As a library media specialist (LMS), I often find myself pulled in many directions at any given time during any given day. In this teaching position, that I love so much, I have come to expect that my days will likely never look the same.
Like all of you, before I was a LMS, I was a classroom teacher. Whether I was teaching in the elementary classroom or middle school mathematics, my students and I thrived on our classroom routines, expectations, and normal day-to-day goings on. (An assistant superintendent once asked me if my consistent classroom schedule was for the students or for me. I told him it was for “all of us” - and that was the truth.) Our classroom routine made it so I could focus on teaching and my students could focus on learning. It aided my classroom management.
In my first years as a LMS, I was teaching in a middle school with a set library schedule, which I learned to make work for me. I saw 6th grade students on Mondays and Tuesdays, 7th grade students on Wednesdays, and 8th grade students on Thursdays. Fridays were set as my enrichment days. With the students, I established library “norms” and expectations. I was able to give book talks, share book trailers, talk with students about books, etc. All was well!
Fast forward several years to my current LMS position. I serve middle school and high school students. I have no set schedule. Every day is a NEW adventure!
One of the many things I love about being a LMS is talking to kids about books and reading. I love hearing about their latest reads, their passion for a series, their irritation with how long it takes their favorite author to write a book, etc. Oftentimes during these chats, I get new suggestions of books to order. I also love suggesting books to students to read. When a student approaches me and indicates a need for help finding a book to read, I must admit, my inner-librarian self squeals and claps with excitement. It’s like a puzzle I get to put together. So - the questions begin. What was the last book you read? What did you like about it? What’s your favorite book? What makes the book your favorite? Etc. Until - voila! A “book match” is made!
Unfortunately, I’m not always available to do my beloved “book matching”. This saddens my librarian’s heart, but it is what is. So here’s what I do… Every month, I have a new quirky, punny library theme, complete with posters, signs, a bookmark, and a bookmark with my Bitmoji on it. I display books on the tops of our shelves, and each book has a bookmark placed in it. If I’ve read the book and enjoyed it, I put the bookmark with my Bitmoji on it in the book. This is my way of suggesting books to my kiddos without actually being there! (At the beginning of each school year, I communicate my bookmark “strategy” with ALL of my students. For the 6th grade students this is new information, but for the rest of the student body - it’s a reminder. So, EvErYoNe knows!)
My hope is that each student looks forward each month to what that “CrAzY” Mrs. Fiala is going to “do” in the Media Center. For the record, I’ve not had a repeated monthly theme in the six-years I’ve been at Aurora Public Schools!
by Emmy Fiala
“Ok...Here we go. Focus. Speed.”
Lightning McQueen says at the start of the movie Cars this famous line. He learns a few lessons along the way, but it still comes back to his finish and how managed to accomplish this task.
I’d like to add to his two words—attitude and discipline. We need to have all these things at the end of the year. We ask our students to take state tests; we ask our students to wrap up their end-of-the-year projects; we ask her students to show up and continue learning even though the days are really nice outside and they’d rather be somewhere else.
How about school library? Are we ready to finish strong? What is our focus at the end of the year? I know many times we are “busy” and caught up with other things. You may have requisitions on your plate; you may have weeding; you may have inventory; you may have teachers who want to try something new. We are librarians. We persevere. We still need to continue and finish strong. Whether it’s students, teachers, your entire school family, I remind you, remember your focus.
Speed...when we’re looking at the rate of things that need to be done between now and the end of the year (and then you throw in having no school), what’s the speed in which we need to accomplish certain tasks? Although sleep is sometimes an afterthought, take care of yourself too. You can’t be up to speed if you’re not up to yourself. How can we have school librarians support our teachers in finishing the end of the year and finishing strong?
We hear attitude is everything. We teach that attitude is everything. I remind you that you wake up each day and you decide who you’re going to be, you wake up each day and decide how the day is going to go. We are in charge of our lives; we’re in charge of our school library lives. Our attitude determines a lot. The attitude that we as school librarians have is one of the biggest influences in our school. Time to help you with making a connection to project even though we are swamped with things going...we sure do have the time! We always have the attitude that we still need to be there for our students. For some, the book that is checked out from us is the only book they have at home. For some, the conversation they have with us about a book is one positive adult relationship that they have in their life. For some, the library is a place for them to make and create. How can our attitude better support students in their ongoing quest for knowledge?
