Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Library Virtual Tour

One of the toughest parts of having an awesome PLN is the (often) unfulfilled desire to visit the libraries and classrooms of the folks I follow and learn so much from every day.  Luckily, however, the reason why my PLN is so awesome is because it's filled with some super smart folks who brilliantly thought of the perfect remedy for this particular professional malady: a virtual tour.  

Naturally, I'm a little slow to get this done.  Tamara was first, followed by Cathy Jo and then Tiffany.  All of their tours are fantastic - and might just make me want to visit their libraries more!  Mine is not nearly as long (read: thorough) as those that have preceded me, but it's almost 100% student created, so I'm very pleased with the final product.  Truly, once I pitched the idea to a couple of kids, it was very interesting to see what items NEEDED to be included in the tour.  Left to my own devices,  I'm pretty sure I'd have left several things off this list.  As it is, I feel good about the final product and love knowing what my students think are the most important aspects of the library.

In the end, it took 28 kids, 2 days and countless takes to get this right, but it was well worth it. Not only is it now featured on our library webpage, but I also plan to use it as part of my library orientation next year. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Moving Forward: Creating Library Spaces and Programs that Support Content Area Reading

I've been thinking a lot about content area literacy lately.  Given the emphasis on expository text in the Common Core Standards, it's tough not to think about how school libraries can support the coming shift in the type of texts students will soon be required to pull from our shelves.  What's more, my state was an early adopter of the CCS, so like them ready or not, here they come.

That said, whatever you might think of the new standards, the way I see it, they represent both a challenge and an opportunity for school librarians.  As the new standards roll out, teachers are going to be required to think about literacy differently, to expose students to more and more informational text and to create opportunities for interdisciplinary learning.  To my way of thinking, there's no one in the school who is better suited to these challenges than the school librarian.  However, we've got to be willing to a) step up to the plate b) abandon some traditional library barriers and c) prove our instructional chops.  

And so, it was with all of that rolling around my head that I was asked to create a presentation for the librarians in my district related to the CCS and our role in its implementation.  For this effort, I decided to focus on adapting library programs and spaces to embrace and emphasize informational texts and interdisciplinary literacies.  As always, feel free to use, share and alter my work to suit your needs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Reader's Advisory 2.01 - Collaborative Genre Prezis

Awhile back, I wrote about a reader's advisory project I'd been working on - involving collaborative genre Prezis.  At that time, I talked about how Prezi provided a great platform for the creation of online collages where students could add their own work to resources I found about specific literary genres. I also proudly announced that I'd been adding these growing collages to my MARC records so that students perusing the OPAC could happily stumble upon more information regarding specific genres.  

It wasn't long after I smugly posted this info, however, before I received an email from another librarian who'd been searching my OPAC, but who couldn't see my Prezis in any records.  It took awhile, but after lots of head scratching, hand wringing and tech supporting, I finally figured out how to fix the problem.  (That's not to say, however, that I've fixed all my records yet, mind you - so if you decide to go searching my catalog, be patient!)  In the meantime, however, I started to explore some alternative options for linking my MARC records to the genre Prezis which were really starting to take off at my school.  

But... first things first.   While I'm sure all of you are much better catalogers than I am, let me share that the problem with my initial attempt to link our genre Prezis to the OPAC was nothing more than human error.  Turns out I was putting the links in the wrong tag.  I guess this is the right time to admit that I am an abysmal cataloger.  Partly this is because my cataloging instruction in library school was, frankly, abysmal.  But partly, this is because I'm a rule breaker.  I'm forever adding the wrong thing to the wrong tag in an attempt to make said things easier for students to search/find. Sometimes this works out for the best - sometimes not.  Anyway, as I said, I'm sure you're a better cataloger than I am, but just in case, it turns out that not only is the 856 tag the spot to put online resources, but also, you need to use the U subfield in order to make the link "clickable." Who knew?  (Clearly, not me!)

