Pivot

While many of us in education are used to the pendulum of educational trends and practices swinging back and forth; in this decade the new mode of operation is the pivot. As many of us prepare for the new school year amidst the continued confusion of the health crisis, social upheaval, and financial downturn our normal pre-planning routine once comforting seems insufficient. However; in this new age of anxiety, I see librarians’ honed expertise and intellectual instincts sharpen to focus their skills and passion to connect with students and convey knowledge and learning in all available platforms at their disposal. In the spring we were all thrust into an educational pivot.The summer has afforded a time of reflection more than restoration, but as I move forward this school year my aim is to find poise in the pivot.

The word “pivot” has proliferated through all our news media to describe the most common action in this time of upheaval. Revisiting the meaning and function of the word in our language can give us clues to embracing poise in the pivot. In mechanical terms a pivot is a shaft or pin that supports something as it turns. A fundamental move in basketball, “A pivot is when a player maintains one foot having contact with the ground without changing its position on the floor and utilizes the other foot to rotate their body to improve position…(1)” In business and data organization the pivot table is one of the most powerful functions, “The “pivot” part of a pivot table stems from the fact that you can rotate (or pivot) the data in the table in order to view it from a different perspective. To be clear, you’re not adding to, subtracting from… you’re simply reorganizing the data so you can reveal useful information from it.(2)”

Common to all of these definitions is there are two parts to the pivot. The anchoring, supporting entity and the shift or redirection. I see the foundations of our discipline as librarians as the anchor. The culture of inquiry, intellectual curiosity, and scholarly pursuits grounds us and has stood the test of time while our playful attitude to try new things, tinker with new technologies, and experiment with new programming is our pivot point. In a way we have been perfecting our pivot all along. Think of the average day for a librarian where a combination of the following is the norm: collection development, reader advisory, collaborative teaching, space design, digital curation, web design, student engagement, information literacy, storytime, book clubs etc. In these uncertain times our pivots may be swifter with sharper angles but we can set up systems to insure the smoothest transitions. 

Consider some of these pivot moves whether on campus, blended or fully virtual.

As we may be scaling back on our physical collections and limiting physical access due to social  distancing recommendations our digital resources and applications continue to offer support to our students and teachers

Promote databases to teachers as supplemental resources– often library databases are only used for independent student research, but many schools in face-to-face settings are minimizing print materials to avoid locker crowding. This is a great time to reach out to your faculty to share that library database articles could be great lesson source material, plus it models information literacy. I have noticed most major database companies have added a “send to google drive” feature. You could show or make a movie for your faculty and make it easy for them to add to their own digital resources. These resources can be seamlessly integrated to a blended or virtual classroom.

Level up your Google Apps usage– so many schools are using Google Apps and students and teachers are comfortable and accomplished with it. Make time to check out new features or try features you have never used before. While Docs, and Slides are the mainstays Google draw is underutilized and has lots of potential for graphic organizers, infographics, digital posters presentations, doodle sketches for understanding. Have you seen the new Jamboard app added to the fleet of apps?It is basically a digital whiteboard that has the same great collaboration features as the rest of Google apps. As an instructor you can use it just like a whiteboard to instruct the whole class, and you can also add sticky notes, and images. You can allow students to also edit and contribute or maybe this is the new group collaboration tool when you cannot have students put heads together at a table- let them collaborate digitally in the classroom or from home. In blended learning this could be a way you capture an in class session and pass it on digitally to those that need it. Have you seen the new Collections app? It is an in-suite curation tool with good search memory. It is like Wakelet, but within the G suite. This could be used for a great lesson on web searching, evaluating, and organizing sources. Also good for any setting live or pixelated. Google news has been around, but I like the “Fact Check” and “Beyond the Headlines” panels on the right if news-media literacy is in your program this could be useful. Google has also added a Podcast app. Some of the teachers at my school have students create podcasts. A great way to teach it is to have them listen to notable and grade-level appropriate podcasts. This is also a nice media format change for online learning to focus on auditory instead of visual information.This app categorizes podcasts and you can subscribe to ones for your own enjoyment. So keep googling google apps.

Sprinkle in some new websites, interactives, and outsider apps like glitter (sparingly, but with sparkle)

Every year about this time I revisit AASL’s Best Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning. I make a point to try at least two of the resources they share. I try it with my own curriculum. I use my fellow librarians as guinea pigs. Then I consider which teachers, subjects, and projects that would pair well. Over time I have amassed quite a repertoire of tools. 

Flipgrid has been featured in many educator resource articles as it is easy to use, makes quick videos manageable and helps community/culture building in a blended or digital setting. If you have any presentation projects and have to shift into digital mode this is an easy transition. This is a great platform for booktalks in the library.

