Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Student stuff’ Category

Time to breathe

Posted by lpearle on 13 November 2018

Because second semester is essentially Research Semester, with three months of classes (often 15-20 classes a day), we tend to tackle major projects in first semester.  Perhaps not the smartest idea, given the exhaustion I and the other librarians face by, well, now.  Luckily Thanksgiving Break is just around the corner, and then it’s a short time to Winter Break… and after that, we’re setting up for Exam Week and hurtling into Research Season.

  • For example, last year we tackled the junk drawer, and this year we’re continuing looking at the collection – thus far we’ve done the 500s, 600s and 700s (with luck we’ll get through the 800s before second semester; the 900s will wait until next year).  The past two years have brought up some humorous cataloging oopses.  I’ve already mentioned that at PCS I found “The Wrath of Grapes” miscataloged as “The Grapes of Wrath”.  What we’re finding now are more problems either as the Library of Congress is creating the CIP information or in-house as things were cataloged:
      • The Rape of Nanking was found with other books on sexual assault
      • The section on population control contained a book on the Holocaust
      • Among the books on stores like Wal-Mart was a book on slavery
      • The Bone Woman, about a forensic anthropologist working on mass graves, was in the anthropology section
      • Going Dutch: how England plundered Holland’s glory is about the rise of England as a world power, not about art theft and belongs in history, not art

    Each of these books gets a “yes… but NO!” from us and we move it to where it will be found and useful to our students.  There are, of course, many more that are reasonably in one area of the collection but we feel belong elsewhere.  Still, it’s these gems that keep us going.

  • We’re also moving books around physically.  Thanks to this rethinking project, there are shelves we don’t need in our library and would really be helpful for our Art Department library, so we’re rearranging things to free up a bookcase that will be moved over Thanksgiving Break.  It’s also a great opportunity for us to rearrange some of the second floor tables (oddly enough, neither we nor the administration feel that a group “hiding” in a corner playing Fortnight is a group best using the library’s resources and that a rearrangement might help them see the error of their ways).
  • Our Resource Guides are being revised and added to, including one on Violence in America and one designed to provide resources for the recent visit from the Defamation Project. Thanks to our History Department teachers helping assess the utility of a discovery service, EDS will join our offerings – leading, we hope, to better searching during Research Season.
  • The Greater Boston Cooperative Library Association is hosting this year’s AISL conference and Milton will be hosting one morning (during the start of our Intro History classes doing research); I’ll be reprising The What If… Scenario with my two co-presenters and “hosting” a Dinner with a Local Librarian.
  • I’m still reading for the Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction award… a little behind on that, but I can catch up, right?

While it’s not quite an official honor, I was interviewed by one of our Spanish classes (I’m guessing they translated my English answers into Spanish for a class presentation) and our photography teacher asked if I’d sit for one of his advanced students who was being assigned to take a mere 15 minutes for the photo shoot and to turn it around the next day, mimicking some of the realities of being a professional photographer.  The student and I chatted while he was shooting, and this was the final photo:

Next week I’ll be at the ALAN Workshop then away for Thanksgiving Break.  With all that’s going on, it’s good to have time to breathe!

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Be not afraid

Posted by lpearle on 11 September 2018

Last year one of my colleagues told me that her students just couldn’t face coming in to the library.  They’d just finished an intense three week “research season” where they created a 5-7 page paper, and even though this was a n entirely different project in an entirely different field, the very idea of coming in again was traumatic.  Reader, my heart sank, but in many ways I understood.

Thing is, we (librarians and teachers) don’t always do a great job of convincing students of the joy of research.  We may be fantastic in many ways, sharing our love of books and teaching the steps/skills of research and conveying tips and tricks to become information/data literate.  But do we really convince students that research can be fun?  That the be-all and end-all isn’t necessarily a perfectly formatted paper-and-bibliography, but the hunt for information that you, the researcher, synthesize and analyze?  That you, the researcher, are teaching me, the reader, something new about a topic?

I’ve always loved the hunt. Even today I do it – just the other day, reading a book about Paris in the age of Louis XIV, I spent a lot of time going down rabbit holes online and in other sources to find information about palaces and locations (does this street still exist? I’ve never heard of that town, where is it?  how bad was the Chateau d’If? etc.). Yes, that slowed me down.  And I’d bet that many students do the same on their own when they find something that interests them.

