Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘School Libraries’ Category

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 »

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 »

Help Yourself – personalized learning at #alaac15

Posted by lpearle on 9 July 2015

(another program that will be posted online – check here)

Many schools and libraries are starting to embrace personalized learning, blended learning, the flipped classroom or whatever new buzzword appears.  At the Online School for Girls, they’re talking about “competency-based instruction” that puts learners at the center, meeting their needs and goals (in other words, it’s not teacher or student driven, it’s learner driven).  This approach allows teachers to work smarter.

Projects are remapped to put the student learner at the center, allowing for deeper engagement with the materials :

  • what major competencies are desired?
  • what is the individual student profile (what type of learner are they? what do they already know?)
  • what “pathway options” are there to get the student to understand the material?
  • what operational elements need to be designed?

remember: the pathway is less important than the competencies

You can build units in your LMS – Haiku, Schoology, WhippleHill, LibGuides, Moodle, etc. – chunking competencies and building in the pathway options.

Personalized learning is data-driven: always assign what students are learning and circle back if necessary.  In other words, assess assess assess (not necessarily formal assessments!).

In order to do this, you need to think about the school climate and have conversations about pedagogy.  For this to work, creating a climate of personalized learning needs to be a strategic intention, with an evaluation of space and investment in infrastructure for what the student’s needs are. Does the school’s mission have learners at the center?

The next speaker was from SFPL, highlighting their new literacy and learning center, a place where all kinds of learning can take place.  They’ve relabeled their classroom the Learning Studio/Learning Theatre, giving it flexible furnishings that can be positions to best assist what the program is.

Other ideas:

  • develop a public instruction plan
  • create a collection of resources and programs
  • instructional materials and tools are important (use YouTube for a tutorial collection, create handouts as take-aways)

Most learners want hands-on help! Make that happen with drop-in classes, 1:1 tech help (20 min sessions), online course instruction and meet-ups.

Finally, we heard from VATech, which has created a program that stresses empowering students by partnering with faculty – to do this they’ve developed programs and tools.

Good place to start: check with the first year experience librarians at schools popular with students and build down from that

One thing they’ve created is an iPad tour of the library: auto-generated, outcome based tour (there are also auto-graded assessments).  They’re now thinking about beacons, QR codes and apps to provide the same opportunities.

It’s important to train the trainers: creating lesson plans and activities that teachers can use/drop-in to their classes.  Your role is that of coach/consultant, not teacher. Example? their Working with the Library toolkit. The anecdotal evidence is that this works, freeing the librarians to do 1:1 assistance.

VT has also created an Instructional Learning Community with the assumption that all librarians are learners.  It’s open to anyone who wants to talk about teaching and includes a Read/Lead group who read and discuss a book that deals with learning, pedagogy, schools, etc.

Tool to check out: EDpuzzle (allows students to insert questions they have about the video tutorials they’re watching)

 

Posted in Conferences, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Learning to let go

Posted by lpearle on 15 June 2015

Before I became a school librarian, the end was easy: in the corporate world, you handed in your two week’s notice, possibly trained your replacement, and moved on, and in the theatre world the production ended and you moved on.  Easy.  But in schools, things aren’t quite so cut-and-dried.  I know at least one Head of School who announced retirement in April of one year, looking at leaving in June the following year.  If you get a new job, you might know as early as January but again not leave until the end of June.

My first library job was a one year position, and even so I wanted to do the right thing and make sure everything was finished before leaving.  At one point in early June the other librarian said, “I think Friday should be your last day.”  She was right: there would always be something more to do.  The next job lasted longer, and as faculty I wasn’t expected to set foot in the building from the day after graduation in June until the opening faculty meeting in September. However… there were always magazines to check in.  And I couldn’t place the summer book and supply orders until July 1, when the fiscal year ticked over.  And then there was making sure that what arrived got paid for in a timely manner.  And maybe creating some displays of the new books.  Working as an administrator over the summer meant that got done, but also other projects.  It was (as Roseanne Rosannadanna said) always something.

