What does AISL mean to you? Please share widely!

Happy New Year from the AISL board! After mapping our membership last year, we wanted to share our new year’s resolution with you and ask for your assistance in helping us meet it. If you’re reading this as a subscriber or as a link from AISL media channels, you’re already a member of the Association of Independent School Librarians. You know our value; we thank you for your membership.

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NAIS currently has 1541 member schools. We have 641 members from 390 schools. There are many professional organizations for librarians, but we are the only one that’s entirely focused on k12 independent school education. We would like to spread the word and grow our membership; we are stronger as a profession if we learn from and advocate for each other. As you can see from the map, we have strong representation across the East Coast, with membership extending as far west as Hawaii.

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While this blog and our social media channels are available to all, there are many member benefits. The primary benefit is the listserv, with virtual help available 24 hours a day. We have a burgeoning webinar series with presentations from experts and vendors.  There is an Annual Conference hosted by a team of school librarians each spring, and a Summer Institute, with in-depth study of a topic each June. We are constantly responding to members and offering services members request. In fact, our KARLS (kick ass retired librarians) formed 3 years ago because some retired librarians still wanted to be involved on a personal level even after retiring from the profession. How often do you hear that from other librarians? One founding KARL said:

“AISL is an organization that has members who are extraordinary librarians, dedicated to their students, creative, innovative, and passionate about sharing the joy of learning.  If I could recommend one professional development opportunity to independent school librarians, it would be to join AISL and take advantage of the opportunity to network with these extraordinary librarians. I was delighted when I retired and the opportunity came to help plan a retirement track for those of us who wanted to remain connected to AISL.  I am so happy that I am able to keep looking forward to the annual spring AISL conference to keep learning and see dear friends.”

AISL is run entirely run by a volunteer board. Membership fees are kept low so cost is not a factor inhibiting people from joining. The yearly membership fee is $30, and all memberships renew at the start of the school year in September.  Other common questions:

What if I am currently a library student?

We offer a discounted $15 membership for students earning library degrees. Many jobs are advertised on the site in the spring.

Why should I join this if I’m already part of a regional library group?

Library trends and challenges transcend local geographic boundaries. With AISL, your reach is all across North America, and AISL members are quick to respond to requests for information and advice.

Are your conferences popular?

The conferences are very popular and sell out quickly. Librarians love the tours of independent school libraries and the distinctive character of each conference based on the hosting city. We are working to increase registration slots at future conferences so more members can attend.

Is there a digest option for the listserv?

           There is. You can either receive emails throughout the day or one daily digest.

OTHER QUESTIONS???

Please share this post widely, personalizing with your own AISL experiences. The board is happy to answer questions about membership. We’re looking forward to broadening our community. Let’s do more together!  

With warm wishes for a healthy, happy 2018.

Your AISL Board

Thinking about design & delivery

At the end of this school year, like many of you, I compiled a summer reading list for my Lower School students and an annual report for their families. Though this is something that I have been doing for the past six years, I’m always reinventing how it’s done so that it’s most effective for my current community. To that end, I believe design matters.

For my summer reading lists, I have previously used Goodreads, in-text blog posts, and shared Google Docs – nothing too fancy or elaborate but what was simply needed to deliver the message. For the annual reports, I’ve exclusively used Pages, either modifying templates or creating my own design. Last year, I designed my summer reading list in Pages to look more like a magazine, something like the BookPage or the The Horn Book‘s publications, something more visually appealing. For this year’s summer reading list, I knew that I could essentially use last year’s template and just change the books. Nothing about the design really needed to be updated. But I challenged myself, used a new-to-me tool, and changed the look of it because I want to grow in the same way I teach my students – as a creator and designer and someone who thinks intentionally about audience and purpose.

I think that we, collectively, look for and appreciate well-designed media. Free tools like Canva help amateurs like me design something beautiful and professional. Honestly, I wish I had known about it sooner. Though it’s been around a few years, I hadn’t heard of it until recently – but I had seen many examples of banners and flyers created with it. Before this turns into too much of a Canva commercial (no, they’re not paying me), I will say that there are probably many other similar design tools out there. This is just the one that I decided to try out! Because I wanted my products to look like a magazine, I also tried out FlipHTML5 to create the flipping pages.

Lower School Summer Reading 2016

(Click the image for the FlipHTML5 version. Here’s the doc version.)

 

LS Library Annual Report 2016

(Click the image for the FlipHTML5 version. Here’s the doc version.)

 

Though I’m particularly happy with these two promotional products, I know that next year, I will be trying something new yet again. I have yet to brand myself like some libraries and librarians, and I don’t know if that will be my next step. I enjoy the freedom to be creative in whatever way inspires me and connects with my audience at the time.

