Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our Nook Adventure Part II

Since my last post, I've learned a few things about our Nooks that seem worth sharing:
  1. The Nook must be powered on or in "sleep mode" when charging. If you're Nook is powered completely off, charging is disabled.  (You'll know you're okay if the Nook screen saver appears).
  2. Ordering eBooks is easier, and more fun, with two people.  While one person spends the money, the other can update the Nook library and confirm that the book has magically appeared.
  3. There MUST be a credit card on file during the entirety of the download process.  If you remove the credit card info immediately after purchase, but the eBook is still making its way to the Nook, the process will be stalled.  So, keep the CC info in there until after your eBooks are completely installed.
  4. When you upload content from places other than B&N, they show up in "your documents" - as opposed to in your "B&N Library."
  5. The Nooks claim to support titles from Overdrive (which our public library uses to distribute content), but we've yet to explore that option.
Needless to say, there's a lot I'm still learning.

For example, it's taken me awhile to wrap my mind around the whole cataloging aspect of this.  Because we're physically checking out the devices, as opposed to the individual titles, clearly, the Nooks themselves have to be cataloged.  However, if you want your patrons to be able to search for eBook content via the OPAC, then you've gotta catalog the eBooks too.  Couple this with the fact that we've yet to locate even one existing MARC record for any of the eBooks we've purchased, and you've got a recipe for disaster a big fat disclaimer! :) And here it is:

Anything I share here a) is definitely a work in progress, b) is free for you to use, edit, adapt and share c) wouldn't exist without the work of Buffy Hamilton at the Unquiet LibraryN and d) is in desperate need of your feedback.

Procedures for Setting Up Nooks for Circulation:***

 ***We print these on half page labels for the inside cover of each folder.

Nook eBook Inventory Form

So... what's next?
What happens when Nooks and Kids collide? (Answer: Magic!)

Friday, November 19, 2010

EduBlog Awards 2010 Nominations

I'm so excited to be casting my virtual ballot for the Edublog Awards this year.  There are so many wonderful bloggers out there -from whom I learn so, so much. Honestly, it's tough to pick just one for each category, but, in my opinion, these folks represent the gold standard in each category.  Really.  If I had a dollar for each time I referenced or shared a link from one of these people, well.. you know the rest.  To sum up, they are definitely what I aspire to be if/when I grow up.  It is my pleasure to recognize them (in this small way) for helping me become better at what I do.  Both I, and my google reader, thank you! :)

Best individual blog: Gwyneth Jones:  The Daring Librarian
Best individual tweeter:  Shannon Miller
Best group blog:  Hanging Out In The Library
Best resource sharing blog: iLearn Technology
Most influential blog post: Doug Johnson:  Wishful Thinking Won't Save Librarians
Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion: #speakloudly
Best teacher blog:  Middle School Matrix
Best librarian / library blog: Buffy Hamilton/The Unquiet Librarian
Best educational wiki:  Joyce Valenza Workshop
Best educational webinar series:  TL Virtual Cafe
Best educational use of a social network: The Educators PLN
Lifetime achievement:  Doug Johnson - Blue Skunk Blog

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wikibrarian! My Prezi on Using Wikis for School Librarians (and you!)

Looking forward to teaching a brief session on wikis this afternoon to a mighty group of NC School Librarians.  Some of the ways I use wikis can be seen in the prezi below - including the self-assessment wiki that I created (modeled after the work of Joyce Valenza) to help librarians in my district share and elevate our practice as 21st Century School Librarians.

*waves to NC Librarians*

****Post Session Reflections****

Although this session was designed as an inhouse staff development for school librarians within my district, we were lucky enough to have a librarian from a local private school join us.  Her comments and contributions were wonderful and I think we all benefited from having her as a part of our group.

When the session was over, she asked if she could attend future trainings, and went on to talk about how she sometimes feels isolated as a private school librarian - as her opportunity to interact with professional colleagues are limited. 

Her comments reminded me of how lucky I am. 