Before I figured that out, though, I remembered a resource that library goddess Joyce Valenza shared awhile back that allowed for the easy cataloging of web resources:  web2Marc.  This handy little tool is basically an online form that allows the would-be-cataloger to enter the URL of choice and some basic information about the resource - including as many searchable tags as you'd like AND even links to the Common Core Standards so that teachers can search your catalog for curriculum aligned resources.  I know! Crazy!  Best of all, it couldn't be easier.  Truly, it only takes a click or two before you've got everything you need to update your catalog with the latest, greatest web resources. 

So... which way am I adding our ever growing collection genre Prezis to my catalog?  Both, of course!  Again, I'm nowhere near having even a respectable chunk of my fiction collection linked to these genre resources, but I've started.  AND I've cataloged all the Prezis using web2Marc - which has turned out to be incredibly popular. Last week alone two teachers stopped by to tell me about how they've been pointing students to the Prezis via our OPAC in order to help them search for books by genre.  AND more and more student are starting to reference the Prezis when asking for books: either they want to know more about a book they found through the Prezi OR they want to add some artwork or a book trailer or some other stuff to the evolving collage. Either way, I love it.

Admittedly, it's take awhile to get it right, but success is worth waiting for! 

Finally, I wanted to share our most recent genre Prezi - which is related to realistic fiction.  I'm particularly proud of this Prezi because one of the book trailers it contains was made by some of my students. (What's more, we're currently working on a new trailer that I hope to add soon!). THIS is what I had in mind when I started this project.  To me, the best reader's advisory conversations are those that continue over time, that grow based on input from both the teacher-librarian AND the student, and that both parties can take ownership of.   What's more, I love that these conversatons now have an online life that continues beyond the walls of my library.  So much of learning is social, global and interactive - there's no reason why our reader's advisory programs shouldn't be too.    

Have fun and remember everything I post here is licensed under Creative Commons.  Feel free to use, share and make this better. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What Do You Stand For? Creating a Library Brand That Matters.

When I started this blog, I picked the moniker of "Library Girl" on a whim.  All around me, it seemed like libraries were under attack and although I didn’t know how to stave off the assault, I knew I didn’t want to go down without a fight.   And while adding my voice to those who were already talking about what was happening to libraries seemed like a good place to start, I also knew that I didn’t want to just whine about unfair treatment and lament the loss of jobs, budgets and other resources.  In short, I didn’t want to bellyache.  I wanted to be a part of proving our worth.  And thus,  Library Girl was born.

Truth be told, in the beginning, I had absolutely no intention of being Library Girl anywhere other than this blog.  I didn’t run into school the next day wearing a cape and armed with the promise of fixing all overhead projectors in a single bound!  However, it wasn’t long before I realized that writing about what was happening TO libraries was less interesting and far less important than exploring what was happening IN libraries.  Therefore, as this space became more and more about sharing and growing my practice than about whooping and fist pumping, it wasn't long before the two worlds began to collide.

The first time someone “in the real world” called me Library Girl, I went red in the face.  Although I doubt “introvert” is a word that most folks would use to describe me, at my core, I’m a fairly shy person.  So,  when such references continued, I was tempted to shrug it off as something I didn’t really care that much about.   But I do care about it.  A lot.  Plus, Library Girl is more than just a poorly made avatar standing on a stack of clipart books or the name at the top of this blog.  It's what I stand for.  And I want people to know what I stand for.   What’s more, you should too.

I am fortunate that I often have the chance to connect with librarians from across my state, region and even the country.  One of the common threads in these discussions is the nagging worry about how librarians are perceived by administrators, teachers and even students.  They grumble about being underutilized and about being viewed more as a stereotype than as a contributing member of the instructional team.  These are legitimate concerns. 

But… here’s the thing: 

I’ve yet to meet an administrator (or teacher, or student) whose view is one of “I feel so strongly about school librarians that I will never, ever, under any circumstances change my view of them!  Never.  I mean it.  Never.  It doesn’t matter what you say.  I’m not listening.  La la la la la la la la la.”   

