The End of Year Report: Lower School Edition

CC 2024 We Are Teachers

Who’s started the countdown?

I will raise my hand first. I have started the countdown to the last day. For some reason, this year just felt “extra.” Perhaps it was launching my youngest off to college last August and getting into a new routine? Perhaps it is the constant hum of crisis news? Perhaps it’s just me?

As I begin the countdown, I also am writing my EOY to do list:

  1. to inventory, or not to inventory
  2. last orders
  3. overdue notices and the lost book debate
  4. summer reading booklet off to communications office
  5. End of Year Library Report!

I admit, last year was the first year I created an end of year report in a fancy dancy form. Before 2023, it was simply a meeting with my campus head to share the ups and downs and wows from the school year, and what I look forward to for the next.

Last year, I decided I had the brainspace, time and need to create a fancy dancy version. Why? Budgets were up for reconsiderations #1. Heightened awareness of collection development #2. Student population had grown by A LOT #3. I had implemented some new collabs #4. I wanted to change my schedule to more of a hybrid model #5.

I created my end of year report in Canva. My thoughts:

  1. What do I want to communicate to my campus head?
  2. What do I want to highlight about my program?
  3. Everyone loves a graph or two.
  4. What did I want to celebrate in this report?
  5. How was I spending my instructional time?

Then to source data:

  1. My curriculum and programming
  2. My current schedule
  3. Destiny reports
  4. Database reports
  5. Anecdotal conversations
  6. My observations

Above is my 2023 Library Program Report. I served 238 students grades PK-5 with a collection of around 7,500 print books. It was a great visual to share with not only my campus head, but also other members of upper administration. Assisted with this information, I successfully negotiated a bump in my budget, as well as a hybrid schedule (future blog post!). Win-win!

I hope you are inspired to explore creating one for your library.

What would you be sure to include in your End of Year Library Report?

The Summer Reading Challenge by Rayna Hyde-Lay

For many of our libraries, Summer Reading plans are well underway with selections of books already planned. Often working with colleagues in other departments, we select compelling reads: age appropriate and collated to limit summer learning loss. In summer 2020, our school was suddenly thrown into a longer summer break and with this a reading opportunity. Screen use was maxed out, and students were looking for ways to engage with the printed word. We seized on this and started a book club which gamify’s reading for the courageous and reluctant reader.

Summer Book SLAM is our catch phrase for Summer Reading. Our goal is simple: engage readers, at many different levels, in personal reading. How do we do this? We play a game.

First, we collect Book Champions. A call goes out in early May to education staff at the school to be a Book Champion. Their role is to lead a team of readers in a book the champion is passionate about. I seek to engage teachers from every department, and they are always excited about reading with a group of students and sharing a book which is meaningful to them. Most years we have had more champions than space!

Second, select books. Often champions come with a book in mind – full disclosure here, I typically say yes to the book because the goal is to have the champions and students engaged in what they are reading. If needed I do have a list of book suggestions for champions to consider, but usually these superheroes of reading amaze me with their variety and forethought.

Third, and this is the tough phase, we promo promo promo the Summer Book SLAM. In the past I have had success using social media, inserting the conversation into our English classes and personal chats with staff and students over the final few months of school (we finish at the end of June).

Of course, we always host an end-of-summer cupcake party with prizes and door prizes in September, and this is also a big selling feature. During the summer we offer three static challenges for readers to participate in. Some past examples have been a photo challenge with your book, favourite quotes, and telling a friend why they should read this book. They also have one active challenge designed by their Book Champion – this will often be a short writing piece, questions, or other ways to engage with the text. Based on participation, prizes are awarded!

I love to hear what other people are doing for summer book clubs so feel free to share your thoughts and ideas!

#summerreading #llibrarysummerreadingpower #AISL

6 Book Fair Tricks to Amaze and Astound!

Setting the stage …

Imagine, if you will, a tropical island. Miles from the nearest major landmass, your closest layover is a 6-hour plane ride away. It’s a land of rainbows, waterfalls, $8 gallons of milk, 45mph speed limit signs on the freeway, and shipping costs that often are more than the price of the items ordered.

