Library Connections

Entries for month: April 2013

Experience IS the Best Teacher

April 29, 2013 · 32 Comments

It’s a bit “old news” by now, but a study in 2009 showed that “study suggests that buying life experiences rather than material possessions leads to greater happiness for both the consumer and those around them.” And one even older, conducted in the 1970’s concluded that winners of millions of dollars, such as can be won in a lottery, were no happier than those who were far less financially successful.
 While I often think that I’d love to test that theory myself, I got to thinking about experiences, spending priorities and libraries.

This year we had several opportunities to have guest speakers in the library. It’s not cheap to invite an author, storyteller, poet, or other speaker to come to a library to speak at anywhere from 2-4 sessions and since most libraries don’t have a huge budget – and often have no budget at all – deciding on whether or not to have a speaker come in vs. purchasing a computer can be a difficult decision.

But I had such a fabulous experience reading the book “The Distance Between Us” by Reyna Grande that I knew I wanted students to hear her speak.  Her book describes her life in Mexico as a child left behind by her parents seeking a better life in the United States. She endured neglect at the hand of her grandmother and lived in a world of stark poverty. She was able to overcome this childhood trauma when she herself came to the United States.  I felt her story was one that would resonate with students in my school.  I was right. They loved her book. Deciding to have her come to visit was easy.

 A few weeks later, I had been working with some history students as well as some students with an English assignment. Both assignments had all the students talking about the concepts of ‘ethos’, ‘logos’, and ‘pathos’. Some of them just weren’t “getting” the differences, much less how to apply those ‘big idea’ thoughts to their assignments. This got me to thinking about my friend Joe McHugh. Joe is a storyteller who had spoken at a California School Library Association conference a few years back, and who later came to my school to speak with students.

His talk called “Slaying the Gorgon” tells the story of media, myth…and the message. In his talk he describes how the media mixes up the elements of mythos, and pathos and uses them to their advantage – and has done so down through the millennia.

Using story, images, songs, and instruments, he brings these ‘big idea’ concepts to life in a way that students understand.

He and his wife, Paula came to  present to classes over a two-day period.  At the end of each presentation, students rushed up to speak with him about some of the ideas. A few stopped him on the way out to his car to chat. His ideas sparked some discussions back in the classroom.
Should I have spent my library budget on these two speakers? Certainly had I decided otherwise, I’d be two computers richer. But I have to admit, that when I saw students – lots of them – go to the shelves after hearing Reyna speak to pick up books by the Latina authors she mentioned, and when, weeks later I see them still passing those books around to each other, I got to thinking that maybe I invested in the right thing.
Students today spend so much time interacting with text; either writing it or reading it. Text is good. I love text. But many students don’t get the opportunity to meet the kinds of people who are in our community doing things.  “Access” isn’t always about getting to an iPAD or a computer.   Access can mean that students be exposed to the rich variety of people, activities and interactions that could be available to them, and whom they might never get to know about without an introduction from educators. Many of us already book author visits. With a little thought, we can give our students far more of the world by having interesting but “ordinary” people drop by. 
Do experiences always have to cost money? Absolutely not. A while back when I worked in the Junior High we staged bi-monthly “brown bag lunch” experiences. Students came into the library with their lunch and community members came in to show off their talents and share their own experiences. We had a police dog come in and locate hidden things in the shelves; a make-up artist did “mini-makeovers”; a television dog came with his owner to show students fun tricks to teach their dogs; and once we had a band from the high school come in and play an hour of lunch time rock & roll.

The librarian at that junior high now, Valerie, stages origami festivals and offers challenges that students can participate in. These are all fun events, easy to put on, and cost no money. Working with our local independent bookstore we get lots of YA authors on their circuit across the country.  For every experience I’ve had to decide whether I could afford or not… and then did decide to “go for it” I’ve been rewarded two-fold (or more!).
•    Spoken word poets turned the world around for two Latino students who thought that school had nothing for them.
•    The actor dog brought one student into the library for the first time.
•    A loner, really-smart student caught a presenter’s eye one year and they chatted long after the presentation ended.

Doctors, dentists, llama owners….
Yeah, it’s worth it.


Connie Williams is a high school librarian and an advocate for school libraries.You can contact her via email, or leave a comment below.

1. Citation: San Francisco State University. "Buying Experiences, Not Possessions, Leads To Greater Happiness." ScienceDaily, 17 Feb. 2009. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
2. The Minimalists:
3. The Press Democrat: article & picture
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32 CommentsTags: Inquiring Minds in the Library

Is Anyone Available to Help in Our School Library?

