Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fort Madison High School students chat with Tess Gerritsen

Photo by Travis Ash - Special Sections Coordinator - Daily Democrat

POSTED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2014 12:00 PM | UPDATED: 1:27 PM, FRI FEB 21, 2014.

It pays to have friends in high places. FMHS senior Jacob Auge is lucky enough to have just that in the form of an online correspondence with author Tess Gerritsen, MD.

Gerritsen is the writer of the Rizzoli & Isles books, the same books that are brought to life in the popular television series adaptation of the same name.

I am proud of Jacob. Jacob is a senior and I have known him since he was an 8th grader. Jacob is an advocate for school libraries. A few years ago Jacob attended a meeting with the tech team and an administrator so we could get Kindle Fires and he help me set up the devices for students to access. Jacob also went to author visits but he wanted someone famous to visit us.  So he emailed multiple famous people including J.K. Rowling.  Eventually he heard back from Tess Gerristen and they now have a friendship that will hopefully last for years to come. 
I have seen the power of connection and how author visits can positively impact the lives of students. I think that Jacob's initiative, determination, charisma, and ability to act upon his curiosity will serve him well in the future.  I am glad that I was able to watch all this transpire.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hayley has not had the easiest life.  Her mother died in a car accident when she was young, so when her father was sent on back-to-back tours overseas, she was sent to live with her grandmother.  When her grandmother died, she lived with her father’s girlfriend, who was like a mother to her.  When her father came home from overseas, his girlfriend left, and Hayley lost yet another mother figure.  Hayley’s father’s next solution was to drive big rigs, homeschooling Hayley while they were on the road.  But the whole time, her father struggles to deal with his demons, and nothing seems to be helping.  Finally, he decides to settle down in the town where he grew up, in Hayley’s grandmother’s house, for Hayley’s senior year of high school.  Things are bound to get better, right?

The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is an emotional, timely tale of a daughter taking care of her traumatized father while at the same time trying to find her own path in life.  The book does a great job of balancing between Hayley’s struggles at home and school while she adjusts to a normal school environment, and the typical teenage ups and downs with friends, boys, and parties.  For readers who loved Anderson’s Speak, Catalyst, or Wintergirls, they will love her latest work.  Also recommended for readers who enjoy Sarah Dessen or John Green.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chelsea Sims our advocate extraordinaire...acting on our behalf to promote school libraries

-Interview by Diane Brown

I graduated from Cornell College in 2006 with a BA in English and Secondary Education. After a year of substitute teaching in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area, I attended the UNI Overseas Job fair and got a job teaching 9th and 10th grade English Language Arts at a bilingual private school in Manizales, Colombia.  The experience was interesting and the country was beautiful, but the position was not a great fit.  Upon returning to Iowa, I taught Creative Writing part time at Clear Creek Amana High School and substitute taught for another year.  Still not feeling in love with being an English teacher, I got the idea from a fellow teacher to look into becoming a Teacher Librarian. I started looking into graduate programs right away, got in touch with Jean Donham, who had been my librarian at Cornell, and she helped me weigh the differences between the two programs in Iowa. My connection with Jean and the structure of the program at UNI made my decision to apply fairly easy.  I applied right under the wire for the upcoming cohort, and began my program that summer.  Just two months into this new world, I applied for a half-time opening at Hills Elementary in the Iowa City school district.  Although elementary was completely out of my comfort zone and I had only my intro course under my belt, I was offered the job and have been here since! This is my fourth year as the TL at Hills, and last year, I was offered another half-time TL position at South East Junior High.  So for two years I have spent my mornings with elementary students, and my afternoons with 7th and 8th graders!

I love being a Teacher Librarian.  I love that I get to interact with students of all ages (adults, too!) about things that excite them – great books, interesting questions, new discoveries and useful tools. My favorite moment with any student is seeing when they get to that “aha!” – whether during the research process, after finally mastering a skill, or when finding the book that lights up their eyes.

I also love sharing what Teacher Librarians do.  My colleagues in my district and around the state do amazing things for their students and staff. Too many people are unaware of what a 21st Century Teacher Librarian can offer to her community, so I make an effort to share what happens at my two libraries every month via newsletter and with occasional updates on Twitter. The newsletter (here and here) takes about a half hour each month to write. Snapping a quick photo and uploading on Twitter takes about 5 minutes. The benefits are more than worth the time commitment.

