Tag Archives: budget

Real World, Real Tools: Don’t try to be Wonder Woman

My first day at ALA was spent attending a program put together by AASL (American Association of School Librarians) called Real World, Real Tools that was run by Deb Logan, Laura Pearle and Wendy Stephens. This was an intense workshop that ran from 12:30 to after 4 and left me with many thoughts that I’m still processing. Here I want to write about some of the main things I learned in it as well as the experience of spending that amount of time with other school librarians.

The session was divided into five smaller parts that covered; Budgets, Staffing, Administration, Technology and Self Care. Each part began with a presentation and then we talked into smaller groups before coming back together. I’m not certain of the exact number of people who attended but I don’t believe it was more than 30 people, which was a good size. The way the program was put together reminded me of classes I’ve had in graduate school where a lot of information was covered but there was time in groups to process and discuss. I think any of the presentations could have stood on its own as a panel or poster but putting them all together was a great way to understand all the aspects of what a school librarian does.

My main impression looking back on this program was a mixture of I wish I’d attended something like this before I began my job last year and feeling grateful for going to it this year. A great deal of information was shared about ways to manage with a small or no budget, how to deal with staffing issues or the problems when you’re a lone wolf librarian, speaking the language of administration, making the best technology choices for your community and taking care of yourself.

At this point in my experience, the part that I found the most relevant was the administration section as a major issue I had this past year was knowing that I had to communicate to administration but not managing it as well as I needed to. That part of the presentation was a good reminder that good communication takes work and that as librarians, we can fall into the trap of forgetting that not everyone thinks like a librarian. Also that even if you’re in a fairly secure position, as a school librarian, you need to be constantly showing and proving to your school community what you do so they can observe you with more understanding. As a young librarian, I had hoped that perhaps this was something that was more tied to budget issues but now I understand that its part of being a school librarian. This was something I think I was aware of considering the rhetoric that surrounds libraries of what do you do and the huge lack of understanding from many sides. I’ve had many conversations with friends of my family, people I meet when I explain what I do where they look confused at the existence of librarians. The program shared a lot of good strategies for sharing your work to a community though it seemed like many of the ideas would require a good deal of thought into what works. All of these ideas are based around the idea of keeping the community aware of what you do and their basic gist was share your calendar of these are the classes you work with, these are activities happening in the library. The manners of sharing varied from posting a calendar, keeping a weekly record on a blog, using an erasable poster to share what kids have learned and directly emailing stakeholders. My main concern about these ideas is how to walk that fine line between informing people of your work and not having it feel like you’re going see, see all I’m doing. That aspect I think depends a huge amount on the community and how people communicate. Its something I plan on taking to my next job as well as the other part of it which is the importance of making your goals and ideas explicit and connected to the school’s goals. Build programs around tasks and goals that are key to the administration and district, be in constant communication with teachers about how you can tie in with them. A good school librarian connects to all aspects of a school and a great one needs to be able to show all the ways they work with and for everyone in the school.

The other major lesson that I took from this program was about not trying to be Wonder Woman, which is a common trap for librarians. That its easy to get pulled into the feeling that you have to do everything for everyone and if you don’t, if things fall by the wayside then you’re failing in your job. This is even more acute when you’re the only librarian in a building, there’s this feeling that you have to be the perfect example of a librarian, this isn’t realistic and can be unhealthy. Instead its incredibly important to make long term plans, look ahead and if there are a lot of big issues to deal with focus on what’s important now. Then share these goals with the community so they understand why you’re making the choices you’re making. This way, even if you’re the only one doing the work, other people are aware of what you’re working on and what takes the most time. Then the next and I think most important part is taking care of yourself. This was something that I didn’t do as good of a job with last year, I got so caught up in being the ever present librarian that my own health suffered for it. The message of don’t try to do everything and that you can’t succeed if you’re not healthy is incredibly important. Powerful change takes time and its hard to make change happen when you’re not at your best.

As I came out of this program somewhere around 4:30, I felt tired but in a good way since I had been immersed with people who were successful school librarians. I had conversations about my first year and the caring and advice I was given was wonderful. We as librarians are a powerful community and one that will always listen when you ask, “Am I doing this right? Do you have any ideas?”

I know as I look into the future, I will refer back to my notes from this program as I go forward as a librarian.

