Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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My annus horribilis

Posted by lpearle on 26 August 2019

While the fiscal/academic year ticked over on July 1, today is my first real day back at work.  We’re getting set up for AY20 by creating displays, getting ready for new student orientations, shelving books and all that fun stuff, plus first department and division meetings.   Before Summer Vacation started we worked on a To Do List for the next year, giving us a path forward that will ease the start of the year.

For me, that guide is deeply appreciated as last year was truly an annus horribilis for me.  Physically I was still dealing with the effects of CRION and the drugs I’m on to keep things stable.  That particular cocktail made me very, very tired, although going off one drug meant the “puffy” (aka swelling due to water retention) went away.  There’s that old saying that as you age you have a doctor for every body part.  Me?  I have three doctors for one very small body part, my left optic nerve.  Go me?!

And on more of a personal note, my mother’s health, which was declining fairly rapidly over the past three years, failed completely.  It’s was difficult watching that but losing her in the middle of the year was even more difficult.  I’ve always tried to keep my personal emotional stuff away from work and I know that I wasn’t able to do that.

Luckily, this summer was the first in many that I haven’t had to work or had a major project to complete.  So instead I took to my bed for a couple of months of reading, napping, binge watching tv and cuddling with my cats.  I could use more time for those but as we start to edge in to the new year it’s enough to regain some sense of equilibrium and calm.  Plus, AY20 can’t be worse than AY19, right?  RIGHT????

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Posted in Life Related, Musings | Leave a Comment »

Learning from the past

Posted by lpearle on 25 February 2019

The other day a friend at work was sitting in our conference room reading about creating an educational biography.  What was that, I wondered?  It’s a summary of the influences your teachers and other educational experiences had on making you “you”. Here’s one way to approach one, and here’s another version.

By coincidence, there was a tweet the next day I responded to:

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that it centered on reading, right?

What I didn’t add in that tweet was that this was a contest where we logged the number of pages we read each week (newspapers counted for a certain number of pages, as did comic books).  The top four readers would get lunch at a restaurant across the street from the school. The first week, the teacher accepted my tally.  The second week, she was a little suspicious.  It was either the third or the fourth week when we had a snow day on a Friday and I read all 1,365 pages of The Count of Monte Cristo (yes, the number of pages stuck with me and that might also be the long weekend I ate a bushel of apples.) That’s in addition to my other reading that week.  My mother got a phone call then, and confirmed that yes, indeed, I had read all those pages.  Because I’d won four weeks in a row, and not just won but read more than several classmates combined, this teacher decided to cancel the contest as she couldn’t prevent me from entering.

What I also didn’t add was how that made me feel – that somehow reading was wrong, or at least reading fast was wrong, or reading that much was wrong.  And somehow, I was wrong.

Clearly, 40+ years later, that memory stuck with me.  It didn’t stop me from reading, or feeling somehow wrong for reading the amount I read (although I’m currently 9 books behind my goal for 2019 so I’m not reading as much as I should).  If I were writing my educational biography, that’s one of the things that would go in.

Over the weekend I’ve been thinking about my effect on students.  I know one parent who feels that her daughter benefited from my being her librarian (she even reached out on Facebook to tell me).  I know that many appreciate help on research projects or finding their next read.  Conversely, I know that there are some who feel that asking them to treat the library and others in it with respect by keeping their voices down (we have a cement building that amplifies noise) and not running or throwing things is a problem.

There are a few I’m pretty sure would include me in their educational biographies, both positively and negatively.  I can only hope that it’s more of the former than the latter.  And going forward, it’ll be in the back of my mind as I work with them.

 

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My Year in Reading

Posted by lpearle on 31 December 2018

Not a bad year, reading-wise, especially given what else is going on (more on that later).

The best books of 2018?

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Treasure Found

Posted by lpearle on 15 November 2018

Several years ago, I posted the following on Goodreads:

One poster suggested Stars Under the Tent; I bought it and, well, it wasn’t the book I remembered.  Earlier this year I read about The Crack Squad of Librarians Who Track Down Half-Forgotten Books and thought about the book again.  What I didn’t say on Goodreads was that this was one of many books I’d read at my grandparents’ house, books that belonged to my father and his sister, published in the 1920s and 30s (or earlier) and lost to me when we sold my grandmother’s house in the 70s.  Some of the books did make it to my parents’ home but this was clearly one of my aunt’s and I thought only my father’s had been retrieved.  We, living in a home in central New York, had far more room than she did, living in an apartment in New York City.

