Makerspaces have been the talk of the town in libraries all over the land. Matter of fact, I knew when I started my journey as a librarian two school years ago that I needed to have one of these magical places in my library. I started with some research then scoured the internet for innovative ideas for STEM challenges and other items to put in my makerspace. I had yet to meet my students, and since we were a brand new middle school, the entire staff was in the same boat! We were ecstatically planning for a school full of students we didn’t know. I started out with some low-tech, low-cost STEM challenges such as the army person launcher challenge, the airplane cargo challenge, and the newspaper tower challenge.
I was able to collect many items from around my own house, and I reached out to staff members for items they no longer needed and were willing to donate as well. This enabled me to get started without any huge expense, and since the school year’s budget was not yet available, that was a good thing. I also learned that the district office had makerspace items for checkout. I was able to schedule many items that rotate from building to building such as a giant chess set, Littlebits, Bloxels, K’Nex, and many other more expensive high-tech and low-tech options. This also allowed me to see if my students were interested in the items so I could decide if an investment was warranted. Some of the funding since my startup has come from my annual library budget, but the majority of funding for larger purchases such as our own K’Nex set, VR goggles with an iPod, and our BB8 Droid has come from book fair profits. Scholastic actually has some of these items in their catalog. If you have the book fair dollars, it’s a great place to spend those funds.
An important issue that came up in my planning was when the students would be able to use the makerspace. I decided at that moment that our library should be open at lunch as an alternative to recess. Students would sign up on a Google form the day before and then sign in as they entered. The response was awesome. Kids wanted to do the STEM challenges, they used the books on drawing I pulled from our collection, they made duct tape everything (and the tape was gone in a flash). They hammered away on nail art and loved it (yikes! I knew this could not continue into year two if I wanted to stay sane).
Some lessons were learned that first year. 1) If I could get one student to try a new activity or challenge, others would follow. 2) Things can quickly become old news. Put them in the cupboard for a couple months, then pull them back out and they’re brand new again. 3) Low tech is just as popular as high tech. 4) Loud is okay, but too loud is not. 5) They will take the stuff and make stuff you didn’t plan or intend (this is good, this is one actual purpose of a makerspace, and when it happens, it is a beautiful mess). 6) Kids can learn how to pick up after themselves and take ownership of a space if you are consistent and follow through with expectations. 7) Ask students what they’d like to see in their makerspace. They will tell you. 8) Watch how students use the spaces in the room and move the furniture around.
I’m now in the middle of year two of my makerspace journey, and I continue to watch the students create and use their space. I think by far, the most important lesson of all is to observe closely and feel this living, breathing makerspace take shape--Not the shape you see in all of the pretty catalogs, but the shape of your students and their interests and their imaginations.
Sara Meier, Moore Middle School Teacher Librarian
Hello, dear Nebraska librarians! We’re preparing for the holidays by offering you some Stocking Stuffers - effective ideas for your school library all packaged up and ready to go. I “Grinch-who-stole-Christmas-ed” these goodies from the NLA/NSLA 2018 Fall Conference and am looking forward to incorporating them into my own school library. Most of the images are respectfully pilfered from their slide presentations.
Stocking Stuffer #1 : Take-away advertising
Number 1 on my “to steal” list is from Alexandra A. Ball’s “Promoting Literacy to Teachers and Staff” and Amy Taisch’s section of the #mwlibchat IGNITE. You take a small item, such as Extra gum (“Let the library make 4th quarter EXTRA awesome”) or a sharpie (“The library has what you need to stay SHARP in 2019”), and attach it to a brightly colored note. What a great way to promote the library and add some fun into your days! The back of the card can include your name, contact information, and library social media.
Stocking Stuffer #2 : The GIANT LOOM
Cheryl Wilkins of Lincoln Public Schools presented this in an IGNITE session, and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. She created a huge loom in her library and put out the call for leftover yarn, resulting in this gorgeousness: a no-tech maker space that her students can get enough of. I’m ready to do this for the winter months.