I have a love/hate relationship with the stereotype of the librarian. Yes, she is a master of organization and can rock a bun and cardigan, but we are so much more than that. We are not locked to our desks with a date-due stamp in one hand and finger pressed to our lips at the slightest noise. We are all over the school, making noise while teaching skills vital to students’ real lives, developing students into effective problem-solvers, and spreading the joy of reading for fun and reading to learn.

Find me on Twitter @MsSimsICCSD
Find South East Junior High Library on Twitter @SEJHLibrary

Chelsea is pictured second on the left. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lobbying in Library Land

Cross posted at
A week ago, I headed to the State Capitol for STEM Day.
I was told that festivities started at 10, but I knew parking would be a beast (I detest parallel parking), so I got there early.  I checked in with the STEM folks, then met up with Craig Patterson, ILA's lobbyist.  I'm IASL President, and we're very concerned about a bill in committee.  I'd been trying to keep IASL members up-to-speed on the sausage making that is the State Capitol, so figured I'd take this opportunity to see it for myself.
A little background:  last year, HF472 became law.  It was ostensibly about efficiency, and it gave schools financial incentive to share certain positions, including school counselors, nurses, and teacher librarians.  Crazy, right? The law was immensely popular.  The state budgeted $15 million and it cost over $60 million.  Go figure!


One of our executive board members, Becky Johnson, let our lobbyists know that we needed to know when bills came up about teacher librarians, because our members will take action.  So on Thursday, after I met with Craig, I met two Senators' clerks and met with my own Senator, Daryl Beall before I headed down to the STEM meeting.
So the next day, I emailed IASL and ILA members and asked them to contact the Senators on the Education Committee over the weekend, because the subcommittee was meeting on Monday afternoon.  The House Education committee had already passed a bill changing HF472 by taking teacher librarians, guidance counselors, and school nurses out of the list of positions eligible for incentive dollars from the state, but the Senate version kept the list intact.  It fixed the money problems instead by changing the math (in a way I don't understand so I won't try to explain). 

And email they did!  Monday afternoon, I got a message from Senator Beall:
Good news, Christine! I just attended the subcommittee on SSB3150 and the Mathis amendment was included that strikes school nurses, counselors and librarians from the language. That’s a major victory for you and your colleagues. It now moves to the full Education Committee as amended. Just wanted to let you know, my friend. Your association’s grassroots efforts, contacting individual legislators, were very effective. Thanks, Christine. Please keep in touch. Daryl
And so I tweeted this:
You know, I should have done some clever gif, but I was in too much of a hurry.  How about this? 
That's exactly how I felt.

 I've gotten a lot of congratulatory emails after I told the librarians the great news, but truly, all I did was send out some emails.  They did the work! It's not a done deal, of course - this was just the subcommittee - but now the House and Senate version are much closer and I'm told it's quite unlikely we will be put back in.  And obviously, schools can still share librarians, but why should the state encourage them to do so?  I'm so happy that guidance counselors and nurses are off the list too, because none of us are operational functions.  We are essential to the mental, physical, and educational well-being of our schools and our students. 

So in a couple of weeks, I'll be headed down to Des Moines again.  Won't you come, too?


ILA Legislative Day, March 5, 2014 in Des Moines


Even if you can't make it to Des Moines, invite your legislators and ask them to come talk to teacher librarians about what 21st Century school libraries do, and how they can support our students through legislation.

Let's get lots of teacher librarians there! 

2:30-3:30 pm Legislative update from Craig Patterson and Amy Campbell, ILA lobbyists, at Iowa Library Services, Ola Babcock Miller Building (corner of E 12th and Grand) Click here for map of Capitol Complex and parking options
3:30 pm Walk to the Capitol Building (metal detectors in use) and up to the Law Library on the second floor. Gather under the colored signs in the Law Library that represent your district.
4-6 pm Legislative reception

Legislators have been invited by ILA/Lobbyists, but a personal note from Teacher Librarians attending is best! Click here to download a .jpg version of the invitation that you can send to your legislator, and then add a personal message underneath if you like.

Launch of School Library Vision Task Force...What are the next steps?

Be sure to check out the Iowa Department of Education webpage representing our vision statements and videos.