I recently used Genially for a robust digital arcade for Battle of the Books (more details in a future post). It is a great tool for adding interactive elements to websites. I solely used the gamification set they had. It has great professional graphics and ready made templates. These could be a great exit ticket game in a live class. This is an easy way to add engagement in online environments. This does not collect or share data results, so most of the tools are more for student self-check.

The one I want to try this year is Parlay. While I have not field tested it I have explored it this summer. I am drawn to this app because it is actually designed for different settings: live or online. It is a platform for discussions, so programs that use the Harkness model or Socratic seminars could use this to orchestrate, digitize, and data collect during a class discussion. I was impressed with the data a teacher could analyze to democratize the voices in a class.

Don’t forget about some of the golden oldies 

Every year about this time I revisit AASL’s Best Apps & Websites for Teaching & Learning Archive. I look back at websites I had wanted to try, but never got a chance to dabble. I also use this time to expand my knowledge on the tried and true platforms and websites I use every year.

Libguides, our industry standard, or the library version of a LMS is the container for all our digital resources. The beginning of the year I take time to review past libguides to edit and tweak for dead links, layout and design improvements or new resources to add. I also try new features from Libwizard or embed some of the above mentioned resources to integrate into a libguide. 

Our school continually uses Noodletools as a research platform and citation management tool. I noticed a recent facelift in the program with some layout tweaks. At the beginning of the year I make a point to reach out to new teachers to help integrate into their course if they have not used it before.

Years ago I signed up for Diigo, and I still use it as my own online bookmarker. The other feature that I have also loved is the highlighting and annotating features. As a former reading coach, I still think we need to model and apply print reading strategies to digital texts and this program allows this.

There are so many more, but I have to also be mindful of my own creation of infobesity. Finally, more than any of these tools I really think our ability to possess poise in a pivot is our personal touch with others. I mostly use the above mentions as curricular conversation starters, but more than these are my care and connection with my colleagues. Often listening is more effective than an online offering.

I wish all patience, presence, and poise in the great pivot we are all making this year.

School librarians — Fiction.

My students love books about school librarians, especially those that are unconventional – think the protagonist from The Librarian from the Black Lagoon, or Mrs Roopy from the My Weird School series. We often discuss how they would fit in at our library, and whether their methods and quirks would add to or detract from the library program we already have. Strangely, my own reading this summer has also led me to discover some school library-focused books, some of which get every detail of a school librarian’s day correct, and some which…don’t. Below I share some of these titles, as well as some fun independent school-set reads which I have enjoyed this summer. Happy reading, all!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

This novel opens with the main character, Amy Byler, arriving in New York for a conference (not entirely dissimilar to an AISL conference). The details of this school library conference experience are uncannily accurate, and the discussion and details of the topic she is presenting on ring true. However, it veers into ‘really?’ territory when Amy decides to stay in New York for the rest of the summer, effectively abandoning her family in rural Pennsylvania. So, five stars for the first part, but from a library perspective, it really loses its way (doesn’t Amy need to get back home to set up her library for the start of school? What about all those books that have to be cataloged and those displays that have to be created?).

Quiet, Please by Brea Brown

Failed Public Librarian Kendall Dickinson decides she needs a do-over, and takes a job as a librarian at a small North Carolina School. She does not like children, or noise, but figures the job will be a good distraction from her other worries. The usual characters show up: the quirky kid obsessed with reading, the colleagues who nod knowingly across the auditorium during assembly, and the flighty principal who spends more time at the spa than at the school. And of course, there’s a complicated, brooding Kindergarten teacher who makes Kendall’s life more… complicated. The details of the school librarian life are pretty accurate in this novel, but it must be said that if you don’t like children or noise then this probably isn’t the profession for you.

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Katherine Center was due to be the Skip Anthony speaker at our conference in Houston, and I would have love to have heard about her research and her perspective on school librarians! This novel features Sam, librarian at the Kempner School on Galveston Island, TX. After a tragedy involving the long-standing principal, a new principal is appointed who Sam knows from her previous school (well, you know how everyone in independent schools knows each other). But on the first day of school, Duncan Carpenter is not the man Sam remembers. The details of the school librarian’s life are accurate, and her observations of young readers (and their over-invested parents) are spot-on. In particular, the description of the library is wonderful, and I would love to know if this is based on a real school!

The Lending Library by Aliza Fogelson

OK – no school libraries in this one, but the main character is an elementary art teacher, and her best friend is the school librarian. When her local public library closes, Dodie decides to open a replacement in her home’s sunroom. As the members of the town pass through, picking up books and sharing their secrets with Dodie, it becomes clear that the town misses not only its books but the sense of community that the library brought. There is a subplot involving Dodie’s ticking biological clock, and to be honest, the way in which Dodie ran the library made me feel a bit anxious; thankfully, no one suggests that she leaves her art classroom and heads to the school library instead.