Finally, what discipline do we have? This is the 4th quarter—it’s time to dig deep. I myself need to rise to the occasion so I can be a stronger person. What can I learn? What new skills can I gain because then I can export those onto my students? Or better yet, what new books can I read that I can then share with a student? I know on days off from school there are so many other things pulling at me...potentially new books that I want to read, always my housework, the nice days that make me want to be outside, there’s probably something that needs to be organized in my life...but I need to have that discipline to finish what I’m doing.
I challenge you school librarians to have your focus, your speed, your attitude, and your discipline in check and finish strong.
So as we wrap up the final quarter or term of the school year, let’s all finish strong.
by Crys Bauermeister
The bi-annual national conference of the American Association of School Librarians was held in Louisville, Kentucky from November 14-16, 2019. The conference provided opportunity to hear from well-received speakers and to learn from colleagues in the profession. Nebraska was well represented as several of our state librarians had presentations during the conference. One of the primary themes of the conference was centered around the new school library standards. If you have not taken the time to review them, make a point to do so soon.
The AASL Learning Library is available at https://aasl.digitellinc.com/aasl/conferences/31/view
The Learning Library offers recordings of 62 sessions from the conference. You can find sessions about advocacy, gaming, collaboration, and media literacy – just to name a few. The AASL Learning Library is free for members and is $199 for non-members.
During the conference, AASL launched a new state-level leader collaborative. The AASL School Leader Collaborative will included administrators and school librarians. It is a two-year initiative to engage with administrators who are vital to the success of school librarians. The panel includes seven administrators – superintendents and principals from across the county. A group of state-level school librarian leaders will serve as a point of contact to initiate the activities developed by the collaborative. Goals for this initiative are to develop active ambassadors for school libraries and to become a catalyst for sustained change. Watch for more news about this initiative in the months to come.
Dr. Kim Gangwish
I know you are asking yourself - where did half of the school year go? Let’s start this new year off with some fresh ideas for your library! Here are a few bulletin board, book display and library ideas for you to try out in your space. These ideas can be tweaked for libraries big or small - elementary, middle and high school!
In January I have always had students cut out snowflakes to decorate the library, but I always forget about snowmen! Have your classes decorate snowmen and hang them up on a bulletin board or around your space. I feel that these are just as unique as paper snowflakes.
(Credit: Tillysha Naomi on Facebook)
If you don’t have bulletin board space (like me), decorate your doors! What a great and inviting way to welcome your students into the library.
(Credit: Kimberly Lane on Facebook)
If you like puns, then you will love this idea!
(Credit: Sherrie Rizzo on Facebook)
Snowflakes and snowmen aren’t the only thing that represent winter. How can you incorporate New Year’s Resolutions in your displays? Ask students anonymously what their goals are for 2020 and hang them in a window or on a bulletin board for all to see. It’s a great way for students to reflect, but to also see what their peers wrote.
A great way to start the year is to start a new series. Create a display using the 1st book of any of the series in your library.
Have students who are makers? Create a display of “New Year, New Hobby” with maker books, knit/crochet, various how-to non-fiction books that will spark some interest!
(Credit: St. Louis Public Library)
Something I am incorporating into my library in 2020 is Adopt-A-Shelf. I originally saw this idea on Facebook. I am at a large middle school and you could say that by the end of the day or week, my shelves need some love. This is an awesome way for students to hold ownership within your library. Students will “adopt” a shelf to take care of. This can be just a row or even a whole shelf. A fun way to get students to buy in is to make adoption signs about who “owns” the shelf. You could allow students to decorate their area or not. Let them run with it! Students can come in before or after school, during their library time, at the end of the week, etc. However it will work for you. In return, it saves you a few extra minutes of straightening up your shelves.
Here are a few links to get you started:
Adopt a Shelf!
A fun twist on adopt a shelf https://shawnacoppola.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/our-adopt-a-shelf-program-the-deets/
Happy New Year!
By Rachel Westphalen
by Kelly Kenny, Hillside Elementary
Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your top five tips for saving your sanity in the school library! If you'd like to contribute a blog post for the NSLA blog, please email Mandy Peterson at email@example.com.
