Knock, knock, knock.
I hear the school year knocking on my door already. My district returns on August 8. The past two years have contributed to mixed emotions for many Nebraska school librarians. If you’re feeling a little out of sorts, you’re not alone.
The NSLA helps me get through the school year. The question I ask most often is, “What do I get? How does this organization benefit me?” Let’s look at my top four ways the NSLA gets me through the school year. If you are currently a member, I ask you to please share this with other school librarians in our state and continue supporting NSLA through your own membership. If you aren’t a member, I would love to see every school librarian and school library student benefit from their membership in the NSLA.
Exclusive online resources
The NSLA has member-exclusive online resources including informative emails, professional development opportunities, webinars, meetings, and YouTube PD playlists. These resources are only shared with NSLA members and are in addition to the free resources we offer to the public.
Virtual and in person opportunities are available for our members in the form of Zooms, a closed Facebook group, and member-only meetings. There is nothing quite like being in a room full of school librarians, sharing struggles and victories, and knowing that you are understood and supported.
Awards and scholarships
The NSLA has four awards and six scholarships available annually. Some scholarships are available twice a year. We are committed to supporting Nebraska school librarians in their professional development and pursuit of certification - and we put our organization’s money where our mouth is. $3500+ in annual scholarships are only available to members of the NSLA.
Advocacy and awareness
The NSLA has working relationships with the Nebraska Board of Education, Nebraska Department of Education, state government, American Association of School Librarians, Nebraska Library Commission, Nebraska Library Association, Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska, Nebraska State Advisory Committee, Future Ready Nebraska, Nebraska Future Ready Librarians, University of Nebraska at Omaha and Kearney, and more. Through our relationships, we work to enact real change and protect Nebraska school librarians and their patrons. We advocate for intellectual freedom and strong school library programs with quality school librarians on the local, state, and national levels. We make sure NSLA members are aware of legislation that impacts our field and can communicate with the appropriate people to make their thoughts known.
If you’re looking for the “why” of joining, I encourage you to check out our website at neschoollibrarians.org . NSLA’s blog always has fun and fresh ideas to implement in my own school library, plenty of PD links, interviews and announcements, and powerful advocacy tools. There are opportunities to get involved in committees, elections to become board members, and celebrations of those sharing our profession. Your membership in the NSLA is the gift that keeps on giving all school year long.
I hope you have the best school year, friends. Don’t be a stranger.
submitted by Mandy
[Imagined dialogue with staff and administrators.] Hello! My name is Erin Hanna. On behalf of Lexington Middle School, I'd like to welcome you all to LMS Library Guest Experience Services. Each year, we’re given approximately 180 opportunities to create a great school day. As your Guest Experiences Coordinator, I’d like to partner with you to make this year an exceptional one!
You are welcome. This space belongs to all of us. Please know that we welcome you and want you here. In addition to our shared space, we hope you’ll take advantage of the many services we offer. These include (but are not limited to) library orientation, research skills lessons, lunch book clubs, in-person and digital escape rooms, book fairs, Creation Lab makerspace activities, video recording equipment, and book checkout from our carefully curated print and digital collection. Interactions with the library and staff aim to equip students with learning opportunities and critical information evaluation tools. We have books in which you’ll see yourselves and your students reflected and books in which you and your students will learn about lives different from your own. The library provides tools to help us learn from others’ perspectives.
We are available to serve you. Remember that we’re here to create and organize your optimal experience! If we don’t have a book that you or a student would like to read, let us know and we’ll do our best to accommodate these wishes. If you’d love to have a guest speaker support your classroom curriculum, we’ll set that up for you. If you need a new digital tool to use for content delivery or help troubleshooting one you’re currently using, we’ll work with you to find a solution. We will also share tissues, band-aids, pencils, and change the laminator film. We want this school year to be great and for the library to earn five-stars from each of you!
We can offer recommendations. We love to find books, opportunities, and experiences that we hope will be of interest. Please ask us for book recommendations and share your suggestions with us. Peruse the library website for upcoming activities, interesting book news, and resources that will be helpful for projects in many curricular areas.
