The Power of the Information Audit

If you’re new to your school, to librarianship in general, or simply looking for an entrée to collaborate with your faculty, the information audit is for you. It’s basically a set of interview questions that you design to assess the information needs of your community. It’s been key for me this year at Emma.

At the beginning of the year, I had a meeting with my head of school where we basically went over my role here. How was I going to fit the library program into the mission of the school? How did I plan to encourage student and faculty use and interaction? How would I support the girls and support learning on campus? I told her that I had ideas,  but that first I needed to find out what learning looked like here.  Enter the information audit.

Not knowing the faculty, my department chair sat down with me and helped me identify the 15 most “progressive” teachers, those who would be eager to help, to partner with me, those who she knew would be open to conversation about how the library could enhance learning in their classroom. I developed my interview questions, which included:

What class(es) do you teach?
How do you feel that you teach best?
How do your students learn best?
How do you utilize technology in your class?
Design your “dream classroom” with an unlimited budget. What does it look like? What tools does it include? How are tables/seating arranged? How many screens would you use?
Do you require that your students do research in your course?
If so, what projects are you planning this year?
Could you use a Libguide and/or research instruction or citation guidance as part of the project?
Are you interested in working together to re-imagine any of your projects?
How have you used the library in the past? Physical space, accessed resources virtually, etc.
What would you like to see the library provide your students that it hasn’t in the past?
Do you know about ___ (databases/magazines/eBooks, web sites, videos, etc.) that might support your curriculum? Would you be open to working together in the future?
Do your students create 3D projects/digital projects that I might display in the library to inspire others?
What articles, subjects, etc. might I be on the lookout for to push your way if/when I come across them? (Potentially set up an RSS feed for, departmental Libguide, etc. Demo things already created.)

These conversations typically take around 30 minutes so I have worked them in over coffee in the faculty lounge, over lunch in the dining hall, and during teacher planning periods. Some interesting things have emerged from these conversations: patterns of learning that faculty didn’t know existed. I have been asked to present these findings at a later faculty meeting, a good time for me to invite the rest of the faculty to meet with me.

Highlights so far include collaborating with teachers who have never worked with the library before. Being invited in to teach keyword mining techniques, scholarly research vs. the web, evaluating web sites and teaching intellectual property in the digital age to a class that utilizes a blog regularly. I was invited to teach scholarly research skills to all of the junior English classes–something that the library hadn’t done in years. One physics teacher changed her usual trifold project to a group power point presentation with the class’ findings on the environmental impact of data centers–also allowing me to instruct the girls on how to effectively utilize power point–for our new 60 in. flat screen going up in the library this week. The community will be invited in to see and learn from their findings.

The downside of the process:  drumming up more business than I can handle on my own as a solo flying librarian. Really, a good problem to have, but overwhelming all the same.

If you’re looking to grow your library program and better serve your community, the information audit is key.

 

What Type of Labrador Are You? How Will That Affect Your Collaboration Partners?

Have you been trying to collaborate and it just isn’t working?  Afraid it is too involved? Are you actively collaborating and need a fresh new approach?  If you have had any of these questions, you might want to considering thinking about labradors.

That’s right.  Labrador retrievers.  Collaboration is as easy as thinking about what kind of lab you are yellow, chocolate or black.

Yellow Labs

Now, the legend goes that yellow labs are known for their docility.  Calm strength in the face of adversity, these labs deal with a multitude of strange and bewildering audiences with a straight face and placid demeanor. Never one to let a small child go without a lick, or let a a tail or ear tug happen without turning and giving a kiss in return.  This dog has the patience of Job.

If you were to count yourself a yellow lab type, you would be the one who would ask that grumpy teacher to try a new technology and when they snapped and said, “Are you out of your freaking mind?” You would smile and say, “Think about it. Perhaps we could talk after spring break.  When things calm down for you.  Here’s a cookie.”

Yellow labs are never thwarted.  They preserver. They have alternative plans.  As my mother-in-law used to say, they have something saved away for a rainy day.  In other words, you are very, very sneaky and hide those plans with a very calm exterior.  Good work, yellow lab!

Chocolate Labs

The chocolate lab is known for his craziness.  Rarely slowing down, they go, go, go until they collapse.  These labs will often dress in costume and are famous for crazy antics. They are the ones who concoct grand schemes and run out on the bleeding edge.  Does any of this sound familiar to you?  You might be a chocolate lab.

The danger for chocolate labs is in getting caught up in the toys (technology) and becoming obsessive. Librarians who might be chocolate labs could  lose focus on the collaboration. The joy is working on project with a partner who loves the technology as much as you do, but who wants to create a unit and an assessment that makes sense for the students. The technology is only a tool. Start slow chocolate labs, you may be overwhelming to some shy souls. Let your successes speak for themselves.  Let your partners sing your praises.  Perhaps, take up the suggestion of our blogger Katie Archambault in her post Marketing 101 and create a digital newsletter to announce what is going on in your library.

