in which I attempt to be a rockstar teacher librarian :)

One of the few writers I follow on twitter is Terry Teachout, who is an art critic of sorts…as well as a playwright…and author of biographies. He recently linked to some questions he answered way back in 2011, and I found them interesting, in the bookish sort of way, so I thought I’d take a stab at them as well.

1. Favorite childhood book?
 IMPOSSIBLE QUESTION. Sigh. Perhaps I’ll go with “The Westing Game”, by Susan Raskin.

2. What are you reading right now? blogs, twitter, The Joy of Cooking, a biography entitled “Spiced”, and “The Museum of Intangible Things” by Wendy Wunder.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
 I haven’t requested anything…yet.

4. Bad book habit?
 I dog ear my pages. And occasionally leave spines open, facedown. Shame me.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? I think 13 items.

6. Do you have an e-reader? 

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? See answer #2. I like to mix my fiction and non-fiction reads.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)? Eh, if I don’t like a book after 50 pages, I put it down, so I can’t say I made it the whole way through a book that I didn’t at least semi-enjoy.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
 Impossible to know or remember. I read … a lot.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Whenever I want. What’s the point of a reading comfort zone? What is that?

12. What is your reading comfort zone? ^ see rhetorical question above.

13. Can you read on the bus?
 Yes. And I did throughout my school years.

14. Favorite place to read?
 Used to be in bed. Now it’s probably in the evening when I’m chilling.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
 Borrow it. If i remember to ask for it back, then please give it back.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books? Jah.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? Textbooks and cookbooks, oh yes.. Not fiction books.

18. Not even with text books?

19. What is your favorite language to read in? I only know one.

20. What makes you love a book?
 Expansion of my worldview, an established relationship with the character, a challenge for me to ‘figure it out’ and see where it’s going… oh, most anything has potential.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? Remembering that I liked it.

22. Favorite genre?
 YA realistic/historic fiction and mysteries. And cookbooks.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)? Fantasy. I wish I could like it.

drjohn.jpg24. Favorite biography? Oooh, I can’t say. 

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? Absolutely. 

26. Favorite cookbook?
 Joy of Cooking is up there, as is America’s Test Kitchen.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
 The sections of “Three To Get Married” by Fulton Sheen that I’ve read. Also, “This Star Won’t Go Out” memoir/retelling of Esther’s life.

28. Favorite reading snack?

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
 None, as yet. That said i refused to read Harry Potter until 2007 because I was afraid the hype would ruin it for me.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
 I don’t particularly read critics.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? I speak the truth.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
 Latin. So much Catholic history to be read…

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? Books can intimidate?

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
 See above.

35. Favorite poet?
 Not a huge poetry buff.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time? More than 10, less than 30.

37. How often have you returned a book to the library unread? pretty infrequent, but depends whether I renew or decide to just abandon them lest I get an overdue fee.

38. Favorite fictional character?
 Hooboy. Scout in TKAM is one of many… Sirius Black, The Watson Family, etc. Liesl from “The Book Thief”. 

39. Favorite fictional villain? Snape. Is he, or isn’t he? 😉 

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
 Whatever I’m in the middle of…

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
 eh, mayhaps a week.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
 Philip Pullman’s series, the one with the fantasy characters… that one.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
 If the TV’s on. that’s about it.

Annex%20-%20Bogart%2C%20Humphrey%20%28In%20a%20Lonely%20Place%29_NRFPT_02.jpg44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
 Yeesh, I don’t know. 

45. Most disappointing film adaptation? So many. 

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? eh, less than $50 I’d presume. I don’t spend much on books.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
 Rarely, but I always skim a cookbook before checking it out of the library.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?
 Boring, lack of character development, too many characters, vulgarity or obscene plotlines.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized? Yes, though I’m not excessively finicky about it.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
 Oh, give it away.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? No. There are some I refuse to read.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
 heh. there are a lot of candidates for that one.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
 actually, the entire Harry Potter series. I thought for sure I’d hate them.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? John Green’s “Looking for Alaska”. Just meh. 

