"If you want to find your happy place, just go to the library." ~ Lizzie K. Foley, Author

Posts tagged ‘library’

How Does Your Boss See You?

I just read an article from SLJ called How Does Your Boss See You?  Proof that Principals Value Librarians.  It’s a great article, and the survey results they used were really inspiring.  I know my principal sees me this way — she tells me so.  And I know with the big push in my school for literacy this year, she’s really needing me to step up as a leader in our school and kick things up a notch.  I just thought I’d share my thinking after reading this.

As a school media coordinator, it is truly essential that we be seen as indispensable by our principals, as well as outside administrators.  I usually feel like I’m fighting a stereotype most of the time.  I think most people still think of story time and assume I don’t do anything.  I know a lot of teachers are under the impression I just read stories and piddle around with the shelves all day.  Although they’re quick to complain that I don’t have a single free slot for the next 3 weeks in my planbook either.  I’m solidly booked all day, every day, all year.  That’s just the way it is.

When people ask what I do, I usually reply, “I’m a teacher,” assuming that if I say “Media Coordinator” they won’t be familiar with the terminology.  This response, however, tends to be followed by “Oh, really?  What grade do you teach?”  So then I end up explaining that I’ve left the classroom and moved on to bigger and better things — I get to work with ALL grades, and the staff, helping to extend their classroom learning in fun, meaningful, engaging ways.

I do admit, most of the teachers use me as a drop-off.  They want a story and a checkout, completed in a half-hour.  It doesn’t leave much time for other things.  Fourth grade recently allowed me to begin teaching plagiarism and citing sources as they’re about to begin writing research papers.  Do I get to help with the research projects?  No.  They want the kids to do it in the classroom.  😦

But…  there’s hope.  We have successfully bridged the gap from “Library” to “Media Center.”  My principal knows I am tech-savvy.  She knows that I try to incorporate technology in my lessons whenever possible.  I use my SmartBoard religiously every chance I get.  I know how to make Prezis and Book Trailers, I know how to edit videos and photos.  I live for the great stuff I find in the blogs I follow, and share everything with my staff.  I am the school webmaster, and work with teachers individually to help them implement technology whenever they ask.  I will run to their rooms between classes to troubleshoot or make quick-fixes.

But what other aspects of my job are essential?  Reading, of course.  I encourage my students to read WHAT THEY LIKE.  I don’t worry about reading levels, or if their chapter book has enough pages or a high enough AR point value.  If you like graphic novels, please, by all means, check one out.  You’ve read all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid  books and loved them?  Well, let’s try Vordak the Incomprehensible.  Your teacher won’t let you read Junie B. Jones books anymore?  That mean ol’ teacher!  Well, how about if I introduce you to some new friends — Judy Moody, Ramona Quimby, and Clementine?  Kids need to be encouraged to become readers.  Not just reading what their teachers say they have to for a test or project, but reading for the pure enjoyment of it.  This is how they learn about the world, beyond our little town of Goldsboro.  To encourage MY children to look beyond their own little worlds — there is adventure outside of Goldsboro, away from the gangs, away from the streetcorners…  There are people to meet, sights to be seen, interesting things to explore and learn about.  They need this.

The biggest thing, however, is just being a leader.  The school Media Center is the central hub of knowledge in a school.  We have all the answers to whatever questions the children come up with.  I need to make sure my teachers know this.  I attend their PLCs whenever possible.  Due to programming requirements, I can no longer regularly attend K and 1st grade meetings.  I need to get with these teachers at another time, sharing what I have that can help them in their classroom.  But bringing books, sharing websites, new web resources they can use in their classroom, offering ideas for ways we can work together…  Ways to help them be more effective, and to team up to lighten their load…  This is how I can show myself as a leader in my school and make a significant impact on the students’ learning.


Dewey’s Classification System Explained

One of my co-workers sent me this cute PPT presentation today and I thought I’d share it.  It explains how Dewey came up with his classification system by thinking of himself as a caveman and how his view of the world around him would evolve.


I’m not sure who created the slideshow, but it’s great!  A big thanks to our anonymous benefactor.  Rex May did the cute cartoons.  And thank you to Amber for passing it along.  🙂


Banned Book Week


Ready for Programming to Begin…

Tomorrow is it.  October 1st.  The day all school-wide programs start at my school.  I’ve been dreading this since Day 1.

