Thursday, December 17, 2015

In the News: Teacher Librarian Miranda Kral

Check out this great article highlighting the work of Iowa Teacher Librarians - specifically, Miranda Kral of Solon!

It's so great to see this positive leader represented in the press - thanks for all you do, Miranda!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Teaching the Online Catalog

We're all familiar with the quote, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." When it comes to catalog searching, this is entirely true! So when and how are you teaching your students to use your online catalog?

We begin our work in second grade when we talk about the different kinds of searching our catalog allows--keyword, title, author, subject, and series. We use task cards and work in both large and small groups to practice using the catalog. Not only are students using the catalog; they are also searching for books on the shelves and familiarizing themselves with spine labels. After much practice, students show their skills with an online catalog bingo card. (A few examples appear below.)

My colleague Christi Taylor (@ctator58) was helpful in planning my lessons, suggesting the task cards and offering handouts, including the catalog bingo card. Sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest also offer a wide variety of resources related to this work. How and when are you teaching your students "to fish" the online catalog so they can become independent library users?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lesson: Genre Review

Earlier this year, I blogged about the change we made with the genrefication of our fiction section of the library. It has been a huge success! Our circulation is up, especially in our fiction section. I feel that students are able to find books and genres that they enjoy easier. It also helps when students come looking for a specific genre, to give them some independence. I can point them to the section of the library, and recommend a title or an author, but also allow them to explore.  

Every year in the fall, I have done a genre lesson with all the English classes. This year, this lesson was particularly important with the change that we were making to our fiction shelving. I wanted students to feel confident that they could locate books within different fiction genres.
For this lesson, I created a Google Doc. This Google Doc was shared with students through Google Classroom so each student had a copy. In the Google Doc, students identified characteristics of the genre (i.e. Fantasy- magical creatures or made up worlds). Students then went to the shelf to find a book that they might like that would fit this genre. Students then brought this book back and recorded the title and author. Students repeated the process for all the genres.  
  • I did this as a 1 period (45 minute) lesson. Our English teachers have a double block.
  • Students started on different “parts” of the activity so that students were not all on the same genre at the same time.
  • While students each filled out their own Google Doc, students worked in partners.

Here is the link to the Google Doc that I created for students.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Consider Coding in Your School Library!

With the Hour of Code celebrations kicking off next week in coordination with Computer Science Education Week (December 7-13), students across the nation will be exploring the basics of computer programming and get an introduction to computer science.

Will your school library be part of the celebration?

Why Hour of Code?

The statistics speak volumes.

According to's site, right now there are 3,930 computing jobs waiting to be filled here in Iowa. Nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as found via, "67% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing."

In a society which grows more and more dependent on technology, we need people who can "speak" the language of computers in order to not only keep up with the technology we already have, but, more importantly, to create the technology we've never imagined. How can we expect this to happen if we aren't offering our students the opportunity to explore the skills they'll need? By hosting Hour of Code events, we are allowing our students a deepen their understanding of our technological world and unlock hidden potential and interests that have implications for their futures.

And beyond the implications for our students' future (and our own), there are additional benefits to hosting Hour of Code events for our students. I love this infographic created by Sylvia Duckworth:

Image via @sylviaduckworth

I can bear witness to the "hidden" advantages of providing students the chance to explore coding. As I watched my 2nd through 5th grade students work their way through our Hour of Code events last year, I saw them engaged in authentic and meaningful problem-solving, critical thinking, analyzing and collaborating practices. Students who often hesitant to try new things were willing to take a risk and learn from their mistakes. Students who often rush through work were engaged and determined to finish each challenge placed before them. That's learning at it's best!

So why should libraries be involved in the Hour of Code?

Libraries have always been about empowering our students, encouraging exploration of interests, and supporting literacy. Hour of Code provides our students with an opportunity to do all three.

As a side note, some might argue the coding is a far stretch to literacy. I would argue that your definition of literacy might need to be redefined. Coding is a literacy that requires students to be fluent (read and write) in the language of computers in order to embrace the future and be part of developing the technology that is so much a part of our lives.

Libraries are uniquely situated to serve the needs and interests of all students.  Libraries are intended to support, extend and enhance the traditional curriculum delivered in the regular classrooms. Hosting Hour of Code events is just another extension of these principles.

