Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘School Libraries’ Category

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 28 July 2014

I promise: this blog will be better attended in the coming weeks and months.  In the meantime, enjoy these links and ideas that I’ve tucked away since, oh, January…

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Stuff

  • We bought Twitterature for work, and I’m hoping that some of our English teachers take on the challenge (perhaps not Beowulf, but other books?).
  • Joyce highlighted Buncee a few months ago; maybe for tutorials or resource guides?
  • We’re going to create a writing table in the library, encouraging students to write notes and letters.  I picked up some great paper in Montreal, and these formal sets are piquing my interest (so do the ideas in the post).
  • Trying to figure out ways to introduce these Super Searcher Tips to students, since we have no real class time with them.
  • I’m sharing this article, What do College Professors Want from Incoming High School Graduates, with my faculty. And, with luck, we can do a Professional Development session using this quiz so they understand the students take on research.
  • I used an Office template for our annual report, then published to Issuu.  These look like some great alternatives.
  • Is anyone using with Evernote? Wondering if that would be a good way to push content to the school.


Posted in Books, Links, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 30 December 2013

Now that I’m tidying up from a year-end reading binge, it’s time to clear out some of my saved links on Twitter and in my RSS feed.  Lucky you!

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff


Posted in Collection Development, Links, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 18 December 2013

For those about to go on Break, some things to explore and/or ponder.

Books, Reading, Etc..

School Life

Tech Stuff

  • FlipGrid looks like an amazing tool for both reader-to-reader advisory and in class collaboration for online learning.  (via)
  • Are you Sleepless in Cyberspace?  Maybe this vacation is a good time to try to rethink things.


  • Doug ponders Age, Energy, Privacy and Morals – I’m a little more concerned about privacy (perhaps because of my age) than he is… it’s interesting to note that many of my students don’t think about it, but when you start talking about the lack they get very concerned.
  • For those of my friends traveling, some tips on how to get through the airport fast.  Bon voyage!

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Ethics, Links, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

So what do I know?

Posted by lpearle on 16 December 2013

Nothing, apparently.

A couple of weeks ago I gave The Infinite Moment of Us a three-star review, in part because “The starts and stops of the relationship felt real, and Myracle has a real ear for the language real teens use.”

Then one of my hard-core readers borrowed it and completely disagreed: she felt (strongly) that the language was not authentic, that the teens didn’t resemble anyone she (or her friends) knew.  Wren seemed one-dimensional, and the relationship just didn’t work for her.

I’ve often wondered about the difference between my reading a book as an adult, with an ever-growing distance between me and my teen self, and an actual teen’s experience of that book.  Several books that have seen much critical love – being added to the curriculum or as all-school reads – from adults but from the intended audience’s point-of-view they’re complete flops with characters they don’t relate to and a message they feel stifled by.  These are readers who know that books like Gossip Girl or those by Sarah Dessen aren’t real or meant to be “good” books but they’re enjoyable reads anyway.  And they don’t expect those characters to be real, or relatable in the same way that the characters in this book are supposed to be.

How many others have had similar experiences? Or have recognized themselves in a character, only to realize that the author is closer to them in age than to the proposed age group – and that what they’re responding to is from a teen perspective some decades old?  It’s making me question many of my recent reads, and whether I am, in fact, buying the right books for this library.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Caveat vendor

Posted by lpearle on 11 November 2013

This time next week I’ll have been through AASL13, spending time with friends and colleagues and, of course, vendors.  As my first year unfolds and research projects starts, I’m gathering ideas about what resources we need and in what format – the trick now is to match those needs with vendors and our budget.  Other concerns are technology issues, not just in terms of whether our infrastructure can support the resource (is there room on the shelves? are there too many clicks between “need” and “resource” for students to stick with it? etc.) but also training.

Over the summer the state-run consortium changed from one vendor’s products to another vendor’s products.  Not having been asked my opinion about the products, I won’t comment on the change in terms of better or worse, but when you work in a school with teachers who have many demands on their time (in a boarding school you have weekend and evening duties, it’s more than a mere 7:30-3:30 on site job), finding the time to train and properly explain the benefits of their new resources can be a challenge.  Heck, at former schools a simple interface change for resources that teachers had used for a while could be problematic!  So that’s one more hurdle: training teachers as well as students.  For that reason alone, a transition period would have been nice.

