Sunday, December 28, 2014

Social Networking Our Way To Success & Making Connections

What information influences your hashtags or how do they represent your point of view?

Twelve Days of Twitter Smore or #12daystwitter2014-Live Binders

"Prepare yourself for a fun, invigorating upcoming Twitter challenge! The challenge will be to tweet once a day for 12 days using the hashtag #12daystwitter. The challenge starts on December 2 and runs through December 17th (weekends are excluded in the challenge). Each day will have a different, easy challenge. Other schools across Nebraska and Iowa will be participating also. Let’s tell our school’s story, connect to other educators, and have some fun before the holiday break."
-Thanks to Kathy Kaldenberg for passing along this information!

Follow up to the IASL post on October 30, 2014.

Question: As we approach 2015, can Iowa have a certified TL in every school? Working towards this goal supports our profession and impacts our everyday working lives. As they say the more the merrier and school environments should improve with the message that we are leaders in education.

Christine Sturgeon (@c_sturgeon)
@Boss_Librarian: "Our goal is to have a certified TL in every school in Chicago Public Schools." #sljsummit

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Holidays Teacher Librarians and Supporters of School Libraries!

A bit of vintage with a modern touch to wish you a bright and happy holiday season!

          Source                                                                                       Source

Monday, December 15, 2014

Future Of Librarianship: Who Are We? How Can We Connect?

Neil Gaiman weighs in about libraries

As 2014 comes to a close and we begin another chapter in 2015, I think about school libraries in terms of accessibility, adaptability, and spaces opening so it reflects a participatory culture. 
"I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally."-Neil Gaiman
"I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories – they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service."-Neil Gaiman
"In the last few years, we've moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That's about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need."-Neil Gaiman
"Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world."-Neil Gaiman
What does your future hold in the school library or school libraries you work in? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Coding + Librarians: Why it makes perfect sense.

Why are so many Teacher Librarians interested in the Hour of Code?  What role does the library play in the world of computer programming?  What is this coding junk anyway?

I've been thinking a lot about programming lately, and why so many of us are interested in the idea of getting our students involved in coding.  I'm realizing there are so many connections to our main library mission, it's no wonder so many of us have grabbed onto the idea as soon as we heard about it.

Librarians are all about access.  Access to information, access to ideas, and access to knowledge. We know that "Information is Power" in every sense - and making sure our patrons, our students, have access to that information and that power is essential to our mission. As computer programming becomes more and more a language of power, it becomes our duty to ensure that students have access to that power. Programs like the Hour of Code and the multitude of learn-to-code websites and apps available now mean it is easier than ever for us to make computer programming accessible for our students.

Computer programming languages are a "new" form of literacy.  Sure, they've been around for decades, but now these languages are pervasive and easier than ever to learn. We want our students to be literate readers, researchers, media consumers, and creators. Coding becomes a new part of their literacy.

From Consumers to Creators

As President Obama mentions in the video below, our society as a whole is moving away from simply consuming knowledge and moving towards more people creating and adding to the body of knowledge in the world.

As Librarians, we understand perfectly what it means to not just locate, evaluate, and use information, but how to encourage students to take that information, make something new and meaningful from it, and share it with a wider audience. We are always working to take students from "reporting" facts to the next level of creating new knowledge.  It's the ultimate democratic idea.

Technology Integration
Perhaps the most obvious connection between coding and Teacher Librarians is that coding sits firmly in our technology realm. In most schools, the Teacher Librarian is the tech expert, the tech support, and the tech integrationist. We help teachers find the right tools to solve their instructional needs, and help students use technology to enhance their learning. Coding has become another tool available for teachers and students.

Still not convinced?  
Visit to see how unexpectedly easy it is to get started teaching your students how to code.  I promise, you don't have to know ANYTHING about coding except what was in that first video above before you start. has even developed a FREE 20-hour coding curriculum for K-5 that takes students through the steps of learning to code with videos, tutorials, and games. The first levels don't even require students to be able to read, so Kinders and other early readers can still learn. 