As a side-note, I appreciate that this is also a way for me to grow as a technology leader in my school, to try out new tools and be able to knowledgeably recommend them to students and teachers.  For these two products, I learned how to use Canva for the design and FlipHTML5 for the delivery.

Is anyone else out there thinking design? Share your work! I’d love to have something new to try out over the summer. 🙂

Personalizing the Library/Research Experience

I dare say that if we all shared our independent school mission statements,  a theme would emerge offering assurance of a deeply personalized educational experience. We tend to promise smaller class sizes, world class faculty, group and individual advisory programs, a multitude of electives, practicums, and then there are the capstone programs, the plethora of PE options, and team sports.

We as librarians strive to know our kids’ names, their interests, and their reading  preferences so that we can be ready to suggest their next favorite book. We ask for syllabi, we interview teachers about upcoming assignments, we lurk on the school’s LMS to anticipate potential collaborations. [Dave admitted to snooping through cabinets. I will admit to snooping through syllabi. There, I said it.]

We have to know what research topics our teachers are assigning and/or what our kids are interested in so that we can develop the best print + digital collections and so that we can tailor research lessons for the group and their grade level. I’m preaching to the choir, right? Our sincere effort at deep personalization is in many ways these families’ return on investment.

My assistant and I have been discussing ways to deepen our library program’s personalization for the ’16-’17 school year. After reading and discussing The Personal Librarian: Enhancing the Student Experience for the #AISL16LA Board Book social, and then coming home to explore the concept of the embedded librarian, we have decided to pilot two programs starting this summer.

PROGRAM 1: Personal Librarians

Our school serves grades 9-12. My assistant and I will divide the incoming 9th grade class, not alphabetically, but by history class. We will reach out to said students via email (or emailed Youtube video?) this  summer and we’ll introduce ourselves, tell them a little bit about our families (pets, hobbies, strange and unusual tricks?!?!), our roles on campus, and we’ll introduce ourselves as their personal librarian and explain what this means.
[What it means for us: we will reach out to them quarterly, suggest some resources that could help in an upcoming assignment, tell them about some new books we have in the library that they might like to check out before an upcoming break, and we’ll remind them that we’re available for 1:1 appointments any time that they need us. No pressure, no requirements, only demonstrating that we know their names, we’re familiar with their assignments, and we’re hoping to make their lives easier.]

This isn’t really a new idea, is it? It’s just a marketing technique. A marketing technique that we mentioned recently during an admissions speed dating event with prospective parents. Parents whose eyes absolutely lit up when they heard about it. They wanted their own personal librarian! “Why can’t we all have personal librarians?!”, they asked. {Please know that I pointed them in the direction of their local public libraries in that moment.} Anyway, it went over really well. Admissions loves it. It’s another layer of personalization and it’s coming from the LIBRARY. To quote my  kids’ favorite mindless Disney Channel show, “Bam! What?!“.

Oh em gee, this Personal Librarian has pet prairie dogs. Reason no. 1,926,823 why librarians are the most interesting people ever. My intro will NOT be this interesting. However, I’m sort of loving the Youtube intro idea.

PROGRAM  2: Embedded librarians

We are meeting this week with the 9th grade history teachers to discuss just how embedded we might be. Everyone agrees that the one and done research lesson is not working for any of us. We can’t fit all that we need to fit into a single class period, we’re talking like auctioneers, our girls’ eyes are glazing over, and teachers aren’t seeing discernible improvements in their students’ processes or products. We can do better! What we’re proposing is this:

My assistant and I will divide the freshman history courses and we will go with the classes for which we are the girls’ personal librarians. We want to know their names, we want them to know that we are real, non-scary, non-shooshy people. In short, we want to build relationships and trust with our students and we find that that rapport is more easily obtained by regular face to face interaction.  Our school operates on an 8 day rotation with 50 minute periods. Each course gets one grab block per week, giving them a 75 minute meeting. We will use the weekly 9th grade history grab block to work with the girls on research skills, breaking our research lessons into 15 minute “mini-lessons”.

I want to use those mini lessons in two ways: one, to introduce them to the research process slowly and with repetition;  to our library catalog, our physical tools, and to teach them about our digital resources, as well as those critical web evaluation skills. Secondly, I  want to target source literacy.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was totally inspired by Nora Murphy’s #AISL16LA talk about the need for source literacy. I see us creating 15 minute source ‘petting zoo’ opportunities for our freshmen. I’m making notes as we speak on sources that I feel we could introduce in those 15 minute sessions, and homework we could assign to cement search processes of each. Off-hand I can think of print magazines (scholarly & popular) that we could expose the girls to, trade publications,  digital repositories: LOC, PBS, NPR, museum collections, NYPL, the National Archives, etc.