In addition to these books about libraries, I’ve also read three great books set in schools this summer. In The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger, four families will do anything to get their child into an elite new school for the very gifted & talented. Anything. In Tiny Imperfections by Alli Frank & Asha Youmans, we meet Josie Bordelon, admissions director at the exclusive Fairchild Country Day School in San Francisco, CA. You will not believe (well, maybe you will) the tactics used by parents to gain a coveted spot at this school. The story also focuses on Josie’s aunt, one of the longest-serving kitchen workers at the school, and her daughter, Etta, who is a senior and has very specific ideas about where she wants to go for college. Finally, Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes is a wonderful novel by Kathleen West, an Independent School teacher here in Minnesota. This book is a fast-paced read about helicopter parents, social media and what it’s like to teach in an elite high school bubble, where the teachers are mostly liberal, and the parents are mostly not…

If you’ve read something good recently, school-related or not, leave a comment! And I’m looking forward to the first school-related novel featuring COVID-19: “She opened up her computer and logged on to her Google Meet. There were three students there already…”

Building Perspectives

“They didn’t see a child. They saw change, and what they thought was being taken from them. They never saw a child.” (Ruby Bridges Interview. Many Rivers to Cross. PBS.org. 8 Jun 2020.)

The New Orleans’ schoolyard often echoed with the joyful laughter of children, but on the morning of November 14, 1960, angry shouts punctuated the air; parents yelled as six-year-old Ruby Bridges, flanked by U.S. Marshals, walked up the steps and entered the doors of the all-white school. Years later, Ruby reflected on those parents’ faces, twisted with rage, and said, “They didn’t see a child.” Sixty years later, our society still struggles with injustice. Many factors could be considered in making a more just society, but, taking a cue from Ruby Bridges, this article will consider how opening up our vision, building perspectives, promotes empathy and engages students in discussions about social change. 

Recently I participated in a Smithsonian webinar: How to Discover, Create, and Share in the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and I used this tool to curate artwork, children’s books, Visible Thinking strategies, and videos to create a multimodal classroom guide: Building Perspectives. In using this learning module, educators can immerse students in close looking and in evaluating how art and stories powerfully present viewpoints on race and social justice. Explore the Building Perspectives learning module on the Smithsonian Learning Lab website.

Following is a brief overview of Building Perspectives:

Building Perspectives encourages students to evaluate ways that artists and authors help us to “see the person,”  expanding our viewpoints by developing empathy and understanding. Students will explore the following individuals and their contributions to the Civil Rights movement:

  • Ruby Bridges
  • Rosa Parks
  • John Lewis

Objectives: After completing this lesson, students will be better able to

  • Examine how artists and photographers reveal their own viewpoints about iconic people and historic events and how artists and photographers influence the viewer’s understanding of those events.
  • Look closely at children’s books and explore how both text and image challenge the reader to empathize and expand their viewpoints on race and social justice.
  • Implement Visible Thinking strategies to slow down looking and deepen
    thinking.
  • Use the Smithsonian Museum’s collection as a gateway to investigating and exploring perspectives of race and social justice.

The resources assembled on this Building Perspectives learning module can be used to promote classroom conversations about tolerance and social justice. In an April 27 NCTE discussion of the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, authors Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi stressed the importance of holding conversations about race in classrooms.  Jason Reynolds stated his goal as promoting “racial literacy,” and  Dr. Ibram X. Kendi commended teachers in their vocation: “We need to embrace teachers in the same way we are embracing health care providers–teachers are building constructs to aid the intellectual health of our young.  It is not impossible for white teachers to have conversations about race.” This recommended reading list, though not comprehensive, may be a beginning as educators consider books that can aid conversations about race in the classroom.

As recent events show, the struggle for social justice has not ended. However, the opportunity for a more just world lies before us as we look more closely at those who have inspired the fight for social justice, both in past history and in recent events. By examining perspectives with eyes of understanding and empathy, we can enter into conversations about race that will open hearts and minds.

Oh, Jane Eyre

I read and fell in love with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë when I was in seventh grade and it’s been one of those books I return to again and again. It seems there are many people who agree that “Reader, I married him” is one of the most satisfying quotes in the book—one has only to look to Twitter or Pinterest to find many threads dedicated to this very quote.

My goals this summer—after a hectic spring term and the stress and uncertainty of emergency remote learning—focused on self-care. I planned to take time to relax, spend more time in my pottery studio, garden, exercise.

If Jane Eyre were to evaluate how I’m doing, I’m sure she would say,
“Reader, she failed.”