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Finding my feet: the first two months

This blog hasn’t been updated since I began my new job at the Roeper School as I’ve been busy learning about the community and how I as a librarian best fit in. It’s now nearing the end of October, which means that I’ve been a part of Roeper for two months and so it is a good time to look back and forwards. The Roeper School is built around the idea of responsibility and community, a great amount of trust is placed in students to manage their own time and resources. The school was founded in 1941 by George and Annemarie Roeper after they had escaped from Germany and is built around their philosophy in which students are active participants and leaders. There’s a great focus on gifted students as Roeper tries to be a place where every student knows they will get the attention, respect and challenges they need in the school day. On the , there are wonderful write ups of the , and , I recommend reading them, they are linked here. During my orientation, one of the veteran teachers explained that the way this works for connecting with students is that in all interactions, you must be genuine, because the kids will form an opinion of you early on and talk amongst themselves about everyone. This ended up being good advice as one of the first major changes I made was that I chose to sit in the library instead of using an office behind a door that other librarians had used. I made this choice because the office felt too cut off from the library space and I wanted to make it clear from the beginning that I was available and visible to the entire community. A piece of positive feedback that I keep hearing from the community is how nice it is to see me in the library, I’ve heard this from students and faculty. It shows me that my instinct is the right one. One of the complications this presents is that I sit amongst the students, sharing tables with them instead of at a desk in the room but apart. This has been useful for starting conversations students feel comfortable approaching me about a variety of issues and I’ve been given a good window into how the library is used. However I don’t have a specific place and some mornings have to ask someone to move. I’m in the process of getting a desk, which will I hope help to create an anchor place for me in the library.

The library is one of the largest spaces to gather in the building, so students are constantly going in and out of the space. The most common activities in the library are studying, socializing and computer games. Those games present one of my major challenges in creating compromises within the library space. The library has eight computers in the main room and two computers in a quiet room. Due to the trust placed in the students, the Roeper computers have no filters and students have free blocks throughout the day in which to do as they like. This means that at times the library gets loud as students play computer games and discuss these games. One of my first challenges as librarian was how to insure that the gamers didn’t take over the library, that meant restricting playing of Minecraft and being firm with students to get gamers off the computers when they’re needed for work. This is part of a larger question about how to best use these computer resources and other technology resources around the school that I’m going to address in greater depth in another entry.

It’s a complicated issue, because technology education is a key part of modern education and a difficult one. It’s something that works best in a place between all or nothing and needs to be crafted for the needs of the community, because what works in one school won’t work in another. In the contemporary library, I as librarian can do a lot to create a space where students can learn how to be thoughtful online in their work and play. Technology usage and education is a major component of what I’m working on at Roeper and I’m going to dedicate another entry to my thoughts and observations. I’m excited to be a part of the conversation at Roeper about technology use across the school.

At this point when I look over what I’ve accomplished, a lot of it is in terms of what’s to come and there are many first steps that will lead to greater ones. I’ve been focused on learning a new culture and exploring how the library will play the most positive role in it. I’ve been in the process of gathering copies of textbooks to add to the reference collection for student’s use in the library, which is a small change from how the books were arranged before. I’m working on adding many donated books to the collection and expanding the periodical selection. One of my projects that I hope to finish soon, which will connect into how I wish to get more resources available to the school is putting together a library website. The conversations I’ve had with teachers have been about what are good resources for projects and research. I’ve created an outline of the webpage with useful websites grouped by academic disciplines, that when I post them will have explanations of what they will be the most useful for. The great guys in the IT department have been a real help for me in this as I’ve been learning how to get my ideas to fit within the beautiful website that they’ve created for the school. At this point, I’ve been able to help teach in one class, where I realized that there is a need for a lot of resources in one place and easily organized so that students can find what they need, as well as information to help them best use those resources. The class was an 8th grade science class, I came in to get them started on their research for creating a major experiment. Since those classes, I’ve talked with the teacher and we both agree that there needs to be more showing students how things work. Research is a key component of education but can be tricky to create an overall plan for as different teachers highlight various aspects of it. The Lower School librarian and I are hoping to try and create a schoolwide plan to have the libraries be the place that every teacher can look to when it comes time to teach students about research. She and I both attended the University of Michigan School of Information together and its wonderful be working with her since we share the same ideas of what a successful library looks like.