And like any librarian, you know that you don't have to have all the answers. You just need to know where you can find the resources!

Hour of Code Resources:

Image of the Lewis Central Hour of Code Symbaloo (linked below)
My colleague, Josh Allen, the Technology Integration Specialist was kind enough to create an Hour of Code Symbaloo (pictured above) for our students at Titan Hill Intermediate full of links to online coding games. tutorial videos and information about coding apps. Feel free to use the link to explore with your students as well!

And as an ultimate collection of coding ideas and resources, our friend Shannon Miller has put together a Coding Padlet as a place to reference and share all things coding, just in time for Hour of Code next week!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thankful for books

I am thankful for books all of the time, not just during the holiday season, but I am especially grateful to have been on the 4th-6th grade reading train for the last month or so.  Sometimes I have a hard time finding books for the intermediate grades that keep my attention.  Sometimes, though, the books that do keep MY attention, I can’t imagine keeping a kids’ attention.

Two books I’ve recently read are The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz and The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.  These are examples of stories I enjoyed and that have important messages, but I am wondering if the readers at my school could stick with them.    

Laura Amy Schlitz talks about her process for writing The Hired Girl in School Library Journal, and I found it fascinating. The following is my review on Goodreads: I can't really believe I liked this book. Not a lot happened, and it had more religion talk than I like, but I loved the characters. "Janet Lovelace" is a strong strong girl who lives with her father and brothers on the farm in 1911 after her mother died. She can't earn her own money or receive an education because of the work required of her at home. After attempting a strike, Janet takes a big step and leaves for the city where she finds herself as a hired girl in the Rosenbach's Jewish household. I think this read a lot like a soap opera, and she reminded me of Daisy in Downton Abbey. I think the book is appropriate for grades 5-6, but someone told me it was YA?! At the same time, though, I am not sure what kind of young reader would be able to stick with it. They'd definitely have to love historical fiction.  

I went into my reading of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish expecting to love it.  I enjoyed it: The Thing About Jellyfish was up for a National Book Award in the Young People's category. I saw it categorized as a grades 3-6 book, but based on what I've seen, some people think it's YA. In my opinion, it is fine for 6th grade as it’s this period when friend issues like this arise.   
The book tells the story of Suzy losing her former best friend to a drowning accident. Franny was a very strong swimmer and Suzy begins her quest to prove it was actually a jellyfish sting that caused her death, not drowning. Readers come to find out, though, that Suzy and Franny had been drifting apart before the accident. Suzy's feelings are very real, and I empathized with her sadness at losing her best friend. I appreciated the melding of the story and the scientific process about learning about jellyfish.

I am not sure why I continue trying to enjoy graphic novels like the kids do.  They’ll read anything on these shelves without any sort of coaxing by me.  I enjoyed Sunny Side Up by Jennifer and Matthew Holm.  This graphic novel is mostly set in Florida in the year 1976. Sunny is living with her grandpa for the summer in his retirement community. She is disappointed in the lack of kids and in the abundance of early dinners, as well as continually finding packs of her grandpa's cigarettes, which he is NOT supposed to be smoking. She does meet a boy at the golf course, though, and they become fast friends.  They develop a love of superhero comic books, they cash in on finding golf balls, and locating lost cats. As the story progresses, we see flashbacks of Sunny's life in Pennsylvania and discover she has a brother dealing with substance abuse issues. For me, the graphic novel format makes this discovery easier and not as sad, though it's obvious Sunny loves her brother and her family and wants things to change. The afterword by Jennifer and Matthew Holm mentions that they, too, had a family member with addiction problems. They mention how difficult it was to be watching everything unfold, and that it's okay to ask for help for yourself to talk about it. Great for 4th-6th graders and especially perfect for kids in Sunny's position.