On my behalf, I will say that I have not failed completely. I’ve spent some time this summer fending off a family of groundhogs gardening, swimming, reading, watching our hummingbirds, and even getting back on the pottery wheel. What I have also done, though, is complete a week-long Global Online Academy Design Bootcamp course, serve on our Hybrid Learning Committee, and start to redesign the New Student Seminar (NSS) course I teach.

So at this point, it’s more a case of:
“Reader, I married my work.”

REDESIGNING FOR HYBRID LEARNING

One of the highlights of my job as the research librarian at Kent School is the opportunity to teach two sections of NSS, a signature program required of all our new incoming 3rd and 4th formers. This fall will be my third year teaching the course, but since it is only offered in the fall term, it will be my first year teaching it in a hybrid setting. This means if I want to be ready for the fall term, I need to rework (or begin reworking) my course over the summer. I know from prior experience that designing and teaching a hybrid course is A LOT of work. Much as we need to recognize it will probably take our students two to three times as long to complete work in an online classroom, we also need to accept it will probably take us that long to create student-centered lessons that can quickly pivot from an on-ground to an online modality with the least amount of friction or disruption for our students.

In my work on the Hybrid Learning Committee (comprised of faculty, Department Chairs, the Director of Information Technology, and Director of Studies), the twelve of us have met weekly to create a framework for our teachers to address working with students who might be on ground or learning remotely, whether synchronous or asynchronously. One of the areas we discussed and worked on outside of our meetings and that will inform much of our teaching moving forward was to identify and expand on a set of guiding principles listed here:

  1. Relationships are key to creating an equitable learning environment.
  2. Process takes precedence over content.
  3. Student agency and independent learning are central to engagement and a positive outcome in an online/ hybrid learning environment.
  4. Flexibility and innovation are required for the creation and assessment of equitable learning experiences.

So my challenge this summer is to really think about how I might re-design my current course to:

  1. Encourage the development of strong, positive relationships with my students and among my students.
  2. Focus on the most important goals or competencies.
  3. Provide opportunities for voice and choice in every lesson.
  4. Incorporate what I’ve learned through professional development courses and reading.

WELCOME PAGE WITH BASIC ELEMENTS

I started by redesigning the welcome page on my LMS to set the tone for the course. Previously my landing page—not really a welcome page—consisted of an image. One of the challenges at the GOA Design Bootcamp was to create a welcome page that was, well, welcoming. Here are their criteria:

1. Create and Add Welcome Video
This video was a quick introduction to the course—simple, informal, and personal. I talked about the course briefly, how much I was looking forward to meeting them, and that I would touch base with them prior to the start of the course. This last part of the message is especially important for our remote learners.

2. Add Contact Information
Although I am basically camera shy, I did add a photo of myself and my contact information: email, Zoom room link, and link to my Calendly. In the spring when I was collaborating with other teachers, students loved that they could check my Calendly and see when I was free to meet and schedule a time to Zoom.

3. Add a Course Description
I added a description of the course under Key Points and also a link to the syllabus in the right column.

4. Add Navigation Information
PowerSchool isn’t the most user-friendly LMS—it’s actually quite clunky so a “How to Use PowerSchool” video that shows students where they will find lessons, assignments, and how to submit assignments will be especially helpful to my remote learners.

5. Add Information on Tasks to do Before Class Starts
I let my students know I wanted them to read about the course and watch the navigation video prior to the first day of class.

WELCOME PAGE WITH OPTIONAL ELEMENTS

While the five elements above are the basics that GOA recommended, I ended up adding a couple of optional elements that would help my students navigate my course through visual thinking (course icons) and give them an opportunity to connect with their classmates before the start of school. Since my students are new 4th formers, it’s important for me to help them develop into a strong cohort group providing a supportive base from which they can join the larger school community. You’ll see descriptions for the elements I added on the right with corresponding numbers on the screenshot on the left.

Next on the agenda, redesigning Unit 1: Academic Orientation. Now, enough of work—I’m off to check on my groundhogs garden …

Self-auditing

Last summer, I attended the excellent AISL Summer Institute on diversifying collections (offered by the wonderful people at John Burroughs School).  During the iceberg activity (my quickly-sourced reference, not theirs), I felt a much needed slap to my privileged face to realize that when I walk into a room, people see a white, middle-aged woman. Gender and age may preoccupy my attention a bit, but thinking about my race is something that I, as a white person, am not forced to do on a constant, relentless basis.  If you’ve had any uncertainty about white privilege, THIS IS IT.

I am grateful for all that I learned at this SI and have been applying it to my senior school library. For example, an audit of the past 7 years of our summer reading program revealed a preponderance of white, male authors, so we were very intentional in having better representation in this year’s list in terms of authors and characters – the smallest of baby steps.