I paint this picture for a bit of context (not necessarily for your pity, just your understanding, lol). I’m really excited to share these book fair tips and tricks, but I’m afraid that once readers see the word “Scholastic” before “Book Fair”, they might not keep reading. You know how Costco carries one million jars of peanut butter, but it’s Skippy and ONLY Skippy? That’s Hawai’i. We don’t have a myriad of local (or even chain) bookstores with whom we might partner, Literati and others don’t operate here, so … my blog post is about the little tricks I’ve worked into my book fairs, and if you happen to see the “S” word anywhere, it’s because that’s what we’ve got to work with. The show must go on! 🙂

Gaze into the future!

Do you or your volunteers put up posters around campus? Make a checklist of locations so you know where to go to take them down after the Fair! This is also handy if you’re entrusting the work to others: the power is yours to make sure your advertisements go where you want them to be seen.

Where’d we put those posters? Student volunteers took their “signage maps” with them as they put up posters around campus, labeling each location. We kept these in the “DO NOT LOSE” folder until the Fair was closed

Seek and find!

If your Fair comes with flyers of advertised titles, chances are your patrons are going to be looking for those specific books. Set aside a few flyers for yourself and your volunteers, and once your Fair is set up, write down the location of every advertised book on those flyers. Numbering book trucks and carts (1L = cart 1, left side) and naming tables (LEGO table) make it easy to help patrons find what they seek.

“Where is Heroes?” Student volunteers labeled extra flyers with shelf locations (“5R” = Shelf #5, on the right) to help patrons find advertised titles

Disappearing act!

When those advertised titles are sold out, I have a precious few days during which I can order more. A little signage where the book used to be will not only help you/volunteers know where to shelve restocks, but also lets patrons know that they can still buy the book if they want (pre-paid titles are set aside and delivered once the restock order arrives). 

Even if you don’t have flyers with the book covers, simple Post-It notes in the spaces where titles once were shelved will help patrons and volunteers know what’s sold out, and which titles – if any – can be ordered

Prest-o, change-o!

This trick is sneaky, but sometimes we gotta bend the rules by which we must play. At our school, elementary students are not allowed to check out manga (#SuperSadSigh), but if those titles are advertised to our older kiddos, who am I to keep Naruto off-limits? Using a book truck to display those titles that maybe aren’t for a certain class means the books can still be accessed, but with a turn of those wheels, the shelf – gasp! – disappears! And it’s like they were never there. #EvilLaugh

Pick a poster, any poster!

You know … there was a Taylor Swift poster at one of my first Book Fairs (2013?), and now she’s on a Golden Book. That sure is something.

Anyway, if posters are a favored feature at your Fair, it can be a struggle to display them. Rather than have a horde of children rifling through a single box, we tape up the posters around the room (one of each design if wall-space allows, using painter’s tape) and include a numbered Post-It on each. The box of posters stays behind the cashier desk so patrons can “order” their poster while in line (“Can I get poster number 3?”). Similar Post-Its are stuck on the matching posters in the box so we can find ‘em, scan ‘em, and roll ‘em up!

Games galore!

For our class visits (our preschool – 6th grade classes schedule times to visit, but anyone on campus can come whenever they want) and after school crowd, having a few simple guessing games – with prizes*! – will add a bit of fun to your store. This year our 6th graders came up with Book Pong: students toss rolled-up bits of flyers into cups prepared with dots, and depending on the dot, that determined their prize. Don’t have time to collect cups and dots and make skee balls out of book fair flyers? My “oh-my-gosh-I-forgot-to-prep-a-game” game is this: Collect a few titles from the Fair, tie them in a stack, and let your patrons guess how many pages are in the pile. It’s math! *If your Fair comes with crap – I mean, treasures – and if your funds allow, use those crystal pens and llama erasers as your prizes. Everything you need for a bit of carnival fun is at your fingertips.

Let the Fair be the game and the prize!

Et voilà!

I would love to know of any tips/tricks/games y’all incorporate into your Book Fairs (“S” word or otherwise). I sure hope these help. Thanks for reading!

Author Visits from the Author’s Perspective, Part Two: Preparation and Promotion

Last month, I found myself wondering how authors viewed in-person visits, so I sent a survey out and heard back from eight authors. Last month’s post covered the demographics of the authors who responded, and logistical planning for an author visit. This month, we cover preparing students for author events, and promoting those events.

