“Libraries Occupy the Heart of the Occupy Movement” is the lead headline for Nov/Dec issue of American Libraries the article [p.19]. It tells the story of the library that sprang up at the Occupy Wall Street encampment as a spontaneous action on the part of some “occupiers” who donated books to entertain those living there. But it grew into a regular collection and is now being organized by librarians and library students.
I don’t bring this up because of the politics of the Occupy movement but rather because I think that it’s telling that in this outdoor, politically charged, time-extended occupation, people still crave a place to unwind, study, collaborate, and relax with books and other resources. I’ve written before about the library as a ‘space’: the building in a school or a community that collects the resources together, organizes them for ease of use, and teaches it’s users how to use them. But while the space is important – in fact essential, the people who develop those spaces we call ‘library’ are the true important aspect; they’re the organizers, the developers, the administrators and instructors – as well as the folks who motivate and inspire the users of those materials.
There are discussions on many librarian blogs about how the school library profession needs to change- and change soon – before it dies all together. Among the suggestions are those that suggest that the librarian need not be located in a physical space, and perhaps he/she wanders the school teaching in classrooms or virtually by way of a computer or other online device.
But I contend that the space – the building, the closet, the little trailer in the school parking lot – that is called ‘library’ by those who attend the school - is still the most important classroom in that school. It’s the place where people gather: kids come in and out all day, administrators hold faculty meetings there, teachers congregate to collaborate, research or just drop in for a chat. The librarian, with help from a clerical assistant, organizes that space to include all the many ways that kids, teachers and administrators learn and use materials and information.
Our library space is often noisy and crowded; full of kids doing a wide variety of things- yes, even including studying. When I ask them why they come instead of heading out to the local donut shop or other places they could be going at lunch time, they say things like “I don’t know, it’s comfortable here or “It’s a good place to get my work done instead of later at home.” I’ve also heard “My friends are here doing homework so I figure I’ll do mine now too”. Since I’ve added a jigsaw puzzle to the mix of other activities available in our library, several kids have decided to spend their lunchtime hanging out and putting it together.
People like to congregate and people like to “make a library”. When I go to a friend’s cabin in the Sierras, there’s a library of books, computers and magazines located in the main lodge. In the Senior Center, there’s a library and even in most of the local coffee joints… yep, you guessed it – a library. People like to make a set-apart space for reading, contemplating and writing, and they make these spaces regularly.
Even if we closed down every school library in the nation, kids would find a place to get together to study, talk and hang out. So why not keep the school library? Why not a place where there are books, computers, paper, pencils, printers and most importantly credentialed school librarians to help them when they need it?
When educators envision the school of the future, they regularly ignore the school library. Poetic visions of these futuristic schools – some of which are being created right now – include designed spaces where students drop in between their classes. These spaces could be a cafeteria-like place, a study center, a ‘teen hangout’ resting place, or a high-tech retreat for studying or for following personal interests. Again, I contend that all those things sound like just a library. In these futuristic visions I rarely read about the person the designers think will monitor, lead or develop these spaces.
Have we so kept our very name – Librarian - out of the loop of future thinkers that we’re never considered to be a part of their plan? It appears so.
Let’s take a look at our own library spaces as we realize that kids, like everyone, want to congregate, work together [or at least side by side], and have the resources they need at their fingertips.
The best, most reliable resource they need to have in this space is their librarian – a 21st Century teacher teaching, guiding, facilitating the instruction that will help them get to where they want to go.
What does that look like, really? If you have any ideas, please weight in by commenting below.
A few weeks ago we got the official White House reply to the We the People petition we started for school libraries in January. It was a team effort to get the 28,000+ signatures for the petition and we had been waiting patiently (ok, maybe not so patiently) to see what the reply might be. You can read the petition and reply by clicking here.
Right after the reply came I wrote some initial thoughts on my blog. In that post, I highlight three benefits I saw from the White House Petition.
