Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

  • Tag This!

  • January 2020
    S M T W T F S
    « Dec    
  • Prior Posts

  • Copyright

Feeling vindicated

Posted by lpearle on 15 January 2020

I know that there’s been very little blogging here the first half of the academic year.  In part it’s because of a massive project we’ve been working on for the past two years that needed to be finished by the start of Winter Break.  Well… ok, part one of the project needed to be finished.  There are still two more parts, with a final end goal of June 2021.  I’ll explain about them later.

Let’s start with this tweet and my response:

When many librarians were getting their cardigans in a twist over the idea of doing away with Dewey, I didn’t understand the fuss.  After all, isn’t DDC simply a numeric representation of a subject heading?  Ok, sometimes it’s a very complicated, very specific subject heading, but still. What’s so sacred about 398.2 over Folktales?

Still, we’re a school so we need to use a system that our students will be finding elsewhere.  We could use LC but that would confuse our younger students more than DDC does.  The problem is that the numbers are assigned by humans, and humans are fallible.  We found that biographies of Marcus Garvey were in several different sections, depending on the person looking at the synopsis provided.  And then there’s The President’s Position series, cataloged into both the 900s and the 300s, asking librarians to choose where it all belongs.  There are other books, like the one about a Chinese convert to Christianity who, being persecuted in China, comes to the US – but before that, was a leader in the Tienanmen Square uprising.  My students won’t care as much about the religious aspect as they will about the Tienanmen one.

Over the past two years we’ve slowly gone through the collection and had conversations about where certain books belong.  Sometimes we’ve moved them to entirely new sections of the collection.  Sometimes we had to reorganize a section because previous cataloging had either expanded or truncated them so that books weren’t necessarily next to each other when they needed to be.  At the same time, we’ve looked at the age of the books and figured out if we needed to update or replace them.

Was it worth it?  We’ve seen students finding better resources because the collection now flows.  Just last month, three students told me that they didn’t know that we’d had so many books on their topics – few of the books were new, but the way we now shelved them meant it was easier for them to find.  And now we know what gaps there are in the collection and can start filling them.  Of course, we also know how many books we have that duplicate others (as in, how many biographies of [world leader] do we really need?), and that’s part of the next phase.

This fall I attended NELA’s conference and one of the sessions was about something very similar.  Turns out, Brookline PL is doing the same, leaving me feeling rather achy from all the books we moved but also really validated.


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

Can we talk?

Posted by lpearle on 7 January 2020

There have been many posts that cover the Word of the Year (“they” is the Merriam-Webster choice, while Lynneguist suggests “knock-on” and “gotten“).  This isn’t that post.

No, this is a post about words that I would gladly not hear again in their current context.  Words that have become part of our educational lingo, or business lingo, that are the verbal equivalent of nails on a blackboard (for me – ymmv).

In my pre-librarian life, I worked for a company that was loosely affiliated with Landmark Forum.  This company did a great number of professional training sessions and – I suspect – helped Forum-speak creep into our professional lives.  As a librarian, I’ve kept my old HS dictionary to help show students how language changes but asking them to look for the word “mouse” and to notice the lack of the definition they’d be most familiar with.  As an editor, I used to drive my authors crazy by trying to edit out the jargon and convoluted language they’d put in, under the belief that if someone outside the profession can’t/doesn’t understand what you’re saying, what good is it?  Example?  Just look at the current AASL Standards and ask someone what they mean.

So, these words?  Lean in (popularized by that book, but now used for anything that is difficult).  Unpack (what’s wrong with analyze, assess, discuss?  leave unpacking for luggage).  Name (as in “let’s name the issues” – I remember when we used to identify them).  Work (“doing the work” rather than working on an issue).  And now we’ve started to talk about interventions instead of “new methods” or “changes to pedagogy/program” and artifacts instead of… I’m not sure what, except they’re the things we’re created to use during our interventions.

Sitting in faculty meetings, or any other meetings, hearing people use and reuse these words is torture.  The only relief will be the next series of words that we start misusing.

Posted in Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

My Year in Reading

Posted by lpearle on 31 December 2019


Another not bad year – there’s been a lot going on at work and in life*, so getting this much done was an accomplishment.  

And my choices for the best books of 2018?




* including learning that I can easily stream/bingewatch Netflix, Acorn and BritBox in my bedroom.  Definitely could have read more without that!

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

The average day, fall version

Posted by lpearle on 25 October 2019

Last October, the AISL blog had a post called What do you do all day? (sort of similar to the Library Day in the Life posts I did years ago).  I thought it might be interesting to share what an average day in my library looked like but quickly realized that we have two very different “average” days, first in fall when there is little going on and then in spring when Research Season hits.  Lucky you, there’ll be an update in March!

Usually I arrive at work around 7:30 (depending on traffic it can be 7:45).  Two mornings a week I have a meeting, either all school or just Upper School Faculty.  The school day starts at 8:20 and ends at 3:30, with the library open until 6pm and then again from 7pm – 9:45pm.  Here’s what yesterday, October 24th, looked like.

05:00 – Wake up, take my “pre-breakfast” pills, watch some tv I’d recorded yesterday, check email and news sites

06:00 – Breakfast, continue to read/watch, get dressed, etc.

07:20 – Leave for work.

07:45 – Arrive at work, check in with my assistant.  The Middle School Librarian has two “trivia question of the day” calendars and we usually try to answer those questions at this time.

