Sunday, September 29, 2013

Think Virtual

As an advocate of becoming more virtual in my library programming, I am amazed at how seamlessly the process can be be presented without notice.  I was confronted with such an example just his past weekend that I wanted to share.

I needed to attend to some family business out of town, so I flew to Orlando to visit with my mother, whom just entered an assisted living facility.  With iPhone and iPad in hand on the trip, I planned to check email and possibly read an eBook while waiting on flights.  A few emails came in from my faculty that I was able to quickly respond to but one request from a teacher wanting a 1:00 p.m. appointment that afternoon to show him more about Google forms had me thinking creatively.  I was able to ask a few questions seeking more information on his needs.  When he finally emailed me an example of what he was trying to duplicate I knew I had a solution.  I had trained many of my student library aides on their Google accounts and suggested he stop by the library to get some instructions from my aides at the requested appointment time.  As I was visiting with mother I received an awesome email from this teacher stating my students were great and they had helped him design a google form.   He said he still had a few questions and would stop by on Monday.  I felt I had a satisfied customer because like many of you I detest the feeling that I was unable to help someone in need. I was also pleased that I was able to coordinate this all without actually being in my school. Although my mission with mother was important, I hate to stop the library program when I am out of the building and becoming more virtual seems to be a positive solution.

I was so proud of my students for taking on this roll to help a teacher and I can imagine how this will boost their confidence in continuing to help others in the library.  I know that a 21st Century educator needs to learn side-by-side with the learning community and I can see more opportunities for our students to become proactive in their learning process.  As a librarian I should no longer dictate the what, how, and when our students should learn but navigate them through the process. Note taken the process is now being extended beyond the walls of our school and it is totally up to me, my creativity, and help from my PLN as to the extent of the virtual process.  The ideas are unlimited and we must all share!  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Google Accounts for Students

I had to share this funny story with my PLN.  I tried telling the events to my husband but somehow it just didn't seem to be as funny to him as it was with me.  It began one afternoon with my two 8th grade student aides that I have labeled as my technological students.  They take on all our basic computer operations such as adding printers, setting up computers, etc.

There was about 15 minutes until the bell rang and we were hosting the guidance counselor aides since they were bored and wanted to help us.  Interesting that the library aides don't seem to have the same problem.  I thought this might be a great opportunity to introduce these students to their new Google account. All were eager and one of my student aides sat in the chair to "drive" the presentation with others standing around the screen.  After talking her through logging into her account everyone just stared at the screen and gave me the "now what" look.  I started pointing out various functions and realized I was loosing the attention of the counselor office aides so I directed my aide into her Google drive.  We looked at the create option and created a document as an example.  I then directed her into the share option and we actually shared the document with my 2nd student aide.  I then explained all the sharing options.  It was at this point that both my aides looked at each other in silence and then slowly looked toward me responding, "Do you mean a teacher would know what each student contributed to a project?"  Of course I answered yes that could be done by using different font colors.  My two aides again looked at each other before turning excitedly towards me instructing me in a fast and furious manner, that I needed to bring all the teachers into the library, pull down the screen (as they pointed to the screen), and teach this to every teacher.  I was utterly amused, in a good way, with their enthusiasm. Their request also included they wanted this done ASAP.

Student to student note
The demonstration continued with presentations and finally ended with Goolge form.  I had to step away at that point because they volunteered to make a school-wide form to gather information about what our students liked to read.  As a librarian, I was thrilled with their compassion and eagerness for trying new things and learning.  But I was also amazed with their empromtu ideas on how they could use their new Google account. 

I took a few unscheduled minutes to stop and show these students something new and they loved it.  My lesson here might be to stop more often for some one-on-one quality time with my aides to show case new apps, software, resources, or techniques.  Although I was amused with their enthusiasm I am now ecstatic with the outcome.  I will train all my library aides next week on accessing their Google accounts and I will start fiercely promoting this new technology school-wide.  Sometimes I feel the students are motivating me into becoming a better librarian.  

My idea that came out of this event is to start a student technology club during lunches.  I am going to ask my 2 student aides if they would consider collaborating with me and my IT coach in this endeavor. I would love for this to be a student on student learning process for all to learn the functions of our new Google accounts.  Stay tuned and I will let you know the outcome of the club.

Update - My student aides are eager to take on this challenge.  They have presented their idea to our principal and superintendent. They have a Google presentation ready to go for our first lunch technology meeting.  My lesson learned today.  If you want your principal's attention, pitch an idea such as a student driven technology club on the day your superintendent is scheduled to visit.  The students were awesome with their enthusiasm.

