Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Work 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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Posted in Books, Collection Development, School Libraries, Student stuff, Work Stuff | 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 »

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 »

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.

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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 »

Tis the [research] season

Posted by lpearle on 17 April 2018

One of the things that I truly enjoy about my job is helping students do research.  It’s not just the variety of topics, it’s watching a student learn how to turn something they care about into a research paper.  Of course there’s the boring stuff, like teaching them how to cite in the proper format, but into every job a little boredom must fall, right?  And I know that the students don’t believe me, but in all my years of working with them on research, in all the papers I’ve read, I’ve always learned something.

This year has been no different.  One of our US History papers was done by a student who confessed that history wasn’t his favorite subject.  He was hoping to play D1 sports and was able to do a paper on the history of the NCAA’s rules for students and how colleges were making millions off this unpaid labor.  When I checked in with him after, he’d gotten a great grade and told me that this was one of his two favorite projects in his time at the school.  I don’t need to tell you how happy that made me!  (Because, of course, it’s all my doing, right?)

It’s also fun watching a student really get into the research piece.  One of the reasons I love research is knowing that there is a resource out there and then hunting it down.  A few years ago, a student was quoting a poem written by Baldur von Schirach in honor of Hitler – but who had translated the poem?  Over thirty minutes later, we had an answer and she later said, “that was actually fun!”  I’ve had other students get equally determined to find a source, quote or resource.  My hope is that they continue to have that type of fun as they do other research, either academic or personal.

The unfortunate thing is that Research Season here means nearly three months of non-stop classes; last week we had between 20 and 23 classes in during our 8 period day.  That means we don’t get to spend as much time with each student, that the shelves are amazingly out of order, and that by the end of each day we’re exhausted.   Having lived through this last year and the year before, I know that come early May, when all the papers are finished, we’ll be able to breathe again.  And by next February we’ll have forgotten and actually be looking forward to it starting all over again.

 

Posted in Work Stuff | 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 »

Oops!

Posted by lpearle on 19 October 2017

One of this year’s projects is an evaluation of our 300s – far too much has been dumped into that section and, oddly enough, a lot really belongs elsewhere. The other big project is to complete our look at books with a copyright pre-1996 that haven’t circulated in the past 10 years. It’s work, but really giving us an idea of what’s on the shelves and where there’s unexpected overlap or gaps because books have been placed in the “wrong” section of the collection.

Yesterday, we looked at this book:

And because it’s in bad physical shape, perhaps a replacement would be a good idea. According our vendor, this is the replacement:

No. Not quite. Someone at the publishing/reprint house made a mistake.

It reminded me of when I was working at PCS and doing the retrospective conversion from a print to online catalog. We didn’t have time to really look at the shelf list before sending it off to be converted, so there were a number of errors. As I worked on the video collection, I looked for two copies of The Grapes of Wrath. Found one. The other? No luck. But there was a copy of The Wrath of Grapes.

Cataloging 101: catalog the item in hand.

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Taking the initiative

Posted by lpearle on 26 September 2017

At the start of the school year, many Heads (of School, Division or Department) start to talk about the initiatives that will be undertaken in the upcoming year.  Some are mild, some are school changing.  Some are internal, some have a more external focus.  And over the years, I’ve watched, participated and developed a kind of cynicism about the process as a whole.  Whenever I hear words along the lines of “this year, we will…” I begin to wonder, “why? where is this leading? and what’s next?

NOTE: What follows is not about my school (only), it’s about the schools I’ve worked in and those my friends have worked in and schools I’ve been part of in some way.  Perhaps you’ll recognize your school in this, but there’s a good chance what you’re seeing isn’t about your school, it’s more universal!

Internal Initiatives can be anything from we’re restructuring the school (lines of communication, reporting structure, titles) to rethinking grading to changing the program to a technological change to… you name it.

  • I’ve seen schools jump on the technology bandwagon (“we went 1:1 iPad so we’d stand out” is not a good reason to embrace technology) without thinking through the implications: there’s a myth that students, being so-called digital natives, will know how to use the technology without training, and that teachers will somehow figure it out.  Rarely is there time for teachers to properly learn to play with the new tool/LMS/program to become familiar and comfortable with it before students begin to use it, and equally rarely is there a really thorough orientation that ensures that students can use it properly.
  • Changing the calendar or exam structure may seem like an easy thing to do, but there’s a whole educational piece that gets left out.  Moving from a January midterm/June final is a great idea (seriously, who wants to take a final exam, do poorly and be told “have a nice summer” immediately after?) but how do teachers figure out how to restructure their exams to reflect that change?  What assessments are truly necessary at the end of the year to ensure that someone moves up to the next level? And if that can be done in one or two class periods, why disrupt the entire school with an Exam Week?
  • Many schools, post-AP Exam period, give their seniors the opportunity to do some sort of Senior Project.  And why not?  I’ve never worked in a school where a senior in good standing has had to take a June final, and let’s face it, once APs are over they have no need pay attention.  Some schools graduate their seniors before giving a final, another good idea.  The Senior Project idea has, in some schools, morphed into an All School idea, call it January Term (as we did in college) or MayMester or whatever – a few weeks of a deep dive into something that could be a personal interest or an all school exploration or structured by grade level or whatever.  Honestly, I love the idea and can think of several projects I’d love to work with students on.  But… if you’re an English teacher, it’s easy to drop a text.  Not so easy if you’re teaching another subject where you’re expected to cover a certain amount of material (in 20+ years, I’ve never met a history teacher teaching the US History survey class that’s gotten to really teach current history, “current” being Reagan-2000, let alone this century).  Teachers may be given time to think about their projects and the new initiative, but the time to rethink their class? to determine how best to squeeze in or excise a tense, era, experiment or function?  Rarely happens.
  • Changing the grading from A-F to 0-4.0 or including comments, going from twice a year to four times, or something like that also requires training and thought.  I’ve seen teachers who simply cannot write personal comments about their students, preferring to cut-and-paste from a list of phrases.  I’ve seen teachers who do it well, really recognizing each students’ strengths and weaknesses.  More development and time training?  Never happens.  It’s maybe one meeting as a group in the start of the year, then perhaps the first set of comments is shared with a mentor.  Then… nothing.
  • Exploring the pedagogy, diversity and inclusion work, All Faculty Reads?  Again, great ideas.  But what’s next?  Once we’ve gone from Good to Great or learned about A Whole New Mind, what’s next?  Is it a one-year thing, or will we continue to do that work, revisiting what we learned over the previous year and figuring out how to change in the upcoming?

And then there are the External Initiatives:  rebranding the school.  getting rid of AP classes.  creating a symposium.  etc..  One school changed its reunion structure to include a lecture series that was supposed to be about empowerment – it was great, for a few years.  Like any series, though, it became stretched and then thin.  Then it disappeared without a word.  Next?  A Global Imitative that drew a lot of attention and Big Names.  One year and done.  No word about why it was dropped without a word if anything had come of it.  Here’s the problem: when you go that public, you invite attention.  And questions.

This isn’t to denigrate initiatives, internal or external.  It’s just… we’ve got a few going on at work, and friends have shared some that are going on at theirs.  Maybe I’m getting old, but in all my years of doing this, of being involved with schools (remember, I grew up in an academic family, so it’s been a lonnnnng time) it’s rare that I see them carried out to anything more than a bright flashy idea, or that teachers and students are given enough time to truly prepare and do it well.  Sometimes it’s difficult to take them seriously as a result.  And I want to!  I really do.  So please, inspire me.  Give me your tricks to get through the “this is a great idea” phase into the “wow, this really made a difference long term” phase.

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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 »