I have the privilege or working among and with a wonderful group of school librarians who are, for the most part, eager to learn and share and collaborate.  Despite the overwhelming amount of great things these people are doing at their schools, they still find time to listen to me ramble on about wikis for the better part of two hours because they recognize the importance of professional camaraderie and collaboration.  They understand, that by sharing, we all get better. 

Additionally, I am lucky to be a part of an online professional learning community.  Without question, the learning I've been a part of online through resources like blogs, wikis, webinars and, of course, twitter, has changed my professional life.  I feel as though the whole world has opened up to me as a result of the connections I have made with other teacher-librarians, educational professionals and even authors as result of my PLN.  Honestly, it's humbling to be a part of the community rock stars who shares themselves with me (and the rest of the world).

And now... I can add a friendly and smart private school librarian to the mix.  Huzzah!

Overall, I think the session went well.  My jokes were mostly funny, my links mostly worked, my content was mostly useful and I think mostly everyone enjoyed the chance to learn with and from one another.

Mission Accomplished.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Nook Adventure Part I

If imitation really is the purest form of flattery, then Buffy Hamilton and Kathy Parker should feel extremely flattered right about now.  Their eReader journey, involving the Amazon Kindle, has provided a framework that has proven invaluable to me as I start my own foray into the digital book world.

At the beginning of the school year, I purchased 30 Nook eReaders for my middle school library. These posts will chronicle that journey.

Full Disclosure:

First of all, I think it's only fair that I come clean and admit that I used to work for Barnes & Noble.  Back in the day, I was a bookseller at the big box store helping people find copies of The DaVinci Code part-time during both the holiday and summer breaks from school.  However, I received absolutely no discount on the Nooks I purchased for our school and I received no monies or incentives whatsoever to promote their products. In fact, when I first decided to take the leap into digital content for our library, I explored both Kindles and iPads as possible options.  Once I came to terms with the fact that I couldn't afford iPads, I used the Edukindle Ning as well as the plethora of reviews that are out there to explore my remaining options. 

In the end, I chose the Nook for one reason alone: support.  Barnes & Noble has provided 3 separate trainings for my staff, will come to my school for hands on support if I ever need them and if a Nook goes bad, I can take it over to the store for replacement.  This is the basic service they provide to all customers and has nothing to do with my relationship with them.  To be frank, I think the Kindle is a better device (the speech to text option is something I desperately wish the Nook had and hope will be included in future upgrades).  However, because of the learning curve that exists for everyone involved in this project, I wanted the safety net of a *real* person who could walk me through any process I couldn't understand on my own and/or help me out when things (inevitably) go wrong.  One last thing, and then I will move on, I promise.  And perhaps this really goes without saying, but... these posts are not designed to convince you to buy Nooks for your library.  Rather, their purpose is simply to share our experiences. Implementing eReader programs is something many school libraries are grappling with right now and I firmly believe that all of our practices are elevated when we share stories, resources and ideas.

Ok.  Moving on.... :)

Show Me The Money:

Although we did not use a purchase order to buy our Nooks, Barnes & Noble did give us that option.  Because we had raised enough discretionary monies, through fundraisers, etc., we were able to request a quote from  B&N, mail them a check, and within about a week 30 Nooks arrived at our door. Purchasing the eBooks themselve proved to be a bit more challenging.  B&N does not accept purchase orders for this process, so we had to work out some procedures for buying content that would work for B&N and satisfy the requirements of our district's finance department.  More on that later.