Black Lab

Now, the black lab is supposedly the most versatile of the labs.  Calm, yet able to mix it up when she wants.  This lab may have it all: the ability to manage technology to run with the tech dogs and still have the calm demeanor to pacify the rough crowd. Black labs are able to see the forest for the trees.  They are both zany and solemn.

And yet, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the color. If I have discovered anything in my five years as a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs, it is that each dog is an individual.  Just like each one of you.  You may think you are shy or no good at playacting, but it simply isn’t true.  You may think that only certain types of people are good at collaboration and you aren’t, and that it isn’t true either.  Everyone CAN be good at collaboration.  Collaboration is like a marriage. It takes work.

And just like that first date, it might be rocky and you might think, “He is not going to work out.” And then suddenly, there you are at a national conference presenting together.  True collaboration in action!

Collaboration Models

How did I get from labs to collaboration models?  That started when I began reading AISL member Joan Lange’s book on collaboration, Collaborative Models for Librarian and Teacher Partnerships, and I learned that collaboration is a more rich process than I ever imagined.  The highest level of collaboration is, in fact, where the librarian works with her colleague to jointly plan, teach and assess the unit (Kymes, Gillean).  I’ve had that experience a couple of times, but it is not the usual one.  And I imagine it is also not your usual experience either.  That’s why I was heartened to find out that collaboration included:

  • Coordination: Minimal involvement, little to no preplanning.  For example, this would be like the blogs I helped the French teachers set up for the classes so that they could have online journals. Very last minute and quick, and I have no further involvement.
  • Cooperation: Teacher requests involvement, but limited; separate and independent objectives/teaching.  For example, this would be similar to having a request in advance from the freshman biology teacher to teach her how to use Libguides.  In addition to teaching her how to use and set up a class site, she also asked for a resource page on wolves in Yellowstone.  I gathered all the online resources and directions to print resources and put the page together for her on her site.
  • Integrated instruction: Teacher and librarian formally plan and integrate lesson together. For example, this would be like the one unit class I developed with the AP Language, AP Government teachers on Media Bias in the 24 News Cycle.  We developed the curriculum, the objectives and the assessments together.  It was lovely.
  • Integrated curriculum: Administration gives time and support to a scaffold that encourages integrated curriculum and lesson planning across all grade levels (Horman, Glampe, Sanken, et al.) I haven’t seen this, but now that our school has an assistant headmaster who will be in charge of curriculum across the divisions, this is the goal.  If you have this currently happening at your school, please comment!

It all counts. Whether you are there in the classroom with the teacher teaching or whether you helped gather the resources, it counts as collaboration.  Think of it as stair steps, without necessarily being hierarcical.  What I mean by that is that providing resource assistance is not demeaning.  It is useful and helpful and you should do it.  Working with faculty on integrated instruction is amazing.  Can you do that for every class?  No.  Pick and choose what you want to do.

If you are interested, I can talk next month about how to choose a collaboration partner.  Let me know!

And by the way, I’m a reformed chocolate lab!

Why I’m drinking the “Google Drive” Kool Aid

Our school went 1:1 iPad this year in grades 6-12. How many times in the past week have I heard the following statement from teachers?

 “One of the advantages of the iPads is that we no longer have to gather our belongings and go to the library anymore.”

The answer is two this past week, and they’re not the first.

And yes, part of me cries each time even as I cheerfully nod my response. In the library I still rotate seasonal displays, showcase student work, offer a wide variety of fun fiction reads, and have many nonfiction materials that support the curriculum. However, the ironic part is that the people saying this are using library resources more than ever before and see the concept of the library evolving beyond the physical space. They are teachers who have always supported the library and who are continuing to request my services in their classrooms. Students are accessing JSTOR through the app, filling out web evaluation forms for History class, and checking out books on Overdrive. Other classes are coming to the library for new projects, and I’m as busy as ever!

Docs

Where does Google Drive come in? I work very closely with the 9th grade Western Civilizations teacher, and she teaches all the freshmen. Our big research project occurs in January, and we have been teaching isolated research tasks in conjunction with units of study all fall so the full process won’t be as daunting this winter. Earlier this year, in about 15 minutes, we taught her students how to set up Google Drive research folders with selected (and at this point, empty) files. We were uniform in our naming conventions, and we asked all students to give us editing privileges in their folders.

If you haven’t used Google Drive before, here are some main differences from other word processing programs:

  • It’s cloud-based, and thus accessible anywhere with Internet connectivity.
  • Files and folders can be private or shared with others. Sharing can involve viewing or editing privileges.
  • It’s easy to collaborate via comment or chat features, and thus it facilitates revision.
  • Viewers can check the revision history to compare various versions of a document, as well as who made each change and when they did so.

It was surprising to me tFile Folderhat none of the students even mentioned privacy concerns, and all happily shared. The day that we did this, they were practicing web evaluation and note-taking. Multiple users can work in a document simultaneously, so I was able to watch exactly what students typed in real-time and assess their speed and skills in paraphrasing. I was also able to jump in immediately and stop them when they listed a url that didn’t meet our criteria for websites. Students quickly got used to seeing the pink bar highlighting that I was “in” their notes, and the quieter students didn’t hide and work under our radar the way they have in the past.

