Sunday, August 30, 2015

Two days that changed my whole career

I blogged yesterday on my personal blog about a decision that changed my life - or, if I had gone the other way, I wouldn't be where I am today.  But with the beginning of school and introducing fifteen classes to the school library once again, I've been telling the following story a lot, so I thought I'd tell it here, too.  I'd like to think without these two back-to-back days, I'd still be the non-shushing, stalwart advocate of intellectual freedom, librarian that I am today, but who knows.  It reminds me of Mulan:  "A single grain of rice can tip the scale."

At any rate, here's the story:

I had finished my teaching degree, was in library school (Go, Tigers!), and worked as a substitute teacher.  Every time I was in an elementary class that happened to have Library class that day, I would spend the period in the library with them.  (Now I realize that this was sort of weird.  But if one of my classes has a sub that's in library school, I hope she comes down, too!)  So the third grade class - and I - headed down to the school library, which was staffed by a paraprofessional that day.

The class came in,  and the door was shut behind us.  It was a small library, so no other classes were allowed in the library when we were here.  Makes sense.  But SSSSHHHH. 

 You had to be silent.  This is the library!  (And yet, it's not an academic library, where others are studying while we were there.  No one else was there.  We weren't silent in our classroom all the time.)

Later, when the children were (silently) choosing books for checkout, I happened to be near the desk, talking to the library associate.  I was probably telling her I was in library school, when my little third grade student came up to check out a book.  A big book.  A Harry Potter big book.

The para looked down at the boy from the high chair behind her desk and said loudly in a scolding tone, "John!  Are you getting that because Mr. Miller isn't here?  You know he won't let you check out that book!"  The boy looked down at his feet, and there was giggling behind him from the other third graders, who had apparently already finished that book, or at least were never told what books they could and couldn't check out.

In perhaps my most heroic moment ever (I seriously mean that), without missing a beat, I said, "Hey!  Have you read the first Harry Potter book?"  The boy looked up at me and nodded his head no.  "Well, you don't want this book anyway then!  It would ruin everything!  Let's go get the first one."  And I looked at the para something like this:


The next day, I was in a different school, and that class had library, too.  The thing was, there was a little girl who new that day too, and the only person she knew was ME, because I subbed in a different school, in her previous class.  The library there was also run by a para, but the environment was completely different.  There was a jigsaw puzzle at a table, she had the Decorah eagles on her smartboard, and the door was left open.   

"Oh, we have a new student today!  Welcome!  Now would be a great time to remind us all of the rules in the library."  There weren't many.  She would first read a book out loud, then the students would look for a book to check out.  They could have any book they wanted.  After they checked out their book, they could read, play with the puzzle, or talk quietly.  Or watch the eagles, which were my favorite.

Which library would you rather be in?

So I make a point of being like the second librarian*:  I'm not a shushing librarian, the doors remain open (if kids come in and want to check out - typically only older students - they can write their name and book number on a notebook at the desk), and no one gets to say my students can't have any book there - there are no boy books or girl books, and it's not "good fit book" time.  I will fight for their right to read any book they want.

Thanks, unknown library para.  I'm going to send this to her boss and maybe she'll know who I mean.  I salute you.

Have you had a similar experience that inspired or changed you?

*Yes, technically, she's not a librarian.  But for those kids she is, and my goodness, she's ABMLIS as far as I'm concerned.  (All-but-MLIS.)  I tell my paras this story and encourage them to emulate her, too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Starting the School Year Right : Video Roundup!

Do you use videos as a part of your beginning of the year instruction?

In a recent Twitter chat, #mwlibchat, TLs from around the country shared some of their favorites - many made by school librarians themselves!

Share your favorites in the comments!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

August one-question survey: Library orientation!

This month, 110 Iowa teacher librarians responded to our first one-question survey!  Great job, team!

We asked you how you engage in library orientation activities with your students and staff, and here's what you said:

So what can we learn from this?  Well, clearly presentations and tours are popular standbys, but it also looks like more interactive lessons are on the rise as well.  

Several Iowa TLs shared resources, and so take some time to gather new ideas from your colleagues! 
  • Meredith Sandlin, the new TL in Janesville just completed her Action Research Project entitled "Improving Library Orientation," and she has been generous enough to share her research.
  • Katy Kauffman at Southview Middle School in Ankeny shared her QR Code Quest 
  • Several survey respondents listed children's books they use as part of library orientation:
    • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Grabenstein
    • The Librarian Dragon Lady by Deedy
    • Don't Let the Pigeon Check Out Books by Willems
    • We're Going on a Book Hunt by Miller
    • What Marion Taught Willis and What Happened to Marion's Book by Berg
    • Wild About Books by Sierra and Brown
    • Our Librarian Won't Tell Us Anything by Buzzeo
  • TLs also described some of their tools and strategies for library orientation:
    • Stations with Socrative stations
    • Using ThingLink to link videos and book trailers
    • Creating "mystery bags" with library-related items
    • maps to label
    • tutorials for using the library catalog
    • a video about book care created by a library technician, "Don't Let the Pigeon Touch the Books!"
If you'd like more inspiration, take a look at these professional articles, suggested by Meredith Sandlin, Janesville's lucky new TL!
You might find these articles and blog posts useful as well:
So let's all resolve to try something new this year! Then share your new resources in the comments!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Back to School - Starting the Year Out Right!

So much to do, and never enough time to get it all done - it's back to school time!  You have so much information to share with families, you want to connect with new teachers in your building, and you want to make sure all of the library's resources are ready to use.  

How do you communicate what the library has to offer?

Do you send out emails? Print newsletters to send home with students? Do you present information at staff meetings? Do you have a pre-made packet for new teachers?

This year, I am creating Smore flyers for teachers and for parents that includes pertinent information, which I will email and post on the library website. Because Smore flyers are so lovely, my hope is that they will be more eye catching than an email in a new teacher's inbox. They can also be bookmarked for future reference.  Most importantly, each starts with a positive welcome message that introduces the vision of our school library before moving into policies.


Check out some inspiration from this oldie-but-a-goodie article from Library Girl, Jennifer LaGarde!

And even more back to school ideas from School Library Journal!  

Share your ideas in the comments!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Professional Development Opportunties

Are you looking for library-relevant professional development opportunities?  Do you need a few graduate credits?

University of San Diego offers many self-paced online continuing education courses. A typical 3 credit course costs about $500.  Below are a few "Independent Study" course offerings that may be of interest to you - click the link for details including credit hours and course descriptions.

There are many, many other courses available, including online courses which are not self-paced, if you prefer more structure in your learning.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Advocacy Made Easy - Letter to the Editor

Previously on the IASL blog (here, here, here, here, here and here), posts have encouraged you to tell the story of your library through newsletters, social media, meeting new teachers, and communication with your legislators. These are all key elements to keeping your community informed of the vital role you play in the education of our students. Another effective venue for advocacy is a bit more "old-school" - a letter to the editor.

How can you craft the perfect letter to your local news media? How do you ensure that your message will appeal both to stakeholders in your community and those in our government?  

Of course, organization of letters can vary widely, but remember to include a clear problem and solution, keep it concise, and look for ways to lend authority to your message with statistics, anecdotes, and references to state/national laws or educational best practices.

1. Know your paper. Most newspapers now have an online submission form for opinion letters. Check there for submission guidelines, including length requirements which range between 200-500 words. Some papers will accept longer submissions to be published as Guest Opinions rather than in the letters section. When in doubt, send the longer version - the paper will contact you about length if they are interested in publishing. Don't be shy about submitting your letter to multiple publications - the wider audience for your message, the better!

2. Know your message. In 200-500 words, you won't be able to write a dissertation on how valuable school libraries are to our students, so pick one major theme to focus on in your letter. Did a recent event inspire you to write? Is there something you can celebrate and tie to your program? Is there a problem you'd like people to help solve?  Make your first paragraph grab the attention of your readers and want to read on.

3. Keep it positive. It's easy to get whiny when trying to advocate for a program few seem to understand. It's important that your letter doesn't seem defensive - rather than complain that "no one gets it," be straightforward and explain what students/staff/community members gain from Teacher Librarians.

4. Keep it factual. Just as it's easy to go negative, it's easy to get emotional. Certainly, being enthusiastic and passionate in your letter will improve your persuasive power, but be sure to stay professional. Anecdotes and stories are fantastic ways to illustrate your point, but so are numbers. Try to include one or two statistics that will appeal to the practical side of your readers' thinking.

5.Call for Action. Your letter should end with a call for some kind of action - whether it's to vote a certain way, to speak to a community leader, or just to visit a local library - leave your audience wanting to do something.

Below is an example of a 500 word letter published in Iowa City's Press Citizen. Click here to see PDF version.
Letter by Chelsea Sims, Teacher Librarian.

What message does your community need to hear? Gather your thoughts and start writing! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Call for Resources to Update IASL Resource Page

Check out our recently updated IASL resources web page organized by Symbaloo.

The Iowa Association of School Librarians (IASL) righted a legislative ...

Feel free to use the comment below to give your suggested resources to add the web page. Look for updated IASL resources in the fall!