April 24, 2013 · 18 Comments

One of my least favorite jobs every year is trying to set up a volunteer schedule.  I'm luckily in that I do have some support staff who help with processing materials, checking in materials, and all the other clerical stuff that has to happen.  My teachers are also great about helping with checking out materials.  We have our Destiny Library Automation System setup so the kids can do self-checkout and it makes the process run pretty smoothly.

Our library has a very liberal check out policy.  We allow students to checkout as many items as they can be responsible for.  We encourage kids that if they want to check out more than five items they should have a good reason.  As a result, most of our kids take five items.  5 items x 530 kids = a whole lot of books coming and going every week.

The one thing that I can never seem to find enough help with is - SHELVING!

The Road to Finding Helpers to Shelve Books

Shelving books-no one likes it. Goodness knows I hate to shelve books.  Philosophically I decided a long time ago that I should spend my time focused on working with teachers and kids.  If the books pile up, then they pile up.  Now every once in a blue moon (I say maybe once a decade) we get so far behind that I'll sneak in on a weekend to shelve books.  This is a rare, rare occasion. 

I've probably shared this story before, but my mom was not surprised that I became a librarian because as a young child I used to pull off all the books I could reach on the bookshelf.  She said I was never very good at putting them back.  If you ask my assistant, I haven't gotten any better at that.  :)  Mostly it is a perception thing.  I don't want an administrator to see me focused on that.  I know the shelving of books has to be done, but there has to be other ways to get it done.  

I've had a few friends that have had wonderful success with Jr. Librarian clubs where the kids help us shelve the books.  We've tried it a couple of times and both experiments have failed miserably.  I can't figure out the exact reason why this has failed.  Is it the schedule, the other activity choices available to kids, or just a lack of interest?  Whatever the case, I am always envious of those programs.  They just don’t seem to work for us.

Calling Parent Volunteers

So, every year begins the hunt for parent volunteers.  We always make a plea to parents on back to school night for help.  We are always hoping we can rope in a few Kindergarten moms and if we’re lucky maybe we can keep them until 5th grade!! We really welcome anyone else who would like to spend some quality time helping us put back the books.   We send home flyers with the newsletter with our call for help.  This is moderately successful.  We start out the school year strong with volunteers and as the year goes along, they start to drop off as life gets busy.  We certainly understand, so if we end the year with one or two dedicated folks, we are thrilled!

Teachers to the Rescue

This year, we went searching for volunteers in the same manner as always, but I had an "aha" moment.  I've always tried to get retired teachers into the library to help with the book fair.  They love to come in and see some of their former students, have lunch in the teacher’s lounge, and catch-up with their friends.  But, this year it dawned on me we could utilize them even more.

Last year we had a few teachers retire that just weren't sure about the whole retired thing, so I said if they wanted to come in they could volunteer in the library.  Guess what?  They took me up on it.  We now have three former teachers who come in each week -- pretty consistently.  It has saved us since our usual parent volunteers didn’t work often this year. 

But, shelving isn't for everyone, so when our annual inventory looked like it wasn't going to get done, we brought in the retired teachers to also do the scanning for us.  It is taking a while, but they just come and go as their schedule allows and slowly but surely we're getting the library inventoried. 

I don't know if these retired teacher volunteers is something that will last forever, but sure has been a windfall this year.  Hopefully we can keep twisting their arms to keep coming back until the next round of teachers retires!

It Is a Long and Winding Road

We're thinking more and more in terms of specific projects, too.  We have one Mom that loves to cover books, so when a big order of donations got processed we call her and she's been coming in a few days each week to begin to knock out these books.  The targeted calls for help seem to be much more successful then when we try to get someone to come in every week or every couple of weeks. 

What strategies or tips do you have for recruiting volunteers or getting the books back on the shelves?

Carl is the librarian at North Elementary School in Noblesville, Indiana.  He can be reached at or @caharvey2 on Twitter.  He is a Past-President of AASL, and an author of professional books for school librarians.  He blogs at Library Ties.

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18 CommentsTags: Where in the World of Library is Carl?

A Library Transformed

April 24, 2013 · 27 Comments

When I was assigned to teach in the library two and a half year ago, I spent the year happily engaging students in various reading activities, information and technology literacy skills, teaching students how to create BookTubes (similar to a movie trailer but for a book) and also collaborating with teachers.  Though I was constantly challenged with my workload (I had no idea librarians worked so hard), I really enjoyed what I was teaching and was thoroughly enjoying the new, updated library.  Surprisingly, at the end of the year, I was informed I had been transferred to teach library at another school due to changes in FTE. 