• We were successful! We got school libraries on the White House radar. Their statement clearly shows a support for school libraries and the critical role they play in schools.
• We saw what happens when we all work together. In my career, I’ve never seen such an amazing job of coordinating libraries of all type to work on a single issue. This is a clear example we can succeed when librarians advocate for each other (regardless of what type of library they are). We need each other and have to be willing to work together! This was a great example of doing just that. • We continue to work on being a more vocal and visible presence. With the AASL Congressional Briefing, the White House Petition, and now in a few weeks with National Legislative Day, we continue to raise the important issue of school libraries to our nation’s leaders. We still have a long way to go, but I think we are moving in the right direction.
As I reflect on that post, I guess the million-dollar question is where to do we go from here?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think we continue to move in the right direction. Each step has been a step forward in helping to educate Washington about the power and potential in today’s school libraries. I think the petition is just one teaching tool. Just as we use different strategies and techniques with our students, we have to do the same with leaders in Washington.
We each have to take some ownership of this process – librarians, vendors, community members, parents, students, etc. We can’t assume that someone is going to do it. When we hear we need to call Washington on important library issues, we need to pick up the phone and do it. We need to send those emails. We need to make those contacts and make our voices heard.
The same can be said at the state and local level. They have to hear from school library advocates! They need to hear how important the community thinks libraries are to the school ecosystem. They need to hear those voices loudly, clearly, and often.
There is little doubt there is much work to do with all types of education and government leaders to help them see the impact and importance of today’s school libraries. But, we can’t give up. We have to keep working on a variety of strategies and use a plethora of teaching tools until they understand completely!
Carl is the librarian at North Elementary School in Noblesville, Indiana
and the 2011-2012 President of the American Association of School
Librarians. He can be reached at email@example.com or @caharvey2 on
Twitter. He blogs at Library Ties.
If you enjoyed this blog post, then read these posts in Carl Harvey's series on library advocacy:
A few weeks ago some colleagues and I were talking about our libraries and how long we had each been in our positions and where we had worked before when we started talking about the changes we all had made when we first walked through the doors of our different library jobs.
Invariably we each first looked around at the physical space and measured the changes we’d make right away usually centering on making the space “ours”. That would mean moving desks, creating bulletin boards, and even changing the arrangement of shelves when they weren’t bolted down to the floor.
It was in mid-discussion that someone asked “what if we were to walk through our doors today – as if we were the brand new librarian. What changes would we make today?
I thought of this as an incredible challenge to take back with me to school the following Monday because while I have made some great changes, I knew that it still wasn’t where I’d like it to be yet.
And so…what if I were just hired - what would I see and what would I change right now to make this library say what I want it to say about learning, teaching, searching, creating, and inviting students and teachers to join in on all those things?
So in unlocking the door on that ‘first’ day and walking around I noticed that the librarian’s desk was sitting in a back room, the shelves were placed in a very neat row but were totally uninspiring, and the chairs are way too big.
Why is this so important in this day and age when we are more often taking the library into the classroom and into other learning spaces. I absolutely applaud this trend and value it as an extension of the physical space we call ‘the library’. But that human need to gather together for social, emotional and educational engagements demands, in my mind, that we create and nurture a space for these activities to take place. The library, with all it’s resources and most importantly, the librarian there to participate as a teacher in those social, emotional, educational and creative pursuits indeed makes the library the most important classroom space in the school.
Our job is to nurture that space in such a way that every time we walk into a classroom to work alongside our teaching colleagues we ‘bring the library’ with us. And when it’s lunch time, or study hall, or tutorial or after school time, students and teachers know that they can congregate in the library to continue their studies, ask the questions, create their presentations, and build their skills with the help and guidance of their librarian.
I’ve started working with a local company to make a new reference desk out in the middle of the room, we’re creating new bulletin board displays; we’re purchasing an interactive whiteboard for easier instruction. These are the first ‘new steps’ we’re taking to make changes to our space. Next up: taking a look at our instruction.
