Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Creating Communities

Posted by lpearle on 7 September 2015

The past couple of weeks (ish) I’ve been immersed in New Faculty Orientation and Opening Faculty Meetings, getting to know my new colleagues and new environment.  Each school is different, obviously, and getting to know and appreciate the culture and the traditions can take time.  In part that’s because there are unwritten rules, and in part it’s because every time people leave and new people arrive things change.  At MPOW there’s a special position (an endowed chair, actually) with the responsibility for helping new faculty socialize and get to know colleagues and each other outside the confines of the classroom and dining hall – that’s never happened at my previous schools, although some have had similar unofficial “ambassadors”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about corporate culture at schools and how that can shift over time.  Whenever there’s a large change in faculty, that culture shifts.  There’s also a shift when a division head or head of school changes: I’ve worked with heads who have a very open door policy and those who are virtually never available without an appointment.  I’ve worked with touchy-feely heads, and those who are more reserved.  One had a great in person manner but on paper was far sterner.  Of course that head’s style then trickles down, and a head who hides and is less than transparent in how things are decided and done usually hires or promotes people who follow that methodology; when that head leaves and a new, more transparent outgoing head arrives is usually the start of others finding a good reason to perhaps explore other career paths.

We spend a lot of time as faculty talking about blended classrooms and individual learning styles and diversity.  So many schools have alliance or affinity groups (or whatever the terminology is) and carefully create “safe spaces” for all.  And many have ceremonies or convocations that start the year as a united community. At my last school, we celebrated those still at school for their accomplishments, giving both new faculty and new students a sense of the community they’re joining. But when all that is over, what happens? At least one quarter of every high school is new every year – and yes, some may know each other from previous schools or groups, but as a unified class they’re new.  How do we get them to see each other as a group when we’re also teaching them to celebrate their differences?

Just something to ponder as the school year commences.

(apologies for the rambling – this was so much clearer and coherent when I thought it out late last night…)

Posted in Musings | Leave a Comment »

Who’s your lollipop?

Posted by lpearle on 4 September 2015

Yesterday, our Dean of Students met with the new faculty and started by showing this TEDx talk:

I’ve seen it before, but now, as then, I thought about my lollipops and whether I’ve actually thanked them.  There are a few I plan to reach out to and thank in the near future… there are others who, sadly, cannot be thanked.

Go thou and do likewise.  And be aware how you, too, might be someone’s lollipop.

Posted in Life Related | Leave a Comment »

Setting Limits

Posted by lpearle on 1 September 2015

As the school year starts, many of us will be having conversations with our students about setting limits and making choices: no, you can’t take 6 AP level classes… if you’re going to be a 3-season athlete, maybe playing the lead in the school play isn’t going to happen… practicing piano 8 hours a night might cut into your homework time… etc. (all conversations I’ve had with students over the years).  We do a great job at working with them on self-care, on learning how to identify relationships that aren’t healthy, how to start to manage their time and commitments well.

But what about us? I’m something of a believer in “when many people are mentioning something, pay attention” and over the past few months I’ve read more about the book Essentialism, so I placed a hold on it from my library.  One of the criticisms I read was that it is a bit heavy-handed in terms of its examples and solutions, but that beneath that it has some pearls of wisdom.  We’ll see.  I’ve read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which provided a lot of inspiration for cleaning out my home, and I’m hoping that this can give me ideas for how to deal with what’s essential in my life (ok, I know what is, but sometimes we all need ideas for how to explain why this is, and that isn’t).

Starting at a new school, with new staff, faculty and students to meet and get to know, with new curriculum to deal with, with new committees on which to serve, plus a new town and area to explore (and in which to find a new butcher, baker, candlestick maker, among others) means that there will be a lot of pulls on my time.  At my last school, there were also demands on my time and I’m not sure I handled them well – the goal is to do better now.

Saying “no” gracefully but firmly is a skill that we need to teach ourselves and model for students. After all, can they really take us seriously if we keep saying, “you have to set limits” but never seem to do that for ourselves?

Posted in Musings, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 27 August 2015

Books, Reading, Etc..

  • I’ve done something similar with Google Maps, but this?  The Obsessively Detailed Map is truly obsessively detailed.  Ideas for additional “value added content”? TSU has some great Immersive Experience ideas.
  • This might just be my new favorite book blog: Oh, the Books! (via)
  • The Book Riot Quarterly box might be a good way to get students excited about reading.  BookOpolis looks to be a good way to introduce younger students to online reviewing/reading communities.

School Life

Tech Stuff


Most important: 120 days until Christmas.  Shop now. Avoid the rush.

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

Je ne regrette rien… mostly

Posted by lpearle on 20 August 2015

This is the time of year when students start school, comparing schedules and teacher assignments.  Most don’t have any control over which teacher they have for various subjects – if you’re taking Freshman English or US History, you just get placed in a section and good luck to you.  Sometimes, though, you do have control and can either steer towards or away from a particular teacher (a few years ago, I had a rising senior who said that for English, he wanted “anyone but [teacher name]” and, luckily, his schedule worked out so that he did avoid that teacher).

When I was in high school, back in the day when the Emma Willard curriculum truly was more college prep than it is now: no AP classes, and a trimester schedule that allowed teachers and students to explore a niche topic for the 11(?) weeks.  For example, I took British Poetry and European Fiction and Modern Asian History while others took Government and Russian Literature and the Civil War Era.  With the exception of math and languages, we were in mixed grade classes based on interest rather than ability or grade.  Teacher chose whether they would assign grades or if the class would be Credit/No Credit, creating an egalitarian system that didn’t allow for a GPA or class ranking, because really, how do you assign a ranking to someone who took Economics and got “credit” vs. someone who took Spanish Dancing and got a B+?  It was perfect prep for the college experience, where you can take classes that are of interest and really explore your passion rather than taking AP classes to impress an admissions officer.