Preparing Students

“School visits work their strongest magic when students are prepared for the author’s visit,” states Kirby Larson. If an author is coming to visit your school, you want to prepare the students so they and the school can take full advantage of that visit. How do you do that? The type of visit will probably determine your preparation in terms of teaching the book(s) or doing read-alouds for younger titles, but you can prepare in many other ways. Dori Hillestad Butler suggests students engage in some writing or drawing to prepare, then post those writings/drawings as additional promotion. She says: “I especially like to see those on the walls—and I always take time to stop and read every one!” Martha Brockenbrough adds: “The more the kids know about the author and book beforehand, the better!”

Kirby Larson thoughtfully expanded her response to say: “Learning about me and my books ahead of time certainly strengthens connections between my writing advice/experience and the students’ internalization of that information. School visit prep provides context for the students. In addition, when teachers participate in the school visits (ie, do not bring their phones, laptops or papers to correct to the sessions), they are sending a strong message to the students about the value and importance of the information the author is sharing. And it is so helpful if the librarian/teacher tells kids in advance that I can’t sign bits of paper (or body parts); I do provide a book mark template with my autograph so every kid can have that.”

Asked for other advice on making sure a visit goes smoothly, most authors checked all the boxes: Make sure teachers/kids have the schedule; Double check on necessary tech; Have payment ready to go/already sent; Be prepared for book sales (contact vendor; get volunteers); Regularly check in to make sure teachers/students are prepared.

In the “other” column, Margriet Ruurs urges: “Share my books with students. I have been in schools where the students had no idea what was happening. If a librarian and teachers are prepped, it makes the impact of an author visit that much greater. We’re not just there to entertain for an hour but to leave a message of ‘books are important, and fun and interesting’!” Kirby Larson recommends that librarians: “Make connections between the author’s work and what the students are working on/learning about.” Kelly Jones advises that librarians “double-check that any substitute teachers know what’s planned—I once had a class miss a school presentation because no one had told the substitute.”


Another aspect of preparing your students and your school community is to promote your author visit. How can you best do that? Any and all ways, from the author’s perspective! Mount book displays in the library and elsewhere, promote the visit on the school’s website, communicate with parents and students, post on social media, and do booktalks. Other suggestions included contacting local newspapers, creating a countdown bulletin board, and setting out a box to collect student questions.

Doing It Right

I asked the authors for examples of librarians who had knocked it out of the park in preparing for/promoting their visit, and here are their responses.

Martha Brockenbrough: “Terry Shay at North Tama in Traer, Iowa. …He really prepared the kids well at every age level and assembled a squad of cheerleaders for my paperback Cheerful Chick.

Margriet Ruurs: “A Kelowna, BC librarian approached me for her school, but I explained that travel is too much for one day. She then promoted a possible visit to all local schools. She did not just pass that on to me, but arranged a two week schedule for schools, in a logical order, and made sure all schools have all information on dates, times, equipment and more. It’s awesome when a local librarian coordinates all that.”

Dianne White: “When the kids are excited, I know teachers and librarians have been talking about the visit ahead of time. When that happens, kids are always going to get more out of the experience.”

Kirby Larson: “For a recent week-long visit in a school district near Houston, the hosting librarian asked me for particular photos from which she created an “About Kirby” slide show that was made available to all of the schools involved prior to my visit.”

Kelly Jones: “I remember one library’s display—they had a big posterboard with photos of students, teachers, and staff holding books they were recommending. The week of my visit, the librarian was holding my book—a proud moment for sure! She told me everyone really enjoyed recommending books and having their pictures taken.”

Lily LaMotte: “I did the summer reading program kickoff for the Olathe, KS library. I don’t have the details of her promotion but we had a full house in their auditorium. If you mean a school librarian, I’ve had so many wonderful visits with schools. Kids were prepared and many of them had read my books or were using them in their classroom. The cafeteria at a school in Lewiston, ME even made a recipe from my book for the students’ lunch the day of my visit. So amazing!”

Dori Hillestad Butler: “A librarian in Cedar Rapids, IA, painted HUGE (5 foot tall!) pictures of my books and displayed them ahead of time. A librarian in the Chicago area had worked with the kids to make posters that said: ‘Here is what we know about Dori Hillestad Butler, Here is what we don’t know about Dori Hillestad Butler, Here is our plan to find out more: come to her presentation!’ (That’s directly out of my King & Kayla series.)”

Next month, how to ensure that your author visit goes smoothly on the day.

