Monthly Archives: April 2010

Stretching Beyond My Limits

This has been a long and hard semester and its almost done. I feel like I’ve been stretched and pulled in a lot of unexpected and good ways, which I’m going to reflect on here.

First though I want to post a link to the library website that I helped create with Maria, Library Girl and Caroline, Artichocke Mountain High School Library Website.

In our last class of School Library Management, we talked a lot about what’s the next step for heading towards a career as a school librarian and a lot of the advice works for just being a librarian. A lot of the focus was on professional organizations and how many options there are and thinking about what you can get from each one. This is something that keeps coming up in my various classes, the idea of how as I become a librarian, there really is an amazing community with lots of smaller communities out there for me to become a part of. The other wonderful thing we did was do a quick exercise about summing up being a school librarian. In my group we designed a girl scout badge that incorporated books, reading devices and the world since a good librarian can bring you the world.

Now I want to talk more about this semester in general, because it was one where I took a number of classes that don’t properly fit within the definition of my specialization in Library Information Science. I took School Library Management because I think I want to be a youth librarian and it gave me a way to really think and consider what is really key when you run a library or part of library where the focus is on children. This class has stretched me to try new things and really think about what are the responsibilities I take on as a librarian who works with young people.

I also took a course on Archives, because I want to be a well rounded librarian and many times small public libraries will be connected to their town’s archives. This class stretched me the most in terms of the major project in which we had to do a project within an archive to understand the user experience. Yet the problem I ran into was that my topic was not really suited to an archive, it was one of those cases where I could see what I was meant to do but its not really how I think about things. In the end what happened was I created a paper that I’m proud of about Robin Hood and illustrations of Robin Hood, but didn’t really get as much of a sense of working in an archive. I’m thankful for how stretched and thoughtful this class made me and it just reminded me of something I knew before, I’m not an archivist. Not long after I graduated college, I interned in the library of a maritime museum and a lot of the work I did was sort of archival, I was going through a collection of logbooks and putting together descriptions for researchers to use. What I learned doing that job was that I found the information in the logbooks fascinating but I wanted to do more than just describe it, I wanted to write stories and novels based around what I learned in those books. I may not ever be an archivist, but I am grateful for understanding why I’m not.

Another course I took was a required course on technology that had the feel of a survey and a wonderful challenge along the lines of as a librarian you might not see yourself as a tech person but you can be. This connected a lot with School Library Management because so many times the librarian especially a new librarian can end up the technology person. I came out of this class realizing that I can do a lot more with tech stuff than I realized.

The last course I took this semester was a mix for me, Online Communities, because I found that it wasn’t what I expected. Instead of an anthropology course, I found myself more in a course with some looking at communities work but rather more on the tech of working with groups online. The stretching was much less noticeable in this one and I did learn of some good tools.

As I look back over this semester and first year at SI, I feel incredibly tired and accomplished and a little disappointed in myself. I know that I have gained a lot from these courses but at times, I feel like when I stretched, it wasn’t always in the right direction and I didn’t do as well as I might have. SI is a powerful testing ground and place to learn because it asks you as a student to step beyond what you think you know and find out more. I’m glad to have a break and will be curious to see how I change this summer and next year.

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Looking Ahead

Reading the start of Woolls’ chapter, I was struck by her comment that librarians who work with young people aren’t always seen as being meant for leadership positions. I was wondering why this is since it seems from what we’ve been learning that school librarians are probably incredibly well suited for contributing and leading professional associations. I can see how there might be an issue with the question of are they educators or librarians first, but that seems in the end a bit of a moot point because all good librarians are educators. Also I love the list that’s presented at the end of ideas, so many of them are simple and powerful. I could see having those in an easy place to refer to and think about would be a great tool.

The importance of professional associations comes through a lot in both of these readings and reminds me that I need to join YALSA since I’m already an ALA member but I was unsure about joining YALSA at that point but feel much more sure now. I think its so powerful just how much can be done by working within professional organizations and so many of the guest speakers have just reiterated that even more for me. Its nice to know I’ve chosen a profession that’s small enough that my point of view can be heard.

