Thursday, September 29, 2011

SC Librarians are Ready!

A couple of months ago the SC Association of School Librarians asked if they could publish my flyer "Librarians are Ready!"  My copy arrived today and I'm thrilled with the result.  Several other people have asked to use it, but I've yet to see it "in the wild" anywhere, (although my CTO did send a copy to all the principals in my district, which was a pretty humbling moment).  Anyway, big juicy thanks to my neighbors in South Carolina for wanting to use my work.  I'm unbelievably honored. 

All in all, not a bad Thursday. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

May The Force Be With You

A year or so ago I started soliciting photos of young adult authors reading in various locations for this project:  a google map showing all the places people read.  It's called "Gators Read Everywhere" - an homage to our school mascot - and it's one of my most favorite projects ever.  But this post isn't about that.  It IS, however, (at least partly) about Tom Angleberger, the author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, who was one of the first YA authors to share a photo of himself reading for the aforementioned project. From the beginning, Tom was the picture of generosity.  Not only did he send me his own photo, but he also ran around various author/librarian/teacher conferences stalking other authors and taking their pictures for me.  And since he's a world famous author himself, there wasn't anything creepy about it at all. :)  Now, I don't know about you, but Tom's books are INSANELY popular in my library.  I've got a bajillion copies of each and the reserve list is still a mile long.  I simply can't keep them on the shelves.  So... when his latest endeavor Dark Paper Strikes Back debuted about a month ago, I knew we needed to have a premier party.

Book premier parties are something I *love* to do.  Last year, we had one when Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay came out and it was big fun.  For last year's event, I decided to hold a costume party:  both kids and adults alike dressed like their favorite character from the Hunger Games Trilogy and we partied like the next day was the reaping! At the time, Hot Topic was selling lots of cool Hunger Games paraphernalia and I was able to get them to donate some stuff for our party as prizes.  Barnes and Noble also gave me some books to give away and a local real estate company helped provide the food.  The whole idea behind the event was to generate excitement about the books, so I held trivia contests the entire week before and recruited teachers to play it up in their classes. Truly, it was a blast.  And, besides, how often do I get to wear false pink eyelashes and a 3ft tall pink beehive w/a blinking tiara to school??  (Answer: not as often as I would like).   (Bonus points to the Hunger Games fan who can guess who I am!)

Fast forward to this school year. Since I couldn't break out my beehive for this party, I decided to ask Tom Angleberger if he would skype with us during the event. I'd already heard that he was super fun to skype with from several colleagues including library wonder boy John  Schumacher, and since I follow him I twitter, I knew this was something the Origami Yoda creator sometimes did.   Once that was scheduled, I went to work planning the event - starting with food which included Yoda Soda (Sprite + lime sherbet), Darth Paper Pizza and 250 chocolate dipped Pretzel Light Sabers - prompting Beth Redford to call me the "Martha Stewart of Star Wars themed food."  In the end, the plan was simple:  1) eat 2) skype 3) make Origami Yodas/Darth Papers 4) make money for the library.

Which brings me to the point where I need to admit that not all of my intentions when it comes to these events are noble.  While the primary focus is on getting kids excited about a book, I also ALWAYS schedule them to coincide with a book fair.  And while I never charge students to get in, I DO say stuff like "it sure would be nice if you bought something at the book fair."  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don't.   This year, however, my fundraising expectations were far exceeded due in large part to the same local real estate company who not only helped us buy some of the food and books to give away (and put in our library), but they also  underwrote a 35% discount at our book fair for everyone who came to the party that night.   I'm still in awe of how generous they were.

So.  How did it go? Well... 
  • our central office forgot to leave the A/C on, so it was about 300 degrees most of the night.  And...
  • the Skype was pretty much a disaster.  We saw Tom for about 25 seconds - during which he was charming and funny, but still. 
On the other hand...
  • about 200 kids showed up.
  • many of them brought their parents.
  • we sold more in one night at the book fair than we did the entire rest of the week (making it our best book fair ever!)
  • after the #skypefail kids gathered around the tables and watched as I taught them the fine art of the Origami Yoda/Darth Paper folding.
  • the next day, one student after another rushed in to a) show me their copy of one (or both) of Tom Angleberger's book(s) and/or the bajillion origami Star Wars figures they'd made after going home and b) to ask me when we were going to do it again.
I guess that's spells success. :)

So, what's next?  Well, first and foremost I'm looking forward to finally meeting Tom Angleberger face to face at this year's NCSLMA conference.  I owe him a big thank you and/or a drink.  After that, I need to figure out how to make Skpe work at my school.  There's just too many great video-chat opportunities out there for me to give up now. (If you've got advice, let me know).  After that???  Well... I'm thinking we may need to have a  book premier party for Allan Wolf's new book The Watch That Ends The Night: Voices from the Titanic - I'm just hoping one of the characters sports a pink beehive.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NCSLMA 2011: A Love Story

The dates for this year's NCSLMA's annual conference have been on the books forever, but it wasn't until tonight that I started to really get excited about this year's event.

