Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fierce Reads Tour: S.A. Bodeen, Marissa Meyer, and Leila Sales

Last night I attended my first author event at Children's Book World. I had heard of this bookshop and their events before, but hadn't made it out to Haverford. I wish I had done it sooner since it was a lot of fun.

The books shop is small, but it made for a nice intimate event. The authors who were part of the Fierce Reads tour - S.A. (Stephanie) Bodeen (The Compound, The Fallout), Marissa Meyer (Cinder, Scarlet), and Leila Sales (This Song Will Save Your Life) - were relaxed, personable and funny and they would all make spectacular author visits. The event was moderated at first and then the audience was able to ask questions. Meyer, who currently has a movie deal for her Lunar Chronicles series, announced for the first time that she has a new book coming out, Heartless, which will be the back story for the Queen of Hearts in  Alice in Wonderland.

The schedule of events at Children's Book World is posted on their website and you will be quite impressed with the authors and illustrators who will be stopping by. I'm particularly looking forward to the following:
  • Oct 15 Gayle Forman
  • Oct 18 Outsiders Speak Up - Jennifer R. Hubbard, K.M. Walton, Alison Ashley Formento Abbott, Jon Gibbs, and Ellen Jensen
  • Oct 20 Matt Phelan, Linda Sue Park, and David Wiesner
  • Nov 7 A.S. King
  • Nov 21 James Dashner (Maze Runner was our OBOS selection last year!)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Professional vs Personal Social Media: Twitter

On Friday, the use of Twitter for professional development was discussed at our in-service meeting. The vibe in the room seemed to range from "Seriously? That stupid thing the kids and celebrities use?" to "Duh, I've been on it for years!". I have had an account for many years (@liberrygurl), but just started to really use it in the last year or so. I occasionally participate in Twitter chats and frequently repost articles of interest to those in my Professional Learning Network (PLN). I also set up an account for the library (@gvlmc) where I post announcements, trivia, book club information, young adult literature news, etc.

The first step to getting involved with Twitter is to set up an account and make sure you pick a really secure password with a mix of letters and numbers. The account is free and you don't have to post anything right away if you would rather "lurk" for a bit.  Take some time to get a feel for it before jumping in right away - you could even play with it before setting up an account. Remember, everything you post is public (or has the potential to be retweeted and made public) and is archived by the Library of Congress. If you want to remain anonymous, it helps to share at least your subject and/or grade level so those communicating with you have an idea of who you are since accounts with no information look like spam. You can also set your account to private, but it is hard to connect with new people that way.

Next, decide who to follow. Do any of your colleagues have accounts? How about professional organizations, experts in your field, and news outlets? Follow people that you want to learn from and see who they follow to grow your list even more. Follow a few for fun like your favorite sports team, author, musician, or celebrity chef. But wait - how will you know that the accounts are real? After all, there have been many imitation accounts that have made the news. Accounts that have been verified for companies or celebrities have a blue circle with a white check mark next to the name. Some people have rules that they will only follow 100 Twitter accounts, but I can't seem to pare my list down to that. A nice feature of Twitter is that you can create your own lists, so if I want to just see the latest posts from those I follow on my "Edtech/Library Stuff", "CookingNCrafts", or "Sports" lists, I can easily do that. You can also follow other people's lists.

Now that your account is set up, explore trending topics by searching for specific hashtags, which look like this: #edtech and are used to follow conversations on topics. Anyone can make up a hashtag. I often use #tlchat (teacher librarian chat), #libchat (library chat), #edchat (education chat), #edtech (educational technology), #yalit (young adult literature), #ebooks, #ereaders, #publishing, #childlit (children's literature), and #books2movies in my tweets or retweets since the information is usually education, technology or library related.