With all of this time spent in the classroom, I feel like we can use bigger chunks of time in the weeks leading up to research projects, quilting the skills together. Asking better questions. Anticipating relevant sources. Building keywords. Mining data. Employing advanced search techniques in the physical and digital worlds. Note taking. Paraphrasing. Citation.

If you could use the comments below, I’m interested in hearing what else you think might be appropriate to include in the information literacy/source petting zoo. Are you already doing the personalized or embedded thing? If so, how’s it working for you?

We’re thinking of proposing a session at NOLA to engage in a conversation about personalizing library services.  If you are employing either of the strategies we’re piloting, or if you’re doing something completely different, and might like to apply to co-present, please let me know!

Wishing you all the best as you leave APs and slide into finals. Happy spring, ya’ll!

 

Old versus New: Or Can a Library Be Both?

TVSReadingRoomDo these questions sound familiar: When do I maintain the gravitas of the traditional library, and when do I follow trends? What’s a trend and what’s the new normal? Does this library space promote the flow of ideas? As ideas flow, the “how quiet?” question continues to come up. Tish Carpinelli, Media Specialist at Lower Cape May Regional High School opened a discussion, on LM_Net, on using shared spaces. Her compiled list of responses can be found at the LM_Net archives under Carpinelli. (It’s the Feb. 9 HIT)

Food for Thought From a Blog Post

I wasn’t keen on the title of  the Feb. 11 Edutopia blog post: Replace “Library” With “Portal of Idea Flow”? But the post made me think. Blogger Grant Lichtman, a self-described “Author, speaker, facilitator, ‘Chief Provocateur’” discusses the role of the library. When ideas were largely contained in printed books, then naturally libraries contained primarily books. For today’s learners, how might libraries facilitate making ideas (and I would add:  knowledge) accessible?

More Food For Thought in Print

In “Sweetheart, Get Me Readers,” New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan talks about the pressure to get (and keep) eyes on company websites.  No longer is it sufficient for  experienced editors and talented professionals to accurately cover news stories. To remain in the game, news organizations must consider amateur videos and tweets from bystanders. She notes the NYT now has an Express Team that covers breaking news, from serious topics to what some might call “fluff” (her word.) The newspaper has found changing with the times is vital to continue to remain relevant.

TVSLibraryDisplay

Can We Be Both?

Most librarians I know try to strike a balance. We like a portal of ideas. We have print books. I try to catch of eyes with vibrant Middle School/Upper School Library displays. Currently we are highlighting the YALSA 2014-2019 Outstanding Books for the College Bound. This display case has QR links to the databases and (look carefully) you’ll see jigsaw puzzles, newspapers and adult coloring books. We can’t be everything to everyone, but we try to be a lot of things to a lot of people (while keeping our sanity at the same time!) If you have ideas, let them flow freely with a comment!

The All-Powerful Portfolio

Someone recently referred to me as being “mid-career”. I did a double take and gave them my best

arnold

 

 

 

 

 

With that said, I will admit that library schools have changed a bit since I graduated in ’03. In addition to a required thesis or a comprehensive exam, many schools insist that their students create a digital portfolio of their projects, not only to organize their work and to give them experience in web design and features, but also to help them market themselves to future employers. I first learned of this shift years ago when my friend Melinda Holmes, Library Director at Darlington School, emailed me excitedly to tell me of her fantastic new hire. Even though the young lady was fresh out of library school, Melinda was so thrilled with all that she would bring to the table. How could she predict the impact of this hire?

I give you Exhibit A: the one and only  Liz Overberg  (sharing with permission).

Are you thinking to yourself, “What a great idea! Why haven’t I thought of that?!”, then you aren’t alone. I did too.  I wasn’t looking to leave my job, but at the same time, I knew that if that time ever came [spoiler alert: it did.] or if I ever needed to show administration what I’d been up to, I didn’t want to be going back through my documents, my pictures, my calendars, to try to remember all that I had done.

This is my portfolio . I created it using Weebly, but you can use whichever platform you like best. Liz tells me that her first portfolio was on Yola, but that she too liked Weebly so she migrated. When I did apply for another job, I embedded some Google Analytics code within the header of each page as well so that I would get pinged when someone viewed my portfolio. The report tells me things like where the ping came from, the user’s behavior: how many pages they viewed, how much time they spent on each page, the network they used, etc. It’s interesting.

In the coming months, positions will open all over the country. Contracts will go out, people will plan moves, shifts will occur. You might consider taking some time over winter break to get something started, or if you’re like me, get those updates loaded that you never seem to have time to do. I dare say no cover letter will catch an employer’s attention the way a link out to real world examples of your work will and it’s really as simple as this (in closing your cover letter):

For examples of my work, please refer to my electronic porfolio (insert link here). I look forward to discussing my qualifications with you further.

