Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Gearing Up

Posted by lpearle on 28 September 2017

I’ve been diligently trying to update this blog regularly, and I intend to keep trying but wow!  School starts and that seems to take over my life despite my best efforts.  Between now and Thanksgiving, for example, I have two personal trips out of town, then two conferences (NELA and YALSA’s Literature Symposium).  Plus my Alex Award reading.  That’s outside of my work, which this year includes beginning to plan for a new library in addition to continuing to look at updating the collection, revamping our website, improving our Resource Guides, working with classes and all the “normal” stuff that librarians and Library Department Chairs do on a daily, monthly, annual basis.

So posting may be sporadic.  Just sayin’

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Posted in Conferences, Life Related, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Semi-obligatory #AISLNO17 food post

Posted by lpearle on 25 March 2017

(note: some of the below was eaten by others, and unfortunately not all food photos got saved)

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Bubble Bursting

Posted by lpearle on 16 February 2017

I could swear that I’ve blogged before about bubbles and how excited one of my graduate school professors was about how in the then-near future, we could drive across country listening to “our” radio station, rather than continually trying to find a station that played music we enjoyed.  It worried me then, this bubble, and it continues to worry me today.

A few weeks ago, one of my cousins and I were speaking and she was expressing sorrow and confusion that a friend of hers had said that they couldn’t be friends because my cousin had voted for Trump.  (perhaps I should mention that most of my family are Republicans, adhering to those oft-forgotten New England Republican ideas)  This past weekend I had dinner with another group of cousins and one of them said “[your father] is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met – how can he be a Democrat?”  Of course, my father would ask the same, in reverse, about this cousin.  Most of my cousins are appalled at what’s currently going on in Washington, and while they may have voted Republican in November, they are not fans – or supporters – of the current president.

My point being, not every Republican supported the presidential candidate.  Just as many Democrats didn’t support that party’s presidential candidate.  But… do we really know that?  understand that?  My first cousin’s friend feels – as so many others feel, and have expressed on Facebook/Twitter – that simply being Republican and voting that way means that you are evil and responsible for all the proposals being mooted now (eg., rolling back environmental protections, changing or repealing LGBTQ legislation and so much, much more)  Why would otherwise intelligent, nice people vote that way?

screenshot_2017-02-14-06-35-55.

It’s not a new observation, but the problem is that we live in increasingly narrow bubbles and echo chambers, relying on confirmation bias only rather than exploring the subject and making up our own minds.  With that in mind, I was interested to read Joyce Valenza’s column about Allsides.com. While I don’t pretend to understand their crowd-sourcing of “left”, “right” and “center” or agree with all their rankings, I do think that it’s interesting as a source of different viewpoints on a topic.  David Wee then started an email conversation about the use of this site (he’s doing great work teaching about “fake news”), and Tasha Bergson-Michelson recommended Burst Your Bubble.  The problem with the Guardian site is that it presupposes you’re liberal – where’s a similar site for conservatives?

At my school, there’s a definitely hostile attitude towards conservatives.  Some are upset that the school hasn’t officially come out against recent executive orders and policies, much less against the president.  What if, instead, we tried to understand why people voted the way they do, or the why they have the opinions they do about issues that don’t conform to our opinions?  I’ve read many articles recently trying to understand why people voted for Trump (here’s one) because I understand what was appealing about Clinton and Sanders.  Have you?  Do you assume that everyone you know feels the same way you do about issues and candidates?  Or do you know that there are some who don’t share those opinions, and do you try to understand what they’re thinking?

We have another year, perhaps, before the midterm election campaigns start up.  Trump 2020 is actually a thing.  What is your commitment to getting out of your bubble before then?

Posted in Musings, School Libraries, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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 Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Changes. Always changes.

Posted by lpearle on 28 August 2014

If you work in a school, you know that each year will bring changes – different students, different research needs, different teachers, surprising events, etc..  They’re the type of things you know are coming and yet can do very little to prepare.  For me, there’s no dread involved, just a sense of fatalistic anticipation.

Sometimes, though, there are even bigger changes afoot.  It may be a new job.  Or new library coworkers/colleagues. Maybe you’ve got a new facility.

