Saturday, August 31, 2013

Parent Newsletter

Thanks to the suggestions from my PLN in producing this parent newsletter.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Conclusion of The Big Summer Read @ Pike

The Big Summer Read @ Pike

I must share the conclusion of our fantastic #summerreading program.  If you read prior posts it basically outlines the program with trying to encourage our students to read over the summer.  It began last May with a refresher class with our faculty and students on how to check-out our eBooks and an explanation on the program.  After reading books during the summer faculty and students were invited to enter them into a Google form.  As the entries came in, I  made weekly posts on our Facebook and Twitter accounts hoping for the best.  For every book entered students increased their chances for winning prizes this fall.   I am extremely excited to announce we had 184 books entered during this campaign.  I never set any expectations but 184 surpassed anything I could have imagined.  Now to keep the momentum going through our 25 Book Challenge.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Principal's Book of the Month

Principal's Book of the Month or also known as (BOM)

I have received some questions about our Book of the Month program so here's a basic outline.  This is also part of the Pearson (America's Choice) school program.

Principal, Conrad Streeter
  • Gather a BOM committee and make sure members are from cross curricular areas.
  • I collaborate with the 4 core subject areas in choosing the month they want to sponsor BOM.  For example L.A. might want April for Poetry Month, Science may want May for Earth Day, Math may want March for Pi Day, and History may want November for Election Day.
  • Through collaboration with the principal, the committee, and myself books are selected to read aloud in a particular month alternating the 4 core subject areas.  Books with a lesson and/or positive theme are chosen. Many departments choose children's literature but primary documents, letters, passages, and chapters of novels have also been selected.
  • Each teacher in a department will read the BOM usually on the same day.  Once the department reads the book aloud then students will engage in a specific activity. The activity is blended within the subject area along with the theme or message from the book.  Ideas for the activity are also a collaboration of the committee, departments, and myself.
  • Samples of the student work are put on display on a BOM bulletin board that is in a very visible hallway.
  • The events are monthly, publicized, and enjoyed by all.
  • Last year our administrative staff brought the students to the library and read aloud to "kick-off" the event.  The activities are cross curricular.
  • The books were read, discussed, and an activity followed. The process took roughly a day with maybe time to complete the activity on a second day.
  • Variations to the event could include inviting members of the public or even district personnel from outside your school to read the BOM to students. It might even be awesome to Skype with an author for the reading.  How cool would it be to get the actual author of the book to participate?  I may have to investigate this thought.  It would even be thrilling if we could get a twitter chat going with the author.  Other variations might include the drama students presenting a skit or even inviting the high school drama students over to present their creative interpretation of the BOM.
  • The BOM books are all on display in a glass case at the entrance of the school.
  • Publication for the event includes using our school's Facebook, Twitter, and website accounts.  This year I plan to expand the publication to the marquee in the front of our school and the TV at our front entrance.  

Examples of books that were selected last year included:
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Dubs Goes to Washington by Dick Morris
Letters from the Revolutionary War
A chapter from House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Sir Circumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Collaboration Story

Here's a tale about collaboration at its best.  It all began last spring when I was honored to co-moderate #TXLChat with @yabooksandmore (Naomi Bates), @_michellecooper (Michelle Cooper), @sharrongullett (Sharon Gullett), @edneylib (Marsha Edney), @sonjaschulz (Sonja Schulz), @sandracarswell (Sandra Carswell), and myself @sue_fitz (Sue Fitzgerald).  The chat was the brainchild of Michelle and began last spring.

During one of our first chats, librarian @nikkidrobertson (Nikki Robertson) joined us to discuss branding.  It was during this chat that @TXlibraryguy (Neil Krassnoff) joined the conversation and eBooks were mentioned.  Neil was passionate to revisit the eBook experience and volunteered to present at the Dallas Library Summit at Ann Richards Elementary School in Dallas, Texas.

The week before the Summit,  I published a blog article on my successes with eBooks during the prior school year and Neil immediately emailed me asking if I was attending the Library Summit co-sponsored by Dallas ISD and Region 10 Library Services on the following Friday.  He actually remembered the chat with Nikki on #TXLChat and mentioned  this in his email.  Within 2-3 days of emailing not only was I going to the Library Summit but I was going to share my experience during Neil's presentation.  Neil designed and shared a Google presentation with me and I contributed a few notes and statistics.  We had never met face-to-face nor had we spoken on the phone but we found ourselves presenting on a topic we were both passionate about.