Once you get comfortable with how Twitter works, participate in a Twitter chat, which will allow you to connect with others in real time. A chat is when a group meets online at a designated time and uses a specific hashtag to discuss issues that interest them. The hashtag for the conversation usually has "chat" in it. The Twitter chats can be as general as "education" as a whole or as specific as "fourth grade teachers". Many chats are archived and you can read the postings at a later time if you can't meet during the live discussion. There are tools to aid you during the discussions and to host a chat.

One tool that I have found to be useful is the BufferApp. It may appear that I am on Twitter 24/7, but I'm really not. I use the BufferApp to schedule when my tweets and retweets are posted. I usually check my email and Google+ in the morning and will "buffer" any tweets so that they show up every hour or so instead of all at once. This tool can also be used to spread out announcements from a club or sports team account. By running your tweets through a tool like this, you can also see retweet and click statistics.

There is some concern about teachers and social media. I have made the personal decision that Facebook is private and I don't friend students (K-12 or college). I will encourage my college students to connect with me on other forms of social media, such as Google+ or Twitter, because I want them to begin developing a PLN as we explore how to use social media in a professional manner as part of the coursework. I don't worry about my high school students because I figure they will quickly tire of my posts and everything I post there is either of a professional nature or something like "beautiful night at the ballpark". I am extremely careful about every post I make, even on my "private" Facebook page, since I do post a picture and identify where I work. I have also worked really hard to build a resume and professional reputation and don't want to do anything to throw it away.

Even if you do everything right, yes, there is still a potential for issues. My fiance is a high school English teacher who uses Twitter not for teaching, but for his side job as a sports writer. He connects with other writers, media outlets, athletes, teams, etc. and those connections have helped his column and podcasts. He has to keep his profile open for the sports writing and tells his high school students that find him that he will block any who follow him. Although he can't stop anyone from reading his tweets, he has made a decision that while his Twitter feed is public, that part of his life he doesn't want to include his students in. He had one incident where a student sent him a public message with profanity. We got the screen shot before the post was deleted and his administration was supportive in their handling of it. If are responsible with how you conduct yourself, it isn't your fault if a student harasses you online. Don't engage, just get the evidence and take it to the administrative team. Don't allow the chance that a student might do something stop you from using a powerful tool for connecting with other educators.

For more information check out the following videos hosted by Tom Murray (Quakertown SD):

Growing Your PLN -  local and national educators discuss how and why they created a PLN, with Twitter being an important part of that.

The Power of Twitter Chats - local and national educators discuss what they have learned from Twitter chats

Monday, May 6, 2013

History of Librarianship

We spend a great deal of time looking forward to what libraries of the future will be like, but sometimes it is fun to take a step back in time and see how far libraries have come (or what hasn't changed).

25 Vintage Photos of Librarians Being Awesome

Read the School Librarian’s Letter that Convinced Coppola to Make ‘The Outsiders’

Workout video for librarians (1987)

Delightful and Hilarious Vintage Library Videos 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Social Media and Professional Development

Social media isn't just for celebrities who insist on Instagramming every aspect of their lives. It can be a powerful professional development tool as well. Here are some of my current favorite resources:

Twitter - I confess I don't check it regularly, but it is a great tool for professional development. Check out #tlchat, #libchat, #yalit, #edtechchat, #edtech, and more that I linked on my resources site.

Shelf Awareness - A daily email with news on publishers, independent booksellers, new titles, author book tours & television appearances, and trivia.

Book Bub - A daily email that lists the free and discounted ebooks of the day from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others.

Google+ - Similar to Facebook, but seems to have more of a professional slant. Some of my favorite communities are InfoLit & Tech (my own) and Instructional Technology Integrators.

Listservs: An oldie but a goodie, listservs are still going strong. Some of my favorites are LM_NET, too many from ALA related to all aspects of librarianship, and the PA Schools listserv.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Destiny Quest App Pt 2

So much for using the App when the Internet is didn't work.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Destiny Quest App

The Destiny Quest app is awesome and I use it all the time when I am helping classes look for independent reading books. There is nothing like having a mobile card catalog while roaming the stacks and some of the students have begun downloading it, too. This is why I can't believe I forgot about it last week.

