Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Have a Book Fair?

The fall book fair started yesterday, and I'm questioning why I REALLY do a book fair.
I'm not a big fan of book fairs. Basically, I'm raising money for the book fair company, right?
Yeah, yeah, I'm getting books into the hands of students, but they could have checked those out from us FOR FREE!
Oh, yeah, we're making a profit that can be used to purchase more books for our library or other incentives like bookmarks, posters, etc.
Right! I should probably be advocating for a better book budget from my administrator if I'm using book fair money as my sole funds for my budget. I'm not, thank goodness!
I'm just saying, for all the work to setup the book fair, get volunteers, have classes come through the media center, pack it up and complete the paperwork, is it really worth it?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reading for Newbery

As we move into late October, I'm feeling the crunch of leading my mock Newberians to great books of 2009. We have looked at so many books that I have not been able to keep up the reading. So for the homestretch, my gameplan is to focus on a short list of books that I know have potential. How do I do that? I read the SLJ blog to see what the hype is concerning certain titles:

I also take a look at what the students have rated a 4 or 5 star. We start reading in February so we've kicked off many that I never really got a chance to look at. I went back and realized that we had kicked of When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I just finished it and found it amazing. It is so perfect for middle schoolers with the main character being 12 years old and quite loveable. I totally got into the way the author keeps the reader engaged with trying to figure out time travel as well as the how and why the characters relate. Intertwining L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time brings a clever connection that made me flip back to reread a line or two so I could figure it out. The main character, Miranda, has enough curiosity to make you love her but how she reveals her understanding of people and ideas make you know that she is genuine. Don't let the posting on the SLJ mock Newbery blog discourage you. Jonathan's post is way to nitpicky for me.

I also read A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck and thoroughly enjoyed it. His appeal may be more for adults?? and I wonder just how much our kids can relate to his outrageous "old lady next door" character. I also wonder how much of the humor is appreciated without the life experiences background that may be needed to get the richness of his writing. Thoughts?

Here are the National Book award nominations for this year. I have not read any of them but have two in my hands for the weekend. This is what getting sick and staying home for a couple of days did for me. I like it.


What are you reading? I hope to post a few graphic novel reads in a few days or at least I should since I have a huge amount of homework before AASL. Right Mindy?


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Teaching the Big6

I've been teaching the Big6 research process to sixth graders this week. We've made our way through Task Definition and Information Seeking Strategies. While there have been a few "ah ha" moments with some kids, so many of our students seem to be stuck in Googleland.

How do we truly move kids through a research process, be it Big6 or Super3 or some other process, without them reverting to the lone term put into the search box of Yahoo or Ask.com or Dogpile. (Yes, some kid mentioned Dogpile today; I didn't know kids still used that!)

I used one of my favorite video clips, a commercial actually, to illustrate the fact that if they get stuck they need to think through the process, figure out what the next step is. (Yes, they all liked the commercial, and most of them "got it".)

But only time will really tell. We used their most recent studies of ancient Greece and Rome to talk through and walk through the first steps and there was hand-holding. When we cut them lose in the spring for the big sixth grade research project (a person that changed the world for better or worse), will they take the time to define their task and plan their search strategies in order to locate appropriate resources?

Or will they just type their person's name into Google on day one?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A bright spot in my day

As you probably know, SSR has been a focus of ours over the past couple of years. The SSR program got off to a great start this year! We did staff development before school started so everyone was ready to go on Day 1. The allotted SSR time is longer this year--closer to 20 minutes everyday--and some teachers are beginning to work in some extension activities: discussion, booktalks, etc.

But so far the most gratifying comment has come from a science teacher, and it was about HIS reading during SSR time. He told me that over the summer he managed to read only one book, but within the first few weeks of school he'd already finished a book. The difference, he said, was SSR. "I read my book during SSR, then I'm so interested in it that I take it home and read more in the evenings," he told me.

It made my day to hear this, and I hope SSR is having the same effect on students--increasing both the amount of time they spend reading and their reading enjoyment.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are you looking at data?