BTW: Anyone want to buy some 1 ½ size chairs?
Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries.You
can contact her via email, or leave a comment below.
I love the spring. This year in our neck of the woods has been especially beautiful as we’ve been experiencing milder than normal temps, so the flowers are blooming, the grass is turning green, and it has made for a wonderful celebration of spring!
But another reason I love the springtime is because April is National School Library Month! What could be better than an entire 30 days devoted to celebrating and recognizing all that the school library program brings to the school community? National School Library Month is the perfect opportunity for school librarians to get out there and spread the message throughout the school and the community about what 21st century school libraries look like and what 21st century school librarians do!
I could spend this entire blog post just telling you the history behind the month, but it will be so much easier if you listen to the podcast with Lucille Thomas who spearheaded the establishment of school library month almost 30 years ago. There is also additional history and documentation provided by AASL as well.
The School Library Month Committee has been hard at work pulling together a variety of tools and resources to help you celebrate National School Library Month. There are flyers, public service announcements, ideas, podcasts, webinars, and even a student video contest (deadline for submissions is over, but winners will be announced in mid-April!). You can access all of these on the AASL website – http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslissues/slm/schoollibrary
National School Library Month is the perfect opportunity to get the word out about the great things happening in your school library. There are countless ideas you could do:
• Special programming or events. • Invite parents, administrators, and legislators to come in and tour the program and facility. • Share what students think about the school library in newsletters, flyers, etc. • Create a video to post on the library website about how the library impacts students and staff. • Research contests to get students using library resources. • Unveil new resources – books, eBooks, databases, etc.
My guess is you’ll be able to think of a lot better ideas than I did in just a few minutes, but the possibilities are endless. The AASL website has lots of great ideas, too. Many of the Advocacy Tips of the Day would make great ways to promote National School Library Month, too.
Make sure that everyone in your school knows that April is National School Library Month and just exactly what the school library does to support students in preparing them for their future. But, don’t let it end there. It is always great to have a month to celebrate school libraries, but in the back of your mind thinking about celebrating school libraries all year long. We can’t rest after the 30 days this month. School librarians have to constantly and consistently be working on advocating and promoting what they are doing each and every day for students.
Happy School Library MonthCarl is the librarian at North Elementary School in Noblesville, Indiana and the 2011-2012 President of the American Association of School Librarians. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @caharvey2 on Twitter. He blogs at Library Ties – http://www.carl-harvey.com/libraryties/
It’s been about two weeks now since we crossed the 25,000 signatures mark for the White House petition. From ALA President Molly Raphael’s School Library Task Force to the ALA Think Tank on Facebook who bought ads on Facebook to the vendor community who sent out messages to all their customers to the librarians and their supporters who convinced their families to all sign the petition to the ALA divisions who helped pull in the entire library community to the other national organizations and associations that partner with AASL who spread the word through their websites and memberships as well, it truly was a team effort. I think the reason we hit 25,000+ is because everyone worked together.
We now wait for the White House response. There is no timeline given by the White House other than they will respond as quickly as is possible. The response will be posted on the White House – We the People – website and everyone who signed the petition will receive the response via email. There is no guarantee that the response will include any action from the White House. However, the petition will help raise awareness of the issues facing school libraries today.
But, the petition is not a silver bullet. As we work towards getting school libraries included in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it will be important that we keep up the effort. We need to be talking to Senators and Representatives, encouraging them to support the Skills Act. On January 17, U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ, 7th), along with Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ, 12th) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA, 6th) introduced the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLS) Act. The SKILLS Act, numbered H.R. 3776 in the House, is a companion bill of S. 1328 that was introduced in the Senate by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) back on July 6, 2011.
The AASL Congressional Briefing in October, followed by the petition, have been great steps in advocating for school libraries at the Federal level. But they are just steps in the journey. We’ve not reach our destination, so we have to keep moving forward as we paint a picture for our legislators about what today’s school libraries can do for students and the importance for each and every student to have access to a quality school library program!