I feel most successful in terms of how I’ve been able to connect with the students as they’re the ones who spend the most time in the library. It’s one of their favorite spots to hang out and to work. When I was starting, I thought at first that I would be connecting more with bookish girls like I was in Middle and High School, and I do talk to them but the students that have reached out me the most are the roleplayers and gamers, who are mostly boys. If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I consider myself a gamer and that roleplaying and fandom is both a hobby of mine as well as how I’ve met friends and learned a great deal about my own creativity. When the students learned that I was a roleplayer, they asked me questions about my experience and I’m now helping to sponsor and run the roleplaying club. Another student has started a video game club, which is also being held in the library, which makes me hopeful. As I’ve observed in the library, a lot of students find great enjoyment in gaming and that’s something I want to try and find more ways to incorporate into other aspects of the school. Since one of the wonderful aspects of Roeper is how much control students have in terms of the courses they spend their time on and how they use their free periods. The chance to find more ways to take what they enjoy and add other educational levels to it, as well as discussing some of the culture of the gaming world feels like a challenge suited to the school and to me.

Something that I find a pleasure and a challenge is figuring out displays to set up in the library and ways to take advantage of the shelf space I have available. Last month, I put up my first display for Banned Books Week and enjoyed having many students and teachers asking questions. Many of the students weren’t aware of Banned Books Week, so I was able to explain the thinking behind it and the principle that libraries provid access to all books. At the moment, I’ve started a Halloween display that’s going slightly slow as I have books, poems and short stories posted but I’ve been having trouble deciding on bigger decorations. I’ve been going into stores full of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and feeling overwhelmed as I try to think of what will be successful, work over a long time and make the library a fun place to be. Recently I was able to look at desks in a store and that helped me see the kind that works for what I wish the library to be.

The desk and decorations are small examples of my great challenges and joys in being a librarian at Roeper-how do I take what’s within my head about the roles of a librarian and library and shape it to fit and succeed at Roeper. I’m learning every day from what works and doesn’t work and finding incredible support within the Roeper community.


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Reading Reflection-Constantly Learning

There wasn’t class last week so I didn’t have a class reflection. Instead I participated in a couple more webinars and found them all fascinating. This project really brought out the best in all of the groups.

For this last reading reflection, I’ll be reading three articles and then after class tomorrow, my final reflection will be on the class as a whole.

The first article is called The C’s of Our Sea Change: Plans for Training Staff, from Core Competencies to Learning 2.0 by Blowers and Reed. This article looks at how the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County trains their staff and keeps them constantly learning which seems so key. As librarians if we’re not learning all the time, how are we going to encourage our patrons to be more curious about the world. I like that this article starts off with the basic challenges of knowing how to deal with technology and making sure that the staff understand what they’re doing so they can help the patrons. In my own reference work, I know I sometimes am unsure what things I should fix and what I should call for help with since I know how to fix some printer problems but not all. And sometimes the computers do things that I have no idea how to approach.

The author’s discovery that classroom teaching didn’t fit the Web 2.0 tools makes a lot of sense and I find the fact that they worked to get their staff discovering on their own hopeful. It seems such an intelligent way to get people involved in technology and help it become part of their life so its not a strange thing to talk about with someone else. I’m not surprised to read about how a community was created, blogging amongst a circle of people is so powerful and how I’ve found many of my best friends and connections online. This article brings together some wonderful ideas for using free tools to help staff stay connected and learning.

Next I’ll be reading an article by my professor Kristin Fonticharo called Planning an Online Professional Development Module from 2008. The first thing I’m struck by the when needed approach sounds like it makes sense when you’re in a small environment where there is time to train and help. Sadly with budget cuts that time doesn’t exist as much so other solutions need to be found. By using the 23 things created by Blowers and Reed above as inspiration but shifting them to fit a school, a good one was found. Its so inspirational how quickly ideas are passed around in the world of libraries. We maybe a small world in comparison to other professions but we talk to each other. The fact that the teachers asked for chances to do the module when they have more time speaks to just how effective it is that it can be revisited.

The last article for this week is by Semadini and is from last year called When Teachers Drive Their Learning, which seems like the natural place to go after the prior articles. Those looked at how to help get librarians and teachers learning on their own through a module. This program from Wyoming is called Fusion and is built around the idea that teachers will be more active in their professional development if they have control of when and what they learn. A number of options are created and then teacher facilitators work with small groups of teachers to help them learn what they want. The idea of small group learning makes a lot of sense and seems as if it would provide a lot of flexibility to get the teachers together. It seems like this plan is built around creating a comfortable environment for teachers to learn from each other, which seems like the best outcome. As it gets rid of the problem of teachers only focusing and worrying about what happens behind the closed doors of their classroom. The addition of a money incentive makes sense to help get the program moving as it creates extra work for the teachers but its hopeful to hear the teachers note how they enjoyed the program for its own sake.