Here is a statement from Jean Donham about the updated webpage to improve school libraries in Iowa. 
"While the vision is a beginning, it provides a realistic goal for all schools, administrators, and teacher librarians."

I thought that statements from our leaders would help us make sense of our situations and help guide us to think about what direction our library programs should be heading so we can take meaningful steps to advocate for our cause. What are the first steps that we should be taking now? I posed this question to Chris Kolarik.  

"The vision purposefully speaks directly to the role the teacher librarian plays as the catalyst for effective library programs. Ultimately, it is our work with students and teachers that will be our greatest voice. Each teacher librarian must build and exhibit the skills and aptitudes articulated in the vision in order for teachers and administrators to realize the benefits of the unique skills.  Setting program goals and establishing action plans that focus on a tenet of the vision will make the work visible, doable and rewarding.  The smallest success can be a catalyst for many more, but we have to do the work."-Chris Kolarik

Why are YOU needed more than ever?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Talking with Families about Media

 Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America is the most recent report from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. It offers much for consideration and discussion. According to the Center this is the 
"first comprehensive analysis of parents’ experiences with the educational media their children use:  Which subjects do parents feel their children are learning the most about from media?  Which platforms do they perceive as being most effective? And what are some of the obstacles to greater use of educational media?"

The report is focused mostly on educational media use (as defined by parents) but it also captures broader mass media use too. Families in the study have very high levels of access to media in the home (table 9). How does this data compare to your student populations? Surveys last year of Creek 5th graders (the top age in this report) look similar to the Cooney data set.  I am rewriting the survey to include new data points (e.g. cable access).  Knowledge of out of school media exposure positions Teacher Librarians to leverage these media experiences for learning.  It also empowers us as educators to consult families about home media use.  Does your professional practice include reading these types of reports and determining the implications for the library/librarian role?

As Table 7 shows the percentage of teachers who make media recommendations is small compared to the number of kids who have media access.  I wonder how many Iowa Teacher Librarians make recommendations to families about home media use?  There is more I could do in my school!  At Prairie Creek we've been talking about how to include more family literacy activities during our upcoming conference nights.  Media recommendations should be part of our conversations with families.   What kind of advice have other TLs in Iowa given families about home media use?

Where do we begin to develop recommendations?

One place I turn to is Little eLit: Young Children, New Media & Libraries. Children's librarian cen campbell has gathered a wealth of information about apps and resources.   While you're visiting the site take a look at the upcoming "Screen Time" Book Club

~ Ernie Cox (@erniec), Prairie Creek Intermediate

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love Your Library on February 14

Love your your reading lists.  How do you find access to resources? Access is everything and should be for all in a democracy.

Here are some suggestions from the American Association for School Librarians.

What links to lessons and resources do people find useful?

Previous college courses
Information from conferences
Social Media

Do what you love and love what you do.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Every Voice Needed! Contact your Legislators!

Let your legislators know how you feel about the following bills which effect our students and their School Libraries!

HF 2103 - We strongly support Representative Dolecheck's bill which stops giving financial incentives to school districts to share Teacher Librarians with other districts.  The law which originally did so was to create efficiency for schools, and this is something Teacher Librarians support.  But we are much more than an "operational function," and sharing Teacher Librarians with other districts hurts our schools and our students.

SSB 3031 - In regards to this bill pertaining to professional development services for elementary teachers to improve students' literacy skills, we ask that Teacher Librarians be specifically included.  Teacher Librarians are vital to literacy instruction in elementary schools and, as teachers, we should be included in any professional development in this area.

SSB 3150 - We oppose this bill because it continues to gives incentives to school districts for sharing Teacher Librarians.  Instead we support HF 2103. 

HF 2055 - We oppose this bill that amends Iowa public records law to mandate the release of library records of a minor child to a parent or guardian upon request.  We believe that these bills undermine Iowa's tradition of local control of public libraries with a one-size-fits-all policy, and additionally oppose this violation of the privacy of library records.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Government in Action: Teen Edition

By IASL President Christine Sturgeon

You know how people say we need to make school real for students - give them authentic work about issues that impact their own lives?  The Iowa Legislature is providing us with just that, in the form of HF 2055.  