On the day of the Fall Spectacular, I went to Papillion LaVista South High School ready to learn alongside my fellow school librarians. My warrior strength cup of coffee was in my hand and I was ready to go. It was a blast! To be honest, it was difficult to present because there were quite a few other sessions I was interested in attending! The first break out session of the morning, I presented on makerspaces. It's fun to share some of the things I've learned about makerspaces over the last couple years. Part of the time was devoted to discussion and collaboration. There's a collaborative PowerPoint I set up where everyone was able to share their makerspace goals and accomplishments. It's so great to learn alongside fellow librarians. Setting up and maintaining makerspaces without pulling your hair out is a big ordeal. It's a lot easier when you've got awesome colleagues to work alongside.
Next, I attended McKenzie White's session on trauma and culturally-invested libraries. The conversations we had were very honest about the climate of teaching these days. And as supporters of all learners in the school, us librarians have heavy responsibilities. We have more and more to tackle every day. Research has come out concerning the negative effects that teaching in a trauma-infested environment can have on our roles as educators. McKenzie shared practical tips and tools for librarians to implement to combat tough teaching conditions. Students crave and deserve predictability, adaptability, and connectedness. To provide this to every learner in our busy libraries is often an daunting task. But with the tools shared by McKenzie, I feel more prepared to tackle anything life throws at me and the kids at my school.
My second presentation that day was the panel of school librarians: Cindy Jackson, Kelly Kenny, Jen Prasch, Liz von Nagy, and myself. It has been an honor to work close to these amazing and spectacular ladies. Getting to know them better, I can attest to you that they are as kind and funny as they are brilliant! Although I like to share cool stuff going on in my library, I also enjoy listening to these rockstar librarians. Every time I talk to them, I learn something new. I go away with a thought--something I might like to try out or improve. That's what days like the NSLA Fall Spectacular are all about!
For the last session that day, I attended Jenna Reeh's technology life hacks. She always has something new to share! And she is so tech-savvy. Any time I've attended any of her sessions at previous events like NETA, I always feel engaged, heard, and like I've learned. She is a great example to anyone who wants to try presenting to adult learners. I've stolen a couple of her ideas for my own presentations, to be honest. Some cool tools I've bookmarked to check out from her session include: Insert Learning, Go Synth, Brush Ninja, and Yell key. I'd definitely recommend anybody check those out!
And, oh my goodness--that was the end of the NSLA Fall Spectacular. I wish I had Hermione's time turner so I could go back and attend more sessions. And I am not ashamed to let my nerdery show. As much effort as it takes to get something like this prepared, it felt like such a short day! I wished it could've lasted all weekend long! I had a great time. I am very grateful to those on the NSLA board who've put so much work into getting the event all organized and put together.
The environment surrounding learning and libraries is changing. Education is on the brink of a revolution. Improving school libraries is more than a method of job insurance. Every librarian I have met through NSLA is resolved to trying new things for the betterment of all library users. We see that the traditional librarian role is enough--it's more than enough. Be we aren't willing to settle. We are willing to go the extra mile, make every moment count, and revolutionize this profession to help every library user build a better future.
See you all soon, you rebel librarians.
Library & Technology Teacher
Walnut Hill Elementary
Microsoft Innovative Educator
Minecraft Certified Educator
Common Sense Media Certified Educator
Thank you to all who shared in our Fall Spectacular adventure on October 5th! We had over eighty five attendees and twenty presenters including a baby kangaroo and tween alligator! Not quite what I had in mind when I offered to host it at my building, but it was a pretty epic day all around. Also, my sincere gratitude to those of you who shared your feedback on this endeavor. Your comments and thoughts will guide us as we consider conference planning for 2020!
It was an honor to award Dr. Sherry Crow with the Distinguished Service Award for her dedication and commitment to the school library community in Nebraska. I’m also extremely happy to report that we were able to keep it a secret for as long as we did.
The resource Padlet is still available, and is packed with many of the great presentations we saw during our day of learning. The day was truly a whirlwind for me, so this has been a great way to catch up on the bits of greatness I glimpsed throughout the day.