It was easy to find Neil upon entering the Library Summit and we quickly talked about our collaboration before @joycevalenza (Joyce Valenza's) presentation began.  With a few changes in slides and confidence that it would all work out, we agreed to meet in the room a few minutes prior of the presentation to check on the technology.

Neil began his introductions stating that we had just met for the first time that morning and yes we were ready to collaboratively present on this topic.  Truthfully, I was a little nervous since I had never blended the world of virtual collaboration into a face-to-face presentation.  The room was packed with standing room only so we knew immediately many were interested in this emerging topic of revisiting the eBook experience.  In my opinion, I feel we both brought much to think about on the subject and I hope we were able to "kick-start" some enthusiasm in the use of eBooks in school libraries.

For those who are already in an established PLN, please encourage the new librarians to join your circles.   I challenge each of you to continue to build your network and help others to establish the incredible opportunities that a PLN can provide.  Not only did I share my experiences with librarians at the Dallas Library Summit, I was able to meet new friends, put names with faces already in my network, and attend some awesome sessions with ideas to implement for this school year.  Please set some time aside on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday evenings of the month to join the #TXLChat at 8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. CST.  The first chat will start on September 10th.  I'm excited about discussing many new topics, revisiting older topics, and collaborating with my PLN.  Remember collaboration lurks behind a door, on the other end of a phone, in a blog, during a twitter chat, with every Pinterst pin, and more.  Just be prepared when it comes your way.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

25 Books Challenge Reading Incentive

r74 Vintage Sticker Letter E a80 D

25 Book Challenge Campaign

Since many have asked me about our 25 Book Challenge, I thought I would  write a brief description.  My middle school of 670 students and 50 faculty members participate in this program as part of the Pearson School Program (previously known as America's Choice School) .  The main objective is to encourage our students to read 25 or more books during the school year.  Students are not required to particulate nor do they receive a grade for participation.   This is not a library or English department reading incentive program but rather a school-wide literacy initiative that must be implemented by the entire learning community.  Here is our program outline.
  • Start by gathering a 25 Book Challenge committee.  Make sure you include faculty from all subject areas.  This year I plan on inviting students and parents to serve on the committee.
  • Within the committee delegate responsibilities such as the promotion group, incentive celebration group, data information group, etc.
  • Establish what equals a book.  You must consider magazines, newspapers, textbooks, graphic novels, eBooks, regular books, and the Internet. We posted the information in classrooms and hallways. 
  • Set a calendar for celebrations.  We found that small celebrations in multiples of 5 books worked wonderfully.  Here's last year's schedule.
    • 5 books celebration in late October - ice cream party
    • 10 books celebration in late December - movie at the nearby high school performing arts center with popcorn and a drink
    • 15 books celebration in late February - extended lunch in the courtyard with special dessert served by our administrative staff
    • 20 books celebration in early April - coke floats
    • 25 books celebration - our students attended a local minor league baseball during a special educational event day paid for by the school
  • Kick-off the program in an assembly or with some excitement. This year we will give out the prizes from our summer reading campaign and smoothly transition into the 25 Book Challenge at the beginning of the school year assembly. 
  • Students entered the books they read into a NetSchool (moodle) database.  The library NetSchool page hosted the database.  The dates when the database was available was well publicized.  Generally the database would close 1 week prior to a celebration for data analysis.  The database allowed all entries to be exported in Excel, sorted by English teacher, and sent out to teachers for approval.  We required 3-5 sentences in the summary along with page numbers, title, author and more.  The page number column was important because we could use a formula in Excel to easily calculate the number of books.  
  • Promotion is the key.  Keeping up the momentum all year long can be challenging.  That's where your promotion committee is very important.  We used our social media accounts, the school news show, announcements, scrolling marque, and any means to keep up interest in the campaign.  Hosting the 4 smaller incentive celebrations kept student interest alive and well.
My role as the librarian included:
    • Organizing the committee
    • Keeping up with the database
    • Organizing the data for analysis 
    • Tallying the list of students for celebrations
    • Keeping the momentum going
    • Help plan the celebrations 
Reflection includes:
  • We are contemplating on using Google forms instead of the NetSchool database this year.
  • We are also considering running the data analysis through homeroom teachers thus involving more faculty in the process.  
  • There has been discussion of allowing students to submit various formats of a project such as a book trailer.
  • A teacher has volunteered to host a "book wall" that would be modeled similar to a word wall.
The main objective of the entire program is to encourage students and faculty to read.  We had 130 students who read 25 or more books last year and participated in the program.  We hope to increase that number in the coming year.

Thank you to Sharon Gullett and Marsha Edney for presenting the software @ Dallas Library Summit 2013 that I used for the graphic above.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Programming Ideas from TLC (Texas Library Connection) Listserv

With the school year fast approaching, thoughts of literacy promotion come to my mind.  As a librarian in a middle school, my students are eager  to read and participate in library programming but how can I improve the existing literacy program? Here's a list of ideas complied from the request on the TLC listserv.  Please add your ideas as a comment.

  • Students and faculty books clubs
  • Virtual book clubs - click for link
  • 25 Book Challenge (school-wide reading campaign) - click for link
  • Principal's Book of the Month
  • Embedded librarian's Shelfari bookshelf on school website
  • Summer reading incentive program
  • Online student book reviews - added to Pinterest account
  • Online student flyers
  • National celebrations such as Teen Read Week and National Library Week
  • Monthly reading incentive celebrations
  • Creative book displays
  • Student driven displays and celebrations
  • Use school social media for reading promotions and celebrations
  • Skype with authors or other schools
  • Author-student Twitter chats
  • Student literacy blogging 
  • Collaborative projects with other schools
  • Implementing new Web 2.0 tools
  • More use of Google Drive
  • Library Advisory Committee
  • Big leaves like a jungle 
  • Gypsy tent deco 
  • Footprints posted (can even use walls) and question marks
  • Go to Pinterest and find ideas from library displays
  • Book swaps
  • Read-a-thons
  • Brown bag it and READ it!  (Lunch reading program)
  • State Reading Lists - click for link
  • Collaborate with the public library
  • Participate in sponsored reading programs such as Pizza Hut BOOK IT!
  • Reading challenges and contest
  • Reading buddies program
  • Get Caught Reading  
  • Book speed dating activity
  • New book bin or other creatively titled book bins
  • Poetry slams
  • Cafe  book talk gatherings
  • Lunchroom book carts - click for link
  • Season's Readings Book Extravaganza - click for link
  • Literacy Lockers
Please add your ideas!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Integrating eBooks into Your Library Program

Are you ready to delve into the digital age with adding eBooks to your collection? Have you already purchased some eBooks only to find no one checked them out? Are your students still stuck in the stacks while you are stumped with strategies on how to manage the digital transition? These are all scenarios that I have pondered over the past few years.

My first eBook experience occurred roughly 8 years ago in a large high school in South Carolina when Follett offered a package of free eBooks. I eagerly ordered and downloaded the records of these awesome classic titles provided by this introductory free offer and waited as no one seemed interested in our digital books. I had eBooks but why wasn't everyone flocking to the library for the newest technology? As with many other librarians,  I put the digital eBooks on hold due to little interest, unfriendly accessing software, and students with few portable devices. Let's be honest, who wants to sit in front of a computer and read a book?

My next eBook encounter came in 2010 in a small school district in Texas with the release of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Although our students had few devices for eBooks the interest to read this series proved strong and some adapted with any accessible device.

The 2012-2013 school year proved to be the defining year when I realized eBooks were here to stay and my approach in the process needed to changed. In December 2012 I set a personal goal to take on eBook usage with tenacity and enthusiasm. I needed to devise a proactive plan so I approached and scheduled all English classes to visit the library for an eBook presentation 2 weeks prior to the winter holiday. I advertised the library as a totally device friendly environment and requested that students bring any device that might be used to access our small 106 eBook collection. This one step began a progression of spectacular eBook successes for the remainder of the school year. As you can see from the graph our eBook usage spiked in Decemeber and May.  During both of these months I hosted an eBook demonstration to classes and invited everyone to participate in a BYOD.  The chart should have been labeled eBook Transactions instead of eBook Circulation.  The June data was for only a few days in June so when I return to school a new graph including the summer months needs to be produced. The biggest lesson learned on my part is if you show your students how to use they will follow.

Here are a few components to my success.

Set Goals - Take some time to analyze your collection, circulation statistics, and set short term goals. Stating that you want students and faculty to checkout eBooks is too vague. I started with setting a goal of 100 patrons accessing eBooks by the end of the school year. Statistics showed only 2 eBooks were checked out in the prior school year so this was a tangible goal as far as I was concerned. I am more relaxed and stress-free when I set goals that I feel I may accomplish.

Demonstrate - This might sound like common sense but take quality time to show your students and faculty how to access your eBook collection. Make sure you fully understand the process. I actually began with my faculty and was amazed they were immediately interested. It just proved to me that my teachers were as eager as my students to embrace new practices in the digital age.

Come up with a Gimmick - As with any lesson, program, or presentation you need to grab their interest from the beginning. I didn't plan that my gimmick was BYOD (Bring Your Own Device Day) but it just fell into place. I've also used the term "Device Petting Zoo" since every imaginable device came in on Device Days. It was awesome to watch student on student teaching and learning with the menagerie of devices.

Empower your students with the teaching process - I had great student aides and volunteers but no adult assistant. With 1 librarian and 670 students I have become quite creative in using others to help manage the library program. I coined the phrase "eBook Expert" and when an eBook question was asked I called for an "expert". In the beginning my student aides would step up to assistant but by the end of the school year students that I barely knew were volunteering their time and knowledge in accessing our eBook collection. I need to take note that many students want to help so I need to encourage a process with more student driven assistance.

Promotion - As with any program, your successes need to be promoted and advertised. The more enthusiastic you become in letting everyone know your statistical accomplishments; the more contagious this phenomenon will spread. I probably went overboard since I became ecstatic when my goal of 100 eBook checkouts was met in December before the Christmas holiday began. As our vacation continued, I watched the eBook reports and sent text messages to my principal with news of eBook usage over the holidays. I also posted on our school Facebook and Twitter feeds with the exciting news. As the eBooks circulation reports climbed I included this data in faculty emails, the school news, the library online newsletter, in leadership meetings, faculty gatherings, district library PLCs, wrote blog articles, brought in donuts for faculty celebrating mini accomplishments, and virtually told everyone whom I came in contact with during our 2nd semester. I am a believer in self promoting your programs.

Inclusion - As I watched my school embrace our library eBooks I also noticed peaks and valleys in the circulation reports. The students and faculty checked out our digital eBooks as long as I promoted the collection. Thus I referenced our eBooks when book-talking, included a quick title eBook list for my patrons, put stickers on books indicating it was also available in eBook format, provided demonstration screencast videos for the school news, and included promotion of eBooks in every facet of programming. Sadly enough our lowest month for eBook circulation occurred in April during STAAR testing. Students are only allowed to read regular books during the entire testing process.

Reflection - Analyzing and reflecting on the eBook data is very important. The library had 106 eBooks when I began this endeavor in early December and I quickly realized I needed more eBooks added to our collection. I delved into TitleWave looking for high interest titles and added roughly 300 more eBooks by early February. I must add the process of ordering and receiving eBooks was a pleasant surprise. I ordered online on Tuesday and was thrilled to see on the following Saturday the books seamlessly appeared on our FolletShelf. That in turn created more text messages, Facebook and Twitter posts, and emails over the weekend.

I am proud to announce that our students and faculty have enthusiastically continued to checkout and access our eBook collection. We have surpassed 1,200 eBook transactions since the beginning of this campaign. I have added audio eBooks to our collection and have embedded our digital collection use in a summer reading campaign. After the dismal history of my eBook promotion, I am ecstatic with the latest results. Factors that may have contributed to our success may include our district providing 1:1 devices, students having access to many types of devices, the school's policy for allowing student devices, and the library's device friendly environment.

I'm not ready to eliminate regular books but I welcome the opportunity to blend choices for my patrons in our library program.  This coming year will be interesting since our district has adapted Dell tablets as the 1:1 device for our students.  I'm assuming accessing our eBook collection will be simplified with the new devices.  The announcement that Follett is working with Random House to offer popular titles in eBook format will also add new exciting titles to our collection.  Due to a special offer from Follett last year, I received a $750 coupon for free eBooks that I'm eager to spend.  I believe eBooks are here to stay and I'm ready to embrace the use of our digital collection and assist my faculty and students in accessing their reading choices.

This is the full article that I wrote as a guest blogger for Follett titled eBooks: Delve Into Digital.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tips to Start a New School Year

The new school year is fast approaching and it's time to get back into the regular routine. Beginning a new school year can be refreshing and exciting.  It's good to enter with a plan and some forethought.

