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 year of the pandemic has been demanding, stressful, and more work for most librarians. When students were sent back to school in person, many librarians were frazzled about what that would look like, how we could do checkout, and how we could best assist our students’ reading needs. All specialists have been working off of a cart going classroom to classroom at my school since students have been back in person. It is a lot of work to travel to every room, but something that I have truly enjoyed is putting the perfect books into my students’ hands.
Every afternoon my library para and I prepare 6 crates full of books that we take to classrooms the next day. We have a specific number of books we pack for each room, depending on their grade level and reading level. We pack various fiction books, picture books, nonfiction books, graphic novels, and Spanish or Bilingual books. Then the next day in library class, after I teach a short lesson, I find an empty table or space on the floor where I can lay out those books in rows so that students can see them all and point out one to three books that they would like to check out. This is a very tedious process since I can only allow one student to check out at a time, and it takes anywhere between 20-30 minutes to complete this process.
Though tedious, this checkout process has been a great time to bond with my students over books. In a typical year, my students would find their books, bring them up to the counter, and my library para would assist them. With this new process, I have had to be much more involved in the checkout process, and I love it. This has allowed my students and me to have conversations about the books they are reading, students have asked me for recommendations, and I have had the chance to suggest specific books to specific students. It has also allowed me to get to know their interests more and discuss what they like to read.
Since we have to pack bins this year to bring to the classrooms, this has also given us a chance to push new books that have come in and older books that are still great but haven’t been checked out in a while. Since we have to hand-select the books that the students see, this has helped us pick books aimed at the correct level of students who will be reading them. It has also allowed us to choose books that represent the students within that classroom. This has been a great time to help our students find windows and mirrors within their library books. When I pack the bins, I try to think about which specific students are in each class, and I pack books that I believe will resonate with those students.
Although this pandemic has been a challenging and devastating time, there have also been some positive things that have come out of it. I know many people would think, well it’s not fair that your students don’t get to choose their own books, and of course we would like them to choose their own books. But, until it is safe to do so, we will be checking out in the classroom, and the students seem to be loving it. Many times what I hear from the students is, “Miss, there are too many choices!”. We do allow students 3rd -6th grade to place holds on books if they would like different ones also. So until we are allowed to go back to the library, checking out in the classroom is still very enjoyable.
By: Samantha Brown
I had never done a "Blind Date with a Book" display. So the week before Valentine's Day with help from my paraprofessional, we wrapped about 40 books, labeled them with their genre and a homemade book and off I went. I was so shocked at how many students took a book. I ran out before I reached all the classrooms. By the end of the week, we had wrapped over 110 books.
A comment from a teacher who had a few reluctant readers in her class, "The students were so excited to get a popular book that they didn't have to choose. Sometimes they are too overwhelmed with all the choices. Thanks for doing this."
Teacher Librarian - Ralston Public Schools
Here is my library display that I am most proud of this year. At the beginning of the year, I talked to my entire staff (teachers, paraeducators, administrative assistant, principal, custodians). I said the easiest way to get kids to read besides putting books of their choice in their hands is to spark their interest from other readers. The students expect me to recommend and be excited about books. I asked that every adult in my school send me a picture with their favorite book. EVERY adult did. The kids were so excited to see what they chose as their favorite because our kids each have at least one adult they connect with and this was just one more way to connect with them.
The project went on to feature their favorite place to read, favorite genre, and now we are finishing out the year with a Staff Vs. Student Recommendation board. For example, 3rd grade teachers and any other adults who work with 3rd grade recommended their "You have to check this book out!" book and then the students in 3rd grade recommended books back.
North Park Elementary Media Specialist
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
I scoot down the school hallway, copies in hand, shuffling my keys to unlock the library when I see her, she's standing still and looking at posters.
“Good morning,” I say quickly, shuffling by.
“Aren’t these neat,” she says--slowing my pace--gesturing so that I will stop and really look. “They really are saying something.”
I have walked past these motivational hallway posters what feels like one million times and never taken the time to read one. As I stand here with her, reading one after the other, I feel my shoulders soften, my to-do list feeling somehow more manageable.
Yes, we teachers and librarians move fast to get things done, but this woman also had things to get done–and one of the things on her list was to notice the good stuff around us.
The library is a great place to foster gratitude practices (intentionally noticing the good) this winter season--in virtual spaces and in real life. While we might not feel thankful in 2021, we can mine for gratitude in ways that impact our days, our colleagues, and our students. Here are some easy-peasy, plug-and-play ways to jumpstart gratitude at your school this season:
By Evi Wusk
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.