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Videos and the power of the right measurements

I can’t believe that we’re almost done with classes, but this last class was just a treat. We’ve been watching these various videos put together by either associations of school librarians or schools and so we had the chance to make one. I worked with Caroline and Maria, who I’m creating the mock school website with and we just had a great time. Though we didn’t budget our time too well, because we spent most of the time planning and only a little bit filming. Its hard to sum up anything in under five minutes especially what a library means because a library and a school library can be so many things.

The second half of class we talked about data, evidence based learning and assessments how to pull all these things together. What I really took away from this discussion was how difficult and important it is to be constantly looking and thinking about what you’re doing in terms of teaching, the day to day life of your library and how to have that information readily available. Its wonderful how so many publishers like Follett are providing good tools for analyzing circulation, but its more than just having the tools, its actually using them. Though this is true for any form of data collection, it helps to have some idea of what you’re going to do with the data you collect so you know what to choose to collect.

Assessment appears to be one of the hardest parts of being an educator, which isn’t a complete surprise but it was so fascinating to talk about. Since there are just so many different ways to go about thinking and creating projects and assignments and just like with data collection, if you know what you want to get from the students, it helps along the way. So clear benchmarks or check points in a larger project and presenting and creating models of this is what I want the best work to look like makes a lot of sense. I also got the impression from listening to the former teachers in the class that assessment is a skill that needs to be adaptable and built on a strong sense of what you need to know.

I come away from this class session so aware of how key it is to be constantly looking at how you’re doing in everything in your library and using that to work on making things better.

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Boys’ Education Slideshow

This is another version of my book review that I did last month. I still haven’t found a tool or online presentation style that actually suits how I work, but I’m looking. So I’ve chosen to do a simple powerpoint presentation that shows all the major points of the book and hopefully can show some useful take aways.

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Data and Evidence

The Mueller article sets out a clear definition of authentic assessments, “students perform real world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills.” This seems to be such a key instructional idea yet it also seems fraught with difficulties as experiences for students vary as does level. Mueller presents so clearly just how important it is to have clear goals and standards in mind so you know what to assess for so that there is a clear sense of this leads to this and we want them to be able to do this. When he speaks about constructing our own meaning of the world that just clicks for me, because that’s the real challenge especially when dealing with a lot of students since how everyone finds meaning can vary so much. Yet you want to make sure that no one is left behind, but a teacher and librarian only has so much time so a lot of work goes into making sure the assessments are as effective as possible.

Young’s article presents a great list to think about in terms of what data are you collecting and why and her three main ideas of important types of data; access, suitability and competency. I think in those three main ideas, she really sums up all the key ideas for what a good school library should be giving to its students and school. Also I can see how good data collection can become the basis for consistent advocacy throughout the year.

I love the illustration for the Todd article and how he uses the word transform in terms of learning, because that’s a phrase that I think captures so much of what good teaching is. It transforms how you think and understand a subject. His three ways of thinking of evidence makes a lot of sense evidence in, for, and of practice so that there’s a process going on in creating a project and with the reflection involved in all parts of it and data collection. Since good assessment will end up creating strong evidence as will thoughtfully created assignments. I especially like how he speaks of focusing on what students achieve since first off that’s more measurable but also powerful. Also the fact that he talks about drawing together evidence from multiple schools and libraries and not just when you have to since that will improve the experience for everyone.

I’m not sure that I agree with Woolls’ difference between evaluation and measurement, I can see how she’s trying to make the idea of collecting evidence less worrying and test based. At this point, I’m just unsure about her word choice. Her idea about using effective assessment to show just what the media program is doing seems so key and really ties into the discussion about advocacy last week. One of the major issues seems to be which standards to you use and what’s the best way to use them. I like the idea of basing evaluation around the curriculum, it makes so much sense in terms of looking at what the school wants to achieve.