George by Alex Gino has been, by far, the most important book I’ve read lately.  It made me have all sorts of feelings. George tells the story of a 5th grader whom everyone sees as a boy. But she knows she's a girl. I can just feel her suffering at what she feels is going to be a secret forever. Her school has tryouts for the play Charlotte's Web, and George decides she wants to try out for the part of Charlotte. This is the catalyst for her sharing her secret with her best friend Kelly (the best best friend ever!) and her mom and brother. The principal at the school was a fantastic character as well. So much of my heartache reading this book came from what I would do to try to protect my child from what I imagine would be a life full of bullying and hurt. I learned, however, that once a person is free to be who they were meant to be, it makes things easier. The book wrapped up maybe a little too nicely, and was filled with possibly too many extra details about non-important things, but it is a lesson in acceptance and kindness that any 4th-6th grader should read. It's a very quick moving book.

As I was doing some extra reading, I learned Alex Gino has been involved with “queer and trans activism for the last twenty years.”  I point this out because I believe it shows that the author has most likely experienced the feelings and situations George has in the book.  Alex Gino is also a member of We Need Diverse books.

Admittedly, I was nervous to book-talk this story.  I have never had a parent tell me their child was a transgender student in my sixteen years of teaching, and I am not sure how I would handle it other than being accepting and of course, kind.  I did see some uncomfortable squirms by the sixth-graders, but I also had a girl cheer, “Good for her!” and George was immediately checked out by a different student.    

Can you think of a recent book you've read and loved but couldn't get a kid to check out no matter how hard you tried? Have you ever been stung by a jellyfish?  Are graphic novels always checked out in your library? Have you ever been nervous to book-talk a book? Has anyone ever cheered when you were done? All book cover images taken from TitlePeek.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Update on ESEA from ALA

After months of intense behind the scenes work in Congress, it looks like things are finally coming to a head with the re-authorization of the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As you may have read in past posts, school libraries fared extremely well in S.1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, but not so well in H.R.5, the House’s Student Success Act. As discussed on September 1st, the House and Senate had work to do to meld their two, quite different bills.
This week the House and Senate appointed conferees to do just that. The resulting “Conference Committee” began meeting yesterday to hammer out the final version of a unified bill (called a “Conference Report”) that both chambers of Congress must then consider in an up or down vote, no amendments permitted. We are expecting that final Conference Report to be officially “filed” on November 30th and for the House to vote on it just two days later, on December 2nd, with a Senate vote to follow close behind.
As soon as [the Washington Office] get a look at the language in the Conference Report, we will be sending out an alert asking you to contact your Representative in the House, so please stay tuned.
This is a momentous time for libraries (especially school libraries) and education policy and – whether we are supporting or opposing the ESEA Conference Report – we will need you to contact your Congressperson right away.

Watch for more on, where this post originated.
ALSO: See How to Contact Congress at on the ALA website.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Newly Elected ILA Board Members

Congratulations to all who participated in the ILA Executive Board member race, and welcome to the newly elected board members!

Rebecca Funke of Des Moines Area Community College was elected vice president/president elect in a very close race with Kathy Rieger of Council Bluffs Public Library. 

Brianna Glenn of DeSoto Public Library and Debbie Stanton of Washington Free Library were elected to the two open board seats. Mary Markwalter of Mason City Public Library deserves a big thank you for being a board candidate.

Rebecca, Brianna, and Debbie join current board members Duncan Stewart, 2015 ILA president, Alison Ames Galstad, 2016 ILA president, Sarah Willeford, 2014 ILA president, Dan Chibnall, Brett Cloyd, Andrew Fuerste-Henry, Misty Gray, Marilyn Murphy, Jill Sanders, Chelsea Sims, and Nancy Trask.

Monday, November 9, 2015

It's All Fun & Games. . .

One of the ways I try to generate more foot traffic into the library is to offer the occasional contest or game. Sometimes these events are passive games; other times students work outside of school or the library to have something to enter. Likely, you've seen some of these--Pinterest, Twitter, and other social media outlets often show March Madness-like book brackets or different guessing game questions.

What I like about these events are the different opportunities they offer for both my students and me: 1) My students have a chance to win some kind of prize or to show off their creativity in ways they may not otherwise, and 2) I have a moment to individually talk with students who might not ordinarily come into the library or stop by the desk. 

Over the years we've run a variety of events, including holiday-themed contests and contest inspired by pop culture:
CLICK HERE to read the full post.
CLICK HERE to see the full post.
We even got some of our staff involved to generate more excitement:
CLICK HERE to read the full post.
Even our elementary students enjoy the different contests we run. These are mainly guessing games so our youngest students can more easily participate, and with the free posters and books our PTO donates after book fairs, we have a variety of things from which students can choose when they win.

