Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The BIG Summer Read @ Pike Continues!

As we approach the dog days of summer with scorching heat in northern Texas,  the data for The BIG Summer Read @Pike is soaring along with the temperatures.  Participation in the summer reading incentive program has been quite successful thus far.  There have been 100 students and faculty members who have signed the pledge via the Google form and over 100 books entered by both students and faculty.  

As the summer reading incentive and promotion continues here are a few of my observations.  

  1. Participants include both faculty and students.  Math teachers seem to be leading the faculty in the event.  This is definitely a trend I need to focus on since math can be the subject area most challenging when it comes to library programming.  
  2. The book entries into the Google form are both fiction and nonfiction.  An interesting observation that I noted is our eBook collection is not being utilized as extensively as they were during the school year.  One factor might include that our students do not have access to school issued devices during the summer. 
  3. Students and parents are taking full advantage of contacting me either through email or Facebook.  I have noted that each question answered has generated participation.  If there was no open communication would the participants  become frustrated and quit?  I am learning that simple guidance and reinforcement creates interest and participation.
  4. Posting updates on our social media generates interest through positive comments, questions, and likes.  It also seems to motivate others to add books.   Another observation on my part is to encourage more school-wide social media communication for the entire school program next year.  There seems to be power in social media.  
  5. The process has been simple but successful.  I recently read a post about successful programming that included to start with simple but persuasive projects.  I have been able to stay connected with my students and faculty and keep an interest in reading for pleasure during the summer months through promotion on the front end, Google applications, social media, and personal communication.  It actually has taken little time away from my much appreciated vacation.
  6. As I see students out during the summer I have been greeted with tales of  titles they are reading, introduced to their parents, and noticed their entries in the program shortly after the encounter.  The old saying of out of sight, out of mind comes to my thoughts with this observation.  
  7. Plans for a seamless transition from summer reading to our school-wide reading challenge during the school year needs to begin.  Once our faculty has been established with new hires, I will gather a new reading incentive committee.  I will take full advantage of inviting the math  teachers who were so gracious to participate in the summer program.  They just might be excellent Library Advisory Committee members.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Gone Virtual Will Return in August

As I enjoy the relaxing mornings on the patio watching the sunrise, with coffee, my whippets, and iPad in hand, I am so thankful for the much needed summer vacation time.  If tradition prevails, I will start my annual summer projects, frolic with friends, travel with family, and  escape into characters as I read each novel. But wait, this isn't quite going as planned with the changing role of a school librarian.  
As I delved into article after article presented in my PLN, I've read about bookless libraries, digital content, and high tech library services.  Things have changed much from my first school library position in 1989 but I never thought about the school library going virtual for the summer.  This is my first summer where I feel like I'm still connected to my students and faculty literarily 24/7.
Here's a peek at summer vacation thus far.
  1. Stopped into the library this week to get ideas on branding with new carpet and paint planned for this summer.
  2. Wrote articles for my personal blog.
  3. Wrote an article as a quest blogger.
  4. Organized collaborative presentations for district PD.
  5. Checked my Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and email accounts frequently.
  6. Monitored the two Google form documents with summer reading entries.
  7. Trouble-shot a Follett Digital Reader problem.
  8. Answered emails from students and parents regarding summer reading and accessing eBooks.
  9. Used school Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote the progress with summer reading.
  10. Followed our digital eBook circulation reports.
  11. Read Bewitched by Alex Flinn, a book on the Texas Lone Star 2013 list.
  12. Listened to the book My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier on Follett Catalist audio eBook.
  13. Collaborated with district librarian, Naomi Bates, on implementing the 25 Book Challenge Campaign.
  14. Dabbled with the many suggestions, apps, and new software that streams through my PLN.
The list will continue since I'm only on my first week of vacation.  As I enter my 34th year as an educator, I embrace the library activity during the summer months.  As summer continues I can relate to our roles changing from "housing books" to connecting patrons with information.  Going virtual during the summer months allows me this "connection".

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Where Did the 8th Grade Boys Go?

Help! I've lost my 8th grade ferocious boy readers and I can't seem to find them. They were right here as 6th and 7th graders but for some reason they disappeared in 8th grade. Do you know where they have gone?

Many believe the Annual Library Report is a means for advocating one's accomplishments during the school year. When I began as a librarian in 1989, we were required to generate monthly reports that were compiled into a district-wide annual report. It was early in my career that I discovered the power of data. But what I didn't realize was sometimes the data is more beneficial to me as the librarian than to anyone outside the program. It was during this year's annual report when reviewing the data that I discover my missing 8th grade boys.