Carl is the librarian at North Elementary School in Noblesville, Indiana and the 2011-2012 President of the American Association of School Librarians. He can be reached at email@example.com or @caharvey2 on Twitter. He blogs at Library Ties.
AASL is finally here! We are thrilled to be joining this esteemed library community for a day of learning and networking . We are always happy for opportunities to connect with our current customers and to be able to build new relationships in a community that we hold in high regard. We look forward to continuing to advocate libraries and create innovative solutions to help librarians and K-12 educators connect and explore their classrooms together, working in partnership to engage and prepare their students for the new world of learning and self-discovery in a digital age.
We understand the challenges that face librarians in their local communities aren’t just challenges solely facing librarians but challenges for each and every citizen in the communities they serve. As we get ready for the activities at AASL this thought is foremost in our minds. We will continue to reach out and connect with our customers and our presence at AASL is as much about Follett Software as it is about continuing the conversations with our customers about advocacy of school libraries and the connection between the classroom the school library.
We encourage you to reach out to us and share your successes as much as your trials. It is your feedback and transparency that fuels our innovation and provides viability to our software solutions.
Speaking of Library Advocacy, on Thursday night, we will be announcing our Follett Challenge winners . The Follett Challenge was created to encourage librarians to become champions for their library programs and to encourage incorporation of 21st century learning into the traditional school library.
Join us from 7a.m-7 p.m in our booth (#901) to learn more about these innovative library programs. We also encourage you to come learn about our upcoming Destiny 10.0 update and the new Destiny Quest Mobile app in scheduled presentations in our booth Friday and Saturday. You’ll get an insider’s sneak peak at the new features of Destiny 10.0 and view a demo of our new Destiny Quest Mobile app.
If you are a Follett Software Customer using Destiny products make sure to stop by our booth so we can scan your QR code and you can redeem your prize. Remember, every postcard holder is a winner at Follett Software Booth #901.
We invite all AASL attendees to celebrate library advocacy and the Follett Challenge winners with a champagne toast and speech from our CEO, Chuck Follett.
The Follett Challenge has been an eye opening project to every member of the Follett Challenge committee and to our staff at large. We are in awe at the participation and the grass roots efforts of school libraries to serve their communities. 123 videos were submitted and librarians across the country rallied their communities to vote them to the top. The Follett Challenge showcases our American Idols, school librarians, and the innovative ways in which they are educating our youth.
We realize that your time might become limited because of all the wonderful sessions at AASL. No worries, you can follow us on Twitter and on our Facebook page to exchange ideas and observations. Please join us in the conversations on the AASL Conference Ning Site. We are sure that this will be chock full of great virtual networking and knowledge share and we can’t wait to participate.
It’s the evening before the event officially opens and we can’t wait until it begins. Drop us a line in the comments below and let us know what excites you about AASL ‘s 15th National Conference and Exhibition. See you soon.
Social media brings excitement and interest to learning and empowers students to grow as global and digital citizens. One obvious example of an educator who is embracing this technology to engage students is Van Meter Community School Librarian Shannon McClintock Miller (@shannonmmiller). We were fortunate to have Shannon present her ideas on the Positive Effects of Social Media in Education at our New Leaf in Learning Conference, which took place in March. It was a standing-room only session that illustrated how this trailblazer's confidence in social media as a constructive learning tool is paying off.
The session was recorded and is embedded below – if you can’t see the video, click here.
As she makes clear in the video, teachers and librarians don't need to fear social media—they need to encourage kids to use it to advance learning and show them constructive ways to utilize the tools. Using social media in her school allows Shannon to connect with other teachers and classrooms well beyond her district, and her students are sharing, publishing, discussing, creating and collaborating with peers and other teachers around the world.