08:00 – Time for the Upper School Faculty meeting, where we had a discussion about an academic issue.

08:20 – The school day starts.  I have bills to pay and our budget to reconcile and cataloging to do so I’m holing up in the office where I will be less disturbed than if I’m out on the desk.

09:10 – The advisor for the Conservative Club asks about what books we have from that perspective.  I said that we’re interested in presenting different points-of-view, and if there’s a list that she can recommend we’ll buy whatever we don’t currently have.  And if the club wants to put together a display we would be happy to make that happen.

09:35 – Our sixth grade has a reading buddy program with the first and second grades.  Today we got photos to post to our Instagram feed.

09:50 – Over the past few years we’ve been working on our collection and the second pass is almost done.  I spent Sunday through Tuesday at the NELA19 conference and attended this session from Brookline Public Library.  

It was really affirming to see that others are struggling with some of the same issues we have been (cataloging not consistent, or in areas that don’t make sense, or made up Dewey numbers).  Today we’re finishing moving the 973 books into “correct” shelf positions (I’ll have to change call numbers  in the catalog and relabel the ones that have moved).

12:15 – Done with the move!  Lunch time!

12:45 – On to the next bit of the project, working on the 974-999 books.  First step, download the accession list for those books.  Next I’ll sort by copyright, highlighting the books more than 20 years old (we’ll see if they need to updated or weeded when we get to those books).  Then I’ll sort by call number and start to see what needs to be moved/changed.  Tomorrow we will move all these books, and I’ll do the changes/relabeling for 973-999.

16:00 – Each of us take one night as a late night, and tonight’s my night.  I help a teacher prepare a display for tomorrow’s Upper School Parents Weekend.  She’s part of AWARE (Alliance of White Anti-Racist Educators) and we bought a number of books to supplement the books we already had to help support their work.

17:45 – Let students know that we’re closing in ten minutes (there are several people who come in at 7pm and staff the library during evening study hall, so the boarders and day students who want to study here at night can).

18:00 – Walk out the door.

18:30 – Get home.  Time for dinner, relaxing (with a new book), cuddling with the cats.  Lights out around 8-8:30.

Tomorrow, as a wise fictional character once said, is another day.




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

He cares!

Posted by lpearle on 22 October 2019

At our last meeting of the academic year, our IT Director told us that he had a new toy: a tool that lets him create phishing messages and then track what we do with that email.  Over the past few days the other librarians got emails that made them go “huh?” and today I got this:

To be honest, I’m disappointed.  Unlike one of my colleagues, I didn’t get the “Inappropriate Instagram content” message.  Or the password check message.  I got one that could be something to do with my health (mental or physical) but I know, really, really know, what those bills look like thanks to my ongoing eye issues.

His reason for doing this is that some are very clever and far too many otherwise smart people click on those links.  Trying to trick people and show them how they were fooled is a great idea: he cares!  It’s just in this case, he didn’t care enough to send me the very best.

Posted in Privacy, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Creative Paper Writing

Posted by lpearle on 8 October 2019

This tweet caught my eye:

It reminded me of when I was a junior in high school, taking a philosophy class.  One of my friends chose “silence as a means of communication” for her paper topic and at the end, she handed in ten blank pages (plus a full bibliography and cover page).  She did have a real paper ready, but the teacher loved what she’d handed in and didn’t ask for anything more.  Because it was a pass/fail class the grade didn’t matter but if it had, she’d have gotten a very high grade.

We tell students to take risks, to not be so grade driven that “failure” is an A-, to care less about the college they’re getting into but to find the right school for them.  What if a student handed in this type of paper?  What if they did all the other steps, the outline and note cards and research, but their paper was more creative?  Sadly, few – if any – teachers would appreciate it.  So when we talk about taking risks, do we really mean it?

Posted in Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Difficult Discussions

Posted by lpearle on 24 September 2019

At one school I taught a storytelling class to the 4/5 grade.  It was a combined grade and so I had to rotate between Cinderella stories and something else, usually fractured fairy tales.  One year I did trickster tales with them and after trying to read the Joel Chandler Harris Uncle Remus stories decided instead to show Song of the South.  Before we watched the film I talked with them about the problems in the movie and said that any time anyone felt uncomfortable, they could just tell me (or leave the word STOP in a note on my desk), and after we talked about what they’d seen.  They understood why people were uncomfortable with the movie but thought that the way we’d approached it helped and that others should do the same.

Apparently others agree, as in this article talking about why SotS shouldn’t be destroyed.  That it should be shown as part of a larger conversation about problems in older films (see: Gone with the Wind), giving context to what we see on the screen.  Or maybe  along with a discussion about To Kill a Mockingbird‘s racism.

I’d like to suggest that problem isn’t just with the film or book (or, in the case of Little House on the Prairie, the tv series and the books). It’s with our distaste for having those difficult discussions about what’s wrong with them, to show other points-of-view and to accept that sometimes a childhood favorite presents problems for others (Reading While White is a great resource).  Banning, or removing, these cultural artifacts doesn’t help, because it creates an air of mystery about it.  Teaching them in addition to other materials that show other points of view or what the reality (vs. the fictionalized version) looked like would go far further, in my opinion.

It’s Banned Books Week and it’s a great time to start these difficult discussions.  I know I am.

Posted in Books, Musings, Student stuff | 1 Comment »

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????

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.


Posted in Books, Life Related | Leave a Comment »

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?

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »