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
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!
By NSLA President, Crys Bauermeister
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends… and now that this song is stuck in your head, it’s also true everything we do in the library world. Anytime we can suggest a book for a student, anytime we can open the world of reading, anytime we can enhance a student's life because of something we have done, our show never ends.
No matter what the world situation is, we will always have readers, we will always have users, we will always continue to innovate. If you didn't have a chance to view all the sessions from Nebraska School Librarian's Day in October, never fear. The links will be active for quite some time. If you misplace the email with the links, please email our Executive Secretary. Thank you to Erin H, Kelly K, McKenzie W, Dana F, Peggy D, Carole M, Alicia L, Ashley W, Erin S, and Alexandra B for sharing their wisdom. Although we were unable to meet in person (which we all know is so good for our mental health), the bonus is all the sessions are recorded so you can listen to them in the background of something else you are doing, and then when you hear something that sparks your fancy, you can rewind. Otherwise, we would have just shared our slide decks.
We have some amazing librarians in our state who really are on the cutting edge of what being a librarian is. If you need a jumpstart this time of year, just view one of these sessions! One more not so shameless plug. If you can sneak away from your building for NETA April 21-22, you'll be treated to some more live connections with the amazing school librarians in our state, as well as Amanda Jones, school librarian of the year, who will be our featured speaker.
Come and see the show!
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.
As a second-year elementary librarian, I found my biggest struggle was finding ways to collaborate with teachers on a fixed schedule. My main way of collaborating with teachers is check-ins through emails and in the morning, pacing guides, and reading grade level PLC notes. These methods helped me gain an understanding of what our students are learning and how I can support.
Through conversations with other librarians, I learned about the backdoor collaboration from Catlin Elementary School’s librarian, Elizabeth Messina. She explained through the combination of curriculum pacing guides and access to the curriculum, she uses backdoor collaboration. These resources support in best serving her students and curriculum goals.
I took her advice and was able to gain access to our district’s reading curriculum. I found at the beginning of each reading modules, there was an inquiry project which aligned with what students were learning. I adapted the inquiry projects to meet classroom and library goals. An example of one of the inquiry projects was our kindergartners were learning about plants. We read fiction and non-fiction books about plants, completed a graphic organizer on the parts of plants and ended the unit with planting our own seeds.
The backdoor method to collaboration helped my planning to be more cohesive and better support teacher and library curriculum.
by Jess Winter – OPS Librarian
August 2020--I am in my first year as a librarian. Besides transitioning districts, I am also trying to figure out how to support my teachers in their instruction, digital technology, and training them on new ed-tech. Then there are the logistics for my library space, the rules, displays, and passive engagement activities within the parameters of the current pandemic that are filling my brain. Inspiration was hard to drum up as I felt overwhelmed with the new additions of safety, sanitizing, and just becoming more vigilant in providing digital resources for students and staff to use during this time. I knew entering into this position, I would be an island and, maybe even more so, with the dynamics caused by COVID.
Inspiration is a necessity for me. If I lack inspiration, I struggle to encourage it in others, and wherever I searched Google for help in an area concerning the library, Pinterest tags would pop up. It evoked memories of when I first learned of Pinterest. Honestly, it was the TikTok in 2012-2015 for me. Countless hours were spent scrolling through pins and creating boards. Whether it was the perfect outfit or hairstyle, or the myriad recipes I dreamt of trying, Pinterest was where I constructed a fantastical image of who I wanted to be both personally. It wasn’t too long until I made teaching boards.
When I got my first teaching job, I used Pinterest to help me brainstorm ideas for my lessons. I always pushed myself to make my lessons engaging and relevant to my students. When I was lesson planning, and I needed a boost, Pinterest was often my go-to answer. It then would lead me to countless educators’ blogs and specific education-minded websites that I saved and revisited. As the years passed, I still found myself revisiting these boards less and less as I grew in my teaching abilities.