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
 Is there guilty reading? I mean, I read for pleasure when I have time to. That’s good enough for me! 🙂


I have no idea how long this post will take me to write. In fact, I have every intention of freewriting and editing later – if I feel inspired to try to sound ‘well-written’. The thing is, I haven’t blogged since…oh. Since my first week of full employment as a #tlelem. I suppose that leaves my year so far open to interpretation – is it going so well that I’m spending all of my free time engaged in other job-related activities? Is it so unlike what I expected that I can’t bring myself to discuss it publicly? Honestly, it is neither of those two extremes. This post isn’t meant to serve as an explanation of where I’ve been. In the spirit of #whylib… this post is meant to serve as an explanation of why I am where I am and why I do what I do, with perhaps a glimpse to the future.

The short timeline of how I ended up here

  • 2005-2006: worked in high school library as an elective course for 2 years. Also fell in love with chemistry.
  • 2007: Went to the local university as a chem major. Spent a year immersed in botany, two more chemistry classes (which were, to be honest, easier than my high school classes), and two semesters of serious calculus. Then, in May ’08, switched my major to… history.
  • 2008-2011: took history, accounting, finance, and English literature classes. Because liberal arts.
  • 2011, May: Finished undergrad, went to Syracuse University for my MLIS-school media on a scholarship.
  • 2013, May: graduated from SU.
  • 2013, August: started my first elementary/middle LMS job here in Virginia.

You can complain, or you can do something about it

When I was in k-12 school, I would have used the following adjectives to describe our librarians:
grouchy. unhelpful. boring. rude. annoyed by the mere presence of a human being.

So when I decided, “hey, I want to be a school librarian”, I also took with me the idea of “and I don’t want to be anything like the school librarians I’ve known.” Fortunately, I met great folks during my two years in Syracuse – folks who were fun – engaging – who enjoyed their job – who liked being around children – who wanted to be helpful even if it meant going above or beyond the most basic of responsibilities.

Basically, I found people like me. People who wanted to do this, and after 5, or 10, or 20 some years, still wanted to do it. Thank you for being the ones I turn to when I’m having a competency crisis – I know I can because you’ve shown me that I can. I wanted to take my experience and do whatever was in my power to give students an experience unlike my own

What does it look like in reality?

This is what it looks like in reality. In photo form!

This is what it looks like in reality. In photo form!

My students might leave my class slightly late with a pass, because I don’t want them to leave feeling unsatisfied or beyond help (or maybe I just really want to hear what they have to say, but there wasn’t an appropriate time for it during class). There might be a surprise delivery to a classroom of a book that a student really wanted but I couldn’t locate on the shelf in the time they had. I walk up to individuals in the hall to ask questions or throw out ideas. When I see my students in the hallway during morning duty, I say hello and greet them.  I hand out bookmarks like they’re tickets to another world, even if I know a student has a half-dozen in their desk already, and I write their names on them with a note from me because I can. I email back.

Some days it’s a challenge to keep a smile on my face, but some days my students manage to bring it back. Some days I have to call parents because their child can’t get it together, and that’s disappointing. But some days, a student who could drive you batty nine times out of ten comes up with an incredibly insightful comment on the project – and you can’t help but feel overwhelmed with joy.

Where am I going from here?

I’m relocating at the conclusion of this school year, so my students this year will not be my students next year. I’m trying not to let that get me down, but rather embracing the time we have left together and trying new things – things that some might find out-of-the-box while others find them simplistic. I believe in my students and want to see just what they can accomplish this year. I want them to know that even though I won’t be here next year, they can still explore and be inquisitive and find answers and ask for help. I want them to feel safe in the learning environment, even if I’m not part of that environment. I hope that’s the case.