Through the curriculum and games, students will learn vocabulary, problem solving, logic, and persistence. Oh yeah, and how to code.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Student Centered Learning: Teacher Librarians Are Ready to Rock!

School libraries are centered around students and learning

A recent article in the Atlantic inspired this blog post What Happens When Students Control Their Own Education.

Student Centered Learning

Sometimes ideas and practices come full circle. Call me crazy but I have supported this notion all along working as a teacher librarian. While I listen to others at educational meetings, I frequently  want to shout out, what about personal responsibility and independent learning?!

A slik-12 conversation about the TLC grant process reminds me how our unique positions can support student centered learning regardless if we are considered top and/or leadership positions in the eyes of our peers.

Connecting Academic Learning to Real World Experiences

It's about engagement....what's your motivation?

Kristen Swanson provides insight about this concept and touches on the importance of dispositions with the blog post Only 1:3 Students Are Hopeful, Engaged, and Well -It's NOT Enough

I Think That We Have It Covered


The Vision for Iowa's School Libraries covers the gamut to assist with student centered learning. Our spaces are ready to receive and support student centered learning environments. Some us are just waiting for the school community at large to embrace us!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Teacher Librarians as Teacher Leaders

An email on the Iowa Teacher Librarian listserv asked:

To those of you in a district that received a TLC grant for 2014-2015, are you in a leadership position in your district? If you are - what position are you in? If you are not in a leadership position - was this by personal choice or lack of positions that you felt that you fit into?  

That was a good question, and a great discussion ensued.  One librarian wrote that she'd asked a state contact person about the TLC grant and about the possibility of using it to replace a TL position that was cut from 1.0 to 0.2.  The reply:

I am not sure a library position would ever work under the guidelines of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation legislation. The bigger issue in your scenario is that I am not sure I see how a Teacher-Librarian would work with classroom teachers to improve their instructional practice which is the intent of the legislation.

Obviously, that was troubling to the great TLs of our state!  It's clear that this "state leader" has not met many teacher librarians if he couldn't imagine TLs helping classroom teachers to improve instructional practice.  Is he even aware that we are, in fact, licensed teachers?  That we are "uniquely prepared and strategically positioned to . . . collaborate with the school community to design and enact rigorous learning experiences"? (from the Vision for Iowa's School Libraries, found here.)

I started to write a lengthy response, but then realized that this is what blogs are for!  Here it is:

Run me out on a rail if you want to, but I have a few thoughts on this.

I have to ask myself, why do we as a job category have this stereotype of the keeper of the books, the shusher of the stacks, the old stick-in-the-mud who is easily replaceable?

A few weeks ago, I was at the SLJ Summit in St. Paul and was chatting amiably with a professor of school librarianship at an out-of-state college.  In talking about my libraries, I mentioned that I transitioned most of the elementary collection to the bookstore model, doing away completely with Dewey Decimal.  She was horrified.  She said, "What do your students do when they go to high school?"  I replied happily, "Oh, I did it at the high school too!" She said, "Well, what about when they go to the public library?"  I said, "Well, that's not really my problem, is it?"  I do teach DDCS under the auspices of teaching outlining, but I asked her, how many lessons would I need to do to teach students Dewey Decimal so they really know it?  Please.  I have better things to do with my time - and theirs!  (And honestly - then the question should be, why don't we teach Library of Congress, if we're trying to get them college ready?)   

To which, she huffed, "Well, my students still have to learn Dewey Decimal!"  - she also is a TL at a small elementary school.  I worry for her graduate students.


Then yesterday, I was cleaning out an office within the library to use as our Makerspace.  The district's professional book collection was housed there, and although I've done a nice job weeding the regular education professional books, the average year of my books about library science is surprisingly 1993.  (Yes, I did just spend twenty minutes figuring out the average age the old-fashioned way!)  I say surprisingly because I have some beauties of retro books.  (I collect retro books, cookbooks and library science titles being my favorite.)

