Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

  • Tag This!

  • November 2015
    S M T W T F S
    « Oct    
  • Prior Posts

  • Copyright

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

What’s on your shelves?

Posted by lpearle on 26 October 2015

With one exception, the school libraries I’ve worked in have needed some serious collection pruning; MPOW is no different.  Usually it’s the problem of having a lot of stack space and not enough time/staff to really weed what’s there.  I’m of the firm belief, however, that pruning and judicious deletions are an absolute necessity!

Why?  Well, if you’re researching a topic and go to a shelf that is completely packed with books, many of which are old, possibly out-of-date, and look as though they could fall apart as you’re reading them, you’re less likely (as a high school student) to use that resource.  And finding those “gems” that actually will help you with your project can be a real challenge.  My goal, as a school librarian, is to have students spend some time doing the finding but to be able to spend most of their project time reading, reflecting, synthesizing and then presenting a cogent argument.  Often, because of the state of the collection, the finding takes more time than it should, compressing the reading/reflecting/synthesizing time.

There’s also the problem of old sections that were incredibly useful that are no longer.  One school had a major project that asked students to imagine life as Jew during the Nazi era or as someone hiding the Jews.  So the shelves were filled with memoirs and biographies that met that need.  However, by the time I arrived, the project was long gone (over ten years) and the students were researching other things.  We needed to choose the best of the books from the previous project, get rid of the rest and collect resources that would meet their current research needs.  I’ve worked in schools that have changed the foreign language offerings, dropping German and Italian in favor of Chinese.  Do we really need a lot of dictionaries in those languages, or do we need more Chinese-related materials?  The sea change I’ve seen in how my English departments are approaching their work also affects our collection; none of the departments in my past four schools has asked students to use literary criticism or reviews – yet the shelves were filled with Twayne’s, Bloom’s and those Gale “[genre] Criticism” books.  That’s an easy weed, particularly since they’re now available on-line should we need to add them back into the collection.

Our on-line resources also need to be reviewed.  At each school I create a database spreadsheet, monitoring the ROI on our subscriptions (ROI = $ per search).  The goal, for me, is under $5 per search.  One database, requested by the department chair, was nearly $70/search.  After two years, I was able to convince the department that it wasn’t fiscally prudent for us to continue subscribing.  What that means is that we (the librarians) have to know what else is out there, looking for resources that will enhance our print collection – not, as some fear, replace it! – as well as meet the needs of students outside the library.

I’ve often said that there’s a middle ground between the school library with tens of thousands of books that never circulate and gather dust (so the school can brag about sheer number of volumes) and the school library that is purely digital (which can seriously limit student research using current, non e-available resources).  My hope is that at MPOW we’ll successfully get there.

But that’s just for the non-fiction books, right?  Well… no.  We also need to look at the fiction.  For the first time, I’m working in a school where the adults are just as engaged with the fiction collection as the students, perhaps more so!  That’s great, and gives us a great incentive to ensure we’re buying adult titles (like the NBA and Carnegie longlists for literary fiction, or the Reading List for genre fiction). We also have to ensure we have great YA and MG fiction for our students.  One problem I’m seeing right now is that while we’re a library serving grades 6-12, we’ve mostly collected for grades 9-12.  Whoops!  So this year, the focus will not only be on pruning, but also adding great books for our younger students.

Again, stay tuned for more on how it’s all going.

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 11 September 2015

Still digitally decluttering…

Books, Reading, etc.

  • One challenge at MPOW is getting the middle school students into the library (time, distance, lack of discrete space are issues).  So we’re thinking about the pop-up library.

School Life

Tech Stuff

  • This was done with sixth graders, but could easily scale to any middle or upper school class.
  • This is of Allentown, but imagine creating a history or English class project (I know I’ve suggested this before… hoping this year a teacher takes me up on it!).  And how cool it would be to integrate the Newseum into your resources? or a Digital Timeline?
  • MPOW is a GAFE/Schoology school, and looks like it would be a great tool to use!
  • Right now, we’re BYOD (so have computer labs) – Doug has great ideas about 1:1.
  • This list of tools is a great starter toolkit!
  • It’s the start of a new school year.  Why not declutter your laptop before things get crazy?


And, as always, Will Richardson has some great ideas about trends we should be watching.  Something to ponder as the school year starts.