In my last post I briefly mentioned the state of my school’s library when I first arrived eighteen months ago: sixteen antiquated bubble Macs operating without high speed internet and no wireless access or digital media tools like a video or still camera.  Web 2.0 tools, teaching information and technology literacy, and creating BookTubes were out of the question in this outdated library. 

I contacted our district’s library coordinator, Lynn Lary, who just happens to also be our district’s Instructional Technology Specialist and asked for some ideas.  She worked to push the completion of the high speed internet installation which had been delayed for a variety of reasons.  She also personally visited my library and brought with her the head of our technology department, Brad McEntire. 

The parent community at Walterville is very supportive and one day while visiting with a parent, who happened to be very involved in our school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), I shared my technology woes.  She suggested I approach the PTO for some help.  There just happened to be a PTO meeting the very next day.  I met with the PTO and shared with them how I would like to create BookTubes with students but that it was difficult to do with the lack of technology in our library.  I mentioned the importance of teaching information literacy skills and that these skills would be challenging to teach given the current state of our library.  Parents were very receptive to my ideas and the next day I was told the PTO was purchasing four desktop iMacs for the library!  Oh my, you can imagine my excitement!

I then applied for a grant from our local education foundation, Springfield Education Foundation (SEF), and was awarded enough money to purchase three more iMacs, making a total of six new desktop iMacs for our library!  I was ecstatic!  To top it all off, shortly after receiving my new iMacs, Lynn and Brad returned to my school to help me brainstorm how to organize my library and its new technology.  While we were making a plan I noticed they were planning for more computers than I had.  When I pointed this out, Brad and Lynn looked at me with a smile and told me they were going to match the number of computers I had received for our library!  That’s right, I was getting seven more iMacs for our library for a total of fourteen new iMac computers! 

They left me with that wonderful news and my dilemma of how to arrange all of these beautiful new computers in our school’s library.  What a wonderful problem to have!  Tune in next time to hear about how our library’s technology resources continued to grow with iPads and ebooks. 

Have you updated your library?  How did you do it? Shar e y0ur experience in the comments below.

Amy Page is a K-5 library media specialist with a passion for reading, learning, technology, travel, and adventure.  You can connect with her by leaving a comment below.  Check out her library blog.

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27 CommentsTags: Libraries Without Walls

Prepare for a Successful End of Year Inventory

April 18, 2013 · 77 Comments

The inventory resource center is your one-click stop for tips, help and more to take the headache out of your end of year inventory process.  It doesn't have to be long and painful.  As part of your support agreement, Follett Software has centralized all of its online resources to address your most common inventory questions.  Visit the Follett Software Inventory Resource Center 24/7 located here for tips, guides and all the information you need to complete your inventory process.

Resources you will find when you login to the customer portal for end of year inventory tools are:

  • Online inventory help-Click on your product to see what's available.
  • Complimentary eLearnings that guide you through inventory from start to finish.
  • Pre-recorded webinars to view at your convenience.
  • Best practice for a successful inventory

While you are in the customer portal, check out our new support page.  Here you will quickly find answers to frequently asked questions.  We have a number of support articles available, and new and meaning articles are added every day.


Speaking of improvements, check out Follett's Guest blogger Andrea Keller in her newest blog post, "Spring Cleaning the Classroom".  In this blog post, our guest blogger Andrea Keller explores her classroom with you and her ideas and tips for organizing. 

Finally, if you missed our Spring Giveaway on Facebook, we are giving you another opportunity to download Spring themed bookmarks and Facebook Covers.  Click here for bookmarks and here for Facebook Covers.

Do you have any inventory tips to share? Your wisdom is welcome, please comment below.

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77 CommentsTags: Inventory

The Shift To A Learning Commons

April 16, 2013 · 6 Comments

Hello Readers!

I am Jo!  My sentimental father named me after my maternal grandmother and mother JoAnn. However, the hospital did not follow his orders giving me a space between the Jo and Ann.  Thus my life has been interesting and different since the day I was born. Dad saying her name is JoAnn not Jo.  I imagine you noticed I said "orders".  Yes my father was in the Army and proud of it especially since he was born in Ireland.

I have family in Ireland and have traveled back to see them many times.  What a cultural change it is going there and I love it!  I have taken my children there as well to embrace our relatives.  Luckily for you readers I have kissed the Blarney Stone three times and it gave me the gift of gab! Now kissing the stone is not an easy task because you do not want to fall into the moat. Here is a picture of Maneesh preparing to kiss the stone. Thank goodness for the steel bars!

