Thursday, April 26, 2012

Snapshot of a 21st Century Library Program: Redux

Today I had the opportunity to share and learn with a fantabulous group of librarians in Duplin County, North Carolina.  We spent nearly 5 hours chatting, lunching and sharing about what's next for libraries and librarians.  On the drive home, I couldn't help but reflect on what an honor it is to be invited to be a part of these kinds of conversations. This is a time of crisis for a lot of schools and, specifically, for school libraries - and I think most educators have realized that the time for weeping and gnashing of teeth has passed.  At this point, we have no choice: we have to evolve or risk extinction.  That said, to be asked to join in that conversation and to be a part, however small, of their plan of action is incredibly humbling.

Anyway, the presentation I used to guide the conversation is one I've used before - however, as this was a 5 hour session (as opposed to the typical 60-90 minute version), I spent some time updating and expanding my "Snapshot of a 21st Century Library Program" Prezi. I had fun beefing up the presentation and spending more time exploring its content. Truth be told, though, I had an internal debate about whether or not to include a section on my new "gaming" program - it's really new and I'm still fleshing out the details - but at  the last minute, I threw it in.  And I am so glad I did.  Chatting about it publically: telling the story of how I came to believe in the "gamification" of education, explaining the program as it currently exists and describing my vision for its future were all good for me.  I look forward to my next opportunity to share this new part of what "library" means at my school.

Anyway, I'm including both the updated version of my presentation as well as the online message board I created for those who were too shy to ask questions/make comments.  I'm hopeful these will be useful to both the folks in the session and to others whose thinking is currently consumed by similar conversations.

Again, a big juicy thank you to Kristen and all the folks in Duplin County for honoring me with an invitation to be part of their journey.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Circulating Ideas Podcast

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat with Steve Thomas, the master mind behind Circulating Ideas  - if not the only, then certainly the coolest, librarian podcast!

I've been listening to Steve's show since his very first episode, so it was a thrill to be included in his latest episode - a two parter featuring many of LJs Movers and Shakers.  Steve is a public librarian from Georgia, but one of the things I love about Circulating Ideas is that it includes voices from all corners of libraryland.

True story:

Once, when I first became a librarian, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop that was attended by both public and academic as well as school librarians.  The person leading the workshop actively refused to refer to either the academic or the school librarians as "librarians."  She would say things like "one thing that librarians, media specialists and people who work in the college setting have in common is...."  This is an extreme example, of course, but it's not the only time I've experienced this kind of separation between librarians, with each group believing its constituency to be the REAL librarians.  Perhaps if there's one tiny silver lining to the economic disaster that has disproportionally impacted libraries, it's that we no longer have time for ridiculous pursuits like this.  As Dr. King said, "we might have come here on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now."

But I digress.

My original point was that Steve's show is about all forms of librarianship and as someone who has benefited from listening to the questions he asks and the answers voiced by his crazy brilliant guests, it was a thrill to be on the other end of the mic.  What's more, it's my pleasure to point you in his direction.  So.. if you don't have Circulating Ideas in your google reader, it's time to add it. Now.  Really, scoot. :)

PS:   I can't bring myself to listen to my own interview, so... I can't promise I don't sound like a bumbling idiot.  However, I can tell you that I'm the second librarian in the queue and my blathering starts about 20 minutes in.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The 10 Web 2.0 Tools/Apps I Use Most As A Teacher, Learner & Leader

Awhile back Larry Ferlazzo wrote about the Web 2.0/Social Media tools that he uses every day. I read Larry’s blog all the time, but what struck me about this post was not the tools that he listed as being useful to him, (even though I use many of them myself), but rather the actual process of identifying the technology he uses each and every day. Not that this is hard work, mind you, it’s just that technology is such a ubiquitous part of my life; the tools/toys I use most often don’t feel like “tools” at all – rather they are almost an extension of who I am: a part of my daily routine so “normal” that I don’t think twice about the important role they play. Of course I start my day with a cup of coffee, my google reader and a personalized web curation app. Doesn’t everyone?