(Check out their IGNITE slides here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byg0fBGq8544SHVuVDRlYUpiM0gtc0FDQmpqanNMTzRfMXk4/view)
Stocking Stuffer #3 : Library Cake Boss
Pilfered from Jenna Krambeck-Reeh’s section of the #mwlibchat IGNITE, I love the creativity behind a cake decorating contest centered around books. In my mind, this would make a powerful Golden Sower nominee activity. It would take a significant amount of planning and preparation with cake groups. Luckily, collaboration is a good thing! The library can keep the pieces on display all day, take votes from students and staff (drive traffic), and hold a cake eating party too!
(#mwlibchat IGNITE slides found here: bit.ly/NSLA18mwlibchat)
Stocking Stuffer #4 : Staff Book Bags
Amy Taisch makes her second appearance on my list with her staff book bags program. She talks with staff members and creates summer reading book bags for them based on their interests and professional goals. What a great way to re-connect with staff before and after summer break and promote your library materials! I’ll be trying this out at my school this summer.
Stocking Stuffer #5: Guessing Games
Alexandra A. Ball’s “Promoting Literacy to Teachers and Staff” had one more gem I just have to share with you! Don’t underestimate the power of guessing games to bring patrons into the library. She specifically mentioned one we are doing right now (it’s October as I write this) “Guess how many candy corns are in the container”. Also from her presentation, cover most of a book cover and have patrons guess the book title. Here are some other ideas I had: guessing the source of a quotation, how many feet of shelving there are in the library, how many items are in the collection, etc. I advertise on social media, email teachers, and always have a prize! In fact, I offer a prize for the student with the winning guess AND their Focus (like homeroom) teacher.
Well, there you are, Nebraska school librarian! I hope you found something inspiring to steal and make your own. Make sure to let us know if you do use one of these ideas by posting to social media and tagging the Nebraska School Librarians Association on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
NSLA News - December 2018: Alexandra Ball, Karla Wendelin Continuing Education Scholarship Recipient
When it comes to library programming, we typically think of events and incentives designed for our students. However, as school librarians, we would be remiss if we were to ignore another important group of patrons: fellow teachers and school staff. Because we spend so much of our days working with students, it is easy to forget about teachers as patrons. However, teachers are indeed our school library patrons not only with resources used in classroom teaching, but also for personal use. Additionally, teachers have a great potential to be library advocates within our school building, district, and the community at large.
I have used several ways to get staff involved and interested in the library, including having a display of staff picks, “guess the book” contests, and hosting informational breakfasts before school. While these have all had varying levels of success, I have had the greatest success with a library challenge I created for staff during the third quarter of this past school year. At the beginning of the quarter, I gave out a flyer with ten different activities staff could choose from. These activities varied in their level of involvement, from simply stopping by the library to say hello, to bringing their class to the library for an activity or lesson. Along with the flyer, I sent out a video explaining the challenge and the different prize levels. Teachers were able to earn prizes based on the number of activities they completed, and I promised that anyone who completed all ten would get their choice of coffee or fresh baked cookies.
My goals with this challenge were that teachers would become more familiar with the library and its resources, including the expertise I could help bring to their classrooms. By the end of third quarter, over half of the staff had participated in the challenge, with several teachers completing all ten activities. Even greater than numbers however, were the responses teachers gave, sharing that they used library resources (such as our ebook collection) that they would have otherwise not explored, and were now thinking about how else they could use the library in the future.
Classroom teachers and school staff are in unique positions to be strong advocates for our school libraries. However, this power is lost if staff do not feel there is a place in the library for them, or are unaware for the library’s resources. Focusing on programming specifically targeted to teachers and staff can help promote the school library in new and fun ways that help engage everyone in the school.
The 2018 NLA/NSLA conference was a success for many reasons. The main reason is that we had 20 fantastic school library focused sessions for attendees to choose from - 10 each day! If you are interested in any of the conference materials, you can view almost all of them on the NSLA website under the professional development tab. I would like to personally thank all of the NSLA board members for their hard work on the conference, the fabulous presenters who shared their experiences and expertise, and the attendees who were able to join us for this professional learning and networking opportunity. Keep reading for announcements about upcoming opportunities!