I’m back to being faculty now, with summers off.  And yet… Still, I’m staying strong.  There are a few advisor reports I need to write, some books to shelve and the big summer book order to prepare.  The goal? Letting goof it all by tomorrow.    What doesn’t get done by tomorrow afternoon can wait, or wasn’t important after all. It’s time to step back, to take time to relax and recharge.

I suggest you do so as soon as you can, too.

Posted in Life Related, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Obituary vs. Eulogy

Posted by lpearle on 12 May 2015

Last week a F/friend recommended the book The Road to Character by David Brooks, and mentioned that there was going to be a discussion on Book-TV (aka “C-SPAN 2″ on weekdays).  I taped it but didn’t have time to watch until this weekend.

Book TV

One of the things that stuck with me was the difference he draws between building your obituary (or resume – they’re virtually the same) and building your eulogy.  It made me wonder which we’re stressing for our students.

We do a lot of talking about building a resume or portfolio for college, stressing that students need to think about community service and volunteering, doing that service trip to some poverty-stricken area, considering some foreign travel so they have cross-cultural experiences, perhaps getting a summer internship, or taking a leadership position within the school,  in addition to doing well on APs and other tests.  The more “unique” your profile, the better it is for college.   And once in college, there are internships and more, all to make you desirable to an employer.  Since few of them will stay with one company, in one position, for their entire work career, continuing that resume building is critical.  And then there’s civic engagement, joining the PTA or Lions, becoming a volunteer EMT or running for local office.  It’s all about a list of accomplishments that can lift them to the next level until, finally, it’s a list of what they did that can be printed in a newspaper (assuming that newspapers are around at that point).

But what about teaching them to build their eulogy?  Were they kind to strangers? Do they seek out new students to show them how to fit into their new environment?  Do they radiate love for others? Are they honorable? Trustworthy?  What will people say about them at their funeral/memorial service? Or, even closer to their lives, what do their teachers and friends say about them when creating a recommendation or speaking about them at an awards ceremony or other event where they are being honored?  Are they living lives that inspire others to be like them? (Forgiving, of course, those moments when they have a bad day, or makes mistakes – as we all do.)

Mr. Brooks makes the point that we rarely have conversations or use language about morality and creating that moral compass.  Our lives, and those of our students, should be less about Facebook “likes” and more about real life appreciation and admiration.

In our conversations and teachings, especially when the topic is digital citizenship, we often stress the importance of not bullying, or trolling, or building our self-esteem on what people say or post about it.  How often do we turn that to non-digital citizenship?  How can we start having those discussions without sounding overly moralistic, preachy or like an old-fogey?  And what books can we put in our collections that inspire these qualities without being overly moralistic, preachy, etc.?

Posted in Musings, School Libraries | 1 Comment »

What am I missing?

Posted by lpearle on 30 April 2015

Recently there was a report that proved that having a certified teacher-librarian in a school leads to higher student achievement.  Of course this was met with much elation and excitement: look!  we do matter!!

Leaving the question of title and certification (I am not state certified, nor do I call myself a teacher-librarian) aside, I feel like this study – and many of its predecessors – are missing something.  Something like context, or the bigger picture.  Here’s what I don’t see when looking at the survey:

  • what’s the student/teacher ratio?
  • what’s the annual expenditure per student overall, not just in the library?
  • does the library provide access to state purchased databases?
  • what’s the average income level in the school?
  • how many students get free or reduced meals?
  • how involved are the parents in the life of the school?
  • what is the attendance rate?

Here’s one example: my nephew works in an inner city middle school where many students are eligible for free meals.  Despite this, he frequently (ok, daily) brings in fruit and a few candy bars because there are students who are literally crying from hunger after having no food at home for dinner, and then not making it to school in time for breakfast.  Guess what? That school has a state certified librarian in its library.

One of my library friends said this about the study:

What a weird mish-mash of data that is. And can we talk about the fact that so many schools didn’t respond to the survey? And this paragraph, which is exactly the opposite of the basis of so many federal reform efforts, “Overall, smaller schools tend to lag behind larger schools in academic achievement, as do schools located in more rural areas with higher rates of poverty.”