When working with a classroom teacher, it’s important to make sure you’re backing each other up and offering the same advice. Since we can both see the comments we have written on students’ documents and the direction given to them, it’s made us more supportive of each other and a more effective team.

If this isn’t enough, I spent two weeks this fall subbing for a teacher on paternity leave. I taught Cannery Row, a book I’ve always wanted to teach. I didn’t want to overstep my place and grade his students’ work, and he didn’t want to fall behind while he was out. The students all shared their class folders with me, and I could see how their work for me compared to their work for their regular teacher. Also, when I had a question about an individual student, the teacher was able to pull up their work from home and comment online.

Cannery-Row

 Finally, I’m asked to proofread a lot of papers. As more students share their work with me on Google Drive, I’m better able to keep tabs on their progress as they’re writing their papers. I now step in before the final day when they are panicking. I love that they are comfortable sharing works in progress and asking questions throughout the research process. I also love that there is no more concern about losing notecards or leaving a first draft at home. And I absolutely love that a byproduct is that I spend less time adding paper to the printer!

What do you think? Other techniques for making Google Drive work for you and your students?

Marketing 101: The Grownups

(Part 1 of a 2 part series)

Since graduating from library school, I have worked in corporate, public, and independent school libraries. Through it all, there has been a glaring common denominator: the need to market the library to my community, to convince them of its utility, to “sell” my resources and my services. It’s crazy how hard you have to work to help people these days, huh? I believe that it’s as important as anything we do because really, what good is a well designed space and a great collection of books and digital resources if no one uses them? Here are some of my marketing schemes. I know there are some rock star librarians reading this so please, use the comments feature to build upon these ideas.

Part 1: The Grownups

Idea 1: the digital newsletter. This has been key for me in putting it all together, for promoting databases, library programs, new books, faculty book clubs, and really just anything cool and relevant that I can come up with. Get their attention with a well-designed newsletter and you will keep their attention when it comes time to collaborate, to schedule research conferences with students, whatever you like. I really got into it at GPS–here’s the my archive. I moved to Emma Willard in August and recently did my first one here, eReaderissue1oct2013. I love that it’s gotten people talking! I don’t think that many of my new colleagues knew what I was ‘about’ before they read it. Microsoft Publisher template, tweaked to fit your school colors, hyperlink away, mix in some fun quotes and images, call out a cool database or app people should know, give a teacher a little shout out, then publish to PDF and attach to email or link to your web site. So easy, so fun, it will work. Trust me.

Idea 2:  sugary bribery. Ask to attend a department meeting. If it’s before 11 a.m., offer to bring donuts. If it’s after noon, make it cookies. Tell them what you can do to make their lives easier and to better prepare their students. Tell them that you want to anticipate their needs before they even realize those needs (so you need to know what they’re doing, right?). Start a conversation about how you have already been working with members of their department (or other departments) to give them ideas of what you can offer. Talk about how you can work with them to develop Libguides to streamline the research process for their students. In short, sell it baby! Here’s your chance!

Once you learn what they’re doing and where they might like some help, follow up! Do your research, find out better ways to help them achieve their goals in class. Look for articles that might be of interest to them. Help them with their summer reading list. Offer to host it on your web site or as part of a summer reading Libguide. You help them, they’ll continue to use you in even more meaningful ways. Simple as that.

Idea 3: This isn’t so novel an idea, but I find it’s as effective as anything: be their friend. Sit in the lunchroom whenever you can. Chaperone if your schedule allows it. Just be cool. Friends want to work with friends, right? There’s nothing disingenuous about it. Be you, but just put yourself out there and talk to people. These connections will build momentum for you and your library program.

Idea 4: If folks are strapped for time in your school, expand your services outside the library walls. Pack up your laptop and go to THEM to teach a research lesson. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Flip your library. If you want to show them a particular database that would be good for their research project, send them a short screencast. Demo an app. Make a quick tutorial and post it to Vimeo. They can plug these into the course management page and you can use them again for other classes. Demonstrating your comfort with technology only builds credibility. Offering to be their life preserver, to come to their class to help them introduce a new technology (and stick around for when (not if!) things don’t work quite right), this makes you even more valuable.

Idea 5: Offer internal professional development. When I return from a conference that has great keynote speakers of interest to more than just us librarians, I create a simple web site like this one. Because several of us attended this particular conference, I asked the others to send me notes from their sessions so we covered a bunch of ground! We then offered a lunchtime discussion where the rest of the faculty could come, ask questions, and discuss. It was hosted in the library, of course. 🙂

Coming in December, Part 2: Marketing Strategies for your Upper School Students.

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and success stories! Please use the comments to share.

Katie Archambault
Director of Research
Emma Willard School
Troy, New York
http://emmalibrary.com
http://emmalibrary.wordpress.com
@emmalibrarylove