I hope I have another learning environment to work in next school year. I’m applying and sending in documentation and doing what I can to make that the new reality. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll find some other sort to way to make a difference. I’ll take with me the many things I’ve learning during this first year as a TL, and I’ll take the encouragement I’ve been given as well. I’ll leave you with this line, which comes from my most recent evaluation – it’s just a few short words, but it made my heart sing because it’s working and now I know, I can do this.

…students were engaged in the lesson and the learning environment was established where students were able to take risks in stating answers…

This morning we heard from a woman who works in curriculum development and implementation on the characteristics/qualities of an effective change leader. Interspersed within the presentation were some group activities that made us analyze our own tendencies, figure out what works, and determine how to build on those strengths and better support our weaknesses so that they, too, can become strengths. We honed in on what we expect a school culture to look like, and how best to support one another in a quest to be a cohesive learning environment.

Below are some notes I took, in snippet form; they are recreated here in the hopes that I’ll continue to reflect back upon them as the year progresses. [Additionally, I’ll likely lose the piece of paper on which they’re jotted, but the Internet forgets nothing].

  • Own your actions, regardless of result
  • Celebration is only authentic when you have something to show for it – don’t build expectations of success before success has actually been realized
  • Sometimes the STATUS QUO needs a WAKE UP CALL
  • The concept of impressive empathy means:
    understanding the perspective which others have
    being able to think “in someone else’s shoes” to determine understandings
    modeling respect even and *especially* when respect is not reciprocated
    realize that behavior is often situational; to change the behavior, first address the situation in which it occurs
  • Practice working against your own distorted brain – by
    practicing humility & admitting/owning mistakes
    create/foster a climate of openness and feedback of the critical kind
    focus on your core priorities, of which there shouldn’t be many – the key is *focus*, after all
  • The implementation dip is real and research bears out that truth – figure out a strategy before implementation to address the recovery period, minimize the amount of time spent in the recovery period, and explaining how you’re moving forward and improving to concerned stakeholders (who may not have the benefit of all the information re: implementation of something new within your school/organization/subculture)
  • Understand that: You will be judged. Judgement does not have to take the form of negativity. Constructive feedback trumps backhanded compliments – be direct and avoid belittling others if you want your feedback to be heard and taken to heart.

Any thoughts? Is it too jargon-y to make sense? Anything that stands out to you as a great idea in the midst of that rambling?

This week, our professor offered us two different discussion prompts/ideas/guiding questions on Evidence Based Practice.
I reproduce them below, but understand that my thoughts don’t necessarily align with either question, but rather the practice of EBP in school libraries on the whole. My brain decided that’s how it wanted to function today.

What are some of the issues or concerns that might hinder school librarians from engaging in EBP and, in your opinion, are they valid, insurmountable, etc.? What are potential evidence-based strategies that you might use in your school library? (For example, Ross Todd mentions rubrics, checklists, portfolios, etc.)

First, a few statements that may sound a bit harsh:

  • If one’s understanding of EBP is that it is librarian-focused, not student-focused, one needs open up to the greater possibilities.
  • If the thought of implementing EBP is overwhelming, rest assured it’s entirely possible to do so in pieces, and necessary.
  • If you believe school libraries and learning are important, please continue reading! 🙂

What is evidence-based practice? I’ll allow Ross Todd to explain that, in this quote from The Evidence-Based Manifesto for School Librarians which can be accessed here on the School Library Journal website.

“School libraries need to systematically collect evidence that shows how their practices impact student achievement; the development of deep knowledge and understanding; and the competencies and skills for thinking, living, and working. This holistic approach to evidence-based practice in school libraries involves three dimensions: evidence for practice, evidence in practice, and evidence of practice.”