We also launched our Nebraska Needs Librarians shirts in both red and blue—and nearly sold out! We will have these fabulous items for sale again for just $10 at NETA March 28-29, 2019 and Nebraska School Librarians Day on April 6, 2019 (coming to 4 locations across the state!). We are not making a profit on these shirts, but we are spreading advocacy far and wide! If you purchased one of these shirts at conference, please post a picture when you are sporting one in your library and tag our social media @nslaorg on Twitter and/or Facebook. We were inspired by Raygun's "America Needs Librarians" shirts, and they love librarians so they gave us permission to print these exclusive shirts!
At our business meeting on Saturday, we covered how NSLA is working to revitalize the relevance of your AASL state affiliated professional organization. We introduced out 2018-2019 Action Plan. We also covered several other items of note:
Webinars - We are working on adding more webinars to help support professional learning. Check out previous webinars on our YouTube Channel and look for upcoming webinar opportunities in our listserv.
NETA - March 28-29, 2019
CHI Conference Center, Omaha, NE
Featured Speaker: The Daring Librarian @GwynethJones on March 29th
NSLD - Saturday, April 6, 2019
9:00-12:30 in Omaha, Norfolk, Kearney, & Scottsbluff
Free for members; $30 for non-members (membership is included)
Joint ILA/NLA/NSLA Conference - Oct 3-4, 2019
Embassy Suites, LaVista, NE
Keynote Speaker: Jaime Casap, @jcasap, on Thursday October 3rd
Session Submissions are open from NOW until February 8th, 2019
NSLA Fall Spectacular - Saturday October 5, 2019
8:30 AM-2:30 PM
Papillion La Vista South High School
Based on feedback from the survey conducted in November 2017, we know it is difficult for many people to attend conferences during the school week and that these opportunities can at times be cost prohibitive. As such, beginning in 2019, we will offer a Saturday option for school librarians after the annual fall conference at a fraction of the price of a traditional conference. This opportunity will follow the fall conference as it moves between Omaha and Kearney each year. (We are still looking to name this event, Fall Spectacular is a place holder, so please send suggestions our way if you have one!)
This Saturday offering will consist of concurrent sessions relating to school library. Session submissions are welcome here! from now until February 8, 2019.
$30 for Members; $60 for non-Members. Presenters will have a discounted registration rate of $20 for members and $50 for non-members. Non-Members will gain membership status with their registration for this event and be eligible for all member benefits until September 29th of the following year.
We are so excited for this next year with NSLA, and we hope that you will join in as often as you can and please keep sending feedback our way, so we can continue to strengthen our professional organization!
Do you host a book club with your students? Did you know hosting a book club is as inexpensive as the cost of postage?
Book clubs are a great way to connect with students of all ages and backgrounds in your school. The benefits of book clubs go beyond the obvious that students are reading. The connection students make with each other socially is one of the largest benefits that I see. Kids who would otherwise not cross paths with each other due to grade level differences or interest level differences come together in book club. New and differing perspectives are shown in book clubs. Trying new books and genres is another one of the bonuses students gain.
Book clubs look different at each age level you host. For instance, our junior high book club is exclusively for middle grades. At this level, we set small reading goals for each week. Then at the high school level, our book club is open to anyone in grades 9-12. Again, we read in weekly increments, but we read a bit more aggressively. The key to both book clubs and the gathering time is one common factor. Food. What teenager doesn’t appreciate/devour free food? Even if I suspect that students aren’t reading and just coming for the food, we sometimes set a rule that until a contribution, question, or comment is made no food is consumed. Most of the time, the interest from the book makes kids want to read. Some students operate on the guilt they feel from not contributing to the discussion, which is enough to make them read for the next week.
No matter what your book club looks like, how wonderful is it to see students generating or possibly cultivating an interest in reading? That’s what we live for as school librarians. Where can you get books without breaking your entire budget? We have wonderful collections available from our regional library systems. Three Rivers, Southeast, and Central Plains Library Systems all have book club kits available to borrow. Your only cost is return shipping. In addition, many libraries across our state offer book club kits that they are willing to share. The Nebraska Library Commission also has book club kits available to borrow.