Fast-forward to this past school year. My first as a school librarian. When my inspiration was in short supply, Pinterest became the place to inspire the design of my new library, the displays, the lessons, and the many other things I would be doing in my day-to-day. This certainly was true. The sheer number of ideas I gained was overwhelming. Whether it was pins from public libraries, school libraries, or academic libraries, I found positivity and inspiration. Pinterest became the place where I was no longer on an island but in a land of like-minded professionals. Pinterest helped me continue to be a positive light in my school to innovate and create, despite all added pandemic and hybrid/remote learning stressors. And by extension, I saw an opportunity to provide support to my teachers.
In December 2020, while working on my Smore newsletter layout, I stumbled upon Stephen Stewart’s 5 Tech Tips for Winter Break newsletter. One of his main tips was that teachers should take time to revisit ideas that had provided inspiration to help revitalize themselves for the upcoming second semester. This is where I had a lightbulb, “a-ha,” moment. I connected the idea proposed by Stewart’s newsletter and using Pinterest as the tool to constantly give teachers access to ideas that could cultivate inspiration, innovation, and creativity in their teaching. Isn’t it usually the case when we stumble on ideas that strike our teaching fancy, we often forget to save? This is why I thought Pinterest could be that curated holding-place for my teachers.
Here is what I did. First, I created a separate board for each content area at my school. [For elementary, I could see you doing this by grade level and specials.] Next, I curated these boards with content-specific lesson ideas and activities; I only included those that addressed the established curriculum. But to be honest, inspiration often guided my pinning. After I began curating pins and had some for each board, I emailed the respective teachers to become collaborators. Later on, I created a board for the guidance counselor to help her brainstorm bulletin boards for the guidance office after she saw the curated Pinboards in my newsletter. She just recently came and asked to start a new board to help her find career-readiness unit ideas.
While Pinterest boards do not have analytics provided to help you see how often they are accessed, it is a way that you can provide resources for your teachers, and they can access them 24/7. Currently, my guidance counselor, art teacher, and one math teacher have spoken to me about how I can help them implement some of the pins I have shared via these boards in their teaching next year. It has opened up avenues of conversation that I never imagined it would. One bit of advice I have is to encourage your teachers to add pins themselves. Truly make this a collaborative effort between you and your teachers. Though this is a “passive” form of engagement, it seems to achieve several of the AASL framework’s domains and shared foundations, and all it took was a little bit of scrolling, pinning, and sharing.
Gross Catholic High School
A library is only useful if the materials and resources in it are easily accessible. As I spent time over spring break working in another school library for a class I was finishing this semester I was introduced firsthand to genrefication. I hadn’t given this a thought for my school library as our district has not embraced this trend yet, but I had talked with others who had successfully done it in their districts and loved it. The library I was in was genrefying their upper elementary and high school fiction section for several purposes: to increase circulation, to make it easier for students to locate specific genres needed for class projects and to help analyze and enhance the collection. It helped me start thinking about the pros and the cons of organizing a library in this way. I would like to share a few pros and cons with you.
Genrefication is no quick or easy process, but there are ways to simplify it and not make the task quite so daunting. Each librarian must draw up their own plan, locate the person power to help physically shift the materials and use ready made tools to help them ease the process. The first step is to run circulation statistics and begin weeding. Once the weeding process is finished you can examine your collection to identify which genre labels you want to use to genrefy your collection. There are quite a few different choices available. These are just a few to choose from: realistic fiction, chick lit, romance, historical fiction, science, fantasy, horror, manga, mystery, adventure, sports, and guy reads. After ordering and receiving your labels (Demco sells them.) you must decide when you want to take on the challenge of labeling and relocating the books. When labeling you may choose to create your own scheme for labels beyond the genre labels. “Identifying series titles was important because we had so many, and I, like most librarians, certainly couldn’t remember the correct order of all of them,” (Sweeney, 2013). You may choose to order series stickers or just buy colored dots and mark them with the numbered title in the series. Some librarians choose to work section by section and put up under construction signage so students and staff know to avoid that section. Others choose to do the shift over the summer so they can spread things out and really plan for the space they need for each reclassified section. When you are finished with the relabeling and reshelving it is time to work on signs so that your patrons can easily locate the genres. You could even create a video for classroom teachers to show to students before they come to visit the library for the first time after genrefying.