I’ve recently realized though that I’ve been slow to turn my eye inward – looking at the books and blogs I read, the podcasts I listen to, the social media accountsI follow. Keeping in mind that this is very much a cursory glance and I have much more work to do, here’s what I found when I dug in:

Books: while my taste runs to narrative nonfiction (heavy on anything involving food – I love reading cookbooks, the older the better), I am a high school librarian and so read quite a bit of YA. While much of it offers racial diversity, it turns out that I read more with plots involving socio-economic diversity and/or featuring LGBTQ+ characters. When it comes to race I’m still leaning heavily towards mirrors, rather than seeking out windows and sliding glass doors.  Noted and on it, with my summer goal being to alternate YA/popular fiction and NF books specifically about racism/antiracism.

Social media: I tend to use Twitter for professional development and Instagram for personal use (I have two accounts – one private, and one public).  My Twitter feed is much more racially diverse than my IG feed, so I am grateful for IG recommendations such as @ava and @cleowade. I am now following authors whose books have made a profound impact on me (@ijeomaoluo, @ibramxk). A shoutout to @monachalabi, a remarkable data journalist and artist whom I had the good fortune to hear from at this past January’s provincial library conference – the work she shares through her IG feed is superb (appalling, heart-wrenching and superb).

Podcasts: Looks like I’m pretty selective, heavily on NPR and CBC content. While their stories are fairly diverse, all of the hosts are white men. So again, I’ve been grateful for suggestions from others; as  I enjoy learning about personal finance, I am currently enjoying Frugal Chic Life and Popcorn Finance. 

The more I learn, the more I feel that what I am doing is inadequate, but the alternative is to let myself become overwhelmed and do nothing. Which I refuse to do as this is too important. I’d love to hear what you’re reading/watching/listening to – more recommendations welcome!

Roadwork Ahead

Let’s keep this one short. It’s summer, and I’m on vacation. While I’m not really going anywhere, I have been thinking about roads, and, in particular, bridges. I can’t get Road To Nowhere by The Talking Heads out of my head. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel can bring a tear to my eye, and Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers seems like an appropriate song for what can be lonely times of late. Normally this is the time of year when my family hits the roads to visit friends and family. Road trips make me think of the thrill of reading and riding along with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, but Cormac McCarthy’s The Road seems too frightening right now. Oftentimes, when one is on a road trip, one has an idea where one is headed, perhaps even with certain stops planned along the way. The road I feel like I’m on now is the sort that is shrouded in dense fog, the kind where the fog lights only illuminate the few feet ahead. Trying to see further with headlights only makes visibility more opaque, which forces a sudden surge of adrenalin and makes one pump the brakes!

The other day, while looking for something to entertain myself, I watched the movie A Bridge Too Far. (Actually, it took me two nights because I fell asleep the first night.) I was hoping, if only for a few hours, to escape the real world. This word, “bridge,” had implanted itself on my subconscious and had clearly led me to this film title. People – myself included – have been talking a lot about just needing to create a bridge from the current public health crises to a future when an effective treatment or vaccine for Covid-19 is found. It is, we all hope, a temporary situation. Of course it is! People stress that furloughs are temporary and that only short term loans and unemployment insurance are necessary to tide us over until the crisis passes. But now there is another important and long overdue challenge resurfacing – the scourge of systemic racism. This has been a bridge to equality all of us have not yet been able to cross. The bridges being discussed now are the broken ones that fail to connect cities and towns, socioeconomic classes, ideologies, and people. Actual bridges are now being occupied by protesters to highlight just the latest social injustices. So many bridges – literal, metaphorical, and cliché. A bridge loan, a Bridge to the Future, A Bridge to Nowhere, A Bridge to the 21st Century. The Edmund Pettus Bridge

I do think we’re on one side of a bridge, and I do think it will stretch to the other side. But it’s too foggy right now for me to see how long this bridge is or what’s actually on the other side. It’s disorienting. I can’t get a sense of how far we’ve come or how far we’ve got to go, and I can’t tell how far it is below. I do know that we can’t stay where we are, and I really don’t want to go back to where I was. The only hope I have – the only hope we have – is to keep progressing. If the arc of the moral universe is long and if it bends towards justice – and I believe it does – then let that arc be the bridge we take and let’s work so that it is NOT a bridge too far.

Many are speculating on what the fall and winter will be like, what our libraries and schools will be like – what will be our “new normal.” We are now asking what our country and world will be like. I have to say, while I listen to a lot of opinions, I am not putting too much stock in any one forecast. Most oddsmakers hedge their bets and I, for one, will simply do the best I can to be prepared and ready for whatever may come, but I will not attach myself to any one view until the fog lifts and I can see where my next step will land. In the meantime, wearing a mask at a Black Lives Matter march seems like a pretty good road to travel.

on library reopening plans…

Happy summer, all!