And that’s what’s so brilliant about Larry’s post. Often times I wait until some app or 2.0Toy has knocked my teacher socks off before posting about it here. But I don’t stop being a teacher, learner or leader when I leave my library each day, now do I? In fact, my professional and personal lives are so intertwined, that I sometimes struggle to know which is which. So much so, that I think I've overlooked the technology that has infiltrated my daily routine – taking for granted that other folks live and learn the exact same way that I do when, of course, I know this isn’t the case. So… I thought I’d follow Larry’s lead and share some of the technology that has become a part of my routine; these are tools that I don’t simply find useful, but that I’ve learned to depend on as part of my personal and professional journey.  (Note: these are in no particular order.  Nor are they the tools my students use most - that's a post of a different color).
#1 & #2 Google Reader + Feeddler Pro:
In Larry’s post, he says that “RSS is truly a magical service” and he is so right! Like so many things in life, RSS was first explained to me by the fine folks at Common Craft. And I can remember thinking – Whoa. This will change everything. And it kind of did. I subscribe to about 100 blogs via my google reader. Some are updated daily, others pretty infrequently, but Google Reader makes it possible for me to peruse their content anywhere and at my own pace without trolling through an onerous pile of bookmarks. Additionally, I use the app Feeddler Pro to access my google reader on my iDevices. There are many RSS apps out there, but I like Feeddler because it’s user friendly and I can easily share content via a number of services. (Note: there is a free version of Feeddler, but I use it enough to justify the $4.99 expense for the pro app).

#3 Zite: Personalized Magazine for iPad and iPhone:
Zite is an app that delivers exactly what it advertizes: up to the minute, personalized news and web content.

Essentially, new Zite users select from pre existing, or create their own, section headings (like in a newspaper) and Zite curates the web to populate those sections – creating a customized stream of information based on the topics the user WANTS to read about.  For example the sections in MY Zite magazine include (but are not limited to) Education, Literacy, Librarianship, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Gaming, Gadgets and iPhonegraphy    However, what’s really slick about Zite is that as you open links, share them, give them a thumbs up/thumbs down, etc., Zite uses that data to provide you with an even better experience. Of course, there are other iMagazines out there, the most popular of which might be Flipboard (which provides a really beautiful experience for the reader), but I just don’t think you can beat Zite for content discovery. While other services will create a cool, interactive magazine from your Google Reader or a specific Twitter hashtag, Zite searches the web for new content that you have yet to discover. Additionally, Zite then allows you to share that content via your other social networks with just a few taps. I love Zite. There are many days when I would list it as my very favorite app.

#4 Read It Later:
Read It Later is a service that let’s you save what you find on the web so you can read/listen to or watch it later - from any device, anywhere. Once you sign up for a free Read It Later account, you can access your saved bookmarks from any computer or other device with web access. I’ve heard Read It Later called the “the DVR for the internet” and I think that’s a pretty apt description. I share lots of what I find on the internet, but some resources require additional analysis or reflection before I’m ready to move on from them. That said, rather than just bookmarking those links, Read It Later allows me the opportunity to access them anytime, anyplace. What’s more, all of the apps I listed above allow me to save information directly to Read It Later, making saving information seamless and easy. Note: I realize Diigo and other social bookmarking services do the same thing, but I’ve yet to fall in love with social bookmarking. Maybe someday. :)

#5 Twitter:
 I am truly loathe to even mention Twitter here because the time it would take to describe the role Twitter plays in my life would require an entire, or even multiple, post(s). Twitter is truly my professional lifeblood. I use it throughout the day to connect with my PLN, learn, lead and share. It is, without question, the most important tech tool in my professional arsenal. That said, I access Twitter in multiple ways. Via the computer, I access it the old fashioned way: at On my iPad, I use the app Twittelator Pro – which I feel provides the best Twitter experience: allowing for multiple platform sharing and a very slick, integrated design. Again, I paid for the pro app here because I use it enough to justify the purchase - but there's a freebie available too for those who just want to try it out. However, I don’t love the iPhone version of Twittelator, so there I access Twitter via TweetBot – which is not perfect, but provides me with a clean, easy to manage experience. Too complicated, I know, but when you use a service as much as I use Twitter, you’ve got to find the tools that will help make the experience as easy and as enjoyable as possible. That said, I know there are lots of Tweetdeck lovers out there who swear by its multi column approach to tweeting, but I just can’t wrap my head around that much information at one time. For me, learning to love Twitter was about finding the best ways to customize and manage the huge and quickly moving stream of information that it provides. Otherwise, it can be very overwhelming .  Find me on Twitter:  @jenniferlagarde

