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
This spring, we learned that our littles were rejoining our middle and high school students. I work in a specialized program in OPS for our students on IEPs who are not ready to be mainstreamed. I wanted the library to become a space of inclusion where everyone is invited and seen. I initially panicked because being a K-12 librarian is entirely new. I did know there needed to be some heavy rearranging to make our books more accessible for all our students. I turned to the library Twitter PLN and found Kelsey’s Bogan’s tweet about her blog post - “Embracing Dynamic Shelving.”
Librarians, I was sold, and I went for it!
On a workday my library supervisor, Amy Soma, was gracious enough to come and reorganize our library as we “embraced dynamic shelving.”
It was life changing.
Our students instantly noticed and thought we received brand new books. This made me reflect that sometimes the traditional way of shelving is not what our students need. Dynamic shelving highlighted books they normally would not have checked out. Working with students on the autism spectrum, I have students that routinely checkout that same two books. I had one student who checked out a new book and was so excited he sat at the table and read aloud to himself.
Our manga and other sections were no longer constantly disorganized. Keeping a library organized is difficult but keeping popular sections looking appealing is hard. Dynamic shelving facilitated organization because books were better spaced and offered better browsing for students.
The only cons I found in dynamic shelving was learning a new shelving system and reorganizing when we received new books.
Do not be scared to try something new. Have fun reorganizing!
By Jess Winter
[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 we create a vision of something, often that vision is shaped by what we have seen before. As I begin to envision the library I am slated to open in the Fall of 2022, there is one quote that I am going to post prominently in my office as a daily reminder: “Nothing about us, without us, is for us.” This will be my mantra as a librarian as I attempt to engage staff and students in instruction in what will be the largest classroom in the building.
This vision comes from what I have experienced as an educator and a learner. For far too long, the deficit model of learning has continued to dominate within our schools. Students (and educators) are empty vessels that some higher power must make deposits of necessary information into to “better” them.
The first time I experienced and rejected this mindset was when I was working on my Educational Doctorate, with the intention of becoming a teacher of future teachers. I noticed as I got deeper and deeper into my program that we had become what I had always hated. Those people who do not live the daily lives of teachers, but they know what is best for those educators. It is the fundamental problem of any professional development created by a consultant, a researcher or an administrator who just simply is not walking in our shoes. As soon as I realized that was what I would become, I walked away.
I then continued to experience it through the endless iterations of “best practices” and programs that were implemented by my school district. Our favorite was learning goals, that, despite a two-year attempt to illuminate us on, were never made clear to a single person expected to display them on a daily basis. And while I am someone who is almost always willing to play the game, see the silver lining, try to meet the expectations, over and over again, all of this felt so false to me.
Although teachers experience it, they sometimes aren’t always the best at avoiding this practice in their own classrooms. I see it in the conversations that teachers have about what they are doing in their classrooms. One of my favorite things I heard a teacher say once, about some ancient book they had probably been torturing students with for the past decade, “The kids hate, but I love it.” Hmmmm, if the kids hate it, then why do it?!
Most recently, I watched a documentary called “Precious Knowledge” which was about an implementation of a Mexican-American Studies program in an Arizona school district. There is a scene in which teachers are sitting around talking about how unmotivated students are, they don’t care, etc. And one man finally spoke up and said, “I have never met a student who has a dysfunctional relationship with learning, they have a dysfunctional relationship with school.”
So, what does this all mean for my future library? I will come back to my mantra. Nothing about us, without us, is for us. That means that professional development for teachers should start where teachers are. What are their visions for their classrooms? What goals do THEY have? What problems are THEY encountering that they want answers to? That should be the beginning of planning for any help, support, or ideas that are offered. Professionals will develop if you give them the resources to do so and meet them where they are.
What will it mean for my students? First of all, recognize that students ARE learning, every day. They are engaging with content of their choice through social media, whether it is Snapchat, Instagram or Tik Tok. They are desperately looking for someone to engage them where they are, but no one is asking them. What do the students want from their library? How do they envision it? While I know what I want from a library in which I spend my time, my new library is not my own. This space belongs to the students, the teachers and the community. And the first question I will ask is: What do you want from YOUR library? How can it meet you where you already are and take you where you want to go?
The implementation of this philosophy will require relationships based on trust, listening and not always being in control. I have to balance both my expertise and knowledge and areas of strength with the ways in which my stakeholders will want me to show up for them.
It will be a challenge, to say the least. But it will be a challenge that I have been preparing for my entire career and I am so excited to take it on.
Submitted by Jenny Razor, NSLA member
This is my first year in the role of library media specialist at my school. During this semester, not only have I been wearing the many hats of my full-time library position (book expert, collaborator extraordinaire, technology facilitator, and all-around professional education supporter), but I have also been coaching basketball as well as completing practicum hours and projects to officially earn my school library endorsement. To say it has been a busy semester is an understatement.
With a family at home that includes five littles of my own on top of it all, it would have been easy to fall victim to the ever-present monster of burnout that we all know wreaks havoc in schools across the nation. However, I have not left the library once this year feeling like I should be anywhere else. I love what I do.
I can’t claim to have done this alone, so thank you to all of those that have helped me so far this year. With that, I’d love to take a minute to share some of the routines and resources that have allowed me to succeed and feel excited about my job day after day.
1. Amazing colleagues.
I am blessed to work and be connected with an amazing group of educators. They love sharing materials and discussing ideas. When I wasn’t sure what to do, it was easy to turn to them for support. Much of the time, I reached out to the other librarians on my district PLC and they pointed me in the right direction. From technology to library systems and everything in between, I have yet to be let down by their advice. I’ve also had plenty of help from the classroom teachers in my building as well. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that I’ve been teaching in the same building for five years as a Reading and Language Arts teacher and have built some good relationships with a number of the staff. I realize this would likely be a lot tougher (but not impossible) if I’d been hired on as a completely new member of the building.
Which brings me to my next resource…
2. Professional Communities
The NSLA has been a great place to find support and resources. Even simply reading the blog posts and email updates is such a great way to remain current on some of the major happenings with Nebraska.
I have also found some terrific resources from the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA). A fellow librarian in my district let me know of the opportunity to become a free member of this association earlier this year. It has been a terrific resource for technology-related material and topics. Most recently, they shared a holiday digital escape room that I plan to use with my students the final two days of the fall semester.
The TCEA is similar to our very own NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology Association). Membership to NETA is also free!
While I appreciate some great blogs and email updates, I do have a 30-minute commute one way to work. This leaves a good chunk of time for me that has the potential to be utilized in ways other than simply listening to music for an hour a day.
I decided to fill a good chunk of my drives with podcasts to help me stay current on different educational topics and get me in the mindset to best serve the learning community at my school. Here are a few of my favorites:
The best thing I’ve done so far this semester is to not remain isolated in what could easily be the island that is the library. While it’s kept me extra busy, I’ve tried to prioritize collaboration. From full projects to mini-lessons and everything in between. I’ve had even more of my staff reach out about collaboration opportunities for the spring semester. This helps me build relationships with teachers and students and it helps fuel my passion and excitement for learning and teaching.
To help stimulate these inquiries for collaboration, I try to make a point to make contact with my staff on a weekly basis. Sometimes this consists of formal collaboration. Sometimes it’s an email with a short video I create discussing topics like troubleshooting a technology issue that has arisen recently or simply updating staff on the happenings and opportunities in the library. Sometimes it’s helping with a technology challenge in a classroom. Most times, I just stop in to say, “Hi,” and ask how things are going. It’s simple but seems to be effective.
On one of these drop-ins, I was able to assist a couple of science teachers working on a mini-research project over monuments. A fiber line had been cut in the area. With the internet being out for the day, rendering our 1-to-1 Chromebooks useless for this project, I was able to locate print sources from our library for the students to use in their research. It was a great impromptu opportunity to help ease the stress of my teachers and provide our students with the resources necessary to continue learning.
One of my biggest priorities this year was to do what I could to let my staff know they are supported. I want them to know my door is open and that I’m eager to help. The above are a few simple strategies that have allowed me to do just that.
5. Student Helpers (Library Pages)
The final system that has been a true gamechanger this semester is one that a fellow librarian in the district suggested - a big shoutout the Amy Williams from Elkhorn Valley View Middle School for the idea!
In her library, she loves getting the students involved. They help check in and out books, shelve books, keep the library tidy, set up displays, process new books, and do any number of jobs the help the library run smoothly. They are Library Pages - student library assistants.
At first, I was nervous to employ student helpers. My type-A personality cringed at the idea. However, I decided to give it a try. Halfway through the semester, I posted an application for students to apply to be a Library Page. With the help of teacher input, I then hired twenty students to come to the library during their study halls or before or after school throughout the week to assist in the day-to-day library operations. There was some upfront work, but since initially training these student workers, it has freed up much of my valuable time to do more collaboration with teachers, troubleshoot technology issues, and interact with students especially around finding their next great read. Sure, I have a few misshelved books, but I’ve also noticed the buzz around reading increase as students embrace pride and ownership of our library.
Being in education and in the business of helping students learn and grow, there are challenges for all staff within a school. To say my first semester has been perfect would be a flat-out lie. My hope is that some of the successes I’ve shared from my experience as a first-year school librarian can provide a few ideas to help others implement systems to grow their library and rekindle the joy that can be found as a school librarian.
Jacob M. Barry
Middle School Library Media Specialist
Elkhorn Ridge Middle School
Do you have that reader who can’t find the just-right book? As the librarian, you have asked questions of the reader, suggested novels that fit the interests, and she still just can’t “get into” the book. It is a struggle librarians encounter, but we accept the challenge and begin the search for the “just right” book. In the past thirteen years, I have met this challenge more than a number of times. I learned quickly that I could reach for a Golden Sower nominee or award book, and my student would come back saying, “That book was really good!”
Golden Sower reads have existed since 1981 when the honor was first bestowed upon Deborah and James Howe for Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery. Forty years later, many nominees read, and three different divisions for nominees, allow a librarian to have many options to offer those difficult-to-please readers. The nominees and winner lists are easy to find. Go to https://sites.google.com/site/nebraskagoldensower/winners?authuser=0. These lists are filled with great reads for kids from picture books to juvenile fiction to young adults. A wide variety of genres and topics are included in these lists.
Need a good read-aloud for your lower elementary students? Search the picture book nominees. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett is still a favorite for Kindergartners. Try Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman for the middle-grade reader. When students realize this story is based on the 1980 tornado outbreak that impacted Grand Island, they are quick to read it cover to cover. The award for the young adult novel was introduced in 1993. Since then, the great reads and excelling authors does not disappoint. Authors such as Carl Dueker, Joan Lowery Nixon, Lois Lowery, April Henry, and Alan Gratz can all be found on these lists.
Readers advisory can be just a bit easier or maybe a little more exciting to explore with the nominee and winner lists from the Golden Sower Award. It’s worth the time to explore the titles and authors to help your readers find the “just right” book.
By Mary Gregoski
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.
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.