Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Professional organizations’ Category

Cataloging is FUNdamental

Posted by lpearle on 20 May 2020

Seriously?  How is ALA not requiring this?

When I went for my MLS there were four required classes at the Palmer School and (you guessed it) cataloging was one of them.  My professor was the man who literally wrote the chapter of AACR2R on music cataloging, but friends who had other professors learned just as much.

Yesterday, I and the other librarians met with the librarians from another local school about how we’ve approached revamping our catalog and collection.  We talked about the history of the cataloging projects (including 2005’s recataloging of the microfiche collection), our rebarcoding on the outside of books to make inventory easier, and how we’d approached both moving books around (like the 300s junk drawer and the yes… but no piles), plus how we went about weeding old, duplicate and unneeded books.  We also talked about creating norms for DDC cataloging (eg, books about genocide in general go in 364.151, while books on, say the Rwandan genocides go in 967.571) and how we’re starting to create the same kind of norms for subject headings.

It’s also given us a great, in-depth idea as to what is, and what is not, in our collection.  Not each book, but each subject area.  We know where we need to add books, and where maybe we have have enough (or too many).

Without understand how cataloging works, we’d have a collection that varied greatly from Dewey (not that I think Dewey is the be-all and end-all, but it is what most of our students will use in public libraries). Ours meets DDC, but not always where the catalogers think it should go.  And — no surprise — our students are finding books easier and making better choices.  Isn’t that the real goal?

Posted in Collection Development, Professional organizations, Rants, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Getting started (again)

Posted by lpearle on 1 August 2018

For the 38th year in my life, it’s time to start over.  Again.

The academic year started on July 1, when I placed orders for new books and some supplies.  There’s more to order and a lot of planning to be done.  I’m starting to think about my priorities and goals for the year and just purchased my new notebook for the year (the Leuchtturm 1917 in Anthracite).

The end of last year was filled with research projects (we added two math projects – yes, math) and continuing to work on the collection.  We’ve looked carefully at everything from the 000s – 400s (especially the 300s), and this year plan to get up through the 800s done, leaving the 900s for next year when we’ve done an even better job of looking at research papers and the materials students are using.

One of the exciting things that happened last year was working with Courtney Lewis and Sarah Kelley-Mudie on a presentation during ALA Annual (we may reprise it at AISL’s conference in April):

I’m also starting to plan the LIRT Liaison Committee’s work (I’m Chair for the committee) and continuing to read for LITA’s new Science Fiction Notables list.

And with all that… *poof*… summer’s gone. Almost.

Posted in Professional organizations, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

More Election Prep

Posted by lpearle on 1 March 2018

And here are the non-AASL members of YALSA and ALSC running for ALA Council.  Again, no specific endorsements, just the general one that having school and childrens/young adult librarians on Council is important.  Many candidates are members of all three divisions, which is great for our potential voice in Council.

Keturah Cappadonia, Outreach Consultant, Southern Tier Library System

Lucia M. Gonzalez, Library Director, City of North Miami Public Library

Rhonda K. Gould, Executive Director, Walla Walla County Rural Library District

Now, go vote!

Posted in Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

Election Prep

Posted by lpearle on 27 February 2018

As the ALA Elections approach, it’s time to think about candidates.  Historically, AASL’s members don’t vote, which may be a result of the process or of the way the ballot is presented.  I’ll post YALSA and ALSC related candidates later, but here are some tied to AASL.

Sedley Abercrombie, Lead Library Media Coordinator, Davidson County Schools, Denton, North Carolina

Cassandra Barnett, Program Advisor for School Libraries, Arkansas Department of Education, Little Rock

Shannon DeSantis, School Library Media Specialist, Peoples Academy Middle Level and High School, Morrisville, Vermont

Vicki Morris Emery, Retired School Library Administrator, Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools, Burke, Virginia

Ann Dutton Ewbank, Associate Professor, School Library Media, Montana State University, Bozeman

Carl A. Harvey, II, Assistant Professor, School Librarianship, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia

Laura Hicks, Media Specialist, Frederick (Maryland) High School

Jody K. Howard, Adjunct Professor and Library Consultant, Emporia State University SLIM Program, Denver, Colorado

Melissa Jacobs, Coordinator of Library Services, New York City Dept. of Education/New York City School Library System

Dennis J. LeLoup, School Librarian, Avon Intermediate School East, Avon, Indiana

Steve Matthews, Librarian (EMER), Foxcroft School, Middleburg, Virginia

Robbie Leah Nickel, School Librarian, Sage Elementary School, Spring Creek, Nevada

Toni Negro, Librarian, University of Maryland, Priddy Library, Rockville, Maryland (retired school and university librarian)

Leslie Preddy, School Librarian, Perry Township Schools, Indianapolis, Indiana

Melody Scagnelli-Townley, Library Media Specialist, Joyce Kilmer School, Mahwah, New Jersey

(Note: this is not an endorsement of any of these candidates.  It is an endorsement for the need to have school librarian voices on ALA Council)

Posted in Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

The next level up: #ACRLNEC17

Posted by lpearle on 8 August 2017

Working in an independent school, particularly one usually considered an “elite college preparatory” school means extra pressure to be aware of what my students will be expected to do and know in their next educational institution. It makes sense to spend the day at the ACRLNEC conference because many of the colleges and universities represented will be where my students end up next.

Keynote: Bringing Down the Empire: Remaking Our Work, Our Libraries, Our Selves

What is the Empire in our world? The idea that libraries no longer matter. Now, how do we fight it?

  • Remake Our Work
    • as users change, we have to change, adapt and educate
    • is higher education worth it? or is training (internships, apprenticeships, etc.) better? there’s been a huge change since the 50s, with the current expectation being “of course you’ll go to college” – however, more hands-on, critical thinking tools are needed
    • digital literacy is important: faculty are finally embracing this and the role of librarians in teaching these skills. NOTE: First Year students need research skills and are coming with subpar skills and understandings.
    • the University of Oklahoma has a virtual reality lab – think about using VR as a tool for teaching language, archaeology, history, etc.
  • Remake Our Libraries
    • with all these changes, what you’re doing with your buildings: we are not just print warehouses, so we need to become an exciting destination.
    • think about this problem/conundrum and the pace of change because what works today probably won’t work in a few years – flexibility is critical
    • one idea: use BrightSpot to rethink space; another idea: create rooms for students to Skype/FaceTime with family, friends, potential employers (or colleges)
  • Remake Our Selves
    • managing is a team sport – we need to support training and opportunity to use new skills later (in other words, don’t train then stuff the skill in a drawer)
    • the 23Things idea (BYU turned it into a contest!)

So: what is a librarian? And what is our role in the academic institution of the 21st Century?

The next two sessions were interesting, but one was (again, as at NEAISL) on archives/digital initiatives and the other was not relevant, so we’ll skip those.

New Model for Library Orientation

We don’t really have a library orientation, but that’s something I’d like to try to create. My college library orientation was four days of one hour instruction in a lecture hall, followed by at “quiz” that took several hours (albeit made easier by all the others doing the same quiz and marking answers or sharing). Did I learn anything? Not really, but I’d been using that library for a few years thanks to my father’s being on faculty there and because my high school library used Library of Congress and was, like my employer, an elite college preparatory school. But… we have students coming to us from a variety of backgrounds and levels of preparation, and while the school can test for math and language skills they have no test for research or literacy skills for incoming students. An orientation might help them feel comfortable in the space, with us as learning partners, and with the resources inside.

  • Step One: get away from library jargon, passivity and lack of real need connection
    • the early days at school are overwhelming, and the library shouldn’t contribute to that stress
    • recognize that the library and resources won’t/can’t/shouldn’t compete with their first stop for information (Google and Wikipedia, duh)
  • Step Two: find a model that works for your institution
    • the presenters work at the UVM Medical School library, so they use the clinical care model that students will be using in their every day classes – it’s a format they’re familiar with, so it makes sense and it’s “special stuff” in their lives
    • what does this look like?
      • Need (what information is sought)
      • History of Need
      • Past Information History – social, previous education, family
      • Diagnosis of Needs
      • Review of Information Systems
  • Step Three: ask for feedback from students and teachers
    • does this make sense?
    • does it help?
    • will you remember it?

