Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘School Libraries’ Category

My reading journey

Posted by lpearle on 16 August 2018

Last week I had an upsetting exchange with two friends on Twitter that I have to share because school’s starting and this nonsense will start again.

But first, some background.  Most people know I read quite a few books in a year (I also read magazines and newspapers).  I’ve never understood people who say “I don’t read” because I’m reasonably certain they’re not actually illiterate.  What they mean is they don’t read books (or as many as I do) or they don’t read novels or something.  I also doubt those Pew surveys that say that people don’t read books after they leave college: how are they defining books?  Are they including graphic novels or audiobooks?  Anyway.

My mother has an MEd and for a few years before I entered her life, she taught Kindergarten and first grade.  She’s an incredibly smart person and yet, somehow, the idea that there were developmental differences between a toddler and one of her students didn’t quite sink in, so when I was 2 1/2 years old, she started to teach me to read by placing labels on things all over the house (so the table had a big label that said, you guessed it, table on it, etc.).  By the time I was in Kindergarten I was reading above my age group so my teacher gave me additional reading; when we moved from Ohio to Central New York, it was clear that between that and my father’s teaching me basic math (and my grandfather teaching me cursive!) first grade would be boring, so I moved up to second grade.  Dad used to read to me, really bringing his favorite childhood stories to life with voices and inflections; when I was seven, he started <i>Treasure Island</i> and for some reason never got through the last few chapters – to this day, I don’t know how things end.  He’s still around and I live in hope he’ll finish.

The next year, a babysitter gave me her old Nancy Drews and I read <i>The Clue in the Dancing Puppet</i> one night – it gave me my one and only wake up screaming nightmare.  My parents suggested that perhaps I not read any more of those. At nine, I read <i>The Hobbit</i> and by ten I’d read <i>The Lord of the RIngs</i>.  Then we moved to Geneva and I discovered Enid Blyton and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer… and Victoria Holt’s <i>The Mistress of Mellyn</i>.  My school librarian realized I was a reader, but when I concentrated on the Blytons and rediscovered Nancy Drew, she spoke with my mother about how I could be reading better (or more difficult, or something like that) books.  Mom apparently told her I was fine.

Back in the US, in eighth grade, two things happened.  The first was we spent part of our year in English doing minicourses.  Somehow, I didn’t get my first three choices so they put me in a speed reading class.  At the start of the class we took some test to determine our starting speed and I tested at 1000wpm.  The teacher left me alone after that.  The second was a standardized test that determined your reading level, and for some reason we graded each other’s tests before the teacher asked “how many got xx wrong? you’re reading at y level. how many got xx-1 wrong? you’re reading at y+1 level” etc.  She stopped when they got to those who had 10 wrong, then counted.  After double counting, she asked who was missing… and the person grading my test said, “Laura got none wrong” which apparently meant I was reading at a college or above level.

None of this made a difference to my reading – I read what I wanted, when I wanted.  Rereading things like <i>Mistress of Mellyn</i> as a later teen made me realize how much of that book I’d missed at age 10.  As an adult, I read a wide range of books, from picture books to learned tomes.  I’m not saying this as a humblebrag, just as information.  And over the past few years, I’ve been increasingly grateful that back in the 60s and 70s we didn’t have programs like AR and F&P, and no one cared about lexiles.  I’m astoundingly unatheletic, nor am I interested in crafts like scrapbooking.  If I’d been born in the 90s or later, who knows how my teachers and librarians might have killed my love of reading and how unhappy I’d be with nothing but tv or videos to keep me occupied.

So, with all that as background, here’s part of the conversation last week:

Um, excuse me?  Please tell me this was misheard, or misunderstood.

And here’s Angie, with the perfect response.

We have some amazing readers at my school.  Last year, one high school student borrowed a bunch of classics (including <i>Moby Dick</i>, which was handed back with a DNF comment) as well as the latest in YA.  Imagine if we’d said that something was above or below her AR level or Lexile level?  It’s not just about the incredible waste of money paying for these programs, nor the time spent managing the programs.  It’s about loving reading and encouraging reading at all levels, in all genres.  Who knows where this student’s reading journey started, or where it will end?  My only goal is to make sure it doesn’t end too soon.