Takeaways from California Research and Academic Libraries Conference, 2024

This week I am fortunate to join our academic library colleagues at their statewide conference. I am encountering a variety of products and ideas that might be of use to US/HS-serving colleagues (and a few that might be helpful to all), so I am going to record them here.

The theme was The Insufficient Librarian. It was about both justice work and also the need to fight the feelings of insufficiency at work and learn to embrace boundaries and joy. So, below you will find notes about both IL skills and joy skills! (Let’s work on those JOY skills!)

For everyone, from our keynote speaker, Mychal Threets:

*I have long been wishing for a replacement for “How are you?” and am now considering “Are you ready for joy?” Might need to develop a follow-up questions along the lines of “How can I help you get there?”

*Do you use social media to promote your library? Mr. Threets reminded us that screen readers need help with hashtags. While they can see the separate words in #LibraryJoy (capitalizing the first letter of each word), they cannot parse #libraryjoy into readable parts.

Important new framing from Librarian Amy Gilgan from University of San Francisco:

Multipartiality,” not neutrality

“Neutrality” tends to favor people in power, multi partial acknowledges all but also power operating in the room.

Lit review of literature about joy at work, Kitty Luce and Margot Hanson

Here are the slides of their review. I mean, who doesn’t love a lit review!?!

True Fun from Stef Baldivia and Elizabeth Tibbitts

*We did a very cool “joy audit” to consider elements of our personal life and then our work life. It was awesome, actually. We looked for “fun magnets”: “Fun magnets are what bring the true fun alive for you.”

*The main focus was on library events, and making traditionally bureaucratic, dreadful draggy events into fun, joyful spaces in which your collaborators want to come. They based their thinking on the framework of SPARK:

S (making space – decluttering, taking space when needed, featuring your space, everyone is welcome)

P (pursuing passions – find something people can really get into)

A (Attracting fun – just really thinking about and opening oneself up to places where fun can enter into generally laborious moments)

R (rebelling – fun at work is rebellious)

K (keeping it going – make it a habit)

Example: These particular librarians took the meeting in which the disciplinary department representatives got trained in how to request books from the library collection (which never included the subject librarians!) and turned it into a passport-based fair. They invited all departments of the library to table at the fair, and were able to stimulate a bunch of conversations between faculty members and library folks offering services of which the faculty were not aware.

Virtue Information Literacy: Flourishing in an Age of Anarchy, by Wayne Bivens-Tatum

Virtues: open-mindedness, humility, modesty, courage, caution, thoroughness, justice, and information vigilance. This book draws heavily on “virtue ethics” from the discipline of philosophy, is highly interdisciplinary in its roots, and sounds quite intellectual — an interesting concept overall.

TikTok analogies for information lit instruction, from Laura Wimberley of California State University, Northridge (you are going to have to do your own self-education on TikTok, as I am so not there):

*Finding a strong initial article for citation tracing is like your first follow that indicates to the algorithm what you like and want to see more of in your feed

*Literature reviews are like explainers (I will try to get my hands on her example and share it, if I can)

*A citation is a stich (you are on your own here, I am working on growth mindset re: understanding stiches)

The National Library of Medicine has an online Medical History hub and a very interesting Know the Science tool

Pheonix Bioinformatics has some very interesting tools for K-12, including:

*Tair, a reference for gene function data that can be free for K-12

*MorphoBank, a paleontology database

Reflections and Learning from AISL Professional Book Discussion by Faith Ward

Why did we engage in a group book study of Embracing Culturally Responsive Practice in School Libraries?: As leaders in our school communities, we are confronted with shifting expectations of the librarian, the role they play in cultivating the culture of the school, and the many curricular demands placed on the school library program. School librarians have always connected learners’ life experiences, cultures, and communities to materials, projects, and processes. That expertise, and its continual development, is essential to our profession today. We knew that reading and discussing this book would help us continue to lead and model meaningful steps toward a culturally responsive mindset. Elisabet Kennedy’s book, Embracing Culturally Responsive Practice in School Libraries, celebrates how learners’ cultures shape everything from their communication to how they process information. By reading and discussing the book together, we hoped to learn new approaches and ground our understanding of culturally responsive practices in our Libraries.