Here are a few tips from veteran librarians.
  1. Start browsing through your PLN, think about your blog, make modifications to your library website (nobody likes those 2 year old reading lists), look into participating in some Twitter chats (join #TXLchat  on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at 8:00 p.m. CST starting back 9/10), update your accounts and at least make sure you have the correct logins. Look for new ideas and be ready to share your successes with your PLN. 
  2.  Clean the house, cook and freeze some meals (or stock up on Sam's or Costco meals), mow the yard and work in the garden, and make sure the laundry basket is empty. This way when you come home from school exhausted those first few days, you won’t be concerned with domestic chores.
  3. Have a ME day. Make an appointment at the spa, get your nails done, play a round of golf or shop until you drop. Just take some TLC time for yourself before the school year starts.
  4. Eliminate last year’s baggage. Last year is behind you so get over it and proceed on with the new school year. If you have legitimate concerns, make an appointment with your administrators and address it with solutions rather than complaints. 
  5. Return from your trips at least 2-3 days before the school year starts. This will give you a few days to relax and get ready for the adventures of a new year.
  6. Pull out your positive attitude and smile. If you have put the positive vibes and attitude away for the summer get them out and practice smiling and enjoying life a few weeks before school starts.
  7. Start an exercise program. Take a walk, ride a bike, jog, join a water aerobics class or get involved with an activity that gets your heart rate up. Begin with a simple plan and incorporate it into your daily schedule. If nothing else it will make your feel better, give you more energy, and encourage you with a sense of accomplishment
  8. Start getting up at your regular work time at least a week before school starts. This way getting back into your routine won’t be such a shock to your body.
  9. Start something new. Look into starting a new home project such as a home recycling program, a family blog, plant an herbal garden or any other innovative venture. This might inspire you to begin new and exciting undertakings at school in the coming year.
  10. Evaluate last year's programming.  Make changes where necessary, eliminate things that didn't work, and enhance something to make it awesome.
  11. If you don't already have a Library Advisory Committee start one this year.  Mine in the past was more social but I have made FFL.  Rely on them for advice and or suggestions.  This will empower the programming to others outside the library walls allowing you to be a true facilitator. 
  12. Start planning for conferences and make reservations now.  They can always be canceled.  If time or cost is an issue then look for some virtual PD opportunities. 
  13. Step back and evaluate the atmosphere of your library.  Come up with a plan to jazz up an area, declutter your office, change out displays or posters that are faded, or rearrange the furniture.  Sometimes freshness in the environment may create freshness in ideas.
  14. Remember a happy healthy librarian is essential for a positive productive school library program.
  15. Think proactive rather than reactive.  
  16. During New Teacher Orientation, I try to meet all the new teachers and briefly show them some resources and highlights of the library program.  I am the only professional librarian in the district, so I like to introduce myself as a resource, as well as the library aides at their campuses.  (It's usually held in my HS library, so it is fairly easy to attend!)
  17. Stock up on some healthy snacks.  You may not have a relaxing lunch period for some days to come. By all means avoid the candy and soda machine in the teacher's lounge.   
Add your tip!

Blogger in Distress

When I give advice to many fellow educators, I'll always preface that I have made every mistake imaginable. So, here's my latest mistake.

As I sat in the car waiting on my husband to come out of Best Buy, I received a really fantastic response via email to a question on the Texas Library Connection listserv.  I had compiled a list of responses and put them on my blog since many had asked me to share the results.  With iPhone in hand I quickly copied, pasted, updated, and published the latest suggestion.  When I returned home later that evening I pulled out my iPad to check email, Twitter, Facebook, Feedly, and Blogger.    To my horrific surprise my blog that began in 2010 looked very strange.  My gadgets in the right hand side bar were now below all my posts.  Yikes, what had I done?

At a closer look I realized the saved template was the mobile template.  I checked the format on every device in the house and yes all showed the blog with this mobile template.  As I panicked trying to fix the problem I picked up the laptop and selected template and save.  This did not fix the problem.  In the meantime I was getting many messages and the blog was not opening.  I took a deep breath and picked up my iPad and selected to edit a post.  When I clicked on save the original template was restored.  Yes, it was a huge relief.  My only problem now is that my mobile view has change to a black and white simple template rather than the colorful template that matched my Blogger format.  I tried changing the various templates in the mobile option but none are the views I had prior to my edit and publish on the iPhone.

