Affective Labor is Real: A Librarian’s Guide to Navigating #NeverAgain

Guest Post by Elaine Levia

Emma Gonzalez with mosaic of slogans (art by Serena May Illescas) uploaded by Flickr user Vince Reinhart, shared under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Here we are.

It is hard for me to write that only the most recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have inspired this post. We’ve been inundated with stories of  gun violence in and out of schools far longer than we care to admit.  I was in elementary school when the Columbine massacre took place. Even in relative safety, I grew up learning to regard gun violence in schools not as incidents isolated by time and space, but as looming threats that would eventually happen to me or someone I knew.

Now, as a school librarian, I feel favorably positioned to approach the work of compiling resources for general and practical support in the current unfolding of violent events. We sit in a favorable seat because of our roles, adjacent to students as teachers are, but also as de facto counselors, confidants, advisors, and affective laborers of all stripes. Affective labor is the critical feminist term for work in the service or care of others, either emotionally or physically. It came about as a response to the invisibility of immaterial labor, and has even been explored in the context of academic libraries. You might be wondering, as I have wondered recently, how to broach the interconnected pieces of school shootings with students in a clear-cut way. How might we balance responsible reactions to unthinkable trauma within our training level and expertise? How might we support students in a time of anger, sadness, political fervor, and need?

I am reassured by the old refrain, shared often as comfort with me by my own mother, who also happens to be a librarian. We don’t need to have all the answers. We just need to be the connection. Today I want to share some thoughts and resources that have helped me figure out my personal role in the sea change, and I will ask for your help with one small action: consider this the crystallization, the reification of all the emotional, seemingly invisible duties of a school librarian. We’re already tasked with doing more with less, but I hope that the following few tips and resources provide a wide variety of inclusive practices for the toolkit. Moreover, I hope that a dedicated space for support and discussion within our community proves fruitful and restorative. The care of minds and bodies of others, particularly our students, is a borderless, ever-expanding pursuit. We can only do it so well when we’re able to lean on our community for support.

Additionally, I’m interested in your resources. I’ve started a public document, which you may notice at the time of posting is still in its nascent phase. Please feel free to contribute books, podcasts, training resources, tech tools, or timely articles.

Read on for some ideas about the connections we can make between the prevalence of gun violence, mental health, activism, and diversity & inclusion work.

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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

When will I finally…

I don’t know about all of you, but I do not feel I have fully mastered the whole getting-it-all-done-and-with-flair-too thing. With every new school year, I feel that sense of excitement and promise and opportunity, and then, “How is it already Banned Books Week!?!”

As much as I am fascinated by time management strategies and tools (really, in spite of myself, I am), it’s still something I feel that I struggle with. I don’t think I’m alone considering all of the time management webinars, apps, conference presentations, articles, and books I’ve come across geared specifically toward librarians, even school librarians. Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done (Business Plus, 2011) spoke at AASL four years ago. All of this is reassuring and disheartening at the same time. Has anyone figured this out? If they haven’t, how will I? Or, if they haven’t, can I stop worrying and just get on with it?

In searching my tags and folders for the many resources I’ve collected and bookmarked on this topic, I found two things, one of which I remembered writing, the other I did not. About three years ago, I was feeling that I had multiple competing priorities at school and, except for those tasks that called for my immediate attention, I was feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start.  I sketched out a general plan for figuring out what to work on when, and it still helps if I’m feeling a little adrift during the day in between students’ questions. (I would REALLY like to know how all of you out there have handled this.)

Well, here it is:

  • Monday: Curriculum, lesson planning
  • Tuesday: LibGuides/curation
  • Wednesday: Professional development
  • Thursday: Collection management, book reviews
  • Friday: catch-up, yearbook, peer tutoring, Cum Laude Society, etc.