What we did: The aim of this communal reading was to challenge us as readers to embrace and nurture our own personal and professional growth. Through our joint reading and discussion we shared our insights and takeaways about concepts covered in the book, actionable steps, and activities based on culturally responsive principles that directly relate to AASL Standards. Elisabet Kennedy’s knowledgeable experiences engaged us as professional colleagues with reflective exercises and challenges. Because our reading and virtual discussions were planned over three months, we had the opportunity to reflect on the readings and our own challenges and successes in our Library programs.

Our collective reading included the discussion of topics such as culture, identity, and bias: the creation of norms and upholding those standards in our spaces; library displays, signage and policies that make an example of culturally responsive work; planning yearly goals with internal and external partners. Through our reading and time spent with Elisabet Kennedy, we built connections, celebrated the many innovative and thoughtful approaches that AISL librarians are facilitating in their school libraries, and expanded ideas for how we as a profession can continue to foster growth in our learning communities. Feel welcome to reach out to Faith Ward or Tricia DeWinter for more information and ideas for starting another book discussion such as this.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this title for our next book study/discussion:

Research Reflections

Winter is over… spring is springing and…

…research season is (almost) over!  I love helping our students practice their research skills — it is the main reason that I became a librarian.  But I would be deluding myself if I said it was all rainbows and unicorns.  Research skills are not intuitive. There is much trial and error involved and some of my students are frustrated at the slower pace that the classroom teacher and I insist on during this process. As I reflect upon my first real full-time year in the middle school, I can count some definite wins and see room for improvement.

My biggest hurdle was how to divide my time between 3 grade levels (approximately 290 students) so that I can provide the instructional time and maintain an open library.  For the bulk of the third quarter all in person instruction time was spent with our English department. Instruction for the other departments was primarily via Libguides, which naturally limited the types of lessons that I could do with these departments. The English teachers and I planned our library visits prior to the start of the semester, and we had a solid plan in place for how to stagger the instructional time.  Losing a week to snow caused us to shift plans, but we managed.  The timing of all three grades starting the major research project at almost the same time isn’t great, but I doubt that it can be adjusted in future years.  The third quarter is the best time for all three grades to work on the research project.  It is what it is.

My plan for individual meetings with all students mostly worked.  We shifted to small group meetings for both 7th and 8th grade, and we narrowed down the number of groups. For our honors classes, I was able to quickly move through the research forms during a few class times.  I joined the classroom and worked with students as the classroom teacher worked with groups on the technical writing skills.  The remaining groups came to me in the library over the course of a few weeks and I worked with the students on individual issues and gave them a chance to receive feedback on quality of sources and citations.  These meetings strengthened their confidence when evaluating sources and, I believe, provided a stronger set of sources and notecards. I also did the primary grading for source lists and notecards, and I found far fewer mistakes and omissions than in years past.

The sixth grade is moving more slowly through the research process and will not complete the project for another two weeks.  The groundwork laid in the fall semester is showing as we work together.  The students have a much stronger understanding of the research process as whole than in previous years.  Students are not frustrated with the cyclical nature of research and are more willing to go down the rabbit trails that make research so interesting.  Another win is the improvement of the citations created by students.  Our work together on the parts of the citations and the reasons we include the information is showing in the works cited pages that I am seeing at this point.

Moving forward, my goal is to become a more embedded librarian in these classes.  Luckily, my classroom teachers are willing to collaborate with me on various projects.  My success with the sixth grade will be a springboard to increased involvement in the remaining two grades. This is my 22nd year as a librarian and I’ve worked with students from college age to elementary. These middle school students keep me on my toes and keep me laughing (most days).  I appreciate the opportunity I have to work with these students and teachers.

As the only librarian in my building, I often feel on an island and do not have the opportunity to bounce ideas off others.  What are some of your tips for engaging students in the research process?  How do you keep your instruction fresh each year, while still covering the necessary steps

What I Mean When I Say Information Literacy

When I arrived at my current school months before Covid, I was told that the only department that had traditionally collaborated with the library was the history department. This was shared in a self-evident way–the history classes were the only ones that did research. My gut reactions were 1) I/the library can collaborate on more than traditional research, 2) surely there is research happening in other classes, and 3) my goal is to start collaborating with more departments. So, I started reaching out to department chairs to come pitch the library in department meetings. Some chairs were happy to let me have some time. Others were friendly but skeptical in the “we don’t do research” kind of way. 

When I said “library” or “information” or variations of that, all anybody could hear was “formal research.”

