Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Response to Jana Brubaker's Blog

Classmate Jana explores reading aloud to older children in her blog. I work at a high school and two of my own boys are high schoolers, so I found the piece intriguing and I can attest to read-alouds being an effective way to disassociate an assignment with the printed word, a concept referred to as the “sweat mentality” in the Scholastic article. My older boys used to love to read when they were in elementary school. What happened? They’ve come to believe that there’s a lot more to experience in life than a good book. We try to squeeze it in when we can. We’ve spent many hours listening to audio books on road trips. Our absolute favorite is Harry Potter, as read by Jim Dale. One of my boys was a better auditory than visual learner, and a lot of the concepts and themes were reinforced as he read the text at home and listened to the book when we were in the car.

This can even be connected with the spoken word movement, and the idea that stories have different ways of being shared. The same phrase can sound different and mean something different when spoken by two different individuals.

In this article, Jim Brozina writes about reading aloud to his daughter for 3,218 straight days, up until she left for college. If you’re up to reading it, grab some tissue. I do admit, this situation is exceptional in illustrating the bond that can occur when reading together.

I tend to waffle when it comes to celebrating some things in my high school library. Will the students find it too immature? I wanted to do something for Dr. Seuss’ birthday, but my older boys told me it would probably be a waste of time. Why?! He inspired so many kids to read and took us past the boring Dick-and-Jane books. So I decided to bake cookies for the teachers and hoped it would somehow encourage them and help them remember why we do what we do.

Response to Generra Singleton - Flexible Schedule or Not?

Classmate Generra poses a recurring dilemma in primary school libraries in her blog – flexible schedule or not? I’m at a secondary school library, where it’s not as much of an issue. At secondary schools, regularly scheduled library times are not practiced. As explained by McGregor (2006), students in secondary schools tend to visit the library on a “point-of-need basis,” and the library is seen as “an extension of the classroom.” But all teacher-librarians must recognize the shift from just providing access to information in pre-determined, structured lesson times, to allowing for inquiry and investigation as students are inspired on their own.

McGregor (2006) reviews a study of six elementary school libraries and how flexible scheduling was implemented. At the very heart of flexible scheduling, is the issue of how learning occurs. Proponents argue that we must support the constructivist model of learning, and open the library up as a source for information, which can’t occur when it’s bound by a strict schedule. What rigid scheduling does offer, is planning time for teachers. I sympathize with primary school teachers who need time to create, plan, and collaborate with other teachers. The review of the literature concerning the study concluded with eleven assertions, several of which focused on the attitudes of teachers, librarians, and support and administrative staff. It really needs to be an adoption by the entire school, and everyone will have to make adjustments for the sake of the children’s opportunities of learning to increase.

The stakes are even higher to make this young generation information literate and prepare them for research at the college level. My fifth grader is fortunate to have a cart of iPads in his classroom, and the teacher provides guided time in to investigate and conduct research. Depending on the resources available at different schools, flexible scheduling seems like a feasible option, to incorporate more time practicing effective information-seeking skills.


McGregor, J. (2006). Flexible scheduling: Implementing an innovation. School Library Media Research. 9. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol9/SLMR_FlexibleScheduling_V9.pdf

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

School Libraries Today

I had to complete a school library survey for the California Department of Education. Although most of the questions had to do with the services offered and state of the collection, it piqued my curiosity about other libraries and made me want to get some hard numbers regarding them.

This Los Angeles School Report revealed some repercussions regarding libraries, in light of our district giving more control over discretionary funds at the local level. Some level of autonomy is something that a lot of schools are seeking, especially in districts as large as LAUSD, where the needs of one school's population can be so vastly different from those of another. Instead of hiring teacher-librarians, or even library aides, those funds are going toward more administrators or facilities crews to better maintain aging campuses. I feel so lucky to have a job and angry that as a society, we're so screwed up.

The move to charter schools has created a competitive environment for public schools. That isn't how it should be. More students mean more dollars and charter schools become more selective in the students they take in. What's happening in other states? This article in The Delaware Daily County Times shares that as of February of this year, there are only eight full-time librarians serving in Philadelphia schools, down from 176 in 1991. Wow.

This Schools and Staffing Survey, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, shows how library media centers are staffed. As of 2011-2012, New York, the state with the largest public school district, had 78% schools with at least one full-time paid, state-certified library media center specialist. California, home of the second largest school district in the United States (LAUSD): 25%. Illinois, with the fourth largest: 54%. What is happening in California?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Social Media and the Library

I have a confession to make - I don't like social media.

Perhaps it's because I have teenagers and I too intimately see their struggle with wanting to keep up and stay informed and how I must constantly encourage (read: nag) them to unplug and engage with people on a more personal level and to devote more of their attention to things that really matter. Perhaps it's because I think it conveys a false level of closeness. Or perhaps it's just too hard to keep up and it's a bit intimidating.

This entry on Scholastic's blog helped me become a little more open to Twitter. Most of the literature I've read about social media and the library concerns how to use it for advertising. Burleson helped me see how it can expand my network and create more opportunities for growth.

Feeling a little more open, I read Potter's article in Library Journal. He had a lot of great, practical tips on etiquette and what to tweet.

Is there really this much to know about Twitter? I think I'm back to being intimidated. Not really, but Gwyneth Jones' post helped make it a little more digestible for me. I'm not the type to dive head first, I like to dip my toe in and test the waters. But I feel like with Twitter, I'd have to have a whole bunch of tweets lined up.

