Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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And we’re off!

Posted by lpearle on 13 September 2018

The school year officially started on Tuesday.  The seniors processed in to Convocation, there were speeches, and then classes began.  To be honest, I could use another week to get ready but, well, that’s not happening.

Also on Tuesday, we created a calendar to highlight potential displays (no to “National Popcorn Day”, yes to “Centenary of Armistice Day”) and used last year’s calendar to pre-prepare for classes coming in.  One of those classes, working with a teacher of Class IV Physics (we’re a physics first school, and Class IV = ninth grade) has already reached out, saying that his students found our NoodleTools lesson very helpful.  I then emailed the other physics teachers, asking if they’d like a similar lesson and as of this morning, three have already said they’d love it!  Yay!!

Yesterday was our Department Chairs meeting, and we discussed the book Meeting Wise.  Now, some of our departments have 20 members… the library has five.  Two of them are part-time (one 25 hours/week, the other 10).  So our meetings are a little different from most, as it’s easy to have discussions with everyone’s voice is heard.  And, like other departments, we see each other all the time.  But there were a few take aways from the book that I’m going to try.  For example, each week we start with a One Minute Debrief, so we’re all aware of what’s going on in our daily professional lives.  It’s turned into a laundry list of “I shelved… I watered the plants… I worked on a Resource Guide…” and this year, I’m going to try to get that to morph into more of a “I’ve been working on [larger project]…. I’ve been thinking about how we’re teaching [skill] for [class]…”  We’ll see how that goes.

We also talked about departmental goals for the year.  For me, those include continuing to “rightsize” and “right place” the collection – are the books in the best place for students to find/use?  do we need these books (eg, do we have the right books on the shelves)?  – by both looking at each book on the shelf and asking departments to come in and look at “their” collections to advise on areas of growth or shrinkage.  Another goal is to broaden our range in terms of classes and departments, trying to build bridges to teachers who have never used the library’s resources or departments who never come in.  Of course, thinking about the new library we’ll be in (in 3-4 years) and what that will look like physically is important, so we’ll visit several new (or newly renovated) libraries.  And then there’s the “yes, I am crazy enough to try to pull this off” thing I’m not going to talk about just now… but stay tuned.

I was joking with two high school friends about how the year had just started and that I was counting the days (then 271, now 269) until graduation.  It feels like it’s forever away… and right around the corner.

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Posted in School Libraries | 1 Comment »

Be not afraid

Posted by lpearle on 11 September 2018

Last year one of my colleagues told me that her students just couldn’t face coming in to the library.  They’d just finished an intense three week “research season” where they created a 5-7 page paper, and even though this was a n entirely different project in an entirely different field, the very idea of coming in again was traumatic.  Reader, my heart sank, but in many ways I understood.

Thing is, we (librarians and teachers) don’t always do a great job of convincing students of the joy of research.  We may be fantastic in many ways, sharing our love of books and teaching the steps/skills of research and conveying tips and tricks to become information/data literate.  But do we really convince students that research can be fun?  That the be-all and end-all isn’t necessarily a perfectly formatted paper-and-bibliography, but the hunt for information that you, the researcher, synthesize and analyze?  That you, the researcher, are teaching me, the reader, something new about a topic?

I’ve always loved the hunt. Even today I do it – just the other day, reading a book about Paris in the age of Louis XIV, I spent a lot of time going down rabbit holes online and in other sources to find information about palaces and locations (does this street still exist? I’ve never heard of that town, where is it?  how bad was the Chateau d’If? etc.). Yes, that slowed me down.  And I’d bet that many students do the same on their own when they find something that interests them.

That’s the key, though, isn’t it?  It needs to interest them.  I’m pretty good at helping students take a passion and finding a way to turn it into a research topic that fits the parameters of the paper.  But the compressed time frame, the insistence on meeting the deadline of xxx notecards and yyy sources (and limiting how many of which type of source), the persnickety nature of bibliographic format (even when they use Noodletools to help them with that), and all that process stuff can turn them off.

Sigh.