Have you tried a contest or event to draw students into your library or to generate a buzz in the building? Be sure to share your ideas!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Creating a Literate Environment

This summer a couple of the staff in our district attended a training by Emily Calhoun on creating a Literate Environment.

Through their training, they learned about the different elements in creating a literate environment. Our current building professional development time is focused on understanding and implementing these 6 components of a literate environment in our classrooms and throughout the school:
  • Create a text-rich environment
  • Do daily read aloud
  • Ensure lots of time to read
  • Make knowledge building a priority
  • Integrate writing with reading instruction
  • Conversation is important

As the teacher librarian, I am very excited about this concept and the ways I can be involved.  While we are only three months in with our professional development learning, I have found many ways to support teachers in creating a literate environment.

  1. Locating text resources- As a librarian, where to go to find high quality is second nature to me. I can probably find high quality texts in any AEA resource in my sleep, but some teachers are not as familiar with these resources as I might be. I need to continue to collaborate and work with teachers to show where to look as well as how to use different resources effectively and efficiently.
  2. Ensuring time to read- As the librarian, we need to advocate for our students and encourage them to read. Our building is looking at how we are going to use our homeroom time for allowing everybody to read. I am very excited about this. However, I also need to reinforce that reading may not always be a book - it also can be a magazine, comic book, or other resource. Many of our students (like us) may read on a device. Instead of insisting that students read a “print” book we need to encourage their reading in whatever format it may be.
  3. Creating a text-rich environments- while part of this is about access to reading materials for students, it also includes other text that students see and interact with. For example, posters or word walls are part of a text-rich environment. While these can be very powerful tools, it also is important to note that just having them up in a classroom does not make it a text rich environment. They must be used and support learning in the classroom to be effective.
I am excited to continue to learn about creating a literate environment and to continue to find ways to help others create this environment as well.

How do you contribute to a Literate Environment in your school?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude: Why I'm Thankful to be a Teacher Librarian

Although I’m not new to education, I will tell you I’m fairly new to this whole Teacher Librarian business. I’ve been in my current position as a Teacher Librarian for approximately a year and three months. But my short tenure has given me a whole new appreciation for the truly incredible opportunity that being a Teacher Librarian has to offer, an opportunity I am now deeply grateful to have embraced.

You see, I wasn’t sure I was ready to be a Teacher Librarian. I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave my classroom. I loved my students, I loved my job (I taught 7th grade reading for 13 years), I loved my colleagues. But I thank my lucky stars for Dr. Rebecca Pasco, the Director and Coordinator of the Library Science program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She had the wisdom to know that despite my reservations, I belonged in the library. So, when Dr. Pasco called and told me about my current position, my choice was made. When Dr. Pasco calls, you listen.

And I’m so grateful that I did. So in the celebration of the season and celebrating an “Attitude of Gratitude,” here’s why I’m so thankful to be a Teacher Librarian:

The students

As I just mentioned, one of my biggest concerns about leaving my classroom was leaving my students. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to build the same kind of relationships I had with “my” 7th graders. I saw this same group of 125(ish) students every other day all year long. That’s a lot of contact time to truly get to know a group of students. I was afraid that a change to the library would inhibit me from making deep connections with my students.

I was right . . . and so wrong.

Although it’s a little more challenging to build relationships with 900 students than it was with 125, I quickly came to realize that I have the benefit of expanding my potential to build relationships, to support literacy, to ignite passions, to be the “cheerleader,” and to watch the growth of every single student in my building because they’re all “mine.” It may take me longer to get to know my students, and I may not know all of them the way I did my 7th graders, but being their Teacher Librarian throughout their four years in my building means I have time.

And the added bonus: I get to be the one to help them celebrate, to help empower them, and to show them that the library can be their safe place where they are always welcomed and respected, no matter what.

The collaboration with fellow educators

Collaboration is empowering for everyone involved.

In my previous position, I worked closely with a group of 5 other teachers, all of whom taught different subjects, but were all 7th grade teachers. I loved working with my fellow 7th grade teachers, especially when it came to planning cross-curricular units. I always loved sharing new tools or resources I’d discovered that could help enhance our students.