This is the time of year when I’d typically be off looking for a new restaurant in New York or searching for super cheap airline flights from New York to some exciting sounding country that I’ve never had a chance visit with the hope that I could chuck some clothes into my beat up carryon rolley bag and go on an international adventure for a week or two.

This is 2020 so, yeah, EVERYTHING’S CHANGED this year.

Any travel out of the state of Hawaii means a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon your return so this summer finds me staying put (Hello, #RockFever) doing some virtual summer school librarianship and working with committees of people developing plans for the reopening of school in August.

I am so incredibly grateful to work with a school administration that always gives our library program a seat at the table when there are decisions that need to be made that may impact our physical space, budget, or instructional programming. The thing about being included in decision-making when you are trying to make plans to respond to a pandemic is that, it takes A LOT OF MEETINGS! The reality, though, is that PLANS NEED TO BE MADE. They can be made with my input or they can be made for me. Given the choice, I am enough of a control freak that I’d rather take part in a lot of meetings and be able to help shape my program’s destiny as much as might be possible.

What follows is an in-process-kinda-ugly-doing-the-best-we-can-based-on-what-we-know-so-it-might-look-all-different-in-August snapshot of what our planning looks like for reopening our library in August #CrossesFingersAndToes

Stuff Needs to be Ordered…

My library is on an island 2500 miles away from the West Coast of the United States. We don’t have the luxury of flipping through a Demco catalog, ordering stuff, and having a truck roll up to the Facilities Management loading dock 5-7 business days later. I am incredibly grateful to have committees of really competent folk working on the vast majority of the logistical planning and procurement of supplies needed for reopening.

  • Masks and face shields – Our school will be providing 2 masks and a face shield to every student and faculty member.
  • Pexiglass shielding for our Circulation Desk – Our awesome facilities manager took care of measuring and ordering shielding that will be installed for us.
  • Pexiglass dividers for library tables – We have round tables that are 4-feet wide. We will be trying 4-way dividers that will allow students to be shielded from each other, but still able to see each other.

Some Behavioral, Policy, and Instructional Changes…

  • Entrance and exit – Given our library’s physical layout, one of the more noticeable changes that we are probably going to make is that we have traditionally had a single door for where EVERYONE entered and exited the library. Given the way that entrance is configured, we will be having people enter the library through our traditional front doors, but exit through what has always been a “Fire Exit Only” door in order to minimize shoulder-to-shoulder congestion.
  • Calculating facility capacity – A facilities committee is working to calculate our library’s “Corona capacity” for our space. When we have a number, we will work on signage and we are currently trying to figure out a the best logistical way to keep count of the number of students that enter the library during any single period. I’ve looked into electronic counters. Bi-directional counters are either incredibly expensive or highly inaccurate so we’re still figuring this one out.
  • Limiting co-mingling – It saddens me greatly, but like many of your school libraries, before and after school our library is a central meeting hub for significant numbers of students. One of the great joys of school librarianship for me is to get to know kids as they informally gather to commiserate on how hard the statistics homework was, to recap the great play their softball teammate executed, deliver the bigly romantic promposal, or to be consoled when your girlfriend just broke up with you… That’s not gonna be making a comeback in our library in the fall–at least initially. The current plan as I understand it seems to be that students will be assigned to “home base” spaces around campus to minimize gathering before school, after school, during lunch, and during free periods.
  • Temporarily changing our collection development priorities – We’ve decided to launch Overdrive Sora in the fall. Along with that change, we have decided that eBooks will make up the vast majority of our acquisitions for the next school year.
  • Bu-bye collaboration rooms – I’m thinking that it’ll be pretty unlikely that we will be able to allow students to use our group study rooms. We might be able to allow use as single occupant study rooms, but I’m guessing that getting students to maintain social distance or mask and shield use in our study rooms is just not terribly realistic.
  • Public library cards – We are in the unique position of being, I believe, the only state in the US with a single statewide library system. Our administration is supporting our efforts to better integrate Hawaii State Public Library System resources into our instructional work flows by requiring that all of our families acquire library cards for their students. This policy will give us some needed flexibility should, heaven forbid, we have to unexpectedly close campus and go back to an all virtual instructional model. We will, of course, continue to subscribe to our portfolio of databases but one thing that became clear from the world’s sudden move to emergency virtual instruction is that school libraries should be teaching the value of LIBRARIES–not just OUR SCHOOL’S library. Going forward, we will be teaching our students how to search the public library’s book and ebook collections and, when appropriate, promoting the occasional use of a public library database when it might be appropriate for a student’s specific research need.

