Sunday, October 23, 2011

Free eBook: School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's Yet to Come

School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's Yet to Come

I am unbelievably honored to be a part of this "crowdsourced collection of over 100 essays from around the world about trends in school libraries written by librarians, teachers, publishers, and library vendors." This amazing collection of thoughtful and thought provoking essays on what the future holds for our profession is currently available through Smashwords in formats that allow you to read it both on your computer and/or a mobile device. In just a few weeks, however, you'll be able to also download it through several of the major eBook Stores (like iBooks and B&N).

The credit for this amazing work really goes to KristinFontichiaro and Buffy Hamilton who conceived of and edited the final product. Their vision, diligence and hard work shaped this into the unique resource that it is. Bravo, girls!

Again, I'm unbelievably humbled to see my name listed among so many wise and generous colleagues. I can't wait to read all the other contributions! I sincerely hope you'll download this important work for yourself and share it with your friends, colleagues, administrators, school board members, etc.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

QR Codes to the Rescue: Transforming Print from Out of Date, To Out of This World!

I've written about QR Codes before, but I'm on the heels of a new project that has my students using them in new ways.  And I just couldn't wait to share!

 First a little background.

Over the summer, I decided that this would be the year that I finally took the plunge and genrefied my non-fiction.  That is to say, I'm gonna ditch dewey.***   There are many reasons for this, and soon enough I'll write at length about this decision.  For now, however, I'm in the midst of a deep and thorough weeding, in the hopes that cutting the fat NOW will help make the next steps a little easier.

That said, despite the fact that I'm a fairly brutal weeder, I'm still coming across some truly scary sections of my collection:  spots where I have multiple titles, but most (if not all) are shamefully out of date.  This is especially true in my geography and history sections.  Take this gem, for example:  A Family in India circa 1982.   Now, I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure some things have changed in India over the last 29 years.

 This is discouraging for several reasons, not the least of which being that I have absolutely no money to replace these titles.  And yes, I know there's a zillion places online where students can look for more current information on India, but... we are not a 1:1 school where every student has a laptop and our 3 computer labs are always booked weeks in advance, which makes our print resources an important part of the research process for my students. So... for weeks now, I've been generating a pile of non-fiction books that really, really need to go, but that I simply can't replace.

Enter  QR Codes.

Since last year, I've been using QR codes as a pre-reading activity: a way for students to learn more about a title before reading it, (by affixing QR codes to books that link to trailers, author interviews or other related information) or as a culminating activity (by affixing QR codes to books that link to student book reviews, glogs or other projects).   With this project, however, I'm matching out of date titles from my collection with Social Studies classes that are studying the corresponding topics.  As part of their coursework, students find or generate resources that provide more current details about the information in the book.  QR codes linking to the new, better info are then peppered throughout the print title - strategically placed near and around suspect/out of date information.  And viola!  Just like that, my out of date dinosaur of a print resource is magically transformed into an up to date, interactive book!!

I love this project for so many reasons:  First of all, I love what it requires students to do.  In order to make this happen, kids have to think critically about the text - identifying bits of information that might be outdated or incorrect.  Then they have to locate new and better sources for that same info, think about the similarities/differences in the two sources and match the information together. To me, this is resource evaluation at its very best.

 Secondly, I love this project because it provides students with a relevant reason for their research. Now, when my young researchers ask "why do we have to do this," I have a GREAT answer!  Not only will their work save the library money (which we don't have!) but it will also ensure that future researches have access to better information when they search our stacks.  In short, their research will leave a lasting legacy at our school.

And finally, I just love the fact that this project is going to give these old books a new life.  As much as I love new toys, new tech and new print, I always feel terribly guilty having to toss (or even recycle) old titles that don't get swiped from the discard bin.  (And yes, I know I can transform them into beautiful art, but I'm just not that creative).  (An aside, I call my discard bin "The Island of Misfit Books" in the hopes that students will feel sorry for, and therefore take home, discarded titles like The Secret Art of Pantomime and 101 Uses For Your Overhead Projector).  In the end, I believe this product (because of the process that goes into creating it) will be greater than the sum of its two parts.  Plus, there's something about this marriage of old technology and new technology that feels a little bit like steampunk research: and what's not to like about that?