They're here!  Now what do we do?
  1. Unpacking: Like others going through this process have suggested, we kept the boxes so that we would have them if we ever needed to return a Nook.   The boxes are labeled with each Nook's serial #.  You can also find it on the menu bar by going to settings: it will appear on the first screen displayed.  
  2. Charging:  According to the set up instructions, the Nooks needed to charge for 30 minutes prior to use. 
  3. Physical Processing: It was easy for us to do this while the Nooks were charging, and since we were all very anxious to get the digital ball rolling, we started labeling them right away.  The information that we wanted clearly visible on each Nook was:
    1. The Serial #
    2. The Barcode
    3. The Nook Name**:  This relates to the B&N account associated with each Nook.  Because B&N eBooks can be shared among 6 Nooks, we wanted to make sure we knew which Nooks were associated with which account.  
    4. We also made sure we labeled our Nook cart to correspond with all of the Nook Names.  This will just make it easier for us to keep track of which Nooks are in, which Nooks are out and which ones we've completed certain processes with. 
    5. Finally, we made a spreadsheet of all of this information for our equipment inventory.
  4. Registering the Nooks:  In order to load content on the Nooks, we had to create accounts with Barnes & Noble.  One B&N account can be shared by up to six Nooks.  Since we have 30 Nooks (for now!) we created five Barnes & Noble accounts.  The advantage of a limited number of accounts is not simply that it's... well, a limited number to keep up with, but more significantly, the content purchased on one account can be shared among the six Nooks - which of course, leads to savings down the road.  This kind of grouping also has many of our teachers excited about the possibility of using the Nooks for Literature Circles.  Anyway, like anything worth doing, registering Nooks takes a little work.  Here are the steps:
    1. Create email accounts for your Nooks - these accounts will be used to register your Nooks with Barnes & Noble.  We used gmail to create these accounts.  We chose account names that were easy to remember and were all the same except that they ended with Nook1, Nook 2, Nook 3, etc.
    2. Create an account with B&N at  To do this  select "My Account" in the upper left corner of the site, and then select "Create an Account."  Note:  You do not have to enter a credit card at the time you create your account - however, you will need one on file when you go to make a purchase - EVEN free material (Attn B&N:  This is really irritating!) More on making purchases later.
    3.  Turn on the Nook and register it by typing in your B&N account email and password.  Note:  you will need access to WiFi in order to do this.   
    4. Now you're ready to shop!  figure out how to catalog these things! (Shopping is more fun, but first things first!) So... while we figured how to make our new toys library friendly, we offered our teachers the chance to request content.
**One final note about Nook Names:  Based on the fact that we ended up with five accounts, we organized our Nooks into five groups.  (Nooks 1, 2, 3 etc.)  From there our Nook Names became Nook 1a, Nook 1b, 1c... you get the picture.

Soliciting Help:

One thing that makes our situation a little unusual is that, for now, our district technology department is unwilling to let us send the Nooks home.  This makes me a little grumpy, but the bottom line is that they have concerns and it is my job now to collect the data needed to ease them.  Until then, we're rolling out our Nooks for in-house use, both in our library and in classrooms. 

Anyway, in keeping with my ever diligent efforts to be the solution to my stakeholders problems, I solicited imput from teachers regarding the content to be purchased for the Nooks using this Google form.   Many of the questions are directly related to our school improvement goals.  (A quick aside:  just today, my principal asked me how I thought the Nooks could be as a tool for impacting whole family literacy.  After sharing my thoughts, she gave me an additional $500 to buy eBooks.  I can't stress this enough:  if you are offering solutions to the things that keep your principal up at night, he/she will do the best they can to provide you with the resources to fund your requests).

All the while, my thoughts about why I'm doing this have been further informed by the student reactions to the arrival of the Nooks and their appearance in our library. Even though they've yet to make their big debut, the big gray and red cart is tough to miss and the kids have been quick to gather 'round as I explore and prod and process.  Their reactions have been interesting -- ranging from giddy excitement, to questions about how books would be purchased for them (more on that later!) to having no clue what an eReader even is.  Our school has a very diverse population made up of kids from all sorts of backgrounds - both cultural and economic.  The diversity in their reaction to these new devices brings questions about the digital divide to the forefront of my thinking.  I'm not sure where all of these ruminations are headed, but I'm confident that they're an important component of this journey and to my evolution as a librarian.