Our Internet connection was a little uncooperative over the last two weeks and would go up and down throughout the day. The freshman were starting Pro/Con research papers and this made it difficult to use our LibGuide and databases for research, as well as locating books in the card catalog. For some strange reason my first instinct was to grab the Sears subject headings book to help locate books on the various topics since the Dewey numbers are in there. This worked well enough and books were located for everyone, but it hit me later - the catalog app still worked! It wasn't our server that crashed, it was the Internet connection. I had been running my phone off of the 3G and not the wireless every time the network went down. I could have used that instead and had the students download it to their phones. I doubt I'll forget this next time!

Monday, January 28, 2013

QR Code Update

On Friday I had some freshman classes in the library for independent book selection. The second of the two classes had a few minutes left at the end of the period and one of the students decided to download a QR reader onto her phone and check out the barcode on the book she had checked out. Two of her friends gathered around to see the book trailer. This was the first time I had witnessed a student doing this with the books I had put on display with the codes. They loved it and started scanning codes on other books before the bell rang. I figured this PR attempt would take some time to catch on and was glad to see it being used.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Public Library Card on School Supply Lists

Lately I have been seeing some discussion on listservs about adding a public library card to school supply lists. Genius! Why hadn't I thought of this? I have been trying to think of ways to get my students signed up for public library cards and this never occurred to me. I think we need to try it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Usually the term 'statistics' makes me a little nervous since, despite what my transcript says, I didn't do so well in that graduate course. Luckily, library statistics are a little easier to deal with and don't involve charts and formulas.

Maintaining accurate and current statistics is very important for a number of reasons. They are required for annual reports, grant applications, and budget justifications. They can also help you keep your job when you can clearly show how many patrons are coming to programs, checking out materials, and using technology. It may appear to be good enough to tell an anecdote about how great the library program is, but the truth is numbers are important.

Keep up on your library stats by updating your records at least once a month. It is more impressive (and good for your sanity) if you have the numbers available when you need them. Keep track of visitors, circulation, program attendance, etc., in a spreadsheet. Data from database subscriptions may only be available going back a few years so don't rely on vendors to keep your stats for you.

Numbers can also help you evaluate your program by highlighting weak areas that you hadn't noticed before, such as low database usage or book circulation in a specific area. Using statistics to evaluate your program is an easy way to do a regular check-up on how your library is operating and gives you hard data to compare current activity to previous years.

Friday, January 18, 2013


I don't think college students would enjoy being compared to toddlers, but this morning my mind made that connection. You know how you get one idea in your head and it leads to another and another and the next thing you know you are making some oddly relevant connections? That's what happened. 

I was thinking today about trying to get another student teacher. I got lucky my first time and had a great one. This reminded me about how much I enjoy teaching college students because they make me really think about how things work in libraries and schools and why we do things the way we do.

It's the whole "Why?" question. Children ask "why" all the time because they are curious. They see the world with fresh eyes and are trying to understand how it works. It's the same with newbie librarians. They want to know "why". And this is a great thing for the veterans.

Being asked why you do something makes you step back and consider it. Why do we have the policies we do? Why is the library set up that way? Why do we do the things we do? Why is that book challenged? When you have been doing the same job for a long time, things become routine and you forget the rationale behind the initial decisions to move in specific directions. "That's the way it has always been done" isn't a valid answer. What events and decisions led to that practice?

The next time you are thinking about how to evaluate your library, bring in a library science intern or student who needs observation hours - he or she will ask you questions about areas of your library facility and program that you haven't considered in a long time.

