning stress the importance of student ownership and initiative as an important component to success. Additionally, the Jean Ann Cone library has a strong student library proctor program that serves as another student leadership program at Berkeley. Many of these student library proctors serve as foundational help to the Bahamas Books program. Their library training and daily workings in the library make them the perfect mentors to the Middle Division students that choose this program for their community service focus and other upper division students. Usually two to three student library proctors volunteer to attend the trip to the Bahamas and they are instrumental in the whole group putting together a library in four days.

Processing Books

So how do you process 2,800 books on top of your daily school library and teaching schedule? The answer: Middle Division students. The Berkeley Middle Division has a robust community service program from 6th-8th grade which gives students the foundation to serve others and prepare them for independent community service projects in Upper Division. As the Middle Division Librarian my role is to teach and shepherd a dozen Middle Division students on how to sort, label, process, and catalog library books. There are six dedicated days spread throughout the school year for students to be immersed in a service project. In the Bahamas Book track, the morning is comprised of three and half hours of dedicated work time where we sort, label and catalog the book donations. The afternoon is reserved for all community service groups to return and reflect on the service of the day. I relished this time with my Middle Division students giving them “the behind the scenes” tasks of libraries so they understand the inner workings of their own school library. As we sifted through the books students shared their recollections and memories of the books they checked out from the library when they were in Lower Division. I also believe they developed a new appreciation for the “grunt work” aspects of library by handling 2800 books and packing over 70 boxes. Our Middle Division students also revisited the Lower Division library and made a how-to video about library procedures to share as an instructional tool for schools that have never had a library before. Our students also designed library posters and bookmarks to give the students in the Bahamas the full experience they remember in their library as children. I refer to this group lovingly as my home team because not all of these students travel to the Bahamas, but they are instrumental to preparing the books to be a full functioning school library.

While I am working with the Middle Division students, C.D. McLean, our Library Director and one of our Upper Division librarians, oversees the Upper Division students who signed up to help and go on the trip. She set up weekly lunch meetings so that this group of students could plan and organize the types of library lessons the students would implement upon completion of the library. Students chose relevant books to use for storytimes and library activities in which the librarians reviewed and gave feedback. These Upper Division students also serve as mentors to the Middle Division students who traveled on the trip. I coordinated with the Yellow Elder Primary School principal, Mrs. Armaly, to schedule our students into their classes which involves a full day of engagement with the children of Yellow Elder.

Collaboration and Reciprocity

The day of travel finally arrives. All the hard work culminates in both the Berkeley Preparatory School and the Yellow Elder Primary school coming together to celebrate reading and libraries. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, so our first two days are spent exploring the culture and nature of the Bahamas. We spent a day on the water taking a boat trip to the Exumas where we visited an island of iguanas and stopped on a remote sandbar to fully experience the crystal-clear caribbean waters. Then on Monday we were warmly greeted by the whole Yellow Elder Primary School in a schoolwide convocation. The administrators of the Yellow Elder Primary School read quotes from famous authors about the power of libraries and reading. Then a program of student performances began: students read poems, sang songs, and danced traditional dances. Our trip coordinator, Buck Johnson represented our group and expressed our gratitude for their welcome and expressed our honor in sharing the love of reading with their community. These are the powerful moments of community service: the culture exchange, mutual benefits, and reciprocal learnings that all groups involved experience. We were all moved from this opening day at the Yellow Elder Primary School. The rest of the day we spent setting-up the the library. We broke into groups building furniture, shelving books, and decorating the library. It was a long work day, but the excitement of the children spurred us on. I also had the opportunity meet with librarians in the Bahamas to share and exchange current trends in library programming. Our last day at Yellow Elder was spent engaging with students through literacy and library activities-storytimes, letter recognition crafts, prop making, and games. For me, it was a joy to see my students imparting their own experiences and passions for libraries to this younger generation. Our students remarked about how it gave them a new appreciation for their own library when they saw how excited children are in the realm of a new library. I know it reinvigorated my own view of being a librarian. In reflecting on this whole experience I cannot stop effusing gratitude that I not only get to share the love of reading and research with my fellow librarians and students in the beautiful Jean Ann Cone Library, but that I also get to be part of a compounding effect of sharing the gift and value of libraries to a wider community. I am thankful for the Berkeley Community Service program that included the library program in building a legacy of literacy and encouraging us to make a difference in this Caribbean corner of the world.

Video Tour

Related Links

Mission: Educate Bahamas

This year-Bahamas Local news story

Previous years- The Nassau Guardian news story

The Bahamas Weekly news story