In part, this is because the schedule of sessions was just released today and it is AMAZING.  Not only are there some great people presenting (including the fantabulous Gwyneth Jones as our keynote speaker), but the presentations themselves look meaty and relevant in today's school library environment/education climate. For me, THIS is just what the doctor ordered.  As I head into a year in which the expectations for my contribution and impact are higher than ever, but the support I receive (financially and otherwise) is at its lowest point on record, my professional soul is starving for camaraderie and nourishment.  It's early enough in the year that I'm still energized and excited, but I need to feed off the combined strength of my colleagues to keep the momentum going.  Seriously, I need this.  And I suspect I'm not alone.

My excitement also stems from the fact that this event will mark the official unveiling of NCSLMA's new website, which I designed and co-created with an uber-fabulous colleague and friend (who really needs a library blog so I can link to it).  This Extreme Makeover: Website Edition came about because our long-time webmaster decided to step down from the position and, simply put, nobody else stepped up to the plate.  So, in the spirit of turning lemons into lemonade, we decided to ignore the fact that we both already have entirely too much to do and create the website of our dreams.  That is to say, one that was still packed with all the great info our old site had, but that also offers spaces for professional learning, collaboration and member contribution.   There's still a long way to go, but the foundation is pretty much finished and we went "live" a few nights ago.  The reaction has been wonderfully positive, but now I'm chomping at the bit to add the final and most important touch: the contributions of our members.  What I want most is for this to become a dynamic and living resource where librarians from across the state share and grow as a result of our combined knowledge and strength.

If there's one thing I know for certain, it's that now, more than ever, we need each other.  Together, we are stronger and better than even the very best of us is alone.  Conference and, hopefully, our website are opportunities for us to lean on, learn from and grow as a result of our combined knowledge, enthusiasm and strength.  Every day, I am grateful for the opportunities I have to connect with my friends in library land, whether it's through twitter, this blog or face to face, I'm convinced that THAT connection is the key to my success - or at least longevity.  And listen, I know... times are tough and monies for professional development are pretty much non-existent.  Still, I deeply hope that everyone reading this will make professional development and connecting with colleagues a priority this year.  It's times like this in which that connection is most important. 

And if you're in NC, get your hiney to conference.  Seriously.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Cup (and Ceiling) Runneth Over

Today, in the middle of a class, it started to rain - INSIDE my library.

Since school started, we've had 2 tornadoes, 1 waterspout and a hurricane - all of which left my library unscathed. Then today, we were undone by the air conditioner -which decided to spring a leak. Naturally, I didn't have time to capture the event on film as it was occurring, but I did get a shot after the initial gush had soaked a bank of 6 computers, filled 2 trashcans and dwindled to a trickle. Oi.

When it was all over, a student said:  "Mrs. LaGarde, this is the most exciting spot in the whole school!"  Then his friend said, "yeah, even when water isn't pouring out of the ceiling!"  And I'm inclined to agree.

Since school started, I've seen 46 classes, checked out just over 1,000 books, taught 2 workshops and plotted countless collaborative schemes with a gaggle of classroom and library teachers alike.  As busy as it's been, I can tell that this is going to be a great year.

Even so, I can already feel myself getting a little overwhelmed.  The challenge for me will be to not end up like these ceiling tiles: split open by the weight of everything I have to carry.  I don't know about you, but I suffer from the disease of not only wanting to do everything, but of also wanting to do *everything* perfectly - or at least better than it's ever been done before.  Some people call that over achieving.  Others call it annoying.  Either way, I know it's not sustainable.

So, this year as I attempt to take over the world, (with no assistant and no budget), I'm going to try to remember the day the ceiling burst open.  Hopefully, that image will remind me to:

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Cut myself some slack.
  • Ask for help when I need it.
  • Breathe.

In the meantime, I'm grateful for an exciting start to the school year and a (mostly) dry library that refuses to shrink in the face of one disaster after another.  I'm not sure what the rest of the school year will bring, but I say "bring it."  I'm ready.