The other thing I found was a draft of a blog post (for a now defunct blog) I wrote on this topic — five years ago! And guess what; the guilt and frustration and specific items that I feel are so important but get brushed aside by daily business – they were all the same. I can’t tick off the little “done!” box on any of them. That didn’t help the old imposter syndrome too much. However, it also served as a real eye-opener, and, in a weird way, reassured me. My professional values and philosophy have not changed a whit, and that makes me feel that re-centering my focus on these is true to my practice.

I returned to this 1.5 year-old blog post from one of our heroes, Joyce Valenza, to help me get over myself: http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/03/26/a-belated-confession/, and this one, which you’ll remember from our own David Wee: https://aislnews.org/?p=4219. Both still make me feel grateful as well as empowered to choose a focus, and to see that achieving balance and mastery of the different hats we all wear in terms of a year, or even a whole career, rather than a day, week, or month is the ultimate goal. Really, the ultimate daily and career-wide goal is to serve and teach the students as best we can, and that happens in large and small ways.

So, here it is – this year I will focus on redesigning and improving our LibGuides and further embedding the library in our LMP. Maybe I won’t do more book-talking, or design/choose the perfect research framework for my school, but I can make some progress in those areas while really getting one part of our house in the order our students need it to be in. Luckily, I can do it with a little help from my friends; namely, all of you!

Origin story

This is loosely an origin story, though I’ll branch off from there. You’ll note in a minute or less that my origin story couldn’t be more straightforward. Two years after college graduation, I was working in Admissions at the same school I had entered as a freshman ten years prior. I was in the process of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life with the earnestness only possible of someone in their early 20s. I knew I wanted to stay in education, and the school librarian seemed to be the best position in the school. You get to work with pretty much everyone, your days are always different, and the library is often one of the prettiest rooms in the building

When I told people I was going to earn my MLIS, I usually got one of two reactions.

  1. “That makes sense. You’ve always loved to read.” Family remembered me with every series book available to children of the 1980s and 90s: Bobbsey Twins, Tillerman cycle, Encyclopedia Brown, Sleepover Friends, Saddle Club, every iteration of Sweet Valley Kids/Twins/High and The Babysitters’ Club, Narnia, Cleary and Blume by the dozens, Fear Street…I could keep going. I recall a particular affinity for the stories of Barthe Declements and Paula Danziger. Remember Me to Harold Square and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler inspired many a New York scavenger hunt on my part.

OR

  1. “Huh? I didn’t realize they still had libraries. They’ll be obsolete soon.” Much has been written about library naysayers and why they are incorrect, so I’ll just say that libraries are as relevant today as they’ve ever been even if their form looks a bit different. To the first group, please tell me where I can find a job where I get paid to read all day. I’m in!

Fast forward ten years, and we are caught up to the present where I’ve learned that school librarian is pretty much my perfect profession.

Except “librarian” isn’t a profession I can drop off at the end of the day; it’s just my personality. Alyssa has taken the title of Thrifty Grocery Ninja, and I’d like to henceforth be known as an Organizational Wizard.

Some examples from the past week since we are visiting my husband’s family in Washington State where the summer weather is ideal.

  1. I have part of a dresser in the Washington house, and a few years ago I realized that I’d overpack because I didn’t remember what I kept here. 5 minutes making a list on Google Drive solved that issue. I’ve never had to worry about over- (or under-, though that’s seldom my problem) packing since.
  2. I went berry picking this morning with plans of canning this afternoon. For the past three years I’ve kept notes on the process and on who receives the jams afterwards. As with the previous example, it seems so simple and yet I bet I would have let the fruit-pectin mixture boil over if I hadn’t seen, “Fruit-pectin boils FAST and FROTHS. Stir and DON’T leave the pot.” (Sheepishly, I might remember a sticky strawberry stove from last July.)