And if we’re being honest, isn’t that the goal of all school librarians and English teachers?  If it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

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

I’m so excited!

Posted by lpearle on 14 August 2018

Not by the fact that in less than two weeks I’ll be sitting in Opening Meetings for the year, talking about our focus for the year and how we’ll move forward on several initiatives.  And certainly not by the fact that I’ll have to be up all day, with no nap time.  What’s exciting me is this email from one of our Class IV Deans (that’s ninth grade to most schools):

[W]e will be launching the Class IVs and their advisors onto a Quest Challenge. As part of this challenge, we have included the library as a destination where these advisory groups will need to complete a challenge in order to earn a set of points. The goal is to get the Class IVs to become familiar with the library… You can come up with a bunch of fun things and rotate them through with different advisory teams. We will have roughly 15 teams of two advisories each. So you can have them look for different books, or find different things all around the library. If you and the librarians are willing to hand out the tasks and then mark them and award points, then you can make the tasks as fun and varied as you wish. I really want to kids to know how great our library is and who the librarians are right off the bat. Just remember that they each will only have a max of 10 minutes to complete their library challenge.

So excited!

Two years ago we tried to do an introduction challenge for the students (all of them) and that didn’t work for a wide variety of reasons.  This isn’t we librarians doing it on our own, it’s part of the orientation for new students (and advisors will be there!  many of whom never come to the library!).  That we only have 10 minutes isn’t great, but it’s enough to give them a little taste.

Excuse me while I start to think about what we can have them find.

Posted in School Libraries, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Future work

Posted by lpearle on 9 August 2018

At AISLNOLA Courtney provided inspiration to once again dig into the high school-college skills continuum (something I’ve been thinking about for over 20 years).  Following up on the research she and Sarah did with First Year Experience Librarians, I and one of my librarians created a survey for independent school librarians to give us all some benchmarks; we then created infographics condensing that information.

Survey of Independent Schools

Survey of First Year Experience Librarians

Need more?

Ok, so, now what?  Well, we’re going to reopen the survey (maybe tweak a few questions) to collect more data to share with others.  I’ve also shared what we know now with our History Department Chair and am hoping to have conversations with that department and the Academic Committee about what we (as a school, and as librarians) can do to best prepare our students for their next academic experience.

Posted in Musings, Pedagogy, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 6 August 2018

As promised, here are more of those links I’ve collected.  Helpful tip: if you’re saving things as Twitter bookmarks, you can access them on your laptop by changing from twitter.com to m.twitter.com.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

  • As a lifelong Red Sox fan, it’s fun checking out the Library of Congress’ Baseball Archives.  It’s probably fun for fans of other teams, too.
  • Timesuck, but in a good way: GeoGuesser.
  • When I attend conferences (in person or virtually) I take notes longhand and then transcribe into a blog post (or other document).  NPR on why it helps me learn.

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 30 July 2018

Summer break is the perfect time to get my personal life in order, including some summer cleaning, digital style. The below is what’s been languishing my Feedbin Starred Articles (still need to tackle the Twitter bookmarks, so stay tuned!)

School Life

  • We teach students to use the CRAP Test as they review websites (if I could insist they use it for all resources, I would!) and then this link floated across my Twitter feed and I’m reassessing the checklist approach to evaluation.  It’s also important to have conversations about what news is supposed to do.
  • One of our teachers had his students do a project commenting on the various art pieces around campus and then attaching the videos to a GMap.  What if the had done something like this, a virtual reality tour (not of UNESCO Heritage sites but campus)?
  • Years ago I’d add websites to the online catalog, but checking that those links worked was challenging; now we use LibGuides to create Resource Guides for classes and projects.  These “magical portals” are definitely getting added! I’m also pondering ways to convince students to use these alternative search engines, instead of automatically going Google.
  • If you’ve worked at a school long enough, you’ll realize that some student has become famous (or, occasionally, infamous).  Does the fact that you knew them “when” mean you should talk about them?