We are willing to customize your experience. We want to get to know you and your individual needs (and dreams!) for this school year. We want to provide resources as well as help design and host special experiences to support classroom activities. We’d love to connect your initiatives with community partners to extend learning beyond the classroom. Let us know your expectations so we can assist you in meeting and even in exceeding them!
Submitted by Erin Hanna
When I first noticed the theme for the 2021 Banned Books week from the American Library Association, I loved that the statement was so clear and encouraged unity. Little did I know when I posted these signs along with my informational display in my school library in September, that just a few months later, our country would be in the midst of a very clear, very troubling representation of this call to action. “Books unite us. Censorship divides us.”
As the chapter delegate for the Nebraska School Librarians Association (NSLA) to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), I have been very fortunate to be able to attend and participate in discussions about the increase in book challenges in schools and school libraries across the country. I have walked away from each of those discussions with two very clear thoughts. 1) No one is alone in facing book challenges as they are occurring everywhere in all types of schools. 2) No one is alone in facing book challenges, because there are amazing resources available through the American Library Association (ALA), AASL, and the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF).
There are so many fabulous resources available that many of the words below are not my own but come from the experts and advocates working on our behalf at the national level. My hope is that they will provide information and guidance for all school librarians in Nebraska and beyond.
As we see a large uptick in challenges to materials in school libraries, it is important to remember that our school library collections are developed and maintained by certified school library professionals who have been specifically trained in strategies to select materials that fit the needs of the students in their specific school environment while also being fiscally responsible with the budget they are given.
Often, this is a lengthy process that includes weeks if not months of research reading book reviews, looking at “best of” lists, and seeking recommendations from other professionals. This responsibility to select materials is not taken lightly. School librarians work diligently to curate collections that support the curricular needs and interests of their unique student body.
Students in schools accredited by the Nebraska Department of Education under Rule 10 are very fortunate that, at this time, they each have a certified school librarian working in their building (or someone working toward certification) at least part time. This means that each school employs someone who is trained to create a well developed collection that supports a wide variety of student needs and interests.
AASL shared recently on Twitter: “Committed to inclusion and equity, school libraries provide the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and ideas so that every learner has the opportunity [to] read freely and pursue success in college, career, and beyond. It is a school librarian’s responsibility to use their professional expertise to provide information relevant to all learners, educators, and members of the learning community.” Read the full statement on book censorship from ALA and it’s divisions, including AASL, here.
Furthermore, the Intellectual Freedom Brochure provided by AASL states, “Intellectual freedom is a core value of the library profession, and Article V of the Library Bill of Rights affirms special protections to minors using libraries: ‘A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.’ The school library center has the unique responsibility of introducing young citizens to the world of information. Nowhere else do children and young adults have unlimited daily access to books, magazines, newspapers, online resources, and the Internet. Students have the right to a relevant, balanced, and diverse school library collection that represents all points of view; school librarians assume a leadership role in protecting minors’ First Amendment right to read and receive information and ideas.”
In today’s climate, it is not a matter of if but when a book challenge will come your way. Schools and school librarians can prepare for these important conversations about a student’s right to read and their intellectual freedom by reviewing resources that have been curated from ALA, AASL, and OIF and are available on the NSLA website.
It is important to remember, as was shared by the National Coalition Against Censorship, “Libraries offer students the opportunity to encounter books and other material that they might otherwise never see and the freedom to make their own choices about what to read.” And, access to materials is a first amendment right, no matter how old you are. “The First Amendment guarantees that no individual, group of individuals, legislator, community member, or even school board member can dictate what public school students are allowed to read based on their own personal beliefs or political viewpoint. It is freedom of expression that ensures that we can meet the challenges of a changing world. That freedom is critical for the students who will lead America in the years ahead. We must fight to defend it.”