It was also a thrill to take over the AASL Instagram for the day with our Executive Secretary, Mandy Peterson. Jump over to Instagram and scroll back a bit to see some of the amazing moments including breakfast sponsored by Mackin, book talks, connections and loads of laughter. We have also posted some of the comments from our feedback survey on our social media outlets. Your words were so meaningful and humbling as we wrapped up the final details after the conference.
With the crazy, busy days of the beginning of the school year behind us, it was nice to take a breath of crisp Autumn air and connect with our community. These amazing professionals know our story and walk our walk each day serving students and bring school libraries to life in so many great ways.
If you have a story to share, please submit it in our Library Spotlight!
Enjoy the rest of the Autumn and best wishes for a great school year.
Hey all! I am Angie Blankenship, School Librarian at Pershing Elementary in Lexington, Nebraska. I wanted to share a quick video with you for my blog post on how to use Facebook Collections and Groups for professional development! Please feel free to email me with any questions after watching the video!
I have also listed a few of my favorite groups to follow. Please share with us if you have any you LOVE.
Future Ready Librarians
School Librarian Connection
By Angie Blankenship
Back in August, I shared the app Goose Chase with my faculty. Goose Chase is a scavenger hunt app where you can create a game with missions online and share it out to students through their devices (cell phones or iPads work the best, not so much laptop computers). Students can turn in missions via text answers or photo answers. Each mission is worth points and teams or individual students compete to be the top on the leaderboard. As a teacher, you see the submission feed on your device and can add or subtract points or even delete a submission if students don’t complete it according to your specifications.
After presenting, I had a tremendous increase in teachers wanting to work with me using this app for their classes. I have now worked with Math classes, Guidance Counselors, and English classes. In a school where collaboration doesn’t usually happen, I am super happy that I have found something to share with my colleagues that they want to use for their students. This positive turn helps promote the library and my services to other teachers who haven’t wanted to collaborate in the past.
As I took a step back to think about what would be most important to Nebraska school librarians at this time of year, I eventually landed on the topic of equity. Equity is at the forefront of the work of the Nebraska State Department of Education (https://www.education.ne.gov/ndeday/). Take a look at the Nebraska Department of Education’s definition of educational equity:
Educational equity means all students have meaningful access to the educational resources they need at the right moment, at the right level, and with the right intensity...Educational equity allows students to discover and explore their passions and make meaningful connections within the context of their postsecondary interests. (https://www.education.ne.gov/ndeday/)
Isn’t this what we do as librarians? I bet you’ll run out of fingers counting all the ways you create equity through instruction and library programming. We are all about equity and we always have been, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow and get better at it.
With that said, let’s think about how we as librarians can create equitable opportunities for our students.
Equitable access to resources at the right moment, at the right level, and with the right Intensity
Of course, diverse collections come to mind when we think about equity in the library. We want our libraries to be full of books and resources representing the diversity of experiences in our world. As you start a book order list for the coming school year, make a commitment to take a look at diverse book lists from sources such as We Need Diverse Books and the Lincoln Public School’s MOSAIC. In fact, on the We Need Diverse Books website you’ll find a list of sites you can explore to discover even more diverse books.
We all know that access to books alone will not improve students’ experiences. We need to pair our diverse collections with qualified school librarians who can recommend titles to our students. What can you do this year to promote diverse literature? It can be as easy as creating displays and book talking diverse titles. Perhaps you could select a diverse book and start a One Book One School program.
Allowing students to discover and explore their passions and make meaningful connections within the context of postsecondary interests
When you teach a student to code or engage them in a makerspace activity, you are allowing them to explore their passions and make connections within the context of postsecondary interests. The young student building elaborate structures with K’nex may be exploring an interest that could lead to a career in architecture or engineering. A student who spends his time in the library using your virtual reality set, may be preparing to work in the movie or video game industry. Let’s make sure we tie our makerspaces to real world applications and promote them that way with our administrators.
Three important questions
What else can we do? I think we can ask ourselves some really important questions, research the answers to these questions, and make programming changes that further promote equity. Let’s start with just a few really good questions:
I know we as librarians are champions of equity, and I am so grateful that our spaces are welcoming to all. Let’s keep doing this great work and find even more ways to advance the NDE’s equity goals.
By Joy Harvey
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.