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
By Crys Bauermeister, NSLA President-Elect
Originally I was supposed to write an article advocating for all of the amazing school library sessions available at NETA (more about these later in the article). While many wonderful sessions are planned with school librarians in mind at NETA, this year will not be the same as years past.
So what can we do to continue with our professional (and even personal) growth in the school library? I don’t know about you, but I’m TIRED of online meetings and zoom. I knew before the pandemic that I’m a people person, but I’ve reaffirmed that I. NEED. PEOPLE.
Looking at the past to further our future, the founding principles of NEMA (Nebraska Educational Media Association), the association that has now become NSLA, said the objectives of the organization was to fulfill “The need to have trained media specialists recognized as contributors to school/educational systems and the desire to bring several media organizations with similar goals together in one association.” Although the year was 1968, our goals are still similar 53 years later.
As your president-elect, what type of new or repeated programming would you like us to bring you? Rest assured, our scholarships & awards, professional development, and all of our current advocacy measures will continue, as will School Librarians Day in the fall. However, as our world grows and changes, what can we do for you to grow and gain in the school library profession? Would anyone be interested in a summer face-to-face? Please let me know your thoughts by clicking here.
...and now, more about NETA. All NETA sessions will be available to view until May 1. If you had registered for last year’s (2020) conference, you have automatically received an invitation to view this year’s information. The conference is on the hopin platform.
School Library presentations to watch:
Keep the Doors Open! School Libraries and Covid by Cynthia Stogdill
MacGuyver Ed: Building Interactive Lessons for Your Student by Jenna Krambeck-Reeh
Ignite: our Go To Tools for Pandemic Teaching in the Library, NSLA board members Courtney Pentland, Mandy Peterson, Crys Bauermeister, & Kelly Kenny
A reading culture. Words my ears savor, and words I love to say often. After ten years of building a reading culture at my school, it was time to tackle the next goal: renovating the library. To support the high volume of checkouts, the increased presence of students, and the number of elementary library classes, it was time to improve the library space.
Two years of preparation were needed for the library addition to take shape. The process was challenging to convince administrators and board members that enlarging the library space was a necessity for our growing district. I attended several workshops that gave me points to ponder on how to approach this money-taxing project and how it could be made possible with fewer dollars. First, I outlined the necessity of space for our elementary students. It was once shared with me that the percentage of space should be equivalent to the percentage of students I serve at each level. Elementary students frequent the library more often than the middle and high school students; however, the space in the library tended to appeal to the older students. Second, the number of books in the square footage of the library meant very little space for teaching, learning, or relaxing. Third, it was time to upgrade our facilities for the growth of our district (and continue to find more room for books!). Finally, I convinced a National Honor Society member to tackle the process of reorganizing the library as her Individual Service Project. It was a win-win situation for us both! And, the administration along with the board members were ready to make this library addition happen.
In the summer of 2018, the preparation for enlarging the library finally came to fruition. The preschool classroom located next to the library was vacated because the building across the street was purchased for the Tiny Tiger Early Learning Center. An opportunity for making more space for books! A large doorway was created in the wall to connect the library and the old preschool classroom. This created an opportunity for an elementary section and a middle school/high school section for the library. The moving of bookcases, books, and furniture were completed by the NHS member. Her project also included painting the rooms, storing and reshelving the books (over 15,000). It was quite the project for her, but I am so grateful she was part of the process. Her eye for design and detail were invaluable. This endeavor made the elementary room of the library larger and allowed for library classes to be conducted more easily while other students peruse the shelves. I also purchased shelves that were lower so our young patrons no longer needed to use stools to reach the books on the top shelves. Our shelves are no longer “stuffed” so students can retrieve books more easily.
I am a proponent of the idea that the library is the heart of the school. I want students to feel safe and comfortable in the library environment. This project gives students the opportunity to feel good about coming to an environment that supports their reading needs. Creating an addition to our library only enhanced the reading culture that was already thriving in our district.
By Mary Gregoski
The Nebraska School Librarians Day was held on October 17, 2020 via Zoom. We had over 100 registrants and a great turn out for a wonderful morning! We were fortunate enough to have a keynote speaker and two back-to-back sessions from school librarian presenters. We spent our lunch hour with the annual NSLA membership meeting and getting an update from Dorann Avey with NDE regarding Rule 10.
K.C. Boyd started off our morning with an amazing presentation on advocacy. One of my favorite quotes from her session was, “Show your passion!” If district leaders are uninformed about your position as a librarian and what you can offer, how will you make yourself irreplaceable? You have to speak up, advocate, and show them how amazing school librarians are and how valuable they are to your district. Some of the ways she suggested you could accomplish this was to join committees, use your social media, and ask to present to stakeholders. Bottom line: “Get off the complain train” and show them how amazing you are!
All of our registrants were given access to the recorded sessions from the day. Although we are making the most of our situation this year with many virtual professional development opportunities, we hope to see you all in person at NETA and next fall at Nebraska School Librarians Day! Thank you for joining us virtually this year and helping our organization continue to grow. Check the website professional development calendar for more awesome PD opportunities!
Submitted by NSLA President, Angie Blankenship
“Graphic novels’ popularity with young people has certainly earned them a definite place in school libraries” (Mardis, 2016, p. 105). I have discovered this popularity in my new role as school librarian the past two school years. As a past classroom teacher, my students would bring back graphic novels on checkout day and I have to say I wasn’t fond of them. But now in the library I see students read with enthusiasm and thrive on the visual information. They are the first books students ask for and the shelves are continually empty! The population of the graphic novels makes book selection an easy task because I now know which books the students are reading.
According to Mardis (2016), “the modern types of graphic novels began in the 1970s, but in recent years they have become extremely popular and many librarians include them in their collections” (p. 106). Some advantages of including graphic novels in your collection are: visual learner connections, leading to exploring other kinds of literature, attracting boys and reluctant readers, useful for ESL or below level students and for attracting young people to the library. I notice all of these advantages as graphic novels are used in my library. I strongly feel that the books are magnets for pleasure reading and are critical in the development of literacy in our second language learners.
Adding graphic novels to a library collection also has some disadvantages. “The contents of some graphic novels are not appropriate for young people” (Mardis, 2016, p. 106). This is a concept I struggle with when considering what graphic novels to add to my collection because I am at a grade level campus that hosts only second and third graders. I have some students who like the graphic novel format and have a higher reading level than a second or third grader. Therefore, the content may be too advanced for my younger student. I experienced this when receiving a set of Babysitters Club graphic novels and one was titled “Boy Crazy Stacy”. After reading it, I decided the contents were not appropriate for the age of a second or third grade student and I chose not to put it on the shelf.
So let’s continue this love of reading and let the graphic novel collection continue to be the ones with the tattered covers and the longest wait list! All students will be able to build their reading confidence and there will continue to be a surplus of options for readers of all ages.
Mardis, M. (2016). The collection program in schools: Concepts and practices (6th ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Sandoz Elementary School
Whether you are teaching students in person or remotely or a little of both, it’s important to make sure all learners are engaged. Here are my favorite tips for helping remote learners stay in touch with what is happening in their classrooms.
If you need more ideas, you only need to harness the power of the web or social media to see the innovative ways teachers and librarians engage with remote learners. What great ideas will you discover?
Joy Harvey, Coordinator of Library Services for the Lincoln Public Schools
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.