What’s stopping you? Why not give book clubs a try in your library?
- Crys Bauermeister
My first week as a school librarian, I answered hundred of questions, navigated the lab reservation calendar, and hunted for the light switches and paperclips. When the first day of school arrived, I had no displays ready and a homeroom I didn’t know I had until they walked into the library and sat down. That day, I literally ran from the building at 4:00 and had no intention of returning.
Before leaving my office, I sent an email and the response saved me from myself. My mentor reminded me what I was experiencing would pass. I would find my way, and I had not made the biggest mistake of my life. I was not the first person to run from the building with no intention of returning. Those words have stayed with me throughout my career as a school librarian, In fact, I have repeated those words to new librarians as they struggled through their first weeks and months.
New school librarians face some massive challenges. As new teachers, they are learning the district policies, schedule, and faces. They are also expected to hit the ground running when the teachers report and to have answers to impossible questions. Mentors are the safety net for school librarians either new to the profession or new to a district. They assist in navigating the light switches and paper clips, as well as the bigger questions about curriculum, management, and professionalism. Mentors reach across a table and tell us we are letting too many people take our energy, and they remind us we are really good at what we do.
As a new school librarian, how do you begin to find a mentor, when you are barely getting through the day? Look to those who have inspired you through classes, conferences, and social media. Librarians are always willing to share and to support each other. Your experiences, frustrations, and concerns are those shared by school librarians across the state and nation.
One of things we learned from the NSLA survey last fall, was the need for a better mentoring network. Knowing full well many library professionals are singletons in their building and district, the need for a mentor network is critical. The school librarian experience is different from the classroom teacher experience. It is something we are working to bring to our membership in the future. Visit with us at NLA/NSLA this October if you are interested in mentoring another library professional or if you would like to connect with a mentor on your adventure as a school librarian.
Cynthia Stogdill, NSLA President-elect
Hello NSLA Members & School Librarians in Nebraska!
My name is Courtney Pentland, and I will be serving as the Nebraska School Librarians Association president this year. I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am to be working with our current executive board, liaisons, and committee members. This group of fabulous education professionals is passionate about school libraries and school librarians in Nebraska. We wanted to give you just a few updates on what you can look forward to from your professional organization this year. (Many of the items below are based off of feedback that we received from over 400! school library folks who answered our survey in the fall of 2017.)
For a full list of our board members, liaisons, and committee chairs, please visit our website. www.neschoolibrarians.org
Now is a great time to become a member or renew your membership! Membership fees will continue at the same rates. $30 general member, $15 student, $10 for retired. Beginning in 2019, we will have a general due date for memberships—September 30th. You can register and/or check your membership status online on our website. Current members will be emailed a copy of a membership certificate to print and fill out on their own in the beginning of September.
Your membership fees will gain you access to our listserv, provide a discount to the fall NLA/NSLA conference, give you free admission to Nebraska School Librarians Day, and help provide funding for scholarships and professional learning opportunities across the state. Check out a few of the benefits below.
As the end of my two year term draws to a close I look back at how and why I joined this awesome group. I was asked if I would serve on the board. If I remember correctly it was Cynthia. I said, “Okay;” thinking I would be a board member. Next thing I know I am the Secretary. All right, I can do this.
Why did I volunteer to join the board? I wanted to bring the voice of Western Nebraska to the organization. AT the same time the voice of NSLA needed to be spread to Western Nebraska. Every region of our state has its unique character. Many of the librarians in the Panhandle are sole librarians. That makes us rather independent and self sufficient. Being so far removed from the action we are behind in some things, but that has to do with always being an hour behind the other end of the state. My hope for the future is that events like School Librarians Day and Saturday conference sessions will bring the voice of NSLA to the Panhandle.
I have attended the NLA/NSLA conference for at least 10 years. In the beginning I looked forward to interesting sessions that spurred me to improve and vendors that had great giveaways. I would see a few faces I recognized. In the years that followed I would add more faces and friends. Now I look forward to renewing friendships with the people I have met and worked with. They are no longer just long-distance, social media friends.
There are many changes and new visions ahead for NSLA and this board is ready to guide, encourage, and support the members through the journey ahead. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve with these fellow librarians. As we said in our Ignite session, “Hold on tight! It’s going to be a wild ride.”
Carole Matthews, Secretary
I had the opportunity to attend the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver, Colorado in February. Wow! What an experience!!! I would like to share a few things with you that I took away from the conference and a few tips if you ever get the chance to attend a national conference
First of all, there were so many sessions! So many that during several of the blocks there were at least 5 sessions I wanted to attend! One thing I did in the weeks leading up to the conference was went through the schedule several times. I would pick my favorites for each time slot. Once I got to the conference I went to the session that was my top pick and if it wasn’t what I thought it would be I got up and went to the next one! Time is too precious to sit through a presentation that I was not interested in. The presenters are aware of the time constraints so people were coming and going through most of them. I recommend you do this at any conference you go to. Don’t sit through something you aren’t interested in.
The next big surprise for me was the vendor show. I have never been to a library specific conference so this was a huge surprise. All of the publishers and authors were giving away books, bags, pencils and much more. I was so excited to see some of my student favorites too! I tried to be selective, but it was so amazing! So many books! I drove to the conference so I had the luxury of taking as much as I wanted. If you were flying, that would not be the case. However, they did have an onsite post office so you could ship the books back directly to your library!
Of course the hot topic for school librarians was the new standards. I sat in on several sessions and the affiliate meeting to learn more. It was very interesting to really see all of the advocacy efforts that are going on behind the scenes for the implementation of the new standards. Each of the sessions really highlighted the online resources that they have developed for school librarians. There are so many things but one of my favorite resources were the persona cards. Each of these cards were developed to help you convey information on the standards to the different stakeholders in your library, such as teachers, administration and parents. I highly recommend going to the standards implementation page and reviewing all of the resources they have provided. http://standards.aasl.org/implementation/
The last thing that I wanted to plug for Nebraskans was Do Space. If you haven’t heard about Do Space you need to check in out when you are in the Omaha area! I was able to listen to their Executive Director, Rebecca Stavick tell her story. It was very inspiring. Do Space is ultimately helping to decrease the digital divide in their community. They are providing access to technology for others that would not have it. She considers their model very similar to a public library. I can’t wait to visit Do Space soon! Visit their website to learn more https://www.dospace.org/.
- Angela Blankenship
It is hard to believe the 2017-18 school year is already half over! I would like to share with you some information about Break Out boxes. This is something I first heard about at the 2016-17 NLA/NSLA conference in Kearney. I attended a session presented by Crys Bauermeister and part of her presentation involved talking about Break Out boxes used in the library. I found the presentation very interesting and brought the information back to share with my teachers. Our Academic Decathlon moderator, who is also one of our English teachers, purchased two of the Break Out boxes from Breakoutedu.com. If your budget does not allow you to purchase the pre-made kits online, it is very easy to create your own kits using items purchased at local retail stores. The official Breakout kits include: 1 large locking box, 1 small locking box, 1 hasp, variety of locks (alpha, directional, color wheels, number wheels, three digit, four digit, and key), reflection cards, red lens viewer, UV light, USB thumb drive and 2 hint cards.
The website has free registration and offers several free games already created by fellow educators, digital games and a tutorial for how to create your own digital game by offering free design a game tools. I assisted our English teacher with a Breakout game on Shakespeare that she was able to find free online. My goal is to create a Breakout session of my own to share with the English department in the future. The students had fun working through the puzzles to get to the final prize.
One other take away from Crys’s session was providing a jigsaw puzzle in the library for students, faculty and staff to put together. I started providing 1000 piece puzzles that were put together on our circulation desk. This went over really well with students, faculty and staff. My principal even made a comment that he liked the idea of the puzzle creating a sense of community with the puzzle being available for everyone to work on together.
I hope you find Breakout EDU and jigsaw puzzles to be a positive addition to your library.
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.