My position as a Teacher Librarian has increased my opportunities for collaboration exponentially. . . . literally. I now have the opportunity to work with 50+ teachers in my building to help support their curriculum, technology integration, and literacy. I could write an entire blog post--a love letter, if you will--dedicated to how grateful I have been for my staff. Time and time again, they’ve welcomed me into their classrooms with open arms and don’t run screaming for the hills when I whirl-wind in with another idea!

The opportunity to work with so many amazing educators within my own building, the opportunity to extend the impact of the library beyond the physical walls, the opportunity to help students see a transfer of skills and information have all been absolutely amazing.

The books

Okay, so let’s be real. Many of us became teachers because we wanted to share our passions (or at least that’s one of the reasons). One of my passions is literacy, particularly the access to information and ideas. Reading is empowering. There is no greater feeling that connecting a reader with that perfect book, that perfect resource. And as a Teacher Librarian, I’ve got a lot of books (and access to resources) that allow me to share my passion with every student (and adult) in my building!

The change

Teacher Librarians are Teacher Leaders.

My role as a Teacher Librarian has allowed me to have an impact on all facets of the educational environment not only in my building, but also in my district. As a classroom teacher, my interactions were often limited to only the other members of my grade-level or subject-area team. Being a Teacher Librarian has opened up the opportunities to interact, which has meant that I have the opportunity to communicate and initiate change.

Teacher Librarians are perfectly poised to be the force of change we want to see in the world (particularly the educational world). We have the resources and the access to multiple classrooms in multiple grade levels to truly be a voice for our students and teachers. We see the “big pictures,” we offer support, we are all about making the world a better place.

To reference my favorite Spiderman quote: “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’m just grateful to be in the position to advocate for my students and staff..

My fellow Teacher Librarians

Of all the things I’ve appreciated as a Teacher Librarian, I am probably most appreciative of my fellow Teacher Librarians.

There’s just something about Teacher Librarians. Maybe it’s because we want to help, we want to support, we want to empower others,  but I have never met a more caring and supportive bunch of educators. The relationships I’ve built with my fellow Teacher Librarians over the course of the last year have been some of the deepest and most empowering relationships in my life. Whether in person or virtually, I know that I have an incredible support group, a group always ready to help, to share ideas, and embark on crazy journeys! That means more than words can possibly express.

So in the spirit of the “Attitude of Gratitude,” when times are tough and days are (metaphorically) long, I challenge you to share what blessings have come your way because you are lucky enough to be a Teacher Librarian.

Book Review: Everything, Everything

Imagine if you never went out of your house.  Ever.  Maddy has not stepped a foot of her front door since she was a baby.  She is allergic to the outside world, and any little thing could kill her--chemicals from a cleaning solution, someone’s perfume, certain plants, or the wrong laundry detergent.  Her house has a special filtering system, and anyone who enters must go through a special head-to-toe cleansing.  Maddy’s world consists of her mother, a nurse, an occasional tutor, and a limited amount of online communication.  But everything changes when a new family moves in door, and a boy Maddy’s age catches her attention.  She dares to wonder if her life could be different.  What would she give up for a chance to really live?

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon, is a fascinating look at the life of a girl who is sheltered from the outside world, and believes that she must accept her fate, or die.  The characters are well-developed, and grab you into the story.  The author’s use of illustrations, diary entries, and notebook doodles from the point of view of someone with too much time on their hands also adds a lot to the book.  You wonder what life would be like in her shoes...and then everything is thrown on its head with a great twist at the end.  If you have students who enjoy John Green, Jodi Picoult, or the book Room, they will love Everything, Everything.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Recent Reads

I am trying to keep up on Twitter.  I really am.  But it is so overwhelming.  I did click on The Nerdy Book Club’s post, though. It was a post written by DorothySuskind, and in it, she talked about her metaphorical reading bookshelves.  I loved how she spoke of what was on these shelves, but I could listen to people talk about what they are reading for a long time.

I recently finished Fuzzy Mud, Crenshaw, and Nimona (YA).