Professional Development is a constant challenge in any workforce and I think as librarians, we need to be constantly pushing ourselves. If we don’t then we won’t be able to provide ways for our patrons to discover things they might not consider. I like the idea of sharing learning and having constant education going on through online modules that helps librarians connect with teach other.


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The readings for this week are the ALA Code of Ethics, an article by Mosley and then three posts from the discussion about HarperCollins and the Overdrive issue of how many times can e-books be taken out.

One thing that I always think about in terms of the ALA code of ethics is how key protecting user’s privacy is, because this is something those outside the library world don’t completely understand. The idea that when you take a book out, we won’t keep a record of what you’ve read once you’ve returned it. There will be a mark that it has gone out but that’s all. I think it this idea highlights just how important it is to make the library a safe space for everyone, where the librarian will not judge what you read or what you ask. Its difficult to make it completely true in the real world, because we each carry with us so many prejudices and biases but as librarians we do what we can to overcome them. I appreciate too that the idea of constantly striving and learning is a key part of this code since it seems like something all future librarians share is this desire to learn as much as possible and share that knowledge. Whether its helping someone to find the right resource for a paper or figure out how best to share something amazing in an archive, its all about sharing knowledge.

The Mosley article focuses on creating a library assignment workshop for university faculty. This topic feels quite familiar to me in my work as a reference librarian on campus, sometimes an email will come to all of us reference librarians as a heads up about an assignment that requires our help. Its rare that this emails are sent before the assignments going, usually they appear after a few people have asked and we have to find out the requirements. The description of how the workshop begins sounds very effective with those running it presenting humorous examples of library misconceptions, which is a good way to do it. That way if a faculty member sees themselves, they don’t feel ashamed but instead go, oh I’m not alone. Now I need to figure how do I fix what I was doing. Its so key to be aware of how librarians are perceived outside of our circle of the world especially on a university campus where we’re just one of many resources available to researchers and not the one they might think to turn to first. I find the detailed explanation of the types of assignments and phrasing of assignments incredibly helpful, if I were a teacher, I’d want these lists close by to help me improve and think about what I’m telling students to do. The article seems to describe a successful workshop thought its interesting that faculty commented on how it would be useful for beginning teachers, I wonder if perhaps the librarians might have gone too far in suggesting how assignments might be flawed. Its a hard balance between not assuming too much of your audience and also not talking down to them, which seems to be one of the major challenges of teaching.

The next readings are three posts about the Harper Collins/Overdrive issue. The first thing I’m reading is The HarperCollins Open Letter to Librarians, which I found a very diplomatic piece of writing. Its clear that they are trying to not anger librarians and don’t see that 26 circulations is too few as they speak about how twenty-six circulations isn’t that few. I find it fascinating how they speak about consulting with everyone from librarians to publishers but I think I would have appreciated it more if they had included quotes and information about what helped. This feels far too much like a blanket statement that’s not really explaining but instead saying, we did our research, get off our backs, it won’t be that bad.

I next read the Library Journal article Library Consortia Begins to Vote Against HarperCollins EBook Checkout Policy as I wanted to read another official take on the issue. The focus in this article is about the consortiums that are choosing to not purchase more for HarperCollins and I find it interesting how they focus on money. The idea that HarperCollins is working with a profit motive as libraries need to stretch every dollar. I find the quote about lack of transparency quite relevant since it seems like HarperCollins felt like they did their research but they haven’t shared it. I’ve noticed that in discussions of ebooks, there are many sides of the picture and since things are constantly evolving, there really aren’t any rules set. So publishers and libraries are trying to make choices that work for them, but these discussions are happening in various corners with overlap when everyone disagrees. I look forward to seeing what happens next because ebooks aren’t easy to predict.

For the third piece I read Book Pixie and I found her blog post incredibly helpful as she draws together the Ebook User’s Bill of Rights and her own thoughts on what is important for readers. I appreciate her wariness in terms of the boycott because boycotts are a major step and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Also they have a way of closing off the dialogue which in this case needs to be open so there can be change. The idea especially that the boycott will limit patron’s access, which is never the right choice for any library.