And then, on this very day in 2020, we started teaching virtually and my goals and priorities were radically altered. Which is how I found myself not fully revisiting my goal of building stronger relationships with all departments until this past fall. With a new chair in our Arts Department I reached out again and heard a similar response–our arts classes are performance/product oriented: the chorus sings, the ensembles play, the theater students act, the photography students take pictures, etc.–so they don’t really need instruction from the library. Of course, my librarian brain could think of loads of ways our arts students use information and need information literacy, but what I realized, in this case and others,is that something kept being stuck in translation. When I said “library” or “information” or variations of that, all anybody could hear was “formal research.”

To remedy this I’ve taken a two pronged approach. The first step has been to address the semantics challenge. Starting with our Vice Principal for Academic Affairs, I’m working to develop a broader, shared understanding of information literacy (IL) drawing on the ACRL Frameworks. We also discussed how to develop a mutual understanding of IL so that faculty can start to see how they already teach IL within their disciplines and also possibilities for collaboration that they had not considered before. Next, I will be joining a department heads meeting to explain IL, and later in the spring doing a mini-PD at a faculty meeting. When our faculty and I are speaking the same language we will be able to have more productive conversations, and hopefully collaborations.

The second step is a targeted approach of pitching hypothetical IL lessons to teachers and departments who don’t expect to have a need for library instruction. A fruitful example from this fall turned into a two-day collaboration with our Advanced Photography class. I approached the Photo teacher and asked if/to what extent her class discussed ethical use of images, particularly in light of the spread of AI image generators, or how students are copyright holders of the images they take. By offering a idea that I saw as a potential intersection of IL and the work the photo students were doing we were able to design a teaching collaboration. On the first class period I introduced students to copyright, their rights as a copyright holder of the photos they create, Creative Commons licenses and how to include those on works they share online, and how to understand some of the issues in determining the ethical ways of engaging with other peoples images. On our second day we discussed the impact of AI on the authority of photographs in photojournalism and the bias in AI image generators. This collaboration would never have developed if we stayed at the misunderstanding of library=research. 

By recognizing this bottleneck in library outreach, I have been able to take the steps to build a shared understanding among our faculty about the broader possibilities of what the library can mean for them and their students. But, shared understanding is only one step. By offering new ideas of how to build students’ IL skills in their own disciplines, I have helped faculty start to see what that broader definition of “library” can look like own classes. These demonstrations of non-research information skills in action are already starting to spread roots in departments, opening doors to new collaboration opportunities by showing, rather than just telling, what teaching our students IL can really include.

What lessons do you teach outside the traditional research projects? How have you engaged with less obvious (to them) classes or departments?

Author Visits from the Author Perspective: Part One

Recently, as I arranged an author visit, I started wondering about how authors view those events. What advice might they have for librarians planning an in-person author visit? I put together a survey which I sent to a few author friends (and friends-of-friends), and though my sample size wasn’t large, the authors offered a lot of useful information for librarians planning author events.

Due to the survey’s length, I am breaking it into three posts. Today, I will cover demographics of responding authors, and logistics planning for visits. In April, I will cover preparing for and promoting an author visit. In May, I will cover making the event go smoothly on the day it happens.

Author Demographics

The kind souls who gave their time to answer my survey are: Martha Brockenbrough, Margriet Ruurs, Phoebe Fox, Dianne White, Kirby Larson, Kelly Jones, Lily LaMotte, and Dori Hillestad Butler.

I first asked what grades they generally wrote for. Most write for elementary school students as well as other grades (see chart), and Margriet Ruurs also writes for educators and parents (“other”).

Next I asked how many in-school visits they made each year. Most landed in the 1-10 range, though Margriet Ruurs makes over 21 visits a year, and Dori Hillestad Butler may make 1-25 visits, depending on the year!

Thirdly, I asked how long they’d been making school visits. Most have been doing so for eight or more years, and Dori Hillestad Butler estimates she’s been visiting schools for over thirty years!

Preparing for an Author Visit


What’s the best way to contact an author about a visit? For all surveyed, contact information on their website is the place to start, but other ways may also work. In the “other” category, Kirby Larson uses a booking agent, How Now Booking, and Lily LaMotte is also exploring that option.