One of the ways to be proactive when facing potential challenges is to have a board policy regarding selection and reconsideration of materials. “Every library — academic, public, and school (public, private, charter, independent, and international) — should have a comprehensive written policy that guides the selection, deselection or weeding, and reconsideration of library resources. The most valuable selection policy is current; it is reviewed and revised on a regular basis; and it is familiar to all members of a library’s staff. The policy should be approved by the library’s governing board or other policy-making body and disseminated widely for understanding by all stakeholders.” If you need support creating or updating policies for your school library, visit this site or reach out to NSLA.
If a challenge is made to material(s) in your school library, there are many supports available to you through ALA, AASL, and OIF including preparing for and responding to challenges. “With the severe uptick in local and statewide book challenges, ALA offers this clearinghouse of resources to assist library workers and library advocates in responding to and supporting others facing those challenges. Remember to report challenges to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, and let ALA know if you need assistance.”
With an increase in book challenges, it is also important to be aware of how self-censorship can affect the development of a school library collection. Self-censorship by librarians or schools occurs when a choice is made to remove or not purchase materials due to concern of a future challenge occurring related to that material rather than basing the choice on professional selection criteria and/or selection policies approved by the school board. A 2016 survey conducted by School Library Journal showed that 9 out of 10 elementary and middle school respondents said they have “not bought a book recently because of the potential for controversy.” The likelihood for this practice to increase in the face of the sheer number and visibility of challenges in our country right now is concerning.
Remember that you are not alone in facing challenges about materials and programming in your school library. Please reach out to NSLA or ALA/AASL/OIF if you need any assistance or have any questions.
Chapter Delegate for NSLA to AASL
AASL 2021: Salt Lake City
Welcome to our first hybrid blog post. This format was dreamed up while NSLA members got together for dinner in Salt Lake City during the conference. If you like it, please let us know!
So, what did I learn other than what I shared in the video? Tons!
School Library Budget Plans
As I sit here writing this blog post about budget plans, I have come to the conclusion that this information could probably fill a book, be a 60-minute presentation at a conference, or even a semester-long class within a school library program. There are a lot of parts to this, and the post below will just skim the surface. I am by no means an expert on creating a school library budget plan, but my goal for you after reading this post, is to just stop and think about how purposefully planning and spending your library budgets could impact your school library program.
The new year has kicked off, students and staff are getting back into the routine of things, and it’s the best part of the year for many of us librarians - we get to start spending the new school year’s budgets. Now, when I say budgets, I truly mean any funds available to the library to improve the services it provides to patrons. Some districts are fortunate enough to have budgets allocated by administration using a specific formula. Other districts will provide libraries with the minimum amount of funds required by the state. There are even some librarians who will have to rely solely on grants and fundraising to be able to purchase any materials for their space. Regardless of how you receive your “budget” it is imperative to spend it responsibly.
I know that for the first several years I spent as a librarian I was so excited to have all this money to spend on books. I mean, who wouldn’t want a job where people gave you money to buy hundreds of books? But the problem is, I just spent the money. I had no idea what I was doing, what money was going towards what, I just knew that I had to spend as much of it as possible. At the end of the year, I would sit back and wonder, well where did all of that money go? Oftentimes, I couldn’t quite remember, and I knew that was a problem. After a few years of following this cycle of just blind spending my budget, I had to make a change and become more purposeful in my spending. I needed to come up with a plan.
The first step to creating a budget plan is to identify the needs of your library program. There are a few ways you can do this. First, look at your collection, and identify areas that need special attention. Both Follett and Mackin have great collection analysis reports that provide specific information, sometimes even down to the dewey decimal number. Second, reach out to your patrons, both students and staff to determine the needs they might see for your space or program. Finally, use your professional judgement and personal professional goals to identify the direction you would like your collection or program to head over the next nine months.
Once you have identified your needs, it's time to start planning on how you will spend your budget to meet the needs of your program. Here’s a quick list of ideas to create your own budget plan report, and of course you can find some examples on Twitter and Pinterest.
