Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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And it begins

Posted by lpearle on 12 September 2017

After a mere two weeks of meetings and organizing, school started.  Convocation last Friday… all school photo tomorrow… classes and clubs and athletics and recess and all the other moving parts that go into a school year starting to move forward (note: only 46 class days until Thanksgiving Break, but who’s counting?).  And in the library, we’re ready.

Work done over the summer gave us a new classroom, made possible by combining our workroom and office space:

Our Adult Fiction section was moved slightly, adding more space for students to “hide” (it became a popular spot last year) and we’ve got lots of shelves for displaying New Fiction and other highlights.

 

This month: Immigrants Read Here.

We’ve got other displays, too:

Our Charlottesville Resource Guide has been updated, nearly 400 books have been added to the collection, we’re back to our regular opening hours, and – this is the best part – we’ve already started to have classes in!  The entire sixth grade came for a quick tour and book talk (plus checking out books), we’re working with two physics classes on how to use NoodleTools to cite sources and an English class is coming to do work on Hemingway that will inform their work this semester.  All within one week of school’s officially starting.

I’m feeling pretty good about the start of the school year.  Here’s hoping you are, too.

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Posted in Books, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 5 September 2017

In December I bought myself a new laptop, and this summer I finally cleared out my old files and programs. Yes, I procrastinate. A lot. Anyway, prior to using Feedbin, I used RSS Owl (which is great, but lives on a machine not in the cloud). Some of these links have been stored there for, well… here they are anyway. Along with some new ones just because.

Books, Reading, etc.

  • Summer’s over Time to start planning next summer’s travel. Perhaps the Lake District? Or any of the trips you can find on BookTrails?

School Life

Tech Stuff

  • So cool: text “Send me [keyword, color or emoji]” to 572-51 and the SFMOMA will send you back a piece of art (I did this early one morning).
  • I’m always in favor of bringing art to everyone, and apparently the Met’s Open Access experiment is working!
  • If only I could use my own pens, I’d grab a Rhodia Bamboo Smart Folio.

Miscellany

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

Who knew?

Posted by lpearle on 31 August 2017

On Monday, we had Rosetta Lee come to do an all-day training (she’ll be back throughout the year) and she opened with a lot of identity work.  Which groups did we feel we fit into?  Which were social constructs and which were more concrete?  One piece of wisdom she shared was that she believes that there is a brief, 30 minute period when you’re 34 when you’re neither too old nor too young.  Clearly I missed my Goldilocks moment!

It got me thinking about an emoji teaching moment recently.  For years, friends and I would type {{{HUGS}}} in Twitter when appropriate.  And then emoji came and we still typed {{{HUGS}}} because 🤗 is clearly – oh, so very clearly – Jazz Hands.

You know:

 

Apparently, not so much.  According to Emojipedia, 🤗 is “Hugging Face”.

Who knew?

Now the question is, am I too old to change?  Or do I just not care and, as with so many old fogies, keep making this totes adorbs mistake?

 

Posted in Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Where Will I Learn Next?

Posted by lpearle on 28 August 2017

Now that I’ve (finally) had time to think about and digest my professional learning from last year, it’s time to turn my attention to this year. Yes, being in a school is weird thanks to the “new year” starting in July. I’m already in 2018 and officially it doesn’t start for another few months!

Anyway, here’s where I’m thinking of doing a little learning over the next twelve months: NELA, the YALSA Symposium, ALA Midwinter, NEAISL, ACRLNEC and ALA Annual. The lucky librarians on my staff will be attending AASL, ALAN, MSLA and AISL, plus NEAISL and NELA. Of course, there will be in-house learning, both formal and during our annual Faculty Forum. We’re hosting the fall CLA (local independent school librarians group) Meeting, and there are at least two other meetings later this year. Thanks to Booklist, there are book preview webinars. And earlier this month, SLJ’s TeenLive gave me a day of YA goodiness from the comfort of my living room (bonus: this was the summer I got my laptop hooked up to my tv, so I could watch these things on the Big Screen).

Where are you learning this year? What are you excited to explore and delve into? Share – inquiring minds want need to know.