    236 Bop's News Folders

    organizing day one

  3. Last Friday, my husband’s grandmother brought out a cardboard box of family notes, newspaper clippings, and awards that went from 1923 to 2005. There were some file folders but not a lot of order. And a lot of news clippings! The family has lived in one town for generations and has been prominent in local business, politics, education, and charities. Know what I find super fun? Solving the date mystery by using clues in the article (or the article on the reverse), photos, similar stories in different papers, etc. What year was February 25 on a Thursday roughly in the 1950s? So much of local history still hasn’t been digitized, so while the Internet is a help, you can’t just type in text from articles. There was a visceral YES when I’d find a full paper that was a repeat of a clipping and the year matched my guess. An added benefit is that the materials are dated and sheet protected and organized in a three-inch three-ring binder. Now future generations can easily peruse while seeing the context in which something was written. And the grandmother think I’m an organizational wizard, so I have my first fan!

    235 Bop's News Folders

    organizing day two (not the finished product)

I realize it might just be me and an obsessive attention to detail but I’m hoping there are others. Are there times when your “library skills” have led to a smoother and more productive life outside the library? Happy midsummer!

237 Computers and Libraries 1990s

Plus you come across cool things like this college brochure talking about libraries with the latest technology!

Top 10 List of Conference Takeaways

The Tampa Crew did such a great job with this year’s AISL conference that I am overwhelmed by all that I have learned and have acquired “Option Anxiety”. The only way I can move forward is to break the dazzling array of new information into small digestible bits.

To that end, Blogger Shelagh Straughan and I have created a  Top Ten list of tips from the conference. I will start with 10 and work down to 6, and Shelagh will pick up where I left off.  Here we go!

 Top 10 Tip:  The Library as Incubator Project: Allow students to connect to assignments in different ways.  Art as part of the toolbox. Modeling this in library space is the best way to encourage creative thinking at your school. As Erinn Paige said, we can “Sneak rigor into your students’ lives through art”. Also check out the Book to Art Club.

Top 9 Tip: Here’s a quick low-tech survey as a pre-test before a presentation: at the start of a presentation, survey your attendees’ level of experience by using the ‘finger survey’. Ask your attendees to hold one finger up if they are a total novice at the topic to be discussed, two fingers if they’re somewhat experienced, and three if they are very familiar with the topic. Call for everyone to hold fingers up all at once. This will help you to gauge levels of experience and help you to shift content a bit if necessary. Thanks to Dotty Smay!
Top 8 Tip:  Makerspace startup: It’s not the machine, it’s the program.
Chaos is standard. Become comfortable with the role of “Guide on Side.” Go to art teachers and tech teachers for guidance. The tool that is most important is the questioning tool. The process is primary. In most of our schools there is no time for the thinking, trying, exploratory processes in classes. We can give a space for that in our libraries. Consider it a “Blended Model”.  In our more conventional library role we work to create independent readers, but we also work with teachers on set curriculum. Same thing with projects. Sometimes work with teachers, but sometimes work with students individually, as we do when helping them find just what they want to read.
 makerspace 1

Top 7 Tip:  Two apps (out of many) from App-Smashing workshop

Prompterous is a teleprompter app available from the App Store in iTunes. Has a timer, great for filming and speeches. For kids and faculty, good for any oral presentations.  Lindsay Brennan provided the link for the Padlet from the App Smashing Session.  For those who couldn’t attend, there are some cool resources here.

Notability is able to manipulate notes in all kinds of ways. You can sign docs (opens a PDF, allows to write with a stylus, and send back). Possible in iPad, available through the App Store.