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 27 August 2015

Books, Reading, Etc..

  • I’ve done something similar with Google Maps, but this?  The Obsessively Detailed Map is truly obsessively detailed.  Ideas for additional “value added content”? TSU has some great Immersive Experience ideas.
  • This might just be my new favorite book blog: Oh, the Books! (via)
  • The Book Riot Quarterly box might be a good way to get students excited about reading.  BookOpolis looks to be a good way to introduce younger students to online reviewing/reading communities.

School Life

Tech Stuff


Most important: 120 days until Christmas.  Shop now. Avoid the rush.

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

Watching the Watchman

Posted by lpearle on 6 August 2015

Many years ago, Harper Lee wrote a book she called Go Set A Watchman, submitted it to her publisher and hoped for the best.  The best was that the publisher liked parts of the book and recommended she go back and write another book about those parts, the parts when Jean Louise looked back on her childhood.  And thus was born To Kill A Mockingbird.

Years ago I heard Naomi Shihab Nye talk about her first publishing experience, when a poetry publisher told her that only seven lines of a much longer poem were “worthy”, thus forcing her to revise her poem. She talks the process of revision here in much the same way she did then:


See where this is going?

When the news came out that Ms. Lee had not destroyed the book but had kept it, and HarperCollins had the unedited, unpublishable first draft and was, in fact, publishing it, there were two reactions: one, why now? and two, what did Ms. Lee think?  After all, that’s the hope of all readers when a favorite author dies, that there will be more coming because there were manuscripts hidden.  Salinger must have written something amazing all those years he was in Vermont, right?  It’s like Tupac recording from the grave.  So the “why now” gets answered by “because now is when we found it” but the second question goes unanswered because no one can talk with the author unless they go through her lawyer, who swears that she’s happy about it all.

Maybe I was alone in this, but I never expected this to be a Great Read.  If anything, it was a first, very rough look at the story and out of all the dross, the gold of Mockingbird arose.  Many early readers and reviewers were shocked and dismayed to find that Atticus was a racist – it’s like finding out that Superman’s ability to leap tall buildings didn’t include the Empire State Buildings.  This despite some scholars bringing out this aspect of Atticus for years already.  Some refused to read it (my friend Chuck included).  And now a bookstore is offering refunds for those who didn’t quite understand what they were getting when they purchased the book. It could be worse: it could have looked like Finnegan’s Wake!

Mockingbird was not a required read for me (I read it on my own, not for a class), so I don’t hold it in the same reverential light as (perhaps) those who studied the book do.  My personal reading plans do not include reading Watchman. My professional collection development plans might include it, if (after conferring with the other librarians and our English teachers) they think it would add to our student’s understanding of the rewriting process and/or the themes in Mockingbird.  That seems to be the reasonable thing to do.

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 4 August 2015

It’s summer – a major move (personal and professional) is in process, so why not declutter a bit and share links and ideas I’ve been hoarding all school year?  Regular posts to resume by the end of August, I hope!

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff


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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 30 July 2015

Books, Reading, Etc.

  • Why Does S Look Like F?” (how to read old-fashioned books – we might need this for handwriting, esp, cursive, soon!)
  • I played with this some, and now I’m wondering how to create a Best Books of the Summer app for school.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Posted in Books, Links, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Book-based thoughts about #alaac15

Posted by lpearle on 2 July 2015

I have so much more to write about, but just don’t have time right now to digest and properly reflect on the sessions.  So instead, here’s the “easy” post, all about the books!

ARCs to savor – look for these books soon! (ok, I haven’t read more than one or two… yet…):

  • Slade House by David Mitchell (huge surprise, given the appearance of The Bone Clocks earlier this year)
  • Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley (historical fiction about the Brontes)
  • The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos (no one does fictional autobiography like Gantos.  No one).
  • Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin (about Daniel Ellsberg, maybe helping students understand why what he did was such a Big Deal Back Then)
  • Untwine by Edwidge Dandicat (need I say more?)
  • The Year of Lear by James Shapiro (maybe understanding the historical setting around the writing of the play will help students appreciate it more?)
  • We Believe the Children by Richard Beck (looking forward to revisiting the hysteria)

For the record, I got nearly 70 books at ALA, all of which I’m hoping I’ll truly enjoy.  These just seemed to be the most universally interesting.  Or not.