One of the biggest problems is that when you go to conferences or vendor events, you get the sales person.  In all my years of conference going, only one vendor provided librarians for us to speak with – actual users of the product, not just the training people or the sales people.  What a difference!  When I asked questions based on how I do things, or how my teachers/students do things, or how my IT/administration want things, they were answered intelligently rather than in sales-speak.  Sales people are very good at either feigning no knowledge of the competition or at knowing everything and this is why their product is better while talking around what’s just been asked; having a user there who does know the competition and why this product is better or how it honestly compares to others is such a blessing.  My guess as to why vendors don’t embrace this?  They’re afraid of what a non-scripted librarian will say.

A while ago I was asked, by a vendor, to help the national sales staff better reach the school librarians in their regions.  One piece of advice I gave was to personalize their spiel. Granted, at a large conference/event that’s difficult to do but when you’re speaking to me at my school, or in a small group of similar schools, personalization counts.  I’m at a small boarding suburban school – don’t give me the same information you’re going to give someone in a large urban day school.  Take a look at my website and see what resources I have, or perhaps what projects are going on.  Tell me how your product compares to what I have and give me concrete examples (“when you search [product] for [topic], here’s what you get – but using our product, here’s what you’ll get”).  Don’t just dismiss the products I already have because it’s not your product, because I (or someone) has evaluated it and thinks this is what we need.  Show me why or how your product is the better one.

Vendors also need to remember that we librarians are a clubby bunch and talk to each other.  A few years ago a vendor was congratulating themselves on the work they’d done at another school, going so far as to suggest I contact them to hear additional praise.  Would you be surprised to hear that they’d gotten the wrong end of the stick?  I was surprised to hear not just that the other school had some quibbles, but that they actively warned me against using this vendor, that the work done had been seriously flawed.  Another vendor, much more recently, touted a new product and said that a school I knew well had embraced it; the librarian there (a friend of mine) said that there were problems and they might not continue to use it.  I’m sure this vendor’s tech support people have heard about the issues, but clearly the sales people haven’t been informed!

As I wander the vendor exhibits, looking for products on a select list, one of the things I’m also looking for is honest information about the produce and how it compares to the competition.  I’m also looking for real answers from real users, or the ability to contact someone about the product to get those answers.  Vendors that provide those things get my respect (and possibly my custom)… Any takers?

Posted in Musings, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

How can I help?

Posted by lpearle on 6 November 2013

School librarians talk a lot about scaffolding skills, ensuring that students have support as they learn and grow as researchers.  Many colleges and universities are creating specific first year programs so that all students have the opportunity to have a successful research experience at that educational level.

So the question arises: how can I help?  and what help is too much, too little or just the right amount?

My work on the LIRT Transitions to College Committee and what I’ve read on the ILL-I and other K-20 e-lists has shown that there is something of a disconnect between academic and school librarians not only in terminology (OPAC or catalog? in-text or parenthetical citations? etc.) but also in what skills students learn.  We’re all agreed that we shouldn’t stress the name of the database provider (Academic Search, not EBSCO, for example). We need to find more ways to crosstalk and crosswalk skills, terminology and methodology though.

Several years ago the history department at my school convinced everyone to go with Noodletools rather than having the librarians teach the minutiae of bibliography creation, using the argument that the goal should be more about the research and analysis and less about the actual process.  I tend to agree with that.  I firmly believe that we librarians should be embedded in the course, providing the skills/process piece so that the subject specialists can do their thing.  Working in a partnership with teaching faculty gives the students a better experience and leaves them well-prepared for college.  Using Noodletools or EasyBib is a great feeder into something like RefWorks or Zotero, tools our students will be using at their next institution.

The other day I learned that a liberal arts college, a very respected name, does not use a citation maker, instead preferring to teach students the painstaking process of how to create a bibliography and cite sources properly.  That raised not just an eyebrow but also a red flag: were we being too helpful?  was this what other schools were doing?  or was this one college an outlier?  And if using a citation maker is “too much”, what else should we be rethinking?

My next project?  Look at the top 10-ish schools for my students (“top” meaning “those colleges/universities at which the greatest number of our students matriculate”).  Research their first year experience in terms of library work: what projects do they get? what tools do they use? how does the librarian interact with the students and professors?  And then, having gathered all that data, try to answer the question “how can I help?”

What’s your answer to that question?

Posted in Musings, School Libraries | 2 Comments »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 31 October 2013

Sorry I missed September – here’s two month’s worth!