A public librarian in Iowa and a member of ILA's Government Action Committee has shared this email she sent to her local schools' government teachers. Consider sending it off to your school's government teacher:
I don’t know where you are with government topics right now, but I have an issue I think juniors and seniors would love to debate and contact their legislators over. House File 2055 was introduced this week and it aims to allow parents access to library records of minor children.  Right now parents can’t come into the library and ask what books their children are reading.  They can ask, but we won’t tell them.  If this passes, we’ll have to tell them.  That means if a child is looking at information on any type of “private” issue, we’d have to tell their folks.  I think it would be really interesting to see what kids think about that.  It passed out of committee on Tuesday, so this is something you’d need to bring up right away if kids would like to contact their legislators either for or against the idea. Here’s the link to the legislation. 
The Iowa Library Association is strongly opposed to the legislation.  Here's a position paper from the state of Vermont that might help if you want to use this in class. It isn't very often that legislation directly affects students, so I thought you might like to know about this one.
 Can I just say how fabulous it would be if this infringement on privacy and local control of libraries was stopped because our STUDENTS speak up?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

ACTION REQUESTED! Legislative Alert HF2103

Wednesday, February 5th, the Education Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss Representative Dolecheck's bill HF2103This bill would alter previous legislation that incentivizes the sharing of certain positions across districts for efficiency purposes. Instead of sharing instructional personnel like Teacher Librarians, Guidance Counselors and others, sharing of positions across districts would be limited to Superintendents, Business Managers, Human Resources, Transportation and Operations/Maintenance staff. 

Please encourage your legislators to support this bill. IASL recognizes the goal of being efficient in small districts, but don't want our students to suffer because their instructors are being shared in multiple school districts.

The following message was sent by the IASL Advocacy Committee to several legislators. Please consider sending a similar letter, or making a phone call before tomorrow morning to express your support.

I am writing to urge you to support Representative Dolecheck's bill HF 2103. 

As a Teacher Librarian, taxpayer and constituent, I certainly understand the goal of making our school districts as cost effective as possible while ensuring that our students receive the highest quality education Iowa can offer, and that sharing certain positions across districts can make sense.  However, I have been very concerned to discover that the previous bill, HF 472, included several instructional positions among those that could be shared, including Guidance Counselors and School Librarians.   Both of these roles have instructional impact on our students, especially that of the Teacher Librarian.

Teacher Librarians not only administer the physical library space, but are also vital to student's reading and information literacy education. We teach students how to locate, evaluate, use, and create information. We teach students how read, comprehend, and enjoy literature. We work with classroom teachers to integrate technology and 21st century skills into all disciplines. 

When a Teacher Librarian is stretched beyond one school building, he or she can no longer provide the excellent services and essential teaching that our students deserve.  We hope that the language in HF2103 will ensure that our students have consistent and reliable access to the expertise a Teacher Librarian can bring to their school community.

Thank you for taking action on this important issue.

Legislative Alert on HF2055

ILA Legislative Alert:
House File 2055 (a bill that changes Iowa code to require that public libraries in Iowa provide the checkout records of minor children to custodial parents) will be debated in a legislative subcommittee on Tuesday February 4, 2013.
·       Local control of library policy making is a fundamental value of the Iowa library community.
·       HF2055 creates a state mandated policy that overrides policies discussed and agreed on by local public library administrators and trustees.
·       The State of Iowa should not burden Iowa's libraries with a one-size fits all policy that negates home-town rules.
·        Please contact your legislator to let them know that Iowans want to preserve local control of library policies and tell them that HF2055 undermines the long and cherished tradition of local library control in Iowa."
Find your legislators here

Iowa Library Association Governmental Affairs Committee, Duncan Stewart chair

If you haven't already be sure to check out the legislative alert Senate Study Bill 3031.

Monday, February 3, 2014

School Libraries Research Studies

Learning from success stories...the more you know the more you can share.

Here are some key findings taken directly from the School Library Research Summarized: A Graduate Class Project. How can these finding impact your school library setting?

