Tuesday, May 28, 2013

eBooks for Reluctant Readers?

If you have followed my previous posts, you are aware that I have delved into the world of eBooks in my middle school library this year with tenacity and enthusiasm.  As with many other librarians who are paving the way into the digital book age, I have experienced insightful moments along this technological path.

Aha moments may come in the most unusual times and places such as my last aha moment.  It was a typical library conversation with a fellow district librarian when I experienced my latest aha moment.  I was sharing my summer reading plans with Naomi Bates, librarian extraordinaire, since she graciously volunteered to be on our summer reading committee.  I thought she would be an excellent committee member since most of my 8th graders will be attending her high school next year.   Our conversation included some interesting eBook statistical information that I diligently watch daily.  I made the statement that on the previous day the majority of our eBooks were checked out by boys and the content was predominantly nonfiction.    I also explained that I invited some boys to step into my office to discuss the phenomena.  Obviously they were quite animated in explaining that reading eBooks on a device was "cool" and middle school boys wanted to be "cool".  But as I described this scenario to Naomi we both realized at about the same time possibly another explanation.  Secondary boys want to be seen as "cool" and carrying a library book around might not appear "cool".  With device in hand who would ever know they were reading about ancient civilizations, the latest wars, or parts of a cell?  Many of us struggle with motivating boys to read but I think I found another venue for some of our reluctant male readers.  My afterthought is that boys want to read and learn but being seen with a book is not "cool". With eBooks and a device, their reading choice would be completely private.  I cannot prove this theory but I'm willing to investigate the possibilities that eBooks might be motivational for some reluctant readers.

Next year our school district will present students with their 2nd 1:1 device.  We are moving from a NetBook to a newer device and with this transition I feel that our students will be reading more digital content. With the increased eBook demand, I will need to reevaluate our selection and acquisition process.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Show me the AWESOME - 30 Days for Self-Promotion

I have always thought it is better late than never and somehow I almost missed the show me the AWESOME - 30 Days of Self-Promotion campaign. As I moved into a new middle school position this year, the annual reflection may be somewhat different than if I had been established in a library program. Here's a glimpse of a menagerie of awesomeness in a middle school library.

As many know, AWESOME libraries are all about collaboration and relationships. I was able to spend the past year developing and cultivating both. Through faculty book clubs, hosting meetings, frequent programming, mini technology projects, and more the library program thrived as a busy hub for the entire school in my debut year at a new position.

I inherited an existing school-wide 25 Book Challenge Campaign program for a school of 670 students. I reorganized the daunting task of analyzing the data for the program through the use of a database. Teachers were eager to embrace the electronic process of the program since the pen and paper method was extremely time-consuming and frequently disorganized. With the help of a committee we hosted celebrations, promoted the program, and easily presented data analysis for an AWESOME 25 Book Challenge.

With the collaboration of my IT coach, we hosted TechnoFridays during every faculty meeting. My principal allowed us 5-10 minutes during meetings to highlight new and innovative technology ideas. The response was overwhelming with teachers from all curricular areas trying new and exciting projects. One of my favorite AWESOME programs that came out of TechnoFriday was the Battle of the Math projects.

Student programming included student book clubs, online student book reviews, Teen Read Week activities, Poem in Your Pocket Day Wordle project, QR codes for student book trailers, BYOD days, student twitter chats, student driven exhibits, and more. As the library facilitator, I have empowered students to become more involved with the planning and process of our AWESOME student driven library.

The eBook collection increased from 106 to over 400 digital and 65 audio eBooks. Through screencast lessons, advertising, promotion, and student liaisons our AWESOME eBook circulation has reached over 1,200 transactions since early December.

With the help of my student aides, we transformed an area of the library into a relaxing lounge gathering where students flocked to work, relax, or read. With the replacement of carpet and painting this summer I have plans of branding an older library facility into an inviting progressive AWESOME environment.

I have been able to modify inventory into a seamless process that allows the library to continue services until the last day of school. We also opened and were ready to check-out books on the first day of school limiting the traditional "library closed" time.