Books, Reading, Etc..

School Life

  • A recent project about the Republican Party’s ideas about debt and fiscal planning led me to give my “sometimes, it’s ok to use biased information” speech.  This time I also added “but if you use social media, you’re going to need to verify what you’re reading”.  Of course, as always, Joyce puts it far better than I.  And HT @lbraun2000 for 10 Ways Students Can Use Twitter for Research.
  • One goal for the year is getting colleagues (some, not all) to see us as “embedded” in their courses, and much of the work will be done on-line.  This article about feedback will help me  work with both students and faculty.  We also need to work on improving the library experience for them.
  • Don’t you love the video tours here?  Think we need to try doing some for my library!

Tech Stuff

  • As I begin to play with my iPad and watch students intently focused on their iPhones, I’ve begun deleting that which is not used.  Cleaning the crap makes it just more usable – and I’m not alone in this thinking.  (I’m also working on learning to type – thx Doug for these tips!).  That won’t stop me from seeing which of these apps I should recommend to everyone!
  • Research season is fast approaching, which makes this the perfect time to revisit what Archipelago said about her Adventures with E-books. Even better (from my viewpoint) is the opportunity to test-drive some of this with students and talk to vendors at AASL and ALA Midwinter.
  • The Atlantic gives advice about the iPhone signature far too many people haven’t yet changed.  Go now and be creative.
  • Usually it’s my librarians who give away the good Google search tips.  This time, it’s Wise Bread (so maybe now more people will get the hint[s]).
  • Badging is becoming a big thing these days, and I’m inspired by Laura’s blog to consider ways we can integrate badging and library skills.


I bookmarked this a while ago, and having just finished meeting several parents during Families Weekend, it’s worth remembering that not everyone is, or thinks like, a librarian.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

I wish it were this easy!

Posted by lpearle on 30 October 2013

In a few weeks many school librarians will be congregating in Hartford (CT) for the biennial AASL National Conference.  I’ve been faithfully going since 1997 (Portland OR) but this time I was on the fence about attending.  That it’s now about 10 miles from where I work made the decision easier, ditto the fact that it’s a new school and thus a renewed need to meet with vendors to see the Neat! New! products they have on offer.

As has happened at more than one conference I’ve attended in the past few years, there’s a One Book/One Conference event.  Last time it was Quiet and after reading it I had a few reservations but overall, it seemed a good thing for us to at least have a familiarity with.  This time it’s 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done and I have even more reservations.  Granted, I haven’t read it but I have to ask:  who in the conference committee thought this was the best read for us?  The author writes a column for the Harvard Business Review and probably has never had a schedule quite like the ones I’ve had since making the move from corporate life to school life (in my per-librarian days I attended a few of the GTD-type programs and they do work… in that world.  not in this one).  Just look at the Library Day in the Life Project and ask yourself, how many of these people can truly plan their days?

The days I find easiest to plan are those where I have classes booked in all day.  Then I know it’s Africa periods 1 and 5a, International Human Rights period 3, Foundations of Western Civ periods 2, 4, 5b and 7, and Economics period 6.  From 3:20-5:30, I may be able to get to the other stuff (cataloging new items, shelving, ordering, dealing with e-mail, planning a new project with a colleague, update LibGuides and check student bibliographies and notes on Noodletools).  Maybe.  That’s if someone doesn’t come in and ask for personal time with me.  If I don’t have classes scheduled, well… the time does get frittered away, what with helping students and colleagues, meetings with administrators, and all the other stuff (see above).   One of those famous management tricks is to schedule when you’ll check e-mail.  I could do that.  I could also miss a colleague asking for help finding a resource five minutes before their class begins, or a student asking for help with their research project, or a request for Inter-Library Loan, or an invitation to a meeting that will plan a new curricular initiative.  Should I tell a tutor or someone searching for the computer science teachers not to bother me, I have to focus?

Librarians with fixed schedules may wonder why I’m ranting, but I suspect those with flexible (or fix/flex) understand what I’m saying.  I work in a two-story space, and the other librarian and I change floors daily.  That much I can plan.  And yes, 18 minutes could probably get carved out of my day so I can focus on “actionable” tasks (although taking anyone who uses “actionable” in any sense other than legal risks not being taken seriously).  The problem isn’t that we’re supposed to now treat our work in a school library the way I used to treat my work as an executive recruiter, it’s that the book so clearly lacks real relevance to our lives (at least we weren’t asked to read From Great to Good!) and the committee, rather than choosing something that might enrich my practice has chosen something that is one more indication that a group of non-building-level librarians (as Wendy calls them, “school librarian types“) is running the school librarian’s association.

Posted in Professional organizations, Rants, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Long time no post…

Posted by lpearle on 28 October 2013

but lots going on behind the scenes, as it were.  The move to a new town and a new school have taken up a lot of my time and energy, but I am starting to feel settled and ready to move forward (as opposed to playing catch-up, as I have been over the past two months).

So, I hear you ask (or, more accurately, I imagine I hear you asking… sometimes I hear things, you know?), “what have you been up to?”  Everything, I reply, from figuring out how to use the copy machine and where to get office supplies to getting to know the collection and the curriculum to meeting colleagues and students, with some purchasing and programming and policy-making along the way.  Let’s start with that last part first, shall we?

One might assume that in the year 2013, all school libraries – especially those in independent schools – would have published policies.  In my research for the evaluation chapter of  Independent School Libraries: Perspectives on Excellence I noted that often the accreditation agencies required policies as part of the ancillary materials submitted, but apparently if they weren’t, no one said anything.  I suspect that the school’s administration assumed policies were in place or didn’t care if there were any and just went about their business.  Until, of course, a challenge arose.  Now, I’m not necessarily talking about the “remove this book from your shelves” type of challenge, but the “have you seen what the librarians are removing from the shelves?” types of challenges from parents and faculty who don’t understand that books that are old, perhaps out-of-date in terms of information or falling apart, that have been surpasses by newer critical texts in that subject area, or where a digital version makes it easier for students to access the information really shouldn’t be on the shelves any longer.  Example?  At Hackley, we had the Bloom’s and Twayne’s books on our shelves and one teacher who assigned a short-story study.  The first student who got to the book on, for example, Salinger or Vonnegut, “won” – but with the on-line versions, all students needing that information could get it.  But I digress.  My point is, school libraries need policies in place, both to explain how the collection is developed and to protect the librarians from well-meaning others who don’t understand that a school library is not an archive, it is not a research library in need of every edition of a work, it is an ever-changing entity that needs to reflect the current interests and needs of the school community.

Much more fun has been starting to do outreach into the community, via a twitter feed (@FordLibrary), blog and updated front-end webpage (still a work-in-progress), and many, many displays:

More exciting is our participation in the Before I Die... project/book launch, which you can follow on our blog (photos are updated daily).

And then there’s the girls, and the pace of working in a boarding school.  Our days aren’t 8-4, Monday-Friday.  There’s sit-down dinner (Tuesdays, 6:20-7pm), Study Hall duty (also Tuesdays, 7:30-9:45pm), weekend duty (only eight during the year, but still!) and advising the JSA group; colleagues have breakfast meetings, advising, coaching, dorm duty and other out-of-classroom experiences.  The time we have off is precious, and for me until now, not as book-filled as I’d like.  But that will change!

And, one hopes, regular posting will resume.

Posted in Collection Development, Life Related, Musings, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Flip your year

Posted by lpearle on 3 September 2013

This is the start of the school year and very nearly the start of the new Jewish year.  Many of us are making some sort of resolution, following up on our thinking and reflection from last year.  In opening speeches and at convocations, we’re being exhorted to make this year the best, being welcomed to the start of a new chapter and all that stuff.  New faculty and new students are learning their way around the school both physically and emotionally, as well as historically.  Traditions are being explained, school songs taught, and  there are lots of “remember when?” and “I wonder how [former teacher/student] is doing in [new job/new life/new school]” comments.Very rarely do we look back at last year and celebrate it.

But what if we in some ways flipped our year?

At the start of the year, celebrate faculty anniversaries for years of service, giving new teachers a sense of who their colleagues are and how much they have been valued by the community.  Give our academic awards for returning students, giving  new students a sense of what the school’s intellectual and social life is like – what they can aspire to win/become and how they, too, can grow.  Rather than (as is traditional) doing all this at the end of the year, make the welcoming part not only a start to a new year but a celebration of the past one.  Let the departing students and faculty hog the limelight in June, and put it squarely on those who are still at the school in September.

We’ve talked about flipping our classrooms and our libraries, now let’s flip our year.

Posted in School Libraries | 1 Comment »


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