#6 Google Apps:
Like a lot of people, I am addicted to Google - and there are countless ways that its collaborative tools make my life easier. Though I recently went back to a (wait for it…) paper/pencil calendar (I know! The horror!) as a way to coordinate my life (I’ve spent tons of money on calendar apps but have yet to find the perfect one), I use a Google Calendar for my library calendar as well as to coordinate district wide staff development, etc. I also use Google Forms almost obsessively for scheduling meetings, collecting data, soliciting feedback – you name it, there’s a Google Form for it. And Google Docs is, by far, my favorite collaborative tool. I use Google Docs to collaborate with people just down the hall and halfway around the world. Honestly, I sometimes wonder how I functioned before Google Docs.

#7 Wikispaces:
Again, the fine folks at Common Craft do a much better job of explaining wikis than I do, so I will let them do the heavy lifting. However, I will say that I use Wikispaces to coordinate and contribute to a number of wikis – the most important one in my professional life is probably the tech wiki that I manage for the staff at my school. I love Wikispaces as a way to compile and share information. I love it as a public space for shared resources and I use it A LOT! Of course, there are lots of other wiki platforms out there, but Wikispaces is my favorite. It’s fun, easy and very user friendly.  Find me on Wikispaces: @jenn.lagarde

Wix is my favorite quick, easy flash webpage designer. All of my professional webpages have wix pages embedded within them. Despite the cluttered nature of this blog, for me, web design is as much about aesthetic as it is content: a shameful admission, I know, but I need my stuff to look good! Wix has a drag and drop interface, its ads, (in the free version, which is what I use), are unobtrusive, they are incredibly easy to imbed into most webpage editors and they look fantabulous! Plus, because Wix is web-based, I can access my Wix pages from anywhere, update them with just a few clicks and they are automatically refreshed everywhere that I post them.

#9 Instagram:
iPhoneography is one of my favorite stress relievers. I don’t draw or paint or write poetry (at least not that I am willing to share!) but I love to take photos. And with the dawn of the smart phone and its mountain of photography apps, getting creative with your images is easier than ever. Last year, I decided to tackle a #365project – that is to say, I made the commitment to take, edit and share at least one photo per day. Naturally, there were some days when I regretted the decision, but despite a few stumbles, I completed the project so pleased by the results, that I decided to continue for a second year. That said, Instagram is a wonderful way to share images and connect with other photographers for inspiration and feedback. While I don’t love the filters instagram offers, I love it as a network of folks like me who use iPhoneography as a creative outlet and professional tool. As I said, photography is a great creative outlet and stress reliever, but it’s also brought with it some unexpected benefits: not only have I become a much better photographer as a result of taking more photos that I then edit and share, but I am also quickly building my own collection of stock images for presentations etc. Now, as I design presentations and other web creations, I troll my own images before heading out to the web to nick the work of others (with credit, of course). Eventually, I will create a page on this blog where I share these images for others to use, but for now, I am truly enjoying the process.   (Instagram is now available for android users too!)  Find me on Instagram:  @jennlagarde

#10 Tumblr/Posterous:
Twitter and, to a lesser degree, education services like Edmodo have put “microblogging” on the map. Microblogging being the term used for sharing your thoughts in a minimized format (140 characters or less) as opposed to the blathering on and on like some of us do in traditional blogs. Recently, Technorati dubbed services such as Tumblr and Posterous as “miniblogging” platforms: services that “bridge the gap between the world of Twitter, and the world of blogs.” What I like most about these services as they provide an easy way to share and curate content via mobile devices. These are posts that require more space than Twitter or that I want to archive BUT that don’t require careful editing or the deeper reflection of a traditional blog. Plus, I love how these platforms allow me to post via email or by connecting to other services. I use Tumblr and Posterous for various personal/professional pursuits. For example, I archive/share my photos via Tumblr and compile book reviews via Posterous.