This year there’s at least one teacher who wants to work throughout the year to help dribble out the skills and steps so the actual research season isn’t as stressful and as traumatic.  My fingers are crossed that more teachers will also want to do this, and that the message to all our students is that when they’re doing research, they should be not afraid.  And that should those students be in this other class, when the teacher says they’ll be working on a project and they’re going to come to the library, they’ll convince their classmates that it’s not traumatic and (perhaps) actually a little fun.

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A Summer’s Reading

Posted by lpearle on 7 September 2018

Towards the end of the (academic) year, two of the best sixth grade readers and I challenged each other to see who could read more.  The prize? Bragging rights.  And maybe a baked good.  In joking with their English teacher, I said I could beat them handily if I limited myself to YA books (lower page count, usually) but that would be cheating, right?  So I read as I normally would, and from June 7 – September 7 I read 95 books (combined, the two read 25 and 63 books each; the 63-book-reader said that binge watching “Gossip Girl” derailed the reading plan).

I’ve reviewed them on Goodreads, but here are the covers of some of my favorites:

 

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You’ve got change coming

Posted by lpearle on 4 September 2018

It’s the start of the year… officially.  New students arrive today, tomorrow is the first day for our Middle and Lower School students, Friday is Upper School Convocation.

The past four days were my last official days of Summer Break (if you don’t count the Opening Meetings last week, which I’m not.  Because summer.)

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Speaking their language

Posted by lpearle on 30 August 2018

One of the many problems I’ve had over the years with various sets of standards is the language.  Those whom I’ve edited over the years know that jargon is a no-no (ok, I use it here but this is my personal blog not a professional publication).  If what you’re saying relies on jargon indicating an insider status, it excludes anyone not part of the group, right?  And if you’re publishing, in a journal or magazine or even a professional blog, why do you want to be exclusionary?  Why not say whatever it is in clear, plain language?

Last night AASL’s (that’s the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association, or ALA) President tweeted that there were crosswalks between the AASL standards and those of Future Ready Libraries and ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education).  This is great, as it provides me, and other librarians, with language we can use to talk with our technology partners.

It would be even better if we could get the same for the standards for all other disciplines, like math or science or even English.  Don’t get me wrong – we have a great relationship with our math department, but what if we could say to them “your national standards say xxx, and our national standards also say xxx – see?” in their language?  How many more collaborations could bloom?  I’m also looking for a crosswalk between the AASL and ACRL (Association of College and Research Librarians) so we can help our schools better prepare our students for their next educational experience.

Having these crosswalks is great.  More need to be created.  Or maybe we could all write them in plain, easily understood language so anyone can understand them?

Posted in Professional organizations, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

I’m not a stalker, I promise!

Posted by lpearle on 28 August 2018

At least one or two of my friends and my staff like to play the game “Six Degrees of Laura Pearle” because I can come up with odd connections to people (example, last February during the TSA check in Denver, the agent asked how long I’d lived in my current home; turns out, he’d grown up around the corner).  There’s one connection that might make me appear to be a bit of a stalker…

A few years ago, I became aware of the author Grace Lin.  Grace grew up in the town my parents moved to in 1969 (and where they still live), and of course that made me wonder exactly where in that town she’d lived.  Here’s the “Six Degrees” part: in 1975, Grace’s parents bought the house my BFF Karen lived in before her father was transferred.  I don’t know for sure, but it’s possible that they even “shared” a bedroom.

Shortly after I learned that, my friend Yapha was hosting Grace at her school and very kindly got a special autographed copy of her book, which she then sent to Karen.  This past Sunday, Grace was at Porter Square Books promoting her new book and I was there.  Not only was I there, I had a photo of her childhood home that I’d taken in early August.  I swear, it was only because I was visiting my parents and I knew I’d see her that I’d even taken the photo – I’m not a stalker.  Really.   Nor am I sharing that photo with anyone except Grace and Karen.  However, I did get this:

Grace Lin autograph

Even though I’m seeing Karen in November, this is going in the mail ASAP.  Because that’s the kind of BFF/stalker I am.

Posted in Books, Life Related | Leave a Comment »

Why I can’t completely quit Facebook

Posted by lpearle on 23 August 2018

As the school year slowly starts (New Faculty Orientation yesterday and today, start-of-year training and meetings next week, then students arrive… classes won’t actually start until Sept 11th, though, due to Rosh Hashanah) the time available for reading, watching tv, napping and doing other stuff gets less and less.