When is the last time you were asked why you do things the way you do?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Classroom Tip of the Day: Painter's Tape on Whiteboards

My school recently administered the Keystone Exams (new end of course exams in algebra, literature and biology). My role was to offer a coffee/bathroom break to test proctors, a very important job that also allowed me to visit classrooms I hadn't been in before. In the first class I visited I noticed something brilliant - blue painters tape on the whiteboard! It was so easy and clearly designated areas of the board for specific classes. I thought that it was genius because it stood out more so than drawing lines, couldn't get erased and didn't damage the board. Later I saw it in a special education room where the teacher had used it to make a chart with a box for each student and his/her assignments. I was starting to see a trend and wasn't sure who did it first, but it was such a simple, effective idea.

What tricks do you use in your classroom/library?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Curriculum you can't teach

I've been working on a new 9-12 curriculum for the last few months. It's hard. Really hard. Not the actual writing part, but the bit where I try to conceptualize a great curriculum I don't know that I'll even be able to teach. I feel like it is more of a wish list for my seniors than a guarantee of the information literacy skills I will teach them before they graduate. That is very frustrating to me. I don't like making promises I'm not sure I can keep. So I have decided to do the only thing I can think of - conceptualize a great curriculum and make a plan for implementation.

I know what skills my students should have before graduating. I have written curriculum before, read the articles, attended the workshops and see the skills my college students lack. The problem lies in the fact that I am writing a curriculum without a guarantee that I can teach it. At my former district I had a quarterly freshman class. We also had two librarians and never taught at the same time so it worked - introductory skills taught and other classes could be attended to. But I can't do that alone. It feels rewarding when my colleagues ask for help with research projects, but I want to scream when they don't tell me about other projects or assume the students know what to do because they are honors or seniors. Don't they understand that the information literacy skills are a constant work in progress with these young adults? In these moments I wonder why I'm wasting my time making curricular promises to the students that I can't keep.

I know what others will say - "you have to collaborate", "don't let the teachers do research without you", "attend department meetings", etc. I understand all that very well and say the same things to others in my situation. After all, it is easy to blame the others for not collaborating with me. How can I do my job if no one else will play nice?

But then I had to be honest with myself. The simple truth is that I have expected too much in the last two years. I can see the library program and role in my school that I want. And I wanted it from Day 1. Over the last year and a half I have alternated between proud at the impact I have made some areas and frustrated at the slow change that has come in others, as well as going through the process of being the "new kid". I've come to realize that the key is patience and understanding that it won't happen overnight.

Ugh, I'm not good at thinking like that. But I have to.

You see, when you have a curriculum you aren't guaranteed to be able to teach, you have to think positively and creatively. And have a plan.
  • Write the dream curriculum - include everything my students should know to prepare them for college and life in general beyond high school
  • I have to teach it. Zero in on those that have already been working with me for more collaboration in the planning stages of the lesson. (Hear that English and social studies? We need to talk...No, we aren't breaking up. We have been together for awhile now and it is time to take our relationship to another level.)
  • Spread the word about information literacy and tech integration and meet more of the faculty. Host tech workshops regularly for flex hours. An hour here and there should draw them in. (Snacks will probably help, too...)
  • Begin inquiring when other departments are rewriting their curriculum and attempt Phase One of Information Literacy Cross-Curricular Integration 
Collaboration isn't always easy, but it is the only way I can teach my curriculum. Stay tuned as I implement "Operation Information Literacy Skills".

Friday, January 11, 2013

Google Art Project

I love museums of any kind. Ok, except Modern Art. Although I try, I just don't get most of it. Yesterday I heard about yet another Google tool, the Art Project. This site is fascinating. It combines the ease of  traveling around in Google Earth with close ups of masterpieces from around the world. I really shouldn't have been surprised by this project having stumbled across and explored museums in Google Earth previously (Louvre). The beauty of this site lies in it's simplicity. The background of the screen is a constantly changing array of artwork from the collections with only half of the screen initially dedicated to menus and instructions. The focus is quite obviously on the art, not a cluttered web site. There are drop down menus to select the museum, then the user chooses to "view artwork" or "explore the museum". Each piece of artwork is accompanied by notes on the piece, artist information, additional works by the artist (all with images), and the history of the ownership of the piece. Each museum has an interactive floor plan, links to the museum page, the history of the museum and location on Google Maps, of course. It is hard to decide if the "street view" stroll down the museum halls or the ability to zoom in to examine the finest brush strokes is the more engaging experience.