Posted in Conferences | Leave a Comment »

The Art of Not Caring

Posted by lpearle on 24 August 2017

Many years ago as a newly minted school librarian I had the incredibly great fortune to work with and learn from an English teacher who’d been working in schools longer than I, a sort of informal mentor. The school we were at, Professional Children’s School, is a bit of a weird place, having been established over 100 years ago to provide an academic education for children already working in the arts (founding myth). It’s frequently confused with what was once Performing Arts and is now LaGuardia (aka “the Fame school”) or Professional Performing Arts, the NYC public version of PCS. Over the years, the school had become an amazingly diverse place, with a wide range of socioeconomics, religions, ethnicities, talents, learning styles and other things.

In order to make the academics work for students with professional lives, there is a program called Guided Study. Using email and other technologies, teachers and students can work together at a distance; when I was there, that was more difficult as email wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, but I did institute after hours reference sessions using AIM. If you were out on Guided Study, you got a two-week extension, starting on your return to class, for your assignments. Sweet, right? And without going into the stereotypes of which students were more (or less) driven, we all knew than when Student A was on GS, they’d come back to school pretty much on schedule and caught up while Student B would take longer than the permitted extension.

And that’s where my friend’s sage advice came in: I can’t care more than they do. If she assigned an essay on the role of the landscape and snow in Ethan Frome, Student A would come back with a nearly perfect rough draft, while Student B would still need to purchase a copy and figure out how to open the book. Some teachers – at PCS, at every other school I’ve worked in or heard about – would expend a lot of energy working with Student B, cajoling and nudging and bending over to help them “succeed”. Not this teacher. She cared… enough. If the student was willing to do the work, make appointments or stop by to talk and get advice, ask questions, etc., she was 100% with that student and bent over backwards to help. But if that student didn’t care, didn’t put forth any effort and worked the system’s loopholes, she found other ways to occupy her mind and time.

Over the years I’ve had students who are seriously lost doing research. If they ask me for help, I’m happy to do what I can, sharing resources and shortcuts. But I’ve also had students who have – quite literally – asked “will this topic get me an easy A?” (actually, it’s the paper, the finished product that will get grade, but hey, I’m just the librarian so maybe I’m wrong!) or otherwise made it clear that they wanted me to do the research work for them because it wasn’t their priority. And remembering that I can’t care more than they do, that if this isn’t a priority for them, it can’t be a priority for me, helps.

As the school year starts (today is Day One of New Faculty Orientation), and new research projects are discussed and my department begins to work with new students and teachers, I have to remind myself not to care more than they do. It’s not just students, it’s teachers: it may be my goal to have every student graduate with great research, analysis and information/data literacy skills. But if it isn’t my teacher/colleagues goal, too, I can’t care more than they do.

Posted in Musings, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Personal, not private

Posted by lpearle on 15 August 2017

Many years ago, when schools were just starting to think about email and giving faculty their own addresses, we were reminded that what happens on school “property” (digital or physical) belonged to the school – our searches, our emails, our content were theirs. It might have been personal, but it wasn’t private. Many people in the business world also learned this, particularly those in companies that employed people to read outgoing email to ensure that corporate secrets were safe. Some people made the mistake of forgetting this, much to the internet’s amusement.

So, here we are, years later and some people still think that just because they have an email or password, it’s personal. Not so fast. And just as I’m thinking about this (and the number of people I know who mix and mingle their work email and personal lives, along with the dangers of health tracking devices not being secure) along comes the 4TDL conference with two sessions on personal privacy! Talk about serendipity. The two sessions were led by Wendy Stephens and Jole Seroff.

Both covered similar areas but with a different focus. What follows is less commentary on their sessions (archived here and here) and more a round-up of the tools and tips, along with some other stuff I’ve been finding and saving over the past month or so.

Thoughts: We don’t know how our data is being used, even joining an elist or doing a search can be flagged/tagged/used against us; the big flashpoints are with healthcare (just look up a disease; Google’s flu map tracks where searches are coming from because why look it up if you’re not concerned?) and consumer information (watch ads follow you). Also, think about the ethics of privacy: if we’re all cloaking our data, if that becomes the norm, then those who need it (living in difficult areas, protestors, etc.) will not appear as being different. In other words, it’s a form of social justice!

Ways to protect yourself:

  • Delete your cookies after every browser session
  • Turn off your computer, don’t just log off
  • Use https:// everywhere
  • Consider not using Chrome/Firefox/IE, use Opera or a VPN; use StartPage or DuckDuckGo as search engines
  • Use a password manager and two-factor authentication when possible
  • Check your settings! “do not track” does nothing

Articles and Tools

A great follow-up to the session on Data Privacy of a few years ago. And something to wonder how to approach with our teens and faculty.