Miscellany

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

Think before you write

Posted by lpearle on 25 July 2018

Yes, this is about that Forbes article, the one about libraries and Amazon.  I’m not linking there  (YALSA has a version if you must read it), but there is great analysis over on Wonkette and Quartz among others. Quartz also mentions that Forbes actually took the article down, because “…This article was outside of this contributor’s specific area of expertise, and has since been removed.”

Perhaps you’re now asking what was this contributor’s specific area of expertise?  He’s Chair of the Economics Department at LIU’s CW Post campus and an author (contrary to one twitter rant, he’s not a libertarian, although his co-author appears to be one).  And this is where my heart sank: LIU is also the home of the Palmer School of Library and Information Science.  If you go over to my cv, you’ll see that I got my MLS there in 1996.  While most of my classes were held in their outpost at NYU’s Bobst Library, I did take three classes on the Post campus.  In their library.

So not only is the author outside his area of expertise, he’s insulting colleagues who are working to train new librarians.  In an attempt to change the narrative when “library twitter” started to react (spoiler alert: we weren’t pleased), the following was added:

To be fair, library surveys do not seem to confirm the idea that public libraries don’t have the value they used to. A Pew Research Center survey finds that Millennials are the most likely generations to use public libraries. Though it isn’t clear whether “public libraries” are community libraries or school libraries.

Let’s ignore the fact that he’s trusting Pew (statistical accuracy is questionable) and focus on the fact that, despite working at the same institution that trains librarians, he clearly doesn’t understand the difference between a “school” library and a “community” library (what most of us call a public library).  Millennials are, according to Pew,  “[a]nyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 22 to 37 in 2018)” or, in the author’s professional life, those in graduate school and older.  In other words, not in K-12 education as a student.  And while there are some school/public library combinations, the vast majority of school libraries are not open to the random public member (I’ve had to stress this to several people over the past year, including the gentleman looking for tax forms, something the public library virtually around the corner does provide).  A simple email to someone at Palmer, or a stroll across campus, would have clarified things for him.

While I agree with Justin the Librarian’s Hot Take Opinion Fatigue, this really got my aging goat.  Waaaaay back in 1995, when I was starting my MLS degree, I had to take one of those general Intro to Librarianship classes.  One of the difficulties of this type of class is making it applicable to everyone, because while there were some who knew which specialty they wanted to pursue, some of us did and if you were interested in law librarianship, why did you care about academic or public library issues? The was a fall class, and the final for this class was a take home essay in which we were asked to think into the near future where we were seeing family and friends during the holidays and, when we told them about our studies, they would respond, “but with the [seriously limited, back then] internet and databases, why libraries?”  What would our answer be?

At first I was tempted to mimic what a high school classmate did for her philosophy research paper.  She studied silence as a means of communication and turned in a cover sheet and full bibliography* that surrounded nine blank pages (reader, she got what would have been an A had the class not been pass/fail).  My idea was to do the same, only on my inside pages type WHY NOT? in incredibly large font, one letter per page.  I didn’t, but oh was it tempting!

That ignorant opinion pieces like this get written (especially by someone who works where I got my degree!) this many years later really, as Lanford Wilson wrote, gripes my ass.

 

  • I know she cited John Cage‘s 4’33”: I don’t remember if Sounds of Silence was also on the list.

Posted in Rants, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Tackling the junk drawer

Posted by lpearle on 24 January 2018

Over the years, as students are doing research and as new books have arrived for the collection, it’s become clearer and clearer that the 300s (“Social Sciences”) are the junk drawer of the library shelves.