Top 6 Tip:  Always carry talcum powder with you when you go to the beach. A powdering on your feet will absorb any water and the sand will brush right off. Of course, sand in Tampa Bay is extra super fine, so it’s a lot like baby powder itself, but the talcum tip is  a great one. Thanks to Diane Neary for that little treasure.DSCN5591 (2)
Here’s Shelagh Straughan continuing the countdown: 

Top 5 Tip: Impulsivity and the teenage brain (Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School) on how, with the prefrontal cortex developing throughout adolescence, teenagers can have difficulty assessing risk, setting priorities, thinking ahead and planning over time. I loved the suggestion that rather than just facing this fact, we embrace the opportunity for learning, and let this environment shape our teaching. Helpful too, to stretch from this place and consider how it impacts plagiarism – for instance, that a growth (rather than fixed) mindset recognizes that citation demonstrates credibility.
photo1 

Top 4 Tip: What college freshmen need to know (Ringling College of Art & Design) was a timely and relevant presentation by a panel of 3 academic librarians. I wasn’t alone in feeling reassured about some of the items we’re already covering, and appreciated the recommendations about additional specific skills which will help our students succeed at the post-secondary level. These included but weren’t limited to using a variety of databases, recognizing the difference between popular magazines and scholarly journals, and perhaps the most important – encouraging them to ask for help!

Top 3 Tip: The power of student library proctors was more than evident at Berkeley Preparatory! Their group of 23 proctors (including co-heads) meet and work weekly to shelve books, develop book trailers & promotional videos, design displays and organize programs that celebrate reading. This year’s initiatives have included pumpkin-decorating contests, a St Patrick’s day book promotion and the current display of “Which is better – the book or the movie?’photo3photo2 

Top 2 Tip: The value of taking time to stop, rest and reflect. The beautiful library at Academy of the Holy Names has recently unveiled its new iLab, an innovative, multi-purpose space. Upper School librarians were fortunate to have 90 minutes of time to gather in this creative environment to “reflect, recap and record” what we’d learned over the past 3 days. This time was invaluable, allowing some to discuss current issues and others to plan action items.

Number One Conference Tip: Be inspired, not intimidated. I am fortunate to have attended 5 AISL conferences to date, and once again, I was amazed not only by the beautiful libraries we visited and impressive programs we saw in action, but by the wonderful work we heard about while chatting with colleagues. I’m learning to focus on being motivated rather than overwhelmed. It’s enough that we do our best with what we have, and focus on the potential within our own schools. Having the opportunity to see what’s happening out there helps me to expand my vision for my own library program.photo4 (2)

Thanks again to all the Tampa Bay librarians, and be sure to note your own top tips from the conference in the comments below!

Independent School Librarians and Common Core: What Are We Doing?

Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standard Banner (from government source)

Common Core State Standard Banner (from government source)

Happy Holidays!  I don’t imagine anyone will look at this today,  but perhaps sometime this week…I decided to take a look at Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for today’s post and see how it was being used in the independent school library.

Independent Schools and CCSS

There are several librarians like Marianna McKim, Head Librarian at Kimball Union Academy, who said, “We are not officially using common core, but I am incorporating some of the ideas into our curriculum planning.”  And that seems to be a common theme in the independent school milieu in general: look at what’s going on, evaluate it, and then take what is good and use just what you need.  There is an abhorrence in the independence school world for being forced into a particular lock-step program. Hence the name independent!

Flowcharts and Brochures and CCSS

Joan Tukey, librarian at Notre Dame Academy, recently updated school brochures to reflect where Common Core skills were being used. You can see her work at the following link: Joan Tukey’s work on Common Core in her school

Webinars and CCSS

Margaret P. Simmons, Library Media Specialist at the June Shelton School, offered the advice to independent school librarians who are seeking to know more about Common Core that they listen to the Common Core and Text Types: What Should Students Be Reading? Webinar edWeb.net.

“I just listened to this webinar. It is so powerful! ” Simmons said in an email.

Libguides and CCSS

Joan Lange, librarian at Pope John Paul II High School, has done quite a bit of work on Common Core State Standards.  She has created some very good libguides, complete with powerpoints and links to other materials of note and is now working on another related project.  Her first libguide is general dealing with the standards in an overview way. You can find the libguide here: LibGuide:  Common Core State Standards (General Resources).  This libguide also includes a powerpoint by Lange’s  Science Dept. Chair illustrating how Common Core relates to Next Generation Science Standards. Her second libguide is history related and deals with teaching primary sources: LibGuide: Teaching with Primary Sources (History).  This libguide includes a powerpoint that she created illustrating the research process with primary sources as the starting point.  It is brilliant! I highly recommend that you take a look at it.

