S.A. Bodeen. Alan Gratz. April Henry. Bruce Arant. Gary D. Schmidt.
Mary Gregoski from Palmer Public Schools has hosted an author visit from each and every author listed above. A master of new title introduction, Gregoski is here to shed some light on book promotion for all grade levels and author visits from her personal experiences.
What types of introduction to new titles do you find to be the most effective at your school?
To introduce students to new titles, we display new books in a prominent area of the library. We have a designated place for elementary books and one for junior high/high school books. Sometimes I introduce new books to elementary by reading them during library class. For my 7-12 students, I ask students to read new books and then let me know their thoughts. I don't have time to read all the new books before putting them on the shelf. The most effective way for me to promote new books to junior high/high school students is to share titles one-on-one.
What do you have in place for students and staff to recommend new titles or topics?
Students and staff recommend new titles or topics by emailing me or sharing the information with Mrs. Happ, the library aide, and she writes it down in a book. I tell my students and staff members that I am willing to order any book they suggest because I know it will be read. And, they will most likely share the book with others.
Does your library have a section just for teachers of professional books? If so, how do you promote those titles?
Yes, I do have a professional development section in my library. I promote these books at the beginning of the school year during my presentation at in-service days. I also talk about these periodically throughout the school year. I am so glad that I began this professional library as I have had several teachers throughout the year ask for books to be added. The best advertising is by word of mouth. I love that teachers are talking about books throughout the year and using them to enhance their profession.
Please tell me more about these author visits.
My school's first author visit began with S.A. Bodeen. I heard her speak at the Literature Festival in Norfolk, and I was intrigued by her presentation about writing The Raft. She shared her stories of failing to be published and her stories of success. When I left her session, I just knew I needed to bring her to Palmer. Many of my students had already read her novel The Compound and enjoyed it. I knew they would love this story, The Raft, as well. To make sure her visit would happen, I asked my superintendent if he would allow this great opportunity to come to Palmer. He said, "Yes, but you have to find the money." Finding the money has not been difficult for me to bring any authors here to Palmer. Our school has an Endowment Fund to which I write letters to support bringing authors to our school. The generosity of this committee is wonderful! I contact the author via email, once I have stalked them on their website. We talk about dates and what and to whom they will present. I ask other schools if they are interested in hosting an author because most authors do a half-day workshop. Each time I have brought in an author, the students offer rave reviews. Once I find out which author I will be inviting, I make a display of his books and do lots of book talks. I have hosted S.A. Bodeen, Alan Gratz, April Henry, Bruce Arant, and just this year, Gary D. Schmidt. Having an author come to visit with kids is just an awesome experience for everyone.
Elizabeth von Nagy
Career Snapshot: I graduated from UNO in 2013 with a degree in Secondary Education and endorsements in School Library Media and English. I began working at Anderson Grove and Golden Hills Elementary Schools in Papillion-La Vista in the Fall of 2013. I split my time between those two schools for three years. I have spent the last two and a half years at Papillion-La Vista High School.
Digital Natives expect near-instant access to information.
This means that it is imperative that our digital Library resources are easily accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To support Learners in this endeavor, one of the first things I do each semester is send an email out to all staff and all students with a link to our catalog, all of our database passwords, and a tutorial on how to access and use our most frequently used resources. A simple email such as this one ensures that each Learner has the information they need to access our digital resources.
So, our staff spent some time weeding, refining, and rearranging our Fiction section. Now the entire portion of that collection is housed in stacks against walls and is clearly arranged. The simple act of moving books around affects how our students access our holdings. This new arrangement made more sense to them and I did get fewer questions for help finding books. That’s a good thing, though, because students have a right to privacy if they want it. Arranging your library in such a way that Learners can navigate your resources on their own is, in my opinion, best practice for equitable access.
Everyone in my district has full and unrestricted access to our materials.
Another librarian asked me last year if I would question or decline an ILL request for controversial materials for a young patron. I told her absolutely not and that if a patron wanted to read something from my library, it isn’t my responsibility to judge and censor. All learners, even our youngest, have a right to access information and any effort to impede that access violates the Library Bill of Rights.
Teaching accession to both students and teachers.
If learners don’t know how to use something, they most likely won’t use it. This is why I love hosting our Freshmen English classes at the beginning of the school year for a library orientation. Teaching Learners what is available to them and how to get to those materials is the first step in ensuring that they feel welcome to use our collections. Oftentimes, for one reason or another, we forget that our teachers are also Learners and that they too may not know what resources are available to them and how to access. This is why I asked my principal for some time on a staff development day to teach our teachers about their library resources. After that session, I received quite a few emails along the lines of, “This is great! When can you come co-teach with me?”
Fines restrict access.
I’ve struggled with library fines and overdues over the last few years because I’m well aware of the reality that if a student has a library fine, the narrative that accompanies that makes them feel unwelcome in the library, which in turn means they will not access as many materials. To mitigate this challenge while still maintaining consistent fine policies across district libraries, we now offer students the option to read or study off their fines. For every ten minutes they read or study, $1.00 will be taken off of their library account. Earlier this year, our NSLA president sent me a quote that prompted this change. It is from Doug Johnson and it says, “The mission of the school library isn’t to get all of the books back. It’s to get readers back.”