Sometimes, it’s the fault of the catalogers at the Library of Congress. Years ago, at a previous school, I purchased the series “The President’s Position: Debating the Issues”  and discovered that half the series was in 973.* (American History) while the other half was in 321.8 (Presidents).  Which meant, of course, that I had to figure out where my students would best find the books.  Sometimes it’s the fault of the publishers for not providing enough information to LoC (the book Islam and democracy in Indonesia : tolerance without liberalism  is really more about Indonesia and Indonesian politics than the religion, yet it was supposed to be shelved in the 200s).  Some things just baffle me, like finding a book on Watergate in our True Crime section, or a book on slavery in among books on Woolworths and LLBean (yes…. but really, no). And that’s only a few of the books ordered over the years.

In going through our collection at Milton, we noticed little things, like Marcus Garvey being in three different places.   And we knew that we had more on China that was in 951, but students weren’t using those books because they were scattered around the collection.  So, in a burst of energy and excitement (or boredom, you decide) we tackled the junk drawer.  It’s difficult to do as a solo librarian, but if you have a team?  It’s really instructive to have the conversations about topics like slavery, LGBTQ issues and history, abortion, etc..  It’s also helpful to go through the shelves and really look at things from a non-librarian’s perspective: where will our students best find the materials?  is it more useful here… or here?  And that’s not even starting to take into account the fact that OCLC occasionally changes DDC (we learned that 329 had been discontinued, but we had several books there.  Whoops!

Our overarching goal is to ensure that the books we have are both useful and findable, which sometimes means adding to the MARC record. Yes, it took a long time to get through the 300s… this time.  And yes, it’ll be an ongoing project.  The overlap between the 300s and other areas of the collection is huge, much like the overlap between the junk drawer in the kitchen and other areas of the house.  We now have a Google Doc that enumerates our cataloging norms so we can, as we get new books or find things on the shelves, put them together.  It’ll also help as we look at which books we need (at one previous school, to support the 11th grade History class, we had many books on the Treaty of Versailles but when that project ended, we didn’t need as many as we’d had, freeing up shelf space for other topics we needed for their new research papers; at another, there were nearly 1,000 books on Nazi Germany, many of which could be weeded or moved back into other areas of the collection when the course on the Nazis ceased to be offered).

To paraphrase a popular commercial tagline, what’s in your junk drawer?

 

Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries | 1 Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 27 December 2017

A holiday gift of sorts from me to you: linky goodness from the past few months.  Enjoy!

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 3 October 2017

Doug has a wonderful post entitled Just another shill for educational companies? that I encourage everyone to read. Here’s my policy: all ideas in any of my posts, from these Minor Musings to other, more detailed commentary, are mine – possibly inspired by others but not paid for or encouraged by a company.  One of these days I’ll go back and do a round-up of what’s worked and what hasn’t (and what sounded good at the time but now… not so much).  The results will probably surprise me, possibly surprise you.  But they won’t be “paid for”, I promise.

Books, Reading, etc.

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

  • As we start to think about building a new space and how to work with the space we have, it’s always timely to remember the Five Laws of Librarianship and working with our faculty and administration to understand what our mission is.

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

And it begins

Posted by lpearle on 12 September 2017

After a mere two weeks of meetings and organizing, school started.  Convocation last Friday… all school photo tomorrow… classes and clubs and athletics and recess and all the other moving parts that go into a school year starting to move forward (note: only 46 class days until Thanksgiving Break, but who’s counting?).  And in the library, we’re ready.

Work done over the summer gave us a new classroom, made possible by combining our workroom and office space:

Our Adult Fiction section was moved slightly, adding more space for students to “hide” (it became a popular spot last year) and we’ve got lots of shelves for displaying New Fiction and other highlights.

 

This month: Immigrants Read Here.

We’ve got other displays, too:

Our Charlottesville Resource Guide has been updated, nearly 400 books have been added to the collection, we’re back to our regular opening hours, and – this is the best part – we’ve already started to have classes in!  The entire sixth grade came for a quick tour and book talk (plus checking out books), we’re working with two physics classes on how to use NoodleTools to cite sources and an English class is coming to do work on Hemingway that will inform their work this semester.  All within one week of school’s officially starting.

I’m feeling pretty good about the start of the school year.  Here’s hoping you are, too.

Posted in Books, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »