Library Connections

Entries for month: June 2013

See You At ALA 2013

June 28, 2013 · 20 Comments

It’s the end of June and for me that means two annual events – my birthday and ALA.  They often overlap, as they do this year, so I’ll be celebrating both in Chicago this year.  I’ve been a regular ALA (and Midwinter) attendee for about the last 10 years now.  I’d been a few times prior to that, but it had never really clicked for me.  But 10 years ago I was elected President-Elect of our state organization, so I needed to attend to be a part of the AASL Affiliate Assembly.  And as they say, the rest is history. 

So, why do I head to ALA?

Involvement:  From that first Affiliate Assembly meeting I was drawn into the work of AASL.  For many years, part of being involved on committees meant attending conferences to meet with your group.  Being a Board member and officer has continued that need to be at conferences and I’ve immensely enjoyed the experience of being so involved in AASL and then beginning to branch out into some other divisions and ALA next.

(Please note:  Now you can work virtually for almost all of AASL committees, so that requirement that you have to be at a conference is gone.  Yeah!  Have you thought about volunteering?  Check out the AASL website!)

Programs:  Annual is where there is programming galore on all sorts of topics.  Lately my schedule has been hard to get to the programs and meetings, but I’m sure there will be time to sneak in a good session or two. 

Vendors:  This is a great chance to interact with vendors and see what is new and great coming down the road.     

Networking:  But  truly, the reason I love going to ALA the most is the networking.  I have made some amazing friends over the years at ALA and AASL. The conferences are great times to catch-up by sharing the successes and failures from the year.  The conversations bring a wealth of ideas and thoughts to try.  Sure, we keep in touch via a variety of technology tools, but there is nothing better than catching up with a friend face to face.

Fun:  There are lots of opportunities for fun at conferences, too.  Plenty of receptions and special events where you can have a lot of fun.

Travel: While Chicago is not a new city for me, I love traveling and visiting places.  Prior to my involvement in ALA and AASL, I didn’t travel very often, but now I love going and exploring when there is time.  

So for all these reasons (and probably a few more that have escaped me this evening), I am starting to think about what all I need to pack and getting ready for a great 6 or 7 days in the Windy City for ALA Annual 2013.  It will be a great way to celebrate the end of June as always!

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

Where Do You Library?

June 27, 2013 · 18 Comments

What would an extraterrestrial being learn about us, as a culture, if, upon landing on earth, he/she (it?) were to go in search of a “library”?  Utilizing the definition from any number of current sources, our non-worldly explorer would look for a building, possibly large, that had books in it. This is not the complete definition of course, since the proviso is added that materials are circulated freely to the public. Thus, stumbling into a bookstore wouldn’t bring the larger scope to the word “library”; nor would the visit to the home of a family with a living room lined with overflowing bookshelves.

With frustrating frequency we hear people decry the demise of the library in the wake of the electronic information tsunami. Our alien visitor might look at the building we call “the library” and given his/her (its) most likely higher technological capacity, might agree with these outcries. But we know better.

If we were to take our ET to a public or school library, we would be able to show not only books, but computers, audio and visual materials as well as any number of other interesting items to borrow. We would also point out the many activities going on: story time, group research, project creation, and civic discourse… AND we could leave this building and take our friend out to the beach, the café, the campground or to our house and still see “the library” in action as we take the books we got there with us to all of these places; as we utilize our electronic devices to read, research using our databases, or utilizing the skills taught to us by our librarians.

Maybe it is time to think about how we define “library”. Because what happens IN the library has always been what the library is really about. In centuries past, libraries have been the repositories of information with patrons accessing the latest and greatest information technology of their day. From papyrus rolls to the first books printed by a press, the library has been the center of learning. It’s always been about how librarians and their colleagues have created this learning space for their patrons, gathering the best information available and organizing it for understanding and learning. What our ET would learn about our culture by walking into our libraries today is that learning is active, involved, and innovative.

Even though school librarians have opened their doors wide and invited everyone in to experience the richness of today’s materials whether they’re in print, on film, tape or digital devices, students don’t have to physically be IN the library to participate in all that the library offers.  That’s where our new definition of ‘library’ might begin to change. Yes, it’s a building, but it’s more than that- it’s the people inside (and virtual) who locate and organize materials, teach skills, and more importantly, offer the motivation and incentive for students to practice their new skills every day.

What about this:
Library: (1) a physical or virtual place where information and materials are stored, organized, and circulated freely. (2) a building filled with print, electronic, and other materials where people gather to imagine, re-imagine, build and dream.

Please add your thoughts by commenting in the section below and let’s create!

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

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18 CommentsTags: Inquiring Minds in the Library

Virtual Pens and Digital Ink

June 19, 2013 · 30 Comments

There is nothing like logging into the library system and seeing your own book review!

As we move forward with our new 21st century library program, students are encouraged to access/monitor their accounts, log in from both home and school, hold books, create and add to their reading lists, and read traditional and digital materials. Something as simple as encouraging students to use the filters in a Destiny Quest search to select books is an example of teaching students how to search using a database. These are basic library skills that all students can use at school and will use as they transition to life beyond school as public library patrons.