Other models? The Scientific Method, Literature Review, Annotated Bibliography, Pathfinder/LibGuide, SWOT, Design Thinking.

Other ideas? Consider using Instagram or other social media to post a Research Question of the Week or Information Resource of the Week.

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, School Libraries, Student stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

#NEISL17 Reflections

Posted by lpearle on 3 August 2017

I love the NEAISL conference. I love it even more when I’m not hosting, as I did in 2015 and 2016. For those who don’t know, it’s a 40-year-old conference that brings together independent school librarians in New England (and a few from NY). We meet and talk and learn together for one day and then disappear back to our respective schools until the next year. For some, it’s the only professional development during the year, so organizers take it seriously. This past year we went to Cheshire Academy.

Embedded Librarianship (panel discussion)

This is an idea I’ve been excited about for a few years now and sadly, because of changing jobs and changing staff, haven’t been able to really get into before but this year one of my goals is to create an action plan with the department and start to begin the work over AY18 and AY19. So here’s what we need to start thinking about as we move forward:

  • ask questions of the department heads – what skills do you teach? how does the library fit in? (move from support to teaching)
  • reinforce what’s being taught in classes, using ACRL/ISTE/AASL standards to support our involvement
  • create a booking system for reference opportunities on the website, one that asks students to do some thinking rather than just posing a question
  • work with a local academic library on a Day of Research
  • try to get faculty to allow us to grade rough drafts for process, and be as tough as a college teacher would (it’s eye opening for teachers and students to see what’s really required) – one idea is to put all notes and bib in NoodleTools, but require a printed final draft so you can see the changes between the rough and final version

The big takeaway: teacher buy-in is critical, so we need to form a focus group with friendly – and unfriendly teachers!

Critical Media Literacy (Allison Butler)

What is it? It’s continued inquiry into the “behind the scenes” of ownership, production, audience and distribution of media – getting the broader picture because media does not occur in a vacuum.

One idea? Ask students to pull apart a fashion magazine to separate content from ads. Difficult, right? Thing is, we’re still consuming a lot of traditional media, just not in traditional ways: the audience is no longer well-known, so risk-taking is difficult (think: could Archie Bunker work today? maybe. audiences either were in on the joke or saw him as one of them, which might be the case again today).

It’s equally critical to look at what’s not there, which stories aren’t being told and why. What gets prioritized? who does that prioritization? Think: what’s on Fox vs MSNBC vs NPR vs Breitbart. Part of critical medial literacy is to critique power, not to be partisan.

Critical Media Literacy (panel discussion)

  • We need to expand spaces for students to interact with the library
  • Create “Calling BS” posters for all subjects, all topics (get all departments involved) – why stats, data, news, etc. are “BS”
  • You probably will, at some point, retweet fake news – it’s ok. Learn from that failure how to better check sources and biases.
  • Think about how we ask questions: if I can’t find get the information, is that my fault or is there deliberate obfuscation going on?

Critical media literacy isn’t bashing, it’s questioning.

The last panel was on Archives, which I’m sitting on for a while. That’s next summer’s Big Project, my third school archives reorganization. One of these years, I’ll get it right.

Can’t wait to learn with these people next year.

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, Student stuff | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Why is AASL going back to a middle school mindset?

Posted by lpearle on 24 March 2017

Ok, to be fair, it might have been a high school mindset when the Social Media Recognition Task Force came up with the Social Media Superstar program.

When I started seeing tweets and comments about it my first thoughts were that it was interesting that AASL, which has (IMVHO) spectacularly failed to use social media well, was recognizing “superstars” in the profession.  Who were these “superstars”?  So I followed the link to see the list.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

See how many familiar faces are on it?  Ok, so that’s one question answered: for the most part, “superstar” equals people we’ve known and have followed for years.