Determining Fit

When you contact an author, what should you ask to determine if they are a good fit for your school and your students? The authors offered varied answers, many of which boiled down to librarians being familiar with the author’s work, and knowing what they are looking for in terms of a presentation. As Dori Hillestad Butler says, “Not everyone who reaches out to me knows what they want,” which can make it harder to determine if an author is a good fit. While some authors list details of their presentations on their websites, that doesn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t tailor a workshop or presentation to a school’s needs.

In terms of more specific questions, librarians could ask what an author’s typical school visits look like, how many visits they’ve done, and the focus of their presentations. Kelly Jones recommends asking: “What will our students leave your presentation with that they may not have known before? What new tools might be in their toolboxes?” Practical details are also key, such as travel distances, number and age of students, and fees.

Deal Breakers

What might make an author turn down a visit? For most, it was scheduling issues, with too many sessions and too great distance coming in next, though as Lily LaMotte adds, “If the school is part of a larger trip to the general area or en route to somewhere I’m already going, then distance isn’t a factor.” Kelly Jones feels that “restrictions on what I can present that would negatively affect what I try to teach students” would be a deal breaker, and another author dislikes background checks, especially if she’s expected to pay. As she says: “It shouldn’t ever be needed because I shouldn’t ever be alone with students.” Margriet Ruurs stated, “I have never turned [a visit] down and worked through any concerns with the librarian,” so it’s always worth asking!

Time Frame

How far in advance of a visit should you contact an author? Answers varied widely, so it’s great if you know far in advance, but worth asking even if you don’t. Kelly Jones suggests: “If it’s coming right up, more date options make it more likely we can find one that works.”


How should a librarian approach asking about an author’s fees? Among the authors’ varied answers, several said their website lists their fees, or that a librarian should simply describe the number of students and number of sessions needed, and ask based on that. It would also help for authors to know your budget, if you have that available. Says one author: “This is a business conversation! I also appreciate knowing if you’re considering creative cost-saving measures like sharing travel costs with a nearby school or library.” Another author recommends that librarians also “touch base about how payments happen because that’s awkward to ask.”

What’s not okay is requesting free visits. As one author says: “Asking for free visits is never OK–it puts us in an absolutely terrible spot.” Says another: “What is discouraging on my side of things is when a librarian reaches out (expecting a visit to be free) and then never replies back when they learn that an author values their time as much as any other type of presenter would.”

Travel Needs

How does an author like to have their travel arranged? The answer varied, so it’s best to ask directly. Sometimes authors prefer the school make the arrangements, some prefer a travel stipend so they can make their own plans, and some prefer a combination. In some instances, for example, the school might have a connection with a local hotel and get a discount, so it would make more sense for the school to make that reservation.


There are many details to consider when you’re organizing an author visit. What sort of communication is most helpful for the authors before the event? I asked them to rank the importance of different kinds of information, and the many topics they ranked highly illustrate the value of clear communication!

Answers in the “other” category included knowing which of the author’s books the school has, directions and parking, goods/services tax, student safety rules (i.e., is the campus nut-free?), and whether translators will be present. Lily LaMotte likes to meet virtually with the event organizer beforehand to answer all of the outstanding questions.

Book Sales

Often, you’ll want to sell books at your event, so students can get their books signed. Asked where they prefer you get books for the event, the authors had different answers, so it’s best to check. Several said that whatever worked best for the school was fine, though Margriet Ruurs added, “Anywhere but Amazon!”


What else can happen on an author visit? Says Dianne White: “Basically, if a librarian has something in mind, they should always ask!” Several authors were enthusiastic about meeting students and teachers for lunch. Says Kirby Larson: “Those informal moments generate amazing conversations.” However, at least one author prefers quiet time during an energetic day, so ask before scheduling lunch sessions. Several authors also enjoy attending book club meetings.

Kirby Larson is “always happy to do interviews with student reporters, if the school has a newspaper/news program. And I know I can’t answer every question that comes up during Q&A so am happy to receive a list of student questions from the librarian following my visit that I can answer after I’ve returned home.”

Martha Brockenbrough enjoys “teaching teachers how to write/teach writing,” and Kelly Jones adds, “I’m also happy to talk to any available teachers or staff about how to follow up on the exercises I teach, if they have time and their students are interested. Often, I hear that the students who don’t already see themselves as readers or writers are inspired by what they learn, so it feels like a great moment to build on that excitement.”