  • studied school library programs that resulted in improved student learning based on available research from statewide school library studies
  • certified, full-time librarians are essential building blocks for 21st century learning
School Library Impact Studies Summarized
  • quality school library programs impact student achievement
  • examined test data, expenditures per pupil, community differences (poverty and racial demographics)
  • Clearly the studies confirm that quality school library programs with full-time, certified librarians and library support staff are indicative of and critical to student achievement.
  • closing the achievement gap and ensuring that all students are prepared with the 21st century

The Pennsylvania Study of 2011-2012
How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards by Keith Curry Lance and Bill Schwarz
  • studied infrastructure (staffing, budgets, collections, technology, and access hours) most contributes to student achievement, costs and benefits associated with them, and what is needed to develop students with 21st century skills

Data sets
1. student reading and writing standardized test data
2. quantitative data from 73% of state’s public and school libraries
3. Qualitative survey data about the roles of school library and librarians teaching AASL Standards used were from the 21st century Learner and Common Core standards based on responses from 950 teachers, 597 school librarian, and 295 school administrators

School Library Impact Studies Chart
School Library Program Components and the States/Province in which they were found
to have a Positive Association with Student Achievement.  Iowa is represented in all eight categories.
  • Staffing/Availability
  • Instruction/Information Literacy Curriculum
  • Professional Development/Training
  • Collaboration/Cooperation
  • Electronic Networking and Technology
  • Collections and Resources
  • Usage
  • Funding/Budget

Citation used to assess Iowa’s practices that contributed to making the categories above

Rodney, Marcia j., Keith Curry lance, and Christine hamilton-Pennell. Make the
Connection: Quality School Library Media Programs Impact Academic Achievement in Iowa. Bettendorf, IA: Iowa Area Education Agencies, 2002. Iowa Area Education Agencies. Web. 10 june 2013.

p. 10 of this document has other recommended resources

School Library Impact Studies: The Major Finding From the Past Ten Years

  • reading scores are better for students who have full-time certified librarians
  • From 2006-2009 if school librarians hours were reduced or eliminated (being assigned to more than one building in a district) in other words the environment is not created to embrace change in library services and robbing students of reaching their potential.
  • We need support staff that support our vision.
  • When have clerical support the librarian could focus on instructional collaboration with teachers
  • Teachers were three times more likely to rate their literacy teaching as excellent when they collaborated with librarians.
  • Key to an exemplary library program is the school librarian’s ability to be an effective teacher who maximizes teaching time, providing educational support and leadership through partnering and collaboration, while integrating cross curricular connections.
  • High rating of teaching information and communication technologies...does it exist in your curriculum do you have an information literacy program? It needs to be the base of the curriculum (blue polka dot notebook about media literacy connection) Is this known, will it fix the problems I see, I think so. Can they be implemented...I think that this is a critical issue impacting the digital divide. I think that this curriculum ultimately supports and fills in the gaps.
  • Flexible scheduling and program planning...the flexibility of an open timetable allowed for collaborative teaching with depth.
  • Common planning time
  • Access=number of hours library open...significant to test scores in all three levels
  • Information technology tools are highly valued...
  • Critical link...p.14 Students with access to well-resourced libraries (newer collections) are two to five times more likely to score higher
  • And certified librarians are more likely to select library resources that represent different points of view and that support the curriculum.
  • A strong positive relationship between budget and test scores.  
Professional Development
  • Schools perform better when principals place a higher value on librarians providing in-service opportunities to classroom teachers.
Achievement Gap
  • Full time librarians and access to around 12,000 books helps....
  • Poverty....still impacted in a positive way regardless if the librarian is certified or not. High poverty having a librarian still improved math scores compared to those without a librarian.

Lingering questions...
How would your students, staff, admin, rate the library based on ratings on the four components including the Standards for the 21st-Century Learning=Inquiry-Based Learning, Informed Decision-Making, Knowledge Sharing, and Pursuing Personal Growth? Are these essential parts of your library? If not what are the barriers to a 21st century school library?

This article motivated me to check out the AASL map of nationally recognized school libraries to see if there is any correlation between these winners and the states mentioned in this study.  Iowa has won 3 times since 1963 and qualified for the school library impact studies chart that lists school library program components and the states in which they were found to have a positive association with student achievement. But what about school libraries left behind from these progressive movements?  

In upcoming posts I would like to change the conversation based on my observations of not so successful school libraries programs and what I have learned from my experiences.  The central theme to future articles is the digital divide in relation to the achievement gap. I have been inspired by President Obama’s recent state of the union speech highlighting income equality in America.  I want to dig deeper exploring the differences between active and inactive school library programs according to our 21st century library standards.