A few years ago, Wendy introduced me to the joy that is the Best Fiction for Young Adults teen feedback session.  If at all possible, I try to go and hear what the teens really think (because as a 50+-year-old, sometimes I just don’t think like a teen).  The following is a list of the books that got Much Love, Some Love and Mixed Love from the group that spoke, and one or two that they didn’t seem to like as much as the committee did:

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli) – some love
  • The Tightrope Walkers (David Almond) – some love
  • Infandous (Elana Arnold) – mixed love
  • The Doubt Factory (Paolo Bacigalupi) – no real love
  • Silent Alarm (Jennifer Banash) – some love
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest (Holly Black) – mixed love
  • The Game of Love and Death (Martha Brockenbrough) – mixed love
  • The Bunker Diary (Kevin Brooks) – mixed love
  • Alex as Well (Alyssa Brugman) – mixed love
  • Audacity (Melanie Crowder) – some love
  • Death Coming Up the Hill (Chris Crowe) – some love
  • I’ll Meet You There (Heather Demetrios) – some love
  • Eden West (Peter Hautman) –  some love
  • Poisoned Apples (Christine Heppermann) – much love
  • Little Peach (Peggy Kern) – much love
  • Read Between the Lines (Jo Knowles) – some love
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas) – some love
  • All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven) – much love
  • Vanishing Girls (Lauren Oliver) – some love
  • The Boy in the Black Suit (Jason Reynolds) – mixed love
  • Bone Gap (Laura Ruby) – mixed love
  • The Winner’s Crime (Marie Rutkoski) – mixed love
  • Fig (Sarah Elizabeth Schantz) – some love
  • The Ghosts of Heaven (Marcus Sedgwick) – mixed love
  • X (Ilyasah Shabazz) – much love
  • Challenger Deep (Neal Shusterman) – much love
  • The Walls Around Us (Nova Ren Suma) – mixed love
  • All the Rage (Courtney Summers) – much love
  • In Real Life (Laurence Tabak) – mixed love
  • An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaa Tahir) – mixed love
  • The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (Teresa Toten) – mixed love
  • Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go (Laura Rose Wagner) – some love
  • We All Looked Up (Tommy Wallach) – mixed love
  • My Heart and Other Black Holes (Jasmine Warga) – mixed love
  • This Side of Home (Renee Watson) – some love

There were 59 books on the list, so that “only” 24 were left off during a whirlwind 90 minute session isn’t bad.  For me, the surprises were that Mosquitoland (David Arnold), Saint Anything (Sarah Dessen), The Girl at Midnight (Melissa Grey), Razorhurst (Justine Larbalesteir), Hold Me Closer (David Levithan) and Black Dove, White Raven (Elizabeth Wein) were not mentioned at all.  That might not mean anything… or it might.  What I do know is that I’m going to use the much loved and some loved books in a Welcome Back display in September, asking our students to weigh in.

Now I’m off on a brief vacation (and some reading of the new books).  More on ALA when I return.


Posted in Books, Collection Development, Conferences | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 1 September 2014

(more from the vault – next month, fresher stuff!)

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Stuff


  • I don’t use Pocket (yet?) but am a fan of Readability.  Which do you prefer?
  • Great playlist of TED talks on Our Digital Lives.
  • Over the years I’ve scooped, livebindered, diigo’d and been delicious… should I now flip?

Posted in Books, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

The upside (maybe) and other collection thoughts

Posted by lpearle on 21 August 2014

In my last post, I mentioned that I hate shelving.  The upside, besides nice, neat shelves with books that are findable is that it’s a great way to look at your collection, particularly if there’s a research project ongoing (inventory is another great tool, and if you’re not doing an annual inventory, shame on you!).  The collections at three of the four schools I’ve worked at have been… neglected.  There are many wonderful books on the shelves, or they would be wonderful if we were still in the 1980s (or an earlier decade).

At my last school, there were a number of books published in the late teens-early 20s of the last century.  Now, that part of the  collection should be an automatic “weed” right?  Not so fast there! The 11th grade history class was entitled “The Twentieth Century World” and the initial focus is on the Treaty of Versailles, which essentially sets up the entire political world we now inhabit, and those books? They were written by people who were at the talks, crafting the treaty.  So while in the 90s or 80s those may have seemed outdated, by the early 00s, they were primary source materials.