Social media was introduced into our community through tweeting sessions during faculty meetings. 6th graders communicated with 5th graders using Skype and Twitter. School Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogging accounts were used to advertise and promote our AWESOME library programming.

With the help of our AWESOME summer reading committee our school has launched a summer reading program that includes students using our digital and audio eBooks during the summer months. Students signed a reading pledge and will share their summer reading through Google docs.

Professionally I have continued to collaborate within my AWESOME PLN by co-moderating the #TXLchat, hosting district curriculum and technology chats, writing articles for professional journals, continuing to blog on library topics, and working with other district librarians on projects for 2013-2014 school year.

As a librarian in the 21st Century I find the endless ideas and tools exuberating. With the help of my PLN I have found a platform to exchange ideas that allows me the opportunity to continue to grow as an AWESOME teacher librarian.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Update on The BIG Summer Read @ Pike!

This is a continutation from prior posts on our summer reading program.  You may view the full reading progam at the following links.
Part 1 Summer Reading
Part 2 Summer Reading 

My ultimate objective in this program is to blend the services of our public library, give students access to our school's eBook collection, and encourage the use of local book stores to provide reading material for student summer reading.  We live in an area that's a cross between a suburban and rural community.  

Part 3 Summer Reading

Day 1 - 6th graders were invited into the library and were introduced to The BIG Summer Read @ Pike.  Although I had some technical equipment difficulties with the first group I was able to demonstrate the summer usage of our digital and audio eBooks. After some slight modifications the remainder demonstrations ran smoothly.  By the end of the day 20 eBooks had been checked out.  An interesting question from a student that made me pause was, "Is this all free?" 

Day 2 - Many students have signed the Summer Reading pledge via the school library website.  There was a constant flow of students entering the library with devices asking eBook access questions.  A teacher suggested that I design a screencast demonstrating our eBook checkout process for the afternoon school announcements.  I received an awesome email from an ELA teacher stating she was hooked on eBooks.  

Day 3 - I made a screencast on how to check out eBooks for afternoon announcements.

Day 4 - 6th graders used Skype and Twitter to answer questions of incoming 5th graders.  One of the tweets, "Summer reading not all that difficult."  I'm happy to see some think it will be easy.  

Day 5 - Students and faculty stopped by the library to inquire more information about FollettShelf.  I guess the screencast on the announcements was a success. There are 15 students who have signed the pledge and the summer reading program hasn't even started. After reading a tweet about digital ideas at the end of the school year, with the help of a student on the summer reading committee we designed a Google presentation.  I need to encourage students to use this user friendly collaborative tool next school year.

Day 6 - I was approached by a student with a device in her hand asking questions on eBooks as I entered the building this morning.  Our library stastics reached 1,105 eBook transactions since early December with 45 of our 60 audio eBooks checked out.  I'm assuming we need to purchase more audio books but I'm excited students may assess the eBooks for their summer reading.  

Day 7 - It's 8:06 a.m. on Saturday and 5 eBooks have been checked out already today.  Life as a school librarian can't get much better!  

Tasks yet to come:
I need to communicate with the local public librarians about this summer reading project. 
I need to add an interactive blog to the library website.  After reading some suggestions from my PLN, I think an inactive blog for student to comment on books they are reading would add to the program.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

End of the School Year Tips

Yes, it's that time of year that librarians embrace with anticipation but dread with the knowledge of what needs to be completed.  Here's a few tips that have helped me over the past years.

  1. Start working diligently in getting student overdue items returned at the end of April or the beginning of May. Think about incentives for returning books. Ask your teachers for help in getting the books returned. I usually do a daily countdown and will break it down by grade level and money lost if not returned. The gathering of student overdue library items needs to be a collaborative school effort not just a library process. 
  2. Use social media to help get overdue books returned.  
  3. Email friendly reminders to teachers in early May to return items that are no longer being used.
  4. Begin inventory after Spring Break and try and have it complete before the last two weeks of school. Inventory can be seamless while your library is open and still checking out books.  Inventory the heavily used collections such as fiction or graphic novels last.
  5. Embed lessons on eBook usage and host BYOD Days. This will encourage  and help with summer usage of eBooks.  
  6. Decrease the number of hardback books students may check out and increase the number of eBooks allowed in early May.  
  7. Inventory and weeding are two separate processes so don't try and do both simultaneously. Do weed those musty books that jump out at you while you inventory.
  8. Plan your final programs and have them ready to implement prior to the last month.  
  9. Continually gather data during the school year so you are only adding final touches to the Annual Report.
  10. Prioritize daily and complete the "must get done" projects first.
  11. Set a shelf or section aside for "next year" tasks. 
  12. Begin a list of books to purchase for next year's budget.  I always easily start a new list in Titlewave from books not received from my last order.  
  13. Ask students to email you pictures of themselves reading while on vacation.  It makes for an awesome presentation at the beginning of the next school year.  
  14. Design and give out bookmarks that will help students with checking out eBooks over the summer.  
  15. Understand that you are human and have limited time so don't stress over what doesn't get done.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Preparing Students for The BIG Summer Read @ Pike!

Our awesome summer reading committee has creatively organized a virtual summer reading program.  At this point we have no idea if our students will eagerly participate.

The latest plans to help launch reading throughout the summer will include a Skype and Twitter chat with rising 5th graders.  I have invited a group of 6th graders to Skype with incoming 5th grade students to help answer questions on the transition from elementary to middle school.  Both schools will be tweeting and using the same hash tag during the Skype session so everyone may see comments or possibly answer questions.  We also plan on introducing our summer reading program to the rising 5th graders.  6th graders will also demonstrate the use of our audio eBooks.  

Time will tell through the online form and circulation statistics if our students will use the school library eBook resources during the summer.  Stay tuned for more updates on our progress.


Friday, May 17, 2013

To Inventory or Not to Inventory, That is the Question?

It’s that time of year when school librarians across the world begin the tedious process of inventory. With the elimination of staff in schools, librarians have eagerly taken on more responsibilities. With these additional roles can we continue to keep up with tasks such as inventory?

In the 23 years that I have worked as a school librarian, I have completed a full inventory every year but one due to the fact we were moving our library to a new location. The librarian in me knows the advantage of having an accurate database but realistically I must set priorities. That being said, I have come to understand that inventory doesn’t have to be this ritual completed during the last two weeks of school.

Many years ago Mary, a fellow librarian, announced in January that she was starting her inventory. Aghast at the statement, I asked how could this possibly be completed without all the books returned and on the shelves and in their proper places? She explained that the company actually recommended starting the process during the school year and that all the items checked out would be accounted for. After much thought I realized Mary was correct. It was at this time that I began inventory shortly after Spring Break each year. We would work in various collections such as the AV, equipment, or areas not frequently used. By the end of the school year we would have scanned most of the library leaving collections such as the fiction for last. 

With the completion of inventory prior to the last two weeks of school, this allowed me time for the many other end-of-the-school year tasks. More time was spent gathering overdue items, organizing the library for the summer, and finalizing any programming for the school year. Scanning collections as time is available over a 2-3 month period (or more) allowed a seamless inventory process rather than a stressful “shut the library down” event. 

In the end, librarians are extremely dedicated and hard working individuals. We must all make choices and set priorities. I do feel inventory is important but I have learned how to make it a less stressful process.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tips for eBook Promotion

When I embarked on the quest of promoting the 105 eBooks in our collection I never expected such an enthusiastic response from our students.  It's one thing to get the momentum started but it's a whole other strategy to maintain student engagement. The following methodologies helped ensure the continuos increase in circulation of our eBooks.