Bonus! #11 Pinterest:
Pinterest has YET to infiltrate my daily routine – which is due entirely to the fact that while I love the web interface, I hate the app and it hasn't been seamlessly integrated into my other curation/content discovery tools.  Once Zite or Feeddler integrate Pinterest as a way to share content, it will be game on!! Even so, I do find myself spending more and more time pinning stuff to my various boards –some personal and some professional. It’s a fun, visual way to curate the web! Find me on Pinterest:

So… what are your favorite web tools? What technology can you not live without? What apps make your life not just easier but, indeed, possible?? Please share in the comments so we can all benefit from one another’s web 2.0 addictions!

Monday, April 2, 2012

What A Librarian Looks Like

I've never been a big fan of having my photo taken. Despite the fact that my online persona wears a cape while banging the library drum with all her might, I’m really something of an introvert. No really. No. Really.

Once, many years ago, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Maya Angelo (yes, that Maya Angelo). It was a lovely gift to me from the parent of a student I taught. Five people, gathered around the table, having an amazing conversation, and me – quietly listening, but never joining in. Before she left, Maya (I’ve never seen her since, by the way, but in my mind we’re on a first name basis) said to me “you’ve got things to say, teacher. Let the world hear your voice.” I wish I could say that, inspired by the poet laureate and one of my personal heroes, I immerged from the cocoon of my shyness that very moment. But, alas, no.

Being “outgoing” is work for me. But I keep chipping away at my inner introvert because, frankly, my profession demands it. School libraries/librarians are a vital part of the educational village that it takes to raise a child and, yet, we are sorely lacking in advocates. Our students deserve access to all that a vibrant, thriving library program has to offer, and yet we’re often missing from the list of services that need to be protected come budget chopping time. These days, librarians can’t afford to be introverts. If we don’t stand up for our students and the roles we play in their lives, no one else will.

1989 - a good year for styrofoam
So, I’ve learned to swallow my fear and turn it into fuel. To think of myself as an extrovert, even though everything inside me says otherwise. Which brings me back to having my photo taken. Seriously, I’m not a fan. I mean, if this was your high school yearbook photo, you’d probably prefer to stay behind the camera too.

Which is why, although I’ve been aware of Bobbi Newman and Erin Downey Howerton’s project, This Is What A Librarian Looks Like, for awhile now, I’ve been quietly pretending to be clueless.  Don't get me wrong, I love the ethos of the project: a challenge to the stereotypes most people still hold of those of us who work in the stacks, I just didn't want MY picture there.  But then, some people I greatly admire started throwing down the gauntlet. First, there was my super pal Gwyneth Jones, followed by my neighbor to the south, Tamara Cox. THEN, when my library brother from another mother, Matthew Winner, joined in, I knew I had to (once again) overcome my shyness and play along.

All of that said, this year, for a camera shy person, I’ve had my photo taken a lot:

First, Here’s me geeking out with my teacher hero Ron Clark. (An aside: someday, I *will* make it to the Ron Clark Academy, and if you'd like to sponsor that dream, I can totally be bought). :)

Here’s me geeking out at the I Love My Librarian Award ceremony - which, to date, is still the most magical evening of my career.

And here’s me geeking out as a Mover and Shaker.  Someday my print copy of this issue will actually arrive. #stillwaiting Hmmft.

In the end, however, I chose this picture from my library’s Mockingjay book release costume party to submit to the What A Librarian Looks Like website. 

I know this isn't the best quality of the bunch, but this night was just so much fun. Plus, how often do you get to sport a pink beehive, blinking tiara and pink metallic eyelashes?? Of all the photos I’ve had taken recently, this is my favorite because it’s all about how libraries are about so much more than books. Even when we’re geeking out (and yes, I realize I’ve used that phrase four times), over a book, libraries are about literacy, learning and life. And if I don’t don my beehive to shout that from the rooftops, who will?  Exactly.

Turns out Maya was right, I do have something to say. And although it might be hard for me to put myself out there to say it, my students are totally worth it.  (And I bet yours are too!