I guess this is the “money” graph, but still, this is sort of sketchy. I agree that there are many factors that we aren’t getting at here, including ” controlling for school size and student income level” which I don’t see anywhere in Appendix C. 

The fact is that there are many factors, that schools where there are smaller classes, teachers who spend extra time with students who are struggling, budgets that support a strong library collection (print and digital), parental involvement, high attendance rates, higher overall income bases providing good salaries and faculty retention have higher student achievement than those that have large, overfilled classes and schools, with old, outdated equipment and supplies, with teachers who just. don’t. care.  As much as I might want to believe that it’s all about the librarian (or teacher-librarian, or media specialist, or whatever the title), I just can’t.

So here’s the challenge we face: there are many studies out there, all saying it’s about us and our presence, our program, in a school.  Can these studies be replicated (I know of a few that cannot be)?  Do they hold up to outside scrutiny?  And if not, why aren’t we demanding better studies?  Why are we staking our professional reputations and advocacy programs on questionable data?

 

Posted in School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Reclamation

Posted by lpearle on 25 March 2015

Recently, there have been discussions (both at school and in popular culture) about who gets to use “the n-word” – the Oklahoma SAE “chant”, LiLo’s tweet are among the conversation starters.  I recently watched Pride, and there is a scene where some bystanders call the activists “queer” and the response is that there is a history in the LGBTQ community to “own” the word by using and thereby decreasing its power to hurt (remember the We’re Here, We’re Queer chants during the early days of AIDS?).  Last week a F/friend gave a presentation about the “Disorderly [Quaker] Women” who led the abolition and suffrage movement and asked the question, “where did ‘Quaker’ come from?” (it was deragotory; the founders, and the followers, called themselves Friends but now both are acceptable).

There is – obviously – a long history of groups taking an insulting word or phrase and using it themselves.  So why is this word different? Why haven’t other words been reclaimed (for a list of some of those words, see the Scrabble banned words list)? My theory is that it’s about the leadership of the group taking ownership, or not, of the word/phrase.  Yes, some of these words are out in popular culture, leading to some confusion among non-members of the group (the “if [singer/actor/comedian name] uses it, why can’t I?” complaint).  But are the leaders using it?

Aside: leaders is the wrong word, admittedly, but it’s standing in for “elders, respected members of the group, activists, etc.”

In the case of the word first mentioned, do we hear people like President Obama using it? Congressman John Lewis? Henry Louis Gates? Even Richard Pryor stopped following his trip to Kenya. Rabbis and Jewish leaders don’t use the words and phrases that denigrate them.  Ditto Italians, Chinese, etc. leaders.

So, how do we have those uncomfortable conversations about words that are unacceptable, when for some, using that word is empowering, or reclaiming, the word?  What is the role of the library, beyond ensuring that if the resources we have contain those words, they do so for defensible reasons?

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

Was it worth it?

Posted by lpearle on 17 March 2015

Just before Spring Break started, there was a tweet (or a blog post, or an e-mail – I can’t find it any longer) about voting for the 2015 ALA Annual Ignite Conversations. So, being dutiful, I logged in to ALA Connect and voted.  The session was on the things we don’t learn in library school (and OMG are there many) and in some ways reminded me of the apron my father used to wear that read, For this I spent 4 years in college? Sadly, I can’t link to that session or reprint the description because for some reason I can’t find it again – nor can I find the two on LibGuides I know I voted for at the time.

The point is, this is one of those perennial conversations: I went to graduate school and the training didn’t prepare me for [fill in the blank skill/task].  Thinking back on my previous posts about what we aspire to be doing as good (or effective) school librarians, I also think about the things we do that we receive no training for, nor any discussion about, yet are expected to do.  I’m not just talking about things like fixing the printer/copier/projection devices, I’m talking about things like covering books.  You know, the basics.