Aren't these marvelous?
From Adventures on Library Shelves by Muriel Ringstad, illustrated by Jeanne and Charles Pearson, OBDO Publishing, 1968.
When I looked through these books to find some laughable out-of-date lessons, I was a little humbled.  Because you know what?  My students would be better if they were able to read an atlas or an almanac expertly.  It is not that librarians of yesteryear were teaching ridiculous things.  They weren't.  But we aren't librarians of yesteryear.  We need to teach the skills necessary today, and Dewey Decimal isn't one of them.

Okay this seems a little ridiculous, doesn't it?
So listen people.

This year, I made two decisions - one, I don't bring my work home.  I was getting really burned out, and that's not good for anyone.  And two, I am focusing on one building level, in my case, elementary.  Because if I do a great job here (and I do think I am making a difference), I can say, "Isn't it sad that all I do at the high school is buy books?  Can you imagine what two of me could do?  We need a full time teacher librarian at both school buildings."  Yes, I'm a K-12 librarian.  Yes, I have to serve the needs of all students.  But. I. Can't. That makes me really sad, because two of my children plus my foreign exchange student from China are at the high school! But I'm doing what I can.  (And for the record, I do plenty more than just buy books at the high school, but not as much as I should be doing.)  

We have to be more than our stereotype.  When we are more, then of course our administrators would think of us as being Teacher Leaders - although, they probably should say we are irreplaceable, they can't imagine putting us somewhere else, and we already are building leaders.  

 Read Iowa's Vision for School Libraries - I don't know about you, but I can't find teaching the Dewey Decimal System in there.

The thing is, this is about more than eschewing Dewey Decimal. There isn’t a bulleted list of programming that you can mark off to prove you are a great TL because every situation is different.  But, I like lists (Workflowy is my favorite app), so I’ll make one:
  • Are you seen as a change agent in your school?
  • Are some people uncomfortable with your library program?

If the answers to those two questions are yes, then you are probably on the right track.

One last thing.  My first day of class with Becky Pasco at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, she asked everyone why they were or wanted to be librarians (most of the students were working TLs, getting their endorsement).  One person said, "I was a science teacher my whole career, and I just want to do something easier as I get to retirement."  Any of you who know Dr. Pasco can imagine her reply.  She waited a bit, not to embarrass the woman and others who said something similar, because there were, but when everyone was done, she said, "Any of you who think that being a teacher librarian is a job that you can just skate through your career, that it's an easy way to go to retirement, there's the door.  Being a teacher librarian is the hardest job in the school.  Our field has a shortage, but we don't need you if you think that this is an easy job."  (My god I love that woman.)

Take a look at yourself, at your position, at your career.  Are you skating to retirement?  Or are you challenging yourself every single day?  

What have you done lately that makes you proud?  Which of the tasks below are you really good at, and which needs your attention?  (I know I need to work on connecting communities of learners.)

I'd love to hear your comments!  

Monday, December 1, 2014

STEM/STEAM Series: How School Libraries Support Females Interested in Science

Groups are making efforts to increase the number of females participating in STEM/STEAM careers.  How can school libraries manage to highlight STEM/STEAM possibilities to females?

Can *TEEN' Engages Girls with STEM
YALSA STEM_Resources

Symbaloo/Girls-Women Representation

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving IASL Blog Readers!

School Libraries Connect All Learners!

Source: Biblio

Despite some educational leaders dismissing our vital presence and valuable contributions to our schools, we will continue to build strong school library programs to the best of our abilities with what we have to work with. Anything is possible since we want to grow and expand our services.  Enjoy break!  Thank you for all you do! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

STEM/STEAM Series: Viewpoints How School Libraries Support

Provide Informational Pathways for Developing Science Career Interests 

School libraries are positioned to become essential partners with the STEM/STEAM movement. Some of us are ready to step up and contribute with our services, skills and knowledge to help increase the number of students interested in STEM/STEAM. 