That’s the key, though, isn’t it?  It needs to interest them.  I’m pretty good at helping students take a passion and finding a way to turn it into a research topic that fits the parameters of the paper.  But the compressed time frame, the insistence on meeting the deadline of xxx notecards and yyy sources (and limiting how many of which type of source), the persnickety nature of bibliographic format (even when they use Noodletools to help them with that), and all that process stuff can turn them off.

Sigh.

This year there’s at least one teacher who wants to work throughout the year to help dribble out the skills and steps so the actual research season isn’t as stressful and as traumatic.  My fingers are crossed that more teachers will also want to do this, and that the message to all our students is that when they’re doing research, they should be not afraid.  And that should those students be in this other class, when the teacher says they’ll be working on a project and they’re going to come to the library, they’ll convince their classmates that it’s not traumatic and (perhaps) actually a little fun.

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Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 20 August 2018

One final round-up before school begins.

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

  • Do you have students who study architecture or the classics or ancient history?  This twitter thread on ruins might give them some interesting resources.  And then there’s Tutte le opere from the Museo della Civilta Romana
  • LGBTQ issues (especially Stonewall) are always popular research topics at my schools.  NYPL has great online resources to help.

Tech Stuff

Miscellany

  • The larger site deals with NYC’s grid but there are maps of other grids – perfect for thinking about city planning, urban life, etc..

 

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

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?

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 »

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 »

Appreciating a teacher today

Posted by lpearle on 9 May 2018

It’s Teacher Appreciation Day, apparently, and while I think it’s great that we’re encouraged to thank the teachers who meant a lot to us when we were in school (even if we didn’t know it then, but on reflection we recognized their kindness, support or influence) I would love to think that any day is a good one to show that appreciation. As research season ended, several students thanked me for my help with their papers; I know that the other librarians have also heard that from students. A few times I’ve seen former students and they’ve told me that I helped or encouraged or influenced them in some way, all without the reminder that it was the Official Day to show/share their feelings.

That’s not to sound ungrateful! It’s just a concern that when there’s an Official Day, it makes it seem as though not saying something then is wrong, and that saying something any other time is also wrong (just as I’d much rather get random flowers and dinners just because, instead of a Valentines Day mandatory gift).

Having said that, here’s a link to my comments from October 2004 about a teacher whose influence on my has stretched over 40 years. And maybe, just because, I’ll write about some of the other teachers whose influence has lasted a lifetime (well, as much of a lifetime as I’ve had until now).

Posted in Life Related, Student stuff | 1 Comment »

Blessing or Curse?

Posted by lpearle on 4 January 2018

Several years ago Doug mentioned that he did most of his reading on his Kindle (he still does whether it’s on an actual Kindle or the app on another device) and that one of the blessings was the ability to quickly search for information while reading.  Back in the “good old days” you had to remember what you were interested in, or confused about, and then look it up rather than quickly go to your browser and – voila! – answers.

My Kindle is rarely connected to wifi, and I use it mostly for longer articles (uploaded via Instapaper) and ARCs, but I take Doug’s point.  The other day I was reading an ARC and wondered about one of the facts mentioned – I’m being a little vague because 1. it was an Alex book and 2. I honestly don’t remember exactly what it was I was wondering – so I picked up my iPhone and looked up… whatever it was. 30 minutes later, I’d found my answer, checked my email and looked at Twitter.  30 minutes later.

Which is, of course, both the blessing and curse of having one of those fancy ereaders that allow you to quickly go online: the rabbit hole and the added distractions.  It’s one of the things that several of my star reading students prefer about print, that lack of distraction and the ability to focus on the book and world it’s creating. But if we’re being honest, the problem isn’t the device (or lack thereof) it’s more about willpower.  Is your phone one of those always on, always notifying ones?  Do you have a tablet right next to you?  In the early days of ereaders, we didn’t have those additional tools and unless your laptop or desktop was always on, going online immediately was difficult.  Today? Those 30 minutes I “lost” could easily become an hour… two hours… and then where was I in the book again?  What exactly was going on?

My resolution for 2018 is to be less easily distracted from my reading.  Who knows how much more I could read?!

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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 »