"Social media brings excitement, currency and engagement," she told us. "It gives kids a voice and enriches their learning experiences by letting them connect with individuals, groups and experiences around the world."
As audience members expressed concern about kids wasting time texting from their cell phones and reading Facebook posts instead of participating in class, this enthusiastic educator pointed out that a driven instructor can steer students toward using social media productively, so that they don't have time or desire to use it in the ways many teachers and parents fear. She also described how the administration at Van Meter was 'on board' with her use of social media because everything is transparent—there are no secrets—and she takes the time to teach etiquette and literacy so all students strive to use social media wisely.
But don’t take her word for it. During the session, Shannon made it easy for everyone to get ideas and see social media in action by letting her students do the talking. As a group of students appeared on the screen live via Skype, each student greeted Miller enthusiastically then told the audience about their individual projects using Animoto, Skype, Facebook, iMovie, YouTube, Flickr and others. The audience immediately saw the power of social media through the students' own stories.
What positive effects are you seeing by using social media in education? Share your stories below!
Every summer for many years, a friend of the family, a retired teacher, could be found hip deep in the cold water of the Rio Grande, his fishing line splayed out into the river, and the sun reflecting off the rushing water. It took such patience to wade out there and cast the perfect arc of his line so that it sunk right where he aimed. And he’d wait, and wait and sometimes reel one in and pocket it into his creel. Sometimes he’d come home empty handed. Every year through Oklahoma winters he’d sit contentedly making flies, and each one was directed to a different kind of fish, and each one was a work of art. This planning and building was important to the process. When asked why he did this: plan, create, practice and perfect his craft—especially since it didn’t always result in bringing home any fish—he’d just say: “Well,you know… they call it fishing. Not catching."
What an amazing thought that is: to think about process, and how sometimes the results are not the point. In education today, the emphasis, we are told, is to be placed on the product – and the results had better point to success. Did we “reel in” our students and teach them what they needed to know so that they can pass the test? I hope that when one comes to visit our school libraries that what they see are teachers who are standing back and helping their students demonstrate their interest, creativity and learning using the tools that we can offer.
I hope that the process is as valued as the product and that one day, someone will walk through those doors, look around and say: “Well, you know… they call it learning. Not teaching.”
Connie Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries. Connie loves to read and loves talking 'story' with others. You can contact her via email, or leave a comment below. She also wants to see YOU this week in Chicago!
We seem to be at a critical juncture in the struggle against overzealous filtering in schools. Many administrators indicate that they are ready to unblock social media sites, but claim that network administrators and lawyers caution them against it. There is a lot of misinformation about federal regulation in this realm. To demystify the issue of e-rate funding and CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) compliance, Tina Barseghian, of MindShift at KQED in San Francisco posted an interview with Karen Cator, U.S. Department of Education’s Director of Education Technology on April 26, 2011. A few weeks earlier, Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educator) and Tom Whitby (My Island View) address some of these issues in their co-authored blog post, The World's Simplest Online Safety Policy (April 3, 2011). In February, COSN (Consortium for School Networking) outlined recommended guidelines for Acceptable Use Policies in Web 2.0 and Mobile Era (February 18, 2011).
Students today lead dual lives – their interactive social life and their “receptive” academic life. At the end of the school day, young people log on and engage online with peers. They share resources, express themselves, opine on their friends' content and activities and the world at large. They are contributors in their social world. But in school, collaboration often begins and ends with “group projects” – which, in many cases, feel contrived in contrast to the organic participatory culture students experience outside of school. In order to inculcate that same participatory culture into students’ academic life, and channel it toward productivity, it is important to provide them with a wide range of online edu-social experiences. Unfortunately, portals for online social interaction are often blocked in schools. We are thus denying students critical learning opportunities about digital citizenship, collaboration and communication. If we are not teaching these skills in a relevant, real-world context, we are failing to teach them how to apply our lessons to their “other life.”