Anyway, that's all for tonight, I think.
Next up?  Cataloging/Circulation procedures.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Go Forth and Quantify

I saw a post on facebook recently by a veteran teacher bemoaning the focus on data in education.  She posited that the emphasis should be on kids, not numbers.  I hear this kind of thing a lot.  "I don't teach [insert subject here]; I teach children."  Or "nobody cared about data when I was in school, and I turned out just fine."

These are the kinds of populist witticisms that *seem* to be grounded in common sense and are therefore tough to argue with.

But I think good teachers have always relied on data to inform their instruction.  Formative assessment isn't a new development.  It's something effective teachers, whether in the classroom or in the library, have always relied on to guide their practice. 

One thing that classroom teachers have going for them, in this regard anyway, is an abundance of data.  These days, there's a test for everything and, regardless of how we feel about them, they do make it relatively easy to quantify student performance. An aside: as a former classroom teacher myself, I realize that not all of this data is valuable or even reliable, but for the sake of this post I'm simply "not going there." Rather, I'm suggesting we pick up the sword our teachers and administrators must live/die by and defend (to the bitter end!) our programs and even our jobs.  That said, for better or for worse teacher-librarians are not in the same data wealthy position as classroom teachers.  The line between us and student achievement is, at best, discreet.  Therefore, it's up to us to connect the dots for the rest of the world.

So... how do we do that?  Good question!  :)

Before I get into how *I* do it, let me say that I'm open, heck! I'm even EAGER, to hear about how this is done in your library.  Because there is no universal handbook for quantifying the effectiveness of school library programs (perhaps this is the book I was meant to write!) the more we share, the more we elevate our entire profession.  But I digress.

Ok.  Here goes:

Step 1:  Identify yearly goals that seek to solve the problems faced by your principal.

Example:  If your principal is under pressure to bring up the test scores of ELL students, then everything you do should also be openly and obviously focused on that goal.  Some ideas would be to create a collection development plan that focuses on buying paired novels in both English/Spanish so that ELL students can share the reading experience at home with parents who may not speak any English at all. Then plan a Family Literacy Night and invite those families to your library where you can get to know them and they you. This is your chance to put the resources you've lovingly picked directly into their hands AND identify yourself as their key to success.

Quantify it: By all means, keep data of your own (ie: collection/checkout/attendance stats). However, if bringing up the scores of this subgroup has been identified as an area of focus at your school, then both your teaching and administrative staffs will spend the year collecting data on their performance. When their test scores come in, use the data you've collected in concert with the scores to illustrate how your programs were an integral part of the strategies that impacted student growth. 

Bonus:  Purchasing requests that are focused on solving the problems faced by your principal are FAR more likely to be funded than those that aren't.  If he/she has said no in the past, making his/her goals the focus of your purchasing proposals may very well untie those purse strings.

Step 2:  Identify yearly goals that seek to solve the problems faced by your teachers.

Example:  Every year teachers are faced with "one more thing" that they have to do in order to prove the effectiveness of their instruction.  You need to be the answer to that problem.  For example, if teachers must include 21st century technologies in their lessons, you need to be jumping at the chance to collaborate with them. When you hear teachers moaning about how the world would be a better place if we all went back to teaching with nothing but a piece of chalk, instead of shaking your head in disgust while checking in on Foursquare, you need to jump up and down and yell "pick me! pick me!" And when they do call on you, your motto must be, "I've got the answer to your problem." 

Similarly, if teachers need to participate in a PLT to show professional growth, you need to find out the topics they're studying and create a collection development plan that includes professional resources on those topics.  Even better -- you need to let the teachers create the plan and then, rather than simply putting the books on the shelves and wondering why nobody checks them out, you need to set up a PLN preview event where teachers can come in and ooh and aaaah over their new toys.  (Having chocolate there helps). Again, this is your chance!  Take a look at the topics they are studying, figure out how your expertise can help them and then identify yourself as the key to their success.