*** I want it noted for the record that even though I am breaking up with dewey, I am still, and will always be, a super groupie to uber cutie library rapper mega star, Melvil Dewey - who rocked Gwyneth Jones and my collective socks at NCSLMA this year.  Just sayin'. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Web 2.Uh Oh! Making the leap from technoPHOBE to technoFAB

Today I had the absolute joy (pleasure! honor!) to present a preconference session at my state library association's annual conference WITH the incredibly fabulous Jennifer Northrup (aka: the "candid librarian.")  Jennifer and I joked, as we were setting up this afternoon, about the fact that today was actually the first time we'd ever met.  Which is true.  She lives in the mountains of NC and I live at the beach (I'll trade her by the way).  And though we'd been collaborating for some time, we'd never met face to face before today (and only about an hour before we were slated to wow a group of about 50 librarians from all around the state, I might add).  A recipe for disaster, you ask?  Perhaps for lesser mortals, but we had a GREAT time - due in large part to the amazing group of librarians who piled into our session to participate, collaborate and goof around.  We had fun, learned a lot and made a few mistakes (think tron girl!) but made a lot more, what I hope will be, lasting connections.

Here's our session description:

Are you ready to take your practice to the next level, but feel overwhelmed by all the web 2.0 tools and  technology gadgets being thrown your way?  Do you want to engage today’s digital learners in  meaningful, technology rich lessons, but still need help mastering these resources yourself?  If so, this session is for you!  Bring your laptop and a desire to learn!  Hands-on experience using the latest cool, often free and ALWAYS impactful technology resources will not only make you the envy of your colleagues but will also ignite the curiosity and enthusiasm of your 21st  century learners.  Take the skills you learn back to your school to increase your impact and promote your value and the importance of the media center.

Here's the symbaloo of resources that we created before and curated DURING the session:

Here's the incredibly good looking people I had the chance to connect with today.  And here's a few of the things they asked me to post links to in this post.  (Ask and you shall receive).

Librarians are Ready Flyer.
Interactive Librarians are Ready Flyer.
My library webpage.
My school's universal "permission slip."
(6th grade/7th-8th grade)
Finally, here's the wallwisher we used for feedback.  (If you were at our session, please feel free to continue contributing by adding stickies to our board!)

As we were packing up this afternoon, one librarian said to me, "this conference is the one time of year when I get to connect with other librarians... I always leave so inspired!" I know this is true of so many of us in libraryland.  And while I'm thrilled to be a part of what inspires, it also makes me a little sad.  So...  to all those librarians out there who feel isolated throughout the year, please accept this post as an invitation to stay connected with me and your colleagues during the other 362 days of the year that AREN'T filled with concurrent sessions.  Times are tough and our time/resources have never been more limited.  But, we're lucky.  We can count among us some incredibly talented colleagues who have mountains of knowledge to share.  Don't wait until next fall to share what you've learned and what you're doing.  We need each other, folks.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Show Me The Data: Part Deux - Data Walls as Library Advocacy

Awhile back I wrote about the value of data walls as an advocacy tool in the library.  Since then, a month of school has gone by and I've had a chance to fill my own walls with numbers.  I actually just put up September's numbers today and the response was immediate.  Within minutes of the data going up, students were coming in to the library asking questions:  They wanted to know more about the number of books that were circulated, what the busiest time of day was and even where they could find some of the (gulp!) non-fiction selections.  (One of my goals this year is to increase non-fiction circulation, so these last inquiries felt like a big, BIG victory to me!) But students weren't the only ones paying attention.  Several teachers came in to comment on the biggest readers for September (the top dog being a shy, sweet ELL student) and a couple even asked about the most popular books.  I love it.