Genrefication works well for school libraries because it removes the frustration of learning to use the catalog and searching for related topics under different call numbers. It also frees up librarians to make book recommendations instead of having to guide students around the library. Students feel a sense of confidence about the library when it is welcoming and accessible. Genrefication works well with children because they are more likely to be browsers and to be obsessed with certain topics and benefit from those topics being placed together. However, if one of your library goals is to teach the catalog then you may have to rethink how to do this if you genrefy. Will you do the Dewey, or not?
Submitted by Deanna Hirschman
Rodgers, L. (2018). Give your circulation a lift. School Library Journal. July, 24-27.
Sweeney, S. (2013). Genrefy your library: improve readers’ advisory and data-driven decision making. Young Adult Library Services. Summer, 41-45.
Witteveen, A. (2019). Flipping for genrefication. School Library Journal. September, 40-44.
Krysta, (10/01/2019). Pros and cons of the push for shelving by genre in libraries. Pages Unbound Reviews, pagesunbound.wordpress.com
As we wrap up this unprecedented year, many of us are ready for some kind of change in our work lives – a reboot of some sort so we can start the new school year with a new outlook. An over-the-summer exercise in branding your school library program might be just the reboot you’re looking for.
What is Branding?
“Branding is relationship” (Sheninger and Rubin) – it’s a combination of the stories you tell and the connections you make daily – through marketing, graphic design, social media, and relationships with stakeholders. As a school librarian you are branding by default; you are branding yourself and your program with every interaction you have with your stakeholders. From book talks to book fairs to instructional services, you have so much to sell as part of your school’s library program. Why not make it intentional?
Build your Brand
Branding yourself and your school library program can be a big undertaking and it can be hard to know where to start. Maybe you’re ready to take a deep dive into rebranding your program from your own personal social media brand to a consistent visual identity for your library program through signage, website, and social media design. Or maybe you have just enough energy to do a visual identity re-branding. No matter the breadth of the reboot, follow these guidelines from The First Five Steps to Building a Library Brand, from The Librarian in the Middle, a school librarian who is passionate about branding:
Want to learn more about branding? Here’s a list of resources that will help:
Branding Your School Library (sign up at this posting for her 5-step guide) by the Librarian in the Middle. This school librarian is passionate about school library branding and advocacy. Don’t stop with this article, though. Look for others that she’s written about branding.
BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning, a book by Eric Sheninger and Trish Rubin. Written for educational leaders of all ranks.
Librarians: Build Your Brand by Gretchen Hazlin at BubbleUpClassroom.com pulls out some of the best ideas of the book above and gears them to school librarians specifically.
What’s in a Brand? How to Define Your Visual Identity by Annie Crawford at Adobe might be helpful if your focus is on creating a new visual identity.
ICYMI: Canva for Education is a must for all school librarians. Go here to sign up!
by Beth Eilers, School Librarian, Omaha Central High School
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
From Jamie Hestermann of Syracuse Middle and High School:
This was a pre-COVID interactive historical fiction display. After learning the characteristics of historical fiction, fourth-graders traveled back in time and visited books from different time periods. They were issued "tickets" and instructed to visit four stations. At each stop, students selected a book from inside a suitcase, previewed it, and filled out a ticket. On the ticket, they had to explain why the book was classified as historical fiction. Many picked up on something included in the cover art, the specific time period in which the book took place, or differences in the way people talked. It helped reinforce the characteristics of the genre and introduced students to some of the historical fiction books we have in the library.
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.