For those who desire a little more assistance, there are two beginner videos (Visitor Guide and Behind the Scenes) that are linked from YouTube. The behind the scenes one is merely a 2 minute or so montage of museums included in the project and Google staff members photographing, but it is still informative and makes one a little jealous of the participants.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

QR Codes and Enticing Readers

Last week I decided to finally give QR codes a try. I have been seeing librarians talk about book trailers on list servs for quite awhile now, and figured it was time to investigate how to use QR codes to link books to their book trailers.

The first step was locating book trailers to use. I found that many publishers have set up their own channels on YouTube with trailers, interviews and more linked there. I decided to add as many as I could, so I searched through the publishers' channels to locate interviews and trailers for as many books as I had.

It was easy to create the codes on QR Stuff . All I had to do was copy the URL for the video into the generator and download the finished product. The process was:
  1. Find video on YouTube
  2. Copy url address into QR Stuff generator
  3. Download QR code as an image
  4. Rename and save download to "Book Trailers" folder on desktop
  5. Insert QR code image onto Word Document 
  6. Print full page
I set up a 3 column Word document to print out the labels and added a title for each ("Raven Boys Book Trailer" or "Libba Bray Author Interview") so that I could tell the codes apart. I left the title with the code when I placed them on the books since the first may be an interview and then add a trailer later. It was easy to copy and paste as many codes as I needed for titles with multiple copies. I used yellow paper to try to get them to stand out more against the cover. Luckily, I picked a day when I wasn't interrupted too much because it is easy to mix them up if you don't do it in a set pattern of creation and labeling. I did a quick scan of each code with my phone to double check that the right videos were linked.

As for the display, I went as simply as I could. I just wanted to draw attention to the new features and see how the students reacted. I use my iPhone to take quick pictures of the newly coded covers, emailed them to myself and printed them out to add to the bulletin board.

Several of the titles have been checked out, but I'm not sure yet if it is the popularity of the series or the new codes had something to do with it. Time will tell, but for now it is a fun and easy way to draw the attention of my readers. I'm also hoping that some teachers who do independent reading projects might consider book trailers as an alternative assignment.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

(Almost) Tech-free Holidays

Over the holiday break my fiance and I attempted to go tech-free as much as possible, especially Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We did pretty good, opting for quality time with a movie marathon, catching up on some TV series (can't wait for Downton Abbey season 3!), a little post-holiday sales shopping, and Les Miserables. It is so easy to get lost in laptops, smartphones, and other devices that it is important to make a conscious effort to put them aside once in a while. does have some advantages. Today I was thinking about some of the ways I used various tech tools (despite attempts otherwise) in the last two weeks:

  • Using my Canon Rebel T3i camera to make copies of family photos at the future in-laws
  • Using the app on the iPad to share what I have found at family gatherings, instantly update the tree with more names and find more information from historical documents as we talked
  • Edit family photos on my laptop to upload to Ancestry program and make copies for family on printer/scanner
  • Search Pinterest for inspiration to make holiday wreaths
  • Search online for instructions on how to make a bows for wreaths (found, but ended up not using them)
  • Listen to audiobooks downloaded from public library while making the wreaths
  • Download and read books onto Kindle
  • Saved Christmas specials throughout December on DVR to watch on holidays (LOVE Prep & Landing!) 
  • Pretending we had a fireplace with the yule log on OnDemand (couldn't resist!) while opening presents
  • Use shopping lists on Grocery IQ app on my phone
What didn't I use? Twitter, the "professional" email account for listservs, writing blog posts, etc. 
Technology is such an integral part of our lives that we must strive to find the balance between helpful and distracting. One of my resolutions is to do more tech-free days on non-holidays, as well as holidays.