That was one aspect of the experience, and for me a great one.  The other aspect, one that shocks my current students, was that I could avoid classes I really didn’t want to take and so, I adhered to their graduation requirements and stopped taking science after 9th grade and only got to Algebra 2 and Trig in math.  Another friend, raised and educated in England, stopped both at age 13 and concentrated on languages and history.  Given our current lives, I’m not sure we missed out… most of the time.  I would like a greater basic knowledge of, say, chemistry or botany, but I am managing without it.  It wouldn’t hurt students today if they were allowed to have the type of educational experience I had, and it might create better students as they focus on what they really enjoy rather than adhering to an imposed curriculum.

At every school in which I’ve studied or worked there are iconic teachers.  Some achieve that status by pure longevity – a 4o+-year-career, for example.  Some achieve that by their demeanor in the classroom, connecting with students in incredible ways.  When I’ve gone back to Emma for reunions and talk with my friends, and meet people from other classes, we often talk about classes we took, teachers (and housemothers) we loved and those we avoided.  And that’s where the regrets come in: some times, because I was so busy pursuing my passions, I missed taking classes or having teachers who had conflicting classes.  It’s those times I think, “oh, if only I’d taking [class name/teacher name]” because the love my classmates have for that teacher or class is so intense.  I wish I could actually sing because the choir teacher was one of those icons… I regret never taking Chemistry or Latin because those teachers were icons.

My hope for my students is that they don’t have those regrets, but the reality is that the nature of education now is that they will simply because they aren’t allowed to go outside the norm, they must take an AP math and science course in their senior year (but can drop history to get even more STEM education).

Posted in Musings | Leave a Comment »

Watching the Watchman

Posted by lpearle on 6 August 2015

Many years ago, Harper Lee wrote a book she called Go Set A Watchman, submitted it to her publisher and hoped for the best.  The best was that the publisher liked parts of the book and recommended she go back and write another book about those parts, the parts when Jean Louise looked back on her childhood.  And thus was born To Kill A Mockingbird.

Years ago I heard Naomi Shihab Nye talk about her first publishing experience, when a poetry publisher told her that only seven lines of a much longer poem were “worthy”, thus forcing her to revise her poem. She talks the process of revision here in much the same way she did then:


See where this is going?

When the news came out that Ms. Lee had not destroyed the book but had kept it, and HarperCollins had the unedited, unpublishable first draft and was, in fact, publishing it, there were two reactions: one, why now? and two, what did Ms. Lee think?  After all, that’s the hope of all readers when a favorite author dies, that there will be more coming because there were manuscripts hidden.  Salinger must have written something amazing all those years he was in Vermont, right?  It’s like Tupac recording from the grave.  So the “why now” gets answered by “because now is when we found it” but the second question goes unanswered because no one can talk with the author unless they go through her lawyer, who swears that she’s happy about it all.

Maybe I was alone in this, but I never expected this to be a Great Read.  If anything, it was a first, very rough look at the story and out of all the dross, the gold of Mockingbird arose.  Many early readers and reviewers were shocked and dismayed to find that Atticus was a racist – it’s like finding out that Superman’s ability to leap tall buildings didn’t include the Empire State Buildings.  This despite some scholars bringing out this aspect of Atticus for years already.  Some refused to read it (my friend Chuck included).  And now a bookstore is offering refunds for those who didn’t quite understand what they were getting when they purchased the book. It could be worse: it could have looked like Finnegan’s Wake!

Mockingbird was not a required read for me (I read it on my own, not for a class), so I don’t hold it in the same reverential light as (perhaps) those who studied the book do.  My personal reading plans do not include reading Watchman. My professional collection development plans might include it, if (after conferring with the other librarians and our English teachers) they think it would add to our student’s understanding of the rewriting process and/or the themes in Mockingbird.  That seems to be the reasonable thing to do.

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 4 August 2015

It’s summer – a major move (personal and professional) is in process, so why not declutter a bit and share links and ideas I’ve been hoarding all school year?  Regular posts to resume by the end of August, I hope!

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff


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

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 are you doing with your summer?

Posted by lpearle on 24 July 2015

I’ve already posted my early-summer PD schedule and a few “if only…” options.  Then I read this on Twitter:

and Wendy posted about her Walden experience.

Both put me in mind of a friend (a librarian friend) who worked in a school that gave out summer sabbatical travel/learning grants.  No librarian had ever gotten one, because why do we need to travel/learn?  She applied and got a grant to learn to paint in Tuscany.  The rationale?  She was a very linear learner and thinker, not at all artistic.  Learning to paint would be out of her comfort zone.  Even more out of that comfort zone would be living and learning in a language she didn’t know.  Why was this important?  Because she was very comfortable (as I suspect most librarians are) doing research and speaking the language of information fluency/skills, etc..  Putting herself in those uncomfortable shoes would mean she could, for a few weeks, walk in her students’ steps as they began to learn the process of finding, evaluating and interpreting information while they did research.  She argued, convincingly, that her experience would make her more empathetic to them and help her be a better librarian.

I’ve never worked in a school that’s had that kind of program (or, if they did, I wasn’t eligible) but it’s something to consider for next year, even if it’s out of my own pocket (as Doug says, it’s good to have skin in the game).  Imagine how your program could change and improve if you did the same.

Posted in Conferences, Musings, Pedagogy | 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 »


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