on library potpourri for 500 please, alex…

When you grow up to the far, far left of the “left coast” of the continental United States, one of the things you take for granted is that sports events that are broadcast live to the rest of the U.S. are tape delayed and broadcast “plausibly live” during the evening. Sportscasters on the 6:00 news would tell viewers, “If you don’t want to know the results of tonight’s Monday Night Football game, turn away from your screen…” They would post the score on the screen in silence and island residents would all look away so that we could pretend that the game had not been won by the San Fransisco 49ers hours before we gathered around our TVs for the start of Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. We didn’t know who had won so it was…”plausibly live.”

If you have ever been to an AISL conference, you know that once the conference begins the chance that I would have ample time to compose a blog post in the moment are slim to none. Therefore, because this post is coming to you while many of us are in the midst of the hustle and bustle of #AISLTampa15, I wrote this post back on April 9, 2015, but am posting it “plausibly live” as if I have just finished composing from the pool deck of the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel – April 15, 2015.


Didn’t want to take a cliched selfie, but I’m sitting on the lounge chair just to the right of the frame. Just kidding…This is from the hotel website.

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to the Tampa organizing group for an AMAZING first conference day! It was an exhausting, but rewarding day of learning and fun!  #LOL

Okay, now that, that piece of business has been addressed, we’ll time warp ourselves back to April 9th.  I’m swamped! As a matter of fact, I’m SO swamped that I don’t really have much time to think, reflect, and compose anything with any real analytical depth so this is me throwing a whole lot of mud up on walls and hoping that something sticks. “Potpourri for 500,” though, sounded a lot classier so that’s the title.

Good Problems – I posted previously, about having an opportunity to run a faculty meeting to promote library services. Well, it went well. It went SO well, that Nicole Goff, my library partner, and I have been overwhelmed with requests for library lessons and Libguides. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but it’s still overwhelming. Most of all, it is hugely dismaying to build Libguides for teachers, but LITERALLY not have any instructional spots to be able schedule them in for lessons.  I’ve come to the conclusion that our reality is that we are responsible to make sure that information instruction is happening in our curriculum, but that it is not realistic to think that the two librarians can DELIVER all of the instruction that is necessary.  This means, then, rethinking the way that our lessons and our Libguides are structured and organized.


This is what the scheduling calendar looked like last week! Yay! And whoa!

To say that I am a bit of a control freak is an understatement. I want my information curriculum lessons taught how I want them taught, but in the real world of real school libraries, we can’t have it all. We will deliver as much as we can, but there will just be times when I might develop a lesson, team teach the lessons with the content area teacher, then have to have faith that he/she will be able to deliver the lesson to his/her remaining sections well.  It’s hard and there are probably some folk reading this thinking “I’d NEVER do that,” but I have the great fortune to work with a fantastic cohort of teachers and I can honestly say that while they may not teach the lessons like a librarian would, I am very comfortable that they are carrying out the instruction at a high level!  This whole concept is probably something that I’ll come back around to in a future post.

Write on the Walls, Please! – We have some small collaboration rooms available to students. Sometimes they are just used as “cave spaces” for groups of kids, but I must say that our kids have been pretty good about either making good use of the rooms or very willingly giving up the space for other kids looking for places to do voice recordings or other activities where they need a quiet space. Our kids seem to do a lot of “draw my life” style drawn animations so we invested some money and put dry erase paint up on the walls.  The dry erase clear coat from ReMARKable Coatings is EXPENSIVE so we stretched the budget and just put the clear coat over the blue stripe that goes around the room. It gets a lot of use and has been a big hit. We’ve had the walls up since January and the walls do not always erase COMPLETELY clearly (purple and red have been banned because they seem to be particularly problematic), but I’d still say that it has been a worthwhile experiment!

Dear Dry Erase Wall Paint, please do not make me regret taking a chance on you!

Dear Dry Erase Wall Paint, please do not make me regret taking a chance on you!

Our morning crew...

Our morning crew…

Magazines: Why Won’t Anyone Read Our Magazines? – The number of magazine subscriptions that our library subscribes to has, apparently, steadily declined over the years to the point that we only subscribe to a handful of titles. Since I’ve been here, though, I really can’t say that even the few magazines we have on hand are getting any audience at all.  I’m not quite ready to give up on our magazines completely yet, but I’m close. We’re giving our magazines one last shot to attract an audience. Part of the problem could well be that our magazines have been living in wall mounted racks that hid all but the top 2-3 inches of the covers. Because I’ve pretty much blown through my budget for this fiscal year, we needed to find a way to display and front our magazines for as close to nothing as possible. Behold our under $25 magazine display!





Silence is Golden (For Some At Least) – The amazingly vibrant listserv thread on “hanging out in the library” demonstrated the challenge that, seemingly, most of us are wrestling with. Our library space does not afford us the luxury of a lot of unused space that we can re-purpose, but the sheer raucousness of our space made it pretty evident that we were not meeting the needs of our kids with a need for quiet. Our educational VHS/DVD collection got moved into our workroom, six study carrels got moved in, and our Silent Study was born.  It doesn’t seat 42 like Shannon Acedo’s silent study at Harvard-Westlake Upper School, but we have a steady group of regulars who make good use of the space.

What was once a closet has been reborn as our silent study. Happier paint is on the way!

What was once a closet has been reborn as our silent study. Happier paint is on the way!

Puzzled! – One of the biggest, low cost, surprise hits this year has been puzzles in the library. Young men and women who have NEVER, EVER been seen without their iPads propped up before them seem to have become some of our most avid library puzzle fanatics. Years ago, my colleague Karen Wareham shared the insight that one of the reasons we needed to allow students to talk and socialize reasonably in the library could well be a gender issue.  Most boys, she hypothesized, won’t sit under a tree and talk with their friends. Her theory was that men typically socialize by “doing stuff.” 18 holes of golf is 30 minutes of ACTUAL physical activity and 4.5 hours sitting side-by-side on a cart talking to your buddy. Many high school and middle school boys socialize by “studying together” at tables in the library. Our puzzles seem to give them an outlet to socialize around by “doing stuff.” Our puzzlers are often the first ones at the door in the morning and the ones that will continue to work on the puzzle even after I’ve turned off all of the lights on the floor at the end of the day. Added bonus: I’ve even seen some of my most awkward and shy boys TALKING TO GIRLS as they puzzled together!

Puzzle cohort at work AND play!

Puzzle cohort at work AND play!

Who would've guessed, huh?

Who would’ve guessed, huh?

Sorry, that’s quite literally, all that I have time for this week. I’ve got conference attendees to meet!

Please all, remember to heed Katie Archambault’s advice! “When at #AISLTampa15, talk to boys!”


One thought on “on library potpourri for 500 please, alex…

  1. Glad you wrote ahead of time! There’s been very little down time and so much to process over the past 2 days.
    I’ve felt the same way about chess as you do about puzzles. You’d be surprised at how many moms of high school boys call because they are worried their boys are eating lunch alone. Not so. They’re playing chess. Or watching chess. Or sitting at the chess tables. There’s so much of high school that is just learning how to interact with others, and these kinds of play activities take some of the stress off talking. You might want to try crayons and mandalas at exam time for a similar effect!
    Also, I’m totally with you on the trouble with control and letting go. You can totally know that someone is going to do a fabulous job, but it’s not the same as being there. 🙂

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