Posted in Conferences, Privacy | Leave a Comment »

Thinking About Plagiarism at #ALAAC17

Posted by lpearle on 10 August 2017

Just before creating this blog post, I read A Guide for Resisting Edtech: the Case against Turnitin which poses some interesting moral and ethical questions for us to ponder.

Courtney Lewis presented at ALA’s Annual Conference on international students and plagiarism. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a few years, because how we think about as plagiarism – or, as we call it at Milton, academic integrity – is not always how our students, particularly those from other areas of the world, think about it. Thanks to other commitments, this was the only learning session I was able to attend but I’m so glad I did! You can view her slides here.

First thing she mentioned, our concept of plagiarism is actually fuzzy as it doesn’t take info account collaboration, editing, academic co-authorship, programming languages, oral preaching traditions, journalism (especially today, with “sources close to…” rather than named people), political speeches, peer editing in class, authorship in the age of usernames and avatars and mash-ups. In other words, the playing field is constantly evolving.

As we all know, institutions are made up of people. People are messy. And that’s what drives policy. We need to do better.

Think about not only about the above, but also these impediments to students doing completely original work: short assignment times, Pass/Fail classes, poor study habits, the text as authority not us, inadequate practice, lectures are often hypocritical (when does the teacher cite their sources? almost never. plus, see handouts that are missing citation information), English is the language of occupation and colonialism. So there’s that. And let’s not mention the number of library resources that are helpfully highlighted (even lightly in pencil) by previous researchers.

Plus, in most Asian countries, social hierarchy by age is important, so it helps to know who is older and can help younger students understand all kinds of social and academic issues. It’s not just social, but in age is important in other ways: old is revered and seminal while new is less valuable. In former Soviet countries, corruption (and plagiarism could be considered a form of corruption, as is academic theft) is a huge problem and one people learn about early on. Faculty must be taught about social and cultural differences, which lead to an understanding of a way forward.

Here’s an idea, one that would take more time than teachers may want to allot to an assignment but… as students to summarize an article in 1-3 sentences. Then create a paragraph from those sentences. Then a paragraph with quotes. Then share it with classmates and watch them learn from each other what the critical information in the article is. Guaranteed: no two students will have the same quotes or interpretation.

Posted in Ethics, Student stuff | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The next level up: #ACRLNEC17

Posted by lpearle on 8 August 2017

Working in an independent school, particularly one usually considered an “elite college preparatory” school means extra pressure to be aware of what my students will be expected to do and know in their next educational institution. It makes sense to spend the day at the ACRLNEC conference because many of the colleges and universities represented will be where my students end up next.

Keynote: Bringing Down the Empire: Remaking Our Work, Our Libraries, Our Selves

What is the Empire in our world? The idea that libraries no longer matter. Now, how do we fight it?

  • Remake Our Work
    • as users change, we have to change, adapt and educate
    • is higher education worth it? or is training (internships, apprenticeships, etc.) better? there’s been a huge change since the 50s, with the current expectation being “of course you’ll go to college” – however, more hands-on, critical thinking tools are needed
    • digital literacy is important: faculty are finally embracing this and the role of librarians in teaching these skills. NOTE: First Year students need research skills and are coming with subpar skills and understandings.
    • the University of Oklahoma has a virtual reality lab – think about using VR as a tool for teaching language, archaeology, history, etc.
  • Remake Our Libraries
    • with all these changes, what you’re doing with your buildings: we are not just print warehouses, so we need to become an exciting destination.
    • think about this problem/conundrum and the pace of change because what works today probably won’t work in a few years – flexibility is critical
    • one idea: use BrightSpot to rethink space; another idea: create rooms for students to Skype/FaceTime with family, friends, potential employers (or colleges)
  • Remake Our Selves
    • managing is a team sport – we need to support training and opportunity to use new skills later (in other words, don’t train then stuff the skill in a drawer)
    • the 23Things idea (BYU turned it into a contest!)

So: what is a librarian? And what is our role in the academic institution of the 21st Century?

The next two sessions were interesting, but one was (again, as at NEAISL) on archives/digital initiatives and the other was not relevant, so we’ll skip those.

New Model for Library Orientation

We don’t really have a library orientation, but that’s something I’d like to try to create. My college library orientation was four days of one hour instruction in a lecture hall, followed by at “quiz” that took several hours (albeit made easier by all the others doing the same quiz and marking answers or sharing). Did I learn anything? Not really, but I’d been using that library for a few years thanks to my father’s being on faculty there and because my high school library used Library of Congress and was, like my employer, an elite college preparatory school. But… we have students coming to us from a variety of backgrounds and levels of preparation, and while the school can test for math and language skills they have no test for research or literacy skills for incoming students. An orientation might help them feel comfortable in the space, with us as learning partners, and with the resources inside.

  • Step One: get away from library jargon, passivity and lack of real need connection
    • the early days at school are overwhelming, and the library shouldn’t contribute to that stress
    • recognize that the library and resources won’t/can’t/shouldn’t compete with their first stop for information (Google and Wikipedia, duh)
  • Step Two: find a model that works for your institution
    • the presenters work at the UVM Medical School library, so they use the clinical care model that students will be using in their every day classes – it’s a format they’re familiar with, so it makes sense and it’s “special stuff” in their lives
    • what does this look like?
      • Need (what information is sought)
      • History of Need
      • Past Information History – social, previous education, family
      • Diagnosis of Needs
      • Review of Information Systems
  • Step Three: ask for feedback from students and teachers
    • does this make sense?
    • does it help?
    • will you remember it?

Other models? The Scientific Method, Literature Review, Annotated Bibliography, Pathfinder/LibGuide, SWOT, Design Thinking.

Other ideas? Consider using Instagram or other social media to post a Research Question of the Week or Information Resource of the Week.

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, School Libraries, Student stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

#NEISL17 Reflections

Posted by lpearle on 3 August 2017

I love the NEAISL conference. I love it even more when I’m not hosting, as I did in 2015 and 2016. For those who don’t know, it’s a 40-year-old conference that brings together independent school librarians in New England (and a few from NY). We meet and talk and learn together for one day and then disappear back to our respective schools until the next year. For some, it’s the only professional development during the year, so organizers take it seriously. This past year we went to Cheshire Academy.

Embedded Librarianship (panel discussion)

This is an idea I’ve been excited about for a few years now and sadly, because of changing jobs and changing staff, haven’t been able to really get into before but this year one of my goals is to create an action plan with the department and start to begin the work over AY18 and AY19. So here’s what we need to start thinking about as we move forward:

  • ask questions of the department heads – what skills do you teach? how does the library fit in? (move from support to teaching)
  • reinforce what’s being taught in classes, using ACRL/ISTE/AASL standards to support our involvement
  • create a booking system for reference opportunities on the website, one that asks students to do some thinking rather than just posing a question
  • work with a local academic library on a Day of Research
  • try to get faculty to allow us to grade rough drafts for process, and be as tough as a college teacher would (it’s eye opening for teachers and students to see what’s really required) – one idea is to put all notes and bib in NoodleTools, but require a printed final draft so you can see the changes between the rough and final version

The big takeaway: teacher buy-in is critical, so we need to form a focus group with friendly – and unfriendly teachers!

Critical Media Literacy (Allison Butler)

What is it? It’s continued inquiry into the “behind the scenes” of ownership, production, audience and distribution of media – getting the broader picture because media does not occur in a vacuum.

One idea? Ask students to pull apart a fashion magazine to separate content from ads. Difficult, right? Thing is, we’re still consuming a lot of traditional media, just not in traditional ways: the audience is no longer well-known, so risk-taking is difficult (think: could Archie Bunker work today? maybe. audiences either were in on the joke or saw him as one of them, which might be the case again today).

It’s equally critical to look at what’s not there, which stories aren’t being told and why. What gets prioritized? who does that prioritization? Think: what’s on Fox vs MSNBC vs NPR vs Breitbart. Part of critical medial literacy is to critique power, not to be partisan.

Critical Media Literacy (panel discussion)

  • We need to expand spaces for students to interact with the library
  • Create “Calling BS” posters for all subjects, all topics (get all departments involved) – why stats, data, news, etc. are “BS”
  • You probably will, at some point, retweet fake news – it’s ok. Learn from that failure how to better check sources and biases.
  • Think about how we ask questions: if I can’t find get the information, is that my fault or is there deliberate obfuscation going on?

Critical media literacy isn’t bashing, it’s questioning.

The last panel was on Archives, which I’m sitting on for a while. That’s next summer’s Big Project, my third school archives reorganization. One of these years, I’ll get it right.

Can’t wait to learn with these people next year.

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, Student stuff | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Some random thoughts on books and reading

Posted by lpearle on 1 August 2017

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been home alone this past week and have had far too much energy for my own good. Which, of course, means that Things Are Getting Done: organizing, mostly, but reading and writing letters and blog posts (lucky readers!) and cleaning. Don’t judge, but when I moved my books from CT to MA two summers ago, they were still in boxes from my previous NY-CT move and while I did get them on to shelves in general categories, they were not properly organized on those shelves. As of today, that’s not the case. As I rearranged the collection, I weeded enough books to empty a 7′ x 30″ bookcase, although I’m going to keep it because Alex and other things.

Also as I arranged and weeded, I thought about a few book related conversations I’ve had and one twitter rant I read in the past couple of years.

The first is actually two conversations, one with my mother and one with a colleague. A couple of years ago, I was having a Very Bad Day and called my mother to complain. As a native of Newton, she was raised with the idea that the Fluffernutter is a cure-all for bad days/bad moods and as a good mother, she’d passed that idea along to me. This was a two Fluffernutter Bad Day, and even then I wasn’t feeling better. Hence the call. I mentioned that it was being a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and after sympathizing, she asked if she’d read that book to me when I was a child. My response? No. Because I was nine when it was published and both parents had stopped reading books to me many years earlier. Flash forward to this past February, when a colleague shared how excited she was that Book of Dust was being published and asked if His Dark Materials had meant as much to me as it had to her. Well… no. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the trilogy. I enjoyed the trilogy. I was upset the movie didn’t do the book justice. But because it was published when I was in my 20s and there were many other books before that were formative and intensely personal and meaningful, this didn’t rise to the level of foundational reading as it did for her.

The second is a twitter comment/rant by the incredible Angie Manfredi. She is an amazing advocate and ally and her commitment to diverse books, libraries and the kids with whom she works is inspirational. So when she speaks, I think.

Manfredi tweet

I see her point… somewhat. My favorite authors do, in fact, happen to be white people. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just fact. It doesn’t mean I don’t read diverse authors, or that I don’t appreciate their work, it does mean that when I’m scanning the Pre-Pub Alerts and I see certain names I get excited and put them on a To Buy list. But – and this is a huge BUT – professionally? It’d be malpractice if the books I put on displays or recommend to my students and colleagues were only by and about white people and their experiences. When scanning those alerts and looking at other collection development tools, I actively look for diverse authors and diversity of experiences and when planning displays I add as many of those as possible (usually sneaking them in, so that it normalizes – and boy do I hate that word! – both because there’s no reason why someone reading speculative fiction or history or romance or whatever wouldn’t enjoy a well-written book no matter who wrote it or what the characters and plot were about). If a librarian can’t separate their personal lives and preferences from their professional, that’s a problem. And one we, as a profession, need to worry about.

As an aside, I did note that many of my favorite authors are not only white, but have last names that begin with B, among them:

Barnes (Julian), Burgess (Thornton W.), Byatt (A.S.), Banks (Ian), Blyton (Enid), Brent-Dyer (Elinor M.), Booth (Stephen), Billingham (Mark), Bradley (Marion Zimmer), Boston (Lucy), Baum (L. Frank)

Weird.

Finally, two nights ago I was chatting with my cousin and mentioned that I was about to start Book 190 for the year. She said that she doesn’t really read books, unlike her husband and son. I’ve blogged about this before, and it still puzzles and amuses me. I’ve never felt the need to apologize to friends who are artists or athletes or knitters or, well, anyone who does something that I think it neat or could be fun but that I don’t actually do. Why people feel the need to apologize for not reading is something I just don’t get. My sister and her son prefer audiobooks to print books. Great! Someone reads newspapers and magazines, not books. Perfect! Someone else watches movies and listens to music for relaxation. Hooray! If no one ever says “I’m sorry, I just don’t read” to me again, I’ll die a happy woman.

Now, back to Book 190. By an author whose name begins with K, not B. So there.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Ethics, Musings | Leave a Comment »