In order to motivate people participating in STEM, teacher librarians advocate, provide materials, and open library spaces to accommodate student/staff needs.  We also can organize informational pathways to guide students inquiring about various topics encouraging them to discover careers in STEM/STEAM.  

There are places to learn more about STEM information at the national, state, and local levels. 




Here is the November 2014 issue of STEM magazine to find out the latest developments. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Digital Literacy: Can It Replace the Traditional Kind?

Recently at the high school library where I work as a teacher librarian, I was speaking to some frequent fliers about finding print books on the shelves and pathways to discovering recreational reading materials. They admitted that they have a narrow route to find print books with a limited searching process.   Granted I don't have the best selection of titles in their eyes (average copyright date mid 1990's and a disproportionate amount of adult for young adult, classic, and historical fiction titles not selected by me) since they gravitate towards popular new titles (maybe that is all they know), but I can guide them hoping that they will be open to broadening their horizons and read a book that was published before 2005.  I consider myself to be a A-one picky reader but I always find something to read on the school library shelves.  Yes I work as a teacher librarian but just ask my Mom I am a reluctant reader despite her wonderful influence and encouragement.

I believe that some aspects of digital literacy is leaving out the element of discovering books outside comfort zones which seems to be shrinking for teens these days. Can teens start the process of finding print materials without dependence on a device? I appreciate how electronic devices expand our awareness of titles but I wonder if they sometimes limit the inquiry process.

This conversation reminds me of the article Digital Literacy Will Never Replace The Traditional Kind linked here.

With digital literacy are we fully owning our interests and realizing our curiosities?

Multiple literacies teach students to embrace knowledge in various formats. I think that an Internet savvy person means using digital tools AND being able to articulate interests, curiosities, passions, and make connections between ideas and topics. And despite technology rewiring of our minds are we able to find, escape, and enjoy a good book on the shelves anymore?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Off the Level
Is your school library collection labeled/organized by reading levels from a packaged reading program? Are you being asked (told) to level the school library collection?  A recurring question among librarians is "how do I 'level' a collection", a more urgent question is "should we ever level the collection?"

 Applying physical labels reflecting a reading level and including this information in catalog records pose a real threat to the reading lives of our students.

This AASL position statement highlights the threat to the intellectual freedom and privacy of students when collections are labeled:

This statement also reminds us that as school librarians we have a role to play in setting policies that foster intellectual freedom, privacy, and the development of real readers.  The intellectual freedom of students is often not of top concern in many schools.   Implementing the Iowa Core is an urgent demand for districts.  Perhaps this is where we can make a stand against leveling collections and grow our own literacy practices.

School librarians can ask their administrators and school leaders how leveling a library will address ALL THREE FACTORS of the text complexity model in the Core.

page 4 of

The levels in most packaged reading programs only address quantitative measures and do nothing to illuminate the more important qualitative elements.  School librarians can offer professional learning for teachers to dive more deeply into analyzing the qualitative elements of texts.  We can join our colleagues in their content PLCs to better understand current reading needs and experiences in the building.

Learn how to easily and comprehensively consider these three elements of text complexity at the Text Complexity Toolkit -- (thanks to statewide access through the AEA).  This toolkit allows us to contribute our professional judgements about books and access the collective wisdom of other educators.  Digging into a deep analysis of texts and thoughtfully designing the learning experiences of readers with these texts will ensure that quality implementation of this model happens in our schools.   Buying a packaged solution does nothing to address the questions of educators or to grow real reading.  Crowdsourcing our professional judgements in systems like TeachingBooks is one piece of a viable home grown alternative.