Dori Hillestad Butler likes to do a “small group ‘critique the author’ session where I’ll read from my work in progress and ask the kids for feedback. I model how to give and receive constructive criticism and this is a great opportunity for me to connect with my audience before the work is published and see how it’s landing.”

Next week, I’ll cover preparing for and promoting your author visit. Thanks again to the authors for their time and thought!

on preparing for the zombie apocalypse…

Way, way, way back when I was in library school, I remember our professor talking about developing policy and procedures manuals. “What would happen to your library and your program if, for some reason, you unexpectedly weren’t able to return to you position. Would the person taking over for you know how to keep your library running?”

Policies and Procedures are Boring…

So… This is a post about documenting and organizing your library’s policies and procedures manuals, but if I made that the title, let’s face it, it’d sound boring as hell and nobody would want to read it so let’s go with zombies instead!

Don’t Eat That Cannoli!!!

What would happen to your library and your program if you and the entirety of your staff were served delicious cream filled cannoli that, unbeknownst to you, were tainted with a parasite that turned all of you into zombies and thus, unable to fulfill the responsibilities and duties that you carry out so gracefully and effortlessly day in and day out?

Well realistically (because we should always be realistic when thinking through what we’d do in a zombie apocalypse) people would, you know, be trying to not have their faces eaten off by roaming hoards of zombies so I’m guessing that maybe database access or reserving study room space might not be at the VERY TOP of everyone’s lists of of things to do, but let’s just go with this and see what happens… 🤣🤣🤣

Anyway… Would the surviving souls (plural because they’re gonna find out that each member of a library staff does at least 1.5 FTE amount of work) asked to fill your sizable shoes know that the library opens at 7:30 AM everyday? Would they know how to start-up and login to all of your hardware? Would your database subscriptions get renewed on time? Would they know how to order new books? Would they know how to process new books that have been ordered and received?

Documenting is One Thing…

My staff and I have been trying to think through, document, and organize all of the tasks that we do over the course of a school year. The task is a lot harder than you’d think simply because we do so much of our work automatically. It’s hard to describe a task that you do virtually automatically in writing on a page. You need to include enough detail so that the instructions are clear, yet concise enough so that the instructions are so overwhelming that they are virtually unusable.

We started by making time to document tasks as we did them. As I saw our library assistant processing new books there was a constant stream of “Can you please write down EVERYTHING YOU DO from the time that you open the box to the time you put the book on the ‘to be cataloged’ cart in the workroom, please?”

Need to order copy paper for the Faculty Work Room? Here’s how you do it…

Organizing for Discovery is Another…

Getting all of your disparate instructions for various tasks together is one thing, but putting them together and organizing them in some form so that another human being might actually be able to find and make use of them is completely another!

In our case, Nicole, new AISL blogger and the librarian I have worked with and shared an office with for the last 10 years will be taking over as Director of Library Services here next year so we largely left the task of putting our various documents together to the person who, ultimately, will be the one looking for them 5 months from now. Here is her organizational scheme. Ultimately, I’m guessing that in the event of a zombie apocalypse even someone who is not Nicole, would be able to look through the folder list and figure out where to look for what they needed.

Note: Every library needs a *Library Junk Drawer 🤣🤣🤣

Institutional Access is Key…

When I took over as Director of Library Services here 10 years ago, one of the most challenging things to deal with was the fact that Shared Google Drives were not yet available so most of our library’s documents were owned by my predecessor. Though the document was shared with people who still worked at the institution and IT services purposely kept my predecessor’s gmail account active, there is something deeply unsettling about relying on Google docs and sheets to manage your program THAT YOU DO NOT OWN!!! It was a long process, but we eventually transferred ownership of all of our documents.

A number of years ago, our school started the process of moving important common documents such as library policy and procedures manuals to SHARED DRIVES owned by the school rather than by individual employees who may retire or move on to other adventures, but if you’re in the process of creating your library’s polices and procedures manuals, consider ways to assure that they’ll be accessible long after you have moved on.

What Else…?

My next task is to go through everything that lives on our library’s Libguides site and make sure that every linked slideshow, image, and document get moved to our shared drive space so that should a Libguide get reused in the future, that eveything will be able to be revised and updated.

What else should go into a policies and procedures manual? What else should I do before I consume that last delicious cannoli, become a zombie, and head off into the sunset?

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Thank you!