Double Update - About 25 students met for our first Techno Lunch bunch.  My two 8th grade library aides introduced the Google accounts.  Everyone seemed receptive to continue meeting, collaborating, and building their Google drive accounts during lunch.  This might be a great springboard to launch this new technology out to our school.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rebranding the Library

It was during our spring Twitter chat on #TXLchat about branding with Nikki Robertson, that I decided to try my hand at branding our middle school library.  I had only been the librarian for one year at my present position (but my 7th library in all) and I was fortunate to have followed an awesome librarian with an established program.  The library was in an older school with mismatched furniture, conflicting colors, but appealing accents pieces.  I decided to brand the library as Panther Paradise and transform this outdated set-up and decor into an exciting location for students to gather.  I  must give full disclosure that all pictures were taken with the same camera (my iPhone).  I cannot explain the difference in sharpness other than the lighter color walls reflected more light thus producing better pictures after the transition.

Our fiction section probably received the most dramatic change.  The collection far exceeded the shelving so we moved shelves, painted an accent wall, rearranged the books, and added signage.  The collection was arranged in genres and many could not find books, series were not in the same genre, and sometimes the same book was in a different genre.  I brought the decision to the students and they decided to add genre labels and rearrange in author order.  Interesting enough, this was totally their decision.

The nonfiction area, as you can see in the top picture, had too much furniture and needed some color. With a few less tables, a red accent wall, and brighter paint on the remaining walls it made the area look bigger and more inviting.  Surprisingly our biographies were not checked out last year.  I'm interested to see if the red wall will draw attention to this collection.

One of my favorite areas has been transforming a corner of the library that was not being utilized into a relaxing working/reading area.  The bottom pictures shows the computers to the far right that I turned into a seating nook with a new grey couch and existing chairs in the upper right hand corner.  We moved the free standing shelving seen in the bottom photo and it opened up the area to the rest of the library.  The computers were moved to the far wall with the Twilight posters, smaller tables were added to the area, and comfortable chairs were arranged for a casual reading area. The students LOVE this area.

Finally, I tried bringing in our school colors, fun accents such as the lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and some fun displays into Panther Paradise.  My principal was instrumental in getting the walls painted and the carpet replaced.  I took much of what we already had and revitalized it.  The paper lanterns were very inexpensive as was the black and white rug from IKEA.  It was hard work in the heat of the Texas summer without air conditioning, but overall it was well worth the effort of everyone involved. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Power of Your Data

In Doug Johnson's article on 7 tips for making your principal your ally, tip #1 is:

1. Report regularly and formally. We should all be sending out a written (emailed) quarterly principal’s report and a monthly faculty bulletin. These should be upbeat, useful, and short. Every newsletter that goes to parents needs a library column. Including digital photos of happy library-using kids. Administrators HATE surprises - good and bad.

Doug, Johnson. "7 tops for making your principal your ally." The Blue Skunk Blog. Sept. 10, 2013. Web. 11 September, 2013

We all have access to data per Destiny (or other library management software) and our library schedule, so gather this information on a regular basis and be ready to share your successes.  Nothing speaks louder than data. Don't wait until the end of the school year when you can barely remember what happened last week.  Start gathering and sharing your data now!

Highlights of my last week:
  • 1,058 books checked out
  • 29 eBooks checked out
  • 10 audio eBooks checked out
  • 39 classes
  • 80 students on passes - tracked through our new process with Google form
  • 101 students subscribed to remind101
  • Started #pikelib with many tweets from teachers and students
  • Attend PLC with L.A., Electives, and Fine Arts
  • Wrote and posted parent newsletter
  • Attended 6th Grade level meeting
  • Organized Principal’s Book of the Month
  • Received Solid as a Rock badge in

 8th grade boys enjoying the new reading area that I have been working on this past summer.

With three 6th grade classes checking out books at the same time, the new Follett app came in handy.  Now my thoughts are about developing a self check-out system with the app.

After reading a post in my PLN my thoughts are all about a new display.  This is a literature footprint from our L.A. department chair.  I am going to have my student aides make word clouds for our administrative staff. What if we had a bulletin board where anyone could display their literature footprint?  Or, what if the footprints were displayed all around the library?  I think I have a new idea! 

Students were excited and eager to subscribe to Pike's remind101.

I laughed when my sister explained that during tax season she requires her accountants to itemize their time in 1 minute increments. How could I possibly account for every minute in the library?  The key is to come up with a system that works best for you.  Personally I have a Google spreadsheet with my entire schedule that I share with my staff.  The spreadsheet allows me to easily sort data at the end of the school year.   I prefer to print my spreadsheet off and manually write down events as they occurr and I transfer this to the spreadsheet as time allows.  I have trained my student aides to check the daily calendar in preparation for that class period.  I also keep classes on my website calendar.  I like the online calendar to share but I am not always in front of a computer to add or check events.    The bottom line is you need to come up with a system that works best for you in gathering and sharing your data.  An empty calendar or schedule may give others the wrong perception of our daily lives in the library.  As a one woman show I can promise everyone each day is as busy as the next.