Fuzzy Mud is written by Louis Sachar.  I feel kind of bad for the guy that he has to live up to Holes, one of my all-time favorite books.  In this story, Tamaya and Marshall go to the Woodridge Academy, with Marshall being responsible for Tamaya on the walk to and from school.  Marshall is being bullied by Chad and decides to take a short cut home through the woods, despite Tamaya’s wishes to just go the normal way.  Things take a turn for the worse as Chad follows the pair looking for a fight. Tamaya flings “fuzzy mud” at Chad, setting off a science fiction plot line.  I am always amazed that anyone can write a book, but I didn’t love this story.  It seemed flat with a forced bully and rule-following-girl character thrown in.

Crenshaw iswritten by Katherine Applegate, the author of The One and Only Ivan, a book I have not read.  In this story, we meet Jackson and his family.  They’ve fallen on some hard times and Jackson is a bit nervous that they will be homeless, a spot the family has been in before.  During that time of living in their van, an imaginary friend, a cat, named Crenshaw made his appearance to Jackson.  Crenshaw, however, hasn’t been sighted in years - until now.  He’s bigger and as cat-like in his personality as ever, but Jackson wonders what he’s doing back in his life.  Aren’t imaginary friends only for little kids?  I very much enjoyed this tale Applegate created.  She deals with a serious subject of homelessness, and how for lots of people, the looming possibility is very real.  Yet the story is easy without being cheesy or sappy or too scary.  This would make a fantastic read-aloud in grades 3-6. 

And now…a young adult graphic novel.  Friends, I have this love/hate relationship with graphic novels.  For some kids, including my third grade daughter, it is ALL they will read.  I asked a few fifth grade boys about their love for this format:
“You know how your mom makes you read for 30 minutes every night?  These are FUN to read.  They aren’t like a chapter book where the words just go on.”  (My silent response, “But I LIKE when the words go on and on.  Don’t you?”)
“I like the pictures and trying to figure out the story.”
“These Calvin and Hobbes books are way funnier than chapter books.”

I know reading graphic novels requires the use of many comprehension strategies, and some might argue they require more thinking than chapter books.  I won’t argue.  I get nervous, though, that kids are missing some beautiful writing by reading just graphic novels.  But, yes, they are also gaining exposure to some beautiful art work!  Normally, I would say to a parent, “Don’t worry.  They won’t be reading (insert book series) when they are older.”  But have you seen the shelves of graphic novels for adults?  This genre is not losing its popularity with kids or adults!

Nimona is a graphic novel written by Noelle Stevenson, co-writer of Lumberjanes.  It is a finalist for the National Book Award in the Young People’s category and is based on Stevenson’s web comic.  Here is my review taken from my Goodreads account: I don't think I will ever understand the appeal of graphic novels for kids, but I do appreciate their format and artistic style. I feel like the stories and characters lack depth, but for some reason the books stick with me so maybe I am wrong. This is a fantasy story for young adults (7th grade +) told in GN format. It tells the tale of Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart as sidekick and villain. Their friendship strengthens and we see the previous story of Blackheart's tenuous relationship with Goldenloin and the Institution. A battle ensues, and we are made aware the Nimona may not have been entirely honest about who she is. 
I loved the illustrator's explanations at the end of the story. They showed drafts and possible prequel information.

Did you love Sachar’s Holes like I did?  Did you have an imaginary friend when you were little?  Are you a reader of graphic novels? 

*images taken from TitlePeek


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Using Destiny Quest to Support Authentic Writing

The Destiny library management system allows students--and any school patron--to create an account. Once logged in, users can access Destiny Quest, which allows users to search the catalog, manage virtual bookshelves, place books on hold and view their accounts, send friend requests, make book recommendations, and review books.

We begin using Destiny Quest with our students in third grade. During scheduled library classes, we talk with students about the QuestHome page, which site administrators can customize to include books lists that are meaningful to their students. We also talk about the friend request feature, and we encourage students to accept friend requests to build a community of readers and students who talk about reading and books. In fourth and fifth grade, we teach students how to make thoughtful book recommendations to friends, and we also take time to write short book reviews.

As students move into the middle school, their recommendations and book reviews take on more meaning. We work with our language arts teachers to create lessons related to book review writing so students begin to see how their writing builds authenticity into our catalog and relates directly to every-day kinds of tasks.