Erica Chancellor is no stranger to challenges. Her six years in education have been spent as a middle school classroom teacher, then computer support specialist, and finally as a school librarian. In her first year in the library at Minden High, Erica set out to change her high school library's culture with a clear mission statement and a copy of the new AASL Standards Framework by her side. Here's how she is doing it in her own words:
Library Mission Statement
Gone are the days where libraries are only used for checking out books and quietly entering in and out. The school library today is adapting to the needs of its school, teachers, and students it serves. There is definitely a shift in the library culture happening throughout schools everywhere and here at Minden High School we are trying to be part of the progress. School libraries are now becoming the hubs of the school. A space where students can gather in order to collaborate, communicate, and access information. School librarian roles are adapting with that space into becoming technology integration specialists, co-teachers, information specialists for both print and digital resources, and digital literacy experts.
At Minden High School we have been working towards this change and curating a new library culture. Collaborating with teachers has been the greatest step in this direction thus far. Through collaboration, as educators we are trying to increase student achievement by really holding our students accountable in the information they are seeking and then producing. We are preparing them to make critical choices about the information they are using. Making sure they are checking sources for credibility and giving credit to the sources they use. We are also striving to help students curate high quality resources that reflect the information they have learned and demonstrates their thinking. Today, more than ever these skills are needed. As the school librarian, I am working towards being able to provide our teachers with ways to implement information literacy into the lessons they are already teaching through collaboration with them and providing them with the resources they need. Some of the classroom collaboration we have done thus far is teaching students about databases, using something other than Google slides to create a presentation, and library orientation for research.
Another piece of the school library is to foster the love of reading. Ways we are doing this at Minden are through our book club and our student podcast. Our podcast is led by myself, and I interview a student who volunteers to share with us the book that they have read. The student answers some fun get-to-know-you questions and then we move on to discussing the book and what happens in the book. The podcast is then uploaded to the library website and shared out through our social media platforms and library newsletter. The hope is that it will inspire students to want to read that book and foster a love for reading at the school as they see what their peers are reading. Students really seem to love doing the podcast and we have hopes of it becoming a student led activity. Our book club meets every two weeks after school to discuss the books we are reading. We are currently getting ready to read Nothing but Sky by Amy Trueblood who has agreed to Skype us in December (thanks to our awesome English teacher Angie Oberg who coordinated this for us.) The book club is just another great way to celebrate the love of reading and continue to encourage that.
Another huge piece this year - getting students to pick up a book and read - has been the collaboration with the English department. The English teachers do an amazing job of promoting books and allowing student choice into their directed reading program. Students like having the ability every so often to choose a book they are going to read for class. Through collaboration with the English department we have been able to do some neat lessons such as a book tasting and will begin monthly book talks to promote the new books in the library for student checkout.
There's so much more!
Erica has a wealth of information online about her school's library and library life. To connect with her, visit any of these:
(Personally, I love her website the most! Constant goodies there.)
The Kearney Hub wrote a fantastic article about the student podcast here.
Are you doing exciting things in your school library?
Megan Huenemann isn't one to shy away from a challenge. Currently working as a half time English, half time Librarian, she serves the staff and students at Norris High School. She's also a level 2 Google Certified Educator.
"My biggest goal for our library has been to make it a welcoming space. I want students to feel like this is a space they can come to do their homework or their research but also a place they want to go when they have some free time."
Make them feel like the library is their own. Here's how she does it:
1. A monthly library video featuring displays, a Dewey Decimal section, and library activities makes sure students are current on their library knowledge.
2. Reading incentives - like the Golden Ticket.
Golden Tickets are placed in new books as well as older books on display. When students find one in a book they have checked out and bring the ticket back to the library, Megan exchanges the Golden Ticket for a treat from the school cafeteria.
3. From Golden Tickets to Golden Sowers, Norris High students are encouraged to read, read, READ!
Students keep track of Golden Sower novels they have read on bookmarks that the school library staff initials at checkout. Once a student has read all of the current nominees, they are entered into a drawing for a free book and free frozen yogurt at the end of the semester.
4. A maker space encourages students to dream big - even in a small space.
A maker space can be anything you - or your students - want it to be. Megan keeps her maker space flexible and constantly changing to the needs to her school community.
Coloring is a very popular activity - especially for the ends of the semester when stress levels run high. If you don't have any coloring sheets, don't worry! Megan says it works just as well to cover the table with paper to make a doodling center.
To help use up some old, weeded materials, the Norris High School Library created a maker space with foldable books. The binder contains directions for multiple book folding options - including the popular arrow and heart configurations.
If you're interested in starting your own book folding maker space, here is a great Pinterest board to get you started.
The current maker space on display is an origami craft station. Students have an example, step-by-step instructions, plenty of paper, and an example book in case they want to learn more about origami.
Upcoming makerspaces include magnetic tiles and erector sets. Megan hopes to add more robotics and 3D printing in the future.
5. Ozobots, away!
Speaking of robots, the Norris High School Library has Ozobots available for patrons to check out before school, during lunch, and after school. Each kit features a checklist of items so students can create their own courses and learn through play.
It's "great for beginning code and general fun", says Megan. High schoolers can't seem to resist the tiny robots!
Thanks to Megan, her school library is well on its way to being her students' favorite place. Her knack for communication and involving students in their school library will make a lasting impact on her students and staff.
Are you doing exciting things in your school library?
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