It also made me think about the various things that we do that are outside our job description.  In speaking to several of my friends/colleagues, and not including the things we take on in a boarding school (like dorm duty), I come up with this:

    • Create professional development powerpoints and department-specific activities for our four days of school-wide professional development this year
    • Proofread faculty comments at end of semester before grades are released to students and parents
    • Create online forms and surveys for faculty voting on student awards and honors
    • Purchase all books for student awards.
    • Post principal’s newsletter online and distribute
    • Create class schedules for all students
    • Produce data analysis for each teacher in English and math based on formative assessments
    • Proctor all extended time midterms, finals and SATs.
    • Set up lists of students based on teachers and class periods in online formative assessment software
    • Collect acceptable usage paperwork and connect student and faculty-owned devices to the school network
    • Report issues with student’s school-issued 1:1 devices, pass them to the technology staff, get them back to students when issues are resolved
    • Working with every class in two grades to talk about standardized test-taking strategies
    • Supervise more than one hundred twenty students every day for study hall
    • Oversee morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up (“oversee” also meaning help students in/out of cars)
    • Supervise more than three dozen students every day taking online courses through our state system or through dual enrollment at the community college
    • Supervise student workers in coffeeshop each morning
    • Repair and collect monthly copier totals from the more than one dozen photocopiers on campus
    • Order toner, copier paper, bulletin board paper and other communal supplies
    • Create, then update, our annual district technology plan
    • Apply for e-rate funding; oversee expenditure of funds received
    • Oversee annual setup of online bookstore, work with students to download textbooks
    • Occasionally back-up front-desk receptionist and/or mailroom
    • Supervise lunch period, including outdoor recess

Does that make us less effective as librarians?  Or more effective as colleagues?

 

Posted in School Libraries | 2 Comments »

Aspirational Librarianship

Posted by lpearle on 27 February 2015

In the September/October issue of Knowledge Quest, Buffy and Kristin coauthored an article that suggested that there was a widening gap between the standards and expectations AASL promotes and the reality many of us face in our schools (even those of us in well-funded independent schools not tied into e-rate funding/filtering, with 1:1 iPad programs and not required to undergo state testing).  As I read it, my head nodded as I recognized challenges that I and others have experienced.

Let’s look at the first question they pose, “What does it mean to be great?”  By AASL’s standards, the programs I’ve worked with are failures.  Collaboration and co-teaching with every teacher hasn’t taken place.  Even worse, I don’t insist that teachers work with me on every project!  Of course I’m open – but if they can’t, or if a project gets cancelled (for example, due to too many snow days) or truncated, I do the best I can and move on.  Those projects may not be as deep and inquiry rich as they’re supposed to be.  Sometimes students graduate without having done any deep research at all.  And then there are the non-integrated information/research skills classes, ones that may tie in with an ongoing project but are fix-scheduled and year-long, so the content doesn’t always have a curricular match. I take on non-library related work (like overseeing the online bookstore set-up, or proctoring lunch in the cafeteria while leaving the library unattended).  Leadership in tech?  That might step on our computer science teachers and tech integrators toes, let alone the Director of IT’s position on where the school is going.

Do I feel like a failure? No.  I aspire to what AASL considers “excellence”, keeping that as a potential goal while looking at the reality of the situation on the ground.  Only one or two projects that go further than a 3-5 page paper with bibliography?  Great.  Bring it.  I can work with that and aspire to building a stronger connection with others in that department or in the school that lead to deeper inquiry.  Need me to take on a fixed scheduled class?  Ok.  Let’s see what I can do to bring skills into the class even if there’s nothing curricular to work with, like evaluating information about current events or finding credible resources on topics of personal interest.  I can aspire to moving to a flexible schedule, or to integrating (slowly) with what the classroom teachers are doing.

Then I read Judy Moreillon’s response to the article. I think she missed the point.  My reading of the article wasn’t, “let’s get rid of the standards and the expectations and the high bar, instead let’s focus on how to help librarians in schools do the best possible job with their situation.” She’s dead right about the fact that for some, meeting with every class, every student for deep inquiry-based projects is simply impossible due to the student/librarian ratio (at my school, it’s 160:1; at my cousin’s selective high school, it’s 450:1; and at another NYC highly selective high school, it’s 1506:1).  But this paragraph made me cringe:

Working with these educators and students should be a priority for school librarians who will continue to serve other students on an as needed basis and work with teachers who engage in cooperative planning and schedule the library in open times that are not being used for in-depth learning. (If the library is large enough, multiple classes can use the library space at one time, but only those teachers who have planned with the librarian and scheduled the librarian’s time as well will have the benefit of her/his expertise.)