Take a look at the Library Media Program Data Wall we created last week! We started collecting data at the very beginning of this school year by using Zoomerang as a survey tool for all 7th and 8th grade students. Questions pertained to students' past use of the library media center, as well as likes/dislikes/changes they'd like to see in the library media program this school year. Some of this data now appears on the data wall.
By using student survey data, we completed a collection mapping project on our sports collection (fiction, biographies, and nonfiction titles were included). These materials are HIGHLY sought-after, yet our collection is out-dated and poorly reflects student interests. We have already designated a portion of this year's budget to updating this popular segment of the collection.
We are also tracking library media research class usage. Because we're always striving to increase our true collaborative partnerships with teachers, we're focusing on who is signing up for research and what projects they're working on. We're confident we will meet our goal of increasing true collaborative experiences.
So . . . . what type of data are you looking at?

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Ah! I feel refreshed and energized to start the new year! Why? Because our learning team met yesterday. It's amazing what a group of people can do for you. The collegial relationships and friendships that we have built, that have grown, in our learning team can really sustain you.

Yesterday was an incredible morning of reviewing where we've been, where we are, and where we are going. It's hard to believe that the group began six years ago as 'Creating a Climate and Culture for Reading', a group of middle school media coordinators looking at reading in our library media programs and schools.

We've evolved into a group of nine middle school media coordinators who look to one another for professional advice, for support and inspiration, and for challenging and though-provoking conversations about everything that is school and library media. It's this small group that helps us see the big picture!

As we prepare for another school year, we begin to focus ourselves and our work in our learning team. We will continue to look at the beliefs from the standards through the eyes of various individuals as we set goals for ourselves, our programs and our learning team.

I say, "Bring on the year!"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Going Paperless

It's strange to say that a librarian is going paperless, but I'm trying to get rid of some of the endless sheets that have filled my calendar or my schedule books in the past.

I've got my entire life, both personal and professional, input into a Google calendar now. I'm using the daily tasks lists as my to-do list. So far, I'm still organized and managing my affairs quite nicely.

I'm exploring ideas about how to schedule the media center in a paperless world, and there are a number of online options. Right now, I'm sticking with using a table schedule in Blackboard. It gives teachers the opportunity to see the schedule, but still gives me the control of "writing" in the schedule without their signing up without my knowledge.

A colleague suggested GenBook, the free online scheduling website. She gives teachers the options of choosing their dates and times and making their "appointments" in the media center. I'm not sure of the control of this particular site.

I've also been told that our district has a calendar / schedule program that we could possibly use. I'm waiting to hear back on this application before throwing my hands up and sticking with Blackboard.

Hopefully my efforts to go paperless will be smooth, seamless, organized. I just don't want to find us going paperless -- reading all books electronically -- any time soon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mixing It Up! Reorganizing the Fiction Section

Okay, y'all can call me crazy if you want to. I have a student intern this summer, and we just had a discussion about marketing the fiction section, what works, what doesn't. Do we want to highlight certain books, topics, genres? You know, the usual displays of series books, mystery titles, whatever. Or do we really want to mix it up?

Well, we're going for it. At least for a couple of months. We're going to rearrange the fiction section by genre. Not a lot of genres, mind you. Just the biggies: scifi/fantasy, mystery, and realistic. At least that's the start.

What will happen? Will circulation increase? Will it be a nightmare to reshelve those books? We haven't decided on genre stickers yet. Will the children find it appealing?

Will we need to open up a coffee bar in the fiction section? Okay, so it's a little Barnes & Noble. But they sell tons of books. (Sure, Amazon is doing pretty good, too, and you don't even see their displays!)

What do you think will happen? What will be the impact? Would you think about taking the plunge into reorganizing your fiction section?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Feeling Lopsided

While I know that we all got glowing reviews from our administrators, I wanted to share my personal revelation during my year end eval that I just had from my AP. I think I might have upset him actually, but I said to him, "This would be a great evaluation for an instructional technology facilitator. Too bad it only covers about one third of what I do."

I can't decide if I'm more upset that technology is the main thing that people recognize me for doing, or if I'm more upset that I'm not more demonstrative with the reading, books, research instruction.

I'm feeling sorta lopsided.

Do you feel torn between reading instruction, research instruction and techonology usage with students and staff?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Craving Curricular Conversations

It's a wonderful feeling when teachers are excited to see you come down the hallways. The wide-eyed expressions with expectant smiles and looks of eagerness to engage you in a conversation often bring me excitement. However, I have grown more and more disappointed by the topics of these conversations over the past school year. For example, I ran an errand on the 6th grade hallway yesterday and experienced one of these eager-to-see-Kristen encounters. The teacher was beaming at the sight of me and exclaimed, "Oh my goodness! I'm so happy you're here . . . " Of course, it made me feel wonderful and I couldn't wait to continue the conversation. She then continued, " . . . . come in my classroom and let me show you this computer that won't print to this printer and this computer which won't log onto the network and this computer that's running too slowly. . . and . . . and . . . . " (you get my point). It's not that I'm not eager to help people with technology trouble-shooting issues. One of my "additional duties as assigned" is that of a Technology Contact, so this type of conversation is part of my weekly routine. However, as these conversations grow more and more frequent, I find myself getting frustrated, even irritated, at teachers who are so eager to see me because they view me as a computer technician.