My life experiences have enhanced the way I teach because from day one I made it applicable. Have you ever heard a student say, "What's in it for me?"  Well some times I find myself thinking the same thing about educational changes.  Have you?  Heavens when my children went through the why stage I thought I'd lost my mind.  Those years found me talking and immediately explaining the why BEFORE they asked. 

Maybe that's why I love taking my family hiking.  We walk and talk for hours. Those hikes are where I learned Mom does not have all the answers and that is okay.  We cannot always be expected to know the answer right then and there can we?
Hiking taught me a valuble lesson.  In order to hike to the summit, I must simply put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.  I also wanted my children to reach the top of the mountain so I never gave up on them.  It was worth it the day we reached the top together.  Why?  The view is amazing and you can see forever!
Join me on this journey of our from School Libraries to Learning Commons!

JoAnn was born in Oakland California, and after two boys finally her parents had their one daughter.  After JoAnn's father retired from the Army they moved to Loveland, Colorado where she graduated from high school.  Later

JoAnn obtained her M.Ed then MLIS both in Colorado.  For twelve years she taught at Poudre School District in northern Colorado before working at Cherry Creek School District.

Because Denver hosted the ISTE conference, JoAnn's life took a dramatic change.  While looking through the ISTE website, she  discovered a job opening for Director of Innovative Resource Media Systems. Being the wild Irish woman that she is,  JoAnn applied for the job and six months later moved to Houston, Texas.  Because her loving family supports her, JoAnn can honestly tell you this she has a wonderful job and she is a lucky woman. JoAnn's three children live in three states, so frequent flyer miles are her best friend.  She has two grandchildren and two grand-dogs who she spoils every time she visits.

When JoAnn isn'tworking you will find me reading, hiking, biking, camping and traveling the world!

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6 CommentsTags: Learning Commons

Poem In Your Pocket Day

April 15, 2013 · 5 Comments

April may be the cruelest month, but as the director of a high school writing center, it may just be my favorite month. As you probably know, it is National Poetry Month, the month when I get to thrust upon my co-workers my own literary agenda. Because I do have an agenda. My job is just my vehicle in my mission of corrupting young minds by engaging them in the act of reading poetry. I dream of a world in which the poetry section in Barnes and Noble actually takes up more space than the Teen Vampire section.

And fortunately, I have many co-conspirators. Organizations like the Poetry Foundation offer many activities you can use to bring poetry into the classroom. Activities so well put together, you will feel like you are taking the easy way out by not crafting your own amazing poetry filled curriculum.

My favorite, because it is so easy and so much fun, is Poem in your Pocket Day.

Here you will find ideas for participating on April 18th and a stack of poems you can print and handout. Last year, our writing center distributed poems to all staff and to students who visited us. Throughout the day, teachers shared their pocket poems and offered students extra credit to share the poem they brought. We had our army of student writing coaches share their poems throughout the day, too.

Elizabeth Joy Levinson runs a high school writing center and library on the west side of Chicago.  She has been teaching for more than ten years, with experience in museum education, private education, and in the classroom. She is also a writer with work appearing in several journals, including Grey Sparrow, Hobble Creek Review, Up the Staircase, and Apple Valley Review.

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5 CommentsTags: The Umbrella Plan

Twitter Stream from Follett's One Search Webinar- From Launch to Use

April 11, 2013 · 4 Comments

The Follett One Search Webinar- From Launch to Use had over 70 attendees today.  Andrew Dutcher, Middle School/High School teacher librarian at Dryden Central School, shared his District's story with us today.  Affectionately known as “Captain Podcast” by some of his teachers, Andrew explores how Web 2.0 tools and other educational technologies can be integrated into classroom instruction to promote student thinking and learning. He earned his MS from Buffalo State College and his MLS from the University at Buffalo. He is the host and producer of the Visitor Showcase Podcast. Andrew can also be found on Twitter, his handle is @DrydenLibrarian. Andrew shared his experience in training his district on the use and value of OneSearch, setting up patrons, and a lot of practial experience and real world use of OneSearch by both students and teachers in his district.

We microblogged the webinar on Twitter.  Here is the digest:

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4 CommentsTags: Follett webinars

Tweet Your Takeaways During our #Follett OneSearch Webinar and Be Entered to Win

April 11, 2013 · 7 Comments

Today, April 11, 2013 at  at 11 a.m. CST tune into our #Follett webinar:  One Search- From Launch to Use.  Andrew Dutcher from Dryden Central School District in New York will share how his district set up and uses One Search.