It's difficult to see, but to the side of my data wall, I post questions and answers. (I dream of painting a murel on that wall containing the famous Neil Gaiman quote about how Google can help you find answers, but librarians can help you find right ones - but that's a few paint cans away).  Most of the time, they are questions that someone really asks me in the library (like, where (geographically) was Charlotte's Web set?) but sometimes they are questions of my own design.  That said, there's been so much interest already in the numbers I posted that I asked a math teacher pal to help me create some math problems related to September's library numbers - the kinds of questions the kids might see on later tests.  I'll post these on the q/a wall and see what kind of response I get. (I always offer "fabulous prizes" to the scholars who come up with the answers first).  It seems like a fun way to get students interested in library data - plus, as someone who has spent her whole life avoiding math, I'm always looking for new ways to get kids to do the calculating for me.

In the meantime, I'm learning a lot from my numbers too.  For example, I was totally shocked to learn that the most popular book last month was actually The Test by Peggy Kern - a recent addition to the ever popular Bluford Series.  I knew these books were popular, but if you'd have told me this little paperback would beat out Darth Paper, Origami Yoda, Wimpy Kid and the Hunger Games, I'd have scoffed.  To be fair, The Test only edged out these other great books by a circ or two, but still, I love it when the little guy wins.  Way to go, urban fiction!

All in all, it was a big month for our students and the library.  I checked out just under 5,000 books, worked with 63 classes, served 1785 drop in students, hosted a book fair and managed not to lose my mind.  These are important numbers to share, but they've got me thinking about other, more curriculum driven, ways to make meaningful use of library data.  I've got to chew on this further, but I have a feeling this is just the beginning of how I spread the gospel of library throughout my school.  That said, I'd love to see other data wall examples.  If you're collecting and sharing library data this year, please let me know where I can ooh and aah at your offerings.

Speaking of sharing....

It seems like these days, all library news is bad.  We hear time and time again about jobs being cut and budgets being slashed.  And while it's important not to turn away from such facts, I have to tell you, it feels good to be sharing some library joy.  Which is part of why I was absolutely thrilled when my local paper ran a FRONT PAGE (yes, you heard me!) story about our recent Darth Paper Party.  The angle of their story had to do with how teachers are having to be creative when it comes to funding special projects or buying basic supplies for their classrooms.  I love that even though they did a good job of highlighting the hit libraries in my district have taken in the last few years, their primary focus was on the positive - showcasing how teachers and librarians are willing to do whatever it takes to serve students.

To me, this is the exact message I want to get across as I seek to share information about my library and the students I serve.  Honestly, I just can't get into the whole "whoa is me" victim mentality that times like these often produce.  Not only is it no fun, but, frankly, it just doesn't work. Yes, times are tough.  And yes, that means we all have to be creative when it comes to providing our students with the resources and services they need.  However, our students deserve quality programs and quality programs need support.  This is the message we need to be sending.  Libraries have a positive impact on students and, therefore, deserve support.  The end.


PS:  Some of you may have noticed that the gator on my data wall has received something of a face lift.  After spending a great deal of time lamenting my last effort as turning out to be something more akin to an aardvark in  lederhosen, as opposed to a parachuting alligator, I decided to try my hand at drawing a gator using my iPad and a free app called Art Studio.  Now, while I fully admit that this gator took me significantly longer than his freehand counterpart, this one also makes me look like a cartooning prodigy.  It's amazing how much better I am at drawing alligators (and everything else) with the iPad - proving once and for all, perhaps, that I am an artist in need of assistive technologies.  (How did it go from the iPad to my bulletin board, you ask?  Well, once the image was finished, my friend projected it onto the wall and traced it onto construction paper one afternoon when I wasn't looking. All I had to do was cut him out and run him through the laminator - a harrowing experience, I can assure you).