But our libraries and media programs are about more than teaching library skills, they are about giving students a voice in a world where anyone anywhere can be heard by millions of people. They are about providing students with opportunities for creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, thinking critically, searching for information, living ethically in a digital universe, and using a whole host of tools that weren’t available not so long ago.

Providing students with the opportunity to share their love of reading by publishing their book ratings and reviews, allows students to dip their virtual pens into digital ink, giving them a voice like they have never had before. The second grade students who worked on their very first class-generated book review were so excited to see it posted that they wanted to run down to the library to see their reviews! Of course, they are just beginning to work toward the state/national Communication and Collaboration technology standard as they “use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, across the global community, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.”

As students progress through the grades, the review process morphs and involves many different tools: at the 6th grade level, student pairs from different classes work together in “the cloud” (using Google Documents), contribute to a class blog, and finally publish their “partner novel” book reviews. These students are working at a deeper level as they, “Interact and collaborate with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media,” “effectively communicate and publish to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats,” and “contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems in a team setting.”

As in many school districts, our libraries are staffed differently from school to school. In some schools, our library media specialists work with students on their reviews. However, in schools where libraries are staffed with paraprofessionals, classroom teachers are encouraged to participate in the “Libraries without Walls” professional development program, focusing on ways to engage their students (grades 2-12) in writing and publishing online, Amazon-style “crowdsourced” book reviews. Professional development addresses how students must have clearly articulated objectives so that they can compose well-written reviews. The objectives include:

•    Understanding what a rating means and how to rate a book;
•    Understanding the components of a good book review; and
•    Being able to clearly and succinctly state an opinion about the book with supporting facts.

To meet these objectives, students must think critically about the books they are reading and then communicate to others the key reasons for their recommendation. As with many projects, collaboration is key and occurs in various ways: students collaborate in the writing/revision process while classroom teachers and library staff work together to develop grade level book review criteria and align the activities with core content instruction.

Once classroom teachers have participated in professional development opportunities related to library tools and book review evaluation, understand the kinds of book reviews we want included in our library system, they are granted “review approval privileges.” Using Destiny’s Access Levels, they are given additional privileges so that they can approve student-written reviews. This has provided a means for teachers to become more involved in using our library services while at the same time has addressed concerns of library staff who could potentially be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of reviews that will result as greater numbers of teachers participate in this program.

The district’s Libraries without Walls web site is the virtual home for teaching resources. It was designed as a just in time “one stop shop” for learning about library resources anytime anywhere and includes online presentations, video clips, sample lesson plans on rating and reviewing books.

Check out these resources and let me know what you think by commenting below.  Do you have resources you would like to share or ways in which your students are using Destiny Quest? Please share them with me in the comments section below.

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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30 CommentsTags: Libraries Without Walls

Destiny as a One-Stop Shop-Part 1

June 17, 2013 · 12 Comments

As schools move forward with adopting digital initiatives, 1:1 programs, online databases, eBooks, and a litany of other “21st Century” resources, one may find herself—again –in information overload. But take a few calming breaths, and a stop at your favorite library blog, and all will be well. The resource you need is already at your fingertips with Destiny. Here are my first 3 reasons why making Destiny a one-stop shop for your students and staff will make everyone’s life a little better by improving digital literacy and the way they search for information.

1.  Use a collection of trusted sources—in the stacks and beyond 

By taking advantage of Destiny’s WebPath Express subscription, your patrons will have access to not only the collection within your walls, but to trusted peer-reviewed websites. The benefit of having pre-scree photo Destinyonestopshop1.pngned websites cannot be measured. Have you ever tried a Google search for “cougar”? You might not come up with pictures of a great cat first. WebPath Express will omit the unknown and icky and will lead your students to your books and to trusted websites they can use for their research.

2.    Get the most for your expenditures

By integrating your subscription databases with One Search, you can maximize your budget and be sure that your students are getting the mo photo BritannicaSchoolEdition.pngst out of the resources you are providing. Now, in just “one search” they will return not only books and trusted websites (see #1) but academic articles from digital databases. Britannica, ABC-CLIO, World Book, Gale, and many more are available to integrate into Destiny. Follett also offers access to a slew of free databases as well such as CNN, KidsClick, and Khan Academy.

3.  Promote Your Reading Program

With Reading Program service, you can integrate Accelerated Reader and Scholastic Reading Counts!® quiz information right into your title records. When students search, they won’t have to navigate out of Destiny to see if the book they want is right for them.
 photo RenaissanceLearning.png
Stay tuned.  On June 24th I will talk to you more about Destiny as a One Stop Shop in Part 2 of this series.

Do you use Destiny as your one stop shop? If so, I’d like to hear from you.  Please share with me in the comments below.

 photo RuthAptaker.jpgRuth is the Supervisor of Library Services at Tustin Unified School District. Ruth spent most of her childhood at the beach or with her nose in a book—oftentimes both.