IDEAS OF WHAT TO INCLUDE IN AN BUDGET PLAN
Your budget plan could be an extensive spreadsheet that outlines every little detail about your spending this year, or it could be a one-page Canva graphic that highlights just a few things. Regardless of the size or the format, a budget plan helps us reflect as librarians so we can set goals for our spending and provide better services to our patrons.
Here are a few other considerations to make while creating your budget plan.
Once you get into the habit of creating a plan each year, it’ll become a natural part of your collection development process. Your vision for the library, especially through a budget plan, will continue to help your collection improve and secure budgets for future purchases.
Library Annual Reports
As many of our libraries prepare to close for the summer, there’s no better time to look back at all of the incredible things that have happened - especially after this year. My favorite way to do this is by creating an annual report for my district’s elementary library program. [Click here to see my @elemlibraries66 Annual Reports]
Annual reports come in a variety of formats and can contain as much or as little information as you want. It could be a 10-page document that outlines every little detail about your year, or it could be a one-page Canva graphic that highlights just a few things. Regardless of the size or the format, an annual report helps us reflect as librarians so we can set goals for our future and provide better services to our patrons. They are also a great way to advocate for your program and share with your stakeholders the impact libraries have on student learning.
Once you get into the habit of creating a report each year, it’ll become a natural part of your journey as a librarian. All of the data you collect over the years will continue to help you advocate, set goals, and move forward in this ever-changing profession.
Here’s a quick list of ideas to create your own annual report, and of course you can find tons of great examples on Twitter and Pinterest.
IDEAS OF WHAT TO INCLUDE IN AN ANNUAL REPORT
TECH TOOLS TO CREATE AN ANNUAL REPORT
HOW TO SHARE YOUR ANNUAL REPORT
Share your annual report creation with us on Twitter at @NSLAorg!
Written by Kelly Kenny
When I started working in my school library over 3 years ago, I was tickled. I could now organize these books in a way that made sense to the students, I could allow students to check out more than one book at a time, I got to help the library be staffed for more than a few hours a day, I could give suggestions to students and get suggestions too! Daily, I came to work and with the help of an amazing paraprofessional, we got the library in much better shape and welcomed the students each and every day. Our circulation went up, the book requests came in and we loved what we were doing.
The end of that first year came and we decided to do inventory. We found many books were missing and had never been removed from our system. We also started really taking a look at what we had on our shelves. We did research as to what other libraries had in their collection and what books were being checked out most in these libraries. We found that our books lacked variety and diversity. We are in a small, rural community and thought we were doing ok until now.
We got to work and weeded those books that we found most misrepresented certain groups. We chose to keep some of them that were suggested weeds and discussed how we would use these as conversation starters with our students. We talked about what groups were represented in our school. We also talked about what groups might be represented in our school, but students might not be willing to make them public knowledge yet. We talked about families in our school and how we could represent them in our collection. We talked about different holidays and celebrations from around the world and made a list of those we had little to no information about. We looked to see what window and mirror books we did have and what areas we wanted to add to.
We then went to work finding books for the areas that were at the top of our list. Slowly over the last few years, we have been able to add more and more books to our collection in these areas. We talked to the guidance counselor and let her know we had added some of these books to our collection so she could share with students that might come to her.
The next part of this process included library displays and the library classes that are taught to the preschool through 6th grade students. We work to include these new books in our displays and talk about them to students every chance we get. When a student reads one of these books we encourage them to talk to others about them too. During library classes,we read these books aloud or just a chapter or two depending on the student's ages. Classes learn about different traditions and holidays from around the world and work to understand a bit more about those that are not exactly like ourselves.
Through this whole process, we have grown as individuals and in our own awareness and acceptance of others. Given the events in the United States over the last year, we have seen that we still have a long way to go in our collection and our own understanding of diversity. We are proud of the work that we have done to be part of the push that helps our students become better people. We are glad that this process has started and have some great resources to keep referencing as we continue to learn and grow. Many times have we questioned if we should weed a book or should add a book. We try really hard to keep the world in mind and not just our little slice of it and just continue to do what we think is best!