Destiny Quest offers a safe, monitored online opportunity for students to write for real and immediate audiences, as well as to write for authenticity. As the TL in your building, why not suggest Destiny Quest as an alternative to traditional book review writing or book reports? Your teachers and students may be pleasantly surprised by the level of engagement and excitement that Destiny Quest brings!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New UNI advocacy publications for Teacher Librarians

Check out some new publications (here and here) shared by Dr. Karla Krueger from the UNI School Library Studies program that you can use to help advocate for your students and your program.  The first two are geared toward administrators and other stakeholders, about what a certified teacher librarian can do for a school, and the second describes qualitative research Dr. Krueger and Dr. Jean Donham conducted to investigate the connection between students' research skills and the presence of a full-time certified teacher librarian.  You can find their published study here.

Thanks, Dr. Krueger!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review--Adrift by Paul Griffin

Last year, S.A. Bodeen's book The Raft, an Iowa Teen Award nominee, was one of the hottest titles in my library. Helped along with teacher read-alouds and student word-of-mouth, The Raft became a must-read in my library. For students who loved that book, now there is Paul Griffin's Adrift.

Friends Matt and John work the summertime crowds on the beaches at Montauk, NY, to earn extra money. As they work the crowds, the boys meet Driana, a local, wealthy girl, and her Brazilian cousin Estefania, and Estefania's boyfriend Joao. When Driana invites the boys to a house party, John is eager to attend; Matt, however, is less excited but agrees to go. At the end of the evening, Estefania heads out to sea to night surf. Disaster strikes, which brings the remaining four teens out onto the ocean in a less-than-ideal boat to help. Now, all five are adrift in the Atlantic Ocean without anyone else's knowledge and only their cumulative knowledge to keep them alive.

Author Griffin keeps the suspense high as injuries prove fatal, plans turn sour, and tensions swell. Readers learn that Matt and John share a violent secret that shapes more and more the interactions between them. The unlikely romance between Driana and John causes strain in the boat, and as their days at sea leave all of the teens hungry and thirsty, difficult decisions must be made. To compound the problems they already face, a tropical storm is bearing down on them.

Adrift is a story filled with uncertainties, friction, and secrecy. Fans of Bodeen's The Raft will find the scenes at sea reminiscent of Robie's days lost on the Pacific Ocean. But Adrift readers will get much more as they read to learn who will survive--both the time at sea and the secrets they all keep.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cross-posting: Inadequate staffing in school libraries harms student achievement

I created this Pecha Kucha for a class in my doctoral program.  My problem statement is the title.  I'm thinking of changing my research focus from that exactly, because as I say below, the research has been done.  This is a settled question.  The problem now becomes how to get that message to stakeholders?  That feels a little squishy to me to be my research because I'm so close to it, as IASL Past President and Advocacy Chair, and the chair of ILA's Governmental Affairs Committee.  So who knows.  But here it is, and at the bottom as a video:
This work, "School bus" is a derivative of "2007 International Corbeil School Bus" by dflirecop, licensed under CC BY 2.0.
People have argued for centuries about the purpose of school.  Is it to guide students to be good citizens and future leaders?  Or to help them gain job skills so they can support a family?  Is it to give students a true liberal arts education?
This work,“MNW Elementary Library,”is by Christine Sturgeon and is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
Whatever the case, it seems the central role of school is to educate young minds.  So it’s only fitting that the school library - a repository of information, after all - should be the metaphorical if not physical center of the school.

"Day 174: Amazing Push-Button Shushing Action!" by Laura Taylor, used under CC BY 2.0.
Now, when I say “school library” you may have an outdated vision in your mind.  Let me assure you, today’s school libraries - and the  teacher librarians who lead them -  belie that stereotype.  School libraries can, should, and must be “safe, vibrant, energized information-rich environments" (Lewis & Loertscher, 2014, p. 48), led by professionals specially trained in information literacy.
Vision Statement Postcard
This work,“IASL Vision Postcard" created by Chelsea Sims, is used with permission.
And the state Department of Education knows it.  Their Vision for Iowa’s School Libraries reads, “Iowa’s best schools have library programs that engage the entire school community to elevate the learning experience for all.” It describes how teacher librarians teach students critical thinking and research skills, and how they “nurture curiosity to develop in students a passion for learning for life (Iowa DE, 2013, para. 8).
States with impact studies, 2000 – 2009, even more since This map was made at
In order to have that sort of impact, school library programs must be lead by full time certified teacher librarians.  Impact studies in many states, including Iowa, have demonstrated an increase in students’ standardized test scores and pleasure found in reading when a school has a full time teacher librarian (Lance, Schwartz, & Rodney, 2014; Lance & Hofschire, 2012; Lance & Hofschire, 2011; Lance, Rodney & Schwartz, 2010; Lance & Schwarz, 2012; Rodney, Lance, & Hamilton-Pennell, 2002). Many of these studies show these increases cannot be explained away by other school or community conditions.