Earlier this year, thanks to the revelations about Cambridge Analytica, I’d stopped using Facebook as much.  I read this tweet stream about what you learn when you download your data, and decided to do mine just to see.  Luckily, my privacy settings where pretty high and I don’t have it on my phone, so some of what Dylan found didn’t exist.  Still, it was enough to be disturbing.

Then I read about Social Book Post Manager, and I’ve deleted much of my previous content (years ago, a friend asked why I’d want to, wouldn’t I want to see my memories from the past and I was stumped by the assumption that I was using FB in that way).  Did you know that you can see what other people (friends and the random public person) see on your page?  I deleted and untagged until there was virtually nothing left for anyone, including friends I’ve known since third grade, to see.  I no longer look at my news feed, respond to requests or notifications or anything.

So, why not just quit entirely?  Because far too many groups only post things on FB.  I’m not just talking about the closed group I’m part of for people with my very rare eye disease, which is a huge help in terms of support and information.  I’m talking about groups like this one, which my father sent me:

My parents are not on FB and have no intention of ever joining. They weren’t going to go to this protest, but to learn anything else about the group?  I tried to see if there was any other way for them to get information and, well, nope.

And there’s the synagogue my aunt belongs to, which despite many pleas for emails or some other way to find out what’s going on, has pretty much insisted that the only way to learn about events is to join FB.  She did, but has never posted and luckily hasn’t had to join her synagogue’s page to see things; I think my aunt has about six friends, including her children, her nieces/nephews and sister.

The idea that we could use Facebook the way we did in 2010 might work, but that’s only if we all agree.  If my friends stopped sharing videos and news they didn’t create, stopped creating fundraisers that force me to give financial information to FB, stopped begging for likes or amens, etc. I might starting using it again.  But for now, I’m lurking.  Occasionally.  Maybe once a month.  And spending the time I used to spend there doing other things.

 

Posted in Life Related, Privacy | 1 Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 20 August 2018

One final round-up before school begins.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

  • Do you have students who study architecture or the classics or ancient history?  This twitter thread on ruins might give them some interesting resources.  And then there’s Tutte le opere from the Museo della Civilta Romana
  • LGBTQ issues (especially Stonewall) are always popular research topics at my schools.  NYPL has great online resources to help.

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

  • The larger site deals with NYC’s grid but there are maps of other grids – perfect for thinking about city planning, urban life, etc..

 

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

My reading journey

Posted by lpearle on 16 August 2018

Last week I had an upsetting exchange with two friends on Twitter that I have to share because school’s starting and this nonsense will start again.

But first, some background.  Most people know I read quite a few books in a year (I also read magazines and newspapers).  I’ve never understood people who say “I don’t read” because I’m reasonably certain they’re not actually illiterate.  What they mean is they don’t read books (or as many as I do) or they don’t read novels or something.  I also doubt those Pew surveys that say that people don’t read books after they leave college: how are they defining books?  Are they including graphic novels or audiobooks?  Anyway.

My mother has an MEd and for a few years before I entered her life, she taught Kindergarten and first grade.  She’s an incredibly smart person and yet, somehow, the idea that there were developmental differences between a toddler and one of her students didn’t quite sink in, so when I was 2 1/2 years old, she started to teach me to read by placing labels on things all over the house (so the table had a big label that said, you guessed it, table on it, etc.).  By the time I was in Kindergarten I was reading above my age group so my teacher gave me additional reading; when we moved from Ohio to Central New York, it was clear that between that and my father’s teaching me basic math (and my grandfather teaching me cursive!) first grade would be boring, so I moved up to second grade.  Dad used to read to me, really bringing his favorite childhood stories to life with voices and inflections; when I was seven, he started <i>Treasure Island</i> and for some reason never got through the last few chapters – to this day, I don’t know how things end.  He’s still around and I live in hope he’ll finish.