To all those who use Blogger please let me know if you can help me restore the original mobile template.  The lesson learned here is to BACK-UP YOUR BLOG FREQUENTLY!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Stay Connected During the Dog Days of Summer

As a guest blogger for Follett Software Company, here's an article on how I stayed connected with my faculty and students during the summer.

Stay Connected During the Dog Days of Summer by Sue Fitzgerald - click on title for article

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Process Can Make the Difference

My partner on the patio
I must give a BIG "shout out" to Mike, my dear husband of 28 years.  We actually won an Atari, our first computer, in the 1980s.  We bought joy sticks and spent countless hours playing Pac-Man, Destroyer, and other awesome games.  Oh, how times have changed.

We were in desperate need of a new computer since the one in our command center (branded name via our builder) was 6+ years old.  We actually rarely used it since we both have iPhones, iPads, and laptops.    On our latest trip this summer my husband bought a new Cannon 700D camera and needed a means of conveniently downloading, storing, and sharing the 1,000+ pictures he took in Alaska.  Since we both liked our Apple products, for the first time in our lives, we bought an iMac.

A Texas classic
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Since I spend many countless hours sitting on our back patio writing, brainstorming, collaborating, and planning for school my husband surprised me with the technologies of our new computer.  We had speakers out on the patio that were rarely used and a DVD player in our movie room that sat idle.  Mike set up a audio system through the iMac in our house where I now can remotely turn on and off the music through my iPhone (Remote app) from anywhere in the house and play my favorite songs while delving into the digital world on my back patio. All I do now is pick up my phone, select the remote app, choose the artist, select the song, and touch the play button.  I can even turn the volume up and down while sitting on the patio, weeding the garden, or getting myself another glass of cold iced-tea all with my iPhone.  

Interesting enough when he showed me this new technology my first thoughts were how can I get this in my library?  You can take me out of the library but you can't take the librarian out of me.

The lesson learned here was that we had awesome music and quality equipment that were not being utilized due to the cumbersome process.  Yes, we had to look through the DVDs, select the ones we wanted to play, and manually put them into a player.  With a little innovative planning and technology we now have a new process where I will once again be able to enjoy the soothing rhythm of my favorite musical artists.  Take a look around your library and ask yourself do you have a process that might be hindering the utilization of the library program?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Students on Passes Responses TLC

After posting a question on TLC (Texas Library Connection) listserv, I discovered many other librarians had the same question.  How do you effectively manage and track students using the library on classroom passes?

When I was in a large high school with 3,000 students and 4 library staff members, we required students on passes to sign-in at the circulation desk.  We had a time stamp clock that each student stamped their own passes when they entered and exited the library.  The teacher could easily verify by quickly glancing at the pass indicating time spent in the library.  This system worked smoothly for many years pre-computer age and two paraprofessionals monitoring the process.

I am now in a smaller school with 670 students and myself as the only library staff.  In the last few years I dropped the tradition of students on passes signing in due to many reasons including the time spent managing this task.  As I prepared last year's annual library report I had amazing statistical information on class usage, circulation information, digital eBook usage, programming, and more.  What I didn't have was any information on students using the facility that came in on teacher issued passes.  I felt this was a huge amount of missing information.  So I began to think about an easy process to implement a system that would compile and account for these students.

Here are a few responses that I received from fellow librarians after posting the question.

1. We've used Student Time Clock for 6 years and I'm very happy with it.

2. I have a paper sign in form and must report monthly stats broken into different categories (#ckout, #research, #print used, #nonprint used, # classes and which subjects, and on and on and on).  I am also a one woman show with 1,000 students.  This task requires a huge amount of time each month.  I would love to have a computerized check-in system, but don't know of any already created.  Could you share any responses you get?

3. Here's my very simple solution: I have one computer with a scanner attached. I login and open a Word document. When students enter, they simply scan the barcode on their ID. We are a high school, and all students must wear ID cards. This process ensures student compliance with school policy--students know they must have their ID to enter.

I print the list each day, but I'm sure you can probably figure out some other way to save the data.

Maybe this will help.

4. I set up a LAMP stack on a old lap top and hooked it up to an external monitor, bar code scanner, and number key pad.  On the LAMP stack I just created a My/SQL database using a PHP interface with a local file that runs on the browser, in my case firefox.  Kids just scan or input their id numbers.  All I get is an id number and a time/date stamp when I look at my results at end of the day.