To be Determined…

  • Minimizing High Touch Sharing – What do we do about the library desktop computers and our laptop cart? We’re a 1:1 iPad school. Sometimes classes need laptops/desktops to work on. We still haven’t figure this one out.

This is all very “up in the air” and “to be determined” and though I like flying to get when I’m traveling somewhere, neither are states that I typically love being in when it comes my work. I’d love to hear about the state of your reopening plans. Please hit comment below and share what you’re doing!

Be safe, but have wonderful summers, all!

A Tale of Two Librarians in the Roaring Twenties

I always feel recharged when I am in the company of my fellow librarians. I am inspired, humbled, and enlightened by our collective endeavors to seek and share truth, cherish and foster reading, and empower our patrons on their own journeys of knowledge whether it be for an assignment, entertainment and escape, or for a breakthrough in self-development. In these times of multiple crises and layers of turmoil I turn to my instincts as a librarian for both comfort and understanding. I have noticed that many of us in the library and publishing industry have responded to the current events of the continued injustices visited upon the Black community by compiling resources and sharing book lists about antiracism, racism and social justice. I am heartened by the overwhelming response of the public and the social media realm to seek and share these resources as reigniting the conversation about justice, equal rights and human rights. In this profession we have consistently discussed, and disseminated the importance of multiculturalism, representation, and diversity. Librarians often are at the forefront and early adopters of ideas, programs, and language that continue to promote inclusion from all voices as witnessed by concepts like #ownvoice and the “windows” and “mirrors” as a reader perspective framing device. I have learned from many of you that have written posts, compiled book lists, and held workshops how you are reflecting on diversity and conducting diversity audits of your collections. 

And for this I am grateful and enriched by this tradition and like many of you, I am using this summertime to delve into self-education and research related to diversity in libraries.There are so many lists circulating currently by writers representing #ownvoice sharing about anti-racism and injustice; I am reading these to share with my patrons, but for this forum I want revisit the history of libraries and share figures that have inspired and informed me in the field of library studies. I want to highlight two librarians that have come to my attention in the last couple of years.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Portrait of Regina Andrews” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1940. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/8785edb6-c289-51ec-e040-e00a18061a76

I have always had a fascination with the 1920s, and it is not only from this year 2020 as its centennial counterpart. Through my social media algorithms I stumbled on the following article, “The Librarian at the Nexus of the Harlem Renaissance.” My interest was immediately piqued. I had always wondered about the role individual librarians may have played in historical and cultural events. Regina Anderson Andrews was the librarian at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Her story struck a chord with me because of her avocation for the role of a librarian. She not only managed the daily duties as a 9-to-5 public librarian, she hosted a literary salon with the luminary artists and writers of the day. One of my favorite authors, Zora Neale Hurston, was mentioned as one of the working artists crashing at her place.  She was also part of this creative class as she wrote and produced plays that captured and gave voice to African American stories. The book Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian by Ethelene Whitmire further explains the career, hardships, and impact of Mrs. Andrew’s work. She also reached the stature as the first African American supervising librarian in the New York Public Library system. I admire her life’s focus on, “ the use of books as our strongest means of promoting intercultural understanding.” She was known for her library programming called “Family Night” in which she invited great thinkers and writers from differing backgrounds to share their perspectives and stories to serve her diverse and immigrant population. The book also does a thorough job of showing influential figures in the library world that I found illuminating as a springboard for further study. I consider her a model I try to emulate in my own life and work. (See more primary documents about her from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division-Digital Collections)

Clarence H. White, American, 1871–1925
Belle da Costa Greene, 1911
Platinum print
image: 23.8 x 17.1 cm (9 3/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
mat: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.8 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/2 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum. The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

On one of my afternoon commutes from work I was listening to the Annotated podcast produced by Bookriot when the story, The World’s Most Glamorous Librarian mesmerized me. I was introduced to Belle da Costa Greene, “the most glamorous and influential librarian in early 20th Century America, who kept a life-long secret that could have ended her career.” She was the librarian for J. Pierpont Morgan, an American financier during the Gilded Age. She acquired and curated his renown collection of illuminated texts, historical documents as well as notable British and American writers’ first editions and journals for over 40 years. According to recent articles and research she had wit, allure and mystic surrounding her story because she was truly a self-made woman. She tweaked her name and evaded specific questions about her heritage. She eschewed her father’s prominence as the first African American man to graduate from Harvard in order to evade a race label. In the book An Illuminated Life: Belle da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege historian Heidi Ardizzone Ph.D. fashions a portrait of this enigmatic intellect and her impact on New York’s high society. She is quoted as saying,“Just because I am a librarian doesn’t mean I have to dress like one.” She also defied the societal expectations of women. Her self-contrived story gives us a snapshot of the construct and constraint of race at that time, and we are still grappling with it today.