 Suggestions may include:
  • Reflect and write items/events down first thing in the morning
  • Reflect and write items/events down just before you leave for the day
  • Reflect at a specific time each week (I may find time at lunch)
  • Write events and items down as they occur as I do on a daily schedule
  • Keep an ongoing Word or Google (this would allow home access) document

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Library Displays From Pinterest

It's not too early to start thinking and planning your displays for the year. After Teen Read Week, I prefer to make a fall display that can stay up until Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, I prefer a winter display rather than the holidays so I can keep it up until February. When it's just me I must find creative ways of keeping the library festive without taking too much time away from teaching and programming. Try and cut your stress with constantly making your library look lively by blending your displays or concentrating on changing out one area for the seasons, holidays, or celebrations.

Here's my Display Plan:

  • Aug. - Sept. - The back-to-school displays are generic with "Panther Paradise" as the theme and I use our school colors.
  • October - I will include a Teen Read Week display until mid Oct.  At the end of October - I go all out for fall with leaves and displays as colorful as the season. 
  • December - The fall comes down and winter goes up. We do have a Christmas tree that stands in a corner but most of the displays are about "Read a Cool Book" and such.
  • January - I tweak winter and may add a banner for New Year's, pull books for MLK Day, or add to the wintery display. Math classes like to make snow flakes for me to hang over the circulation desk.
  • February - I take winter down and pink, black, white, and red goes up for Love Your Library Month, Valentina's Day, and Presidents' Day. 
  • March - I go all out with green displays. 
  • April - I save room for a Library Week display but I'm getting ready for blooms, testing, and the end of the school year. 
  • May - Many of the flowers and blooms stay up but I find room for a summer reading display. 
One of my favorite resources is School Library Monthly's Almanacs. If you have awesome displays, please take pictures and share on Pinterest.
The key is that I try and blend one display into another thus not taking major time away from programming. I also have 3 bulletin boards, a small case, and large trophy case that I am responsible for out in our building. I rely on our die-cut machine, poster maker, and my students to do much of the grunt work.

A Blended Summer Reading Experience

As the last school year concluded, as usual, I selected many of the high interest young adult novels in our collection to read over the summer break. There would finally be time to relax, read, and emerge myself into the plots and characters of the novels on our library shelves.  The routine was quickly established with a walk to begin the day, some gardening until the heat drove me inside, chores around the house, and sneaking in time for reading whenever possible.  It was early in the summer that I realized my reading goals would never be accomplished with the many summer projects lurking around the house.

My strategy changed quickly with thoughts of the our digital eBook collection that I had purchased specifically for our students' summer reading incentive. In May I had encouraged our students to read and listen to the collection over the summer.  With the strategy change my day still began with a walk but I took my iPhone and listened to many audio eBooks from our collection.    I also listened to books while gardening and completing chores around the house by putting my iPhone in a fanny pack. My favorite way to listen was on the car radio through bluetooth while driving. In years past I would listen to the play-a-ways in the car through a USB cord but the process of Catalist Digital has made the process so much easier.

When traveling, I preferred to take my iPad and read the digital eBooks.  We were gone for 10 days and instead of dragging multiple books around on flights and into hotel rooms, I was able to read a few eBooks through one device.  I even read the eBooks on the cruise to Alaska but downloaded titles before we set sail.  We were unsure of the Internet connection and by downloading the eBooks I was able to read without being connected.

Finally, my summer reading included relaxing each evening with a regular hardback book in bed while at home.   I always had two on the night stand ready for a moment when I could stop and read.

Incredibly by blending reading and listening to high interest young adult novels it allowed me to become familiar with more books then I expected this past summer.  Now I'm ready for booktalks, book recommendations, and book club selections for my faculty and students in the new school year. I plan to continue this practice with the purchase of more digital and audio eBooks this past week. 

My #summerreading Reading Log

Hardback books:
Bewitching by Alex Flinn
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Legend by Marie Lu

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielse

Audio eBooks:
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Messenger by Lois Lowry
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier

Update on our #summerreading Incentive

The overall response on The Big Summer Read at Pike was amazing.  We had 184 book entries that our students and faculty read over the summer entered into the Google form.  We are now in the process of smoothly transitioning into our 25 Book Challenge for the school year.

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