I don’t know what it’s like in other school libraries.  Quite honestly, when I was a classroom teacher, I didn’t usually stay with my class when they went to the library.  When I taught at Coats, I stayed a few times.   It was story-time and she used puppets.  Usually while she was working with the kids, I was in the professional loft gathering resources though.  I just watched as I did what I needed to do.  When I taught at W.T. Brown, classes didn’t go to the library — they only did checkout and it was flex so it wasn’t a “bring your class” thing — just a send the kids in pairs when/if they asked.  When I taught at Wayne Avenue, we had a fixed schedule and we dropped them off.  She did a worksheet-based lesson with them, then checkout.  And then at North Drive…  my assistant usually took them and dropped them off.  I think it, again, was just a story and/or a checkout.

Now that I’m the media coordinator, I have an entirely flex schedule…  With a few exceptions.  I teach reading to 2nd graders from 8:35-9:05 in the mornings, and in the afternoons I teach character education lessons to kindergarten.  We lost an assistant, and that same class lost a scheduled computer lab time, so to accommodate, I keep that class in my library’s computer lab one day a week for 30 minutes or so, allowing that teacher the opportunity to attend her grade-level planning meeting.  And I have 12 mentees that I work with.

I don’t mind doing any of this stuff.  I love working with the kids.  It just makes it hard for teachers to schedule time to come.  My blocks of time that are carved out seem to be the times they want the most.

And what about collaboration?  My teachers want to use the library as a drop-zone.  Ditch the kids and run!  I’ll get a teacher who wants me to work on a skill from time to time, but it’ll be, “What are you doing with my class today, cuz it would be great if you could give them a lesson on nuclear fission for me — I haven’t had a chance to touch on science this week.  Just read them a good informational book and we’ll call it done.”  Really?  Sorry, Hon.  If you want to plan something, I need notice.  If you didn’t give me a request when you signed up a week or two ago, then you’re getting the library skill or thematic story I planned for them, and a checkout.  And if you want them doing a PROJECT, you need to plan it WITH me.  It’s YOUR job to teach them this stuff.  It’s my job to kick it up a notch and make it interesting.

I’m excited about the mentees though.  I know all 12 of the kids.  A couple of them ride my last nerve…  But they’re all sweet (when they wanna be), and mean well (most of the time, at least).  A few are actually readers who’ll be glad about spending time every week with me.  Most won’t.  So, I want to do something interesting with them.  I want to teach them how to do things with the computers.  I want to teach them to blog.  I want to teach them to use animoto and photostory.  I can teach them to use the digital cameras and flip video cameras.  There are lots of things we can do to make their learning fun, and get them excited about coming to the library.  I’ll give them the chance to “show off” what they’ve done to their classmates when their classes come.  The kids love book trailers — they’ll be so excited to make them for books they’ve read and show them off to their friends.  🙂

So anyway…  it all starts tomorrow.  I’ve got 2 weeks’ of reading lesson plans done and the materials gathered.  I’ve got my first two weeks’ worth of character ed lessons lined up too.  Now to just keep up the pace for the rest of the year…  Only a hundred and how many days left till summer vacation?

A whole other kinda library…

This summer I decided to help fill in at the public library.  They were short an assistant, and I had time to spare.  I work 20 hours a week, so 2 1/2 days.  The main reason in needing help was for coverage in support of their summer reading program.  I thought it would be fun — a chance to mingle with some kids, and actually see what it’s like when there are adults around. 

Coming from an elementary school media center, I thought it would be a good experience.  I am certified as a public librarian, as well as a school librarian, but had never actually had any experience in a public setting.

Let me begin by saying…  It’s entirely different. 

I’m sure all libraries are different — they will vary from school to school and branch to branch.  I’m working in a very small branch library, not the main.  That’s part of the difference.  This is a small-town library which is housed in a 2-room building that used to be a bank.  I love the drive-thru window and so do the patrons!!   A very handy invention, let me tell you… 

The first difference between what we have here and what I have at my school is the way the patrons use the library.  When my students come on their own, many will use the computers while they’re there.  However, they are using them to take an AR test, check their Destiny Quest, or look something up.  They then get new books before heading back to their classrooms. 

Here at the public library, they are waiting at the doors for us to open so that they can get on the computers.  Their time is limited to an hour a day, and many of our patrons are daily visitors.  They come in, spend their hour online, and then leave without a book in hand.  Many of our patrons here aren’t even able to check out books because they carry fines on their cards.  Policy dictates that if you owe more than $5 you cannot check out a book until you pay it down.  However, they are still able to use the computers, so they come in just for that.