To highlight the importance of the First Amendment, the American Library Association (ALA) has a longstanding tradition of celebrating the freedom to read -Banned Books Week (BBW) – during the last week in September. Librarians are enlisted to feature frequently challenged books. This is a most worthy cause as it celebrates our freedom to access information and exposes censorship.
At New Canaan High School, which is a free-range media/BYOD, public high school in Connecticut, we will extend censorship awareness week into a two week intellectual freedom celebration, prefacing Banned Books Week with Banned Sites Week from September 17-24, 2011, and feature sites that are commonly banned in schools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Blogger, etc. We hope that other districts will join in this initiative. Got questions about CIPA compliance? Answers here. And for more information about using social media for instruction, please visit my blog at Bibliotech.me.
Michelle Luhtala is the Department Chair of New Canaan High School Library, which won several 2010 awards including the National School Library Program of the Year Award. She also facilitate a 2,000+ member online professional learning community for school librarians called Using Emerging Technology to Improve Your Library Program at edWeb.net/emergingtech, where she presents monthly webinars (they are all archived online). Michelle is a regular conference presenter. She is co-authoring a forthcoming book, Relevant Librarian: a 21st Century Guide to the Responsive Library, and contributing a chapter to a forthcoming book called School Librarians as Leaders in Professional Development. She blogs at Bibliotech.me.
When the National School Board Association’s Technology Leadership Network unveiled its most recent “20 to Watch” list, we were proud to note that no fewer than six of the innovative educators honored work at districts that are Follett Software Destiny customers. The “20 to Watch” honorees were singled out, according to the NSBA, because “they are finding different, effective and exciting ways to engage students through the use of technology.”
Buffy Hamilton, media specialist/teacher, Cherokee County School District, Canton, Georgia. Buffy uses a wide range of Web 2.0 tools to engage students at Creekview High School in literacy activities. Her school library, which she has named The Unquiet Library , emphasizes inquiry and a participatory approach to learning. For her efforts, Creekview has been honored as the Georgia High School Media Program of the Year. Among Buffy’s proudest accomplishments has been the introduction of Media 21, a participatory, transliterate learning environment for research projects. It has helped earn her a Cutting Edge Service Award from the American Library Association's Office for Information and Technology Policy.
Paul Andersen, teacher, Bozeman Public Schools, Bozeman, Montana. To date, Paul’s “Bozeman Biology ” podcasts have been viewed more than 280,000 times. Anderson also shares his knowledge by holding weekly “Tech Junkies” meetings for teachers and students who want to learn more about technology. He recently was named the 2011 Montana Teacher of the Year.
Dr. Debra Howe, superintendent, Rochester Community Schools, Rochester, Indiana. Debra spearheaded the creation of the first New Tech High in rural Indiana. Not only are high school students learning in a 1:1 technology rich environment, but also all K-12 classrooms have interactive white boards, SMART document cameras, laptop computers and digital cameras.
Ryan Hurley, English teacher, Warren County Schools, Warrenton, North Carolina. Ryan has turned his classroom into a paperless learning community using a wide variety of free online resources. Working with a high number of impoverished high school students, Hurley goes beyond his curriculum to teach students how to use classroom technology.
Jeffrey McMahon, academic technology officer, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, Indiana. Jeffrey led the development of a 1:1 laptop model, which put laptops into the hands of more than 2,500 students. The program involved a Problem Based Learning Curriculum, in which students had to use their laptops to identify and solve real and significant problems in their communities.
Terri Simpson, teacher, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, Sulphur, Louisiana. Terri is a 21st-century teacher who believes in diving fearlessly into new territory. She has led efforts to incorporate GoogleDocs, iPods, Palm hand-helds, digital cameras, iPads, student-response systems and one-to-one computing at her middle school, and has secured grants and other funding to help bring this technology to the school.
Follett Software congratulates all the honorees, as well as their districts, for giving these creative educators the tools they need to work magic with technology and inspire so many.