Our webinars are social.  During the webinar we will be microblogging the event live on Twitter from the handle @follettsoftware using the hashtag #FollettLearning.  Today we want you to be a part of the conversation.  Share our webinar with the Twitterverse today by tweeting your takeaway to @follettsoftware using the hashtag #FollettLearning.  You will be entered into a drawing to win one of three iTunes giftcards.

Get social, share your knowledge and good information, gain a chance to win an iTunes giftcard.  We'll see you later today.

Rebecca Levinson is the Manager of Online and Social Media Marketing for Follett Software.  Social media is her passion and blogging is her first love. You can find Rebecca on Twitter @follettsoftware or @rebeccalev.

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7 CommentsTags: Follett webinars

Twitter Stream from Destiny 11.0 What's New Webinar

April 10, 2013 · 6 Comments

The Destiny 11.0 What's New Webinar had over 600 attendees on Tuesday afternoon.  The product management team for Follett's Destiny Don Rokusek, Julie Krater, and Jason Lasiewicz shared the new features and enhancements to Follett's Destiny 11.0 and engaged in the many questions from eagerly awaiting Destiny product users.

We microblogged the session on Twitter and also had a very active Twitter stream from audience participants using the hashtag #FollettLearning.  Here is the digest:

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6 CommentsTags: Follett webinars

What's Your Library's Destiny?

April 10, 2013 · 6 Comments

In my first post, I shared an overview of the transformation that has gone on in our district’s library/media program. Previous to the implementation of our 24/7 anywhere, anytime 21st century approach, our libraries were fairly traditional.  Our students and staff couldn’t log into Destiny because they didn’t have their own usernames/passwords so they couldn’t create book lists, hold books, read ebooks, check out ereaders, make promotional videos, rate books, write reviews, or author ebooks. There were subscription database resources provided by the state, but they didn’t really know how to access them and they were hard to access.

Multiple years of district budget cuts (approximately 30% decrease over the past four years) combined with a library system that hadn’t really been fed or cared for, resulted in a lack of available features, interest, and overall use. The destiny of our library system was not looking good.

With personnel cuts in August 2011, library services responsibilities were shifted from the curriculum department to instructional technology. And with this change also came the charge to develop a vision for how students and staff would interact, both physically and digitally, with our libraries. Our goal was to provide students and staff with a "one stop shop".  We wanted them to be able to access library resources, including ebooks, online databases, resources lists, and other Destiny tools 24/7.  We also wanted them to to interact with traditional library resources, and access digital content via computers or mobile devices from both school and home.

The first, and most important step, was to help our technology staff understand what we needed and why we needed additional access to tools and support.  To them, Destiny was running and library staff were able to check out books. Continually sharing what students were missing out on and the possibilities of what students would be able to do if we could move forward with increased support, was and continues to be, a key ingredient in partnering with our technology staff.

As we began our change process there were three initial steps that we took:

  • Upgrades- We were several major upgrades behind and these had to be done during the school year. This required server side support, backups, and upgrades. Without the upgrades, we would never be able to access ebooks — and that was a “must have” for our library program.

  • Patron Logins — Students and staff did not have usernames or passwords. This required working with our programmer who wrote, tested, and edited code in order to get data from our student information system it into Destiny. In addition to passwords and usernames, we were also able to auto-populate students into homerooms making it easy for staff to run homeroom reports. Without student logins, kids didn’t “own” their accounts nor could they check out ebooks.
  • Internet Access — There was some kind of magic that occurred so that our library system could be accessed outside of school. This was imperative because we wanted kids to be reading and access quality online materials from home and school.

Understanding how your technology department works is key. Often, they are overburdened and as a result  they are reluctant to make changes mid-year for the fear that things will “break” when they make upgrades — which can result in an interruption of services (e.g., no one can check out books for a week!). By presenting  your technology department with options for upgrades during non-student times (e.g., spring break, grading days), and clearly articulating what is needed and why it is needed, they may just be willing to help you  out more than you can imagine.

Stay tuned for more on our incredibly library journey!

Lynn Lary is the Instructional Technology Specialist & Media/Library Coordinator for the Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, Oregon where she spends her time working with teachers and teacher librarians to support 21st century teaching and learning. 

Visit her at Libraries without Walls — a professional development resource for classroom teachers.

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6 CommentsTags: Libraries Without Walls