  1. Collaborate with your entire staff.  
  2. Demonstrate the check-out process during a faculty meeting.
  3. Ask teachers to bring classes to the library and demonstrate the process to all students.  
  4. Allow the library to be "device friendly."  Give it a name such as "Device Petting Zoo Day."  Do not fear what the students might be accessing but teach digital citizenship.  
  5. Train your student aides or volunteers to be the eBook experts. Give them a title.  When I get an eBook question I verbally request for an eBook expert to the circulation desk please.  Most times my students or volunteers eagerly step in to help.  Surprisingly other students will step in as an expert.  This indicates many students want to help other students so let them!
  6. Share the circulation statistic through methods such as discussing in leadership meetings, including in library newsletters, add to your weekly emails, post on Facebook, tweet and use pertinent hash tags for your district, talk about eBooks with every class that visits the library, and include advertisements on the school program or school announcements.  
  7. Share in mini celebrations.  I brought in donuts for teachers when we achieved eBook circulation hurdles in multiples of 100.  
  8. Start reading your reviews and adding to your eBook collection. Make a production when eBooks arrive with many of the suggestions from above. 
  9. Include eBooks titles when booktalking.
  10. Include stickers on your books that indicate this title is also available in eBook format.  
  11. Have a refresher eBook lesson with all students right before summer vacation.  
  12. Make yourself available via email for eBook questions on weekends and holidays. 
  13. Stay enthusiastic and tell everyone about your eBook success.
  14.  Don't be surprised if your superintendent walks into your library with a device in his/her hand and asks for an eBook lesson. It just means your programming and enthusiasm is working. 

I have added audio eBooks to our FollettShelf for our students to access throughout the summer. Our school will launch an awesome summer reading program and hopefully watch our eBooks continue to be circulated during the long hot summer months. We are approaching 1,000 eBook transactions since December, 2012. Stay tuned for more tips and successes for promoting your eBook collection.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Big Summer Read @ Pike

Instead of posting after our summer reading program was complete, I thought it might be interesting to post during the process with the possibility of receiving creative feedback. After designing an infographic with ideas for librarians to stay connected with their students during the summer, I realized I needed a promotional reading program to encourage our students to read  over their months of leisure.  Here's a basic framework of the beginnings of The Big Summer Read @ Pike.

  1. I gathered a summer reading committee that consistsed of cross curricular subject areas, parents, and students.  I need to ask parents and students more often since both were thrilled to be included.
  2. So far the committee has designed a basic flyer that will be made into posters, produced Google forms, and is ready to print off bookmarks.
  3. Classes have been scheduled during the last two weeks of school to demonstrate the use of our school's digital and audio eBooks.  
  4. We have plans to Skype and tweet with incoming students in three schools to promote the summer reading program.  Our leadership class will also verbally promote the program when they visit the incoming students at their schools.
  5. Information will be on the school marquee out front and the scrolling TV in the entrance.  Facebook and Twitter will used through the entire program.
Basic plan:
  1. Using a Google form on our website and social media, we will ask for titles from our learning community to share for reading suggestions during the summer. The titles will be promoted through a board on our school's Pinterest account.  We will give credit to students, parents, and faculty making the suggestion.  
  2. Students will be invited to enter books that they have read during the summer into a Google form that is accessible through the school's website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.  
  3. For every book submitted the student's name will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a prize at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
  4. Social media will be used during the summer to highlight entries or statistical data from the Google form. Teachers are being asked to share creative pictures of themselves reading while on vacation. The pictures will be shared on the school's social media sites.  
  5. In an assembly T the beginning of the school year, names will be draw/selected for prizes from summer reading entries.  Faculty reading pictures will be presented in a video and our school will "kick-off" the 25 Book Challenge campaign for the 2013-2014 school.  
Our committee has included our learning community, we will keep interest going through social media, and we hope to encourage our students to read all summer long. Stay tuned for more information as our summer reading program progresses.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Annual Library Reports

In the next #TXLchat the discussion will be on annual library reports. It's a perfect topic as the school year is quickly coming to a conclusion. What better way to share the year with your administration and staff than to make a visual report. Think about producing an infographic, adding animation, or making the report visually appealing. Join us for the next twitter chat on Tuesday evening at 8:00 CST and share your ideas, learn something new, or lurk for the evening.

Collins Middle School Library Report from Sue Fitzgerald on Vimeo.
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