Really?  Maybe in a public school where the union can protect you but at my school?  If I told teachers that they could come in, but I was only going to work with the ones who have collaborated with me beforehand on the project creation?  I’d be looking for a new job, not to mention having an incredibly empty library space as the teachers stayed away in droves.  Last year we had one week where we had 10-13 classes in every day (there are only 7 periods in a day) and we worked with every one of them as the teacher needed – none of them did the level of collaboration that I aspire to, but hey, maybe next year.  Let me build the relationship, slowly showing them how I can add value to their projects and becoming a partner with them.  I’d rather be overwhelmed with students asking me questions despite a lack of integration into the class than sitting there at the information desk listening to the crickets.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Here’s the thing about aspirational librarianship: we know where the goal posts are, and we hope to some day get there.  But for now, in the real world in which we work, we need help and guidance on how to do our jobs better without alienating teachers and without insisting that if we’re not adhering to what AASL says we should be doing/being we’re just not being valued or doing a good job.  To my mind, it feels like the equivalent of being the old-fashioned shh’er: my way and only my way in my library.   Thank you Buffy and Kristin for raising the question.

So, what answers do you have?  To what do you aspire?

 

Posted in Musings, Professional organizations, School Libraries | 8 Comments »

The care and feeding of librarians

Posted by lpearle on 23 February 2015

Last week I was sitting in a faculty meeting, getting ready to leave to proctor evening study hall, when suddenly a group of students came running into the building exclaiming, “There’s a gas leak in the library!”  Needless to say, my feet were running as I phoned our security office.  The sirens were blaring, lights flashing and of course we were not allowed into the building to see what, in fact, was happening.  So I went home, study hall cancelled for the night.  Soon after I got a text asking me to return, to help save the materials in the Archives (housed in the library).

What I found when I got there was a broken pipe flooding the ground floor, creating a sodden carpet and destroying several outer boxes of archives materials.  Thanks to the quick thinking and work of our maintenance people and a few faculty members, we were able to get everything off the floor and rebox most of the items.

However, before all that, when we didn’t know what was happening, I had a few flashback moments to 2007, and the Hackley School fire. Could I really do another complete reconstruction?  Could I really do a partial one?

And I realized that despite the presentations I’ve given on disaster recovery, I wasn’t paying attention to one of the most important pieces of advice I gave others: take care of yourself.  In the midst of the crisis moment and during the recovery/repair phase, self-care is critical.  Not just when lightning strikes (or a pipe bursts), but when ever there is a huge change in your professional circumstances. Most – many? all? – of us want to be seen as professional, as having the proverbial stiff upper lip and just getting on with the job, no matter what’s going on outside.  And that’s all well and good, because being that oasis of calm, of dispassionate information, of normalcy can be invaluable to your community.  When September 11th was ongoing, I was lucky enough to have outside sources of information who let me know what, exactly, was happening (one was a major in the Canadian Army, getting realtime accurate information, the other was outside NYC and able to get through when local information sources were failing).  It helped the school know what not to believe.  And that’s the same attitude I took post-fire, to not show panic or despair, but to get on with it.

That was at work.  But at home I took care to do things that comforted me.  And slowly, given the pressures of work and new jobs and moving and life, I’ve gotten away from that.

This is important because I suspect I’m not alone.  The “always on” nature of life now, barely imaginable in 2007, doesn’t lend itself to down time away from whatever the situation is.  We’re pressured to do more with our time, to be more available professionally and personally, and not to seek things that might take us away from that to a place where we can find peace and time to do serious self-care.

At the upcoming NEAISL conference, and at this summer’s ALA and other conferences, meetings, leadership summits, etc. I hope we pay more attention to this.  Yes, it’s important to learn about new tools and to share tips and techniques, but it’s critical to learn to take the time for ourselves.

Posted in Musings, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

 
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