Quantify it:  Again, if this is a focus of your school, you won't be able to swing the proverbial dead cat without hitting some data.  Your job is to a) collect the library related stats, b) help teachers collect and mine the data they need for their own evaluations and c) make sure that combined data gets in the hands of your principal and/or other stakeholders.

Bonus:  I find that teachers are more than willing to share the glory.  When your principal tells them that a particular lesson was inspiring or compliments them on implementing a new strategy, they are usually quick to say "I couldn't have done it without _________."  The important thing is to make sure your name fills in that blank.

Step 3:  Find or create a rubric for your programs that address school/district wide goals and share it with stakeholders.

Example:  I use Joyce Valenza's Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarianship. Not only is Joyce Valenza a library rock star, but for me, this just looked a lot like the gold standard of what librarians in my district should be doing.  So I created a wiki based on its contents and, as the year progresses, all librarians in my district have been using it to evaluate their programs.  At my school, teachers and administrators who serve on the Media Technology Advisory Committee have been helping in that self-evaluation process. I've since shared this wiki with my principal, my superintendent and anyone else who was in earshot and might have a role in saving libraries. 

Quantify it:  Changing the info on the wiki to numbers is not hard if you ever wanted to do it, but I think it's more useful as a self-assessment tool.  Because I've put it into a table, it's easy to identify areas of strength and weakness and, more importantly, to grow your practice from there.

Bonus:  If I ever meet Joyce Valenza, I've got some instant brownie points.

So... that's it.

Clearly, I don't have all the answers.  I can only say that this is what has worked for me and therefore I think it might work for you.  And I know... I know... if you're on a fixed schedule, teaching 6-8 classes a day with no assistant, this is a tall order, but  here's what I do know for sure:  However we can, whenever we can, we MUST seek to align ourselves with the goals of our school.  Then we must be able to provide some quantifiable data to prove that we are necessary to achieving those goals.  If we don't, we're sunk.

Finally, if any of this reminds you of Doug Johnson's Three Commandments for Successful Library Programs, it's only because he (and others) continue to be a great source of inspiration.   Besides, when you're only 5'3" standing on the shoulders of giants is practically a requirement.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Long Look In The Mirror

Call it what you want.  The elephant in the room, a tough pill to swallow or just the ugly truth, but either way, it's time for school librarians to face the facts:  We are part of the problem.

One of the reasons why school systems around the country feel like it's okay to slash our budgets, cut our clerks and/or eliminate our positions altogether is because they see us as disposable - and it's not that difficult to figure out why. The fact is, we are living in a data driven world.  The pot of money that school districts have to pull from is, and will continue to get, smaller.  Programs that don't produce results and/or can't be directly linked to student achievement are, for better or for worse, seen as superfluous.

It's time for us to take a long, hard look at our programs and then ask ourselves some tough questions:

Are we the answers to our stakeholders problems?

As Deb Logan points out, teachers and administrators don't care how many copies of Harry Potter we have.  They are not interested in whether or not our security gates work or the average age of our 398s. They want to know how we can help improve our students' reading scores.  They want to know how our programs impact the literacy levels of our school's English Language Learners or how we can turn students with no internet access at home into effective users of 21st century technologies. If we're not the solution to these, and countless other, problems faced by our teachers, parents and administrators, they WILL NOT fight for us - and, really, why should they??

Can our programs be directly linked to student achievement?

Students are constantly being asked to prove that they've completed the tasks we assign them.  Ultimately, we are only assigned one task: to impact student learning... and I'm not convinced many of us can prove we're actually doing that.  We have to find the quantitative link between ourselves and student achievement.  What's more, if that link doesn't exist, we need to change our practice so that it does.

And finally, if our programs do impact student learning, why are we the only ones who know it?

It's time to pull our collective heads out of the sand.  Flying under the radar and hoping no one notices us, is not a plan for sustainability or even survival.  Furthermore, no one is going to magically fly in and convince others, on your behalf, that your job, programs and/library are worth saving.  In the end, YOU are your own best advocate, or in some cases, worst enemy?

Which role are you playing?