I CRAVE curricular conversations. I want that expectant look when I come down the hall to be a conversation starter for an exciting upcoming lesson plan or a project that we could collaborate on. "Kristen, I'm so happy to see you because we're starting Ecology next week and I'm really interested in bringing my students to the media center to find connections between the science curriculum and local ecology." Now, THIS would make me excited. THIS is why I became a library media specialist. THIS is what it's all about!

In these rough economic times, I am forever grateful to have a job that I love and need to remember that it's my perspective that needs to change. I need to be more proactive in encouraging these curricular conversations which I crave. "Sure I'll see what's wrong with your printer, and while I'm taking a look, what are your kids working on this week?" "Any big projects you're about to start?" "I'd love to come share some new books that we just added to the media center collection. When is a good time to visit?" Hey, I've already got a foot in the door (literally) by being in their "space." It may be the back way in, but it's still a valuable opportunity . . .


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Taking Inventory

So it's the end of the year and most of us in library media world are taking inventory of our books, resources, and equipment. We're ordering the shelves -- getting those Dewey's in the right place -- and putting equipment in storage. We're marking off stuff on our year end checklist.

And that checklist is mostly tangible: turn in this order, complete that report, close up this lab, cover up those computers.

We need to take inventory of not just the stuff, but also of our library media program.

Did we reach our goals? (Hey, did we even set goals this year?!) What was our impact on reading? on helping students develop research skills and critical thinking skills? What about collaboration with teachers? How was our involvement in our school-based PLC's?

Have you taken inventory yet?

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Gardening" in the Fiction Collection

Today has been such a great day! I'm weeding our fiction collection for probably the fourth time since I came to this school 6 years ago. I remember the first time I weeded fiction, I was EXTREMELY conservative - - pulling only those titles that had never circulated, or maybe only went out once or twice 10 years or so prior to the year I weeded. As I dove into the fiction collection several more times over the next few years, my criteria for weeding because less restrictive and the highly-sought-after titles became more apparent when browsing the shelves.

Today's project involved pulling all books with orange dots on the spine. Those dots represent fiction titles that were part of the original school collection - - purchased more than 15 years ago. After pulling books all morning, we're now surrounded by 5 filled-to-the-brim carts of books and are thrilled with the way the fiction collection now showcases the "good stuff." Over the last few years, our media staff has been diligent about fulfilling student and teacher book purchase requests and staying on top of the latest, hottest titles and authors our kiddos like to read. These types of materials have steadily been added to the collection since my arrival, and now, the fiction shelves actually show them off!

I've had a nice trip down Memory Lane today. I've revisited the Choose Your Own Adventure series, of which I was incredibly fond of as an elementary school student. Eve Bunting and Beverly Cleary were also staples in my personal bookshelf as a youngster. Some of these books even have that smell of an old elementary school library. We media staffers each paused to open the pages of one particularly odorous volume and passed the book around for a step back in time.

Today's adventures make me excited about next year and the opportunities to continue building an exciting, well-read fiction collection for our students. It's time to get "Back to Basics" - - - matching kids with books they'll love so they'll learn more about their world and become better readers through that process. That's why I come to work each day and that's what today's adventures were all about.

-Kristen :-)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A gathering of the minds

A few years ago a group of middle school library media coordinators were brought together in a professional learning community that was aptly named LearningTeam Middle. These were a dozen library media professionals all currently serving in middle schools with various backgrounds and numbers of years in education.

Our purpose was to have a gathering of the minds, to share program ideas and issues, to look at our data (whether that be our circulation statistics, our school's end-of-grade reading scores, or district data), to look at trends in our field. Our goal was to come together as professionals to discuss library media issues in order to ultimately impact student achievement at our individual schools across our district.

The PLC has evolved into our current group (some original members have moved on, retirement, children) - a group of nine dedicated middle school library media coordinators, working to make a difference.

We hope you enjoy our professional conversation!