5. We use library time clock.  We have used it for the past three years. It allows us to not only have students sign in on a laptop with their student ID but it also allows for the purpose of their visit.  I can scan the database quickly when administrators want to verify a student's location for discipline or attendance purposes.  It provides awesome stats.  Best of all it was a one time fee of $125.  A retired librarian's husband created it.

6. How about keeping the passes students come in with and giving back another pass when they leave for class?  Stash them and when time allows enter them into a database and you've bypassed a step for the students.  Not only that, but the pass will have other information such as "using the computer" "checking out books" or other details you can also add and use to disseminate information.

On a sidenote, I also did this at one time because of the rash of students coming in when a substitute was in a particular class that day and used this to talk to that sub about sending students down in manageable groups.

7. I made a google form last summer before school started.  I have the students enter only their ID number, it takes them too long to input their names.  I include all information important to me, why they are there and who sent them and how long they are allowed to stay, etc, whatever you want.  I make all of these choice answers so they can choose the appropriate one.  I input all of the teachers names in a drop down menu.  My students are middle school and they can't spell the name, or whatever.  I also put in the teacher name list - before school, during lunch and after school.  This form automatically populates a spreadsheet to me, so I have all statistics I need.  It automatically dates and timestamps. (As long as the computer you are using, has the right date and time)

It took the kids very little time to get used to using it and it became habit and very quick now.

8. I feel your pain!  I also have them sign in but when it gets crazy and I can't watch very carefully, I do find that they write in goofy names & sometimes totally makeup stuff. I can't stop all of that but for the most part the sign in sheet does help:  first & last name, time, date, reason for using computer, & teacher name are our categories. Good luck!

My initial question included my thoughts about trying to use a computer station and a Google form.  In conclusion I believe the Student Time Clock might work for some but I'm ready to experiment with the Google form since I want to try the "free" route. I'm considering to have an old laptop set up for sign-in and allowing students to use their own devices since we have a 1:1 device policy.  I'm not sure how well the 2nd option will unfold since anyone could enter data at any time if the link is made public.  One lesson that I have been taught is to try an idea out first before eliminating the option.

If you have other ideas and suggestions please share!

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Gardener's Perspective

Hey look mom - it's a bunny.
Better hang on tight since we are sight hounds.
As my much needed and appreciated summer vacation continues thoughts of self evaluation and improvement for the next school year steadily creep into my mind as vacation days come to an end.  This summer has been filled with an enjoyable routine.  I'm up by 6:30 a.m., feed the 4 dogs, drink 1/2 cup of coffee, walk 2-3 miles with 3 of the dogs, eat breakfast after the walk, and begin my gardening ritual before the unbearable heat drives us all back into the house.

Gardening has been a passion of mine for years and this summer I have spent countless hours tweaking, evaluating, water, and adding as needed to my Texas gardens.  Since this is the 4th growing season of my garden it's beginning to evolve as a beautiful setting for butterflies, hummingbirds, and an array of vibrant colorful summer flowers. Not only is dabbling in the dirt a passion of mine but it's also a science of knowing what makes an exceptional garden.  I have had fantasies of my garden in a magazine or repined numerous times on Pinterest so this summer I stepped back and took an evaluating look at how I could improve the fruits of my seeds.

Lantana - the hummingbirds favorite
When neighbors and friends step into my backyard I take immense pride in their compliments of my hard work.  But when I took a closer look at my garden I noticed nice healthy plants thriving but for some reason they looked totally out-of-place.  Had I misjudged the placement or arrangement of these plants? Should I leave them knowing this was not the best position in the garden or should I take steps into metamorphosing  this really nice garden into an awesome sanctuary? Obviously, I chose to move and rearrange the plants for the better of the garden.

As I sat back on the patio relishing in my labors the thoughts of evaluating my library program came to surface. I have a good steady library program but are there areas that could be tweaked to make it an awesome program?  It was easy for me to see what needed to be changed in the garden but the changes in the library are not as prevalent.    

Stella d'ora daylilies
Sometimes we can have blinders on when evaluating ourselves and can't see the forest  through the trees.  How many times have I heard, "If it ain't broke don't fix it"? But what if you could make an adjustment to make your facility to bloom into paradise?  We can all get trapped in this is always been the way we do it syndrome. Take an evaluative look around and choose an area that works but with a little change could be better or even awesome.  I know I will be bringing thoughts of my garden into the library this year. Take out some fertilizer, start digging into your programs, replant in areas of need, so your library may flourish into an amazing garden of fun and knowledge.

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