Weeding, it’s tricky!

I saw this tweet a while ago,

and immediately thought, “oh my! wouldn’t that be nice…” The reality is that in a school, you can’t be quite that draconian.  You can do what we’re doing, which is replacing old versions of books like poetry – books we need, but are just so old the students don’t want to use them – and really evaluating the history and social sciences selections.  We did a massive weed of the literary criticism (no longer used) and the science collection already, which dropped about 6,000 volumes from our shelves.  My guess? We’ll probably weed another 3-4,000 this year.  And we’re using Thrift Books to help ease the guilt of getting rid of some of these books.

Without doing shelving, I wouldn’t really be looking at the books that we have, comparing what’s being used for research and what’s still sitting there – too old, too decrepit or just too out-of-date.  So there is an upside… maybe.

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries | 3 Comments »

I read…

Posted by lpearle on 11 August 2014

Ok, to be honest, I almost titled this post “iRead” but I don’t want to jump on any bandwagons!

So, yes, I read.  A lot.  It’s one of my few real talents – reading, reading, reading.  Since January I’ve read 180 books (well… started 180 books.  some were so bad I couldn’t finish) in a variety of genres and for a variety of audiences.  Format, on the other hand, was limited to print and ebook.  Frankly, I prefer print but for ARC/ARE books, I’ll accept (grudgingly) the e version.  When I left my last school, several friends banded together and bought me a Kindle, making it easier to get e books.  At my current school I have an iPad (there’s a 1:1 program) but I never read on that.

Here’s the thing: there’s something wonderfully immersive about a print book.  I open the book up… dive into the world the author has created (that’s true even for non-fiction books)… and woe betide any animal, human or feline, who disturbs me.  When I’m reading on my Kindle, I don’t feel as immersed.

Last year I was given a copy of the recent Brown/Haverford/Trinity/a few other schools e-book survey.  The results didn’t surprise me, but I suspect they surprised the administrators: students don’t want to go e: they prefer print for both research and pleasure reading (sorry, no link).  The Chronicle reported something similar  in 2013, and Publisher’s Weekly  and the Financial Times did the same in 2014.

And in a completely unscientific survey of 100 students at Porter’s (nearly 1/3 of the student body), the girls said the same: give us print, please.

As mentioned earlier, we have a 1:1 program, with a mandate from the administration that if a textbook is available in e format, that’s what the students should buy.  I’ve heard from some parents, and not a few students, that it works for them with math and science texts, but for their English books?  Please, can we have print?  Some are buying two versions, the e and the print, so that they can read in their preferred format and still comply with school requirements.

How has this affected our collection?  We subscribe to Credo Reference and EBSCO’s Academic E-books, giving the students a wide range of books for research.  They’re pretty heavily used, which is great because we certainly couldn’t keep that many books on hand! It’s also allowed us to remove older books from the collection, knowing that the information is covered in the online collection (and eliminating the “wow – this book might just fall apart in my hands” factor).  But in terms of the fiction collection, we’re still going strong with print.

Last [academic] year I was a panelist for a conference discussion on ebooks.  One of the other panelists uses Axis 360 at her school and has great success; part of that is because she has a co-ed population and it’s a great way to get sensitive books into the hands of readers (by “sensitive” I mean GLBTQCA* books, or books about health/emotional issues… and quite possibly “girl” books being read by boys).  If I had that population, it might work better at Porter’s.  The previous librarian subscribed to some Follett shelf books, and there are six Kindles with books loaded (we even borrowed the themed Kindle idea espoused by Courtney Lewis at Wyoming Seminary.  They’re a hard sell here!

Still, as we move forward into AY15, we’ll be thinking more about this question and trying to see what combination works best with our students.  Note: our students.  As the previous paragraph illustrates, YMMV when introducing ebooks into your collection.  Some schools just force them down students throats (Cushing Academy, I’m looking at you!) but to me, that feels wrong.  Far better is to keep taking the pulse of the students, seeing what they want and what’s out there (devices, programs, availability, etc.).

How are you dealing with this issue/conundrum?  And how do uRead?

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 2 Comments »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,162 other followers