Is there a way to reorganize the library to provide better intellectual access to the collection and help readers locate books they can read independently?  Yes and yes.  Organizing and labeling fiction by genre provides an easy point of entry for readers to access the fiction collection.  If I like sports fiction I can go straight to that section to begin my search for the next independent read. The first step toward book selection can now be based on interest or preference not an abstract level.   How do we provide guidance within these sections to ensure successful independent reading?

"Simply, a reading ladder is a series or set of books that are related in some way (e.g. thematically) and that demonstrate a slow, gradual development from simple to more complex."  ~  READING LADDERS by Teri Lesesne (pg 48).  This book, by Dr. Lesesne, is a handy guide to providing deeper, more meaningful access to books.

What is the first ladder to be made for the collection?  Start where the action is - it all depends on the current instructional needs of students and teachers. I'm working with literacy teachers on an upcoming unit using verse novels.  Thankfully, several of the books already have qualitative analysis in Teachingbooks.  After we do a few of our own we will have a rich custom list of information about the qualitative and quantitative elements of these books.  Based on these details each book will become a rung on the Verse Novel reading ladder.

The snapshot based on previous analysis shows us some areas we will need to scaffold to ensure students meet the relevant standards. This chart will change as we add our own analysis of all titles.

rough draft of a reading ladder using Google Drawing 

Leveling is not in the best interest of young readers; it is a system of convenience for educators and school systems.  If young readers become their level and books are discussed only in terms of
low level comprehension quizzes everyone loses. As educators we have the tools at our disposal to build a better system of real reading for children.  

~ Ernie Cox

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ALA: International Games Day

International Games Day - Saturday, November 15, 2014:
"This January 23, 2013 post announced that International Games Day would be moving to the third Saturday of November. ALA's National Gaming Day, first celebrated in 2008, focuses on the social and recreational side of gaming. Gaming at the library encourages patrons of all ages to interact with diverse peers, share their expertise and develop new strategies for gaming and learning. At the library, kids can socialize with their friends and play board and video games while surrounded by books, librarians and a real world of knowledge. Use the International Games Day Contact Form with any questions."-Information taken directly from site
Other Resources About Gaming
“One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games.” 
― C.G. Jung

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Diversity of Books: Reflecting our Reality?

Keeping our collections equitable and harmonious. How can we increase the number of diverse titles to reflect our diverse realities in society? What are the barriers to increase diverse perspectives in our libraries?

Social Justice and the Role of Libraries

In the course Global Contexts and Social Justice in Youth Literature, we thought about defining multiculturalism, diversity, and social justice.  Below is the course description.

Examines books, media, and other resources for young people (ages 0-18) in a multicultural, globalized, and increasingly digital media-saturated world. Explores the history of multicultural writing for the young, and major issues and debates of youth literature concerning diversity, racism, power, ideology, etc. Guides students to better select, interpret, evaluate, and promote such literature, media, and resources according to young people’s various needs (intellectual, emotional, social and physical).
(Lucht, 2013).

Who Is on the Cover?

Nell Fleming a graduate of the University of Illinois Certificate of Advanced Studies program completed a research project Who Is on the Cover? The Demographics of Fictional Picture Books in the Twenty-First Century. Bringing Balance to Selected Topic Areas for an Anti-Racist Library. Here is a link from her blog providing more information about the project.

Resources to build collections representing our diverse society

General Information

Identifying Multicultural Literature. What does it mean to be progressive?

Stereotypes & Cultural Authenticity

Library Services for Diverse Populations/Multicultural Library Services

Youth Literature Awards
Crisp, Thomas. “It’s Not the Book, It’s Not the Author, It’s the Award: The Lambda Literary Award and the Case For Strategic Essentialism.” Children's Literature in Education 42 (2010): 91-104.

Iowa is no exception with experiencing a cultural melting pot in our global society.  Are we exercising social justice in the books we select for the Iowa Book Awards?   What about our Iowa Award selection process? Does our criteria need to expand and/or change so more titles that reflect diversity exist on our award lists?  I think that award titles should reflect diversity of appeal and different points of view.