The other day I was having lunch with Katie Archambault at Emma Willard and she mentioned another change, one we don’t really talk about at conferences or help prepare people for: going from being a part of a library team to being a solo librarian.  She’s right, we don’t often talk about that change.  Nor do we talk about the change from being a solo librarian to being part of a team.  Or being a part of a team to being the Team Leader.  There’s lots out there on how to survive your first year at a school, but often that presupposes that you’re just new to that school, not filling a new role as well.

Porter’s is planning on hosting the 2014 New England Association of Independent School Librarians conference and this seems like a good conversation for us to have: what massive changes have you experienced?  how have you survived?  what advice do you have for others in your position?  etc..  Go ahead.  Let me know in the comments!

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Poetic Thoughts – #LJDOD13

Posted by lpearle on 17 June 2013

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m not a huge poetry fan.  Inserting poetry into a text makes my eyes glaze over, and those books in verse? Thanks, but… (having said that, I did enjoy Sharp Teeth, so it’s possibly more a question of “finding something I don’t mind”).  So it’s with some trepidation that I settled in to hear the Poetry Panel at the Day of Dialog.  For those of you who feel the way I do, the following might help change your mind.

Robert Pinsky opened by stating that children have a natural instinct toward rhyme: just look at children’s books like Dr. Seuss, and the sing-song way they often speak (not to mention the rhyming games they play).  He also said that the way to appreciate poetry is to say it aloud – it will make you a better writer and reader.

So, how do we go about marketing poetry?  It’s risky, because then we’re treating poetry as “other”, right?  Poets.org has great resources to help you find poetry (including a great Poem-a-Day program).  Several suggestions arose, including casually adding it to your displays (e.g., scarey poems as part of a Hallowe’en display), keeping books of poetry next to the check out (much like candy bars at grocery check outs).  Asking random members of the community to read their favorite poems for a podcast or videocast and posting it on your website.  Tweet great opening lines, or short poems, with a link to information about the poet or the poem.

We were also reminded that there are no rules for poetry.  Yes, teachers say that (and there are, of course, rules about poetic form) but that’s really just wrong; they want to be able to say “smart things” about poems and poetry, when in reality, poetry is what sounds good when you say it – in other words, do not overthink a poem.  Just enjoy it.  As MacLeish said, “A poem should not mean / But be.”

Need resources?  Library Journal is launching a poetry blog that will be gathering news, collection development ideas, tools and more.  Poets.org has a Poem-A-Day program.  Many current poets are on Facebook and Twitter, which is a great way to connect to living poets. Poets House has some great programs and ideas.

In other words, don’t let poetry scare you – treat it as any other part of your collection, promote it within your community, and watch things blossom.

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

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 7 February 2013

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Posted in Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

I’m famous!

Posted by lpearle on 21 July 2011

No, not really.  Clue 49 is “Millie Helper’s next door neighbor” – for which the answer is Laura Petrie, not me.  But still, for a few moments, my father had a thrill answering the Washington Post’s July 14th crossword!

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Back to the basics

Posted by lpearle on 23 September 2010

Because so many of our 9th grade students are new this year (over half the class) and because even those that came from our Middle School have managed to forget anything they knew about library research over the summer, the 9th grade History Team and I have created a series of assignments that will get them looking at books, thinking about resources and using the library.

As always, I created a Libguide to help. This one is a little special: there’s a tutorial there that is based on a great tutorial I found. The wonderful librarians at SWITCH said I could download the files (they’d based their tutorials on WMU’s original!) and customize away – it’s been a long time since I hard-coded HTML, and my Photoshop skills aren’t great, but after a few days hard work, it’s done! As time allows, I’m modify it even further…

I’m excited to see how (if?!) this helps our students get comfortable with the research process.

Posted in School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Uncategorized, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

My six

Posted by lpearle on 28 July 2010

Doug started a meme:

Remember the days of “memes?” Blog this challenge on your site! What are your 6 essential tools and 2 essential devices?

After pondering this on my way home, weighing the sites I visit and use regularly, it’s really pretty simple.

Essential tools/websites:

  • Gmail (staying in touch)
  • Bank of America (for online banking)
  • Facebook (seeing what my friends are up to)
  • Google Reader (as Doug does, I’m cheating with an RSS feeder!)
  • Goodreads (to keep track of my books and review those I’ve read)
  • Twitter (again, seeing what my friends are up to/staying in touch with my PLN)

Essential devices

  • DVR
  • iPod (not my iPhone, because I’m not a huge cell phone user and use that mostly when travelling, but I use my iPod daily while commuting)

Tag – you’re it!

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