The next year, a babysitter gave me her old Nancy Drews and I read <i>The Clue in the Dancing Puppet</i> one night – it gave me my one and only wake up screaming nightmare.  My parents suggested that perhaps I not read any more of those. At nine, I read <i>The Hobbit</i> and by ten I’d read <i>The Lord of the RIngs</i>.  Then we moved to Geneva and I discovered Enid Blyton and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer… and Victoria Holt’s <i>The Mistress of Mellyn</i>.  My school librarian realized I was a reader, but when I concentrated on the Blytons and rediscovered Nancy Drew, she spoke with my mother about how I could be reading better (or more difficult, or something like that) books.  Mom apparently told her I was fine.

Back in the US, in eighth grade, two things happened.  The first was we spent part of our year in English doing minicourses.  Somehow, I didn’t get my first three choices so they put me in a speed reading class.  At the start of the class we took some test to determine our starting speed and I tested at 1000wpm.  The teacher left me alone after that.  The second was a standardized test that determined your reading level, and for some reason we graded each other’s tests before the teacher asked “how many got xx wrong? you’re reading at y level. how many got xx-1 wrong? you’re reading at y+1 level” etc.  She stopped when they got to those who had 10 wrong, then counted.  After double counting, she asked who was missing… and the person grading my test said, “Laura got none wrong” which apparently meant I was reading at a college or above level.

None of this made a difference to my reading – I read what I wanted, when I wanted.  Rereading things like <i>Mistress of Mellyn</i> as a later teen made me realize how much of that book I’d missed at age 10.  As an adult, I read a wide range of books, from picture books to learned tomes.  I’m not saying this as a humblebrag, just as information.  And over the past few years, I’ve been increasingly grateful that back in the 60s and 70s we didn’t have programs like AR and F&P, and no one cared about lexiles.  I’m astoundingly unatheletic, nor am I interested in crafts like scrapbooking.  If I’d been born in the 90s or later, who knows how my teachers and librarians might have killed my love of reading and how unhappy I’d be with nothing but tv or videos to keep me occupied.

So, with all that as background, here’s part of the conversation last week:

Um, excuse me?  Please tell me this was misheard, or misunderstood.

And here’s Angie, with the perfect response.

We have some amazing readers at my school.  Last year, one high school student borrowed a bunch of classics (including <i>Moby Dick</i>, which was handed back with a DNF comment) as well as the latest in YA.  Imagine if we’d said that something was above or below her AR level or Lexile level?  It’s not just about the incredible waste of money paying for these programs, nor the time spent managing the programs.  It’s about loving reading and encouraging reading at all levels, in all genres.  Who knows where this student’s reading journey started, or where it will end?  My only goal is to make sure it doesn’t end too soon.

And if we’re being honest, isn’t that the goal of all school librarians and English teachers?  If it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

Posted in Books, Links, Rants, School Libraries, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

I’m so excited!

Posted by lpearle on 14 August 2018

Not by the fact that in less than two weeks I’ll be sitting in Opening Meetings for the year, talking about our focus for the year and how we’ll move forward on several initiatives.  And certainly not by the fact that I’ll have to be up all day, with no nap time.  What’s exciting me is this email from one of our Class IV Deans (that’s ninth grade to most schools):

[W]e will be launching the Class IVs and their advisors onto a Quest Challenge. As part of this challenge, we have included the library as a destination where these advisory groups will need to complete a challenge in order to earn a set of points. The goal is to get the Class IVs to become familiar with the library… You can come up with a bunch of fun things and rotate them through with different advisory teams. We will have roughly 15 teams of two advisories each. So you can have them look for different books, or find different things all around the library. If you and the librarians are willing to hand out the tasks and then mark them and award points, then you can make the tasks as fun and varied as you wish. I really want to kids to know how great our library is and who the librarians are right off the bat. Just remember that they each will only have a max of 10 minutes to complete their library challenge.

So excited!

Two years ago we tried to do an introduction challenge for the students (all of them) and that didn’t work for a wide variety of reasons.  This isn’t we librarians doing it on our own, it’s part of the orientation for new students (and advisors will be there!  many of whom never come to the library!).  That we only have 10 minutes isn’t great, but it’s enough to give them a little taste.

Excuse me while I start to think about what we can have them find.

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