The idea of formative assessment seems quite powerful though it sounds as if unless its done well, it could take a good amount of time from the project. I’m reminded of Carl Harvey and how the assessment was built into the project from the start and how that seems to have made them really powerful. Also the idea of constantly evaluating how the library is working, what programs are is a powerful reflective tool to make sure that as a librarian, you’re constantly aware of what you need to do and what needs to keep going as it is.

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What image do you present to the world?

In class we were able to talk and listen to Buffy J. Hamilton, who’s behind the Unquiet Library, she is an amazing librarian. I was so struck by how consistently she created and then presented her library’s identity across multiple online platforms and its clear that its true in her library. This is something that I want to understand how to do, because the identity you choose to present to the world ripples across so many different areas.

SI is teaching me so much about how to think about what parts of myself do I want the world to see and as I once reminded at a wonderful summer camp, how others perceive you is not always what you expect. Successful branding and advocacy really seems born of knowing who you are and what the mission of your library is so that you’re constantly reinforcing it with everything you do. Sometimes that means that you go out of your way to make sure that logo and image is spread across multiple types of media and others, its being able to tell someone in five minutes what you stand for.

I’ve been thinking about this and mulling over what are the parts of my personality that I want to put out into the world and define myself to possible employers, professors and the world. One of the things that I’m discovering is that parts of myself that I didn’t think would count as much in SI actually do, such as the fact that I define myself as a roleplayer and a gamer. This is something I’ve been doing in some form since I was twelve, but its not until I arrived in SI that I saw how I could connect it to my possible career working in the Young Adult world. So when Kristin presented the challenge of find a way to sum up your view of yourself in ten words or less, I began with stories. Stories are how I define myself in terms of my creativity, but also now my career. I want to stretch myself to make sure I’m aware of the wealth of reading material out there and I want to find ways to help young people find their voices through their own stories, whether written or told.

So the two possible phrases that I thought of are: Finding hidden stories. or Talk, listen, create: What’s your story?

I’m not fully satisfied with either of these and I think I’m going to keep working on this idea as I get a better sense of where I want to be going.

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Putting Ourselves and Our Libraries Out There

Empowering Learners choice of the word Advocacy to anchor this section about making sure that both the school, community and those outside it are aware of what the library does and can do is powerful and effective. Also the mentions of various types of evidence based ways to show what the library is achieving reminds me of our library defense paper. One of the thoughtful choices that was made was in how the evidence based things weren’t just test scores but products like student webpages. I think this addresses an important part of the education world where it can be so easy to fall back on certain type of assessments since that’s what brings in money and support. Other types of assessment can be powerful, but I think it requires a librarian who knows how to explain and how just how key they are, more than just using the shiny tech, but having real thoughtful products.

I found the Elevator Speech article captured just how key it is to be able to quickly get everyone on the same page as you are especially with how rapidly the world of libraries is changing. The exercise from MAME sounded like it was interesting, I would be curious to know what were some of the speeches that people came up with.

In terms of the other article, I was slightly surprised by how defensive the speeches come across as. I heard in them a lot of this is what I’ve done, aren’t I busy, just point me in the right direction. This seems to be the difficult balancing art of school librarians, how do you say what you can do without seeming to push or brag or cross that line between helping and being in the way.

The AASL Toolkit for Advocacy is a wonderful resource, I like how its organized with explanations and clear lists of check with these people and make sure they know this. Just reading through it was calming since it was very clearly saying, here’s a plan and you’re not alone.

My favorite part of the AASL definition is “turning passive support into educated action”, which sums up advocacy so well since its positive and full of action. I like the idea of saying, we know you want to help and support us, here’s how. Same with marketing, its really about serving the community best with the most thoughtful use of resources.

In the other toolkit, I love the idea of you’re a student advocate, I think its something that librarians and teachers can’t hear enough off since its empowering and true. I found this toolkit even more useful than the other one for how it lays out so clearly why and how to be an advocate.

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