It’s also a much more restrictive environment.  Confidentiality is a top priority.  At school if a teacher says, “Please don’t let little Johnny get any more drawing books — he needs something to read during DEAR time and hasn’t been taking his AR tests,” I try to oblige.  When little Johnny comes to check out two more drawing books later that day I steer him into the chapter book section with a slick, “How about we get one drawing book for you to work with at home, and one AR book you can read during DEAR time in class and take an AR test on?  Ya know, if you get the drawing dogs book and read A Dog’s Life you may even get extra credit if you draw a picture of a dog and write up a little summary.  I can even post it here to advertise the book!”

Which leads me to another big difference:  the way we interact with the patrons.  When my students bring back books, I talk to them and ask how they liked it, what they liked about it, what they didn’t like.  If it’s a book I haven’t read, I’ll ask them what it was about.  I’ll ask them what kinds of things they’re interested in to help them find other books they might enjoy.  If they’re checking out books on lizards, for example, I might ask if they’re doing a project or wanting a new pet.

In the realm of the public library, however, such discussion is frowned upon.  Their materials are to be checked out without any regard to what it is.  When a patron comes in and tells us excitedly about how much they enjoyed the book, it’s fine to listen and discuss.  But to ask a child if he’s doing a project for school?  Heaven forbid!  I haven’t had to deal with this issue, but was warned by one of my co-workers not to as she’s been reprimanded for such atrocities in the past.

The most pronounced difference, I suppose, is the amount of use.  While (to my understanding) life in the main branch is always busy and verging on chaotic, this smaller branch is very slow and laid-back.  I remember my first Monday (our busiest day), the branch manager asked me how the “rush” went.  Rush?  What rush?  The 10 people who came in and spent an hour exchanging books?  “Oh, it went well.  Smooth as silk.”  In my library, it’s not at all uncommon for their to be a class in the mini-lab using the computers, while I’m teaching a lesson to another class, random students are up checking out books, staff members are needing materials gathered or are having issues with the copiers, and we have small group instruction going on in the various lofts surrounding the media center. 

It’s really a shame people don’t make better use of the public libraries.  It was announced yesterday one of our county’s branches will be closing next month.  If you don’t use them, you lose them.

Encouraging Summer Reading

The key to being a successful learner, is reading.  Students need to read what is required of them in English, but also in history, science, and even math.  The problem is, when reading becomes a chore, students lose motivation.  We often find in the schools that when students enter their upper elementary years (particularly the 4th grade), interest in reading for fun often drops off substantially as students transition from learning to read into reading to learn. 

When summer vacation arrives, many students will go the entire 8 weeks without touching a book.  This, for many, is even an outright goal.  We need to encourage them to embrace reading self-selected materials over this time.  It is their best chance of avoiding the dreaded “summer slide” and to actually even become better readers (though we might not want to mention that part).  This is the students’ time to read what they want, simply for the joy of experiencing something that interests them.

What can we do to motivate and encourage our students?  Here are some great ideas!

1) Invite students to give Book Talks to the entire class. Who influences kids the most? Their peers, of course, so providing children opportunities to pitch books to classmates can be incredibly effective and powerful.

2) Introduce kids (and especially those reluctant readers!) to a book series. This will inspire them to seek out the next book, and the next, and the next.

3) Provide your students and their families with the “Latest and Greatest” in fiction and non-fiction for the grade level you teach. I’ve had students come back to me the next year, and there are x’s by several book titles (they used the reading list I gave them as a check list!)

4) If teaching older kids, set up a Facebook page all about books. Students will then be able to share with their classmates (and you!) updates on what they are reading and post their book reviews.

5) Start or end class with a Read and Tease. This means you read a few enticing lines from a book (it can be the opening words, or midway through). For my students, I’d give a dramatic reading of the opening paragraph and then place the book on the rim of the whiteboard. At the end of class, at least 2 or 3 students would ask to check it out.

6) Advise families to take children to the library and bookstores on a regular basis. Send a letter home or an email with a list of neighborhood libraries and bookstores. Possibly include some inspiring quotes or a bit of research, giving some evidence to why reading is so very important.

7) Encourage your students to register for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge. You can even make it a homework assignment. Scholastic also offers creative suggestions for classroom lessons using the Summer Challenge. Once a student does register, she will be able to enter a contest with prizes by simply logging in her reading minutes. Consider sending the Scholastic link to parents where they can download reading lists and get some tips for supporting their child’s summer reading.

Kids need to become lifelong readers early on. Be an advocate, guide and a reason for a child discovering the book that hooks him, inspires him to keep reading, and to continue seeking more and more enriching text. Developing strategic, savvy, critical readers is one of our great charges (and challenges) as teachers. It’s also one of our greatest rewards.