Then see how we’re supposed to get from “finalist” to “winner”?  Yes, it’s a popularity contest.  Like in middle school, how many Valentines will each finalist get?  Or maybe it’s more like the high school so-called superlatives – which of them has the Best Hair or is part of the Cutest Couple?  Seriously?????  THIS is how we recognize excellence: by asking which contestant gets the most/best “endorsements” from their peers?  I’m…. remarkably unsurprised and at the same time incredibly disappointed.

Instead, what if AASL had sought out newbies?  People 1-5 years (do tiers: 1-3, 3-7, 8-10 years) into their library professional lives who aren’t commonly known names?  People who are doing really interesting things that may have originally been suggested or modeled by others, but with a fresh twist?  People who are deserving of recognition by being potential new leaders in school librarianship.  And what if AASL didn’t make it a contest, but sought out private nominations and then the task force evaluated them, announcing “We recommend you follow/friend/pin/whatever” these people because we see great things here and you need to see them, too?  What if they weren’t names we already knew, but were exciting new discoveries?  Not the over-hype of being a Mover & Shaker, but the recognition of being a fresh new voice?

I write this as someone who knows and counts as friends several of the contestants.  And as someone who got the semi-embarassed email saying, “As some of you know I have been nominated for this aasl recognition. Apparently the way it works is folks leave comments in this post. If any of you are so inclined to leave some comments regarding my use of social media in the realm of librarianship, I’d certainly appreciate it!” I love this person’s work and would happily comment away, but the idea that people have to beg to get AASL’s imprimatur?  Oh hell no.  I just can’t.

Far be it from me to recommend a course of action, but perhaps a few “aren’t we all grown-ups here?  why make this a beauty/popularity contest?” comments – which will get stopped by their moderator queue but they’ll still have to read – will convince the task force to rethink their tactics for 2018.  Or even (a gal can dream) stop this year’s and declare it an amazing tie.

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What’s missing in this job description?

Posted by lpearle on 20 July 2015

NAIS has a very little-used elist for librarians (I guess we prefer AISL’s list, or local lists, or something run by ALA?).  Last week they asked for librarian’s help creating the perfect Director of Libraries job description, I’m guessing to go along with their Guidelines of Professional Practice for librarians.

Leaving aside the problematic use of “library media” (preferred term: library – see AASL’s thoughts on this), I’ve highlighted a few things I’m wondering about.  Before I respond, what do you think?  What would you add, or change, or delete? Some recent job descriptions I’ve seen have had really interesting ideas added – what thinking “outside the bun” would you add?

The Director of Library and Information Services/Librarian will:

  • Ensure that the library’s academic and technical resources advance the school’s educational program.
  • Collaborate with classroom teachers in the curriculum design process and assist them in delivering an integrated library media program. (jargon!  what does this even mean?)
  • Develop policies and programming that will establish standards for and definitions of information literacy and bolster support for library media services that contribute to an information-literate student body.
  • Develop, acquire, and maintain a collection of resources appropriate to the curriculum, the students, and the instructional strategies of the school’s faculty.  What about reading and learning for pleasure?
  • Collaborate with academic departments/discipline-specific coordinators on specific needs and growth opportunities.
  • Foster an environment of creativity and innovation.
  • Research and evaluate new and emerging information technologies.
  • Prepare and manage the library budget.
  • Evaluate and purchase technical equipment. (won’t this interfere with the Technology Department’s budget and workings?  shouldn’t this be “in conjunction with the Technology Department, or something similar?)
  • Maintain an attractive, dynamic, current, and well-stocked library conducive to reading, studying, and research.
  • Select, process, and make readily available traditional print resources, the Internet, electronic databases, video, audio, and film. (maybe just say “a variety of resources, including print and digital, as appropriate to the school’s needs)
  • Maintain a circulation system that ensures the prompt return of materials and their ready availability to other borrowers. (“ensures”?  not quite sure what that means.  also, “prompt return” implies no semester-long borrowing, reserve shelf materials or renewals)
  • Provide bibliographic and reference services for teachers and students.
  • Provide instruction for students in the use of library resources.
  • Promote the ethical use of information.
  • Empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, and knowledgeable researchers.
  • Instill a love of reading and learning in students and ensure their equitable access to information.
  • Participate in the recruitment, hiring, training, and supervision of other library professionals and volunteers.
  • Maintain regular contact with stakeholders through school publications and online media. (make sure you coordinate with the school’s communications department, A&D, etc.!)
  • Act as an advocate of the library, share expertise at faculty meetings, serve on academic committees, and take an active role in accreditation processes.
  • Network with local librarians, maintain active memberships in professional associations, and promote the school in the wider community.
  • Facilitate personal growth through professional development opportunities. (doesn’t this depend on the school supporting this? many librarians don’t make enough to do this all out-of-pocket)
  • Perform other duties as assigned by the head of school.