Submitted by Andrea Ripp
Renovating the Library
A reading culture. Words my ears savor, and words I love to say often. After ten years of building a reading culture at my school, it was time to tackle the next goal: renovating the library. To support the high volume of checkouts, the increased presence of students, and the number of elementary library classes, it was time to improve the library space.
Two years of preparation were needed for the library addition to take shape. The process was challenging to convince administrators and board members that enlarging the library space was a necessity for our growing district. I attended several workshops that gave me points to ponder on how to approach this money-taxing project and how it could be made possible with fewer dollars. First, I outlined the necessity of space for our elementary students. It was once shared with me that the percentage of space should be equivalent to the percentage of students I serve at each level. Elementary students frequent the library more often than the middle and high school students; however, the space in the library tended to appeal to the older students. Second, the number of books in the square footage of the library meant very little space for teaching, learning, or relaxing. Third, it was time to upgrade our facilities for the growth of our district (and continue to find more room for books!). Finally, I convinced a National Honor Society member to tackle the process of reorganizing the library as her Individual Service Project. It was a win-win situation for us both! And, the administration along with the board members were ready to make this library addition happen.
In the summer of 2018, the preparation for enlarging the library finally came to fruition. The preschool classroom located next to the library was vacated because the building across the street was purchased for the Tiny Tiger Early Learning Center. An opportunity for making more space for books! A large doorway was created in the wall to connect the library and the old preschool classroom. This created an opportunity for an elementary section and a middle school/high school section for the library. The moving of bookcases, books, and furniture were completed by the NHS member. Her project also included painting the rooms, storing and reshelving the books (over 15,000). It was quite the project for her, but I am so grateful she was part of the process. Her eye for design and detail were invaluable. This endeavor made the elementary room of the library larger and allowed for library classes to be conducted more easily while other students peruse the shelves. I also purchased shelves that were lower so our young patrons no longer needed to use stools to reach the books on the top shelves. Our shelves are no longer “stuffed” so students can retrieve books more easily.
I am a proponent of the idea that the library is the heart of the school. I want students to feel safe and comfortable in the library environment. This project gives students the opportunity to feel good about coming to an environment that supports their reading needs. Creating an addition to our library only enhanced the reading culture that was already thriving in our district.
By Mary Gregoski
The Nebraska School Librarians Day was held on October 17, 2020 via Zoom. We had over 100 registrants and a great turn out for a wonderful morning! We were fortunate enough to have a keynote speaker and two back-to-back sessions from school librarian presenters. We spent our lunch hour with the annual NSLA membership meeting and getting an update from Dorann Avey with NDE regarding Rule 10.
K.C. Boyd started off our morning with an amazing presentation on advocacy. One of my favorite quotes from her session was, “Show your passion!” If district leaders are uninformed about your position as a librarian and what you can offer, how will you make yourself irreplaceable? You have to speak up, advocate, and show them how amazing school librarians are and how valuable they are to your district. Some of the ways she suggested you could accomplish this was to join committees, use your social media, and ask to present to stakeholders. Bottom line: “Get off the complain train” and show them how amazing you are!
All of our registrants were given access to the recorded sessions from the day. Although we are making the most of our situation this year with many virtual professional development opportunities, we hope to see you all in person at NETA and next fall at Nebraska School Librarians Day! Thank you for joining us virtually this year and helping our organization continue to grow. Check the website professional development calendar for more awesome PD opportunities!
Submitted by NSLA President, Angie Blankenship
Keep Your Remote Learners Engaged
Whether you are teaching students in person or remotely or a little of both, it’s important to make sure all learners are engaged. Here are my favorite tips for helping remote learners stay in touch with what is happening in their classrooms.
If you need more ideas, you only need to harness the power of the web or social media to see the innovative ways teachers and librarians engage with remote learners. What great ideas will you discover?
Joy Harvey, Coordinator of Library Services for the Lincoln Public Schools
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.