Though reading and writing are her passions, promoting libraries, librarians, and information literacy is the foundation of her personal and professional objectives.

She lives with her husband and their French Bulldog in Irvine, California. Ruth will also be pinning resources for her Learning Library column on our Pinterest account.  You can comment on this blog or follow her on Twitter @AskMissLIS.

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12 CommentsTags: Learning Library

Learning Commons: Paint and Primary Colors

June 14, 2013 · 8 Comments

Congratulations on weeding your collection and removing unnecessary bookcases. Your Learning Commons looks very different now doesn't it! For the last two weeks, I have been weeding and removing bookcases in an elementary school.  I know this is a lot of work; however, while you are working, your campus is noticing.

Once the clutter is gone look at your walls and ceiling.  What color are they?  Raise your hand if your walls are white, tan or grey?  My walls and ceiling are tan so adding color will brighten it up.

Here is a list of considerations:

1. Get Feedback and Buy in.  Ask campus administration, students, staff and parents what colors they would use.  Obtaining everyone’s input builds excitement.

2. Think carefully about color selection:
•    The color selected is for your students.
•    Consider dedicating a wall to your school logo or mascot.
•    If you are in an elementary school consider primary colors to liven areas or make them "pop".
•    Consider working school colors into your color scheme.
•    Do not use the same color on every wall.
•    Consider using accent colors for sections of your wall(s).
•     If all of your walls are flat, use dark and light color to create an illusion

Revisit my last blog titled Learning Commons: Removing Your Bookcases and look at the pictures I posted.  This time look at the color and shading for ideas.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and good luck on your painting adventure!

Keep in touch and until we talk again ... have fun with your Learning Commons puzzle!

joann conlon photo JoAnnConlon.jpgJoAnn 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.

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8 CommentsTags: Learning Commons

Get Your Download. The New Follett Digital Reader TextFlow App is Here

June 12, 2013 · 8 Comments

Get Your Download.  The New Follett Digital Reader TextFlow App is Here
The new Follett Digital Reader TextFlow app allows students and teachers to download and read their checked out Follett eBooks on their iPhone or iPod touch, without Internet access.

Great new features of the Follett Digital Reader TextFlow App include:
•    The ability to move your downloaded eBook online to be accessed via the cloud by other Internet devices for your entire loan period.
•    Your eBook automatically returns after the loan period expires.
•    Your eBooks can be returned early.
•    Reflowable text option that makes it easier to read on
smaller screens.
•    And of course, it's fully integrated with FollettShelf™ and Destiny Quest® Mobile.

Learn  more here
Download the Follett Digital Reader App for FollettShelf Users
Download the Follett Digital Reader App for Destiny Users

Do you have a Follett Digital Reader App story you would like to share? Email
Interested in providing Prouduct feedback? Learn about the Follett First Look membership today.

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8 CommentsTags: Follett Digital Reader · follett digital reader

More Reading in the Content Areas: Literature Circles

June 11, 2013 · 33 Comments

If you are a content area teacher trying to figure out how to get more reading into the classroom next year, there’s a tool many good English teachers have been using for years that you might be interested in-Literature Circles.  Literature Circles are like book clubs for your classroom.  In small groups, students read one book and take turns at different roles.  It is a great way to give students more autonomy, which will also help you if your school is using the Danielson model for evaluations. 

There are many different models for running literature circles and you have to find one that works for you.  When I use them, I might have one overarching theme, and then choose books at different lexile levels to make sure all students can participate successfully.  For instance, next year I’ll be teaching a special senior class that will focus on media studies.  The students have all chosen topics for year-long research projects that have some driving question based on the media. 

For my literature circles, I might have my higher level groups reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad while lower level readers might have Jay Asher’s The Future of Us.   These books won’t answer their questions, but they might help them see different angles for understanding their topics.  And hopefully, ideally, reading fiction will give them a welcome break from the scholarly articles they will have to read.

The most important factor for successful literature circles is to make sure there is a well-organized routine that, once established, students can follow without much assistance from the teacher.  The roles need to be clearly defined, the method for rotating roles needs to be clearly defined, and there has to be a schedule that once put in place, is set in stone.  I usually start out with a group contract, giving each student a number.  Then, every Friday when literature circles meet, I let them know which number will fill which role.  Half the period is devoted to reading and half is work time.

I will give students a deadline to finish the book, they are responsible for setting reading schedules and determining how to use the class time.  I’ve had groups where every member reads quietly to themselves and I’ve had groups that liked to popcorn read in order to make sure they were all on the same page.  They keep all their work in a binder and because each student has a different responsibility each week, no one ever has to worry that one student might slack off and get credit for the work of the rest of the group. 

The assessments are individual.  Roles usually include a visualizer, summarizer, vocabulary finder, connection finder, predictor, and a questioner, but you can also develop roles specific to your content area.

There are tons of great resources for literature circles.  My favorite is Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups by Harvey Daniels, but there’s also a lot of free information on the web.  Many of the resources were developed for specific grade levels, so there will be something out there that fits your needs. 

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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33 CommentsTags: The Umbrella Plan