Sincerely,

Your Name

In this one move, you not only demonstrate your comfort with technology, but you give examples of displays that you have created, newsletters that you have generated, web pages you have designed, classes you have taught, Libguides that you are proficient in creating. You can list publications, conference presentations, shoot, you can even have an RSS feed to blogs or other social media you’re speaking through to demonstrate your ‘voice’, your creativity, your marketing skills, your values, and your collegiality.

No wonder Melinda was so excited about her find in Liz! If her listserv contributions and conference conversations are any indication, I would say that the portfolio correctly identified Liz as a mover and shaker in the independent school library world. Thanks for the inspiration, Liz!

Do you already have a portfolio? Thinking of creating one now? If so, won’t you share your URL or tell us of your experience  in the comments below?

Bringing in the Crowds

I’m writing this as I watch 60 students take exams in the library. For a few of them, it’s the first time they’ve been in here all year, but I’ve already had conversations with most of them about their classes throughout the fall. Flexible scheduling is a mixed bag. I love that I can work with a class every day for a month if requested, but I hate that there are classes that have never set foot in the library. I’ve found that my biggest challenge isn’t connecting students to library resources; it’s getting students to realize all of the ways that the library can make their lives easier.

I’ve been thinking about Katie’s awesome post earlier this week about marketing to students. It turns out that more of my job than I expected is simply marketing.  I need to get students to walk through the door because showing up is the first step, right? From there, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump to “real” library work. Here are some thoughts about making that first step.

  • Food is the easiest method. Students (and their teachers) are drawn to sugar. Keep a steady supply of candy. It’s important to keep it close to you. It’s less about free food than about saying hello as people approach.
  • Have what they need. This goes beyond traditional library resources. For the first few years, I didn’t buy index cards, highlighters or tissues because they weren’t specifically part of my budget. Experience over the past few years has shown me that sometimes a student is just as happy to find a glue stick as a primary source.
  • Keep the printer close to your desk. Not only does it magically stop paper jams and students accidentally printing out 40 copies instead of 4, it’s a great way to listen to students talking about their classes and offer impromptu advice.
Wall of students...changes about monthly

Wall of students…changes about monthly

  • Showcase them! Teens love to look at photos of themselves and each other. Talk to the yearbook teacher about using some of their extra pictures, or ask teachers to take photos when they leave campus for field trips.
  • Know student names. And use them. Students respond differently when called by name, and they assume (sometimes incorrectly) that if you know their name, you know quite a bit more about them.
  • Ask for help. Frustrated that your iPad is only printing double-sided? Want to know how Instagram works? Care for opinions about whether Androids are better than iPhones? Teens are happy to be the expert, and if you take their responses seriously, they won’t think any less of you just because you asked them for help. In fact, they might be inspired to ask their own questions.
Christmas, candy, and a copier to the right

Christmas, candy, and a copier to the right

 

  • Reconnaissance with teachers can work wonders. If you meet at the coffee machine and ask about projects, you’re most likely to hear about the ones that aren’t working out so well. Target those students specifically or have the teacher draw up a time for the student to visit you.-Follow up online. Each time I introduce a research project and a student is brave enough to share their preliminary ideas for group brainstorming, I take that idea home with me. For one or two students in the class, I’ll do some database searches and email them a promising article. Believe me, they tell their friends. Bonus points if you can subtly (keyword subtly) turn this into a conversation about why your findings are more authoritative than theirs.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t try to keep up with what’s cool. Even if you’re not going to stand with a microphone telling jokes, post library or book-related comics. I have a wall of cat memes, with the occasional T-Rex comic. Kids often ask how they can add their own.
Seniors making a Harlem Shake video in the library

Seniors making a Harlem Shake video in the library

 

  • Be yourself. Teens see through facades, and they don’t respect them. You can still be professional while letting your spirit and sense of self shine through. Lower school students I’ve never taught know me for riding my bike to school. Upper school students all know I love John Steinbeck and F.S. Fitzgerald, though I’m frustrated by Faulkner. What do your students know about you outside the library?

You’ve probably noticed that almost all of these work similarly. I’m realizing that I spend my days baiting “student traps” that tempt them with what they want and are mutually beneficial to us both. The key is to start a conversation with students once they’re in the library. Get them talking, and listen to what’s important to them. It’s not just about schoolwork. Being a teen is tough, and some days a student isn’t going to be able to work on a paper until she’s processed her thoughts about a falling out with a friend. One of the benefits of independent schools is the low teacher-student ratios. Make students feel important and valued, and you will gain their trust.

These are some tips that have worked at my school. Every school is different. What ways have you found to get students to open up to you? How do you make students more comfortable in the library?

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