Here’s the beauty of evidence-based practice: it won’t look at the same at school 1, school B, or school 3. The three components that Todd speaks of work together to take in the big picture, apply it to the local picture, and create a local picture. The end result is the ability to say,

This school in particular has been affected/changed/transformed/improved through X, Y, and Z initiatives, which were developed based on this needs assessment based on our local learning community. This team of persons implemented these initiatives and we have witnessed outcomes 1, 2, 3. Our students learned how to do this, that, and the other and successfully reached the learning objectives that were designed to meet their particular needs. These initiatives were developed based on research of best practices, and then applied in specific ways to the needs our learning community presented.”

Wouldn’t you love to be able to say all of that about the projects and learning going on in your school library?!

Perhaps it sounds overwhelming – I can appreciate that. One step at a time! What can you implement into the library program that will turn towards a culture of evidence-based practice, and help incorporate it consistently? Maybe starting with rubrics for projects – and having students help you create those rubrics and engage in their own learning. What about adding in reflective practice on the part of students – starting small with a discussion-style “wrap up” of the project with ideas on what went right, what went wrong, and what went awesome?

The first step to moving towards EBP is to start moving towards EBP. 🙂 Start with analyzing your students needs and determining learning goals. In what ways can you gather evidence to support teaching to meet those goals? In what ways can you gather evidence that the learning goals are being met effectively through both teaching and learning? I firmly believe that simply starting to think about how to incorporate evidence-based practice is the first step to making the transition smooth.

I liked this short summary of areas from which to gain evidence in your practice, from the School Library Media Specialist Eduscapes page.

This means gather evidence from various perspectives (Loertscher & Woolls, 2003):

  • learner level – student gains (i.e., achievement test scores, rubrics, portfolios, attitude scales, checklists, reflections)
  • teaching unit level – lessons and learning (i.e., checklists, collaboration rubrics, evaluation forms, timelines, log sheets)
  • organization level – library output (i.e., center statistics, hardware and software data)

As someone who is about to enter the school library world, I have one more request to make – please share your evidence! Share the successes; share those that didn’t meet expectations; share how you’ve revised; share what you’ve learned; share what your students have learned and how learning outcomes have changed along the way; share how your role as a library media specialist has changed as you’ve learned more; share.

And now, a statement that hopefully wraps up my ramblings coherently and gives us all hope and motivation for the future, that comes to you via Ross Todd (again, from the Evidence-Based Manifesto for School Librarians):

“EBP is not about scrambling to find additional time. It’s about establishing priorities and making choices based on your beliefs about the importance of school libraries and learning.”

E304 – Staff Training: Experiments & Experiences
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Leah L White, Reader Services Librarian, Northbrook Public Library
Gwyneth Stupar, Adult Services Librarian, Barrington Area Library
Pamela Carson, Web Services Librarian, Concordia University Libraries
Michael P Sauers, Technology Innovation Librarian, Technology & Access Services, Nebraska Library Commission

Let’s face it – I started in Track E today, it roooooooocked, and so I’ve stuck around all day. Consistency, kids. (Good in UX and life choices).

Presenting together, Leah and Gwyneth:

The best way to serve patrons/users/members: through staff training. Empower the staff – remove the fear!

Simplify your service points — you can’t have the “oh, that guys does THAT, I don’t even know what you’re talking about” thing going on constantly. If you remove the fear, you remove the need for that sort of interaction to occur. Encourage the mindset of “we’re all in this together, and must learn from each other”!

Staff training tips:

  • add the idea of “training” to a routine that’s already happening — or, total opposite idea — make an entirely new event/series specifically for staff to learn new things (GetGlue! Pinterest! Wheeeee!)
  • allow your staff to have opportunities to play and figure out how the heck stuff works
  • Create a team that wants to learn and wants to encourage others to learn
  • Get the positive people on your team first — work on the resistant or more negative folks over time 🙂
  • Workbooks, whee! If you have training materials for your patrons — why don’t you have any for your staff? Make it yourself.
  • Pilot your program with your creative, positive team!
  • If you’re going to make your program mandatory – and you probably will want to do so – offer multiple points of entry and formats for the learning environment. Not everyone likes workbooks (note to self!) but they may be willing to learn through other formats!