Last Friday, there was a minor emergency with my mother, so I left work early and raced there.  Luckily, everything was ok.  Even more lucky, Saturday was my mother’s 81st birthday and the trip saved me from sending a belated card and gift: I could hand deliver.  My father, who has been gently downsizing (among other items leaving their house, in August I drove 29 boxes of books to my work, where we sorted and then sent most to our reseller) seized the opportunity to pack three boxes of children’s books that I’d loved and get them out of the house.  Some, like Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates and Treasure Island (which my father stopped reading to me three chapters before the end, and no, I’ve never finished it, yes, it’s been 49 years and I probably should get over my snit) he still wants to keep.

Did you know that Pollyanna was the first in a series?  Ditto Mary Poppins.  And the Five Little Peppers.  Those books, plus several in the Marjorie Maynard series and “my” copy of Good Night, Moon are among the treasures now on my shelves.

But wait!  There’s more!

Among the books was one entitled The Secret Spring.  By Emma Atkins Jacobs.  And, well… it was the book.  The New York Times even reviewed it.  While I rarely give in to my urge to re-read favorite books (Robertson Davies, I’m looking at you!) I just might have to make an exception.  Anyone want to bet on that?

Posted in Books | 1 Comment »

Time to breathe

Posted by lpearle on 13 November 2018

Because second semester is essentially Research Semester, with three months of classes (often 15-20 classes a day), we tend to tackle major projects in first semester.  Perhaps not the smartest idea, given the exhaustion I and the other librarians face by, well, now.  Luckily Thanksgiving Break is just around the corner, and then it’s a short time to Winter Break… and after that, we’re setting up for Exam Week and hurtling into Research Season.

  • For example, last year we tackled the junk drawer, and this year we’re continuing looking at the collection – thus far we’ve done the 500s, 600s and 700s (with luck we’ll get through the 800s before second semester; the 900s will wait until next year).  The past two years have brought up some humorous cataloging oopses.  I’ve already mentioned that at PCS I found “The Wrath of Grapes” miscataloged as “The Grapes of Wrath”.  What we’re finding now are more problems either as the Library of Congress is creating the CIP information or in-house as things were cataloged:
      • The Rape of Nanking was found with other books on sexual assault
      • The section on population control contained a book on the Holocaust
      • Among the books on stores like Wal-Mart was a book on slavery
      • The Bone Woman, about a forensic anthropologist working on mass graves, was in the anthropology section
      • Going Dutch: how England plundered Holland’s glory is about the rise of England as a world power, not about art theft and belongs in history, not art

    Each of these books gets a “yes… but NO!” from us and we move it to where it will be found and useful to our students.  There are, of course, many more that are reasonably in one area of the collection but we feel belong elsewhere.  Still, it’s these gems that keep us going.

  • We’re also moving books around physically.  Thanks to this rethinking project, there are shelves we don’t need in our library and would really be helpful for our Art Department library, so we’re rearranging things to free up a bookcase that will be moved over Thanksgiving Break.  It’s also a great opportunity for us to rearrange some of the second floor tables (oddly enough, neither we nor the administration feel that a group “hiding” in a corner playing Fortnight is a group best using the library’s resources and that a rearrangement might help them see the error of their ways).
  • Our Resource Guides are being revised and added to, including one on Violence in America and one designed to provide resources for the recent visit from the Defamation Project. Thanks to our History Department teachers helping assess the utility of a discovery service, EDS will join our offerings – leading, we hope, to better searching during Research Season.
  • The Greater Boston Cooperative Library Association is hosting this year’s AISL conference and Milton will be hosting one morning (during the start of our Intro History classes doing research); I’ll be reprising The What If… Scenario with my two co-presenters and “hosting” a Dinner with a Local Librarian.
  • I’m still reading for the Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction award… a little behind on that, but I can catch up, right?

While it’s not quite an official honor, I was interviewed by one of our Spanish classes (I’m guessing they translated my English answers into Spanish for a class presentation) and our photography teacher asked if I’d sit for one of his advanced students who was being assigned to take a mere 15 minutes for the photo shoot and to turn it around the next day, mimicking some of the realities of being a professional photographer.  The student and I chatted while he was shooting, and this was the final photo:

Next week I’ll be at the ALAN Workshop then away for Thanksgiving Break.  With all that’s going on, it’s good to have time to breathe!

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

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.

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 »