The hard truth is that whatever our school partners think of us, it’s based on their experience.   If they think we are irrelevant, it’s because in their experience, we are.  And, more importantly, they've yet to experience something compelling enough to prove that perception wrong.  Maybe they were shushed one too many times when they were a student.   Maybe they’re still bitter about not earning enough points to make it to the last AR party.  Perhaps your predecessor wore a name badge that said “Hello My Name is Book Shelver.”  Or maybe it’s the list of students who currently can’t check out books in your library because they’ve lost a book or incurred a fine.  Or what about that sign of "DON'Ts" you have posted at the front door?  Whatever the reason, it’s up to you to provide an experience that changes what they currently know to be true of school libraries.

In short, it's up to you to make make sure that everyone in your school knows what YOU stand for.   

I choose to believe that everyone reading this blog knows this fundamental truth:  Our job is not about books.  It’s about kids.   But ask yourself this:

  • Does your principal know you believe that? 
  • If asked, would your principal say you care more about curriculum or cataloging?  
  • Do your teachers know that you care and worry about the same things they do? 
  • Do they see student test scores as reflecting on your work in the same way they do on theirs?
  • Do the people you work with see you crafting lessons and programming that impact learning and then assessing the quality of those lessons?  
  • If asked, would the teachers at your school list you as a member of the faculty or of the staff? 
  • Do your students feel you are as invested in their futures as their other teachers?
  • Do they see you as someone they can go to when they have a question about something OTHER than a book?  
  • Do your parents see you as a partner in their child’s learning?  
  • Does anyone at your school see YOU as the "go to" person when it comes to developing curriculum, implementing instruction or innovating new practice?

If the answer is no, then they don’t know what you stand for.    

But here’s the good news.  You don’t need a cape, a blog or even red glasses to show them what you’re made of.  All you need is the desire to impact students, a willingness to let go of some of the library barriers that keep us from making kids the priority and an eagerness to do the serious work of embedding yourself in student learning and then assessing the quality of your work.  You don’t have to be superhero – you just have to be you.  


All of that said, recently, Library Girl has become a more visible presence at my school.  First, someone in our district’s tech department made me a necklace with Library Girl stamped into the metal pendant.  When I was away at a conference, she stopped by my school and slipped it in the top drawer of my desk.  Needless to say, I love it.  And, of course, I started wearing it everywhere and showing it to anyone who would hold still long enough to listen to my blathering.  Although I'm not much for library themed t-shirts or the dreaded book adorned sweaters, I'm happy to sport this particular piece of library bling. 

Then, our school resource officer made me a candy dish for my desk with none other than Library Girl etched into the glass.  Again, I am in love.  Plus, now... every time I dish out a chocolaty treat, I'm inviting someone (usually a kid) to ask me about it.  Sometimes I make a joke. ("Um.  Everybody knows librarians are superheroes.  Duh.") But other times we get to talk about some of the ways coming the library is a lot more effective than throwing up the bat signal in times of trouble.  (Note:  he also made me a cool mug with the same design on it, but I keep that at home lest my husband forget that he's married to a superhero).

THEN, my friend and teaching partner in crime, made me a (nearly) life-size Library Girl!  She currently hangs in the window right beside the main entrance to the library.  Next to her is a sign advertising what I am currently reading and leading students to my book reviews**.  (I have plans for, but have yet to implement, a dry erase board to her right with lots of other info. One step at a time, right?)  Again:  LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!

Whatever trepidation I once felt about donning my super hero persona at school is now gone.  Library Girl is my brand.  This is what I stand for.  And while I may not have chosen this moniker in the hopes that it would become a part of my daily routine in the library, I do want the people I work with and for to know what I believe in, what my priorities are and how the work that I do matters (to them and to kids).  And if, along the way, people start to see me as a full fledged super hero… well, I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

Now.  If I can just get someone to build me a Bat Library-Girl-Mobile and maybe a secret hideout, I'll be all set! :) 

**Note:  this idea is not mine, it is yet another great idea that I shamelessly stole from Tamara Cox.  (Thanks, Tamara!)