What to do after? Promote your highly trained staff to the public! Get outside the library building, meet people where they are, and help them however you best can.

And now… “Lifelong Learning, Informal Learning, & IT” with Pamela Carson (from Montreal!)

You can’t give up on learning. But, to empower lifelong learning and make it an enjoyable experience — look to informal learning — where the process, location, purpose, and content are determined and controlled by the learner.

You don’t have to go back to school to learn things. That’s where informal learning comes in.

2010 study: 90% of adults participate in informal learning activities. This is a facet of the knowledge economy in which we’re living.

Researchers tend to think that “lurking” really is a “legitimate peripheral participants” — the concept of ‘learning from the sidelines’.

How do we foster lifelong learning?

  • capacity building — enable the choice to persevere through the struggles
  • organizational supports — examples: a list-serv for new employees that allows them to lurk on the conversations that are happening; weekly progress reports on projects allows a ‘rookie’ to shadow and follow along with their development

Newsflash: you, right now, reading this blog, are an informal learner. Celebrate it! Embrace it. Seek out more informal learning opportunities that will benefit you – and you’ll be a model to others.

And now… Michael Sauers with “23 Things”

The original program (learning 2.0) was done with staff in 2008, and ran over about 16 weeks. It was successful enough to expand!

The second interation “Nebraska Learns 2.0” was available for fifteen CE credits — there was over a 50% completion rate, which is remarkably high for this type of self-directed learning. Partial completion didn’t earn partial credit, but did up-boost continued participation.

Evaluation remarks said ‘do more of this’, ‘keep going’, so the third iteration was born and started with “Thing 24”. They are currently on thing 66! The topics have gone all sorts of directions. They’re also doing a “BookThing” program – this month’s book is You Are Not A Gadget. They’re trying to foster collaboration by putting a sort of ‘time stamp’ where you need to complete XYZ within period 123 to get # of CE credits.

Look, it’s gonna happen – people sign up before understanding it and then drop off if you don’t keep telling them what’s going on. Constant promotion is necessary – the new thing is up! Go learn it!” – and it needs to be promoted across the board.

TL;DR: awesome session; excellent choice.

Michele Farrell, Senior Library Program Officer, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
Enid Costley, Children’s and Youth Services Consultant, Library of Virginia
Matt Montgomery, Technical Services Librarian, Mechanics’ Institute
Jeremy Snell, Web Librarian, Mechanics’ Institute

Here are my notes, largely unedited – I can only type so fast, after all. Sigh, human limitations. ::sips coffee::

Michele and Enid:

Most libraries today have a children’s room, but that’s a “new” thing – as in, circa 1890 – so literacy in libraries is not a recent trend

“Storytime” isn’t what you think it is (my note: so stop stereotyping children’s librarians, please, thanks) – we’re engaging in children’s social, emotional, physical development – we’re branching out and creating new partnerships with the community to advance literacy

What’s the federal role?
Majorly comes out of support from the Inst of Museum and Library Services – their goals are to promote literacy, education, and lifelong learning – and the “early literacy” focus means working toward these goals before kids can read and write
other goals: build healthy communities; support and empower parents; create possibilities for more things libraries can do through partnerships — IMLS partners with a lot of different organizations all under the umbrella of leading to children’s success
At the end of May: IMLS will be issuing a report on early learning – stay tuned!

