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The Very Overdue #AISLNO17 Post (part 2)

Posted by lpearle on 26 June 2017

My goal: to blog all the PD I’ve done this year before the academic year ends.  In eight five days.  Get ready!

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Day One: What Keeps Me Up At Night (Courtney Lewis)

Courtney started by talking about some of the things that keep us all up at night:

  • faculty still referring to their experiences doing research, ignoring changes that have taken place since (and insisting students do it the way they did research “back when”)
  • budgets
  • what is the mission of the library, and does it mesh with the school’s mission?

She’s started to also think about other things, like discovery (how do students and teachers find our resources), tools and what students really need, as opposed to what we think or are told they need.  To find out, she reached out to the First Year Experience librarians at the schools her students matriculated at most, using a personalized letter with a link to a survey; she also posted it on the ACRL list.  There were many responses and as of March, she was still getting data.  No surprise: selectivity in schools matters, particularly in this regard (“selectivity” as defined by US News & World Report and Barrons).

I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of her results, but it was interesting to see how we, at a relatively selective independent school, align already with some of the results at the lower, less selective level.  The question I have to ask myself (and my staff) is how high up we want to reach, and can we differentiate between what we do with our Middle Schools students, our 9/10 graders and 11/12 graders? One big complaint – or, perhaps more accurately, concern – was that students don’t always come with the level of ability that FYE librarians/teachers need for them to have, which (IMVHO) is a result of not being able to mandate specific learning and skills for all high school students, in all high schools.  We run into this challenge with our Upper School students entering from schools other than our Middle School, so why should college be any different?

The biggest thread was that students need better understandings of what resources are useful for what types of information retrieval, to be able to transfer skills from one thing to another.  The idea that you are part of a community of learners, sharing knowledge and resources, is more critical than knowing exactly how to use a specific citation generator or style.

She learned that students will be asked to create traditional research papers (number one response), visual presentations (number two) and DIY science experiments (number three). BUT: the traditional paper, while still the top response, was favored by older professors (see about re: referring back to your own experience) and younger professors were asking for more digital types of responses (blogs, videos, etc.).  There is a critical need to make these types of products part of our curriculum!  Again and again, she heard that the end goal of all research was to make students part of the global community of scholars.  What can we, in K-12, do to ensure our students start on that path?

The other things she learned?

  • format is invisible to students (the UVA Source Death exercise, for example)
  • students need to know what librarians do and how to ask (corollary: they need to know that not everyone working in an academy library is a librarian, or does reference!)
  • skilled searching
  • how to create a topic
  • what the community of scholars is
  • how do you pace yourself when writing a paper (5 pages is different than 20 pages)
  • oral presentation with visual aids skills (don’t silo things)

Next?  She’s looking at a larger sample size, plus cross-referencing with NSSE/BCSSE/FSSE data (they have great research questions), using the data to make smart budgetary choices.  Bigger challenge: changing faculty and students from a local to a global mindset.

As I sat there, I wondered how we can do similar work at Milton.  There are schools around the country wondering that as well.  Maybe we team up and tackle this as a group?  And how can I get local buy in on changing some of how we do research and teach research skills so we know our students are better prepared for their FYE than the average student?

Day Two: Building Community (Claudette Hovasse)

For the past few years I’ve been in awe of what Claudette’s built at Cheshire and tried to think of ways to replicate it at my school.  At Porter’s we were working on it, with some success; at Milton, we need a more concentrated effort.   So, what’s she doing that’s so great?  well…

Example one: she started with a station to create a card for Faculty Appreciation that has grown into cards for Valentines, Thank Yous, Mother’s Day, etc.

Example two: Zentangle (purposeful doodling), book folding, trivia nights, games, stamping, candy sushi, cupcake decorating, pumpkin decorating, vision boards, Lego Nights, coloring book table, comic book artist, bingo, Banned Books Scavenger Hunt.

How is she doing it?  By “starting with Yes“, which has led to program and space changes.  By starting with “what if…” – students felt ownership of the space and program? what are local libraries doing (take classes and crib)?  It stemmed from a desire to build bridges between day/boarding, American/International students and has grown!  Even non CA students come to some events.  She promotes them with signs, in the parent weekly email (and has found that parents push students to attend, which helps build community and leads to greater visibility for what the library is doing).

Some final thoughts:

  • work with what you have – staffing, furnishings, facilities/maintenance, etc.  It doesn’t have to be fancy!
  • puzzles on casual tables have led to new friendships
  • when I started saying “yes” it changed how I saw myself and how the students see [the librarians]

Day One: Design Thinking (many, including yours truly!)

This was an opportunity to report and reflect on the AISL Summer Institute I attended, so here are a few bullet points:

  • Design Thinking is not a magic bullet, it really needs thought and planning (ie. it’s just another tool in the toolbox) – it is a way to give and get better feedback that is more constructive and is very collaborative
  • You don’t need to use DT language, you can create language that works for your school and your population
  • Empathy is the end product, woven throughout the project.  It is not a step.
  • What you’re really asking is not “what do you need” but “what’s missing”

I’m currently taking a Space Planning class that is using DT methodology.  Not because I need it, but as an attempt to get my staff to learn more about DT as we plan for the future of our space and program.  More on that when it’s all over.

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