Although our school district is experiencing growth, most of our 8th grade students attended our middle school for the past three years. With a steady student population, I found the three year analysis on our out-going 8th graders surprising but accurate.

It all began with generating our Top 10 Patrons report in Destiny for our 8th graders. Since this was my first year at this middle school the results were predictable - I had contact with many of these students throughout the year. The data indicated the top 10 students for my 8th graders were predominately female - not a surprise to me. I ran another report curious to see how these students ranked as 7th graders and I was surprised to see names of boys in the top 10 that I had barely seen in the library over the past year. When I ran a three year analysis of the Top 10 Patrons report for 8th graders incredibly 90% of them were boys. Where did the ferocious male readers go from 6th to 8th grade?

8th Grade 3 Year Top 10 Student Data
I have my hunches that include:
  • The discovery of girls
  • We are just way too cool
  • My extra-curricular activities are getting in the way
  • I've read all the good books in the library
So, can someone tell me where have my 8th grade boys have gone and how do I get them back? What did your data from this year's Annual Library Report tell you?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Can You Say Overdue Process Made Easy?

Recently I was asked what was the most difficult aspect of being a school librarian. As I paused and searched my thoughts of unpleasantries in the library world, nothing surged to the forefront worth mentioning. As I was about to respond working with people with grave philosophical differences, the entire overdue library book process quickly came to the tip of my tongue. Yes, I must say even after 24 years as a school librarian, I dread the end-of-the school year overdue library list.

When I began my first library position, my two adult library assistants would daily hand type names into our Apple IIe computer from hand written checkout cards. With our state-of-the-art technology, we would mail merge the names every week to produce library overdue notices. Times have changed much from those days to 1 librarian easily generating the overdue notices in Follett Destiny on any given day with just a few clicks. The process may have changed but this time consuming event is by far one of the most unpleasant rituals in my role as a school librarian.

This year I seemed to have mastered the process with a few twists added to help with gathering all our library books. Although my heart feels our students should be able to checkout books during the summer, the rational side of me understands the financial accountability of gathering all the library books. With students graduating to other schools and students moving over the summer the loss of library materials can be overwhelming. I prefer next year's budget be spent on new and exciting titles rather than replacing lost items.

As the sole library personnel with 670 students and 80 faculty members I find minimal time to spend throughout the year on the tedious overdue procedures. Since all students needed a book during STARR testing I waited until early May to begin the big overdue book gathering campaign. The first step I took in May was to change the student check-out limits from 3 regular books to 2 books and increased check-outs from 1 e-Book to 2 eBooks. In the middle of May I again changed the limit from checking out 2 regular books to 1 book and began promoting our e-Book collection. During this process I launched our summer reading program and promoted the use of our e-Book collection.

On May 15 our school had nearly 350 student overdue library books with still one more week for students to check-out books. Sending out overdue notices can be very time consuming with my student aides delivering to the classroom. Many times the student information in the library database was inaccurate. We would have the front office student aides look up schedules and I would make changes in Destiny but with the next batch of notices the problem continued.

Here's basically an outline of how I was able to manage 350 overdue books down to 6 overdue books in 3 weeks.

1. First, have inventory completed before the last week of school so you may concentrate on getting all library materials returned, organized, and ready for check-out for the next school year. Scanning all books proves to also help with library check-in mistakes.

2. I used our phone messenger to send out a message starting with, "You are receiving this message because your son/daughter has an overdue library book." That tip actually came from a parent.

3. In late April or shortly after Spring Break concentrate on the overdue books from first semester. I would generate an overdue list in Excel and call students into the library 1 month at a time. This process cut the 1st semester list down by 50%. It still amazes me that over the years students don't understand the concept of time when it comes to checking out library books. When questioned about the books they checked out 3-4 months ago they still answer they didn't know the book was overdue.

4. In the beginning of May I started calling students to the library with overdue books from 2nd semester. Again the face-to-face conversation would generally cut the monthly list down by 50%. My student aides were critical in delivery the notices.

5. Solicit help from your staff. Since most of the students checked these books out from their English classes, I would send an overdue list to all ELA teachers minus the actual titles. Again I would use an Excel document and attach to an email. Once all books were due for the year, I would send an Excel attachment to all home room teachers. On occasion I would include the financial value to all overdue books. For some reason when a value was associated with the problem it became more personal to the faculty as a group. During the last week of school I sent daily emails to faculty members with the overdue book data. This allowed everyone to witness the overdue countdown and provided the positive progression of our efforts.

6. The second time students were called in I requested they make some type of home contact in my presence. It could be a text message, phone call, email, or other any means to contact their parents. Through this process we were able to bring our overdue list under 100 books.

7. The 3rd time students were called in I pulled out the lunch detention slips and requested that the student fill them out. It was amazing how filling out a simple form can bring an overdue list down to under 50 books. I would give the students until the next morning to either return the book or serve detention. In most cases the book was returned.

8. Flexibility is also a component. Frankly, some students cannot pay so get creative with solutions for them to resolve the problem. In a previous school I always offered a "work off" option for fines. I do not collect fines in my present school but I'm still open to a "work-off" solution. I actually keep a shelf of books that find their way into the library where students may work-off their debt and than choose a book from the shelf to add to our collection. I also accept books of the same value, title, or genre from a store or from home to replace overdue books.

By the last day of school my student list had dwindled from 350 overdue library books to 6 overdue books for the 2012-2013 school year and I still have hope some books will be paid for next week. My final act will be to include an overdue notice in the report card mailing. I believe the key to our success this year was persistence, collaboration, creativity, and compassion. By far this is my most unfavorable time consuming task but as we all know necessary in the life of a librarian

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Regular Books VS. eBooks Data

As I prepare data for my Annual Library Report, I am finding many interesting trends. I introduced eBooks in December and revisited the lessons in May.  Where December seems low with regular book check-outs due to vacation the eBooks took off.  April seemed to be a inactive month for eBooks but during STAAR testing students are only allowed to read regular books. It's still early in June and eBook circulation conintues.  My conlcusion from the data - if you show them how to use eBooks, they will access them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Top 10 Books 2012-2013 Dystopian Fiction Wins Big

This has been an awesome year with our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students veraciously reading all year long. It’s interesting to see that dystopian fiction seems to be the favored genre in our school.  This data was included in my Annual Library Report to my principal.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Year in Visual Review

This video was included in my Annual Library Report 2012-2013 given to my principal today as a visual review of the library program. Also in included in the report were statistical graphs, pictures, and written documentation about the library program.  

Library 2012-2013 from Sue Fitzgerald on Vimeo.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Inventory a Student (PBL) Project Based Learning Experience?

This is my 24th year as a school librarian but who is counting? When I began my library career in 1989, I had 2 adult library assistants in a school of 1,400 students and we meticulously completed a manual inventory for 3 consecutive years. Let’s fast forward to 2013. I am now a school librarian with 670 students and no adult assistants but fully automated. Times have changed as has the inventory procedure.

In my past library positions, it was mandated to complete inventory before I embarked on my summer vacation. For years I have thoroughly approached this ritual of collecting all the books, shelf-reading, scanning, reprinting barcodes, fixing labels, and leaving the library in absolute perfect order over the summer months. Now I see some debate about the entire inventory process and if it's really essential. It's not difficult to teach an old librarian a new trick but eliminating inventory has been difficult for me to acknowledge.

What exactly do I like about inventory? During the entire school year I have students shelving and some take the job seriously while others prefer working the circulation desk. So in essence I believe inventory is a process to keep some structure in what may develop into a chaotic environment. I have little time to shelf-read or shelve books so I have empowered my student aides to take ownership of the organization of the library. This was the first year that inventory was completed almost entirely by students (but of course under my supervision).

We began the process shortly after Spring Break scanning collections with low usage. We scanned the fiction collection last since many books were still in circulation. I am proud to announce that we have completed a full inventory with an entire week of school left. The pleasant surprise is how well my students completed this undertaking and the results of the inventory. After scanning and rechecking the shelves for missing items, the students reported a minimal loss in books. I choose to turn on the out of order option in Destiny during scanning to help with getting the shelves in proper order. I must admit that I had various students rescan areas such as the 700s since they were in complete disarray.

My thoughts from the experience have been eye opening. By allowing my students to be so engaged in the task provided them with some essential life-long skills. They had to collaborate, organize, analyze data, and report their findings on this group project. I believe that this inventory task fits into the project based learning category.

I know my library inventory is not perfect but by allowing my students to complete this task has given me a whole different perspective on this annual ritual. As I embrace my changing role as a school librarian, I am transferring more responsibilities to my students and I foresee an increase in their roles. Try approaching your next library endeavor by empowering students in a project based learning opportunity.

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