The article by Agosto et al. shares about the several barriers to teens using libraries, including negative perceptions of libraries and librarians, preference of technology use for information needs, lack of relationships with library staff, inadequate library space, and an overall feeling of disconnectedness due to programming and mediocre online presence.  They also discovered that teens are not just "wasting time" on social media.

"Often they are seeking information and sharing what they know with others. Recognizing that teens are using social media for beneficial uses, such as information seeking and sharing, can help libraries to better support teens' information needs. Libraries can develop policies that support teens' use of social media and can consider providing informational content through these outlets." (p. 321)

This image can be located at:



Agosto, D.E., Purcell, M. Magee, R., and Forte, A. (2015). Teens, libraries, and social media: Myths and reality. Public Library Quarterly, 34(4), 318-327.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Beyond the Walls of the Library

Bookmobiles, Little Libraries, and More

Librarians amaze me. I think it's their universal and relentless passion for connecting people with resources that astounds me. And when people don't go to them, they find ways to take their passions outside of the walls of the library.

Bookmobiles have always interested me. As Witteveen's article shows, bookmobiles are still relevant and needed in areas where access to technology and books is limited. ABOS board member Michael Swendrowski indicates that, in fact, they can be "part of the solution when a community is struggling economically." Visiting daycare centers (even those at Google and Microsoft offices) as well as schools where the library was being renovated are other instances chronicled in the article where bookmobiles have found a place. The New York Public Library also made its way into correctional facilities. They even offer a video visitation service.

When my husband heard about these little libraries popping up, he suggested that we create one of our own. We were always loaning out our boys' books when friends shared they struggled with finding books their kids enjoyed. Metro Denver has more than 500 of them and was just honored with a City of Distinction award by the national organization, Little Free Library.

American Libraries' article on embedded librarians documents yet another way librarians are making themselves indispensable. James LaRue is the library director for Douglas County Libraries in Colorado. He believes:
Librarians have the power to change lives and build community-but to do this, we have to leave our desks, leave our buildings, and show the community what a powerful tool we are. LaRue firmly believes that the library's most powerful asset is its professional staff. He wants librarians interacting with the community, answering their questions, informing their discussions, and helping them-as partners-achieve their goals. These opportunities will not find us; we have to seek them.
With this vision, librarians were then embedded in local organizations such as schools, city councils, and economic development councils. They attended meetings, offered research assistance, connected the organization with the library's resources, all the while becoming more informed in the community's needs.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Backstory

I love hearing the backstory of a book or song, and how it can make the meaning of something even greater.

I never knew the backstory behind Matchbox Twenty's song, "3 AM." I always thought it was a romantic song, when in reality lead singer Rob Thomas wrote it about his mom, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was 12. That brought a whole new perspective.

While researching books for our community literacy outreach program, I came across Amy Krouse Rosenthal's and Tom Lichtenheld's I Wish You More. I loved the spark that came from a little girls' sweater, the emotional and thoughtful brainstorming behind the illustrations, and what's even more special about this particular backstory is the valuable collaboration woven into it.

We recently had an author visit our campus. With over eight books published, Sherri Smith has a wide arrange of experience, including work in animation and construction. I asked her how she finds inspiration for books and if she often has to wait for it. She said that she can't just wait around for inspiration, and that writing requires discipline - I thought that was a good lesson for the high school students to hear. But she did share about some of her novels that had specific backstories, such as her mother's experience during Hurricane Katrina and the book Orleans.

I'm not into horror books. Stephen King intrigues me, however, A lot of the students at my work check out his books but I'm only familiar with Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, and Stand by Me - which are all a bit of a departure from his normal horro. I try to read what students are interested in but I was really reluctant with King. One student, a devoted fan of his, shared with me that he wrote Misery out of frustration with his fans who seemed to only accept horror from him. I researched a little more and discovered that it's really a love/hate letter to his fans. I find it really fascinating that he has this kind of relationship with his fandom.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The CUE, Professional Development, Leadership on Campus...

I recently attended the CUE conference in Palm Springs. When my principal approached me to suggest that I attend I was so grateful that she thought of me. With over seventy other staff members to choose from, I and another teacher were invited to go. I know that she's considering how I could bring those tools back to the school and train other teachers, but it made me grateful that she felt confident in my abilities to do so. (I also felt a little pressure.) I've spent the majority of my adult years so far at home with my children. So it could just be my limited experience, but I really value training. I'm always grateful when our district provides training for all of its librarians and since we tend to be a little isolated on our campuses, it's always nice to get together to brainstorm, learn, and commiserate. Quality professional development is essential when trying to retain good employees - not just for skill training but for positive morale.

I am definitely more librarian than teacher. I understand the need for us to be educators in the library, but I've been a little uncomfortable adopting the role of a leader on our campus. Dees et al. state the following:
Librarians promote student learning through technology, literacy, and collaboration with teachers. Each element provides ample opportunities to offer leadership and to learn as a member of the learning community...Utilizing the "whole school" view, the librarian is in a key position to contribute to the development of strong professional learning communities through professional development and technology integration.
I know all this. I guess when I think of the term "leader" I tend to think of someone espousing truths from a pedestal. My colleague suggested that I join their ELA department meetings to help share some tools or tips. I thought I'd start with visiting their classrooms first to see what they're doing and what I could offer to help. They are the experts in their fields and I don't want to impose upon them and their time. Plus, I think I'd learn a lot from just watching them teach. I also think I don't completely have their trust yet. I shared in a previous post about being an introvert. I'll find my own way to lead.


Dees, D., Mayer, A., Morin, H., and Willis, E. (2010). Librarians as leaders in professional earning communities through technology, literacy, and collaboration. LMC, 29(2), 10-13.