Other Duties

[Include any other duties that may be required of the position, such as coaching responsibilities, dorm duties, advising, or other specific duties. Be sure to include any job duties unique to the position such as work hours, travel, evening and weekend duties, public appearances, etc.]


Common Qualification Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree in Library Science, Information Studies, or a similar field
  • Additional degree in Education a plus (why? are the subject teachers asked not only for their Master’s but also an MEd?)
  • 5+ years of experience in library program management (so, how do new Directors get a start?)
  • Demonstrated experience in a supervisory role (see above)
  • Demonstrated success collaborating with faculty in all disciplines to enable/enhance student learning
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Exceptional organizational skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Detail oriented
  • Committed to diversity
  • Passionate about working with and inspiring high school learners (what about those of us who work K-12? or in K-4, 5-8 or some other combination? why not just say “inspiring learners”?)

Posted in Professional organizations, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Fitting in

Posted by lpearle on 5 May 2015

The NEAISL15 conference is over, and it seemed like everyone had a good time and got a lot out of it (whew!).  Several members were heading to Tampa for AISL15, a conference I haven’t attended since 2001’s Library Space Odyssey (don’t ask).  In two months, I’ll be in San Francisco for ALA Annual, but in between I could to ACRL NEC.  Looking ahead, there are AASL, YALSA and other conferences, symposia and workshops I could be considering… but beyond having limited professional development funds and not wanting to be away from “home” all the time, what conferences (and what organizations) are really going to give me and my school the most bang for the buck?

When I first started my library life, it was clear that joining AASL was necessary.  After all, working in a school library = joining the national school librarian’s association, right? Imagine my surprise when many of my colleagues didn’t belong!  They were members of other ALA divisions, or only joined the state organization, or only the local one.  Did.Not.Compute.  But as time has passed, I, too, have dropped or changed memberships based on what I need and what the organization is giving me.

This is one of those “where do I fit in” moments for me: who will give me the greatest learning opportunities?  where can I make a difference?  That’s not to say that there needs to be a clear path to leadership on a committee or overall, but can I contribute in some way?  Even more important is the learning.  I stopped going to one conference because it was too much money for too little learning.  As a newbie, it was great but in the middle phase of my professional life, too much was geared to those newbies, or to people who weren’t reading blogs and professional magazines and keeping up with trends and tools.  One conference session touted iPhones as the Next Great Thing (remember when Palm Pilots were?), but two years after they’d been introduced. Granted, conference proposals are due so far in advance that sometimes things are outdated, but maybe then the presenters should have upped the game, shown new things and not given a basic intro?  All too frequently, the sessions are geared for the newbies, the beginners, and there are few that are for “advanced” people.

Which leads me to continue to ask, “where do I fit in?”  AASL doesn’t speak to me any longer, YALSA is – after a few years of seeming like a home – really more interested in public librarians than schools, ALSC is for a population younger than I serve.  Reaching up to ACRL makes sense, as does continuing with AISL because of our shared independent status, and then there’s RUSA for reference and RA.  And maybe, after years of joining and joining, that’s enough…

How many of you are feeling the same?  What are you doing about it?

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