Many of these impact studies were conducted by library consultant Keith Lance.  In 2009 he looked at data from the National Center for Education Statistics, “to document the impact of librarian layoffs on fourth-grade reading scores between 2004 to 2009 . . . Fewer librarians translated to lower performance - or a slower rise in scores - on standardized tests” (Lance & Hofschire, 2011, p. 29).
This work,“MNW Elementary Makerspace Marble Challenge”was created by Justin Daggett and used with permission.
Denice Adkins from the University of Missouri combed through PISA data and found that school libraries can positively impact poor students at such as degree as to help level the playing field.  But she states, “Merely having a dedicated library space is insufficient to serve the needs of students.  What is more important, especially for low performers, is having resources available and staff who can provide support” (Adkins, 2014, p. 17).
"Chained" by Kool Cats Photography, used under CC BY 2.0.
One review of the literature stated, “The existence of a positive link between school library services and academic achievement is a practically inescapable conclusion" (Chan, 2008, p. 7).
Feuerbach, S. (2014). TL building staffing in districts in Iowa. Des Moines, IA: Iowa Association of School Librarians.
In a study commissioned by the Iowa Association of School Librarians, only 8 of the 331 responding districts - 2% - had at least one full-time teacher librarian per attendance center, which is considered best practice.  Five percent of the respondents - 158 schools - had no teacher librarian whatsoever (Feuerbach, 2014).
Stressed Schoolgirl Studying In Classroom
Vital Imagery Limited. (2015). Stressed schoolgirl studying in classroom [stock photo]. Retrieved from iClipart for Schools. Used with permission.
This is a problem for Iowa’s schools, teachers, and most importantly, Iowa’s students.  Academic achievement is harmed when school libraries are inadequately staffed.

Adkins, D. (2014).  U.S. students, poverty, and school libraries:  What results of the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment tell us.  School Library Research. Retrieved from ERIC database.  (EJ1043360)
Chan, C. (2008).  The impact of school library services on student achievement and the implications for advocacy: A review of the literature.  Access 22(4): 15-20.
Feuerbach, S. (2014).  Ratio of teacher librarians to school buildings in Iowa.  Des Moines, IA: Iowa Association of School Librarians.
Iowa Department of Education (2013).  Vision for Iowa’s school libraries.  Retrieved from
Lance, K.C., Schwartz, B., & Rodney, M.J. (2014). How libraries transform schools by contributing to student success: evidence linking South Carolina school libraries and PASS & HSAP results. Retrieved from
Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2012).  School librarian staffing linked with gains in student achievement, 2005 to 2011.  Teacher Librarian, 39(6), 15-19.
Lance, K.C., & Hofschire, L. (2011). Something to shout about: new research shows that more librarians means higher reading scores.  School Library Journal, 57(9), 28-33.
Lance, K.C., Rodney, M.J., & Schwartz, B. (2010).  Idaho school library impact study - 2009: How Idaho school librarians, teachers, and administrators collaborate for student success. Retrieved from
Lance, K.C., & Schwartz, B. (2012).  How Pennsylvania school libraries pay off:  Investments in student achievements and academic standards.  Pennsylvania School Library Project. Retrieved from ERIC database.  (ED543418)
Lewis, K. R., & Loertscher, D. V. (2014). The possible Is now. Teacher Librarian41(3), 48.
Rodney, M.J., Lance, K.C., & Hamilton-Pennell, C. (2002).  Make the connection:  Quality school library media programs impact academic achievement in Iowa.  Bettendorf, IA: Iowa Area Education Agencies. Retrieved from