This to me encapsulates this issue, which is about who gets to decide access to ebooks. As librarians our job is to promote access in as many ways and formats as possible so I hope that a middle ground can be found between HarperCollins’ 26 circulations and a complete boycott of them.

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My Summer-Internship at America Reads

I meant to write about America Reads here during the summer, but I never got into the habit. This is one of the dangers of various blogging spaces since SI provides one for the internship credit so I tended to write there. This summer has ended up being not what I expected and far more rewarding due to that.

In May, I was thinking that I’d be doing an internship at one of the many wonderful public libraries in the area, focused on youth services. I interviewed at the Clinton-Macomb library the Canton library, finding those interviews was exciting as I discovered just how confusing Michigan highways can be. I wasn’t chosen for either of them and kept looking, I found an internship at the UoM Depression Center, which sounded interesting, but didn’t quite fit.

Then an email showed up on the SI mailing list from the Ginsberg Center and America Reads saying they needed a library volunteer to help them organize their library. So I went to speak with them and everything fell into place. America Reads is an incredible federal program that provides tutors for elementary school students in high risk areas to assist them with learning to read. The program is an a wonderful old mansion that holds a number of other service programs called the Ginsberg Center. America Reads was recently able to move their library to a larger space in the basement, where they have a collection of at least 3000 books. I don’t have an exact number, because every day there seem to be new donations and I helped to purchase more books.

I began my internship by finding out what America Reads needed and wanted by crafting a Google Survey for the tutors and speaking to a few of the tutors. Most of the information was helpful and focused on an online searchable catalog along with making the library neater. These two pieces of information helped decide what I did the rest of the summer.

First I began by inventorying the books and taking them out of the subjective topics sections that they were in as I researched cataloging systems. I soon discovered that when a library is under 5000 books, there isn’t a lot of literature on the options, because that size usually doesn’t have a full time librarian. With the help of my mentor from the Technical Services department of Hatcher Graduate Library, I was able to find resources on Church library informational pages. I ended up narrowing my choices down to two automation library systems, Surpass and LibraryWorld and chose LibraryWorld. LibraryWorld is a company that I think will keep doing very well, because it changes the business model of automation systems. From my experience, they seem to mainly be sold in modules, so that a librarian who isn’t aware of what they really need could easily buy too much and spend a lot of money. LibraryWorld on the other hand provides everything online, cataloging, importing records, circulation, patron records, reports and a link for an online catalog. So this was the system that I chose and since July, I’ve been in the process of cataloging the books along with organizing them. When everything is finished, the books will be arranged alphabetically in four main categories; picture books, board books, chapter books and non-fiction. This way students can do in-depth cross referencing online and then come to the library to find their books and check them out. At this point, America Reads has hired me on full time to work with them throughout the year, even after I have all the hours I need for my internship.

I think this experience is going to put me in a great place to work in the kind of library I want to be, one that’s small and my skills will help it become the best library for its community.


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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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Professional Development-the trick of how much

During our discussion I was struck by how professional development is something that a librarian can choose to take on and if they wish really focus on yet if they don’t pay attention to it, it won’t be as obvious to anyone else. Since if a school doesn’t have a culture of professional development, there’s no one who will prompt a new librarian or teacher or administrator to continue it. Yet if you’re willing to take up the work then bringing professional development into a school or district can do a huge amount to change for the better and others will be encouraged.

In terms of the example of Michigan and how easy it is to be isolated when there’s not the money for the professional development, I was thinking of how if that kept happening slowly, an administrator might not even be aware of how bad things are. It just creeps up on you as there’s no money for conferences but if there’s nothing to replace them than the school ends up paying heavily. I found it hopeful just how much is now available online so that there are ways to keep learning without the great cost. Also the MAME conference was a good example of bringing the change and development where it needs to be and finding ways to cut the cost but not cut the knowledge that’s brought in. Since it seems like one of the most powerful parts of professional development is being aware of the outside world and how the simple act of interacting with other people who do the same thing in a different place can shift and change how someone might approach a topic.

The other fact I found fascinating is all the various avenues of development that a librarian can choose to focus on from politics, literacy to curriculum and all the various ways that they intersect. It seems like one of the most beneficial things that a librarian could do is find out what they enjoy and what is lacking in their community and work on how best to improve those two things. Since there’s no reason that the development work can’t be enjoyable, because one of the reasons that we choose to become librarians is a desire to keep learning.

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