Digital Literacy:
what does it mean? –> “skills associated with using technology to enable users to find, organize, evaluate, create, communicate information”

Programs in existence that may be of interest:
Rhode Island’s Getting Ready for Kindergarten
Utah’s Getting Ready to Read program
StoryBlocks: collection of 30-60 second videos to model songs/rhymes/finger plays for young children & enhance ‘early literacy’
DaybyDay: every day there is a song to sing/activity to do that’s high in creativity, along with a TumbleBooks – family literacy project –there is a bid underway to translate the entire thing into Spanish
Colorin Colorado!: helping children read and succeed – a bilingual site for English language learners
Project ENABLE: training sessions for gaining skill and understanding in creating and delivering effective library/information services to students of ALL abilities (my note: I’ve done the training, and it is highly useful. Recommended.)

Current national ad campaign: “3 2 1 Everyone On” – aims to promote digital literacy at multiple skill levels, searchable by zip code for programs in your area that may fits your digital literacy needs

Matt and Jeremy:

(My note: I hate when I accidentally +1 something on Google+ when I’m on a different website! ^_^)

Their work has focused on a population that tends to lack digital skills. They needed a way to serve this population better than they had been – one barrier was that the reference desk is in the middle of the library space, so approaching with questions wasn’t nearly as comfortable as it should be. SO they set out to fix that.

Change the setting and set the mood:
using an upper space in the library and having “open office hours” to provide one-on-one service – one hour, each day, for an entire week. You could set up a 15min appointment or just walk in for help. Fifteen minutes is not enough time to do anything and there were very few walkin/dropins.

They tried it again – and instead of the previous setup, it was a six-hour shift with 30minute appointments. There were more drop ins and overall, a more effective approach to solving problems and teaching digital skills.

How’d they promote it?
The usual – website, posters, print newspaper, etc – they had a few prompts on what they could do – “help with eReaders, the library catalog, general technology questions” – and one staff member was tasked to set up all the appointments so that the patrons had just one person to meet with via phone/email. (My note: the thought of not shuffling between staff members on the phone makes me smile!)

What happened as a result?
They’ve assisted 69 people over 38 “staff hours” in a 6 month period. This isn’t something that only older library users are attending! Basic email/computer questions are what they handle – but they do a number of things from formatting eBook formats to building a WordPress blog for professional uses – it keeps the library staff “on their toes” as well. 🙂

The library members are appreciative of the service – and the library staff have been able to learn more about the needs of their community and thus, respond more effectively to those community needs.


Session presenters:

Heather Braum, Digital and Technical Services Librarian, Northeast Kansas Library System
Gary Price, Co-Founder, INFODocket & FullTextReports

I came to this session and thus, had the pleasure of bookending my sessions for the day with Heather Braum of the Northeast Kansas Library System! Here are my notes from Heather’s presentation, unedited:

Open Source Software — Open Access Journal — Open Ed Resources

Apparently we should all go watch this video on OER — — but not ’til after

Open Ed Resources – The Verbs:

REUSABLE without violating a copyright
REWORK/REVISE to meet your needs
REMIX and combine it with something else
REDISTRIBUTE it so that others can do the same thing to your resource
CREATE new content and give it back to the community

You have to cede some of the control you may want to enter into the idea of open education resources!

Why the heck should YOU, of all people, care about open ed resources?
-find new perspectives
-share knowledge

OER comes in ALL FORMATS – anything that can be in a curriculum can be an OER. Lectures, videos, quizzes, podcasts, etc!

Long list of links that were mentioned during the talk: – topics organized by subject and grade levels – different materials that are shared and may make up components of your courses – THERE FOR YOUR USE! Yay!

Project Gutenberg – – is an open ed resource. Are you using it with your students?

OER Livebinder: – divided up into subjects, has lesson plans

Khan Academy – controversial, but it IS a source – vet it!

TedEd: – doesn’t quite fit the definition of OER, but you can use it as a reference – turning TED talks into lessons/components

Art history resources that aren’t copyrighted? – organized by periods/times

eTexts/curriculum – organized by Joyce Valenza – LOTS of resources here –

And it was right around then that we started having an open discussion (quickly) about how we might use OER.

I had to bail out of the session at this point. My apologies for only getting half the fabulous session on the blog!