Lange’s next project is creating a Common Core bookcase of literary nonfiction works, across all disciplines.  This bookcase will be in her Professional Development and Audiovisual area.  She is hoping that prominent display will encourage conversations with teachers on how some of these short excerpts can be incorporated in their curriculum and connect with CCSS.

Technology,  Apps and CCSS

At the Berkeley Preparatory School we have started looking at CCSS in our Lower Division, where they are currently going grade by grade and looking at the Common Core skills and then comparing them to our Berkeley Identified Skills (BIS).  In the library in particular, we are looking at the American Association of School Librarians Learning Standards and Common Core Crosswalk and then adding our BIS skills in a third column.  Kathleen Edwards, our lower division librarian, is leading the charge on this effort.  We have taken the crosswalk and eliminated all the other skills except for the library related ones, making it a little easier to use.  We’ve broken the files down by grade level (k-12).  I will be posting those files in the AISL wiki.  If you are an AISL member, please go to AISL WIKI.  If you aren’t a member and are an independent school librarian, membership is only $25/year.  Or if you are a librarian who would just like the files,  comment below and if I receive enough requests, I will post all the documents here! (You could also link to us, as we would love to continue the conversation with you! 😎

Last year, Christina Arcuri, our collection development and upper/middle librarian, went to a YALSA conference where she learned about an app called Subtext. We talked about it and how cool it was, as it could allow a whole class to annotate a book together and share those annotations with each other.  And, it does much more than that:

  • You can create documents and convert them to an ePub format and then review them all together as a class for peer editing and review.
  • You can leave your own notes in the class text for students.
  • You have access to books and articles in Google play (free and pay), over 3 million and they do volume discounting.

However, at the time she saw it, our school was not doing iPads and I promptly forgot it.  But now, we have implemented iPads, albeit in a slow manner. Since one of the core items about CCSS is its inclusion of technology, this app seems like the perfect tool for how librarians can help faculty include instructional technology into the classroom.

This holiday break, Christina and I will be testing it out with a group of English faculty to see if we can use it even though we do not have a classroom set of iPads for upper division.  We are hoping that the browser version they are beta testing is robust enough. There is not a mobile app at this time. We might be able to borrow the middle division iPad classroom set in a pinch!  Or request a set of iPads for upper next year. If you are considering CCSS, I recommend that you check out Subtext, especially as they are exploring a browser version. Go to web.subtext.com if you want to try it.

Conclusion

This is just a taste of what is going on in the independent school library with CCSSs. Please follow the blog and comment if you want to be a part of the conversation.  Let us know what you are doing and what you have found to be successful.  If you have found a great app, please share it.

If you want to get started, here are some articles I found useful.  Paige’s article had some great links. And I hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxing holiday break!

  1. Cravey, Nancy. “Finding Inspiration in the Common Core.” Knowledge Quest. 42.1 2013 18-22 Advanced Placement Source. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/90230622/finding-inspiration-common-core
  2. Jaeger, Paige. “We Don’t Live in  a Multiple-Choice World: Inquiry and the Common Core.” Library Media Connection. Jan/Feb 2012 10-12. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ960050 [Note: Paige has some really good resources!]
  3. Fontichiaro, Kristin. “When Research Is Part of the Test.” School Library Monthly. 30.3 2013  53.
  4. Morris, Rebecca. “Find Where You Fit in the Common Core, or the Time I Forgot about Librarians and Reading.” Teacher Librarian. 39.5 2012 Advanced Placement Source. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/77053481/find-where-you-fit-common-core-time-forgot-about-librarians-reading