More information about about Belle

Belle da Costa Greene, the Morgan’s First Librarian and Director

The Mysterious Woman Behind J.P. Morgan’s Library

Long Time Passing

They are more than flapper librarians, but unflappable women that defied the social constructions that surrounded them. I am honored to be in the same field as these two, and I will continue to read and research the many other influential librarians from diverse backgrounds to see the fuller picture of our history. 

The following resources have lists of other Black librarians throughout our history for further study.

13 PIONEERING BLACK AMERICAN LIBRARIANS YOU OUGHTA KNOW

Honoring African American Librarians

Our Responsibility

This blog post was going to be something different. But then everything changed.

This weekend I’ve been thinking about the Library Bill of Rights. It was adopted in 1939 and amended several times. I subscribe to this every day as a librarian, and perhaps more importantly, as the Library Director, to protect the rights of all my patrons. Does this mean that sometimes I add materials that make me uncomfortable? Yes!

Why? Because there are patrons at any given time who need that book. The book that made me uncomfortable, whether due to race, religion, sexuality, or more, has the power to save lives. Perhaps for a student who finally sees themself in a book. Perhaps for a person who needed to read those words at the right time.

I am a straight, white, Jewish woman, and there are some perspectives I can never truly understand. However, I will not let that be the reason to keep a book out of a collection. Here are the Library Bill of Rights articles I keep in front of me at all times:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

It is now even more important that we have materials in our collections that are not only inclusive, but also informative. I’m sure you’ve seen a plethora of lists lately of books we need to make sure are in our collections. Can we use this opportunity to add suggestions in the comments?

I hope we all pick up that book that makes us think. Let it open our eyes.

To read the Library Bill of Rights in its entirety, you can see it here.

Some things that made me happy…

Well, I don’t know about you, but the past couple of months have been stressful. I have a 14 month old, and my husband is a music teacher. We have spent many days playing “pass the toddler” as we go from one Zoom call to the next, try to catch up on emails, and plan for the next day or week.  As hard as it can be I do love being home with my son, but I miss my library, my students, my colleagues, and most of all, my staff.

I know that I have spent too many moments thinking about the things that I cannot do with the new constraints on my time and the support I have to give my husband throughout the day while he does his job. Therefore, I have decided to spend the time writing this blog post thinking of the things I did do, and what made me happy, during this time of uncertainty.

  • My Advisees

I have been able to meet with each of my advisees individually and as a group on a regular basis. I am thankful that we have Zoom, and that I can see their faces pop up on the screen, usually with a smile. Their positive spirits have uplifted mine throughout this time. I have met their pets, said hi to siblings and parents, and talked through what we are going through together. I am so proud of them all.

  • Planning for Summer Reading

Selecting books for our Summer Reading program has always been one of my favorite tasks. At my school, advisors for 10th, 11th, and 12th grades choose a title to read with their group. I received numerous emails this year asking for suggestions, and it is always fun to review what I have read and provide some options and advice. Talking about books makes me happy. I also worked on selecting the book for the whole 9th grade, which involved some late-night speed reading, as most of my daylight hours are dedicated to reading The Little Blue Truck and First 100 trucks and things that go (if you can’t tell, we are currently nurturing a truck obsession). Now, I am looking forward to the summer, pondering what I will read, instead of focusing on all of the cancelled events.

  • Service Learning and Tutoring Program

In addition to being the librarian, I am also the Service Learning coordinator and club sponsor at our school. When all this began, I wasn’t sure how the students would react to the new Zoom format of club meetings and if we would be able to actually continue on with some of our service projects. I needn’t have feared. At our first zoom meeting, students joined the meeting quickly and immediately began sharing ideas for how to give back and support our community safely during this time. One student came up with the idea to sell t-shirts to raise money for the local food bank. We were able to follow through with this idea by partnering with our spirit store to sell the shirts. We also delivered a meal to the local Ronald McDonald House, supporting a local restaurant in the process, and created a list of virtual service activities to share with our school.

I also help facilitate a tutoring/mentorship program between our students and a local K-5 charter school. After working with my contact there, we were able to organize a group who would be willing to participate in Zoom tutoring. For the past weeks, we met on Saturday mornings. Every time, I was so proud to see my students pop up on Zoom, ready and willing to tutor the elementary students. I put them in breakout rooms, and as I joined each group to check in, they were using the whiteboard feature to explain problems, sharing guides and playing math or reading games. It was so wonderful to see them so eager to continue to help out.

There are many more happy moments, but my time is limited and so is yours. Yet, I hope that you do take some time to reflect on what you have done that has made you happy. We librarians are a strong breed. We can get through this, together.